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In a normal home staging consultation, we would advise that sellers remove anything too taste specific. This includes common selections like painting over bold or bright colored walls, removing wall paper borders, and removing murals from bedrooms (or really anywhere in the house). Unfortunately, what we also find is that seller’s don’t always listen to us. Dealing with situations like these are all in a day’s work for Rave Home Staging.

When you can’t ignore it, just go with it.

Not everyone finds eggplant an appealing color for the dining room. Bright pink and pastel pink stripped walls, don’t hit every demographic, and let’s not even discuss wall paper borders. The 1990’s called and want them back. Now what if I said that ALL OF THESE CHOICES were in the same house?

All of that said, when we are hired to stage, we show up to overcome the odds. By leaning in and working with what’s there, we can still achieve remarkable results. This home, located on Jacksonville’s north side, received multiple offers within 24 hours of listing, and ended up selling at full price. The total time on the market, from list to close, this home spent only 32 days on market. 

Another stunning example of overcoming personal design choices.

As professionals who work in the real estate industry, we know that wallpaper can often be the kiss of death for a listing. Buyers today want move in ready, not someone else’s design choices. Knowing that the average home buyer is typically about 10 years younger than the seller for that home, imagine whether you would want to live with the design choices of someone 10 years older than you are today.

Still, when push comes to shove and seller’s won’t do the work of removing wallpaper and custom wall color choices, it’s our job to step in and make the home livable enough for home buyers to imagine themselves in the space.

While working with bold choices may not be our favorite stages, at the end of the day, our job is to make the house sell, no matter the circumstances. This home, sold in only 26 days on market. The seller and the agent were so pleased with the results that they actually sent us a beautiful basket of deliciousness to thank us.

Home Staging is an investment in equity.

Whether the home is in move-in ready condition, or in need of some light cosmetic work, staging is usually the most cost effective transformation. When the goal is to sell for maximum value, home staging is always the answer. 

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Breaking back in to the world of Facebook Live, I spent a few minutes today with Real Estate Investor, Obi Dorsey. Obi is the owner of JAX Freedom Home Buyers. Obi has been a loyal customer of Rave Home Staging for the past four years, staging his first ever flip with us. In this conversation we’ll discuss how Obi decided to pull the trigger on making the investment in home staging, how home staging has helped him earn more money in each deal, and what the ROI really is.

How staging helps real estate investors in today’s seller’s market.

At Rave Home Staging we typically tell our customers that they should expect a return of 3-5 times what they spend. Find out how Obi feels about that number, what he expects to get as a return on staging, and how that compares to other renovation factors.

Today, behind the scenes, and off camera, Obi shared with me that their latest project, that closed today, earned over $65K. Jax Freedom Home Buyers owned this property for less than 1 day! This video will wet your whistle on some of his business practices, the importance of having a mentor, and some of his local events where you can learn from him (at no cost). Stay tuned for a future episode when we launch our new podcast, Rave About Real Estate, next month. Subscribe to our blog, and follow our Facebook page for more information.

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As professional home stagers, we are often asked the question on whether or not that bold room color choices should be painted over with something more neutral. The answer is nearly always a resounding “YES!”. There are times when the seller either doesn’t have the time or the funds to paint, and times when they simply refuse to do it. Whether it is because they simply don’t believe that it will make a difference, or they don’t want to do the work, there are times when they tell us, the home stager, “no.” When that happens, but they are still willing to stage, it becomes our job to find a way to minimize the impact. Let’s take a look at 1739 Nettington Ct, in Jacksonville, FL.

1739 Nettington Ct, Jacksonville, FL 32246

This charming home, located in Sutton Lakes, is in a sought after part of town. Since we are living in a seller’s market, it seems unlikely that a well priced 4 bedroom, 2 bath home would sit on the market for over 100 days. Still, that’s what was happening here. After sitting, with no offers, the seller contacted Rave Home Staging and we created a plan to get the home sold. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in the intro, the seller was very clear that despite the best option being to paint the boldly colored walls, he wasn’t going to do it. He didn’t want to spend the time, energy, or money, painting. This home had been a rental property. He wasn’t emotionally invested, and just wanted it sold.

The photos in the slide show below are the actual photos used in MLS.

Let’s be realistic. With most home buyers looking online prior to viewing a home in person, how enticing is this property? On a scale of 1-10, how likely would buyers feel like this home is move-in-ready? How likely are they to pay list price, or close to list price?

Let’s take a look at what this home looked like after staging.

