Welcome to the inaugural post of Word Of The Week !
Every Saturday I’ll be posting a Word Of The Week: a word that is floating my boat that particular week. Could come from any number of sources, but something meaningful and appropriate for what is going on.
This weeks’ word is ANTICIPATION. And no, you don’t hear Carly Simon singing in the background.
In the last few weeks have been getting this very powerful, recurring vibe…and image.
Buyers and sellers are tired of being unhappy, tired of waiting. They want to be happy, and get on with their lives.
Like Olympic athletes-shoulder to shoulder, tightly coiled, waiting for that CRACK! of the starters’ pistol. They are quivering, straining not to jump too early. But they ARE ready. And they WILL be jumping.
Via the conversations, the new inquiries, the attitudes, the buzz in stores-it’s that frozen moment of time, when you know you are on the threshold of something happening, a nano-second away from action. Determination mixed with nervous excitement, it’selectric, and palatable.
This week I found a new and invaluable tool. Not for the house, or their stuff…but for all the humans in the equation…
Have been a fan of W.S. Badger products for a while….soothing, all natural body care products, their balms are formulated with different botanicals for each task. Sleep Balm? Snooze City! Sore Muscle Balm? Moving again in no time. So it was with great delight I found the newest addition to my Staging Kit:
Cheerful Mind formula: How could you not love this?? Honestly, I’m already happier just carrying it around-I mean, look at that cute chubby little guy on the tin!
But open it, run a little on your wrists, temples, even just a touch on the underside tip of your nose, and the scent of fresh orange and lemon combined with spearmint will lift you-or anyone else-out of the cranky-pants doldrums in no time.
Seriously, it’s subtle and gentle, and for about $8.00 a tin, you can’t go wrong. Available at most health-and whole-food stores, keep one in your car, at your desk, wherever there is stress, and you need a smile to be an arm-length away.
To paraphrase Yogi-selling a house is 90% mental, and the other half physical, I am seriously considering making one of these part of each Staging proposal I do.
Double-bonus-it’s a family-run business, and the products are made right here in the northeast-YAY, Badger Balm!
SCSP (smart, creative Staging professional) (that would be me)seeks UCRw/D (upbeat, confident Realtor w/ Designations) (hopefully, that is YOU)OBJECT: cooperative and content clients, more time on your hands, fabulous listing photos, and selling lots of properties quickly, and for the best price
YOU: Positive attitude, reality-based, open-minded, straightforward and direct, good communication skills. Value education and running a customer-service based business. And ohyes, have the desire to sell lots of properties.
ME: All of the above, and passionate about it; kind, adaptable, supportive, quick-witted, able to manage both projects and sellers.
Turn-offs: Cranky, jaded, complacent or rude whiners; hobbyists; over-priced listings
Remote Staging and phone consults do-able. Sense of humor a must, GRI, CBR, or CDPE preferred.
I am Marie Graham, owner of the refreshed home. I can bringing life and light into lives, listings, and living spaces. All you need to do is start the conversation!
Today I have two messages, connected in an unexpected way.
Earlier today I underwent a routine health screening procedure that is recommended for people my age. Everything went beautifully. I was in good health going into it, so with God’s good grace, this will continue to be the case.
This procedure has a very high ICK factor, and required extended preparation on my part, which was one reason I put off scheduling it for a few years.
And that is POINT #1: If you are overdue for any regular health care, Man-Up (or Woman-Up) and JUST DO IT.
And if you think you don’t have the time….getting sick , even dying is really inconvenient and time-consuming.
Just as with houses, deferring maintenance does not make it go away.
During this whole process, I was in a brand-new circumstance. With health-care professionals I never met before. Talking about some fairly intimate things. Totally uncharted territory; I was nervous, vulnerable and apprehensive. Funny thing about fear, it can bring new insights and lots of clarity, in a hurry.
Because I love what I do, am always looking for new ways to present and deliver a better product and experience. One thing I do is look for things that work well, try to understand why, then see if I can draw a parallel in my own business. The product or the field doesn;t matter to me, if it makes people happy I want to know why/how.
