Thursday, November 19, 2009

Home Stagers Master the Art of Difficult Conversations with Sellers

As president of Ingenuity & Pizzazz, Inc. I have met hundreds of real estate agents and collaborate with some of New York City's top brokers. With all the media attention home staging has captured over the past few years, I would think that all real estate agents would be advocates for home staging. But in fact, many of them don't discuss home staging recommendations at all with their clients because of a very basic communication problem.

 Ann Mehl, is a certified coach through the Life Purpose Institute and Martha Beck's NorthStar program. Her recent blog, Mastering the Art of Fierce Conversations, and interview with author, Susan Scott, provides timely and valuable information for home sellers, real estate agents and home stagers. It describes how people generally avoid uncomfortable conversations, even when the cost of not having them is high.

This is especially true of some real estate agents, who are fearful of upsetting home sellers and perhaps even losing a listing, if they tell them honestly what needs to be done to prepare their homes for sale. As a consequence, many properties are listed without adequate staging and end up lingering on the market, leading to significant price reductions and increased carrying charges.

Economic Theory 101
If a new product is launched into a highly competitive market place in unattractive packaging and/or damaged condition, the only way it will sell is at a DISCOUNT! In real estate, the discount represents significant financial loss for the sellers.

Fear of having a difficult or awkward conversation with a home seller, is not a good excuse for reduced selling prices and extended time on the market. The solution is very simple. A real estate agent needs to have a Certified Staging Professional on their marketing team! CSPs are experts at handling the tough issues. They are trained in the art of comprehensive staging consultations, where all issues - good and bad - are addressed in a professional and tactful manner. They not only know what needs to be said, they know how to say it.

When necessary, a CSP can even play the "bad cop" while the agent remains the "good cop." This is especially helpful when sensitive issues, such as odor problems, need to be addressed. The agent need not fear having that difficult conversation with the seller because they are confident that their CSP will handle the entire situation diplomatically and offer solutions that will resolve the problem.

All properties benefit from some degree of home staging in any market. However, when supply exceeds demand, not only is there more competition, there is more "staged" competition. Agents who don't address the topic of home staging are not serving their clients' best interests. In fact they are giving the competition the advantage! 

Some agents are afraid of suggesting staging because they think it will cost "too much money." Home staging is an investment, not an expense. In fact, professional home staging is the best short-term investment a home seller can make! Just consider the financial return of a 12-month CD at today's interest rates. An investment in their most valuable asset is the wiser financial decision for any home seller.

Statistics show that staged properties sell faster and for more money than comps that are not staged. Owners do not save money by not staging. They lose money by not getting the highest price for their asset and by incurring additional carrying costs for the extra time on the market. The investment in staging is always less than the first price reduction - so agents who don't recommend staging are not saving their clients money - they are costing them significantly.

If the financial aspect of the conversation is intimidating to an agent, again, the solution is simple. A CSP is skilled at communicating the value of staging to sellers and making recommendations that will have the greatest return on equity.

Although it is understandable that many agents are fearful of having these sometimes difficult, but always critical, conversations with clients, not having the conversations is not acceptable. The consequences are much too costly to the home sellers. The best way for agents to handle these conversations is to hire a home staging expert to deal with all the sensitive issues in a thoroughly skilled and professional way. Certified Staging Professionals are trained in mastering the art of difficult conversations.

As a trainer for Certified Staging Professionals, I share my diverse experience with all my trainees. For more information on my upcoming CSP classes in the U.S. and Canada, please visit: www.ingenuitypizzazz.com or www.csptraining.com or contact me at nairn@ingenuitypizzazz.com

The following is an excerpt from Ann Mehl's blog, Mastering the Art of Fierce Conversations.  You can read the entire blog on her website, www.annmehl.com.

"There are certain conversations we all dread: the ones in which we have to deliver bad news, discuss a sensitive or "political" subject, or talk about a project that's gone wrong. Have you ever recognized too late that a client was frustrated because you failed to resolve an issue? Or perhaps spent time cleaning up in the aftermath of a discussion that didn't go according to plan?

In a polite society, we are generally hardwired to avoid confrontation.Nobody wants to play the bad guy or have a situation blow up in their face. But often the cost of NOT having these conversations can be far costlier than the temporary discomfort you may feel. You want to take charge and talk about it – candidly and effectively. But how??

One of the best business books I've read on this subject is Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott (SS). In this book, she provides the tools we all need to master the art of "difficult" conversations.

AM: How do you personally define "fierce conversations"?

SS:The word "fierce" wakes me up.  Synonyms include robust, unbridled, uncurbed, untamed.  A bit unnerving, and exhilarating. The simplest definition of a fierce conversation is one in which we come out from behind ourselves, into the conversation, and make it real.  Such conversations are rare, because most people are deeply uncomfortable with real.  Having worked with people all over the world, at all levels within organizations, it seems to me that withholding what we really think and feel is a global pandemic, resulting in costly, painful outcomes for all of us.  The economic meltdown occurred gradually then suddenly, one failed, one missing conversation at a time.  Based on results, it is the unreal conversations that should concern us.  They are incredibly expensive for individuals, couples, teams, organizations, for countries, for our planet.

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