I recently received a phone call from a seller whose home has been on the market for four months. The home is vacant, the sellers have moved out of the country, and the homeowner wanted information on vacant staging (providing rental furniture and accessories).
With the homeowner’s permission, I contacted the listing agent for some more information, looked at the MLS listing and looked on realtor.com at some comps. The property is in a desirable, established, neighborhood in Palm Coast, but unfortunately for my seller, I was finding larger and newer properties listed at lower prices. The realtor confirmed the price was a problem but added the seller was strapped for cash and had too much invested to reduce the price.
I’ve done my homework and I know the house is probably overpriced for the market, and that the seller is on a tight budget (just like most of us). I visited the property with the hope of finding an economical way to minimally furnish and stage the home to raise it a notch above the competition. I even considered the possibility of using some of the owner’s furnishings that are in storage, in order to keep the costs down.
However, once I toured the property, I knew that vacant staging was not going to solve this seller’s problems. I could have sold a modest vacant staging, but it really would not have been fair. The home in its current state is presenting itself as a “handyman delight” or a “fixer upper.” It looked abandoned and neglected. Almost every room needs work of some sort, but nothing that appears serious or expensive. I had to be the bad guy and give an honest assessment. In a hot market, you can sell a property that needs work, but not in this market – there are just too many other properties to choose from.
So what’s a stager to do? I offered a detailed report of items that should be addressed immediately to give a better first impression. Knowing the owners are out of the country, I also offered to work with the realtor to find someone to do the work. I did not offer vacant staging, not at this time and not in this market.
First impressions are so important. You don’t want a buyer to walk in and immediately begin a mental checklist of all the things they would have to do before they could move in. Many times property owners don’t see these things because they lived with them for so long. A home stager walks in with “buyer’s eyes” and makes notes of all the things a buyer is going to see. A professional home stager provides much more than design advice. They are your trial run, your test buyer. A staging consultation is very inexpensive (my initial consultation is free) but something a seller really cannot afford to do without. Once you’ve met with your realtor, consult with a stager and try to do it before the for sale sign goes up. That first looker could have been your buyer.