I found myself thinking this experience was a very fresh look- a good reminder-of how it feels to be a potential customer.
ALSO-I got a renewed, and very personal perspective on the value of working with true experienced professionals.
Experience is not just about time put in someplace. Whether you work on cars or brains, at a cash register, in a library or a corner office-it’s about what one learns, and how one uses that knowledge to continually better both themselves, and the experience for others.
In many cases it means you know enough to answer most questions, but that you also know to look for unasked questions, and unspoken concerns, then how to coax them out, and make them part of the conversation.
Professionals know the journey, and understand preparing clients in a thorough, kind and direct way is just as much a part of a good process as anything else.
Oh yes…and they care. Usually a lot.
If you are an experienced professional who has made someone’s life easier today-I thank you, even if your client forgot.
If you are a client, or another professional who’s had a good experience with someone, call them tomorrow and thank them.
And if you are Dr. Geders, or one of her team at MKMG, I thank you all very much.
Although it sounds a tad bit too contemporary to me, most Google searches credit Confuscious with saying ‘Choose a job that you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.’
Well, I love what I do, pretty much always have; but I also really love my husband, and really really love being married to him; being away this week has proven to be a bit of a challenge.
Working for, and mostly by myself, I’m less aware of how my mind races, how may cool ideas are beingentertained, how many internal conversations I’m having at once; it’s just how the typical day goes. It’s only the presence of others that gives you pause…you know those pauses, where you immediatly want to insist “Hey, I can stop anytime I want to!”-like I was sneaking a drink, or a call to a bookie…!!
After some adjustments, it’s been a week of thinking BIG. Not ‘going multi-national’ big, not ‘how to make this into a franchise’ big, but some good overall contemplative thoughts on where I want the refreshed home to go, and how it’s going to get there. The week isn’t over yet, so stay tuned.
Meantime, a clip of one of my favorite big thinkers!
In this business, seeing is believing, but the #1 corollary is that they have to like you, and trust you, first.
Recently I got a call from a Realtor I met last year-he was the listing agent on a property my Staging clients bought, after they sold their house.
He had a seller whose house needed help…not a new story-it had been on the market, with no success. It was a neat and clean space, no conditional issues. They had done some updating, but more needed to be done to make it competitive in this market.
I was there 2 days later, and sent them my report the next day. This was the email the agent sent me:
Thanks so much for all your time and care of the Smiths. I enjoyed being with you on the presentation – you have a velvet boxing glove, that’s for sure.
I have wanted to say something about the ‘nothing’ colors in the bathrooms and the kitchen, but they were already a little overwhelmed by my suggestions; it was a relief that you felt the same way, and addressed it with them.
I will catch up with them today, but I think they were very impressed with you and even better LIKED you and TRUSTED you. The changes you suggested are not ‘impossible’ and I think they will help set the property for a definite sale!
I will be in the office tomorrow, let’s talk more then.
Realtors:I know you invest months, often years in educating people, nurturing relationships. I totallyget all that is on the line when you make the giant leap from listening to me, to actually bringing me into one of your transactions.
Sellers: I also realize all of what you have at stake. When we meet, I will understand and respect your situation, and all you have gone through. I will be your partner, and show you how to get to the other side.
I have made a successful living working in people’s homes for 30 years.
I know nothing to be truer than no matter what, people willalways care about their homes. So four years ago I made my own leap and createdthe refreshed home.
My business model is not the most traditional. I have never ever chased dollars, so goals are not set or evaluated on sales figures.
My business has grown by simply striving to make people smarter and happier by showing how to make their space and stuff work better, so they can get on with their lives.
Solidly connecting with a responsive, professional, knowledgeable and now trusting Realtor was a home run.
Not a home run that is an insurance run, or even wins the game.
Because he can now comfortably speak with his other sellers and fellow agents about how Staging with the right person can work, this is a bases-loaded,bottom of the 12th, walk-off home run. In the playoffs.
Except in this scenario, everyonewins!
If you have a home you need to sell, let a professional Stager help. All you have to do is just start the conversation.
Have gotten some feedback about the first part of this series….let me just say I have nothing against HGTV> In fact, I love HGTV.
