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  • Writer's pictureLiz Shalala- Pensiero

Home Staging for the senior client

As we approach the 1 year mark in this unprecedented pandemic, those of us who make a living in the real estate market have been riding the pandemic-induced wave of craziness this past year. A combination of the mass exodus from major cities, work from home and virtual learning coupled with low inventory & just plain fear of the unknown has positioned the real estate industry as one of the top thriving job markets in the country right now. There is no doubt every real estate-related consultant from attorneys and mortgage brokers to painters and landscapers have seen a boom in business over the last year. As a home stager, I have been incredibly busy (as I suspect most Stagers have been as well!) and I thank God every day that I have been able to thrive during such a scary time in our world.

It is often a privilege and an honor to be invited into peoples home as they seek help in preparing their most valued possession for sale. However, in the past few months, I have noticed a shift in the client. Like anything, we are unsure of what the future of our volatile real estate industry may bring and how long the "bubble" will last. For this reason, many seniors are listing their family homes in the hopes of selling at the "peak". In the past 6-9 months, this type of staging request is becoming all too common. Clients who have lived in their home for 35-40 years; some have never sold a home before. The property is filled with a lifetime of family photos, collectibles, furnishings, clothing and memorabilia that now must go. Every closet door opened creates a flood of new memories. In some cases, a spouse has passed away already. Often times, they may be forced to close this chapter on their own. It is becoming all to common that my clients are over the age of 75 and have been told to "call a stager"; and all too often, they have no idea what that means. They are being told " now is the time to sell!" or "don't wait! The market is hot now!". It's an easy thing to say and a much harder thing to accomplish.

This is a very different kind of staging job that requires a completely different set of skills. We are asking clients to essentially discard 1/2 of their belongings because they won't "work for the sale". Words like "dated" and "old" are used to describe what they have called home for so many years. They are inviting the masses into their family home to inspect and scrutinize every aspect of the property and make judgements on the way the house could work for them. It is an very difficult process. As a professional home stager, I believe it is my job to try and make some of it a little easier. Try to incorporate some of their collections, offer paint colors that will compliment what they already own. Understand they may not be in a position to renovate. Allow for some of their family character to shine through so that what we do bring in, change or supplement will only beautifully highlight what is already there. Be sensitive to the issue of change; whether they are excited about the move or not, change can be difficult. We can always offer advice or suggestions but we must also be ready to still provide quality work if they choose not to take it.

I recently had an experience with an older client who was so overwhelmed with the change in his home; he exploded when my inventory started coming in the house. He didn't like the style, couldn't live with it, began yelling "I would never buy this!". He was reluctantly selling his family home and hired me to stage a portion of the property. Everything was upsetting to him; from the decluttering process to the moving trucks. I quickly had to assess the situation and shift my plan to calm him and still do my job properly. A few weeks back, I was consulting on a older home for a woman who's mother had just passed a few weeks before. The home was filled with her mother's personal belongings even down to the bathroom toiletries. A very hard thing for a daughter to have to face so soon afterwards. Instead of emptying her mothers entire home, we will use as many of her beautiful (yet dated) furnishings to create a unique space that will honor her mother, yet sell effectively. Last year, I was hired to stage a home that had been the scene of a very unfortunate event and the family was moving immediately! After calling this property home for almost 40 years, they couldn't get out fast enough and I was hired to help make that happen. Not too long ago, I was asked to consult for a family home where there had been an intentional death. In conjunction with the awesome realtor, estate sale firm & painter, we had to prepare the home for sale. Not as easy task yet necessary. That one will stay with me for awhile.

Here's the point. . . home staging is not always glamourous! Gorgeous white furnishings in beautifully, newly constructed homes with high price tags is not always the norm. Home staging can be an uncomfortable process. It can be riddled with lots of opinions, demanding Realtors, unrealistic budgets and lots low-priced competition. It can be long and exhausting days, unforseen expenses and plenty of emotion. Real life home staging can also be extremely rewarding . . . there are wonderful Realtors and appreciative homeowners that need the help of a good third-party stager to bring the house to Market. A well-respected home stager will always take into consideration the emotions of the entire process. The generational client will most likely have a hard time letting go. They may be territorial and controlling; most likely coming from a place of fear. The family may be harsh in understanding the process as well. It is important to remember, this was home and for whatever reason; it won't be for much longer. It can be a heavy responsibility, however more and more . ..I'm finding it is an honor to be awarded the task.

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