"The volume of properties for sale is so high right now that people are literally walking out of homes that they would have considered purchasing over paint and wallpaper," says Jennifer Jones.
Jones is the owner of the professional staging company House of Chic. As a stager, it's her job to keep potential buyers interested by accentuating a home's best points while minimizing its weaknesses.
"We look through the buyer's eyes," says Melissa Douglass of Home Stager Gals. "It's hard when you're living in your house to stand back and look at it objectively because you're used to it. We come into it with new, fresh eyes."
Stagers' services vary depending on what the client — either the home seller or the real estate agent — wants. Sometimes, stagers will be hired as a consultant to do a walk-through and provide a list of ideas for clients to complete on their own. Other times, they'll be more hands-on — moving furniture, picking out new paints, and rearranging art. Douglass' business specializes in providing furniture for vacant homes, which she says tend to stay on the market longer.
Changes should be cost-appropriate to the home, according to Jones. An $850,000 home might need new appliances in order to compete. On the other hand, the cost of installing granite countertops in a $200,000 home will probably not be recouped from the sale.
Annette Jordan of Memphis Staging was an interior decorator for 30 years before turning to staging. "When we go into the house as a stager, we focus on the characteristics of the home. That could be a fireplace, a beautiful bay window," she says. "When a decorator goes into a house, he or she will focus on the things in the home."
It's dealing with those things that is perhaps a stager's number-one task: de-cluttering. A common mantra among stagers is, "The stuff is not for sale; the house is."
"We try to go in and neutralize the home using the furniture they have to enhance the room, so the buyer will see the house, not the collection of angels or the fabulous custom draperies," Jordan explains. "We have to take the personal out of the home and make it appeal to every kind of buyer who might come through."
Douglass is president of the Memphis chapter of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP). Jordan is the president-elect. (Jones is not a member.) The IAHSP was founded by Barb Schwarz, who is credited with coining the term "staging" in the 1970s. IAHSP holds training seminars around the country. Members are required to hold a business license and to be bonded.
Each of the stagers have several success stories. Douglass has had a few houses sell the day after she was done staging. Jones says a house that had been on the market for 15 months before her services sold two days after she finished the job. According to Jordan, one couple was moved to tears when they saw the changes.
Jordan says she's only had one client who was unhappy with her work. "They usually love what we do," she says, "and they love it even more when the house sells fast." ■
Melissa Douglass, Home Stager Gals (428-8497, homestagergals.com);
Jennifer Jones, House of Chic (338-1443);
Annette Jordan, Memphis Staging (412-3251, memphisstaging.com)