Staging. It's a word every real estate agent knows, but in many cases, these professionals aren't aware of the true potential that staging has to help a seller find a buyer – if it's done correctly, that is.
To get a sense of how important staging is to a home sale, take a look at it outside the realm of real estate. No matter what is being sold, staging has an enormous hand in helping get the product off the shelf and into the buyer's cart. This ranges from plumbing hardware to sandwiches and laptop computers – a product that looks good will sell better.
However, where most real estate agents and sellers get tripped up is when they see staging as a simple means to an end – a quick cleanup to make the house look "prettier." But to hear one accomplished staging professional tell, "pretty doesn't sell anything."
The rise of strategic staging
Barbi MacKinnon, founder of TheStagingGirl.com, has made it her life's work to transform the way the real estate industry views – and practices – www.
"Strategic staging," as she calls it, has been in place for years outside the real estate industry, with retail giants like Target using the tactic to offer the right products to the right consumers at the right time. However, MacKinnon has taken this idea and applied it to homes up for sale – with tremendous results.
"Strategic staging is different because it's not making something pretty. Pretty doesn't sell anything," she said. "Strategic staging is making the home look the way it needs to look given the location of the property, the size of the property, the time of year, what else has sold in that area and who the most likely buyer is for that product."
MacKinnon finds success mixing science and art
For MacKinnon, staging a home is second nature. As a child, she helped her mother – a successful real estate agent – stage homes up for sale before it was even called staging, and has had an eye for it ever since.
But successful staging is more than aesthetics. There's a subtle art to explaining to sellers why, exactly, something needs to change, and MacKinnon has mastered this.
"You have to explain to someone that it's not that they have an ugly baby – because they don't," she explained. "It's that we need to change these things in order for the person who will more than likely be buying in your area to give you the money you want them to give you faster – and be happy about it."
It's being able to successfully marry the mechanics and science of staging – building rapport, explaining why things needs to change, etc. – with the art form of www. As MacKinnon proudly says, "the house talks to me," and that's how she knows what the buyers will want to see. But, her secret to success also lies in her ability to gain sellers' trust, which can't be overlooked.
60 homes sold in less than 48 hours
When asked what it was like to help sell 60 homes in less than 48 hours, MacKinnon responded promptly, "it's a lot of work."
But jokes aside, she went on to detail how this tremendous success was the result of cooperation between her and Lodestone Real Estate, who supplied the realtors who ultimately made the sales happen. Between her expertise, Lodestone's experience in the real estate industry and the recovering housing market, not only did these houses sell, but most sold for the asking price. Many even sold above asking price. And perhaps best of all, many homes received multiple offers from buyers.
MacKinnon stated with confidence that during that sales bonanza, the homes that sold the quickest and for the most acceptable asking price were those that implemented her changes. MacKinnon gave sellers a list that was 100 percent honest about what the house would need to sell – then it was up to them to complete what they could.
"What I tell my clients is 'I don't expect you to do everything on the list, but everything on the list needs to be done,'" she said. "But the more on the list you can do, the better the return you will have."
This is a clear demonstration that the more effort you put into your staging – and how strategically you approach the practice – will be a major factor in how quickly a house can sell.
The perfect partnership
After all this talk about staging, it's important to remember that it is still a single spoke in the much larger wheel of real estate. It's an incredibly important part of the process, and you can stage so it looks just right, but it's still the realtor who will understand the hard facts about the real estate market.
"You have to listen to your realtor," MacKinnon said. "You have to let me do what I do, because I'm the professional. But you have to let the realtor do what they do because they're the professional, too. It can look awesome, but if you insist on dictating to your agent what the house needs to be listed at, my services will be unappreciated, because the people who want to buy your house simply won't."
The MacKinnon/Lodestone duo has also seen such success because the two always remind sellers of the most important thing: Your house, whether you want to admit it or not, is a product.
Yes, it may hold unending personal value to a seller, and someday its future owners may have the same sentiment toward it, but when it's for sale, it's a product on the shelf, and needs to be shown off – and priced – as such.
Using an experienced realtor like Lodestone alongside an accomplished staging professional like Barbi MacKinnon has shown to be a powerful way to find the best buyer for a home up for sale.