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I staged a house in Wynnum recently.

I was showing the agent round at the end of the install and said “let me know how the marketing campaign and auction progresses, I’m always pleased to find out a house I’ve staged has sold”  He replied “I would never have thought to keep you up to date. I thought that you just staged the house and that was it”

I might be getting a bit above myself. I know I’m a service provider but I do what I do for a reason – to help my clients sell up and move on. I need to know the outcome!

For me, I know when I’ve done a good job staging a house but I never think it’s a success until the house has sold.  The furniture I’d used to stage a house 8 weeks ago came back to the warehouse last week because the house hasn’t sold.  I know that staging is only part of the overall sale – the price and the marketing/photos/agent have a role to play too. I also know that without staging my client would definitely not have sold the house but I still hate to think of a house not selling. The ultimate goal of what I do is not just to make a house present well, it’s to make the house more saleable and to sell for the best price available.

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Many of the houses I stage require upgrades to make them more appealing and move in ready. These upgrades can cost 10’s of thousands of dollars. The aim, always is to get a return on the time and money invested. It’s great when a house sells to be able to see the return on investment. To see that staging works.

I can’t help feeling involved in the sale of my client’s houses. I see myself as their coach, giving them advice as to what colour to paint the walls, where to go for a bathroom upgrade, that they can sort out their kid’s rooms by next Tuesday. I give them the advice and the motivation to present their houses for sale.  When I don’t get to hear the sales result It’s like a coach sending their swimmer off to a swim meet and then not hearing the result. I’d be asking “Did you win?”

So, what happened to the house on the bayside?  I received this e-mail on Saturday afternoon

“Imogen, Just wanted to let you know Wynnum sold under the hammer today. Thank you for your help with the staging!”

Happy? You bet!!

I’m Imogen Brown, a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you are looking for someone to help present your house for sale then I’d love to help. But don’t forget to tell me when it sells!  Contact me on 0432994056 or through my website

You may also like: 3 keys to home selling success

I’m typing this as the last effects of Cyclone Marcia pass over my house in Brisbane. My thoughts especially are with a lovely lady called Emma. She’s renovating a beach house at Keppel sands and I’ve been following her progress on Instagram. Yesterday her roof got ripped off in the cyclone. Our homes and the families who live within them are so precious and this is another reminder.

We live in a country of sometimes very unkind weather.

The day before the Brisbane storm at the end of November last year I staged this new build in Taringa. Luckily and ironically we got away with only losing one storm lantern on the table outside although the house 2 doors down had a tree through the garage.  Loved the fresh green palette I used for this one. Result? Sold for $1.8m

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One of the first houses I staged after New Year was a beautiful Queenslander in Hendra. A BIG house that included a pool house, a snooker room, piano room & library plus the usual bedrooms and living areas. The photos below are of the upstairs living and upstairs verandah. This house sold in 2 weeks

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If you want to live on the Brisbane river it becomes more affordable but even prettier as it winds it’s way west through Karana Downs. I loved staging this house as it had a slightly retro feel so I could go a bit scandi-retro which is a big trend right now. When thinking about a style I’m always guided by what the house needs (and what’s in the warehouse on the day I select!!). I don’t push my style onto the house.

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I never thought when I started staging 4 years ago that I’d get the call to stage a church.  When staging I often ring the real estate agent to see who they think the buyer will be and the style they think is appropriate. The agent for this property told me “quirky” and “not beige” Great words to work with. The photo below is a before and after of the dining space. I’ve also included another photo of the whole downstairs space so you can see the church interior properly.

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Next up is a 2 bed unit in a beautiful 1930’s block in Ascot. All the timber and ceiling features remained and were the star so I staged in a neutral way so the staging didn’t detract. I was aiming for a modern Poirot feel. This unit sold before auction. Great result.

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Finally I wanted to include a lovely Queenslander on the bayside that I staged only last week. When I stage Queenslanders I like to make them a bit eclectic, elegant and soft. Or as my client told me “The house looks great, the staging is very tasteful and appropriate” If you love Queenslanders as much as I do there are more before and after photos here

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I hope these photos give you an indication of the furniture that I can hire and my overall style.  I have many more waiting in the wings for next time.

