Staging: How to Convince a Homeowner

You just landed a wonderful listing. Congratulations! It’s a tough market right now, but the home is in a good neighborhood and with just a little work it may be sold in a couple weeks.

Then you actually start working with the client. This client is motivated to sell the house, but is completely unwilling to raise a hand to help you stage, show or sell the home.

They want to move because they already have a new house. They don’t want to organize, paint or be bothered with “the old house” and they don’t believe it matters. Your suggestions are meeting with resistance and you get the distinct impression that your recommendation that they paint the dark blue entryway a lighter color is… well… rude.

You don’t want to upset the client, but you can’t engage them in the project. You need them to be cooperative. How do you achieve that goal?

In three easy steps…Accentuate the positive

First, you should approach the project with a positive spin. Find what’s good or even great about the property and focus on that. If they have a wonderful master bedroom with a great view and a gargantuan closet, you should focus your marketing here.

You will not be able to get a seller to redo the entire house, so select two or three areas for your focus. Make sure these areas are highly desirable features of the property that will show well and list them creatively in your advertising, marketing materials, and verbally when you show the home.

  1. Consider the buyer you are trying to attract.
    • If the buyers are most likely to be young families, concentrate on the growth potential of extra bedrooms and play spaces.
    • If the target buyers are professional couples, focus on his and her home offices and communications/internet connectivity wiring.
    • If the buyers are more likely to be older, retired individuals, concentrate on the accessibility features of the home and it’s propensity to be an excellent property for later years and room for the grandchildren to visit.
  2. Determine what features are superior to similarly priced homes in the area.
    • Extra bathrooms are always a great bonus
    • A gourmet kitchen and space to entertain
    • Extremely nice or plentiful storage spaces throughout the home
  3. Create a theme. If, for instance, you have a property with a finished basement, a bathroom and an exterior door, you can “spin” that several ways:
    • With a fenced-in back yard, you have a wonderful “play area” for young children that will keep their toys and projects out of the central portion of the home and help them keep their bedrooms clean.
    • In a college town, this may be a way to keep a college aged-child under roof more economically, while making continuing education more fiscally attainable or it could be rented out to a local college student for additional income.
    • It could be used as a way to move an aging parent in, easing the buyer’s mind about the care of that parent, while maintaining the parent’s privacy and independence for as long as possible.
    • For an entrepreneur, it could serve as a home office to entertain clients without disturbing the family, and a way to keep family and business separate under the same roof.

Be creative. Look past how the spaces are used now and determine a way to create a “story” that will attract your desired buyers. Share your plans and your approach with the listing client to gain their support.

Describe the home as a canvas

Your seller needs to understand that the home selling process is a simple matter of numbers and percentages. You have a solid, well-maintained property at a fair price, in a desirable location and you market to the largest number of potential, qualified buyers. You continue to do this until you find the right buyer. That’s what they need to know.

They also need to understand that appealing to those individuals means enabling potential buyers to see the seller’s home as a great backdrop for their own lives. That means that too much of the owner’s personality shining through will cloud a buyer’s ability to project themselves and their own family into this particular home, in their mind’s eye.

Make the seller your ally

So your approach may be something like…

    “Oh Jane, this color is simply striking! I love it. Unfortunately, not all people are as creative as you and I are. You have a commanding personality which is beautifully displayed with your cutting edge decor, but many of your potential buyers won’t be as forward-thinking. If we paint the entry way a lighter, albeit more boring color, your potentials will be better able to imagine this home as their own. Selling your home will mean that we have to remove “you” from the equation. We have to enable potential buyers to imagine their own possessions displayed here and we want them to spend time contemplating that, rather than admiring your modern art collection. We can’t afford to distract them from the business of buying your home!

    We want to get this house sold quickly and for the best possible price, so you can move into that beautiful new home and start making it your own. *smile*

    I’ll pull together a list of things we can do to make this property a little less “you” so they can imagine it as their new home. It will probably just involve a little paint, some “undecorating” and packing some of your collections up ahead of time for the move. Nothing major for you, but a big difference in how well it will show to the general public. How does that sound?”

You make it easy for the seller to see that they are special, talented individual with great taste — but it’s a “vanilla” home that sells best. You draw them in as your partner in the project. You compliment their own style while breaking the news that they are in the elite minority. You get them to say “yes” to the changes you need them to make by approaching them graciously.

Staging a home for sale doesn’t have to be a struggle if you make the client your ally and approach things carefully. Rolling your eyes at their aqua-colored dining room, or their two-room collection of porcelain dolls will not endear you and will not make them eager to help. People are attached to their “stuff” and enjoy their own “taste” in decorating… Don’t YOU?

So, rather than coming in as “I’m the expert and this has got to go!” Try a softer, gentler approach: admire, advise and gain their assistance. Then you can get the home staged and sold and enjoy the referrals that follow.

It’s that easy.