My maternal grandmother was truly something else. A rebel in her youth that grew to appreciate the finer things in life. Her cedar-lined walk-in closet was wall to wall with coordinating outfits, accessories, and most importantly a shoe collection that rivaled Imelda Marcos. Car rides with her included deep cultural discussions while classical symphonies cascaded in the background.
My favorite memories with her are when she invited me along to enjoy one of her personal favorite cultural expressions, the theater.
My first theater experience with her wasn’t some small-town, playhouse production of Oklahoma. She got us front row seats at the Pantages theater for Phantom of the Opera. Seriously front row seats. I was so close I could literally hear the footsteps of the actors as they made their way across the stage.
Being only in 5th grade my young mind wasn’t ready to process the complex themes of the true nature of love, but I couldn’t help but be drawn to the seamless production, the unforgettable music, and the unifying feeling of experiencing all of this together with a group of strangers in a beautiful, historic building. Safe to say I was hooked.
My approach to helping my client’s sell their home has definitely been inspired by this production which has now grossed over 6 billion in sales. It is the perfect blend of scenario, process, product, and audience. Your home must accomplish the same balance to appeal to the right buyer who will appreciate it as much as you did when you first bought it and like any good story will be passed along for any future buyers to come.
Here’s how I use the elements of a successful theater production to sell your home, also known as, setting the stage.
Setting the Stage: The Scenario
Think of your favorite play, book, or movie. There is a foundation to everything that happens in the story. It is a mixture of time, conflict, and aesthetic. Period pieces are perfect examples of this as they must execute the vision in every last detail to how the characters look, sound, and interact with one another. This is referred to as the scenario. In other words, how the picture will be painted.
When selling your home you have your own scenario at hand. It is the reason you are selling. This will cast across everything you do, the choices you make, and the people you choose to help you. It is quite often the question I get asked most as a real estate agent. “Why are the sellers moving?”. The answer to that question literally sets the stage to how the rest of the transaction will go.
Reasons to sell show in many different forms. Sometimes it is a very happy and exciting like cashing in on your equity in your current home to ‘move up’ to a home in your dream neighborhood. Maybe you’ve finally received that job opportunity of a lifetime, however it is two states away. On the other hand selling can be a more challenging affair due to a family member passing or a family going through a divorce.
This scenario may be the driving force to the transaction but if you aren’t careful it can also be a distraction from its success. If you spend too much time ogling the intricate detail of the actor’s costumes you might miss a critical piece of the story right? Whether the end result of your sale it to bring joy or solace, it is important that you don’t lose sight of your scenario. A long list of repairs, termite infestation, or a buyer who simply doesn’t seem like a well adjusted person are just some of the many ways this experience will throw you off your game. Rather than running for the exit, I always remind my clients to focus on the ‘why’ (their scenario for selling) and, like clockwork, all the other factors fall into place and the next act of your life can begin.
Setting the Stage: The Process
If you step back and really dissect a theatrical performance you really see that it is one of the best examples of a successful process. Director, actors, designers, technicians, dancers, and musicians come together and perform live in front of an audience who will know the second one thing is out of place.
The process of selling your home is no different. Just as many moving parts, just as much on the line, and one letter out of place can put everything in a pool of tossed tomatoes.
As director of the ‘show’ I’ve developed a comprehensive system that allows everyone to do what they are asked to do, but collaboratively. Everyone works together, but in full respect of what each other brings to the transaction. This starts before we put one buyer in the seats. From pricing your home to marketing (see Audience below) there is much that has to go right before the curtain raises. Once the show begins enters many more parties crucial to the close of the transaction like your buyer, escrow & title, and the biggest wild card, the lender. I work tirelessly to keep everyone on track, working together, and at closing, the big finish, ready to take that final bow together smiling and breathing heavily.
Setting the Stage: The Product
Have you heard of the production called Hamilton? Chances are you have. Not because you have seen it, even though you really want to, but because it has one of the most critical elements to a play’s success, buzz. It has captured the hearts of theater junkies and pop culture jockeys alike and demand for a ticket has reached heights unheard of in recent years.
