By Karen Eubank
Your seller has given you the thumbs-up and you’re going to stage that vacant listing. Congratulations! So how do you go about it? My advice is to always call a stager, of course! Most stagers have an accessory inventory — you know, the pretty stuff such as flowers, bedding, and cute items for the bath and kitchen. A few staging companies in town actually carry inventory, but many stagers are opting out of that business model. CORT Furniture Rental is a go-to resource for most Dallas stagers.
Can you bypass the stager and call a rental company directly? You bet, but remember, you’ll be providing all the nice accessories and you’ll be the one directing placement of furniture and steaming the duvet!
Jump for the inside skinny on all you need to know about renting furniture for your vacant property from CORT representative Kathy LaMarr.
Karen Eubank: How long has CORT been working with stagers and Realtors in the Metroplex on vacant properties?
Kathy LaMarr: CORT has been assisting Realtors and stagers in the Dallas Metroplex for over 30 years.
Eubank: Tell us about the Metroplex facilities. How large are your showrooms? How large are the warehouses and are they climate controlled? How do you keep it all clean and in good repair?
LaMarr: Our local warehouse facility is more than 60,000 square feet and our two showrooms total over 28,000 square feet in size. Quality is a top priority. All of our products and inventory go through a comprehensive cleaning and inspection process when they arrive at the warehouse. The items are thoroughly checked, cleaned and touched up, and, if any items require repair, they are processed through our repair department. In addition, all products are graded so, if any item is not deemed to be in showroom condition at the conclusion of these steps, it is not used for rental. All upholstery and bedding is bagged after being cleaned, inspected and treated. Wood products are also properly protected when stored to ensure that the condition of the product remains in showroom condition and ready for immediate use. We have a full-time staff dedicated to cleaning as well as a separate department dedicated solely to repairs.
Eubank: How much furniture do you typically have in stock?
LaMarr: CORT’s inventory levels are continually fluctuating, but we run trucks six days a week that are constantly delivering furniture to customers. Currently, we have 16,788 pieces on hand.These range from furniture, art, and rugs to housewares items. If we do happen to run low on any items, CORT has 100 locations nationwide to find exactly what the customer is looking for.
Eubank: Do you carry different styles of furniture? What if I have a Mid-century Modern house for sale? Do you have the right look for that sort of home?
LaMarr: CORT has a team of professional buyers who stay abreast on current trends to provide the latest styles in furniture and home decor. Typically, we rotate lines every two years and within that rotation we introduce and discontinue other lines as well. By implementing this system, our offerings are always fresh and up to date. CORT’s furniture styles range from contemporary to traditional to match all tastes and preferences.
Eubank: Ok what if a Realtor has a $2 million property, will you have the right sort of furniture and the right scale for that listing?
LaMarr: Staging is all about strategic placement and highlighting the features and benefits of a room. CORT’s line up blends beautifully in any type of environment. We have staged many multimillion dollar homes all over the country, and our furnishings prove that it is not necessary to spend a million dollars to get a million-dollar look. There are several price points in our lineup combined with the flexibility of mixing and matching that helps control costs with the creative touch of a professional stager.
Eubank: If the piece we love is online is it going to be available?
LaMarr: Our live inventory online is tied directly to what is currently available at that moment. But, being a rental company, inventory levels can change in an instant. Our personal service guarantee does assure that if an item is back-ordered, an equal or better item will be substituted at no additional charge. Having a great relationship with the rental consultant in the showroom can greatly benefit a stager and client because the consultant can advise if a substitution is necessary and what other options are available. Usually our substitutions work as well or better than the original choice.
Flexibility is the name of the game when using rental furniture for home staging. Usually there are multiple options that will serve the same purpose for a staging installation, and having a great rapport with the CORT rental consultant can get insider information on items that may be available otherwise. The stagers that know how to trust the suggestions of the rental consultant and build a team approach to their projects will generate the best results and can even save the client money in the long run.
Eubank: Is there a typical range when you quote a furniture rental for a vacant property? If so how do you figure it? Square footage? Type of house? Percentage of list price?
LaMarr: Having been involved in budgeting on projects for 30 years now, I have developed a good sense for estimating furniture rental quotes, but this can vary from state to state and region to region. Generally speaking, it is important to not “over sell” the rental side of the equation. An entry level home could expect to run from $100 to $150 per room, mid-level homes could run from $150 to $300 per room and high-end homes might run $300 to $500 per area.
High-end homes typically have larger rooms, which require much more furniture to stage properly. Because of this, I estimate the price based on the staged area instead of per room. However, this is just a guide and it will deviate greatly depending on the variables involved.
There is a balance between the selling price of the house and how much is realistic to spend to stage. By working closely with a CORT rental consultant, the stager can get the best value for the client. There are several ways to control cost and still stage a home effectively and CORT consultants can help maximize the cost to benefit balance.
Eubank: How many rooms and how much furniture does that quote cover?
LaMarr: Each room typically is staged with a standard number of pieces of furniture. For example, a living room would have a sofa, chair, cocktail table, end table, and lamp, while a bedroom would have a queen mattress, box spring and frame, headboard, nightstand, lamp, dresser, and mirror. Since every staging project is different, CORT offers the flexibility to increase or decrease the amount of pieces based on individual needs.
