[The Bamberger Group] To start, could you tell us about your experience in Connecticut as a home owner, when you first noticed how staging led to a rapid shift in interest from buyers?
[Gail Stempel Dunnett] I think that place was sitting on the market for at least seven months, and then once it was furnished we had multiple offers within a month. So that was my first real experience with it and living proof. I didn’t even know what staging was at the time, and now here I am with a staging company – I get it now because I lived it. when I started the business in California, we came across some research that was done by a large, national home staging company that researched two thousand different homes and compared the empty homes versus the staged homes. And they found that staged homes would get 10-15% higher selling price than an empty home and it would sell in half the clients. So, there are hard cash and statistics regarding what you can actually feel when you walk into an empty space versus a staged one. We just did a penthouse in New York where the developer mentioned how it was easier to walk into a staged space and “get it” because it’s hard for people to see and visualize an empty space. By staging it, you’re creating a lifestyle that people can relate to a lot more than some walls, ceiling, and windows. One of the issues concerning developers is that staging is the very last step, the icing on the cake, and sometimes they’ve invested so much money, effort and time into the property that they’re at the end of the line. But while staging is a small percentage in the whole grand scheme of things, it attributes so much to the selling of the property that it’s really valuable. Our line is, at least connect on the investment. If you have a million dollar place and you’re getting 10% more on that, so you’re getting $100,000 more because it’s staged and it cost you $10,000-20,000 to stage, that’s a good return on investment. It talks to the people who understand the numbers, as well as those who understand the visual and emotional side of things.
[TBG] You have a very unique service that you offer - could you explain your creative and technical process? Do you own the furniture and set pieces you use to stage, or do you rent them out? How much of your team's labor is spent on creative energy, and how much on logistics in obtaining the right materials from the right vendors?
[GSD] Very early on, we started with renting. It didn’t work because we couldn’t get the pieces we wanted, and therefore couldn’t create the look we wanted. We began buying all our own inventory so that we could get what we want when we wanted it with a financial [framework] that worked. The people who stage for us must be both right and left brained, in that they have to be creative, but also meet deadlines and deliverables. This business is highly organizational and operational, so we are very careful to get the people who can be creative but also have great customer service, follow-up, and relationship building deliverable. Organization is essential because there are deadlines with photoshoots and getting on the market, especially at the level and price point that we’re staging at. It is important for us to work with people we can trust and rely on, but who are also creative and talented. Those are the people that thrive because they’re very autonomous, but also have the flexibility to use their talents in accordance with their creative vision.
[TBG] Is there a "safe zone" common denominator to taste, and if so, is it your responsibility as a stager and marketer to use an inoffensive or generic style so you don't risk turning off potential buyers? Conversely, do you find that making bold design choices is in fact more rewarding and benefits your clients in the long run?
[GSD] The three words we use to describe what we do are sophisticated, thoughtful, and bold. We want to be bold, but not offensive, and we want to be memorable, but not over the top. We don’t want to be boring and vanilla because it is important to be interesting. There are designers who do the same recognizable style with little to no variation, but we try and customize the design and the look to the space. It’s important for us to be unique and stand out, and in that regard we try to be different, explore new styles, and aim for pieces that will make the place memorable.