A 24/7 TV network that devotes itself entirely to all things home-oriented that entertains and educates, while raising all our profiles is a good thing. But as a practical matter of actually getting things done in your home….
As the network has grown, the beast must be fed. Some concepts get stretched a little too thin, or you are spending a lot of that half-hour wading through semi-celebrity personalities (or is it celebrity semi-personalities??), product placement plugs, teaser trailers and repeated video, to get to those good ideas.
IMHO, setting Sabrina Soto’s programs aside, viewers for the most part have to really work at culling root concepts.
Which might be ok, if you are one of a minority that can distill it all down….visualize it for your space…. exclude the typically unrealistic or not even mentioned issue of budget…translate it into specifics that meet your space, needs and circumstances…on your own.
Like I said…as a professional Decorator and Home Stager, I love HGTV.
Conceptually, New Years Day is one of my favorite holidays. I like thinking about the future, andthe way I want to get there; individual words propel me.
Unexpected and nuanced words are the ones I hear best. As intangible touchstones, they linger and invite possibilities; open up the imagination; forge, define and illuminate the path.
2010 brought a lot of challenges, but it was a wonderful year. Thinking it through, here are some of the words-and the whys- that will continue to color and shape myself, my business, my writings and my interactions in 2011.
Resonate, ponder, profound, thoughtful: Courses charted and decisions made in 2011 will be meaningful and personal
Whimsy. Big in 2010, keeping it, adding joy and delight. Why? Why not ?? I like things that make me think first, then smile.
1. It is not easy being involved in the housing industry these days, but of all the things I know forsure, the desire for a space to call one’s own is in our DNA is near the top of the list. If we all took a deep breath, we’d all be a lot better off.
2. Start the conversation What most people know about Staging is what they see on TV. HGTV elevates your level of pain, but it’s not reality. Stagers know what buyers like to see, and how to make your house look it’s best, but a good Stager will welcome your questions, because that’s how we come up with solutions you can live with.
3. You can do more than you think you can. REALLY.
Seems the sweet spot is both shrinking and shifting in the discussion on if/how/when/where to use social media in business. In fact, am listening to a webinar on that topic as I write this.
The conversation focuses on the dichotomy of how to use the myriad of technologies to personally connect with the masses. But they are not using the word ‘dichotomy’, they’re talking about how to do it. Oh boy.
I have written about this before…I sincerely try to be honest with myself and separate out my lack of skills from my dislike of over-reliance on fake-friendly technology… yes,the kind that personally reaches the masses-and my belief that in the end, this is not how I’m going to best connect with clients.
Interior Decorating and Home Staging are intimate propositions. You invite me into your home-or your listing-I’m meeting your family, looking at, and touching your stuff. We talk about money, your hope, your dreams. To give me a frame of reference, I also ask about Staging and Decorating things that didn’t go so well. Pretty personal stuff.
I don’t have anything personal against the highly-wired, just probably wouldn’t feel comfortable doing business with them. And that’s ok. They might not be thrilled to work with me, either.
Isn’t that the greatest thing about being in business for yourself??
Earlier in the fall Loreena Yeo wrote a great post on what a brand is-and isn’t. I’ve saved the link and go back and read it from time to time. While I “still” don’t have all the answers, I sure have a lot less questions.
There is no ultimate best strategy, we all need to find who we are, and what we want to be first, then define our way. If that doesn’t work the way we want it to, we re-evaluate. Simple, right?!
John Belushi had a recurring character, Science Editor on the Weekend Update. He offered commentary on ordinary current events, like St. Patrick’s Day, Skylab falling, or the weather.
They started out as expected, but he’d go off on a tangent, until what he thought was the real insanity would get him so worked up that he literally would go flying off his chair.
I can identify.
Recently there’s been a change in how I talk and blog about Staging. I’ve always felt passionate about what I do; but there’s been a different tone. Yesterday on ActiveRain I was one of close to 200 who commented on a post 7 Reasons Why Your House Won’t Sell.
