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Successful Staging for a Really Specific Market

In 2004, when we decided to relocate from the northeast to the southeast due to a job offer, I knew that staging a home was central to a successful sale but I did not realize how REALLY significant this field would become.  Now, in researching this blog, I have tremendous resources from which to learn about the staging process coupled with cable TV programs dedicated to just this particular topic.  But what I have not read or seen recently is how to directly stage a home for a particular market, which is what I was able to accomplish when we sold our home at that time.

During the previous 10 years, the town I was moving from had seen an influx in the Orthodox Jewish population, so I set out to learn as much as I could about this particular market's needs.  I did my research at the library, interviewed several real estate agents and selected an agent who was himself was an Orthodox Jewish Realtor®.  Single family homes were in great demand at the time; this before a building boom began a year later.  I had numerous Orthodox Jewish agents knocking on my door and leaving business cards in my mailbox so I knew the property was desirable.  I met new Orthodox Jewish neighbors who had moved into the neighborhood and I politely asked many questions about what my market would be looking for in a home.  I knew early on who would be interested in my home and devised a plan.

Prior to listing the home, we made some changes to the home to meet the desires of this unique population.  My spouse installed a double stainless sink in the kitchen as I understood that one side of the sink needed to remain kosher when preparing meals.  We only had 3 bedrooms in this home, two of which were small.  I understood that the average Orthodox Jewish family size consisted of 9 members; I had to stage the bedrooms to appear larger and able to accommodate growing families.  We pulled out all of the furniture and installed inexpensive bunk beds which made visible that at least 3 or 4 children could share one room.    

As many generations of Jewish families tend to live together, we wanted to improve our very large and dry basement, (which fortunately had high ceilings), and create added living space.  This was not a costly improvement and we were again so fortunate that the utilities were installed in the back of the basement so an inexpensive screen hid the unsightly water tank and water softener.  We created a pleasant looking bedroom and sitting area in this space, which appealed to many buyers who came through to view the home.  It did not have its own bathroom but a spacious half-bath was only located up the stairs from the basement.

Jewish families are known to have large family dinners during the Sabbath and on religious holidays. My dining room was not spacious but it did boast an open floor plan which meant that the dining room flowed into the formal living room. I downsized the living room to a few arm chairs and a small table and set-up a large dining table with my finest china, a few religious items and candles to show that great family dinners could indeed be enjoyed in this space. 

I held open houses before sundown on Fridays and after sundown on Saturdays to observe the Sabbath.  The Jewish buyers were forbidden to drive, work or do a number of other tasks on the Sabbath so I knew no one would come for an open house if I held it on a Saturday.  Sunday was my biggest open house day. 

I even staged my own appearance.  Knowing that Orthodox Jewish women dressed modestly, I wore a long skirt, long shirt and low shoes.  Pants worn in the presence of men were prohibited so I opted for a skirt.  (It was the fall so I did not look out of place.)  I did not go as far as to cover my hair with a snood, tichel (scarf) or a sheitel (wig) but I pulled it back to the nape of my neck.  I also had to get used to the fact that some Orthodox Jewish male buyers and agents did want to shake my female hand so I did not extend my hand when they entered the home. (That was hard to get used to as I always extend my hand.) I believe this rule means that someone was shomer negiah and that non-married people are prohibited from showing physical affection, even in the form of a business relationship. I was not there to offer any feminist opinions; I just wanted to sell my house so I held my hands behind my back!

I did make one mistake, though.  I took a trip to the Jewish market and picked up many wonderful cookies and desserts, which I left for the potential buyers to select during the open house.  Unfortunately, the serving dishes I used were not kosher so no one took any of the items.  However, my family and I enjoyed several new treats we probably would not have purchased otherwise! 

We had several bids for the property and the home sold successfully.  Buyers seemed to be especially appreciative that the home was staged with their interests in mind.  I overheard buyers say during the tours, "This dining room is big enough for my Sabbath table" and "We can fit all the children in this bedroom."

One type of community that is much easier to promote to the specific buyer would be a retirement community.  I noticed in one of Paulia Kennedy's retirement community listings, such as Fox Creek  that she will specifically state, 'no step entry' (to the home) or 'wide doorways' to accommodate a wheelchair or walker. 

I understand that in many communities one would not gear a stage project for just one type of customer.  In fact, staging a home most often appeals to the masses because one would not know who exactly who would walk through the door.  But in a community where homes are in great demand by a specific culture or religious entity, it may pay-off to stage the home to attract a specific buyer.  It is all about knowing who that customer may be; it could be anybody or it could be a specific population.  And remember, there's a fine line about being culturally correct as one would not wish to be insulting by stereotyping.

Janine Gregor is a Real Estate Virtual Assistant to Paulia Kennedy
She can be reached at YourVirtualWizard@tampabay.rr.com

Posted: Sunday, September 14, 2008 2:56 PM by Jeff and Paulia Kennedy

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