Bidding Wars? It’s The Staging Stupid!!

First of all, a shout out to Megan ( Realtor) for her most recent bidding war in Old Town Alexandria. Sold in 3 days, $13k over list. Photos at One key to her success… Staging! (see bottom for before & after photos)

So, a buddy of mine in Chicago wanted to sell his place and he wanted my help deciding the best route to get the highest net.

He, like almost every person in the United States NEEDS that last $5-15k.

At first he wanted to “save” and sell it by owner. I, the oftentimes Anti-Realtor, told him NOT to take this approach (I guess I am more of an ANTI-SUCKY-ASS-AGENTS agent) read my Save $20,000 blog.

So I told him I’d find him a great Realtor (no I didn’t take a cut).

First I had him email me a couple agents that he knew of, and I did a stealth interview of the agent. There I was, an agent from Virginia, and this Realtor was still feeding me B.S.

Actual B.S. Ad:

Are you kidding me?

His marketing materials boasted that they put your house on 600 websites and they put your house in front of 700 million home buyers. I recently read in BusinessWeek that India now has 50 million internet users. Thank God they can all see my friend’s condo! I hate marketing that is just short of flat out lying and meant to confuse customers, or to play the “I have a longer checklist than yours” contest.

Realtor Trick: Do not fall for the “my checklist is longer than his” trick.

Oh and that 600 websites… as I suspected (after calling him out on it), he only puts it onto this thing called the “M” “L” “S” (ever heard of it?) and the 599 other websites pull from the MLS and rebroadcast the data (in other words all Realtor get on the same 600 websites).

So I was on my own. I looked to ActiveRain to get a good Chicago Realtor.

I didn’t care too much for the agents that were on here in Chicago (no particular reason, nothing stood out), so what does one do….

I found the PERFECT solution for finding a great agent! GO TO A STAGER!! I went to a top stager and asked him “Give me some names of agents that have used you. By merely using you, they are 99% ahead of the game and they ‘get it’, and they will help my friend net more.”

Blog update 5-2-07: “Somebody asked me, what is a stager.” Staging is a trademarked word, you can go to for more info. Staging can include anything from nicely laid out nick naks (my stager is gonna kill me if she saw that as a definition to what she does) to light construction. You know how the iPod and Mac’s use design to attract buyers? Kinda like that! Bottom line is staging makes buyer’s drewl and BUY!

Sure enough, I found him a GREAT Realtor, and my buddy got the property staged. The agent was young, but sharp, he got it. And low and behold…

it sold in 4 days for OVER what he wanted (net) to get FSBO and it got bid up $7k – $10k over what he wanted.

More CA$H = he couldn’t be more excited.

Thank you stagers! How do we get more customers to take a HANDS-OFF approach and just say “Do what you need to do” and not debate every $500?

Sellers, call their references. So few people do this. If they are a good stager and they say that hardwood floors will sell your place, do it. That $2k-3k will come back to you 3-5 fold.


– Written by Frank LL0SA Broker Virginia


p.s. Good photography was also a requirement when I was checking out agents.

Here are some before and after’s of Megan’s staging. For about $10,000 this house was transformed! Our starting price was $20,000 higher than the initial price target AND it got bid up $13k higher. While looking at the photos one might initially say it looks like a simple clean up job, but it was so much more. New paint throughout (not just any paint, but color patterns that make it jaw drawdropping), upgraded kitchen with granite (not just ANY granite!! and stainless steel appliances) and Megan would have to list the rest of the changes.

  • 1
  • May
  • 2007

38 Responses to “Bidding Wars? It’s The Staging Stupid!!”

  1. Ann Cummings ~ Portsmouth NH & So. ME Areas says:

    Interesting approach – not sure I would have thought to ask a stager, but this is a great option now that you’ve mentioned it.

    Glad all worked out for your friend!

  2. Terry Haugen says:

    FINALLY someone out there has sense.
    If you want something done, have a stager do it, whether recommending agents or staging. We have so much more to offer than just re-arranging furniture, but tell that to the millions of realtors in this country! Great approach to a sticky problem. The fact that your friend sold over asking, after staging, is testimony to what we stagers can do for less money than it costs the seller in price reduction, a lot less money. Thanks for sharing that!

    Terry Haugen – STAGE it RIGHT!

  3. FRANK LL0SA Broker says:

    Not only over asking, but more importantly, way over what he expected to get by owner (I’m talking NET, even after those damn Realtor fees).

    Some Realtors might say “oh well it was underpriced and that is why it got bid up.” B.S. If you make the place jawdropping, while every other condo looks like pigeon droppings, it WILL get multiple buyers.