 

I’m Imogen Brown a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you are selling your house and need it staged then I’d love to help. Contact me on 0432994056 or contact me through my website

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Home Staging: Before and After

Home Staging: Before and After (part II)

So you’re thinking of staging your vacant to sell?

The house is the star, not the stager

 

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I’ve had a couple of new home stagers contact me recently saying something along the lines of:  ‘I’ve got my website ready and printed my business cards and I’m raring to go but the phone’s not ringing – what do I do?’

I remember this well. It took me 6 months to get my first client. 6 months of setting myself daily tasks whilst stopping the occasional voice in my head that said ‘what are you doing this for, no one’s going to ring, who do you think you are anyway?’

Most home stagers are not an overnight success but, if you keep plugging away it’s the daily actions that will in the end add up. Willing to keep going? Here are some ideas…

Build relationships

  • Ask a stager you admire to mentor you.
  • Ask other stagers if they want some help during a furniture install.
  • See other stagers as a source of support and not competition. If you all do well, the whole category will grow. Follow them and get chatting on social media.
  • Think about who sellers call when they sell – not just agents but carpet companies, handymen, landscapers, floor refinishers, painters, storage companies, removal companies. Get in touch and tell them what you do. They are often asked if they know a stager so become the person they recommend. Refer business to them too.
  • Start a little black book of people you can recommend to your clients
  • Find a networking group or two that suit you. I went to  a local one and also an all female one. A great source of support, contacts and a shot of confidence

Get yourself out there

  • Write your ‘elevator speech’ then practice. When someone asks ‘what’s a home stager’ you can tell them, succinctly, engagingly.
  • Practice saying “I’m a home stager”  You ARE a home stager : )
  • Leave your business card everywhere you can – the local hardware store, at the storage company, the local coffee shop, the real estate office
  • Speak at the library
  • Ask to present at a real estate office
  • Start a newsletter and send it (with permission) to the agents you want to work with.
  • Sponsor something at your kid’s school, give a design consult as a prize.
  • Visit the furniture hire warehouses. Learn the process, introduce yourself
  • Send a press release to your local paper.

Strengthen your on-line presence

  • When I started ALL my business came from my on-line presence both website and social media. Make sure you have a website at minimum and that people can find you easily
  • Pick a couple of social media platforms. I’m on Instagram, Facebook (Set up as a business page to keep it separate from personal), Linkedin (agents use this more than any other social media) and Twitter. Better to do 1-2 well than try them all.
  • Post to your social media CONSISTENTLY. Post Before and After photos, a furniture layout that you like, a great product you’ve found, a sale on at an interior store, share your blogs, other people’s blogs. Make it relevant. You’re building a brand. No drunken selfies please.
  • Follow other stagers, other relevant business owners, real estate agents, journalists, magazines etc. Comment, chat, share.  Repeat!
  • Get yourself a Blog. You’ll rank higher on search engines, you’ll be seen as an expert but above all it will give you content to share on social media and with clients when they ask questions.
  • Put yourself in your client’s shoes. What do they want to know e.g “how do I get rid of my clutter?”  ” What are the best neutrals for staging?” “What are the best return on investment changes I could make before I sell?”  “how do I style my coffee table?”  Then write them the answer on your blog. You’ll be getting your thoughts clear as you research the subject.
  • Ask a local expert questions and turn the answers into a blog post. I got my carpet lady to do this and she was great. It gave her business a plug too.
  • Update your website as you begin to get new business. Before and After photos sell, as do great client testimonials. Your website should be a living thing not a set and forget. Note to self – update your website!!