Our staging team did nothing but bring in new furniture, art, and accessories. With all of that, however, we managed to style the property so that potential buyers could look past the bold colors and imagine a life in the home. Perhaps they will still paint when they move in, but now they are able to see the space as a living room, dining room, and bedroom, instead of just a series of bold choices that they would need to correct, costing them time, energy, and money.

The results were nothing less than spectacular. Within 10 days the seller accepted an offer. The property is now moving through the escrow process and will close in January. After what amounts to 4 months of time on market, it’s long past time for this home to welcome new owners. It’s also long past time for the seller to rid the stress of a mortgage payment and maintenance costs for a house sitting empty.

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I’ve built not one, but two successful home staging companies over the past 15 years. There is one thing that I’ve learned the hard way – hiring well isn’t easy and hiring poorly is expensive! A strong company, of any kind, is  built on the culture of success and that requires “A” players.

What do I mean by “A” players? For me, an “A” player is someone who plays, or in this case works, full out. They step up and do whatever needs to be done to get the job done. When something arises that is perhaps out of their typical wheelhouse, they either actively get the right person to step in, or they create a positive solution themselves. They aren’t sitting around waiting for someone else to do the next thing or taking the stand that “it’s not their job”.

As some of you know, I just returned from a 10 day cruise where I had no access to phone calls, and the internet was incredibly slow. While I was gone, I knew that I could relax and enjoy myself without worry because everyone on my team is an “A” player.  I knew that if anything came up, that my team could handle themselves. They are resourceful. Each and every one of them would step up to solve any problem. While I made the promise to check in, via email, twice daily, what I found was no surprise. Any issues were quickly resolved without anything needed from me.

The dangers of hiring “B” players (or below)

“B” players are the people that come in and do their job – just their job. Nothing more. Nothing less. We’ve all heard the expression that rising tides raise all boats. This is the mentality of an “A” Player. A common expression from a “B” Player (or worse) is “No good deed goes unpunished.” They are typically the ones watching the clock. They clock in and clock out, exactly on time. “B” players are often good at what they do, and hard to let go because they do just enough to warrant keeping their job. Unfortunately, just like rising tides raising all boats, the mentality of a “B” player is catchy. “It’s not my job.” is a contagion that can undermine the best organization.

What to do if you realize you have too many “B” players?

This is when it’s tough. If you have cause, it might be time to let them go. Yes. It’s painful to go through the hiring process again. You’ll have to create a short term solution to cover the work they were doing. Don’t let the idea of “being easier to keep them, even though they aren’t measuring up” rise up into your mind. Excellence is the thing that will eventually allow you to actually have freedom in your business.

If you don’t have the ability to terminate them, then it’s time to have a team meeting, then an individual meeting with each player. Let everyone know that you need them to step up. Create the atmosphere you want, and start documenting when it’s not working. Changing the culture in any organization is tough and will require you to do a lot more work in the beginning. If you continually require excellence from all of your people, the ones who aren’t “A” players will eventually quit. The key is holding out and holding strong. Don’t let friendship or personal relationships interfere. Nothing undermines the success of an “A” team like playing favoritism or overlooking a “B” player because of an existing relationship with them.

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Instagram has become one of my favorite past times. The enjoyment of this photos-only social media channel snuck up on me. At some point I realized that I was spending more and more time each day simply scrolling through photos. That’s when that light bulb formed over my head. If me, as a middle aged woman, was spending more time on here, it’s likely that a lot of others are finding it more appealing too!

Is Instagram an important business tool for home stagers and real estate professionals?

This is an absolutely resounding YES! Most people know, by now, that Facebook acquired Instagram for a whopping $1 BILLION dollars in 2013. That was not exactly petty cash. I’m sure it goes a long way to the fact that 4 years later, Instagram now has 500 million daily active users!

People of all ages are now more likely than ever to open their phones (since this is really a mobile, not MAC or PC platform) and scroll through multiple times a day. The question then becomes, what are they seeing when they look at your page?

Follow us on Instagram

Perfect format for Home Stagers and Real Estate related fields.

Instagram really is the perfect format for those of us in real estate related industries. It’s such a visual medium.  We can create an instant impact, leading to referral business. I know we’ve started seeing a high uptick in website views since we started taking our Instagram page seriously.  {Fact: I just peeked to see exactly what that looks like and it turns out that our last blog had 20% of referrals from Instagram!}

Because of this, we’ve started pulling information, data, and strategies to build your instagram (and other social media) followers.  We are pulling it all together in a new series that we are calling Red Curtain Mastermind. This class will be held once a month, both live, here in Jacksonville, and online.

Please be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook, to watch for more information on these events!

