With over thirty years of full-time experience as a Broker in the real estate industry, Robin Leigh knows how to sell homes. Her extensive knowledge of real estate and what attracts buyers to properties has supported her latest endeavor- home staging. Robin has found that staging is a “must-do” when it comes to selling your home if you want to earn maximum profits.
Four years ago, she and her daughter, Gillian Cash, established their home staging business. Their company, Staged to Sell Design Services, has taken off thanks to their proven results and a robust real estate market. “When it comes to selling homes, the closest thing to magic that I’ve found is home staging. It removes so many of the challenges that are part of selling residential property,” Robin said. “Home staging helps the seller prepare the home to enhance its appeal. It eliminates most issues that relate to challenging floor plans, personal tastes, and differing lifestyles. Staging converts a property into its highest potential and presents the home in it’s best possible light for selling.”
But the magic only works when you have a seasoned professional by your side. “When it comes to staging, people need to have better information to make good choices. The key is for the client to find the right professional stager, one who can do great work. Then staging pays off every time.”
Popular HGTV shows and interior design magazines have exploded the home staging movement. Many people are inspired to try their luck at preparing a property for sale themselves. Robin warns that there’s a lot more that goes into staging than first meets the eye.
“Staging isn’t only about home furnishings, and it doesn’t overlook or hide problems, it addresses them. For example, we often make recommendations to remove misplaced ceiling light fixtures and to change out paint colors,” she said. ”The walls that you painted red are lovely for your personal enjoyment, but most buyers will be turned off. You don’t want to sit on the market, hoping you’ll find one buyer out of 300 that likes red walls. Of course, if there is existing damage or structural problems we never conceal them. The seller is always advised to make necessary repairs and disclose those issues.”
Robin says that many sellers mistakenly believe potential home buyers will see past any differences in taste, but that’s not the case. “When buyers walk into the house, they will comment that they don’t like the color. Their Realtor may say ‘It’s only paint, it can be changed.’ But the fact is, over 90% of the population can’t see beyond what’s in front of them. They will label this home as ‘the red house.’ You don’t want to be a house with a label. Buyers easily remember the house they love, so they don’t need to label it, and that’s the house they buy.”
Robin feels the public should know what to look for in a home stager so they can get genuine value from the experience. “I’m on a mission to educate the public about the criteria to use when they select a home stager,” she said. “Unfortunately, there are no regulations or licensing standards in the home staging industry…yet. There are no disclosures, training requirements and no background checks. This has created a climate where opportunists who love the concept of decorating go out and start staging homes.”
It’s easy for unqualified, “self-described stagers” to take advantage of homeowners who are, understandably, seeking ways to maximize their net-sale proceeds. A lack of training and experience shows in the rooms that an untrained stager puts together. Robin says one example she saw involved a discount stager who put old, 1980’s outdoor wicker patio furniture in a formal living room! The shocked listing agent called her sellers and said, “You have to get all this stuff out right now because it’s going to hurt your ability to sell.” She was right; it was an expensive lesson for her sellers.
”There’s no governing body to complain about these situations, and there’s no oversight agency. Public information about the questions sellers or Realtors should ask is almost non-existent. Questions such as “Where does your furniture come from?” and “How old is it?” are two examples of what should be, but are never asked,” points out Robin.
To help the public make better choices, Robin is working on an information guide she will soon offer online. Her guide will include a checklist of important questions to ask when choosing a professional stager. Robin believes her guide will enable consumers to select experienced, trustworthy professionals to stage and sell their property.
One critical question she recommends is to ask to see a portfolio of work they’ve actually completed. The reason for this is many amateurs take advantage of online resources that allow them to earn a “staging certification” for a fee. These “certification companies” often provide access to a series of stock photos that the new designer promotes; giving the impression that they did the work on display and are therefore qualified.
Robin says “My background in residential real estate led to us set our own high standards. We do business as if the staging industry is highly regulated. For example, we’re bonded, we carry liability coverage and Workmans’ Comp, and our stagers are well-trained and background checked. The thousands of photos of stages we display are of our own work, using our own materials.”
Instead of putting old, reclaimed, furniture in homes, Robin and Gillian use furniture they own. They buy directly from furniture companies. “That’s an important distinction because it allows us to create a model home appearance,” Robin said. “All our materials are kept protected in our warehouse, and we don’t share our space with other businesses. We don’t want to introduce mold, bedbugs or toxins that our clients don’t even know to look out for. Many stagers are running their business from their garages, and they get their furnishings from yard sales and thrift stores. Poor materials and poor training equal poor results. On the other hand, professional home staging is obvious because it looks wonderful! It harmonizes with the property’s style and price range.”
“The sooner in the process a seller contacts a professional stager, the better. We’ve worked with clients up to a year before they are ready to sell. Making worthwhile changes gradually and early-on can reduce the stress of home selling. It gives our clients a chance to implement the things to be done, and results in getting top dollar for their home” Robin said. “Our goal is to become a valued resource. We clarify how the home staging process works and offer professional guidance. We’re happy to talk about everything you want to know when it comes to staging.”
One of Staged To Sell’s most recent success stories is a house that was on the market for 97 days. They suggested the sellers repaint, with a specific color Gillian selected for their clients. They also recommended to remove expensive, but outdated, draperies. It took the sellers about ten days to complete the work, and then Staged To Sell Design Services staged it with customized furnishings. Within 11 days, the home sold! “The sellers told us they know, without any doubt, that our staging sold the home. If you’re working with a really good stager, it’s not an expense, it’s an investment in your sale. It makes you more money than you spend,” Robin said. “Our clients come to rely on us and trust our process; and when they do, it’s so fun and rewarding.”
Many industry studies show that professionally staged homes generate anywhere between 4 to 17 percent more in the net selling price than non-staged homes. That’s a sizable return, considering the typical cost of staging is less than 1 percent of the home’s list price. The numbers also show that staged homes sell more quickly. “The average professionally staged home sells up to 82 percent faster than non-staged homes,” Robin said.
Her wealth of experience, spanning everything from brokerage to renovations, gives Robin a well-rounded understanding of the real estate industry and how to sell homes. A native of Boise, Idaho, she moved to the valley in 1999. Working alongside her talented daughter, Gillian Cash, who has a BA in Interior Design, is rewarding. “People love working with my daughter, and I’m grateful that she is an ethical, hardworking, young woman,” Robin said. “She’s our ‘rockstar’ and is very good at what she does. She knows what today’s homebuyers are drawn to and, among many other things, she’s professionally trained in space design. Gillian has an excellent eye for both design and home staging.”
This dynamic duo realizes that today’s buyers almost always want properties that are move-in ready, homes they can imagine themselves living in immediately. “You only have one chance to make a good first impression,” Robin said. “Nearly every buyer I’ve ever sold a house to said they knew in less than a minute of walking in. They get a feeling.”
Learn more about Robin’s home staging services on the official Staged to Sell Design Services website.
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I am a multimedia journalist and proud graduate from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication. I am originally from Minnesota, and I love learning about my second home, Arizona, and all of it's awesome communities through my contributions to My Local News! When I was a little girl, I created my own "newspaper" for my neighborhood and spent all my time writing, printing and sending each edition to my loyal subscribers (AKA my family and neighbors!). Now, it's a dream come true to be able to write everyday and have a positive impact on communities through my reporting. In my free time, I love to travel, hike, cook and spend time with my family and friends.
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