In 2020, Karen McDonald, owner of Innovative Impressions, called Realtor Chris Contreras, who recently had opened his business with Keller Williams. She didn’t know him personally at that point, but she wanted to tell him about the benefits of staging homes, with an offer to help his clients.
It wasn’t until the next year that he had the need for staging and asked her to consult with a client. The initial cold call has turned into a win-win relationship that has been a benefit to Karen, Chris and his clients. Chris now incorporates staging as a routine service.
“What he offers his clients really gives them added value. He is willing to make the investment in staging, so that his clients can get top dollar for their home,” Karen said. “It gives him a huge advantage by positioning himself in a unique way.”
“Having Karen as part of our listing team on every property has been an amazing investment for my clients and business that has more than paid off,” Chris said. “On every listing Karen has consulted, we have gone over the asking price. She’s my secret weapon.”
Why Staging Works
Staging is more important than ever in a housing market that is shifting, Karen said. It helps a future buyer imagine and visualize their life in a new home, potentially leading to quicker sales that are higher than the listing price.
The perception some people have is that staging applies solely to vacant homes, Chris said. However, occupied homes especially need staging since the homeowners are living in the house while it’s on the market.
Armed with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of South Carolina, experience as an artist and an eye for stylish decor, Karen is uniquely poised to make recommendations that will ensure a quick sale and a higher sales price for the many Realtors she works with in the metro Atlanta area.
“Having a formal background in art really gives me a unique perspective,” she said. “In addition to staging vacant and occupied homes for a sale, or helping a new homeowner settle in by decorating with new or existing furnishings, I can create just the right piece of art to complement an interior.”
The process starts when Chris contacts Karen to arrange a consultation. Karen spends a couple of hours with the client, going room to room, and shares her recommendations.
Proof Staging Works
While recommendations can range from moving furniture to painting rooms, Chris has statistics that show the value of staging. Based on staged, occupied homes sold in 2022, the average number of days on the market is 4.3. The average sales amount over list price ranged from $20,166 to $36,000. These stats are specific to Chris’ listings and don’t reflect national trends.
“Creating a neutral environment is the goal,” Karen said. “I look at the property with a new set of eyes and have a different perspective, because I do not live in the home.”
Relationships Over Profits
A meeting to discuss the staging recommendations is one more opportunity for Chris to communicate with his clients. “Often, during a consult, Karen has to deliver feedback that can be difficult for homeowners to hear,” he said. “This positions me to keep a good rapport with my sellers, while helping them to make the changes that will bring them top dollar for their home.”
While his primary job is to help people buy and sell their homes, Chris often finds the relationship doesn’t end after the ink dries.
“Our goal is to make lifelong clients who can call me for anything,” he said. “Eighty-five percent of the time, when people reach out to me, it is not real estate-related, but other things I can help them with, or people I can connect them to.” In fact, Chris and his team live by the motto, “Serving Beyond the Sale.”
His plan to put his clients in the best position to stand out in the market includes: extensive networking, marketing, a staging consultation, luxury photography, intuitive pricing and intensive cleaning, all done at no additional cost to the homeowners. “We just want to make the home selling process as stress-free as we can for our clients,” he said.
Prioritizing people and relationships over profit and business might mean he advises someone it’s not in their best interest to sell or buy. That’s something he did recently; he counts it as part of educating buyers and sellers, and helping them do what’s best for them.
Chris also is fluent in Spanish and is passionate about empowering members of the Hispanic community to seek the American dream, and invest in their future, through home ownership.
Because so much of his mission is giving back and serving the community, Chris has partnered with Saprea, an organization that provides resources to prevent and heal from child abuse. A portion of every home sale goes to support Saprea’s mission.
When not working, Chris can be found serving with the Bascomb Elementary PTA board, the local Cub Scout troop and Woodstock City Church. “Our hope is that we can inspire others to serve their community and give back in a way that speaks to them,” he said.
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