Setting the stage for a sale

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The old sales aphorism, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak,”  perhaps explains  the increasing use of home staging for new  developments.

Home staging refers to the art of preparing a property with  furniture and  other items to create a welcoming and appealing  atmosphere.

Some people are convinced the trend toward staging homes started  soon after  October 1997. It was on that date that HGTV started  broadcasting  home-improvement programs about homes and gardens.

The generation that watched the show — and the others that  followed it —  have become accustomed to images portraying  well-designed residences.

“People have become spoiled,” says Tracy Menzies, a real estate  agent with  Pemberton Holmes. “They like to see how the home fits  their lifestyle. If they  can’t picture themselves in the home, they  leave” and keep looking until they  find a place that lets them feel  at home.

Menzies says developers would rather not stage a property. But they  skip  this step at their peril. Real estate agents agree that a  well-staged home can  reduce a listing’s time on the market. It can  also fetch a better price than a  home that is empty or with dated or  unappealing furnishings.

She says the services of a professional stager isn’t cheap. A suite  can cost  $2,500 (or much more) to be staged, and a monthly rental  fee for all the props  the staging company provides for the suite —  right down to the soap in the  bathroom — adds up. On average, a  suite may have up to 500 items to give it  its particular look.

Brent Melnychuk, the senior designer at Dekora Staging in  Vancouver, won’t  go into how much he charges to stage a listing,  only to say it depends on the  project.

“My job is to make the prospective buyer picture themselves living  there,”  says Melnychuk, who has been staging for more than a decade.  “Stagers walk a  fine line. The displays have to create a utopian  lifestyle for the buyer, but  can’t be too specific. I try to shoot  for a design that shows how a person can  live in a space now — and  also in a decade.”

A home stager gets important information from the developer or  sales agent:  What is the age of the target buyer? Are they single or  married? What is their  net worth? Is the development low, middle or  high-end?

Once the target demographic is identified, the home stager tries to  find  emotional “hot buttons” that resonate with the buyer.

“Sometimes, as I am showing a suite, a client notices an item on  display and  says, ‘Oh, my goodness, where did you get this?’ and  will ask where they can  buy one,” says Menzies.

That’s music to the ears of Melnychuk, who staged four suites in  601 Herald  St., a recently completed development near Chinatown.

While the goal is a feel of what he calls “tasteful and timeless”  for the  four suites, each individual suite gets a tweaking for the  target demographic.  A small, 450-square-foot one-bedroom suite is  designed to evoke the feel of a  boutique hotel room that emphasizes  cool functionality and youthful appeal. The  larger two-bedroom has a  balcony and is targeted toward empty-nesters with  warmer, softer  tones.

The building’s architecture and its location also have an influence  on how a  room is presented.

Sometimes the decor is so attractive that buyers have been known to  ask for  the furnishings to be included in the sale. Melnychuk says  that’s not a problem  and his staff will itemize the objects used in  the staged suite — right down  to the aforementioned soap in the  bathroom.

“People buy on emotion,” says Menzies, a 15-year sales veteran.  “But people  these days also have less time. They typically don’t  want to take the time to  fix up a place. A staged home is appealing  because it means they can have it  all — and have it right now.”

Melnychuk says home-stagers come from the same family as interior  designers.  An interior designer might be involved with a project  earlier to set the  overall tone. The stager comes later, to give a  show suite the finishing  touches.

“We don’t create a fantasy, we just make a home look more desirable  by  altering reality.”

Via Vancouver Sun.

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