Tag Archives: staging

Less Lipstick = More Value

Last week, I offered some home-buying tips on how not to be fooled by staging. This week, my focus is on why empty and unstaged properties should be ranked at the top of every buyer’s must-see list.

I always say that my “dream home” for buyers is one with stained shag carpeting, an active roof leak and cat pee in every corner. Anything that combines ugly, stinky and neglected is enticing to me.

Or, as a contractor friend once said to me, “More pig, less lipstick.”

Some piggy properties are major fixers suited only for developers. I’m not talking about those oinkers. I’m talking about properties where the seller didn’t bother taking any pains with presentation. These empty or non-staged homes offer special advantages for buyers.

Advantage 1: Non-staged properties photograph badly. The lighting is dim and the empty rooms look small and sad. On MLS, dismal photos (or a lack of any photos) repel many buyers. These buyers swipe ahead to the next, more attractive looking listing. This means less competition for the poorly-presented house.

Advantage 2: Non-staged properties convey the impression that something is amiss, otherwise the sellers and their agent would care more. Busy buyers have infinite choices but finite time for viewing them, so they eliminate the “houses that must have something wrong with them” first. Fewer shoppers mean fewer offers.

Advantage 3: Lack of staging may mean the seller isn’t being well represented. The listing agent isn’t employing an effective marketing strategy (which would include staging), so there’s a chance he/she will not be very strategic about pricing or offers or negotiations. This also can mean a better value for the eventual buyer.

Advantage 4: Lack of staging magnifies flaws and implies neglect. For example, in a warm, well-lit, furnished living room a tiny superficial plaster crack strikes a buyer as a good excuse to change the paint color after closing. In a cold, dark, vacant living room that same crack worries the buyer that the foundation is crumbling. It’s all psychology, but this psychology works in favor of the buyer rather than the seller in an unstaged house.

Bottom line for San Francisco buyers: Don’t skip homes with no staging and/or no online photos. Go see them. And when you see them, consciously strive – with your agent’s help – to see them as if they are staged. Apply the lipstick yourself. Then make an offer.

For part one of this two-part post, go to link here.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.

Buyers: Don’t Let Staging Fool You

“Sellers sell” is a real estate adage you’ve probably heard. It means that if homeowners are, in fact, committed to selling, they act in ways that lead to a sale. They engage a professional agent and follow her guidance.

But in San Francisco that adage may as well be “Sellers stage,” since home staging is almost always the #1 suggestion for serious sellers.

Staging warms up a house and makes its floor plan easy to grok, but its main purpose is to 1) make photos look good and 2) induce an emotional response in prospective buyers.

Buyers may think and say, “I can see past the staging.” Yet the truth is that staging always exerts a subtle (or not so subtle) influence on home shoppers’ psyches.

Here’s are eight ways to be sure staging doesn’t sabotage your home search and the choice you ultimately make:

Acknowledge that staging does have an influence on your perception. Consciously strive to imagine the space as if it were vacant and ask your agent to help you with that visualization. (Example: The staged bonus room behind the garage looks cozy and bright, yet there is no heat source and the ceilings are too low; you would never want anybody to actually sleep there.)

Be seated in every room. Don’t just walk around and view things from a standing perspective. This will give you a more realistic read on the house’s utility and overall vibe. (Example: From the sofa, you can’t see the trees across the street, but — once seated —  you can feel and hear the freeway just on the other side of those trees.)

Play house in the kitchen. Pretend you’re taking stuff out of the fridge or out of a cabinet, placing it on the countertop, chopping it up and throwing it in a pan. You may be surprised at what you learn. (Example: The cabinets are hung so high you can’t reach them unless you’re an NBA player.)

Note how the house is oriented on its lot. Check outside spaces for any surfaces tinted with green. Notice what variety of florae are growing there and guess how recently they were planted. (Example: Pots full of fuchsias may indicate that the sun never shines on the deck.)

Check window coverings. Stagers usually remove drapes and blinds to let in light and open up rooms. Only after you move in do you realize there’s a problem. (Example: The huge windows in a loft may allow so much light that it’s hard to stay cool or enjoy even a modicum of privacy and the floor-to-ceiling drapes you must install as a result may greatly alter the “airy” feeling of the space.)