  4. Thesa Chambers, REALTOR®, Sunriver, OR says:

    great story – great use of your resources – way to go

  5. Donna Harris, ASP says:

    I’m wondering if any of the Chicago agents on AR are going to respond… I know some of them, and I know they’re great people. I guess we all look for something different in others. Smart idea to call a stager when your other avenue wasn’t working.

  6. Stefan Scholl says:

    Wow, what a great testimonial to the effectiveness of staging. I know that in my market, staging could make the difference between whether or not a home sells, period. There is intense competition for buyers, and seller need every edge they can get.

  7. Yvonne Root rooms b.y. root says:

    Frank, You are so very edgy.
    You are fun and that must make it fun for those around you. Thanks for the kind words about stagers. You remind me of my cousin’s son (who is in pre-Med right now.) I see both of you running around the rest of the world so quickly that the tornadoes which could threaten your world simply can’t keep up. I admire your marketing stance — takes guts. You go, guy!

  8. Duayne Weir - Minnesota Real Estate Agent says:

    Frank, Again I love your frankness!!

    no pun intended. You are a straight shooter. Thanks for the tip on staging and getting a good referral out state.

    Good Day!! have a cup of java and a smile on me :)

  9. Mike Stankewich, MBA, e-PRO - ZipRealty, Inc. says:

    Hey Frank,

    An interesting approach, asking a stager for referrals. It makes me think of how many other service providers could be consulted about agent referrals. Title reps, escrow officers, lenders, and many others come to mind.

    I have a great respect for stagers. I have personally seen their work and it really gives the home class. The emotional effect on potential buyers is amazing.

    My problem is getting sellers to invest the extra money up front. They are skeptical and do not understand that it will help get the best price in the shortest time. No that we are in a buyers market it is important for sellers to have their home stand out from the crowd. Staging, multiple quality photographs, virtual tours, and video tours can make all the difference.

    I disagree with you, however on the MLS providing data to 600 websites. Our MLS syndicates to,, and That is five. I get additional syndication through listing with and several other sites as well as my websites.

    Maybe you are exaggerating to make a point. But if you know how I can syndicate to 600 sites let me know.

    04/17/2007 by

  10. FRANK LL0SA Broker says:

    Hey Mike,

    Nope, this guy’s ad said 600 websites. I asked if he personally put them in and he said no, he just found that there were 600 sites that syndicated

    See?? These are 700 Million qualified buyers. All those people from India, they are qualified to buy his homes! And since when does feature homes?

    This stuff makes me sick.

    As for getting referrals from other partners like loan officers or title companies, I think you missed the point. Everyone uses a loan person, a title company etc. but the difference is only a few people use stagers and those that do, in my book, are light years ahead of any other agent in the “getting it” arena.

    And as for teaching sellers that staging and remodeling will help, it is OUR job to a) prove to them with references and past experiences or b) NOT TAKE THE LISTING!! Oh my God, not taking a listing that could make you money? Yes turn DOWN that listing that will sit forever and get 3 other listings in the meantime.


  11. Kathy Nielsen says:

    Frank – what a powerful post! As a stager, I’ve been asked by several homeowners to refer them to an agent. The latest referral netted the Realtor 4 leads from this one referral.


  12. Steven Shewell, The Mortgage Maverick says:

    Way to think outside the box, Frank. I great approach to solving your problem.

  13. Mike Stankewich, MBA, e-PRO - ZipRealty, Inc. says:


    What a rip-off ad!!! In addition to, I didn’t know AT&T Worldnet was selling homes???

    Where do you find all this interesting stuff?

    Keep it up!

  14. FRANK LL0SA Broker says:


    I asked my Chicago friend to give me a couple names of Realtors that he knew (either through friends of local listings) and this guy came up.

    Did you see COMPUSERVE on there! Hello 1996 called and they want their broke companies back!

    I feel bad for sellers that have to weed through this crap and find a good agent.

  15. Denise_ Home Staging in Virginia says:

    Frank – interesting post. I get folks asking me for realtor referrals also. My list of Realtors I will refer to is pretty short, can count em all on my one lil hand.

    Staging really does work…the next few months will definitely bring about a demand shift. Stagers…hold on to your hats. Post like this will keep coming!

  16. Phyllis Pafumi-Owner ReStyled to Sell Staging says:

    First congrats on going to a successful stager and knowing that they work with successful realtors who GET IT. I just did a blog about that. The realtors I work with use me on all their listings and they sell their homes immediately for full price or over asking…

    Now what you need to do is hook up with an excellent stager and have them come on all your listings and have them do the dirty work by telling them everything they see that needs to be done to the home. But the key here is have them submit a proposal to the seller for the cost to do the work like repairs, painting, staging, etc.