Written by a Realtor, mostly for other RE professionals, and all were in agreement…yet I’m writing my own pro-Staging manifesto, out of breath and drained after I hit the ‘submit’ button.
Have never been one for those caterpiller-into-butterfly metaphors, but changes are coming. Stay tuned!!
Have written about belonging to ActiveRain before, the nationwide online community of Real Estate professionals, almost 197K strong.
As a Stager, it’s a great place to be-these are some of the smartest people in the business, and the more I understand what Realtors think about and why, the better I am at my job.
About every 3rd or 4th day a Realtor writes a featured post about getting a house ready for sale: how important it is, what it entails and why. INEVITABLY agents from all corners respond, YES! OF COURSE! IMPERATIVE!!
These responses make me crazy.
OK< I admit, my inital, gut level response is why the heck are none of these vocal, pro-staging agents located in my state, or even my time zone??
Then-frustration. It is the same (small-ish) pool of people. Saying the same thing.
The reality is there is a big disconnect most Realtors have between Staging as a good thing in principle, vs. Staging that actually puts money in their pocket. The few and the vocal are preaching to the choir, the rest view Staging as an intellectual pursuit.
Investing time energy and some funds in putting a house’s best foot forward is something that needs to be spoken of at the first meeting, directly and confidently. You get confident about something by doing it.
I find it absolutely stunning that new agents are indoctrinated on presentation scripts, but not this. That experienced agents take less-than-desirable listings, thinking the buyer’s agent will work the magic. Or brokers allow dated, out of focus, under-lit and otherwise odd/unhelpful to abysmal photos be shown on their listings. .
I understand the plethora of challenges you all face, but if you, your seller, fellow agents or agents you supervise/mentor are not getting the results you want, might it not be time to change things up a bit?
Being pro-Staging does not mean you talk about it when it is easy and the sellers are amenable. It does not mean you talk about it in the third person, as in you’ve seen it done in other homes, or on all the HGTV shows.
Instead, you need to find a local professional Stager that you like, and start the conversation BEFORE the house goes on the market. BEFORE you meet your next listing call. BEFORE you start thinking about the next/newest techno-way to bump up your business. BEFORE you plan the next price reduction.
Invest the time NOW. To that end, I am declaring December to be Start the Conversationmonth.
To any now-enthused Owner-Broker, Mentor, or Office Manager reading this: Call me.
If your office is within a 25 mile radius of White Plains, I will come to your office for a 1/2 day during the month of December and run a workshop for your INTERESTED agents, for free. REALLY.
‘Whimsy’ is one of those words you don’t hear that often. But when you do, chances are there’s no immediate visual, you probably have to take a second and (gasp) focus…
Starting out with a robust “WH” , it transforms, ending with a light-hearted ‘e-e-e-e-e’, the word itself evokes both range and promise.
‘Whimsy’ will make you smile-perhaps even inwardly-but you won’t laugh (it has a lighter touch than ’humor’). It is clever, but you won’t struggle; and it will make you think at your own pace-but not dwell or obsess.
It engages, delights and amuses, and is often unexpected. It captures your attention, and can change the channel. Done well, it stays with you.
Which is precisely why it is such a great tool in both Staging, and in Decorating.
It also cannot be done in a vacuum; for it to be effective you need to understand the motivation behind it, be clear about who your audience will be, and what you want to accomplish.
Which is precisely why I ask a lot of questions of prospective clients.
A long time residential client needed help in ‘finishing’ his newly re-located law office. An aquarium in the waiting room was suggested, but with clown fish. (He’s been a successful RE attorney for over 30 years, his business is largely with people he knows or has been recommended to, and he LOVES irony, trust me, it was him).
Anticipating the maintenance, instead we went with an oversize clock, surrounded by scenic shots of his kid’s college campuses (his idea, great idea, you can see a photo on my website’s B&A).
It’s natural to feel ‘stuck’ when you are starting to contemplate a long-overdue update, or clearing out decades of stuff in preparation for selling a house, but some people get really down on themselves.
I keep a small supply of ‘magic’ wands in the trunk of my car. Inexpensive, from the craft or party store, they are colorful and glittery, some with stars, other with spangles, ribbons, or even diamonds.