Learn new things

  • Ask yourself – “what questions could a client ask me?” then go and find the answers so you’re prepared
  • Examples are: “Could you recommend a local handyman?” “Is is possible to spray kitchen cabinets? Who do you recommend? ” I have a broken paver, what do I do?” “What’s the best storage facility round here?” Anticipate the questions and research the answers.
  • Book yourself onto training courses – a one day small business course, a how to take real estate photos course, a social media for beginners course, a styling workshop, half a day flowering arranging.  These courses are often subsidised by your local council.
  • Be careful of procrastination by training. The “I just need to go on another course before I start my business” syndrome
  • Listen to local business speakers at networking events.
  • Read business books that interest you.
  • Download TED talks. You’re a business owner now. Absorb the info. Get motivated and inspired.
  • Take a home staging course. I recommend Staging Diva  (details at the bottom of this link)

Go window shopping 

  • Who has the best range of cushions? Who has the deals on towels at the moment?, where will you suggest a client goes first for lamp shades?
  • If IKEA is close take a trip. If a client had $1000 to invest at IKEA what could she buy to help stage her house (that doesn’t look like it came from IKEA!)
  • Check out the emerging trends in your local interior shops. “Scandi” is huge in Australia at the moment. How and when could you incorporate this in your staging?
  • Pick up catalogues to share with your clients. Then you can point out “these cushions” “this lamp”
  • Go to the hardware store and pick up paint charts and chips. Create a ‘look book’ to share with your clients on neutrals that would work. Ring the paint company and ask for their fan deck.
  • Check out everything you may need during an install – picture hooks, magic erasers, windex, scissors, goo be gone, tape measures, blue tack, paper towel, light globes, toilet roll.  Buy them now if you want. Put your kit together so you’re ready.

Immerse yourself in staging and design

  • Subscribe to favourite interior magazines. Keep the receipts. It’s a business expense
  • Download design and real estate related apps on your phone. My favourites are Instagram, Realestate.com, Houzz, Pinterest and Dulux
  • Read blogs, attend book launches, store launches, get yourself on mailing lists. Ask for interior books for your birthday
  • Set up boards on Pinterest called “home staging before and after” or “my blogs” or “living room layout ideas” or “kid room ideas” or “where to shop for bedlinen”

Attend to business

  • Think through who is doing your accounting and your tax
  • Set up your bank account and credit card
  • Do you need insurance, who will you use?
  • Do you have a contract and for what areas of your business? Get it looked over by an expert
  • Set up your voicemail on your phone, your signature on your e-mail
  • When the phone does ring, will you be ready? Write yourself a ‘script’ to follow until you become a natural.

Look after yourself

  • If you have an empty diary for a day or a whole week – schedule some of the above tasks into your diary. Make it into a job, not a hobby
  • It’s OK to schedule a trip to the gym, or a confidence boosting coffee with a supportive friend. So much of this ‘waiting period’ is a confidence game
  • Set up your workspace. Make it a nice place to be. This is your business now, not a corporate office.

And one more!

And there you have it 50 Actions to keep you more than busy and that certainly beat waiting for the phone to ring

And it will ring.

x

I’m Imogen Brown a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. I’d love to know what you’ve tried that’s worked and what you would add to this list. Make it one of your actions for today : )  Read all my blog posts by clicking here  or see my website here

A conversation with another stylist at the furniture warehouse prompted this post. He was talking about a previous job as a merchandiser in a furniture store. His brief was that ‘the furniture is the star’ so any merchandising needed to support that. He left when his new boss arrived and started placing cushions on the TV units!

I said that for me, staging was selling the features of a house and showing buyers how they could live in the house and it wasn’t about ‘showing off’ my stylist skills and taking the buyers attention away from the house. I firmly believe that staging is there to support the house and not the other way round.

Let me expand on what I mean

Selling the features of the house (and not all your clever vignettes and box loads of accessories)

I always start with the house. What are the features I need to showcase? what does the house need from me in order to appeal to the most likely buyer?  Where shall I position the furniture and what colours and furnishing are needed in order to pull the attention to a great view, or lovely fireplace or wonderful ceiling?

The house below had an amazing bank of windows in the living area overlooking the Brisbane river.  It needed some seating but I selected 2 chairs instead of a heavy sofa, the colours were muted ‘river’ colours, I pulled the furniture off the ‘wall’. It was all about the view.