    Show them your stats and tell those resistant guys how they would not sell their car without detailing it first, then why would they sell their home (their largest investment) without sprucing that up as well.

    I don’t think you are Staging Stupid!!! Kudos to you

    Phyllis Pafumi

  17. Kathleen Lordbock says:

    On your p.s. did that mean the agents had to look good in their photos – I’m thinking maybe glamor shots should get a link there.

  18. Yvonne Root rooms b.y. root says:

    Kathleen, Since Frank isn’t here I will take this time to ;) You are funny.

  19. Craig Schiller says:

    Frank… it is a team effort. Stagers NEED GREAT realtors that “GET IT”.

    We just hired a new sales person, who IS a Realtor, she is AMAZED how realtor freeze up and shut down when you mention staging.

    I don’t know if Realtors are threatened by stagers, confused by stagers, or unsure of stagers. But there is a BLOCK there that the REALTOR puts up.

    BUT then there are those savvy REALTORS that do “GET IT” and THEY are winning because they do.


    ME ;)

  20. Dan Allred Thousand Oaks Real Estate says:

    Great blog and great push for a part of our profession that is so vital

  21. Maureen Henry says:

    Frank – I was just trying to help a friend find an agent for a vacation home that the are trying to sell.

    First I checked AR – couldn’t find one. Then I tried to find a stager in the area – no luck. Then I went pouring through MLS to try to see who had good photos. In this particular area most homes only had one exterior photo, but I did find 2 agents who seem to show well on MLS anyway.

    My friends said their home has been on the market for 8mo with no leads. I tried to find it on and the local MLS service and I was shocked to find it was not even listed. The friends say they call the realtor every week to complain. He says he is working on it. Really it is their fault for not following up. I gave them a basic crash course and the names of the 2 agents.

    I really would not have though of how to find an agent in a different area if I had not read your blog. Thanks!

  22. Kathleen Lordbock of Re$ale Design says:

    Stage, Stage, Stage – right on there Franky boy

    Maybe stage, stage, stage, stage………

  23. million says:

    hey Frank,

    Another foreclosure at Clarendon 1021… this 1BR/1BT for $307.5k being auctioned off at 2pm on 5/11/07 on the courthouse steps.

    Comps anyone?

  24. FRANK LL0SA Broker says:


    Ok, you have posted 20 times on my blog. You are great. Do you have a blog? Can you email me directly?

  25. FRANK LL0SA Broker says:

    Oh and that unit 604 paid $412k, I’ll try and keep on top of what it goes for. (or I’m sure “Million” be ahead of me on that one)

  26. Megan says:


    Thanks for the “shout out” on your blog for my last Old Town listing. I actually got a call today from another Agent who “interviewed” my Clients to be their listing agent. She saw the home in it’s original condition and obviously didn’t get the listing. She called to congratulate me on my success. She was “wowed” when she saw my 20 pix online with the upgrades and staging, and never thought it would list for as much as we did, much less get $13,000 more! It made my week to get a call from an agent who lost a client to me, just to give me a compliment and say congratulations. Of course I must give a shout out to our FABULOUS stager. She is amazing! And of course to you, Frank!!

  27. Scott says:


    Your blog continues to kick ass… I like the way you always seem to cross-link to at least one other blog article you’ve written (without cross-linking too much), encouraging readers to check out other posts–is that intentional?

    After this one, though, I was left thinking… what’s a “stager”? Is that an industry term or one you coined? Is it a realtor who specializes in prepping a home for sale? Or a home improvement person with an eye for improvements that give a high ROI just prior to sale? Does a “stager” actually do the work, or do they just recommend improvements? Do they photograph the finished work? … etc. etc.

    Not a typo, but a maybe word choice mistake, I think… the “Are you kidding me?” paragraph says “in front of 700 million homes” when I think you meant to say “users” or “computer users” instead of “homes.”


  28. FRANK LL0SA Broker says:

    Hey Scott,
    Nope, “Staging” is a trademarked terms. I’m glad that you mentioned it, as I’m sure others have the same question.
    A stager makes your place look like a new construction’s model home. Sometimes it might entail nick nacks, but usually there might be some repainting and light constructions such as granite and new appliances.

    Hope that clarifies is. I’ll put it into the blog as an Update. Please let me know if that doesn’t cover it. Maybe later I’ll write in more detail what it is.

  29. Elizabeth says:

    Hi. I’m the seller of the house that Megan sold. (I found her through this blog.)