Notice if the listing agent has turned on music during the open house and ask yourself (or your agent) why. Look for air filters and white-noise devices. (Example: The amazing sound system may be a great feature which deserves to be showcased, but make certain it’s not there to distract from the bass line seeping through the floor from the cafe downstairs.)

Identify nearby uses in ever direction. Don’t forget what is “behind” you – through the block. (Example: The condo is on a quiet residential block yet backs up to a restaurant whose exhaust fan runs 18 hours a day – fine if you’re not sensitive to noise or smells, but terrible if you don’t like pizza.)

Consider how you will use each room. Don’t simply accept the staged implication. (Example: The unfinished attic, staged with cushions and yoga mats, inspires you to begin a home meditation practice. But – honestly – how likely will you be to pull down the ladder and climb up there every day? And what if you discover that meditation isn’t really your thing?)

A best practice for buyers is to minimize the time spent looking online. Instead, get out there and see your choices live in person. There’s no substitute for being there.

This is the first of two posts on the effect of staging on buyer psyche. Look for part two next week: Unstaged? Advantage Buyer!

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This article was re-posted at McGuire.com.

Lose that collection if you’re selling your San Francisco house!

The key to attracting buyers is your property’s emotional appeal. Open buyers’ hearts and they’ll open their wallets.

But if you over-personalize, you lose some of your audience. It’s important to keep the stage relatively clean and neutral. That way buyers can visualize themselves living in the space – not you.

Here is one basic instruction that’ll prevent over-personalization.

Click on the photo to watch the full video.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This article was re-posted at McGuire.com.

Crows and Cupcakes

So, I’m holding open a house on one of those all-too-rare sunny hot San Francisco Sundays. The house has a gorgeous garden. All the favorite Realtors’ adjectives apply: incredible, amazing, unparalleled, stunning, spectacular, unrivaled, and so on.

There are Meyer lemons and vining roses. There are agapanthus, salvia and lavender. There are tree leaves shimmering in the soft, warm breeze. And in the center is an attractive bird bath where tiny songbirds are splashing joyfully.

Mother Nature herself is helping to stage this beautiful home!

Into this urban idyll flaps a gianormous black crow with — get this — a whole cupcake in its beak, purloined from a kid birthday two fences over. And BAM! He (or she) bombs it right into the birdbath. The cupcake disintegrates upon impact, forming a scummy soup with a ridged pink paper wrapper floating on top.

So much for Staging by Mother Nature. And guess who gets to clean it up?

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.

Most Bang Per Buck: Paint Kitchen Cabinets

My best guess is that the question arises in 1 out of 4 listings. But I’ve lost count of how many dozens of times I’ve stood in the middle of a dated kitchen with Seller and Stager debating one critical question:

Should we “paint out” the kitchen cabinets? 

Nothing screams “old” or “tired” like old, tired kitchen cabinets. So smart stagers almost always recommend changing out the hardware and slapping on a new coat of white paint.

Sellers are usually concerned about pre-sale Return On Investment. (Painting cabinet faces is cheap but not dirt cheap.) So they’ll try one or more of the following arguments against painting:

  1. It’ll be obvious to buyers that we just painted them.
  2. Whoever buys the house is redoing the kitchen anyway.
  3. It’s better to let the natural wood show.
  4. I actually like the cabinets.

But usually the Seller will be convinced that the ROI is worthwhile because the paint will:

  1. Make the kitchen photograph better and photos are key marketing tools.
  2. Create a cleaner, crisper, brighter first impression
  3. Give buyers the hope that they can delay remodeling for a year or two since they’ve just depleted their savings on a downpayment.

Cabinet-painting works every time. Case in point, here’s a professional photo of outdated kitchen cabinets  in a condo I sold two years ago. (The sellers didn’t have enough lead time to stage or paint the cabinets):

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Here’s a hurried cellphone pic of the same kitchen snapped by the painter who — for the new owners — recently painted the cabinets white:

70Wilder.white cabs

I rest my case, but you can be the judge.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This article was re-posted at McGuire.com.

The Gift of Staging

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Staging is magical. It’s “theater” that evokes a buyer’s emotional response and thereby enhances a seller’s bottom line.

