Home Staging in Houston – What You Need to Know

This week, Brian interviewed Amber Carrillo, owner of Carrington Real Estate Services in Houston, regarding what sellers need to know about home staging.

Does every property for sale need to be staged? What properties should you stage? What are Amber's top tips for home staging?


Brian: Good morning. I’m Brian Spitz with Big State Home Buyers, Houston’s top-rated house buying company. And today I am here with Amber Carrillo with Carrington Realty and we’re going to talk about staging your property and what the importance and value of staging your property for resale is. So, good morning. Thanks for coming to be with us, Amber.

Amber: Absolutely. Glad to be here.

(0:00:55.7) Staging house for sale now

Brian: Good. What can you tell us about staging your house for sale right now?

Amber: It is so vitally important to stage your house for sale. It can really make a difference as to whether your house sells right away or it stays on the market for a little while.

(:01:10.6) What is staging?

Brian: And so when you say staging, I guess we’re assuming everybody knows what that means, but what does staging mean?

Amber: Staging means kind of putting your best foot forward when it comes to your house and like you dress up for church on Sunday and put on your best Sunday outfit, it would be the same with staging your house.

Brian: So you can actually use your own things to stage your house.

Amber: Absolutely, yes. It doesn’t require huge expenditure on your behalf. You can absolutely walk around your house and move things. There are so many different ways to stage your house.

Brian: We look, you know, at Big State Home Buyers, we buy properties directly from sellers. And we also renovate the houses and put them on the market for resale. So our houses are always vacant when we resell them.

Amber: Uh-hmm.

Brian: So my experience is that a vacant house, when you have a vacant house, people walk through it and they can see every little flaw or they can catch everything and sometimes it’s hard to conceptualize where you’re going to put your couch and where you’re going to put your TV.

And so, the last half dozen houses or more that we’ve bought, fixed up and resold, I’ve spent the money to have a staging company come in and then completely stage the house. They put furniture and little accessories in the kitchen and the house sells so much faster. So I can personally say that that works really well and it’s worth the money and the time.

(0:02:28.3) Advising clients on whether to stage

Do you ever suggest to people that they get professional stagers or how do you advise your clients?

Amber: Yeah, absolutely. If it’s a property that is vacant and not owner occupied, then I would definitely, above a certain price range, I would definitely recommend it. You know, if it’s a $75,000, $100,000 house, it’s not going to make much sense.

Brian: Right.

Amber: But when you’re looking at the higher range buyers and, sometimes they can have difficulty seeing their homes, seeing the home like they would have it staged for themselves, or how they would live in it. It’s difficult for some buyers to visualize. Some prefer it vacant. I mean, you can’t please everybody, but your photos are going to look nicer if you have it staged and that’s going to appeal to more people and get more traffic in the door.

(0:03:14.1) Photos of house

Brian: And that’s right. So if the photos make all the difference, how do you feel about, you know, I see all kinds of listings. I see agents that obviously have taken the time to help the clients and get the good photos and the ones that don’t. What’s your experience with that?

Amber: Well, what draws the eye to the photo is bright colors, so you definitely don’t want to go out and take a photo when it’s raining outside or if it’s overcast. But definitely, you don’t want to take photos of damage, photos with people in it. A lot of times when we’re putting a house on the market and the people’s kids are running in and out of the photos and the pets, you know, you really have to step back and take control of it and say, okay, I need to get these photos.

You want to help people to visualize it, like I said, with their own things in it and not with other people in it.

Brian: Right. Exactly.

(0:04:06.5) Clutter

Amber: And not over-cluttered. Clutter is such a huge issue. There are so many people that just hang on to everything that they have. One of my very first listings that I got, I went in to, there’s a condo over on Augusta. I went in to it and there was a young single guy living there and he had probably a hundred bottles of cologne on the bathroom cabinet. And just everything he owned was on the kitchen cabinets. So I just went down to the 99 cents store, honestly, and got some little baskets. And I came back and I put everything in it and put it under the cabinets and that thing sold within a couple of days.