If the conversation starts going south- where the client is feeling overwhelmed-if it feels appropriate, I excuse myself and return with one for them, . (Also useful in getting children on board with this whole editing-the-toy-bin-thing).
Rick Whelan, owner and creative guru behind Ditto! Design! is a master of connecting a visual with a soft-sell message.
Last year, during a particularly bad time in the economy, he sent out a newsletter that as a banner (skinny photo on top pf page) showed a cluster of open black umbrellas, with a single sunny yellow one in the middle. (Yes, I aspire to have something approximating that light touch, and yes, yes, he handles all my marketing tools).
Point being-selling, or staying-if your space isn’t sending the message you want, we should talk. REALLY.
When I was in sales, I always tried to put my best presentation forward. Even in soft markets, or with choosy, unmotivated or non-commital shoppers. In fact, if typical times got my A game, the more challenging circumstances got my A++ game.
Sales can be physically demanding, and in more difficult times, I found many of my competitors were letting shoppers lead them; that is, fatigued or distracted, they accepted casual interest, or ‘just looking’ at face value, nothing worth pursuing. I found these to be very productive times.
In my capacity as Sales Manager for furniture stores, and now, in my own business, during my one to ones, if somone was unhappy with their situation, I always ask one question: Is there anything you think you could do to change things?
I’ve found that serious home sellers and people who choose to work in commissioned sales are both already highly motivated, and that in some cases I’m just steering, with the wind at my back.
So if their answer is yes, we discuss specifics, and how best to implement. Occasionally, the answer is no; then we talk about acceptance, the satisfaction of knowing they were being the best they could be, and faith that this, too will pass…I mean, let’s face it, you can always re-assess, and sometimes no matter how hard you work, things don’t always roll the way you want.
I am not channeling Pollyanna, nominating myself for Sales Guru of the year, or imploring anyone to hang tough and soldier on.
Opportunity excites me; communicating with other engaged and motivated people about business really excites me; and personally I see the next 6 months as a real juggernaut of opportunity. Steady and low mortgage rates, # of transactions and average sales prices both inching up, and ohyes, all that pent-up demand!!
But for all the deadline-weary, battle fatigued people in the housing market, I also sense a potential pull to the dark side: it’s summer/no one buys in the summer, tax credit over, still waiting for the market to ‘come back’, it’s summer/no one buys in summer…these can be self-fulfilling prophecies.
None of us know for sure what the next 6 months will bring in this market. But-OK, now channeling Oprah-what I do know for sure is that successful people take responsibility for their success. They challenge the status quo, they plan and expect the unexpected. Bottom line, they don’t follow the herd or react as much as they trust their internal compass to explore and establish what works, re-evaluate, adapt and implement.
What I know for sure about my business is that if I can make your space work better, intrinsically your life will be better. So to that end, looking to engage other take-charge DIY-type people, have roughed out my next few posts, starting with 10 free, or very cheap and easy ways to take charge of your space-and life-, whether you are selling or staying.
On this absolutely glorious Friday July 2nd-and throughout this long holiday weekend, whether you are seller, buyer, or RE professional, it is my hope you are trusting that if your mind/body/spirit needs a break you will somehow find some time and allow yourself this.
Then when you are feeling more-well, refreshed-you will refocus on what you can do well, and then proceed, confidently.
Lot of talk in the trades lately about designations-what is worthwhile and helpful, what has meaning? I look for, believe in, and support professional accreditation; here’s what’s behind mine:
Interior Design Society, Professional Level This was my first, achieved almost 25 years ago. IDS, created in the 1970′s an an alternative for home design professionals in the retail field; it’s members, unlike ASID, do not deal with semi-engineering /structural things like moving walls, electric, plumbing or other house systems.
Professional training and hands-on field experience was required to even take the test; between my business degree, time at Parson’s and about 5 years at Ethan Allen, I qualified for Professional, their highest-level designation.
Exam was 100 short answers in first part; still remember triumphantly, jubilantly knowing what a ‘clerastory’ was…yes, one of those architectural terms I had learned, that was actually on the test!!