It makes it easier for buyers to envision themselves living in a home. It psychically de-personalizes the property and displays furnishings in context. It makes a house more inviting in every way.

But there’s another unexpected and little-discussed benefit: By creating an idealized version of a home, staging makes it easier for sellers to LET GO.

An owner’s initial reaction to viewing their staged home inevitably goes something like this: “Wow. I wish we’d done this while we were living here.”

That “shouldawouldacoulda” cringe is normal. Yet nobody ever actually lives that way. Ergo one of my real estate mantras: “The way you live in a house and the way you sell it are two entirely different things.”

A cruder twist on that bit of wisdom is: “If your home looks like it’s staged, you probably should examine the sacrifices you’re making in the name of keeping up appearances.”

Life is messy. Shit happens. Stuff accumulates. There’s a healthy difference between ideal and reality, and it’s evident in your home. After all, THE HOUSE is the dream metaphor for THE SELF.

So, with staging, there is a pivotal moment that presents a homeowner with a wonderful opportunity for closure and progression.

Consider the story of my lovely client Jane (not her real name). Preparing her house for sale required four stressful months of cleaning out and organizing 40 years’ worth of belongings. Another month was needed for cosmetic fixes and staging. I spent 10 days marketing the house before we considered offers. We closed seven days later.

Prior to de-staging, Jane visited her longtime home. Alone. She sat in the living room. She let the serene and clean feeling of the staged house wash over her. She walked through the rooms and looked out the windows. It was as if she were seeing some of those views for the first time.

There were brief waves of regret – the shouldawouldacoulda. There were flashes of memories – both happy and sad. There was appreciation for the years of service the house had given.

This was followed by a curious contentment and detachment. Jane assimilated the staged version of the house as the one she’ll remember in years ahead. Then, without resisting, she let go of her longtime home.

“The staging,” she explained, “was a gift for me.”

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This article was re-posted at McGuire.com.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Imagine……

…what a little paint, a little floor refinishing and a little staging will do.

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Before and after kitchen at 2651 Baker. We did the bare minimum and it made a huge difference!

I almost always recommend superficial cosmetic updates and  staging whenever I list a property for sale. In my heart of hearts, I know it works.

But what’s funny is this: When my clients and I are looking at the “before” version prior to the “after” version being completed, it’s really difficult to envision the transformation ahead.

In other words, in hindsight it always proves to have been a good idea. Yet when you’re trying to decide whether or not to spend an extra $500 to have new carpeting put on the stairs, you might think, “Well. Hmm. It can’t make THAT big a difference.”

Note to self: It always works. It’s always worth it. When in doubt, GO for it!

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.

 

What I Noticed This Week on Broker’s Tour, Besides Properties and Prices

Sometimes it’s the details of the staging that catch my eye. That was the case this week on broker’s tour. Lots of pretty fabrics, surfaces and art. For example:

Pretty pink patterns:

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Textures:

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SAMSUNGBotanicals:

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More pleasing-to-the-eye stuff:

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Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.

10 Things Smart Buyers Look For in a Home

cat in doorway

If you’re listing your home for sale, keep this list in mind. When I’m representing buyers, I’m always on the lookout for a “run-don’t-walk” property which…

  1. Is vacant and unstaged.
  2. Does not have a dedicated website.
  3. Is listed by an out-of-town broker.
  4. Has one grainy photo on MLS (or no photo).
  5. Doesn’t appear on MLS at all.
  6. Is shown on lockbox.
  7. Is asking $50,000 more than the most recent comparable.
  8. Isn’t listed on broker’s tour.
  9. Advertises “offers as they come.”
  10. Smells like a cat has been peeing on the carpet over in the corner.

Such a dream-come-true property is hard to find, but the search is well worth it.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.

Buddha, Come Back

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I’ve noticed a significant decrease in the number of Buddhas being used in staging San Francisco properties for sale.

Did we grow tired of the Buddha home decor fad? With likenesses sprouting on mantelpieces like oxalis in sidewalk cracks?

Or does their sudden scarcity signify a market in which listing agents and sellers have become thoughtless and, sometimes, downright cruel? I’m just asking.

Meanwhile, I’m away to Tassajara Zen Mountain Center for a mindfulness retreat and I won’t be posting for a few days.