What makes this such a great ‘product’? Is it never-before-seen special effects? A big name actor assuming the title role? Nope. It is a perfect balance of sight, sound, and story that everyone wants to see, so guess what? You probably want to see it too.
To generate the same excitement, be it on a smaller scale, for your home we must take the same approach. Your home is the product and we need to generate buzz. Here’s how we do that:
1. Sight: If your home has some small flaws that can be fixed up before going to market, do them. It is amazing how much impact tree trimming, fresh paint, and a good deep cleaning will have on potential buyers making it to the 2nd act. Also, make sure that you de-clutter and de-personalize your home. Buyers are easily turned off by towering stacks of your stuff or too much personal tchotchke spread across every surface. Simple things like swapping out your strawberry remnant covered blender with a few bottles of Pellegrino water on your kitchen counter can transform a buyer’s perception from no-go to must-have.
2. Sound: Creaky floors, doors, and cabinets. Dripping faucets. Clanking furnaces. Barking dogs (your dog). These are all sounds that will distract buyers from falling in love with your home. Think of every performance you’ve been to that featured a hot microphone and hair-parting feedback. That shrill, piercing moment had you less interested in the plot twist and more interested in covering your ears to prevent further hearing damage. Eliminate the annoying squeaks and creaks and you will enjoy the squeals of adulation from a buyer who is ready to make an offer.
3. Story: In this case the story of your home is the floor plan and its flow. How you experience a home is very similar to how you experience a story. It begins with the entry, moves along the living areas and kitchen and typically finishes in the master bedroom. Your home must tell a story to prospective buyer. Most importantly you want it to be your story, not leaving it up to them to create their own. This is why I believe that home staging is so important. Vacant homes experience this struggle even more as many buyers out there lack the vision to define the space appropriately. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shown a home and have the buyer ask, ‘What is this room for?’ or ‘What do I do here?’. Vacant or not, an expert home stager will create a complete story that will include guide the buyer from room to room, experience to experience, and help them define if your home’s story could become their story.
Setting the Stage: Audience
Watching a theatrical production live with a full house is a connecting experience. Moments of awe, laughter, and emotion are better shared. The cast and crew feed off of the audience in a way that you can’t replicate in other media. It is that same connective tissue I use when finding a home’s audience. Using innovative tools paired with careful research of your home’s target buyer I create a marketing strategy that puts your home in front of them, even when they don’t know they are looking for a home.
Suddenly, while chatting with a friend or catching up on the day’s events there is your home that is in a neighborhood or has a feature that they crave. Without knowing it they have become interested in seeing it in person, finding a way to make it their own, and willing to compete against others for a seat closer to the action. Just like Broadway’s hottest new play somehow suddenly inserts itself into every dinner party conversation, so will your home to the friends and family of those who see it. Before you know it there will be a packed house, open house rather filled with adoring fans and tastemakers ready to do whatever it takes to meet you backstage.
All About Presentation
What seemed to be a very short while after our afternoon at the Pantages my grandmother became very sick. On one of the last days of her life she asked that I come to see her at the hospital. She excused the rest of the family out and asked me to come to her bedside. She could see that I was not very pleased to see her this way and even in her painful condition, she tried to comfort me. She said that she had been having dreams about me and that I was going to do something very big when I was older and to keep working hard to make sure that would happen. Seeing that made me feel a bit better she reached to her side table and pulled out a gift. Seriously, she’s the sick one and I’m getting a gift? I opened it, and being the appreciator of the finer things she had been, it was a personalized manicure kit with gold plated tools. Not knowing what to say in a moment like that she put her hands on mine, winked, and said ‘No offense’.
Whether it be a your home, a Broadway play, or a manicured set a nails it is so important to set the stage properly for success. In honor of my grandmother and my clients I always set it to the highest bar possible.