Styled, Staged & Sold

Bringing you the latest home design and staging trends. From REALTOR® Magazine.

Being a Real Estate Pro Today is Like Working in the Obama Administration

By Christine Rae

Being an entrepreneur, home owner, wife, grandmother, etc., I barely have time to watch TV these days and when I do, I seem to hit the news. My own philosophy about keeping a positive mindset is to avoid the news like the plague. On those odd times I have not listened to my own advice I heard a review of President Obama's first 100 days in office; and lately his second 100 days.

Boy, everyone loves to gripe--expecting miracles without lifting a finger!

So why is being a real estate agent like the Obama administration?

It seems to me that as a real estate professional you have to run an election to get the listing and work your tail off in the first 100 days to get the word out. No one is helping, they are just watching.

By that I mean sellers are not always willing to pitch in and help; they prefer the wait and see, the "prove to me" theory that 2007 pricing will not come back. They are, of course, in denial about their present financial situation, they don't expect to be inconvenienced during the time the house is on the market (i.e. they want to have lots of notice for visits, expect offers to be flooding in, don't want a sign on the lawn like everyone else, and they "heard" open houses don't work).

After the first 100 days, they review your performance find you sadly lacking and then issue edicts like "if you don't pick up the pace we will have to list with someone else!" Their loyalty and confidence in you starts to dwindle.

When Obama was pitching for votes (as all politicians do) he promised a new tomorrow, promised to work hard and said something like, "if you just put your faith in me I will turn the tide".  Much like you do.

As a professional stager and trainer I hear all the time that staging is thought of by real estate professionals as a "nice thing to do" and "in this economy people won't do it"--those statements are so not true.

Do you know real estate professionals around the world are often viewed as the gatekeeper of property by stagers?

The most difficult job for a stager is to convince an agent that staging is a marketing tool--not decorating.

Not all agents truly understand the value or true impact of a great staged property. It's not about how pretty a house looks-it's about highlighting the features of the property, creating space and light where there wasn't any, and virtually making the old house look and feel like new.  People buy the dream and they buy value.

Intellectually, people everywhere understand the economic situation; emotionally they want to believe it isn't true.

When taking a listing today the truth has to be told, not a glazed over "it would be nice" version of what has to happen to prepare and market that property effectively in today's market.

Buyers are looking for bargains and they chip away at the price if it's less than pristine.  Investors buy low then do the repairs and necessary cosmetics to resell at a higher price--even in these conditions properties are selling, investors are flipping, and stagers are busy.

Recently an acquaintance worked on a house that was listed at $1.2 million. The owners listened to the stager's advice and took the time to complete the recommendations.  Once it was ready, an agent open house was organized; 150 agents came through.

Within two days there were several offers on the table and it sold for $200,000 over the list price--in today's economy--because it was "move in ready". The marketing cost to the agent was $350 for the consultation. Imagine that!

I spoke to a stager two weeks ago whose business is thriving in an area hard hit by foreclosures; she works with agents who believe there is a future in real estate-it's just a different one than they used to have.

Banks need agents to help to sell those REO properties--and agents need stagers. Are you going to be one of the people who show the rest of the people how it's done? Or are you going to wait, see and complain about the market?

The economy needs YOU, your work, ethics, and drive to improve the situation for your buyers and sellers. That includes staging for every seller--even REO's.

Since time began, there have been smarter people than I who said "build it, they will come".   Well today there are some smart lenders out there who have used staging as their secret weapon. The result is their REO listings sell in days! They closed at higher yields for their investors too.

Don't the banks owe it to their shareholders to maximize their yield too? Just asking?

Education is key. In the words of Paul Harvey: "In times like these it's important to remember, there have always been times like these".

While you may not be able to remember such a time, know that people have survived worse and if you think of this as a world "rightsizing," getting back to values and a better place--you come to realize the answer for you is to get moving and sell those REO listings.

Help get the economy moving!

You can hear Christine Rae speaking at the California Association of REALTORS® Expo Oct. 6-7 in San Jose, Calif., on "Staging a Vacant REO Property: 20 Things for Under $200."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christine Rae is the co-author of “Home Staging for Dummies” (Wiley, 2008), found of Decorating Solutions Inc., and an internationally recognized expert and trainer in the home staging industry. She is the editor of Staging Standard, an industry trade magazine on staging, and co-author of the e-book “Home Staging Business Guide.” In 2005, she launched an international staging certification program–the Canadian Certified Staging Professionals and Certified Staging Professionals in the USA and Australia.

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