Owner: Kim Schmidt
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Star of staging and screening Vadnais' Kim Schmidt transforms homes before they're marketed
Aug 04, 2008 - 10:12:33 CDT.
by Kristine Goodrich
NORTH OAKS — Not long ago, the spare room was filled with dog beds, cat condos and squeaky toys.
Today it’s a spacious reading room furnished with only a chair, small rug, side table and curio cabinet.
“Instead of seeing the things, we want people to see the space,” said Kim Schmidt.
The Vadnais Heights resident directed the transformation of all the rooms in a 2,400 square-foot North Oaks house that’s on the market for $440,000.
Referred to these days as “staging,” Schmidt started transforming for-sale houses long before the practice had a name or was popularized by cable TV programs.
After graduating college with a journalism degree, Schmidt’s first career was producing home improvement shows and educational and corporate programs (not big-name ones that anyone would still remember today, she said.) For fun, she volunteered to do staging and interior design for friends’ houses.
Tired of his wife spending most of her evenings at other people’s houses, her husband encouraged her to make staging and designing her career. About a dozen years later, she owns her own interior design firm, Design Details, and staging subsidiary dubbed StudioKhomestaging. Hired by real estate agents, builders and homeowners themselves, she stages about 300 homes per year.
“It makes such a difference,” said Audrey Friedman, a real estate agent from the North Oaks office of Coldwell Banker Burnet. She purchases Schmidt’s services for every home she lists.
“Today, everyone expects to be wowed,” Friedman said. “(Potential home buyers) expect to see what they see on the Home and Garden channel. Staging is so important.”
So what exactly is staging? Generally, it involves de-cluttering and strategically placing furnishings to accentuate the house’s best features.
“It’s all about bringing out the positives and helping potential buyers picture themselves living there,” Schmidt said.
Often that means measures such as clearing off the appliances and knickknacks that hide the granite countertops, or taking down the lime green polka dot window draperies that block the natural light and view of the backyard.
But there’s no uniform formula; it varies in each house, according to Schmidt. For example, she normally might recommend a neutral wall color in most rooms, but a bright or dark color can work for a large room with a lot of light.
Staging is an art form, according to Schmidt, daughter of White Bear Lake artist Frank Zeller. And it’s an art that can’t be learned by watching a few episodes of “Design to Sell.” It’s a balancing act, she said, between retaining a cozy feeling, but making the home neutral enough to appeal to all potential buyers.
She would even hire a stager for her own home, she said, because staging requires an outsider’s perspective.
“When it’s your own place, it’s difficult to visualize it any other way,” she said.
Schmidt charges $75 per hour for an initial consultation, which usually takes approximately two hours to complete. After a review of both the house’s interior and exterior, she prepares a detailed list of recommended improvements and placement furnishings — detailed down to how many knickknacks to leave in the curio cabinet.
Taking into account the home seller’s budget, she recommends what’s “the best bang for the buck,” she said. And unlike the TV shows, Schmidt says she takes care to make her recommendations respectfully.
“When I say ‘That has to go,’ that doesn’t mean ‘It’s ugly,’” she said. “It’s not a critique of your decorating.”
Homeowners can opt to complete Schmidt’s recommendations themselves or they can pay her $50 an hour to do it for them. She also provides referrals to professional contractors.
According to statistics from the Real Estate Staging Association, staged homes sell, on average, for more money than homes that are not staged.
There is, however, one potential hazard of staging, according to Friedman. After staging, some clients have second thoughts about selling.
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Staging Is Important
Even in a Busy Market
Aricle by Inside RealEstate Summer 1999
"Although it's a busy market, staging can increase the sale price even more, and it can create multiple offers," said Laurie Anderson, Coldwell Banker, Maplewood.
"Not every house is a multiple offer house," adds Audrey Friedman, Coldwell Banker Burnet, North Oaks, "But by staging you can show it in its most positive light and you always get a better offer. As a listing agent, you want to get the most you can for the seller."
Both Realtors use Kim Schmidt, Design Details as a stager for their listings. "She showcases a home and gets it in model condition," Anderson says. "As an example, we had one listing that needed mega help. It had ugly blue shag carpet, awful lamps from the sixties. It was ugly, and the sellers didn't want to lift a finger to change it. Kim brought in $200.00 worth of stuff - some great lamps, big pillows that coordinated with the blue shag and other things, and did some rearranging. We had two people in an hour after it listed and multiple offers. She made it work so beautifully, they didn't even notice the blue shag."
Sellers like Anderson's client have a hard time receiving the news that their home needs help. The real benefit of using a stager, Schmidt says "is that it takes the Realtor out of the hot seat and puts it on the stager. If it's done right, it lets the Realtor maintain the relationship with the client."
Doing it right, Schmit underlines, is providing them the service at the onset. "It's harder to do after the house has been on the market a long time. Some negatives have already built up and the Realtor risks losing the client."
Schmidt offers different levels of staging. The basic is a walk through with verbal suggestions, room by room, on how to rearrange and accessorize the home, what needs to be packed away immediately and what needs to be fine tuned. It takes a couple of hours and costs about $50.00. What some Realtors do is provide this as a service to their listers, Schmidt says.
"The next level involves projects that require a minimum investment to make the house feel more updated," Schmidt says. This cost is absorbed by the seller. "I present a budget to the client, shop for the items and right before the open I come in and rearrange and accessorize the house so it shows like a model home." If the house needs major work like painting, carpeting, or countertops, she offers resources for those too.
"Kim does a great job," Friedman concludes. "With her design background, she knows just how to rearrange the furniture, add color and accessories and make the house show well. What's nice is she's an objective third party. When we come in as a Realtor, it makes our job much easier."