|Staging your home for a sale
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Since many of her housesitters work, they are not
present during showings; the only sign of their presence is a lived-in
feel, as well as a tasteful plaque next to a silk flower arrangement
that reveals the home is occupied by a housesitter.
"It gives the homeowner the peace of mind knowing the home
is secure, that prior to viewing a Realtor can count on the home
being presentable and there won't be any of that vacant, musty,
unoccupied feeling," she says.
Real estate agents aren't the only ones getting in on the staging
Richard McIntire, a 59-year-old retired restaurant
owner from Austin, Texas, has been a freelance housesitter for more
than three years. In exchange for free housing and utilities, he'll
stage your home inside and out, make it available for showings,
and even hold weekend open houses until it sells. When the sale
is complete, he'll take 1.5 percent to 2 percent of the deal, instead
of the 6 percent to 7 percent commission of a real estate agent.
McIntire advertises his services on HouseCarers.com
His maintenance and landscaping skills, combined with plenty of
good references, tend to give him a choice of houses to call home,
if only temporarily.
"I have a doctor, a judge and two computer company executives
who have used me," he says. "If you can't trust some of
those people, you might as well go to a real estate agent."
A growth industry
At a time when many home buyers rely more heavily on the Internet
than their real estate agent to find their next abode, home staging
and redesign is slowly bringing about a paradigm shift, in which
homeowners might one day secure a stager before they choose an agent.
Since 1985, Schwarz has taught more than 700,000 agents
and interior decorators the finer points of staging for sales. Her
new book, "Home
Staging: The Winning Way to Sell your House for More Money,"
is the first comprehensive look at this emerging industry.
The IAHSP now offers two designations: ASP, or accredited
staging professional, and ASPM, or master accredited staging professional.
Some 6,000 Realtors have earned their ASP in anticipation of the
growth path for residential specialists who have an eye for style
and aren't shy about sharing it.
IAHSP recently launched a staging financing program
called "Stage It Now and Pay for It Later" that offers
zero-percent interest for six months.
The increased public awareness of staging might one
day even topple the traditional commission structure in real estate.
"We are changing the way that real estate is
sold. We are changing the economy," says Schwarz. "All
of a sudden, the public is going to say, 'Wait a minute, agent.
You should be paying the stager as part of your marketing budget,
or I'm not going to pay you.' I think that either staging fees will
go up or Realtors will have to step up to the plate."
Jay MacDonald is a contributing editor
based in Mississippi.