Real estate agencies put the spotlight on staging
Staging is a crucial step in the home-selling process. Even minor touch-ups and decorations can go a long way in getting a home sold quickly and for the best possible price. The National Association of Realtors estimates that for every $100 spent on staging a home, a seller can potentially recoup $400. In recent years, real estate agencies have begun to offer services that make the process of staging a home for sale less daunting.
Compass launched its concierge home preparation business last year and has completed more than 1,000 projects nationwide. Compass Concierge covers all upfront costs for staging and cosmetic improvements such as paint jobs and landscaping. The cost of the improvements is then collected after the sale closes, and no interest is paid to Compass for setting up service with the vendors.
"By taking the upfront financial burden of staging off our clients' shoulders, Compass Concierge is designed to put the focus where it should be: the joy of finding your place in the world," said Michael Coscetta, Compass's chief sales strategy officer.
"The program emphasizes client choice and control," Coscetta added. "The client chooses the work and the vendor up front and also approves costs before work begins, directing Compass to pay vendors on their behalf. Compass Concierge clients know exactly what Concierge will cost because they are in control of those costs."
Gabriella Lourie, a spokeswoman for Compass, said that while the company can't provide what the average cost is for using its concierge service, she explained that "projects can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands or more."
A Redfin analysis found that vacant homes sold for $11,306 less and spend six more days on the market than comparable homes. Redfin offers a similar concierge service for its clients, but its model covers the costs of getting the home prepared as part of a 2% listing fee (as opposed to a 1% listing fee for Redfin's traditional listing service).
"With others, the agent covers the upfront costs, but the seller ultimately pays for the services at the closing, in addition to paying the agent commission," said Mary Bazargan, a Redfin agent in Washington, D.C.
"As part of this fee, the seller will not be charged for these services, as they are part of the 2% fee," Bazargan said.
The Redfin agent and the concierge service develop a plan for the home and present it to the seller, who can then determine whether to go with Redfin's 2% fee to include that work or choose a traditional 1% listing fee and pay for the work themselves.
"For homes that need some polishing, our 2% concierge service is tough to beat," Redfin senior communications specialist Alina Ptaszynski said. "For homes that don't need much prep, our 1% listing service often makes the most sense."
"If Redfin goes over our estimated costs for the items in our scope of work, we would eat those extra costs," Ptaszynski added. "If the homeowner elects to add items outside the scope -- for example, refinishing hardwood floors -- the homeowner would pay for those extra services."
Like Compass, Redfin will evaluate the home for the seller, recommend updates to attract buyers, find vendors and manage their work, while paying for things like deep cleaning, staging, painting and landscaping.
Concierge services can be particularly helpful for sellers who aren't in the same location as the property they're trying to sell. For many out-of-town or overseas clients, having a local concierge to manage the prep work is valuable.
Agents overseeing a client's concierge service provide professional advice regarding what services they believe will have the most impact, but ultimately, the seller has the final say and signs off on the plan.
Long & Foster doesn't have a companywide concierge service like Compass and Redfin, but according to Long & Foster agent Alex Thiel, any agent worth their salt should have a list of vendors and services to recommend to clients.
"In my experience, there are a lot of vendors that are willing to wait to get paid until settlement. We routinely have painters, stagers, termite inspectors who will wait to get paid until settlement," Thiel said.
"You pay back Compass and Redfin out of the proceeds of your sale. I would say that the cost winds up being the same."
Michelle DeLucia is the owner of boutique staging company Sub Urban Staging and Design. She says she hasn't felt an impact on her business as a result of expanding concierge services. Her clientele is, for the most part, equal part agent and homeowner, which is to say there are still a vast number of people who find a staging vendor themselves. She says the biggest difference with contacting a boutique company such as Sub Urban is the customized aspect of her design.
"There are a lot of staging companies who do 'vanilla' installations, but my approach has been to infuse the home with more than just furnishings as placeholders," DeLucia said.
"What my clients end up getting is customized -- nothing cookie-cutter. My guess is that the services that will be provided (with real estate agencies) will fall more into the cookie-cutter category."
Of course, there are many types of home sellers, and each company's goal is to provide the best options to its clients. Concierge services may be a perfect fit for sellers who want to sell fast or who don't have the time to hire and manage all the vendors to get their home ready to list. For those who don't have as much preparation to do, an independent, traditional approach may be the preferred option.