Early this October I attended the IAHSP home staging conference in Nashville. I heard a lot about what real estate agents want, and how home stagers can help them get it. Through presentations, speakers, and workshops, I learned not just how home stagers help sell houses, but why the work of a home stager sells houses faster. I put together a quick guide to the key points I gathered at IAHSP, particularly the points that matter to real estate professionals.
First, a bit about IAHSP…
What is the IAHSP Conference?
The International Association of Home Staging Professionals is an organization that’s been connecting and educating home staging professionals for 20 years. Since 2003, they’ve held an annual conference and expo, providing home staging professionals with workshops, keynote speakers, and networking opportunities to improve their business and craft.
This year, the conference was in Nashville at the Gaylord Opry Resort and Convention Center (side note, the hotel was amazing) and more than 450 attendees from 12 countries participated in the 2-day event. Among the 39 speakers at the conference were three keynote speakers, Candice Olson from the HGTV home makeover shows “Divine Design” and “Candice Tells All” plus Carson Kressley and Thom Filicia, stars of Bravo’s “Get a Room” and the original “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”
Key Takeaways for Real Estate Agents and Brokers from the IAHSP Conference
Not “pretty” — marketable
Slow their roll
The Tinder effect on real estate
This isn’t a hobby
Don’t sell a car with Cheerios in the seats
Home Staging Makes Homes Marketable, Not Just “Pretty”
Anyone can make a house pretty — or at least they can decorate and arrange a house in a way that they feel is attractive. But what a buyer thinks is pretty, what you think is pretty, and even what I think is pretty are three different things. That’s why I don’t go into a home staging project looking to make a house “pretty.” I aim to make it marketable.
Using measurable components, I make a home more functional. I make it appeal to the widest swath of potential buyers possible. And most of all, I align the staging with the lifestyle demographics and emotional psycho-graphics of prospective buyers — buyers who would be interested in a particular home based on its architecture, location, price range, and so on.
I don’t choose the color palette based on my favorite colors. I choose a color palette with purpose. It has to fit the house, it has to appeal, it has to carry the eye from room to room.
Instead of staging to make a home “pretty,” a home should be staged based on how a potential buyer will live in the home. Using flow, rhythm, harmony, and progression home staging creates a story. A story that often ends with a buyer making an offer and moving in.
Home Staging Slows Buyers Down
Imagine an empty living room, an empty bedroom. They are boxes with a window or two. A glance is all anyone needs to glean that info. A properly staged room makes people stop and ask, “What’s going on in here?” “What are my options for using this room?” “Who should I invite to the housewarming party?”
The time they spend in each room is more time a potential buyer has to fall in love with a property. Since I stage a home to highlight and reference architectural details, buyers stop and pay attention, feeling the space for themselves, bonding with the home as they do so.
Staging keeps a buyer interested in a home.
Buying a Home Today is Like Internet Dating
At the IAHSP conference, I learned a key fact: 85% of buyers quickly scan photos of homes they’re interested in. Just like someone swiping through Tinder or scrolling through Match.com, an interested buyer looks through photos to establish a bond, or even a “relationship” with the home.
Which do you think is more likely to establish a bond? A room set up and ready for life, or an empty box?
I stage a home for two audiences, the buyers walking through during showings and open houses, and for people looking at homes on the Internet. A good home stager not only considers how a home looks in person, but how it will look in a photo on a realtor website.
Using complementary textures and patterns, shapes and colors, home staging brings the room together, and can even help to make the room feel larger and spacious — and look larger and more spacious in photos.
Home staging is not my hobby
The difference between me (a professional home stager) and someone who “likes decorating houses” is I am continually investing in myself and my business. I go to conferences (like the one I’m talking about today). I take classes, undergo training. I keep myself up on home trends and staging techniques. Also, like most professionals, I carry liability insurance and belong to professional organizations that emphasize accountability.
Yes, I love what I do. Design is a driving force in my life. But I wouldn’t call this a hobby!
Selling an Unstaged Home is Like Selling an Un-detailed Car
I heard this analogy at the conference and loved it:
Selling an unstaged vacant home is less likely to create a bond with potential buyers. But not staging an occupied home is like selling a used car and not getting it detailed first. If a buyer spots a coffee stain or sees an old french fry on the floorboard, it doesn’t matter how beautifully that engine purrs, the sale is most likely off.
It’s the same for houses. In an occupied home, elements that sellers have long since stopped seeing — a crack in a window, a chip in a tile, a smudge on a wall — might be the first thing a buyer sees, and while it’s not fair, that might mean the difference between them going with another house over this one.
When I stage an occupied home, I look over it with an eagle eye. I’ll find and recommend a solution for any flaws, any oversights, any detail that might snag the eye of a potential buyer. The windows will shine, the rooms will flow, and potential buyers will be free to see the home in its best light — and finally find their dream home.