Other things can be done in certain rooms that will resonate with potential buyers when they walk through during a private tour or an open house. The way the couches are placed in the living room, for example, or the wattage of light bulbs in a chandelier can make a big difference in whether a house is appealing or not.
Williams, whose background is in interior design, spoke with the Chronicle about the business of staging and some of the things owners can do to sell their homes faster and get more for them. Here are edited excerpts of that conversation.
Q: What services does your company offer?
A: We do vacant home staging using our inventory of furnishings; we do owner-occupied staging; and we do vacant home staging where we furnish the home and place home managers to occupy the property. We also consult with sellers on how to capitalize on this market we’re in by updating their homes and getting more money for a home when it sells, basically to flip their own house.
Q: How do you do that?
A: We educate them on where money needs to be spent. Where they’re going to make money and where it’s not worth it. We also provide all the products. We give them a list of everything that needs to be done, if they’re willing to do updates and spend a little more money to make money.
Q: So what kind of improvements give sellers the most bang for their buck?
A: Painting. We recommend walls and ceilings be the same color. If there are wood cabinets, there’s been a trend toward painted cabinets. We always recommend it’s a wise investment to put new carpeting in. A lot of times we’ll recommend replacing countertops. The other big one is landscaping, especially on the front of the house. The old saying about curb appeal still stands. It’s amazing what a little update can do.
Another is lighting in high-impact areas, the entry fixture and formal dining room fixture. If people see those two fixtures updated, it makes them feel the whole has been updated. It’s funny how psychology works.
Q: How much can a homeowner expect to spend?
A: For vacant home staging, our contract is for a 90-day period. An average 90-day staging is around $8,000. That would get you two living areas, formal living and family room, formal dining room and breakfast room, and we’d stage the master bedroom and accessorize the kitchen and master bath. A makeover staging where someone is living in their home – working with someone’s furnishings – is $1,200 for a day. Updating can range anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000, depending on what they’re needing to do for the property. The important thing is we don’t have them do anything they’re not going to get a return on their money from.
Q: How much is it to hire a home manager?
A: The seller pays a $1,500 setup fee and doesn’t pay for staging until closing. We get ¾ of 1 percent of the list price. When a home manager lives in the home, we pay all the utilities. They’re pretty much like a caretaker for the property.
Q: Why does someone need a home manager?
A: Even if a home is staged but it’s vacant, the buyer and the agent understand somewhere there’s a homeowner paying two mortgages. Sometimes the attitude of the buyer is: We have a desperate seller, so let’s give a lower offer. A home manager helps overcome that. They tend to get a little bit higher offers.
Q: What’s the business cycle like in your industry? Are you busier when the housing market is slow and sellers feel they need a leg up?
A: There’s really no down cycle. In a really strong market, what we do helps houses sell for more money. If all houses are selling, it may not help you sell quicker but we can help you get more money for it. In a slow market when houses languish, there are more results on houses selling quicker. It may not be more money but it’s going to help get it sold faster. So our business is not cyclical at all.
Q: Have you seen the housing market slow down in Houston?
A: There has been a slight pullback. However, the market is still tremendously strong. The great thing about the Houston-area market is it’s a steady-as-she-goes market. It doesn’t have huge highs or huge lows like Las Vegas, San Diego or some other markets.
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