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This new build had an amazing double height atrium over the living room. A large piece of art helps to focus the eye onto this feature

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Queenslander houses have lovely features – high ceilings, fretwork, timber floors, lead light windows and VJ panelling. Again sympathetic furniture placement and appropriate furniture and accessories helps showcase these features

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I’ve just been hired by the owner of a Queenslander. He wrote “The property is charming but not ostentatious and we like the restrained, elegant look your work brings. Less is more”.   This is exactly what I’m trying to achieve when I stage. This is not about me taking the attention away by setting the dining room table or having elaborate flower arrangements or cluttered vignettes on every available surface. The trick really is for no one to think that a stager has been there.  “This house has obviously been staged” is the worst thing you could say to me!

Showing buyers how they could live in the house and the life they might lead if they bought the house.

Most buyers cannot imagine what an empty house could look like or where their furniture would go or if it would fit. My role is to show buyers the purpose and potential layout of rooms through furniture placement. For example a comfortable rumpus room in a family house, a small desk and chair in a teenager’s bedroom for study, a guest room within a family house, a homework space in a family room, a quiet reading area in a master bedroom.

The house below had an odd shaped but large kitchen. I wanted to show that this space was more than a kitchen/dining room and could become a comfortable and well used sitting area too.

 

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The space below was being used as a formal dining room when I first saw the house. With only 1 living area in a house built for a family I turned it into a 2nd quieter living area and positioned a family dining area off the kitchen.

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Context is everything.

I think a mistake that some stagers make is to force their style onto every house they stage. This may be because they have their own inventory so their modern and funky style furniture and accessories get used in an acreage property or 2 story 1980’s brick built house when it would be better used for inner city apartments. Or it may be because they love and are comfortable with a certain look (e.g. french provincial) they stage every house that way. Also a $400k brick built on an estate just outside of Brisbane needs to be treated in a different way than a $4m house on the river. You can’t use the same furniture and accessories for both. The aim is for the look to be real and achievable yet slightly aspirational.  Above all it needs to look appropriate for the house.

This high end bedroom in a $1.5m house looks appropriate but not if it was in a workers cottage in Oxley

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Conversely, the look in this $350k Acacia Ridge house wouldn’t work in a $1m dollar house in Ascot.

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I think, in summary that staging should be about showcasing the house and NOT the stager’s talents. Love the house not yourself : )

Are you a stager reading this, or a homeowner who has used a stager? I’d love to know what you think.

I’m Imogen Brown a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you would like me to showcase the features of your house when you sell then give me a call on 0432994056 or contact me through my website

 

 

Things are quietening down now in readiness for Christmas, just one more consultation tomorrow. Thought I’d take the time to share some more before and after pictures from recent properties that I’ve staged:

First up, this fabulous house on the river in Teneriffe. I selected this at a time of very low stock in the warehouse and it was the cause of a few sleepless nights. If I’d known it was going to sell at auction for nearly $4m I’d have missed a few more nights I’m sure!

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And an after of the amazing view from the Living Area (sorry, no before taken)

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At the other end of the scale is this house in Karana Downs to the West of Brisbane. I’m hoping to write a post on this house as it’s such a good example of what staging can do. Top line, the owners doubled their investment and had 3 offers over asking price within a day of listing. I recommended and organised an internal re-paint, new bench tops, small upgrades in the bathroom. landscaping and hire furniture. Home Staging is so much more than just the hire furniture.

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I see a lot of long skinny rooms especially in ‘small lot’ homes. The space in this St Lucia house was particularly skinny and full of furniture and kid stuff but I knew there was a workable space in there.

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The solution? Splitting the room into 3 different zones then running the sofa across the room instead of along a wall which would have emphasised the skinniness. This house is For sale.

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I loved working with the builder/developer on this new build in Graceville.  Another fairly skinny room. This house set a record for the street when it sold. Again placing the furniture across rather than along the room and pulling it off the walls helps to widen it.

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I took before photos of this house in Tarragindi whilst the tenants were still there.

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Just orientating the modular lounge in a different way made a massive difference to the open feel of the room. My client wrote “We had a wonderful response with about 30 groups through over the 2 viewings. We had 5 offers and 2 of those were asked to submit contracts.  There is absolutely no doubt in our mind that having our home staged added $40,000 to the result”.

