I’m Imogen Brown, the owner of Home Staging Brisbane a Home Staging company based in Brisbane, Australia. I write about all aspects of Home Staging and Property Styling. If you are looking for advice on how to present your house for sale or wondering if I could be the right stager for you and your property there’s plenty of info here.
According to a report on cbsnew.com, the top 5 products where buying the cheapest and most generic choice does not provide value for money are as follows:
Major Electronic items
Cheese. Yes, that’s right, Cheese
I’m going to add one more to the list – Staging
All stagers have experienced the ring around client or agent. “I’m just ringing round to ask how much it would cost to stage a 4-bed house?” they ask. Their goal is simple – furnish the house (and often only furnish a few rooms) at the lowest possible price. Job done.
What these type of inquiries don’t focus on is that the quotes they are comparing are half a pound of apples vs half a pound of pears.
Compare the quote below:
The Apples quote
The Pears quote
Poor quality furniture, art, and accessories
Great quality furniture, art, and accessories
Furniture style and size at odds with the house style and size
Furniture style and size in keeping with the house style and size
Selected and installed by an inexperienced stager
Selected and installed by an experienced stager
Bare minimum inclusions and accessories
Appropriate level of inclusions and accessories
Short hire period
Longer hire period
Doesn’t address most likely buyer
Targets staging to most likely buyer
Poor room purpose and layout
Room purpose and layout appropriate to the target buyer and space in house
Price doesn’t include GST or transport or insurance or professional art hanging
Price includes GST, transport, insurance, and professional art hanging
Low level of furniture available to select from
Good level of furniture available to select from
Poor back end logistics and communication
Good logistics and communication
I’m willing to bet that Quote 1 is the cheapest but it’s Quote 2 that delivers the best value and provides a better chance of a quicker sale at the best possible price.
What the above means for clients and agents
Staging is a growth industry and there is still a lot to learn. Know that staging is not a generic task nor are stagers generic people. Ask questions before you engage a stager “what furniture will you use?”, “how long is the hire period?”, “what does the quote include?”, “Can you show me similar houses you’ve staged?”. Price will always be a factor in a decision but questions like this will help you find the best value and help you compare apples to pears.
What the above means for stagers
Be confident in your rates and the value that your staging adds. Don’t answer the “how much will it cost?” question first. Ask instead “Tell me a little about your house and how I might be able to help you”. Once you’ve shown you can add value you can talk cost and that cost will, therefore, be valued.
Show examples of houses that you’ve staged and the result that you’ve achieved. In other words, show that your staging works.
Make it clear what’s included in the quote, whilst reminding your potential client that not all quotes will cover the same inclusions.
Think really hard before you discount to win business. It sets a precedent, it lowers the perceived value of what you’re offering, you might not do your best work as you will need to cut corners. Longer term you might not think the money you earn is worth staying in business. If you have your own inventory it could bankrupt your business. Discounting does the whole industry a disservice. You do not want to be known as the equivalent of own label toilet paper!
Are you a stager? Do you get the ring around? How do you respond? Do you discount?
Are you a seller or agent? How do you pick a stager? How much does price dictate your decision?
I’m Imogen Brown, a home stager based in Brisbane Australia. You can contact me via my website or on 0432994056. Or just leave a comment below
Since starting out as a property stylist in 2011 I’ve worked with, met and talked to a lot of agents.
I’ve had good experiences and bad.
I nearly wrote a post focussed on the bad experiences, a more therapeutic exercise no doubt but not very helpful. Instead, I’ve applied the theory that by illustrating what good behaviour looks like I’ll get more of it. I’ve decided to concentrate on the good experiences by breaking down why I love working with my favourite agents so much. What habits do these agents have that set them apart?
Below are the 7 habits.
1. See me as part of their team (not ‘just’ a supplier)
My favourite agents ring for a catch up, ring to pick my brains, ring to say they’ve recommended me to a client, brief me before I meet the client, recommend me to other agents in their office, pop in on install day to see how I’m getting on (bringing coffee) and caramel slice (OK I made that bit up). They send me links to the photos and tell me when a house is under offer or unconditional. I have a couple of agents who arrive at the consult with sleeves rolled up ready to help move furniture. All actions that demonstrate that they see me as part of their team.
