Working in real estate creates many opportunities to interact with other professionals in related industries. Not long ago, I coordinated a client meeting with Brandi Visser; owner of Centre Staging. I attended the initial consult and was very impressed with her home staging knowledge. The client took Brandi’s advice and the home looked incredibly different once the staging was complete. Brandi has some great advice for anyone selling a home.
Saul: How do you define Home Staging?
Brandi: Simply put, Staging is de-personalizing a house in order to appeal to a wider range of buyers
Saul: Are there different categories of home staging?
Brandi: Not really categories, there are different levels of staging. This includes neutralizing the space and bringing in pops of color instead of putting it on the walls. Remaining neutral is very important in order to keep that net wide and bring in more buyers, which in turn leads to a sale.
Saul: How did you get started in home staging?
Brandi: I started out here in Bozeman … in the interior design industry. In about 2009, when the market was not faring well, I was one of those lucky people who had my house on the market. I thought I had staged it according to what I knew in the Interior Design industry. But, after 9 months … It was something that was really exhausting. I talked with my Agent and I just said I’m desperate here. You’ve got to show me what the competition is doing because obviously I’m not doing something right. So, she took me around to go see the comps. One of the main competitive houses on the market was a block over from our house. It had high-end travertine tile and maple flooring and granite countertops and stainless appliances and all the things I did not have in my house. So, discouraged, I thought I was going to have to put in about 50 thousand dollars into my house to get it up to par. We had already taken about 50 grand in price reductions. I was really discouraged … It was a light bulb moment for me … I started doing research online and I found Stagedhomes.com, which is the only accredited staging university in the world. The woman who was teaching the class was actually the creator of the home staging concept. I immediately booked a plane ticket, I flew out to Seattle, (and) I took the course. Upon graduation, I came home and of course all the red flags were apparent of what I had done wrong. I started staging my house and took just a couple of weeks. Within less than a month I had multiple offers on my house for more money than the competition. That’s when I realized I was onto something. I didn’t want anybody else to go through what I had gone through. I immediately opened my home staging business and it’s been crazy since then.
Saul: You touched a little on your educational experience with staging, what was your background before that?
Brandi: I have over 25 years of sales and marketing experience. I worked in merchandising and fashion.
Saul: What’s the most common thing you see when you go in to look at a home … is it clutter, is it not enough in a room or is it position of things in a room? What would you say is the number one thing you see?
Brandi: There are actually three big things I see in every house…what I call the 3 c’s: clean, clutter free, and colors. Clean is one of the least expensive things you can do to a house in order for it to look its best. That means immaculately clean, white glove clean. It needs to be spotless from top to bottom like the day it was new. The next thing would be clutter. We all have clutter, because the way you live in a home and the way you market and sell a house are two completely different things. When it’s on the market, it’s important to take that clutter out so it’s not distracting for buyers. The last thing is color. Color is something very personal. I find that some people have very interesting color tastes that may not appeal to all buyers. As far as things I see in houses for sale, those are the top 3 that need to be addressed in every home.
Saul: Can you touch on your staging process for a vacant home versus a completely furnished/packed home and how you would approach both of those scenarios?
Brandi: The first thing that I always do, regardless of whether the home is occupied or vacant, is I go and see the property, take some detailed notes and photographs with the permission of the seller. In an occupied home, I usually come up with an action plan or what I call a written consultation report that will line out all the things the seller needs to do, step by step, in order to get the house staged. They’re staging with my suggestions and my guidance so it will be the most appealing … It’s really in the seller’s hands. With a vacant home, I go in and work with the seller on timeframe & budget. Usually, with vacant homes, we are staging within 3 to 5 business days. We have a quick turn around time. Because, most of the time when sellers have a home on the market, whether they are living in it or it’s empty, they’re on a time crunch. We move quickly.
Saul: Where is your territory as far as region and how far will you go to stage homes?
Brandi: Well, I have traveled all over the United States staging homes. I have skills and will travel nationally. I’ve staged New York City (and) all over California, Oregon, Washington, Texas. As far a local reachable scale, I cover the entire state of Montana.
Saul: Any other things you would like to discuss or mention?
Brandi: I think the biggest thing to highlight is that it’s important to hire a professional. It’s something that can save you money in the long run because staging is an investment. Any money you put into staging comes back to you. The average return on investment, according to national studies, is 4000%. It really is a huge payback on that versus some of the other things you can do to your house. We never suggest gutting a kitchen or completely remodeling a master bedroom or bathroom. Whereas, when working with a designer, that’s usually the first thing they suggest. We look at the cost effectiveness of it and what the return’s going to be for the seller. In working with them, we are very candid and we are not going to tell them what they WANT to hear, but we are going to tell them what they NEED to hear. It’s important to hire a professional. Just watching a TV show, you can’t learn everything you need to know.
A huge thanks to Brandi for allowing me to interview her! Brandi Visser, with Centre Staging, can be reached at (406) 219-8304.