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When I teach the Realtor Continuing Education class, I frequently point out how body language can affect the sale of a house. Messages that the buyer’s body sends to the buyer’s brain, can determine whether or not they will purchase that particular property. Sounds crazy, right? But it is completely true!

What message is the body giving to the brain? 

When a buyer feels completely comfortable in a given space, you can see that their body is open and welcoming. Their arms swing loosely. When a buyer’s body language shows that their arms are tucked up against their body, worse yet, arms crossed against their chest, shoulders pulled inward, you can tell that a buyer feels that the house is small and unwelcoming. Even when a home is large and spacious, a buyer’s body language can show that they don’t think so.

When this happens, it is commonly because there is something in the space, that is imposing on the personal buffer. Something, perhaps like the back of a piece of furniture.

Stock Image. Used, with permission, from Gettys Images.

Furniture, art, and accessories, can frequently create invisible boundaries. Our eye stops where they begin. When they jut out into our walk ways and person space, as art may in a hallway, our body, unknowingly pulls in, protecting its space.

Stock Image. Used, with permission, from Gettys Images.

Conversely, when furniture is open, and our eyes can move to the end of a room, our bodies are not impeded by invisible walls, barriers, or objects that insert themselves to our personal space, our body will then open up again.

Momentarily look at the first photo, notice how your eyes, body, and mind take in the space. Does the space feel crowded or welcoming? Where did your eye first land, and where did it go from there. Compare this to the second photo. Sure, the second photo shows more of the room, but also notice the placement of the chairs. Notice how your eye is drawn much further into the window, vs stopping at the chairs or table.

How did this relate to buying decisions? 

Skilled professionals in the staging industry, like the ones at Rave Home Staging, have honed their minds and bodies to not only pay attention to making a space beautiful, but also how to get it to make buyer’s feel comfortable, from a body and mind standpoint.

We ensure that rooms feel open, from the points when you walk in and walk out. We ensure that nothing makes the body pull itself in, telling the mind that the space is smaller than it appears. On the contrary, our job is to make spaces feel much larger than they already are by careful placement of furniture, art, and accessories. We carefully use angles to open up a room, and keep arms swinging, without leaving buyers wondering why the heck the furniture is on a “weird angle”.

Professional photography by Rave Home Staging

Interested in learning more about home staging? Have you found your previous home staging training inadequate to have conversations like these with your customers? Take one of our new home staging courses and take your business to the next level! 

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If you follow Rave  Home Staging, then you know that a large percentage of our business is working with Real Estate Investors, particularly Fix and Flippers. Recently, we were contacted by Asset Based Lending, LLC to share an infographic they created that outline the most common mistakes for these investors. I had to admit, I agree with their assessment, so I thought I would be happy to share!

Top Mistakes Real Estate Fix and Flip Investors Make.

Don’t think that hiring a home stager is really THAT important, or that it’s only good for SOME homes? Think again! The National Association of Realtors says that the average return on investment for home staging is 6-10% higher offers! In Jacksonville, most of our flipper customers will tell you that staging has a higher ROI than any other part of the deal!

Contact us today to find out more!

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Let me explain what I mean when I say, “stop assuming I’m not a ‘Real Business'” Please imagine that you have a desire to become, let’s say a fashion merchandiser, a marketing expert, or frankly, any job anywhere, would you ever plan on calling and leaving voicemail for the owner of the biggest company in your area, and saying something like, “I’m retiring and I’ve always had a passion for what you do. I would really like you to hire me, teach me everything you do, and then, when I think I’m ready, I’m going to start my own business, in your area, and compete against you.” My husband used to work for Corporate America. I imagine what would have happened if he used this approach.

What it takes to get hired in the home staging industry

There are few home staging companies that hire non-1099 staff, particularly stagers.  These are coveted positions, inside only the sturdiest of companies. Paid stager employees, whether hourly or salary, have to interview for the position, like anyone else would, for any other job that exists.

Can you imagine walking into an interview saying, “I have no experience, but this seems like fun. You should hire me, pay me, and then when I think I’ve learned everything I can from you, I’m going to start my own company to compete against you.”

Why on EARTH would I ever call you back?

In order to get hired by a company like Rave Home Staging, or any other staging company around the country, you must show how you are an asset to our company, not how we can assist you in your life.

If you don’t have experience, then offer to do intern work – for free – but don’t start off the conversation with the idea that you plan on taking everything we teach you and using it to compete against us. As an intern, you also should understand that it is very unlikely the staging company will provide you any information on building or managing a company. We are likely to have you do activities like steam beds, clean glass, and other basic “grunt” work.

When calling to discuss a career in home staging, ask if we are, in fact, hiring. (Most of us aren’t and even if we are, see the above commentary. If you are telling us you are unskilled and uneducated in our profession, why would we hire you?)