2. Are loyal
My favourite agents have seen me do amazing work and also not so amazing. This is often due to poor stock availability at busy times of year or clients who haven’t done what they were asked. Sometimes I’ve got the look/feel wrong and I need to rectify it. The best agents don’t go running off to another stager when this happens, they keep the faith. They don’t get seduced by other companies (usually new stagers) who slash their rates to get business or turn up at the real estate office with cup cakes. I repay agent’s loyalty by moving business around to accommodate them and by recommending them to my clients. I’ve said this before but few agents have grasped the concept that a stager brought in by a seller at the beginning of the preparation process can be a great source of agent referrals.
3. Brief me then leave me to do my thing
My favourite agents have a clear idea of where they think their clients need help and are able to communicate this so I don’t go into a project ‘blind’. I’m happy to have discussions about look/feel but great agents know that a certain ‘look’ isn’t always achievable due to stock availability. They know that I will always do my best but are happy to leave me to do it. Paradoxically some of the agents that I best work with have a great eye and are able to walk in at the end of an install and say “can we try moving the console” or “maybe a plant in the corner” We know each other well enough that this feels like a genuine collaboration. Back to teamwork, I guess.
4. Support me in front of their client
Great agents can sell the concept of staging and me as the expert. They don’t discuss costs with a client without consulting me first. I’ve had many agents say to me “I told them you’d do it for $3k” to which I’d love to reply “that’s great! I told them you’d drop your commission”. The best agents back me up if a client is being difficult. An agent has given a listing back to a client in front of me as he was being so difficult before and during the staging. This agent has my support for life.
5. Think beyond price and competition
The best agents have more than one stager on their books that they can recommend for different things. Maybe one stager is great and cost efficient at 2 bed units, another has access to quality furniture for high- end houses, another is fantastic at consults or partial staging. Maybe a certain stager gets booked up so can’t accommodate rush jobs and another has her own supply of soft furnishings that can transform a house at a great price. All stagers have different strengths. Great agents know this. What great agents don’t do that is THE biggest source of frustration to stylists is ask 3 stagers to quote on a piece of business then go with the cheapest one. When an agent rings around for quotes they are basically saying “I’ll go with the cheapest”. The agent isn’t even the one paying for the staging – the client is.
6. Give me time
Great agents know that good home staging can take time and give me as much notice as possible. Generally speaking, if someone has lived in their house for 40 years they can’t be expected to be ready for photos by ‘next Tuesday’ and asking me to help them with such an immediate deadline is setting us all up for failure. The best agents play the long game and list a house when everyone is prepared and ready. I had an agent ring on behalf of a developer client recently. “The house is finished, we’d like the furniture in by early next week” to which I replied, “How long has it taken to build this house and how long have you known about this listing?!”
7. Love real estate as much as I do
I could talk about real estate with my favourite agents all day. I love to hear about the listing they’ve just secured or what sold at auction. I commiserate when they tell me of the listing that got away. We have a lot in common. We are running our own businesses with all the effort, disappointment and reward that this entails. I love the relationships and human connections that can be built in this business just through talking about what we love.
So, over to you. Are you a stylist? What habits do you agree with or would add to this list? Or are you an agent with a different point of view. Just leave a comment.
I’m Imogen Brown a Home Stager based in Brisbane, Australia. Connect with me through my website or on 0432994056
Since I started staging over 6 years ago, I’ve noticed a growing trend; more and more of my staging jobs are for partial staging (where a percentage of my clients furniture is kept and hire furniture is added in).
There are 2 potential reasons for this:
I have become known as the ‘Partial Queen’ and the ‘go to’ person for partial staging.
The market for home staging is growing and changing and partials are a big component of this.
The first reason is said in jest but is still partly true. I am, as I’ve said in a previous post ‘partial to a partial’ The more I work on partials the more that agents contact me to work on them and the more I showcase partials on my website and social media the more potential clients approach me with this type of work.
