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Real Estate Stager

A real estate stager makes a home look its best so the owner can make more money from selling it.

A real estate stager may visit the property when it goes on the market. Or they may be called after the house has been on the market for a while and hasn't sold.

"It's easy for me to come in with an objective eye and see right away how a room can be enhanced," says Wendy Dilda of San Antonio, Texas. Her company caters to clients who are moving and want to fetch top dollar for their house.

"When I drive up to a home, I am looking at the yard," says Dilda. "Is it tidy and neat or are there overgrown weeds? I look at the front door. That alone is important, because the client stands there the longest while the realtor opens the lock box. I ask myself questions like, 'Does it need paint or should I place a plant by the entryway to greet the potential buyer as they walk in?'"

Both the homeowner and the real estate agent are usually happy with the work Dilda performs when she gives one-day makeovers. Still, she has to tread carefully. "I'm the bad guy that goes in and says get a lawn service, get a cleaning service and paint this house!"

That takes the pressure off the real estate agent. When people are paying you to come in and evaluate, they usually don't mind criticism, says Dilda.

"I validate rather than criticize the homeowners' choices of furniture and of accessories," she says. A realtor can pay real estate stagers, but the clients pay about 80 percent of the time.

By arranging things differently, Dilda sees thankful clients who get a reward from seeing the house redone. It also benefits them because potential purchasers like to walk into a house and mentally visualize themselves living there.

"It's hard to do that with personal photographs up on the walls or decorations specific to the family," says Dilda.

Real estate stagers get jobs such as the one Dilda received when she got a call from a realtor. The realtor needed her help because of the way a living room was set up in a house that was on the market.

Because the occupants of the home used it mostly for an office and a library, potential buyers couldn't see it as a living room.

Dilda explains how she got into this line of work. "I originally started doing this when I took the five-day course through the Interior Arrangement and Design Association class called the art of placement.

"That consists of emptying a room completely and working off the architecture of the room and the lifestyle of the client. Real estate staging is an offshoot of the art of placement."

She also helps elderly clients who move into a smaller place because they have outgrown their home or a spouse has passed away.

"They may be afraid to take the larger pieces of furniture with them, because they don't know if they will fit in the new living space. I help them decide what to take and where to put it in once they are moved in," says Dilda.

She moves most of the furniture herself with special skids, sometimes surprising herself at the amount she can move with them. "My brother-in-law and sister came to a job with me recently," she says. "He couldn't believe what I was moving with those skids!"

Real estate stagers figure out how to make a house look, feel and smell more appealing. This takes a strong sense of creativity, a flexible schedule and the ability to move large furniture. Real estate stagers must be good salespeople until they build a good reputation.

Dilda was surprised at the trust that was placed in her when, on a referral, she went into a home, rearranged the whole place, then left without ever meeting the woman who owned the house!

She also needs people skills and a lot of tact. "We obviously don't want to insult anybody by bluntly saying that something would be more effective over there," says Dilda.

"I explain it by telling the client that living in a house is different than selling a house. It's now a product."

"You definitely have to have a creative eye and a solid interior design background, too," says Marnie Warman, owner of the Discount Interior Design Warehouse.

"Some interior arranging is common sense, just painting or redoing the carpets. Simple things like that sometimes make the difference between selling or not."

According to Warman, when people see decorations in a home, they are wowed if it's done properly. "Buyers should be aware, though, that their furniture may not match with the accessories within the house that make it so beautiful," she says.

"When decorating, keep it simple, especially something like the bathroom fixtures. Try to keep those a neutral color -- either white or bone color is good, because the non-permanent fixtures can be changed. It's easier to paint a wall hot pink than to replace a whole hot pink bathtub," she says.


Real Estate Staging Association
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