Staging Vacant Co-Ops and Condos

Last year, at a really low part of the market I got a call from a Realtor I had never met; someone from her office had picked up my brochure from a talk I did at the local library and passed it on.

She had a co-op she needed to sell…been on the market for some months, no interest, but there was no money…but she really needed to sell it…but there was no money…but-well, you get the picture. I had heard it before but this time I heard it a little differently.

Staging is about showing buyers where furniture goes, and how a space would be used, so in a vacant space, the logical and most successful solution is to bring things in. However, in the furniture rental business there are monthly rental minimums, and contracts that start at 3 months; so in units of say, 850 sf or less, the price to furnish them is proportionally higher, while the potential for net gain is…well, for a number of reasons, not so much. YET-at that point in the market, number of sales were down by a third, average sale was  down 7-10%, and OHYES there were 350 more co-ops on the market that a year earlier, so something had to be done.

Staging is ALSO about ideally using the resources you have, while creating the solution whose results  will most closely meet the seller’s expectations. The online listing photographs were not pleasant; a study in off-white, everything looked old and dingy. Professionally I saw potential in the space, and then-!!-the opportunity, and started looking at vacant co-ops and condos in a whole different way.

With a program I’ve use for my Decorating clients, I did the floor plan above. Printed it in usual 1/4″=1′ scale, on a full-size sheet of graph paper. Placed it in a stand, and made copies available for buyers to take with the actual listing sheet at the end of the showing (complete with selling agent and the agency in the title block). To cut to the chase, signed contracts were in hand in 4 weeks, for 97% of asking price, as is.

Here is the plan for another unit, similar circumstances. Long-time, older owner who moved out of state to live with her daughter; painting, removing badly faded carpet and refinishing the floors was necessary. I picked paint and finish colors, and 5 weeks on the market, multiple offers, contracts were signed for 5% under asking, with a substantial cash deposit.

Real Estate has never been for the faint of heart. In Westchester, end of first quarter saw a combined condo/co-op inventory at a record high of 2420 units.Yet this is the segment that shows the most movement and has the least complicated financing needs. We can wring our hands, and moan about the state of affairs while we write checks for the monthly carrying costs, or see the opportunity, take charge, move forward, and stand out in this very crowded field. (Remember, Staged properties appeal to other agents, too) There are those that would argue that floor plans and paint are not Staging, but I happen to know a few sellers and agents who would disagree with you!