Brian: Right.

Amber: So just little things like that make a huge difference.

(0:04:47.8) Things to make house sell quicker

Brian: What else could you tell a seller for really simple things that they could do to their house to make it sell quickly, whether it’s staging or anything else? What’s the most common thing you walk in and see and tell people they need to do?

Amber: Well, you’ll find that really the most appealing thing, when you walk into a house, you’ll have a focal point. And a lot of times the focal point is going to be the TV, because everyone is coming from work and relaxing and gathering around the TV.

Brian: Right.

Amber: So you want to make sure there’s a distinct focal point, whether that’s a fireplace, whether it’s a piece of art, something there that will draw you in when you come into the house. And if you can hide those TVs, please do. But also, you want to arrange the furniture so that the house has a great flow to it. Houses that have open floor plans and a great flow will appeal to more people.

So a lot of times you want to arrange your living room furniture just like you would a formal living room, so it’s conversational. People can actually see themselves hanging out and talking to other people, inviting people over and entertaining and stuff like that. And also, along with that, you want to make sure that there’s lots of light, so it’s light and bright. People walking into a dreary house with everything, all the shutters closed and dark curtains and stuff like that, that’s not going to appeal to them as much as light would.

(0:06:12.2) Agents giving clients advice

Brian: And so do you think that, because I see both on the market, because again, just like you, we’re always looking at listings and seeing what the, especially when we’re trying to figure out the value of the house, we’re looking at what the others are selling for, what do you think, do you think some agents are just afraid to tell their clients, give them the direction or do you think, you know, what makes your style with your clients work where you can get them to take your advice?

Amber: Yeah, I think that comes really with experience. Because newer agents are usually so hungry for a paycheck, they won’t really, they’re so worried about offending that person and turning them off and them saying, hey, you know, we’ll find another agent, instead of being upfront and honest. You’ll find if you’re upfront and honest in the beginning, you’re going to prevent (unclear) after it sat on the market for a couple of months.

Brian: Right. And I know that one of the ways that we get the business that we get is by telling people exactly like it is. Not, cause we, you don’t want to list your property too high. I see that a lot. You don’t want to photograph it poorly. You don’t want it to show poorly. And I totally agree that staging a house under a certain price point doesn’t make sense.

Amber: Right.

(0:07:19.6) Things to make house sell faster – paint

Brian: But there’s something that anybody can do to help make their house sell faster.

Amber: Oh, yeah. Oh, yes, there are so many things. If you’re having a house built, one of the best pieces of advice that I can give you when it comes to painting that house is to, if you have small children, have it done and their rooms painted in a semi-gloss or satin, or scrubbable paint.

Brian: Right.

Amber: So when you get those fingerprints and those crayon marks all over the place, you can go in and wipe it off. Painting can get really expensive when you’ve done it a couple of times.

Brian: Absolutely.

Amber: And in your rooms, your wet rooms, like your kitchens and your bathrooms, same thing. You want to do at least a satin, but semi-gloss would be even more preferable.

Brian: Right. Because walls, people touching them and moving stuff and they get banged up, it’s, again, you want the staging to kind of distract from some of that imperfection, but at the same time, you want to do everything you can up front to avoid the mess to begin with.

Amber: Right. Right. And if you’re planning on selling the house in the near future, down the road a couple of years, don’t use flat paint.

Brian: Right.

Amber: Unless it’s an area, like a study, where you’re not going to be in there touching the walls and there’s not a lot of activity. Otherwise, stick with satin or eggshell.

(0:08:32.3) Improving kitchens

Brian: Right. Anything else you can tell people that want to sell their house fast, what they can do if they want to list it? What works well?

Amber: Well, I can tell you, kitchens and bathrooms are the things, the rooms that sell the house.

Brian: Right.

Amber: So there’s things that you can do in both of those that are not going to cost a lot of money. With my very first flip house, I made a mistake by replacing all of the cabinets. Where I just had a couple of drawers that could have been easily rebuilt, I went in and I took a sledgehammer and I tore out the whole kitchen. I went to IKEA and got this lovely kitchen that was going to be easy to install and seriously, if you’re going to do something like that, for one, call the people out to measure.

