Professional Home Staging Consultant, Malika Smith, from Upstaged Redesign & Décor joins Adam and Matt to discuss the benefits of staging, some must-know tips, and some staging nightmares.
Contact Malika Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-725-1543.
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Can you tell us about yourself and what you do?
I help people get the most money for their home. Some people have lived in their home for a long time and can’t see it with fresh eyes. When you bring in a staging consultant, especially for an occupied home, we can point out the small faults that a buyer would see. We give people homework, get them to repaint, replace, etc. which is huge because some people don’t have imaginations and can’t see past other people’s clutter. We rearrange furniture, maybe bring in some rentals and make it look more like a showhome.
We just did an episode and a tip we gave for people looking to sell was it’s key to de-clutter. Can we talk about what staging is?
We do two kinds: occupied and vacant. For vacant, we bring in all the furniture to create an emotional connection for buyers. People can’t always imagine how they’d arrange furniture in an empty house.
For occupied, sometimes someone has a unique style that needs to be toned down, or they’ve been hoarding and have too much stuff and it’s harder to show the home. We can declutter, clean, paint, etc.
How did you get into staging?
My mom loved decorating when I was a kid and rearranged our house every six months. That rubbed off on me; I’ve always loved decorating. After working in an office for eight years, I decided to pursue my passion. I love it.
When should a homeowner stage a property?
90% of homeowners could use a stager to come in and give advice; whether they need rentals or not depends on the property. We know many realtors who get us to come in on every occupied listing. Just 1-1 ½ hours on decluttering, cleaning or rearranging furniture does quite a bit for the listing. Small things like putting the toilet seat down or putting the rice maker away to show all the kitchen space can make a big difference. Most realtors won’t tell their clients what to do as they don’t want to pick on them. We get to come in and be the bad guy. If they don’t have stuff to suit the market they’re listing in, we’ll bring in stuff to appeal to buyers for that market.
If someone’s interested, they can call you and have you spend as little as an hour and as much as it takes to get the process done?
Clients can call me and do an initial consultation and hopefully there’s enough time to do the homework we’re suggesting. If they want to go a step further, we could send them a quote for rentals and full staging before photos and the open house, if we feel they’re needed. Small items like end tables, lamps and plants can range from $500-$1,500; these are things to make the property pop. If you go online and compare a few listings, you can tell right away which ones were staged.
Can you go through your process a bit more?
For a vacant property, I’d look at the space and take 15 minutes to take photos. I’d take measurements if it was a strangely shaped room, to ensure I could fit the right pieces from the warehouse. Back at the office, I have a spreadsheet with all the furniture options and I’d select which pieces to use. Then we go in and stage, which takes a few hours.
For occupied properties, I go in and do a consultation with the client. I go through the home and give homework. If they’re living there we don’t bring in linens, so we suggest some nice things they can get. This can be done in a few days.
If it’s occupied, at best it’s a partial stage?
Yes. We’re working with as much of the furniture as possible so they don’t have to spend a lot on moving things in. I’ve used a big throw to cover up a very busy couch pattern and neutralize it. To cover up rips in furniture, we’ll put down a throw and a nice pillow. We tweak what they have to make it show the best.
What are some challenges you’ve encountered with homeowners’ furniture?
Sometimes they have oversized pieces that just don’t work in the space. I did an older house in New Westminster where she custom-made a chair to go with a set which was way too big for the living room. I had them move it down to the rental suite in the basement and I used smaller chairs from other rooms. Last night, I was at an apartment downtown. They had a very big hutch in the master bedroom that they were using as a TV room with a couch. We like to turn bedrooms back into bedrooms and family rooms back into family rooms so buyers can see rooms for what they’re supposed to be. Not everyone has showhome furniture, but with their own style set up properly it can showcase the place a lot better. I was only there for an hour, and we did quite a bit considering how it looked before and after. Sometimes that’s all you need; you don’t always need rentals and can just tweak what a client already has.
When people are looking to sell their homes, do you have common tips?
Cleaning for sure. The number one thing people can do is clean top to bottom, like windows and grout. Some people live really cleanly but most people don’t, and you don’t want a buyer who’s really clean thinking, “they’ve never power washed the driveway or cleaned the windows.” Decluttering also goes a long way. Open up all the space; don’t block the closet; ensure people can walk through.
Do you have memorable or horror stories you’d like to share?
This one home stands out the most. I was first training with Upstaged so was there with the owner. This older couple had lived in this home for over 30 years. They asked us to remove our shoes, and the carpets were so dirty that our feet were sticky. They were hoarders – every room was filled with stuff. The lampshades still had plastic wrap. Tin foil was covering the stove; magnets were all over the fridge. It’s like when you see a plastic cover on a couch. We knew after 15 minutes they weren’t going to stage. Every room was jam-packed. Everyone lives differently. They were fine with it and did not see the value in staging. We can only do so much with those listings – we did what we could.
In situations like that, do you face a lot of resistance from owners? I imagine people that have lived in their home for 30 years have trouble seeing the issues.
They do. We tell them other people won’t see things the same way they do. They might take offense, so we definitely try to build rapport with them before saying something doesn’t work in a room. Maybe it was their grandmother’s or had some sentimental value. It might not be our taste, but it’s their taste. We try to focus on positive pieces and be gentle when saying what we should take away. We don’t want to offend anyone; that’s not what we’re there to do. We just want to get people the most money for their house.
Would you say that’s your biggest challenge when going into a house? When you walk into someone’s home and say you need to make a lot of changes to make this appeal to other people, I imagine offense is often the reaction.
Most people are pretty understanding. I usually tell people not to take it personally and explain we’re trying to stage it like a showhome to appeal to the most amount of buyers. I balance it – you compliment other things that are great when you say something doesn’t work. Most people are really happy and thankful after we leave; whether they see it or not, the advice is invaluable.
I know you’ve staged places for us and they look great. What are the costs?
A smaller condo consultation is $100; a larger home consultation for 1 ½-2 hours is $150; an 8,000-sq. ft. mansion is $200.
When a client wants to stage (show-ready without rentals, just tweaking), there are different packages on our website. The consultation fee comes off the package price if we do the staging. It’s about $500-$1,500 for a condo. We try to fit everything into an SUV so we don’t have to use movers. People see the value once they know they’ll make it back in the sale of their house.
How much for an unfurnished property?
It depends on size. A typical one-bedroom condo is the $1,995 package plus about a $400 moving cost. A brand-new build with formal living and dining rooms, an eating area, family room, bedrooms and bathrooms, and an office can go up to $3,295 plus the moving fee, which depends on the suburb but on average it’s $400.
How can people reach you?
They can email me at email@example.com or call my cell at 604-725-1543.