Behind the Scenes | Staging 101 - Article in “Seattle Real Producers” Magazine

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Think about the last time you opened the front door of a home when the first impression took your breath away. I call it a “clutch the pearls” moment – your senses are heightened, you’r feeling the energy of the house, and you can’t wait to see more. That is the power of a perfectly prepared, staged home. The scene is set to have potential homeowners start envisioning their lives there, placing their own furniture in the setting, living the lifestyle that is being presented.

As a former co-owner of one of Seattle’s top staging companies, I have 10 years plus experience professionally staging homes. Many people over the years asked me about the staging business as they toyed with going into the business themselves since they had a knack for design. I myself had gotten into the business because I was selling large condominium conversion projects in the mid 2000s but found that the staging that was being delivered was sub-par to what I knew I could compile. That said, the staging industry has completely matured since 2006, and there are amazing staging companies offering a wide array of “looks” at all price points. You just have to know what to look for and ask for.

Here are my “Britt’s Picks” Tips for Staging

1. Start connecting with stagers before you need them. It would give me a sinking feeling to be interviewing for a listing without being able to communicate a staging process. My advice is that when you’re touring listings, start a running list of the stagers’ work that you’re drawn to – and call them. Ask them about their process, their general lead times, and their pricing structure. In no time, you’ll have a few that you’re familiar with when the time arises.

2. Get on the calendar. This is critical! Many staging companies are incredibly busy year 'round and are booked out 30-45 days. My advice is that as soon as you get a whisper of a new listing, start placing calls and seeing when their first available staging day is.

3. Walk through your listing with the stager. Each home has unique qualities – degree of light in rooms, tone of carpet and paint — and all of these elements go into a stager’s furniture and accessory plan. It is important that someone from the company has seen your listing prior to staging day for optimal styling.

4. Don’t micromanage. If your stager has been in business for a while and you’ve seen their work, my best recommendation is to not be present while the installation is in process, and to keep your clients out of the property as well. It’s like cleaning out your garage. It’s always worse before it gets better. How the staging ends up looking like is what you should concern yourself with.

The primary reasons I left the business were that it is time-intensive (and I was also a full-time real estate broker), and you’d be surprised how low the margins are. With the continual buying of inventory, breakage, obsolescence, storage and labor, only a few market leaders end up making a great living. Sometimes I have a listing where I think, “I can stage it.” I embark on the shopping extravaganza and end up dropping countless hours going from HomeGoods to Target to HomeGoods again, and spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on furniture and accessories for a result that may be as great as it would have been had I hired it out. But at what cost? Trust me, hire a professional stager for your staging … I do!

Britt Wibmer