Brian: Absolutely.

Amber: (laughter) Don’t try to do it on your own. (laughter) You can save those cabinets. You can get a carpenter out and build a couple of shelves for you, rebuild drawers and save yourself $5,000 right there.

Brian: Right. I have run into the same thing. We really try to save the cabinets. You can put new doors on them, you know, replace them. I’ve had a specialty painter come out and do a finish, kind of a faux finish on them. So why didn’t that turn out so well?

Amber: Well, because we over-improved for the neighborhood we were in.

Brian: Right.

Amber: Yeah, you have to be very cognizant of that. Know what your competition is in your neighborhood.

Brian: Right. How about appliances?

Amber: Appliances. Home Depot and Lowes have come out with some really cool techniques that you can use now when it comes to appliances, like especially dishwashers. If you have one that’s not too old, maybe in the past couple of years, but it’s not stainless steel, or maybe you replaced it and didn’t replace other appliances or vice-versa, they have these things that you can go in and you can replace the front with a stainless steel piece. And you can cut it in place. Yeah.

Brian: Oh, really.

Amber: Yeah. And so it completely updates it. There are so many different things that can be done with kitchens and appliances. Appliances, usually you’ll get your money back on if you put in new appliances.

Brian: Right.

Amber: Usually get a good return on those. And even, also in the kitchen, hardware can make a huge difference. If you don’t have hardware, add some. That’ll add a little bit of bling or a little bit of flash or update to the kitchen. If you’ve got existing hardware, change it out. Cause it’s not too expensive.

Brian: Right.

Amber: Yeah. You can buy some really inexpensive stuff at Home Depot or you can go to Habitat for Humanity and they have some great deals to pick up there also.

Brian: Oh, yeah, that’s true. Habitat for Humanity does sell a lot of building material at a good price.

Amber: Um-hmm. Yes.

(0:11:06.0) Improving bathrooms

Brian: And bathrooms? What would you suggest to do with those?

Amber: Oh, goodness. Bathrooms are a pet peeve for me, because how many times do you go into a house, or people stage a house for sale, and the caulking is just gross.

Brian: Yeah.

Amber: It’s so easy to just get one of those caulk removing tools. They’re like a dollar. And pull that caulk out and re-do it.

Brian: Right. Caulk’s cheap, too.

Amber: Caulk’s cheap, too. That’s two dollars. So, yeah, you might as well just do that and get rid of it. What else in a bathroom? You want to make sure there’s no smell. (laughter) You want to make sure everything is nice and clean for one thing. Also, if you have some, you run into a lot in older homes, you know, built in the 50’s and 60’s, where they have some nice original tile but maybe one of those tiles broke, so they’ve replaced one here and there.

Brian: Yes.

Amber: Instead of ripping out the whole bathroom, you can go in and do an epoxy coating over that and save that tile and make it look like brand new, like a brand new bathroom.

Brian: Oh, that’s a great idea. I don’t think I’ve ever tried that.

Amber: Really? Yeah.

Brian: You forget about those little tricks. See, this is the importance. If you’re not going to, if you want to sell your house fast, you can call a company like Big State Home Buyers or visit us at BigStateHomeBuyers.com and we can certainly buy your house and you don’t have to do any repairs and we can close fast. But we also, there’s great real estate companies out there, like Carrington Real Estate Services.

Amber: Carrington Real Estate Services, uh-huh.

Brian: And they can help you with these little tips. So before you list your house, contact an agent, contact someone like Amber, and they can tell you all these little tips and tricks to make your house ready, where you can save money and get the maximum return out of it.

Amber, tell us what’s your website? How can we find you on the internet?

Amber: It’s real easy. It’s CarringtonRealEstate.com.

Brian: Great. All right, Amber. Thanks so much for all these tips. This is really helpful.

Amber: Absolutely. Happy to be here.

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