Sunday, March 11, 2012

We're Moving! (part 7) Staging ... spawn of the devil

Before we start, a personal note to you.
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Thanks in anticipation.

Now back to our regular programming.
"Staging" is stupid, deceptive and drives me nuts.  We used a great stager and I know it helped sell our house. So, that about sums it up.

A little more detail ...
First, the rant.
Even before staging, there was the pretty kitchen syndrome.  Two similar houses. One with new and updated wiring, roof, furnace, plumbing, beautifully maintained; not a lot of kitchen/bath/decor upgrades but whatever had to be done was done and done well.  It has a "lived in" look as a result of raising a family and collecting a couple of decades of memories.

The other house has older systems and a bit of a musty smell in the basement, but the old carpets have been pulled and the floors stripped and urethaned, a few gallons of taupe applied, and a shiny new IKEA kitchen installed.

Guess which house sells first for more money.

Picking up on this syndrome, an entire "staging" industry developed.
Early on, we had the perfect house for staging.  A young and handy couple with a family spent every last penny doing an outstanding job of reno'ing a house in a good solid middle-of-the-road neighbourhood.  Unfortunately, the reno'd a little past the top end of the neighbourhood and all their money went to the reno and the kids.  We had toys and tools, but no furniture.  The house needed to be furnished and decorated in a manner befitting the budget of a buyer for this high quality renovated property.  Enter the stager and a van load of rented furniture, art, bedding, pillows, etc.  Perfect.

But then almost everybody started doing it.  Houses didn't just have to be clean and solid.  They had to be "decluttered" to the point of "unliveable".  And it worked.  The house that looked like magazine photo shoots of houses where no-one ever reads a magazine or uses a towel sold.  The house that looked like real people lived in it just sat there.

With time, we thought it might get better.  As people saw more and more staging and the media picked up on the trend, we thought clients were learn to see through staging and to see potential.
What happened? (go ahead, click)
Instead it got worse.  Now we could show clients 5 houses.  4 might be staged, one not.  Previously, the 4 would sell first.  Suddenly it was hard to even get your clients to go through the unstaged one.

It went from a reward for the staged to being a penalty for the unstaged.  Buyers were even suspicious of why a seller wasn't staged.  It all reminds me of what has happened to hitchhiking.  In our youth, there were occasional hitching issues, but it was nonetheless quite common and positive.  Now, I won't pick anybody up -- "what kind of person would be hitching?", and I would never hitch -- "what kind of person would pick me up?"

It has always been discouraging to see clients pass up a good house that needed little more than new paint. It became epidemic.  Without any actual data, I became convinced that part of it was a subconscious feeling that "If we buy this pristine uncluttered house, we will be starting over and we can live like this".

No, you can't.  It's not living ... it's a house that nobody "lives" in.

The sellers are probably staying with a brother-in-law because they can't cook (smells and they don't know where they hid the small appliances), they can't bathe (don't touch those towels), and they can't relax (for fear of mushing a pillow or being unable to perfectly repositioning the artfully casual placement of the throw on the couch.

Our advice to buyers, as always: open your eyes and look at THE HOUSE, not the contents.
Our advice to sellers ... sigh ... "Stage it because it works".

In our case, we're sellers.  Enter Janine Anderton of Urban Oasis (  Lee and I both have good eyes and the experience to know what needs to be done.  But Janine is better.  And she doesn't "make work" ... re-drywalling the kitchen, replacing cabinet fronts and bringing in stainless steel appliances is renovating, not staging.  The best stagers work as much as possible with what you have, shifting it around and filling in the gaps with the right accents from their own supply of "good stuff".  Touch ups, painting, etc are part of the kit, if needed and when the seller isn't in a position to handle it themselves in a timely manner.

Janine made our living room feel larger AND cozier, got rid of or replaced some "clangers" in the decor and moved artwork around to make things coordinate and flow better.  This even after we had done a pretty good job of getting 80% of the way there.

Nonetheless, Gord grumped and slumped, held his head, left the room occasionally, and whined endlessly about "moving stuff for the sake of moving it ... it's fine the way it is ... nobody will see that ... why are we doing that ... we're wasting time on the insignificant ... and so on".  Lee and Janine cheerily ignored him and did a great job.

P.S.  Update on lockers, decluttering, packing thing:  Still room in the locker, but it's filling up.  My back hurts.
Box tips:
1. The LCBO doesn't actually cut the tops off of ALL their boxes.  Wednesday seems to be a good day to nab a few.
2. Buying boxes is stupid expensive, even with volume discounts at the moving stores, storage companies, etc.  Oddly, one of the most reasonable and well stocked places for moving supplies is Staples.  The stores are good, but if you get into their packaging stuff online, aimed at businesses you may find better-than-most deals on a large variety of box sizes and other packing stuff.


Bill smith said...

Thank you for the staging info. I was wondering why you were moving your furniture out when I had heard that it was wise to show a furnished house. Interesting how much easier it is when you find professional help that is in tune and sensitive to your needs. We had a similar relationship with our designer for the reno.

Sent from Starbucks in Phoenix - the ultimate place of clean and uncluttered!

GordandLee Martin said...

Good point, Bill.
Furniture, yes.
Enough furniture to live your normal life ... no.

Jim said...

Interesting - I posted a comment on #6 but it never showed up. Maybe I got the "robot blocker" code wrong, but it never told me I did. I was wondering why you were making repairs after the house was sold, but from the other comments, now I get it.