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This house in Anstead is a good example of changing the purpose of a room. I felt that by having a smaller dining space off the kitchen and making this room into a second living area the house would be more appealing to families. House still for sale.

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And finally a property in Hendra that sold before auction. A beautiful room that needed to feel quite grown up but still comfortable. I was very happy that my client offered to keep his persian rugs in this house – I think they make a big difference to the look and feel of this room.

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I have more recent projects to show you but that will have to wait for next time. If you want to see a previous post of before and after photos click here

I’m Imogen Brown, a home stager based in the western suburbs of Brisbane. If you would like me to turn your ‘before’ into an ‘after’  in order to sell your house then give me a call on 0432994056 or connect with me through my website

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I was talking to a budding home stager the other day about what it takes to be a home stager. I was trying to explain that being good at styling was a good start but not all that was required to be successful.

This got me thinking about the characteristics of a successful home stager.  Here’s my list:

1. Creativity

Bit of an all encompassing one, so I’ll see if I can break it down…

Walking into a house that is laid out all wrong, is poorly maintained and full of clutter needs VISION. To mentally empty a space then fill it up again but in a way that works. To quickly sort through everything you ‘could do’ to find the best solution to sell.  Holding constantly changing IDEAS  – could these bedsides work better in another room? what artwork would work best here?

Using INTUITION or a SENSITIVITY to a space. Being able to listen to what a house is saying. House whispering.

LATERAL THINKING – There will be times at the furniture warehouse or during an install that you’ll need to think laterally – a sofa doesn’t fit up the stairs so a new arrangement is needed,   2 matching bedsides aren’t available so could one work with a floor lamp the other side?

FLEXIBILITY. I’ve stopped going into the furniture warehouse with a picture in my head as the furniture is often not available to fit the picture. Better to be more flexible and work to a set of words e.g. “modern/comfortable/funky”

Finally RESOURCEFULNESS. With clients we are often working with what we have, using what a client has but in new ways, borrowing, hiring, moving, finding the answer.

2. People Skills

I think this one is huge. You can have all the creativity in the world but if you don’t get on with people it’s going to be tough for everyone. Consultations move from “hello” to “can I look inside your bathroom cabinet” within about 10 minutes – better make sure you can build RAPPORT quickly. People move for very different reasons, not all of them happy. To be able to have EMPATHY and to ‘get’ your clients is really important. They need to feel they can trust you and that you are on their side.  COMMUNICATION is also important. I don’t just tell my clients what to do I try to tell them why they need to do it. Pre and Post consult communication is key. For most of my clients this is the first time they’ve used a home stager so the process needs to be communicated. Working with an agent? Keep them in the loop – they’ll need to book photographers and marketing campaigns.  RELATIONSHIP BUILDING skills help you grow your business. Every contact with a painter, client, handyman or agent is building relationships.

3. Business Savy

Interest in RUNNING A BUSINESS and making a profit. There are plenty of stagers out there who don’t know how to market themselves or their business, are buying unnecessary inventory or competing on price or even not charging for consultations.  Although staging is a fabulous job it is still a job and you need to be making money from it. It’s the difference between a successful business and a successful hobby. Other characteristics that come under this header are ORGANISATIONAL SKILLS – setting up and following process and time management – basically doing what you said you’d do when you said you’d do it!

4. Internally directed

I think that an ABILITY TO WORK ON YOUR OWN is a key characteristic of a home stager. Although you meet a lot of people through this job you are working alone most of the time. I have a feeling that a lot of stagers are introverts – they like to be on their own, they are SELF MOTIVATED and have an INNER CONFIDENCE and don’t need constant re-assurance, pep talks and feed back from others. It’s lovely when a client tells you that you’ve done a good job. It’s lovely (but all too rare!) when an agent tells you you’ve done a good job. But YOU need to know inside that you’ve done a good job so an ability to PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK is a good characteristic to have.