Please stop assuming that we are the next latest and greatest party plan trend. 

One of the key reasons that Professional Home Staging isn’t given the respect it is due is because so many people, including new pop-up home staging companies, or want-to-be stagers, treat our industry like we are the next Mary Kay. Just pay your $180 for your kit and boom, you are in business.

I’m sorry. We are working with the biggest asset for the vast majority of families. We need to be well trained professionals, not party plan minded. If you aren’t prepared to treat other company owners like respected corporations, then again, why do you even want to be in this business? Go become a decorator or redesigner. Be someone who deals with making homes pretty, not someone expected to manage someone’s top assets.

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It seems that our Jacksonville home staging company has been called in a lot lately to “fix” the market presentation of properties that were previously staged by other companies. Whether it is the listing agent contacting us, or the homeowner, the conversation always seems to go the same way. “We went with the cheaper option.”

Why the cheaper home staging company can often cost significantly more money. 

In any market, there will competitors who seek to win business by offering a product or service at a lower cost. The question is, is the value of your home really something you want to gamble with? Too often, sellers believe that there isn’t a difference between staging companies. I mean, it’s just furniture, right? Let’s check out some of the homes, staged by another staging company, that we’ve had to “clean up” lately.

This MLS photo, from an executive home in Julington Creek Plantation, was staged by a “budget company” who only staged a few rooms in the home. (Thank Goodness!) While the homeowners previously believed staging was a good idea to help sell their home, they left this experience with a sour taste in their mouth. After several months on market, with no activity, they fired the stager, and the listing agent and found a Realtor who knew that it wasn’t the home, it was the staging that was sub par.

Before I show you Rave Home Staging’s photo of this same room, let’s just discuss why this staging should not be considered acceptable by any Realtor or Homeowner.

  1. The plastic is still on the lamp shades.
  2. There is no solid focal point to the space. There are so many things going on, including an overly bushy ficus tree, drawing your eye away from the fireplace, that there is no real place to look.
  3. The furniture, art, and accessories used in this space, do not meet the demographics of the potential home buyer. Remember, I said this was an EXECUTIVE home. Does this scream executive to you?
  4. There is not enough seating in this room for the family that would live in the home. While you can’t tell from this photo, or the information I’ve provided so far, this is a 4 bedroom home. This is the only living room. While you may not have known that, the stager did. If you had the income to afford this house and this was the only living space in a 4 bedroom 2600 sqft house, do you feel like it would be optimal for your family?

Now. Let’s discuss how we approach home staging, and how we changed the space. First off, the lead stagers at Rave Home Staging follow a 3 point method of styling each property. First we determine how to work best with the architecture of the home. If the home is contemporary, then we will likely stage with more contemporary pieces. If the home is traditional, then you are likely to see a more traditional style. Next, we determine the demographic of the likely home buyer. How old are they? How old will their children be? This will give us a baseline on the style of decor that will most likely appeal to the potential buyer. Lastly, we determine the likely psychographics of the potential home buyer. How will they think? What kind of activities are this buyer likely to engage in? We create a lifestyle setting around all of this information. Let’s take a look at how that differs from the previous photograph.

Notice how much more seating is in this space than the previous space? It doesn’t feel crowded, but it does feel like the full room has been utilized. How many more people can actually comfortably fit into this room now?

Notice how the large mirror over the fireplace draws your eye to it? There is a clear focal point. The other two large pieces of art seek to balance the scale of the room, while drawing your eye up to the high ceilings. The room pulls out to feel like a larger space.

Style of furniture. The rich leather sofa, fur topped ottomans, and modern wing back chairs make the home feel richer, more luxurious. The combination of textures and textiles, wood, leather, glass, warmth, and sheen, create a cohesive space that potential buyers, in this demographic, aspire to live with.

The furniture doesn’t feel forced, or formulaic. It feels like a well thought-out designed space. As home stagers, we aren’t designers, we are marketers. As such, we need to understand all of the thought processes and triggers that create the urge to buy.

The result is always what is important. In this case, the home sold in less than a week after switching agents, and home stagers.

The BIG DIFFERENCE is not only in time on market, and the cost of maintaining a home of this cost.  The big change is what a potential buyer would pay for the other house, vs the one we staged. While all of the “bones” are the same, the perceived value is quite different. If you saw both of these homes on MLS, side by side, would you believe they had the same list price? 