The second part was a 6 hours, also proctored. You were given the shell of a house plan with plumbing (kitchen and baths)already in place, and the ‘story’ of who lived there.
You were required to block out the space/construct all interior walls,. Create a reflected ceiling plan, place outlets/switches, place/draw in all the furniture, and do an elevation of entire long side of house (scale drawing of walls, with furniture and decorations on it). Then decorate it, including a room-by-room explanation of why you chose what your chose; how it all related to and served this phantom family. If you didn’t finish, you failed.
I completed/passed it on the second try, and beyond the obvious, lessons learned were time = money, how to prioritize, and above all, solutions must suit the clients’ needs.
Had been helping client prepare and get houses sold for probably the last 10 years, but “Staging”?
Lots of schools and organizations out there, but researched and found StagedHome.Com. In 1972, Barb Schwarz was a Realtor is WA, and as the story goes, she coined the term ‘Staging’ when trying to persuade a seller to spiff up her home a bit. The homeowner was resistant, but Barb got inspired by some of the posters/playbills/theater memorabilia that was in the house, and the rest is history.
StagedHomes.com is the original: Barb is CEO, and holds the trademark on the word ‘Staged’. They are a REALTOR affiliate member, and a BBB Accredited Business with an A+ rating, and I was trained by the VP.
ASP (Accredited Staging Professionals)-certified Stagers take an intensive course that focuses on good business practices as much as Staging skills, actually Stage a local house on the market, pass a comprehensive test, and agree to be held to a code of ethics.
If ASP is the educational/training arm, then IAHSP(International Association of Home Staging Professionals) is the organizational, fraternal association that most ASPs belong to.
The same standards exist, but have chapters that hold community service events, and work together to educate consumers, support each other and further further Staging in general.
Lastly, BNI is a professional business networking organization. Both global (5700 chapters, 125K members, in over 50 countries), and hyper-local (3 dozen chapters right here in Westchester/Rockland alone), these are people I love being associated with, see my connectionswebpage. People who refer me are actually putting their own professional credibility on the line.
Prospective members provide references and are thoroughly checked out by the group’s membership committee. They commit to attend weekly meetings, usually at 7 am, (yes, 7AM) and adhere to a set of standards that include truthful communications providing full, complete and satisfactory service to those they are referred to, at the agreed-upon price. Each group holds its members fully accountable, and any non-compliers are asked to leave.
Yes, these organizations are businesses, but none just take your money and give you letters to use. Professionals who are proud of their designations are happy to explain what they mean and what it took to get them, so don’t hesitate to ask…hopefully, it’s be the start of a great relationship!
We started out with existing blinds, and fleshed out an idea, using the kid’s flannel sheets
Then, 29 yards of fabric later….
Here is a lovely kitchen and eating area,
blinds on the window were a given.
Draw drapes over french doors provide privacy and sound-absorption (great for rooms with hard surfaces and households with young children), balance the line of the cabinetry, but also elevate the feeling of the space…comfortable for kids, great for casual dinners with grown-ups, too.
Almost impossible to discern, but fabric is a mini-mini check fabric. This let us add presence by doing a strong color, but kept it from reading hard, or too dark.
AND ohyes, here is the othe reason I love doing window treatments. Rich Kane is the “R” of “M and R Designs”. He and his wife Marilyn have been doing window treatments for almost 30 years, and they have been my exclusive workroom for the last 10.
This goofy shot belies the seriousness and dedication they put into every job. They “get” the aesthetics as well as the construction/fabrication so it goes from concept to reality, flawlessly, on time, and without you having a ton of fabric left over.
Came upon this image a few weeks ago, walking Bella just as the nor’easter was getting started. An appropriate metaphor for so many things, but especially so because first it was my birthday, and second, this brand new site-finally live-has had a gestation period longer than most large mammals…
the refreshed home is first and formost an information and service company that supports your having a better life. In the posts to come, I look to share helpful information, present some interesting thoughts, introduce you to some really smart people, help save you time and money, and yes, even make you smile.
Thank you for visiting, and welcome to your refreshed home!