April 6th, 2014
'Best Fee Structure in Real Estate!"

‘Best Fee Structure in Real Estate!”

I am a Realtor®, Broker and Owner of a boutique real estate firm in the heart of Silicon Valley. I maintain a virtual office from my home and compete with the ‘so called ‘ big boys. I have been a Realtor® since 2000 and a Broker of my firm, Dalmatian Realty of Silicon Valley, since 2004. I spent the first four years with the so called ‘big boys’ to see if any had unique insights into the real estate business. If the truth be told….the answer is a resounding NO!!! Those of us who have prospered for more than a decade in this dynamic market of Silicon Valley are all ‘BIG BOYS’.

Each home is unique. Each home has a soul. It is the respite of the work, play, rest and heal continuum. It is not an island onto itself but a conduit to the schools, parks, shopping areas, road infrastructure, and work and play venues. As such each home relates to its environment in a different way and thus is unique. I find that after I spend a time on the property…a week, perhaps, I garner a flavor of this soul. And this is where my marketing begins.                

 In regards to staging the preference of the real estate industry is to stage. There are many staging companies that run the gamut of quality. Some produce good results, most do an average job and some actually do damage. The worst example was a highly regarded staging firm in the San Francisco Peninsula that regarded themselves as real pros and experts in the field. Their opinions and taste was ‘gold’ and not to be questioned.  Their rendition confused potential buyers. Too much stuff and no coherent flow. After a week of uncomfortable deliberation we had them pull out their stuff, paid the initial fee and began anew with another company.

My view of staging is ‘less is more’. Staging is a tool to aid the potential buyer envision how the home might be used. Staging is not an end onto itself. Staging must be done from the viewpoint of the potential buyer and no one else. Homes with large, open living areas which lend themselves to a variety of living options are best candidates for staging. Simple suggestions as to where informal dining might be located…or an entertainment  area or perhaps a reading nook or a conversation/stereo cocktail sitting space. A simple dining room table, four chairs and a silk floral arrangement…period! Just a hint, a suggestion…something to connect with the potential buyer to give them an idea, to stimulate their imagination. To energize that little light in the buyer’s mind with an idea, a concept from which the buyer can embark on colors, furnishings, textures and a myriad of other details. That’s the purpose of any staging. To engage the potential buyer; to light that little light!

Through no skill of my own I happen to own several homes right across the street from where the new Cupertino Apple Spaceship Campus will be located. Being built as I write this piece. We had been living in one of the homes and wished to rent it. It was well appointed with hardwood floors, area rugs, good furnishings and a wonderful array of art work on the walls. As I removed clutter and furnishings and personal items I began to be able to compare and contrast the feelings that the space emoted with the removal of each layer of personal items.

Rugs and Floors–Most homes in the bay area built in the fifties and sixties have hardwood floors. However the choice back then was wall to wall carpeting. So, many of these homes have surprisingly beautiful floors underneath. Floors that need perhaps a light sanding and a layer or two of urethane. Such was the case in my home and I urathaned where needed and cleansed with Windex the rest. The result was a wonderful clean reflection as one entered each room. By the way, wall to wall carpeting is no longer in vogue. I have had tenants and buyers over recent years that insist on the removal of older but usable wall to wall carpeting. Perhaps viewed as carriers of other people’s dirt even though shampooed.

Garage— Removed fifteen years’ worth of accumulated stuff. You know, the stuff that’s too good to throw or give away but whose use has outlived its time. Moved what we needed and gave most to Salvation Army. Once the space was empty I painted the major wall and power washed all other surfaces. Next day I just kept looking at it. Wow! What a difference.

CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN–Clean is one of those words that is generic, non-specific. What one person sees as clean, another considers dirty. Absolute cleanliness is not seen but felt. Let me repeat that….cleanliness is not seen but felt. Dirt, smudges, spots are seen. When a space is marvelously clean it creates a feeling of comfort, tidiness, of neatness…you want to be there.

So, hardwood floors must shine. Windows..not a smudge or glare of dirt in the sunshine. Porcelain sinks and bowls…spotless. You get the idea…do a white glove test!

CURB APPEAL–Start from the street as you exit your car parked in front. What’s your first impression. What do you notice. Are the bushes neatly trimmed? Is the lawn cut and green and in good condition? Are there weeds growing? Walkways clean? Clutter? Believe me….whatever is there will be noticed by a potential buyer or tenant. Whatever first impression is created…this is the attitude of the buyer/tenant as he opens the front door. If the initial impression is negative the buyer/tenant will be looking for additional signs confirming his negative impression. A negative first impression put your property on the defensive.

But…let’s get back to the staging theme! I removed all personal items from the house. Then one day the movers came for the big stuff. The next few days I did all those things I described above. The place was immaculately clean, the curb appeal exceptional, the garden neat and tidy. The house was empty except for the art work on the walls and window coverings. To my amazement the house did not feel empty. It still had the character and personality that was present when we lived there with all our familiar belongings. The rooms, though empty, radiated cleanliness and warmth. Window covering and artwork created the stage for clients to imagine how their furniture and personal items might be best positioned. In the ten days that I had the house on the market I had as many clients visit. Their reaction was overwhelmingly positive with numerous applications to rent. I found what I thought to be an excellent family as tenants.

Removal of Art Work–After execution of lease I removed our art work. When next day I returned to the house I again was amazed. The house felt empty. Barren. Devoid of character. No warmth. It was the art work!! Wow! What a difference. It was dramatic. So, here began an idea. If I am right and art work creates such an emotional difference…why not employ it as a staging tool. Artwork only!

Less Is More!! The more stuff the eye has to absorb the greater the tendency for confusion. The more the eye has to absorb the less the imagination is engaged. The more the eye has to absorb the greater the tendency to become a spectator rather than a engaged participant. 

CONCLUSION: The vast majority of ordinary homes need not be staged. A tasteful selection of artwork on walls creates the optimum desired effect. Those homes with large square footages and flexible living spaces are best candidates for staging. That is staging according to the principle of ‘less is more’.

****Luciano is presently working out arrangements with art galleries to have art available for homes. Art will be the staging technique and will also be available for sale.













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