5. Stamina

Being a home stager involves PHYSICAL STAMINA. A typical day selecting at the warehouse is 4-6 hours of walking up and down, climbing under and over furniture and lifting bags of bedlinen around. At an install this 4-6 hours is running up and downstairs and from one room to the next plus making beds.  Although you’re not lifting heavy furniture you’ll certainly know that you’ve been to work!

EMOTIONAL STAMINA is also key. When you’re running your own business there will be set backs – lots of them. From too little work, low stock at the warehouse,  agents hating your work to losing business, losing websites to dining tables that don’t fit up the stairs to emotional clients. You need RESILIENCE. I truly believe that the most successful stagers are the ones that just keep going and don’t let the inevitable set backs put them off.

 

I’m very interested in people’s differences. What makes one person a natural at one thing but struggle at something else. As I’ve been through previous jobs and all those self development courses, I’ve learnt about my strengths and liabilities too. I’ve learnt that I’m a good conceptual thinker yet I’m also good at structure and process. I’ve learnt that I’m an introvert and that I love people (the two are NOT mutually exclusive). I’d still like to get better at the business savy part and also the emotional resilience – difficult when I pour my heart and soul into every job.

Are you a home stager? I’d love to know what characteristics you think are important and what unique strength you bring to your work.

 

I’m Imogen Brown a Home Staging based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you are thinking of selling your house and need some advice or help them give me a call or contact me through my website

 

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Hiring from a furniture warehouse is the first port of call for most property stylists looking to fully or partially stage a client’s property.

Spring market is always a busy time for stylists and furniture warehouses. However, Spring 2014 in Brisbane has seen unprecedented demand for hire furniture. The result? All hire companies in Brisbane are running at very low stock levels.

So how bad are stock levels? Beds are a big problem. It doesn’t matter how pretty the bedlinen- no bed means no bedroom. Rugs, sofas, dining tables, consoles, lamps, cushions and pillow inserts are all at record low levels. The warehouse I use recommends that installs are pushed back to the beginning of December. It’s very difficult to pull a whole house together but we continue to try. It’s amazing what you can do when you have very little to select from.

Let’s look at the causes of the low stock:

1. Number of houses on the market. You only have to feel the weight of the real estate section or to scroll through internet listings to realise there are a lot of houses for sale in Brisbane

2. Oversupply of houses and less buyer demand equals longer time on the market. Furniture hire contracts are being extended so the furniture is slower coming back to the warehouse.

3. Rise in popularity of home staging. More agents and homeowners are requesting staging and more stagers are starting a home staging/property styling business.

Help! I  need to list my house quickly – what can I do?

If your property is occupied one option is to request a consultation only. It’s amazing what can be achieved by storing unwanted pieces then using what’s left but in different ways.  If you need a few new pieces (lamps,bedlinen, art) these can be bought not hired.

If your property is empty try and work with your home stager on a solution. On hearing of the low stock levels last week one of my clients offered to bring beds from another property along with selected art and rugs. This all eases the pressure and will get the house listed more quickly

Help! I’m a property stylist but I’m turning business away. What can I do?

Focus on other ways to make money. I’m focussing on ‘consultation only’ business and also accepted a piece of re-design business that I’d usually turn down. For those stylists who like Christmas Decorating (I don’t!) or event styling or visual merchandising or home organisation you could offer these services too.  In an ideal world we’d all like a plentiful supply of stock in the warehouses but ‘it is what it is’ so stop complaining (yes, even I’ve stopped) and go and find another revenue stream.

Take stock. Take this time to think about your business. What business do you want to attract? What plan do you have in place if this lack of stock happens again? Form alliances, find new suppliers, re-design your website.

A final thought…See those houses in the glossy real estate magazines? See the photos stylists are sharing on social media? These are the result of sleepless nights, worry, negotiations, tears and resourcefulness pushed to the limit (in other words the bit that we try not to expose to the world). Next time you think “well, I wouldn’t have chosen that table” ponder for a minute the stylist didn’t want to choose it either! But we still love what we do, love doing our best for our clients and love getting the call saying “We’ve sold our house” I know I say this time and again but selling houses is what it’s all about.

I’m Imogen Brown a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you want to stage your house I’d love to help. Call 0432994056 or contact me through my website

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