    We went into the selling process knowing that we were going to have to have the whole place painted, the floors refinished, etc, and that we’d have to have it hyper-neat to show. (And it wasn’t usually quite as chaotic as the “before” pictures — we were in the throes of packing.)

    The real leap of faith was when Patricia suggested new appliances and new kitchen countertops. Oh, and Frank didn’t mention that we were anxious to list as soon as possible because we were already under contract to buy a new home.

    We selected the appliances and had them delivered and installed by the stores. Patricia selected the granite and all the colors, and managed the painters, handymen, plumber, countertop guys, etc. And got it all done in about 2 weeks from when she first set foot in the house.

  30. million says:


    Another foreclosure at Clarendon 1021, that’s 3 now…

    1bd/bt, default on $381.5k.

    what are you guys doing over there?

  31. FRANK LL0SA Broker says:

    Which unit?
    The first one never made it to the courthouse.
    What are you using to get alerts on these? Are you buying them??
    Remember, those are the starting prices. The other foreclosure went all the way up to $390k which was within $10k-20k of market value.

  32. million says:

    Washington Post legal notices…

    search “Garfield 1021”

    you’ll see two current ones for the bldg:

    unit 1003 on the courthouse steps May 25, 2007 at 2:00 o’clock pm

    unit 604 on the courthouse steps May 11, 2007 at 2:00 o’clock pm

  33. Sharon says:

    In the interest of being Frank, can you let us non-industry people know how much a stager/staging costs? Elisabeth, can you tell us what you spent on the stager and on all the work and upgrades? Because I’m not sure if all this “extra” money the sellers are getting for staged homes is gross or net. Thanks for the perspective.

  34. million says:

    hey Frank,

    RedFin is coming to DC in June and they’re hiring RE ops folks…

    are you going to give them the cold shoulder or grow & adapt your business? :)

  35. FRANK LL0SA Broker says:

    Hey Million,
    I’ll take a look, but if you read my other blogs, I started with discounting… and then I grew up.

    I guess we all want to be kids again, so anything is possible, but I’m still confident that if you talk to my past clients, Redfin won’t net you more than we can. Maybe more than the average agent, but we aren’t average.

    But I think it is a great thing, but rebating and discounting aren’t new.

    The more business models, the better.

    Did you hear of the company that actually gives you 120% of their commission back? Yep, they actually GIVE you all of it PLUS an extra 20%! Kind of like how internet start ups started by acquiring customers regardless of cost.*

    Thanks for the post,


    * not really

  36. Elizabeth says:

    Sharon asked what we spent. The staging was about $2,000. We spent about $17,000 all told (and gave the sellers credit for $2,500 towards painting the back of the house, which we didn’t have done).

    That said only about $6,000 of that was the incremental cost of the improvements that Patricia recommended — the new appliances and countertops in the kitchen. The rest of it was work that we knew we were going to need to have done from the start — painting the whole house, replacing the really grotty carpeting, refinishing the wood floors, having the wood siding fixed up and painted.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Ah, so this is where the sadness happens…

    I am a lurker, both on this website and on real estate sites, and I have to tell you: stagers are a kind of home killer. I can respect that there are more than one kind, but every “staged” home I look at just makes me gag. The colors are usually neutral tones to earth tones, there are ALWAYS new black granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, and bland old, bland old wood floors. It doesn’t matter if the house is from 1902 or 2002, the interiors look startlingly similar. And you know what? As soon as I see that stuff I just think (as a lurker, mind you – I’m so on the “can’t afford to buy” side it hurts) what a waste. This blog is fun to read, and I appreciate your insights, but when you back this kind of crazy up as smart… you lose a lot your credibility with me. I should share that this belief also comes with two other ideas: 1)I believe in preservation and something other than Wal-Mart redecoration and 2)My taste 100% clashes with this brand spanking new crap – and I feel guilty about landfilling brand new stuff, so I’d have to keep it, so I’d (presuming I ever have the money) never ever ever buy it.

    See where I’m going with this? It all just looks so very very very bland – do real estate agents ever flip through mags like MSL or Domino? There are other ways of decorating. Just my two cents – I’ll happily keep reading – and hope that the other stuff I learn here I get to apply someday to buying a house of my own!

  38. FRANK LL0SA Va Broker- says:

    Hey Lurker,
    Thanks for participating.

    I agree with many points that you said.

    First of all, agents shouldn’t stage. Designers should.

    Secondly, yes, black granite is what my stager always yells about. She hates them. She calls it “builder grade, ubba tuba.” So she never puts in black.

    As for colors, agreed, sometimes they can be too flat.

    A good stager needs to make a place POP with design.

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