No Intent to Insult

My home staging instructor 13 years ago suggested that the hardest part of being a good stager may be telling people their homes are not up to snuff. I disagreed. I believe that how people live in their homes is their right to choose. My role as a stager is to show how to appeal to buyers, not to judge how someone lives in their home. I’ve approached my business that way with no intent to insult.

In fact I’m proud to be a stager who can deliver the necessary message without insult. I‘ve witnessed other stagers speaking disparagingly about the homes they work in, and certainly the TV shows make fun of home sellers.It happens, but it doesn’t need to and shouldn’t. There can be tough conversations. Like the time I told a proud, self-proclaimed handy-guy that the basement he had refinished should be redone by a professional before going on the market. Now that was a tricky conversation, but it needed to be said if he wanted to get top dollar for his home.

Recently, much to my dismay, a Realtor I work with let me know that a home selling couple were offended by our comments during a staging consultation. This happened once before a couple years ago as well. My instructor was right: it can be very hard to let people know they should make changes without offending them, even when there is no offense intended.

How did this happen when offending anyone is the last thing I’d want to do? When a home is going on the market, I encourage the sellers to see it as a commodity for sale. The way we live and the way we sell are rarely the same. The sellers, however, may still see the house as their home, filled with memories and the results of their hard work over the years. Some people are proud of their home, and some are embarrassed. My role takes me into their private spaces such as closets and bedrooms, which for many people is stressful. I ask people to take a leap of faith with me and trust that I know what I’m talking about, often after just meeting me. In homes where there are multiple variables to cover such as cleanliness, condition and contents, it can quickly become overwhelming. Yes there is potential to offend.

On top of all of that, I’m keeping an eye on my time with the sellers both to keep the cost down and to minimize the risk of overwhelming. Taking enough time to help prepare people for what’s coming is balanced with the need to use the bulk of the time for giving solid, good advice.

What helps?

  • Start the conversation before a staging consultation, whether with me or the Realtor, giving the seller a solid understanding of the staging process, why it’s important, and what to expect.
  • Sellers who are not interested in staging advice should not have it forced on them; when they are ready for advice it will be better received.
  • People have various styles of receiving information. Some of us prefer to rip the band aid off while others may respond better to a gentle, bit-at-a-time approach. Effective communication is very important.
  • More than one session may be beneficial, if possible, to alleviate the stress for sellers and improve the results.
  • Reminders that the recommendations made are in the best interest of the seller are helpful. When a certain feature, furniture layout or colour is pointed out that buyers are not going to like, it’s to let the sellers know what objections are coming their way, how serious the objections will be, and to open a discussion on the possibilities of making changes in order to attract buyers.
  • When any given recommendation can’t be achieved, perhaps because of budget, family needs, or timing restraints, there is always another way to alleviate the issue at hand if it is discussed openly.
  • When we can place monetary value on changes, such as a kitchen upgrade which will cost 3000.00 and raise value by 10,000.00, this helps many sellers feel comfortable with the process.

When we let sellers know that virtually everyone is in the same position when they get ready to sell, my house and their Realtor’s included, and allow them the time they need to process, everyone feels better about the staging process which brings better results.

If you experience someone offending you, why not tell them? Chances are they don’t mean to and will work harder at not doing it to anyone else.

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