DRESSING UP THE HOUSE FOR THE WIN

August 16, 2017

 

It’s a no-brainer: Picture the same fancy house with a) shabby furnishings and then with b) gorgeous furnishings. Which version do you think is more likely to catch your interest, make you salivate with envy and hurry up to make a great offer if the house is for sale? Yes, “b” is the right answer. If it was yours, sorry, you don’t win anything because it was just too easy.

There is no magic (or is there?) about staging a home: if it looks spectacular (and the price is palatable), it sells the house. It pays to be pretty, even if only for a day…. Or at least until you achieve the goal. The idea is to enhance the saleability of a property by dressing it up with select furnishings that accentuate the home’s positive attributes (while downplaying its weaknesses) and create an emotional connection with a homebuyer, whether visiting the house physically or window-shopping on the Net.

In the luxury market, where it is always a marketing option to consider very seriously, staging not only can be the expected recipe for a fast sale, but also the best way to generate top price. It takes only one admirer to buy the house and there is often serious competition for the trophy. That’s the value of dressing up nice for the part.

Of course, there is “staging” and there is “staging”… Don’t be confused. In the mix, there is the exceptional, the good, the bad and even the ugly. Not all stagers are the same, and not all homes are the same. At the high-end, everything is customized to best fit the architecture, the style and the personality of a subject property. One dress does not fit all. It takes taste to be sure but it also takes means.

The size of the staging company does not necessarily matter if the company has both the financial power and the large & eclectic inventory of furnishings which are needed to compete with the big guys and get results. As for the price, it varies greatly. The listing agent and the seller better do their homework.

Sure you can bring furniture and accessories and, in doing so, add a touch of charm, interest and even class to a home or a couple of rooms for a couple thousand dollars if the house is empty or furnished/decorated poorly. Depends on the stager, the price range of the house and the expectations. If you have a multi-million dollar property, best to avoid Fly-By-Night “experts” and large furniture stores so-called design consultants. Staging is a growing profession which counts very few legitimate professionals.

I know many stagers. Some are better than others. Some are good. A few are amazing. Very expensive too but, as the L’Oreal commercial says, they are “worth it”. The best ones get the job done fast and as advertised. No gimmicks, no BS, no non-sense. Results.

At the top end of the market, in those pricey and prestigious neighborhoods, one firm has become the usual suspect, the reference in this highly competitive business. Its name? “Meridith Baer Home”. If you see this street sign, you know that a luxury home is hiding behind the gate.

Meridith Baer Home is the largest and arguably the premier home staging company in the country. It reigns in its field with a handful of offices in upscale markets, from Los Angeles and San Francisco to New York and Miami, from Beverly Hills to the Hamptons. The success story of the company reads like a fairytale and would be a good case-study in business schools.

It started in the late 1990s. At the time, Meridith was not looking for a home to dress up, she was looking for a place to… store her own excessive furniture and plants. She found an empty house, listed for some time by an anxious developer/seller. You might call this providence. Both needs were satisfied in a hurry. The furniture found a temporary home and the house sold quickly, leading the way for more of the same successful opportunities. Fame followed. HGTV’s quickly tagged her to guarantee the success of “Staged to perfection”.

Today, some 20 or so years later, Meridith’s company stages nearly 150 homes a month, from one coast to the next. Big business. Thirty full time designers are on the team, each one specializing in certain styles.

They have an amazing inventory of goodies to choose from. Take a look: the company has a ….200,000 sq ft warehouse, full of its very own furniture and accessories (rare in this industry). And you know what? If the house they work on cannot be dressed properly with the existing inventory, no sweat, they can custom-build the right piece(s) by hand to fit the specific needs. For that purpose, Meridith has a separate 100,000 sq ft production warehouse in the LA area!

The company’s batting average is at the level of its reputation among the rich & famous. Last October, a $18.75 million Beverly Hills home Meridith staged sold quickly for… $21 million, better than $2M over the asking. Nice bonus. The examples are many illustrating overnight sales at listed price or more. My favorite success story is “Fleur de Lys”, the Los Angeles mansion at 350 N. Carolwood Dr. that sold for $120M, thanks largely to Meridith’s magic touch.

The design process starts with a visit to assess the space, the floor plan, the volumes and any accessibility issues. Depending on the architectural style, the color scheme, etc., and once the mission accepted, a designer is assigned to the project. The challenge is to make the chosen furniture/artwork/rugs/accessories/plants to custom-fit the home and transform it into a masterpiece.

I wish I could give you a few hints about the cost of such an enterprise and the payment schedule. I can’t. Every mission is unique and the fee is confidential. While some stagers use the rule of thumb of 1% of the sales price, Meridith Baer Home has no preconceived idea as to what the cost might turn out to be. Custom all the way.

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