The Story Of An Empty House

Empty House

Last Friday afternoon, I couldn’t have been more excited to go take pictures of an empty house. The sale was closed and funded. My kids were thrilled with their ice cream cake. The last truckload of furniture was packed up and gone. All that was left to do was to take down the sign & lockbox, and hand off the last key.

… Oh, and take those pictures.

You’re probably asking yourself, “Why in the heck would I care so much about taking pictures of a vacant, sold listing?”

Well, let me tell you. About six months ago, I met with Rich and Angela about the sale of their home in Central Austin. They were moving to North Carolina, to be closer to family. I wrote about it then, highlighting one of the more important qualifications that they asked of me, during our initial conversation.

A conversation that also led to them posing the question, “Do you think that we should leave our furniture here, for staging purposes, or should we look into furniture rental?”

That’s the type of question I appreciate hearing from home sellers because immediately, it indicates two things to me. A) these folks are bought-in to the process and B) we are already thinking on the same wavelength.

Both of which, I’ve found to be critical ingredients to a successful and profitable home sale. 

And while I always have an opinion on each client’s best course of action, I never make decisions — particularly value-influencing decisions — before conferring with my team of experts.

In other words, first step, we do our research.

In this case, I called upon Christina with Davinci Interiors and Tracey with Design and Effect, to consult on the interior design, paint colors, and to lend a professional opinion on the full spectrum of staging options.

We decided that based on the price point, neighborhood profile and demographics, the home would need to be furnished and presented in a slightly different manner, so as to speak directly to our target buyer.

Have you ever wondered why homebuilders locate their sales offices inside of their model homes? Why they show you the model first, before the half-finished or vacant product? Why homebuilders spend so much time & money studying the science of staging homes?

In regards to a model home, it makes absolutely no sense to fall in love with a house and with furniture you are not actually going to buy, right? But still, it happens all the time.

And this, I believe, is where most real estate agents get it wrong.

You see, the most important story being told in each home sale, is certainly not that of the listing agent.

It’s not even that of the home seller or the property being sold.

No, the most influential story in every home sale is the one the buyer tells him or herself about what it would mean to them … what it would feel like for them … to own THIS property.

The most influential story is the one the buyer tells him or herself about what it would mean to them … what it would feel like for them … to own THIS property.

When a buyer starts to tell him or herself the story that, “this is my house,” rather than “a house lived in by another family,” resistance dissipates. The likelihood of the buyer making a strong offer increases.

In other words, when buyers start making emotional decisions, home sellers return higher profits.

And in that, the details matter. Alot. 

This is why, when it comes to helping home owners maximize profits, working with just any “ordinary home stager,” simply will not do. And it’s why after interviewing a host of qualified candidates, unanimously, we chose Meagan from Beckett Staging to bring this home’s story to life.

I’ll stop short of saying that the staging was THE reason that the house sold. After all, Rich and Angela had done a phenomenal job of both improving and maintaining the property in their 3+ years as owners.

But I don’t think it’s any stretch to say that Meagan’s work, coupled with first-class professional photography, set the stage for us to generate 20 showings and more than one offer, within the first three weeks. This, mind you, during the month of January, which is historically one of the slowest times of the year for buyer activity.

Heck, when I hosted a invitation-only “Broker’s Open House,” our second week on the market, it felt as though more of the 20 brokers in attendance asked me “who did your staging,” than asked questions about the house itself.

And while we were absolutely thrilled by the reception, the feedback and ultimately the end result, to me, it was more common sense than anything.

Home staging and presentation is just one of about a dozen of so key indicators that we analyze as we guide homeowners through the process of preparing their homes to sell.

When Rich, Angela and I sat down last September and they posed that question, they already knew the answer.

I already knew the answer.

It would have been a heck of a lot more “affordable” to simply leave select pieces of their own furniture behind. But the truth is and always was, the best course of action was to have the home professionally staged.

Leaving the house vacant or sparsely furnished, to save a couple bucks, would have meant taking an unnecessary risk. It would have meant putting the onus on the home buyer to fill in the blanks.

And that would have been a fundamental mistake.

It’s been my experience that the path of least resistance is rarely the same path that leads to a superior result.

It’s been my experience that the path of least resistance is rarely the same path that leads to a superior result. 

So why, you ask, did I want to go take pictures of the empty house?

It’s simple really. Knowing how this story unfolded, I was curious to go back and re-read the prologue. To revisit where we started and to see the transformation — this time, in reverse.

And I couldn’t help but chuckle when I saw that not only had the buyers purchased the house, but they’d also purchased a few pieces of the staging furniture. Of course. For without them, the stage would have been completely empty, as they set out to write the first act, in their new home.

Last week I wrote about the fact that I don’t particularly care for “selling houses.” It’s not my purpose or motivation behind what I do.

Rather, what I “do” is make connections between home buyers and sellers. And the best place to start always has been, and always will be, with a good ol’ story.

For he or she who tells the best story usually wins.

Check out the dramatic difference between the before and after professional staging photos. Which property would you pay a premium for?

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Ryan France

Ryan France is a native of Austin Texas, father of two, super-early riser, avid reader, admitted podcast junkie & bulletproof coffee addict. In a past life, France was an aspiring professional baseball player. Today, Ryan is an entrepreneur, author and relentless innovator of the real estate industry. Read more on the "Who is Ryan?" page.