However I think the second reason is the biggest factor dictating the increasing number of partials. 5 years ago property styling was mostly used to stage a vacant house after the tenants had vacated or was used on high end properties. All the furniture was taken out and the stylist started from scratch.
As agents and their clients have got more used to the idea of staging, more and more people are wanting to stage at some level and the general standard of presentation pre-sale has increased. I am getting more phone calls from down sizers and busy families in all suburbs and at all price points wanting help with preparing their house to sell. My clients don’t want to move out and have their vacant house staged from scratch, they want to stay in their house. They already have furniture, the question becomes what to keep, what to store and what to hire to pull it all together into a better version of itself. The fact is that if vendors aren’t staging their property they are helping to sell the house down the road that has been staged. This realisation is causing more and more people to look to staging in some format to help them sell.
What does this mean for stagers, agents, furniture hire warehouses and their clients?
Firstly for stagers, if you aren’t comfortable with partial staging you either better start getting comfortable or build yourself a shrinking niche around vacant staging.
Partial staging takes time so when quoting make sure you are charging properly for the time it will take. Partial staging takes longer as the consult and measure take longer (and please charge for this part as it really is where the magic happens), the selection often takes longer and during the install stagers aren’t just installing the furniture that they’ve hired they are installing plus making sure the whole house is ready for the photos. As a stager, make sure you take the above into account when quoting.
During a partial stage other skills also come into play, which for me makes it more challenging but so much more rewarding. As the owner of Silk Purse Design, a staging company in Boston, USA told me “This career is part interior design, part mover, part magician, part referee, part crisis hotline.”
Finally, looking to the future there is an argument for stagers to carry some of their own inventory of most required items for partial staging – art, bedlinen, bedsides, lamps, rugs, cushions and accessories. These small additions in conjunction with storing, streamlining and proper layout of furniture can go a long way to staging in a partial way.
Agents, don’t just call when you have a vacant house that needs staging (and a side plea, don’t call 2 days before taking the photos). All houses no matter their price point can look their best come sale time and 90% require input from a stager. Maybe a staging consult is all your clients need, maybe they need a consult plus direction as to what to buy or hire. Any good stager can work to different needs and price points. Find a couple of stagers who are good at partial staging and who are practical yet empathetic. People move for lots of different reasons, not all of them happy so having someone on hand to support sellers through the process can be invaluable. Be ready to play a longer game, waiting a month to fit a new carpet, store away unwanted items and install some furniture before listing will result in a quicker sale. You can’t expect a family who have lived in their house for 30 years to be ready to list by next Wednesday. This is usually the agents need not the sellers.
Furniture hire warehouses
The warehouses that set themselves up to service partial staging will find more and more stagers wanting to use them. Investing in good artwork, lamps, bedlinen, cushions, rugs and beds will ensure that furniture hire companies will secure more of the budget. Stylists love a one stop shop, it’s a more efficient use of their time. Make delivery and pick up cost effective for smaller projects. I also forsee the rise of companies that ‘just’ supply the smaller pieces such as cushions, accessories and art. I carry very little inventory so would welcome the launch of such a company. Specialist companies will also do well. For example many stylists in Brisbane hire art from MMDesigner Art.
Home owners, know that there are many ways to prepare a house for sale and not all of them include hiring a lot of furniture. An initial consult with a good stager will be the best money you spend. They will be able to give direction on return on investment upgrades, room purpose, room layout, what to store, what to keep, what might be missing and whether to buy or hire. They are a good source of contacts and can help navigate you through the whole process when you start to feel overwhelmed. Preparing a house to sell is not without an element of effort and cost, but the motivation of a fast sale at a great price is usually enough to spur clients on.
Are you a stager, agent, furniture hire company or home owner? I’d love to know if you think partial staging is a growing trend and what this means for you.
