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Who's Getting In Your Pocket, Now: Spoilsport Buyer's Agent Group Comes Out Against Home Staging

Written by Posted On Monday, 20 August 2007 00:00

Realty Times is introducing a new feature that allows our illustrious and outspoken editor Blanche Evans a chance to vent (before she goes off on a rant in the office) on the latest ways the media, government, third-parties, consumer groups, competitors and others we haven't even thought of yet try to get into your pocket. Look for more "Who's Getting Into Your Pocket, Now?" stories in the near future.

Staging is a hot topic, says The National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents , but not when buyers are "routinely misled by staged homes." The grassroots trade group is wagging its finger at sellers who might be hiding defects through staging, such as pulling the proverbial rug over stained floors, and covering rotting windows with curtains.

This subterfuge is accomplished with sellers' own furniture and accessories as well as the help of misguided professionals who wish to help the seller obtain the best terms when selling. (Of course, when buyers employ such tactics as lowballing sellers to the point that they lose confidence in their agent and their home and give their homes away, that's perfectly OK.)

"The whole intent of staging is to get the buyer emotionally involved with the home," huffs Jon Boyd, president of NAEBA. "When we surveyed our brokers and agents, 82 percent of the respondents stated that buyers were likely to get distracted from important issues when viewing a staged home. The most prevalent staging trick reported in the survey was sellers using small furniture to make a room look bigger than it actually is."

That's as silly a complaint as I've ever heard. Worse, it can do some serious damage. Staging doesn't "make" people buy homes any more than miracle bras and mascara make men propose marriage. But it's worth trying ... .

While most exclusive buyer's agents would gladly wrestle me to the ground on this point -- the last thing the real estate industry, buyers or sellers need is another reason to keep buyers from buying.

NAEBA says it conducted a survey of its own members to find out about the practice of homestaging after reading another company's report that home staging produced an average increase in sellers' prices of about $5,645.

While admitting that "basic" staging has been around for years -- declutter, neutralize colors, do maintenance, clean windows, remove personal items, freshen landscaping, and place only "attractive, basic furniture in each room, NAEBA insists that "emotional" staging is focused on "how you as a potential buyer might use a home."

Staged homes can include pillows and wine glasses placed in front of the fireplace, or setting a table as if dinner is about to be served, or putting "classy" books on night stands or by reading chairs.

This is pretty insidious stuff.

I can see the buyer's lawsuit now: "Seller emotionally influenced buyer that romance, family togetherness and reading would increase enjoyment of owning home."

NAEBA's stance is dangerous because it implies that sellers who employ staging are trying to sell sow's ears as silk purses, and that's not necessarily the case. Buyers make financial, practical and emotional decisions, but one thing they don't have to do is buy. Some sellers may have to sell, but there's not a buyer in the world who has to buy. Buyers buy because they want to buy. It's in their best interests to buy for some reason that's important to them -- being close to family and friends or work, or the pride of ownership or living in a certain kind of home in a certain neighborhood.

In other words, they buy because it's the right price, improves their lifestyle, and because they LIKE it.

Does that mean that pricing a home to sell is manipulation too? Or charging more for a home because it's in a more desirable location?

But back to staging, using smaller furniture in some rooms could actually make the space function better -- what's so wrong with that? Would it be better if the seller deliberately purchased the wrong size furniture for a room?

"Our member agents want home buyers to see things logically, to 'see past' the staging," grumbles Boyd. "In addition, a majority of our members have seen staging cover up real problems, such as rugs hiding damaged floors and designer curtains covering rotted window sills. Since staging doesn't increase the intrinsic value of a home, buyers need to be very careful. Remember, you are not buying the pretty furnishings, you are buying the house."

That's true, Mr. Boyd, but we're also talking about responsible adults here. When the buyer gets engaged enough to sit down and make an offer, the rose-colored glasses usually come right off as the buyer picks apart everything that isn't perfect, asks for closing costs, points, and other concessions. And believe me, when they are ready to make an offer, they'll lift the rug and pull back the curtains to see what's there.

Buyers are sitting on the sidelines right now, despite lower interest rates and higher inventories to choose from, whether they are emotionally engaged or not. Why? Fear is the emotion in control right now, not skepticism.

Instead of terrorizing the buyer further, how about educating them about the mechanics of the home and list the items they should be looking at, not whether a seller and stager have made a small parlor more useful with down-sized furnishings.

But no, NAEBA doesn't take the high road -- instead, the survey results are really just another kind of staging -- a sales pitch on page four for why buyers should use NAEBA members as their agents.

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Blanche Evans

"Blanche Evans is a true rainmaker who brings prosperity to everything she touches.” Jan Tardy, Tardy & Associates

I have extensive and award-winning experience in marketing, communications, journalism and art fields. I’m a self-starter who works well with others as well as independently, and I take great pride in my networking and teamwork skills.

Blanche founded evansEmedia.com in 2008 as a copywriting/marketing support firm using Adobe Creative Suite products. Clients include Petey Parker and Associates, Whispering Pines RV and Cabin Resort, Greater Greenville Association of REALTORS®, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Prudential California Realty, MLS Listings of Northern California, Tardy & Associates, among others. See: www.evansemagazine.com, www.ggarmarketclick.com and www.peteyparkerenterprises.com.

Contact Blanche at: blanche@evansemedia.com

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