Eubank: Do you quote artwork, rugs and bedding in your estimates?
LaMarr: All quotes are unique per each project. For instance, if art and rugs are needed, I can include them in the quote. However, our estimates are typically just tools to get a feel for the budget and we can adjust according to the specific needs of the project.
Eubank: Does Cort rent accessories?
LaMarr: CORT offers art, rugs, silk plants, screens, bed linens, bath linens and kitchen items. Accessories such as vases and sculptures are not part of our standard inventory but, if the project has a specific need, a local CORT representative and stager can coordinate to develop a solution. In a typical staging project, small decorative accessories are supplied by the stager or home owner.
Eubank: What’s the hardest thing to convey about renting furniture?
LaMarr: Rental companies have the advantage of fast turnaround in getting product in and out of a project. We have a very fast moving inventory that offers home stagers optimal flexibility. Stagers that recognize the versatility of our lineup are often the most successful because they are able to accept that, if one item isn’t available, there are other options that will work for the situation. CORT Rental Consultants are here to help and building a relationship on trust and confidence will generate the best results for the client.
Eubank: Cort rents furniture monthly. Is that the best and most economic option?
LaMarr: CORT has several lease term options but, for staging purposes, the most cost effective pricing is the three month lease term because the monthly rental rates are lower and the minimum per month required to enter into a lease is lower.
Eubank: If a 3 month rental is the most economic arrangement, what if the house sells immediately and goes to contract in that first month?
LaMarr: If the house sells immediately, CORT will pick up the furniture before the term of the lease is completed and bill the client for the balance due on the lease. If the contract on the house falls through, the client may cancel the pickup and continue renting. This maximizes the flexibility for the home owner.
Eubank: If CORT receives a call on Monday and the contract is signed that same day how fast can the furniture delivered?
LaMarr: The typical turnaround time for delivery is two business days. An order placed on Monday with all necessary paperwork in place can be delivered on Wednesday. If there are special circumstances where a next-day delivery is required, most CORT districts can accommodate this for an additional delivery fee to cover the overtime costs involved. Clients may also place orders directly online and pay with a major credit card to expedite the ordering process.
Eubank: Do you provide insurance or does the seller have to insure your items when they are in the property?
LaMarr: CORT charges a loss damage waiver fee. This is in lieu of renters insurance and only covers CORT product for specific events.
Eubank: CORT recommends working with stagers. Why? Can’t a seller or Realtor work directly with CORT and have you place the items?
LaMarr: Understanding the process and methodology of staging is key to the successful preparation of a home to sell. CORT is just one part of the staging equation. To successfully stage a home, it is highly recommended that the home owner coordinate with their Realtor and stager prior to listing the home. Simply placing furniture in a house to sell is not staging the house. Staging is a comprehensive preparation of a property from the curb to the back fence. Furniture placement is the icing on the cake that will help define the space, overcome objections and call attention to the features and benefits of the house. Installing furniture in a house that is not properly prepared is not going to maximize the cost to benefits. It is imperative that this process be followed prior to listing the house and showing online because if a homebuyer does not get a good first impression from visiting a property, they will not be motivated to go back. After the house is prepared, cleaned and staged, professional photography is also integral to maximizing the benefits from the home staging preparations.
Eubank: What’s the biggest misconception you think people have about staging a vacant home?
LaMarr: When I speak directly with homeowners, they think staging is “too expensive.” Educating the consumer about the amount of labor that goes into properly staging the home and the benefits that staging will bring to the value of the sale will go a long way towards understanding of the process and costs involved. Many think that simply placing furniture in the house is staging and this could not be any further from the truth. The challenge to the Realtor, stager, and CORT is to educate the consumer so they fully understand the process, steps involved and why staging works. The results of properly implementing a total staging proposal have consistently proven to speed up the selling process and yield higher selling prices. In a world full of cookie cutter houses, it is important to use all available resources to set your house apart from the competition.
Eubank: Will CORT do the hands-on staging of homes if I want them to?
LaMarr: CORT is just one piece of the staging process. CORT supplies the furniture, art, plants, rugs, and linens, and I recommend that a client requests a site visit to help decide what furniture will work in a space. This can be arranged but we do not directly provide total staging services. We rely heavily on the staging community to complete the staging cycle.
I have always believed the process is a three-pronged approach involving the Realtor, stager and CORT. All three components are necessary to helping sell the house quickly for the best possible price. Building a solid relationship with the staging community is key to offering comprehensive services to our customers, and stagers that build a solid relationship with their local CORT representative will be able to offer top notch services to their clients. It truly is a team effort to produce the best results.
Karen Eubank is the owner of Eubank Staging and Design. She has been an award-winning professional home stager for more than 25 years. She’s been a professional writer for 20 years. Karen is the mother of a son who’s studying music at The University of Miami. An ardent animal lover, she doesn’t mind one bit if your fur baby jumps right into her lap. Find Karen at www.eubankstaging.com