I’m Imogen Brown, a stager based in Brisbane Australia. Contact me through my website or on 0432994056
I’ve weighed up over the last couple of days whether to write this post as I don’t want it to come off as a complaining stylist with first world problems. However I know that a lot of other stylists read my blog or follow me on social media and that by looking at my feed you would think that every day was a staging success.
The truth is I’m currently going through the opposite of a purple patch (probably a red patch as I hate the colour red – not partial to purple either come to think of it). I want to illustrate why things aren’t gelling although I’m concerned that my agents and clients could recognise themselves here or that I’ll be judged in some way (particularly for the artwork which I’m still kicking myself over!). These are all just things that can happen in this business. There just seems rather a concentration of them!
So in no particular order here are just some of the things that have happened in the last couple of weeks:
Hired a modular sofa but only one piece turned up
Hired a sofa and 2 pieces turned up – it was a modular, who knew? But as they are a set I had to ‘hide’ the other piece in the house.
Glass table top didn’t turn up (so the lounge setting couldn’t be in the photos)
Told not to use nails by a client so I used 3m instead and 2 of my client’s artwork fell down in the middle of the night
Agent told me he hated a staging I’d done. When I made the changes he wanted (and more) at a time and money cost to me he didn’t respond. At all.
Another agent told me she was disappointed there weren’t more accessories on the side tables (after I’d spent 6 hours installing on a 30 degree day)
Waited 2 hours for a delivery truck to turn up. Finally turned up at 4.45pm. On a Friday
Huge install I’m doing pushed back and I just found out has pushed back again.
Client didn’t go ahead with a partial stage as ‘it’s a lot of work if the house won’t sell”
Client didn’t go ahead with a partial stage as I told them their cats couldn’t be in the house with the hire furniture.
Client didn’t go ahead on a $5k job as they wouldn’t pay for me to come out and quote. A figure that’s included in the $5k but needs to be paid upfront.
Client didn’t progress as their wife had organised the staging with another company
Potential client got in touch. I realised when I looked up their suburb they were an 11 hour drive away in NSW!
Client didn’t progress because “it’s too expensive” (times about 10)
Client didn’t progress because we’re not progressing at this stage (times about 5) Could be related to above point
Client “just needs to talk to my husband” (times about 3). If you hear this you never get the job!
Finally, I hate to admit this but quite a few of the houses I’ve staged recently haven’t sold. I know that staging is only one part of the equation but I stage houses so that my clients can sell up and move on. It seems a few of them are currently stuck. Which I hate.
Still with me? That was a long whinge – apologies. So what’s the point? Well, there’s 3 of them:
When you start your own home staging business there are lots of set backs. I think the impression is that when you’re up and running the set backs ease. They don’t. Maybe they just change colour
When you’re flicking through the #propertystyling hashtag on instagram be kind to the stylist. Don’t think “it’s all right for them”. We’re all just doing our best with what we have. We’re often just happy to have the business
This too shall pass – as a lovely fellow stylist said to me the other day. I’ll just keep doing what I do until I hit purple again
An agent rang me yesterday. We’d pencilled a measure for this morning. “I’m just ringing to keep you up to date” he said. “Looks like the measure will be on Monday instead. Just wanted you to know so you can plan your day” “Thank-you” I said. Maybe I’m moving into mauve…
I’m Imogen Brown, a home stager in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. I love staging houses so that people can sell up and move on. Contact me on 0432994056 or through my website www.homestagingbrisbane.com
I started my home staging business 5 years ago at the same time as the 2011 Brisbane floods. A terrible time for countless Brisbane families and terrible timing to be setting up a real estate related business.
Yet, here I am 5 years later with a solid home staging business.
I know that a lot of readers of my blog are budding or fellow home stagers so I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt along the way. All stagers work differently but I thought there may be a few nuggets below that you may identify with or that you can learn from.
So in no particular order, this is what I’ve learnt..
Success did not come overnight, it crept up slowing and is the culmination of 1000’s of little actions that have moved me along from no business to a full diary. It all adds up.
