Today I had an experience that reminded me why I LOVE my job as the owner of a Los Angeles Home Staging company. It reminded me that I do so much more than help people prepare their homes for sale. Some days I am also a Real Estate therapist. Today was one of those days!
With all the craziness in the Los Angeles real estate market, I have been very busy in the past few weeks. So much so that, in order to fit in a client who needed some help selling her home, I arranged a consultation for a Sunday afternoon. When my client came to the door, she seemed quite surprised to see me. “Did we schedule a consultation for TODAY?” she asked. “Isn’t today Sunday? Why would I do something like that?” I reminded her that we had picked a Sunday because of my busy schedule and, though very flustered, she invited me in to wait while she finished up a class with a student (she teaches music to children). When she came back she began to explain why she was so discombobulated. Here was her situation…
She had, just the day before, held a garage sale to both get rid of some of her excess clutter and to help with her dire financial situation (she’s likely headed toward a short sale). She had gotten up at 5am and didn’t finish until 11pm. In total, she had made $80. She was exhausted, stressed, and – within minutes of sitting down to tell me all this – she was crying. First I asked her to take a breath. I told her that in my profession, I meet people in every type of financial situation. I told her that selling is never easy. It is always stressful and emotional, but doubly so when you are being forced to sell. She seemed to feel better just from hearing that I understood. I asked her to trust me. I told her that I had only her best interest at heart and that I could help her out this bad situation. I told her the homes I’ve Staged in the past month have been selling in multiple offers, many in their first week on the market. She seemed to relax a bit, so we began.
As she walked me through her house, I immediately realized that her biggest problem was room-usage. She had a 4-bedroom house which had 2 offices, a recording studio and an enormous music room, but only 1 actual bedroom. She also had no dining space. With all these offices and music equipment, the house felt cramped when it was actually pretty big.
I immediately got down to work…First we had to take the computer out of the living room, move the table (which was being used as a desk) over and set it up as a dining table. We had to remove the oversized coffee table in favor of a smaller one (she had something usable in one of the bedrooms). We had to remove one chair, and we had to move the large TV cabinet out of this small room.
On to the bedrooms – we simply didn’t have enough of them! But there was an office that she barely used anymore. I asked her to remove all the office furniture in the room, including the desk, chair and some temporary shelving that had been screwed into the walls. I told her to set up the futon from the garage as a bed, and to use one of her extra tables as a nightstand. Then she only needed to open up the curtains to let the light in, remove the old dirty rug, and suddenly she would have another bedroom. She loved this idea and seemed to get excited as we moved on to the next room.
This room was technically a bedroom (and a large one at that), but it was currently being used as a recording studio. It was an unfortunate situation, but it could not be helped as this woman was not in a financial position to shut down her business while her home was on the market. By removing some more shelving, storing a portable keyboard in the garage when it wasn’t in use and moving a small sofa out of the room, buyers would be able to visualize where their bed could go and could easily envision the space as a functional bedroom. She was really getting excited now!
We moved on to the next room. She had all the pieces in place. The furniture just had to be rearranged slightly to fit the space better, and then we were on to the biggest issue – the master bedroom. The master had been turned into a music room for her students, with a huge grand piano taking up the back half of it. The closet doors had been removed and she had any number of beautiful and exotic musical instruments filling the space meant for clothes. There were about 5 or 6 odd chairs sitting around, making it look sort of like a waiting room. There was also an awkward door that lead directly into another bedroom, which made it not feel as private as a master bedroom should. But this room was BIG! It could fit a grand piano – mind you – without feeling cramped!
Now would be a good time to mention that this woman had an interior designer friend who had already come over to help her figure out how to best showcase her property for sale. Though I love and admire interior designers, they are in the design business, not in the Real Estate business like I am. They know what looks good, but they don’t get into the heads of home buyers to figure out what a property needs in order to make it SELL.
This woman’s well-meaning interior designer friend had suggested that she move her grand piano into the room she was now using as her bedroom and move her bed into what was supposed to be the master bedroom. Now without having seen this house, you might think that would be a good solution. BUT…there were a couple of problems with this idea:
1) Due to back problems, this woman slept in a twin sized bed with special mattresses that helped her condition. Putting a twin bed (or even a full-size futon which she had in another room) into a bedroom that was large enough for a grand piano would have looked ridiculous and never would’ve sold buyers on the space…and
2) The room she was using for her bedroom was IN NO WAY large enough to fit a grand piano! Though it was a very nice-sized space for a bedroom, with that monstrous piano in it, it would’ve felt too small for even a twin bed. It would have been literally wall-to-wall piano.
But I had an idea… Since her formal living/dining room was small, since she didn’t have a bed large enough to fit the master bedroom, since she needed her piano to remain in the house while it was on the market, AND since – with our adjustments – buyers would see they already had 3 other bedrooms in the house, we were going to transform that master bedroom into a spacious and buyer-friendly family room!
Remember that small sofa that had to come out of the recording studio? And remember all those extra chairs that were in the piano room? We had everything we needed to make this space work. Suddenly the closet without its missing doors became the perfect spot for the oversized TV cabinet that was currently taking up space in the tiny living room. The loveseat and two of her extra chairs would go in front of the new TV closet, with an extra ottoman as a coffee table and a small rug she had lying around to tie the seating area together. The piano would remain in the back half of the room, showing buyers that in addition to there being plenty of room to hang out and watch TV in this room, there was also a really large space in back for a game or homework table, a kids’ play area, or even (gasp) a grand piano!
As our consultation came to an end, I noticed that the seller had a big smile on her face. I asked her if she felt a little better now that she had a plan. She said that she did and that she was so relieved. Whereas she had started our session in tears, by the end she felt confident that she knew what it would take to get her house sold and had the tools she needed to do it.
So here are some things I was reminded of today:
1) Staging is not just about design. I’m in the Real Estate business, not the design business.
2) Sometimes Home Staging = Real Estate Therapy. Some sellers need more than just a “to-do list” in order to prepare their home for sale. Some need reassurance, some even need a hug. All of them need a solid plan to relieve the pressure and stress.
3) Just because things don’t start off the way you planned, they may end up better than you could’ve imagined. Even if you show up to a job with a client in crisis, you just may leave with a confident and motivated seller who has the tools s/he needs to get the job done.
And THAT is why I love my job!
This is a copy of the original blog created at: http://stagetosell.biz/stsblog/home-staging-real-estate-therapy/