A look at another home stager VS Rave Home Staging

Let’s take a look at another home we were recently contacted to re-stage. This time, the Realtor suggested that the homeowner hire us, primarily because they had seen the difference in the house above and asked that Realtor about it. The seller, convinced that they had done better research and would get a far superior product, but still spend less money than hiring us, contacted a different company. This was another one of those, stage only the key rooms of the home kind of companies.

On the surface, this Julington Creek Plantation Home is staged much better than the first home staging company. The listing agent contacted us, letting us know that the seller was incredibly upset at the level of staging in this property. They hate the all-white, beachy decor for this neighborhood. Since this community is a more traditional community, known for A+ schools, family activities, and sports, this style of decor isn’t likely to be too popular among those living here.

While I would agree with any stager that said that the seller’s stance on “all white” is more of a design decision, there are elements here that made me feel that the stager working on this property simply missed-the-mark. Again, let’s go through them, from a staging point of view, not a decorating one.

  1. Colors and styles are part of understanding demographics of potential home buyer, and not just decorating decisions.
  2. This 4 bedroom, 2271 sqft home doesn’t have enough seating for the family that would live here. This will make the room feel “too-small” for potential buyers. The general rule of seating is always number of bedrooms + 1 (as two people commonly share the master bedrooms) is the minimum number of seating. This living room has 4 seats – 3 sofa seats and one chair. That is one short of the 4 bedroom + 1 additional required.
  3. This same objection is carried over to the breakfast area. Again, only 4 chairs implies that this living room and breakfast room is only suitable for a 3 bedroom house.
  4. Rug on Rug. This is NEVER a good thing. Rug on rug implies there is something hiding underneath the rug, like stains.
  5. Dinky table in the TV hole. While almost everyone hates the TV holes that were popular in the late 1990’s, early 2000’s, when this home was built. The new buyers will have to live with it and this isn’t showing what to do to overcome the objection of dated architecture.
  6. The furniture is appropriate for the price point of the house, except there just isn’t enough of it. This doesn’t sheepishly imply that there is more room for stuff later, the awkward bar angle and tightness by the breakfast area, implies that it might not all fit, or at least “we didn’t know how to put it there and not look crowded”.

As before, let’s take a look at what Rave Home Staging did with the space after we received the contract, which was immediate by the way. The seller advised us that the staging company was honorable and when they heard about how much he disliked the staging, they immediately removed it and did not charge the full contracted price.

We don’t happen to have the same angle of this space, so I’ve included multiple photos so you can see how our version of the room relates.

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I love my home staging career. Every home is unique, so every day is different. I get to adapt and determine how to best showcase features and benefits, while minimizing negatives. What happens when you can’t decide if an architectural element is a feature or a flaw though?

When buyers wonder what the heck you should do with that space…

It is hard to make a real estate sale when buyers just can’t determine what do to with major focal points of a home.

When viewing this San Marco home online, prior to our actual planning visit, I got really excited. I knew that I would have to really think outside of the box and come up with a plan that would not only make sense to a potential buyer, but also take a potentially negative aspect and turn it into a great feature.

I’m pretty sure this four bedroom, two bath home started off life as a two bedroom, one bath bungalow. The photo in this first shot (above) is when you immediately walk into the home. This long corridor is a major point of the layout and architecture. Because it was formerly the exterior of the home, nearly all of the walls are either brick or cinder block. The primary living spaces, including the family room, dining room, and master suite are at the end of this walk.

THIS. This is the main entertaining and living space of the home. For most people, in the current form, this area is awkward and hard to look beyond. I mean, what do you do with it?

The home doesn’t feel easily understood. Thus far buyers haven’t had that instant, “Gotta have it!” instinct.

When buyers don’t know how it works, they don’t buy it.

Home staging is at its most fun in these moments, at least for me. This is not a generic beige box. This is not a luxury home that is already beautiful where we are just creating lifestyle and flow. This is actually turning an off-putting quirk into a fun retro vibe. Since this home is located in an artistic part of town, I expect it to pay off big-time.

 The first step, to making sense of this massively reconstructed home, had to be turning this long corridor into something more interesting than simply a hallway. By adding an entry table, large furniture storage, bench seating, a bar, and more, we created opportunities to break up the walkway into smaller, more typical, functional spaces.

Each area was carefully crafted to become casual, modern options for every day living. The stage was down-played while completely up-styled. Warmth was brought into the contemporary room, making it feel more like a living room and less like an over sized sunroom.

Rooms that previously may have left potential home buyers scratching their heads wondering how they would live in the home, now can imagine an entertaining or family-oriented lifestyle. Crazy additions of seemingly unusable connecting spaces are now perfect for injecting a sense of personality and artistic style.

Want to see more of this home? Visit our Facebook business page.

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