When I started my business every thing I did was for the first time – first consult, first furniture hire, first website, first call from a client, first invoice. There’s a lot of ‘fake it till you make it’ going on, a lot of saying yes and finding out the answers later, a lot of learning on the job. This is not a comfort zone business, (but nor is any business you run yourself).
Home staging (also called property styling in Australia) is a growth business. This means more stagers. I’ve learnt that everyone has a better time and the market grows if stagers support not compete with each other. I know that if I’m sick on the day of an install I can call another stager and she will fill in, I know that if my diary is full I can refer work to another stager and they will do the same for me. I know that it can get lonely working for myself so having stager friends I can call for a catch up makes what I do more rewarding.
In addition to the above, all stagers stage in different ways and that’s good for the market. I personally don’t like the ‘dolls house’ furniture look but it’s cheap and there is a market for it. Conversely I don’t like an overly staged or styled or layered look but others do and it’s appropriate for particular houses. I’ve learnt that this choice is good
I’ve learnt that people sell their properties for very different reasons, not all of them happy. It’s not that I’m actively looking for clients to be crying on my shoulder in the kitchen yet I know that these are the clients that I build a stronger relationship with and that I’m most happy for when they sell.
It’s the same with houses. I’ve learnt that although they take longer and make my brain explode, I’ve learnt that I enjoy and am good at big old rambling houses that need work before the furniture goes in or that only need a partial stage to supplement my client’s furniture. One big jigsaw of possibilities. Challenging yes, but very rewarding.
Owning my own company consumes my thoughts more than I realised – when I’m not ‘at work’ I’m reading interior magazines, books or blogs, watching Selling houses Australia, sourcing products or doing my admin. I’m generally a good sleeper but not the night before a selection or install when I lie awake thinking of everything that could go wrong or re-arranging the rooms in my head. I”m writing this blog post in the evening after work so probably this is a case in point!
I’ve learnt to value my time. To get paid up front, to get paid to measure for furniture and to get paid for a consult. I’m happy to spend time on the phone but as soon as I’m standing in a client’s house I’m on the clock. Plumbers get paid and so should I. I’ve learnt that this approach means I lose business but at least I haven’t wasted half a day in the process.
I’ve learnt that I’m scared of the financials in my business but that I have to make friends with my tax accountant and book keeper. I’ve learnt that waiting 4 years to appoint both these people is not a good move. Lets just call this a work in progress.
I’m learning that home staging rules can be broken. Experience has given me the confidence to leave walls painted yellow, terracotta or blue (all recent staging projects) because they add to the ‘feel’ of the house. I’ve learnt to leave a bit of family clutter around or a family photo or two. Things that say happy comfortable family house. Each house is different and needs to be treated differently.
I’ve learnt that I have a love hate relationship with agents. At their best I’m seen as part of their team (love these agents!) at their worst they text saying “you’re meeting X tomorrow at 9am and we need the furniture by Friday (and if you don’t deliver there are other stagers I can call)”. “Wow thanks, I feel so special”. My strategy is not to put all my eggs in an agent’s basket. Getting business direct from my clients seems a safer approach to me.
I’ve learnt that everything I do communicates – the way I present my website, the way I write my blog and every e-mail and client contact all helps to brand my business. I’ve learnt not to bad mouth a potential client on twitter only to have that tweet seen by their agent (seriously, what are the odds – no one reads twitter!) Still feel bad about that one. Lesson learned. I know that I am a sensitive person and that I can get emotional. I’ve learnt that sometimes I need to walk away, breathe deeply, gain perspective so I can respond in a professional way. E-mailing “but it’s not fair!” is not a good approach.
And finally (If you’ve read this far) I’ve learnt that I love to run my own business, to shape it the way I want, to be able to take my kids to after school sport (at least some of the time), to be a role model especially for my teen daughters and not to have to wear a lanyard to work so I can get into the building and use the photocopier!
Are you a stager or thinking of becoming one? What have you learnt along the way or what has resonated with you here? I’d love to know.
And here’s to the next 5 years
I’m Imogen Brown, a home stager based in the western Suburbs of Brisbane. Got comments or suggestions? Contact me through my website or on 0432994056