Monday, October 12, 2009

The Other Hand: Staging, Stats, and Skipped Bits

Here I go again with my lectures about looking reasonably carefully before jumping to conclusions and "answers".

A good agent who is also a great marketer dropped a card in our mailbox the other day with a two-sided pitch on the benefits of home staging. We absolutely believe that staging has become almost essential for most homes in today's market.

I have a pet rant about staging, but it's pointless to bore you with it -- whether I "like" universal staging doesn't matter; it usually works if done right; and since everybody else is going to do it, you pretty much have to do it as well.

But the amount and type of staging depends on the market, the particular home and other circumstances.

Like selecting an agent and nearly everything else in real estate, staging has a whole bunch of "art" and "situation" about it.

A nice survey-based table showing how much you will "make" on a given staging activity looks very scientific and "factual". If only it were that simple. The piece in my mailbox gives examples such as "Update kitchen and bathrooms" at a cost of $1404-$1828 yielding a price increase of $3216-$3934. To the author's credit, a source is noted: "HomeGain survey of 2000 sales representatives nationwide..."

My bank account seems to drop more than $1828 by just speaking to a contractor, let alone actually doing a kitchen reno. Note it says "updating". They are probably talking about a countertop and sink, some paint and a few other bits. Now if you have to deal with solidly laid out-of-fashion ceramic tile on the floor, a nice 70's era "Florida ceiling" and avocado appliances ... well, start by adding another zero to the cost.

Then there's that HomeGain survey itself. HomeGain is an American real estate marketing firm. Their survey was of sales representatives in the U.S. and appears to have come out in 2007 as the market was beginning to badly misbehave down there. Not sure how big a difference any of those things make, but they give me pause.

[The HomeGain survey results can be found in a very useful HomeGain guide that you can download here ]

On the other side of the card, another survey result: professionally staged homes sell 80% faster!

Again, all credit to the agent for noting the source. is an organization involved in the training, accreditation and promotion of stagers.

The data was gathered during the period when BOTH Canadian and American markets were slumping. The bit not mentioned in the source-credit: 55% of the homes were vacant!

And the 80% differential is between 37 days to sell for the staged home vs. 6 months for the others! The average days-on-market for the entire Toronto area in September was a very-low 27 days.

To summarize, I'm not dissing staging. It's important and works when done right in the right situation. But the "proof" in these statistics and surveys is far from conclusive. Really I'm just illustrating a caveat for many things in real estate ... and life, for that matter:

Wiser people than I have warned about the tendency to try to make decisions and issues as simple as we want them to be, rather than dealing with the complexity that truly comprises them.

"If a string has one end, then it has another end"
"Policy [or rules] are for the guidance of wise men, and the strict adherence of fools".

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