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RISMEDIA, May 4, 2009-In this market of months-long listing times, any idea that helps a home sell faster is a good one. For many real estate professionals, this means giving properties a competitive edge by having them decluttered and properly staged.

Mike Wagner, with Keller Williams in Leesburg, Virginia, was ahead of the curve when it came to staging, adopting the strategy back when the real estate market was still booming. “Five years ago, I started working with a stager I knew from another industry,” explains Wagner. “The market was heating up and agents were giving away everything to get more business. My mentor, Jim Brooks, who got me into Keller Williams, told me that staging was hot and that no one was doing it in our area. I decided to offer my listing clients free staging-I would pay for the entire process.”

As Wagner soon learned, staging can’t happen without first decluttering; and in order to effectively declutter, Wagner’s stager recommended PODS.

Essential to Moving Listings
Founded in 1998, Tampa Bay, Florida-based PODS operates in 48 states as well as Canada and Australia. PODS are conveniently placed in the homeowner’s driveway, allowing them to load extra, non-essential belongings into the container. Once loaded, the PODS container is moved to an off-site PODS Storage Center (located in every market) until the home sellers are ready to move into their new home-at which point the PODS container with their belongings is conveniently delivered. Customers lock the PODS container themselves and it isn’t opened again until it arrives at their new home, creating an important comfort level that their possessions are safe and secure.

“According to a 2008 national real estate survey of 2,000 real estate professionals conducted by HomeGain, sellers can see a 578% return on the costs of cleaning and decluttering a property,” says Matt Tillotson, marketing partnership director for PODS.

And, while staging may have served as a listing bonus for home sellers during the boom years, today, decluttering and staging are critical to moving listings faster.

“We find that it’s huge,” agrees Wagner. “There are so many agents and sellers out there that don’t get it. In our marketplace, if we’re priced where we’re supposed to be for a property and we get it staged, we’ll get it sold quickly. I put a property on the market three weeks ago (at press time); we had an offer within four days and had it under contract in nine days. It was a nice home, but staging made it sing. The staged home sells the best, and the vacant home sells the next best.”

According to Wagner, the staged home is the best way to show off the benefits of a property. While staging helps create the warmth of a lived-in home, it eliminates the overly personal trappings of daily life that can often obscure a buyer’s view of what it might really be like to live in that home. Thanks to PODS, the removal of personal and extraneous items becomes a simple process for homeowners.

Keeping It Simple Goes a Long Way
Mary Beth Driscoll, a Realtor with Keller Williams Real Estate in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, met with clients to list a home that she describes as having “unusual features.”

“I knew this home would look so much better if it were staged and decluttered,” says Driscoll. “I talked to the owners about getting rid of things, but they didn’t want to throw them away-they wanted to temporarily store them. They understood that this was necessary to make the house shine. But they had three children and knew they wouldn’t have the time to rent a truck, load it up, bring it to storage, unpack…that’s when I presented the idea of using PODS.”

After the home sells, PODS can move all of a customer’s belongings across town or across the country. Using PODS alleviates the need to drive a rental truck or adhere to stressful deadlines imposed by traditional moving companies. Customers stay in control of their schedule-a welcomed and cost-effective option with all the uncertainty in timing a move can create.

“Our research shows that the end of a move can be especially stressful,” says Tillotson. “PODS makes things much easier by allowing customers to unpack at their own pace. There is no pressure to quickly return a rental truck, or deal with a van line quickly placing belongings into a new home in an unorganized way.”

The experience couldn’t have gone more smoothly for Driscoll’s clients, she reports. “It could not have been easier. The PODS system is so streamlined, it’s idiot-proof.”

Driscoll recommends that agents become very involved in the staging process and connect to their clients in order to fully understand their decluttering needs, such as what size POD will be necessary. PODS containers come in three sizes: 8’x 8’x 7′, 8’x 8’x 12′, and 8’x 8’x 16′.

“You really need to act as a consultant with your clients,” says Driscoll. “The more you bring to the table in terms of resources and ideas, the better off you’ll be with clients. My sellers were totally cooperative and pleased with the process of using PODS.”

“The PODS program allows agents to add value to the client experience,” says Tillotson. “By providing savings on an easier way to declutter and move, agents demonstrate concern for their customers beyond the real estate transaction.”

Spend Now, Profit Later
While Wagner can no longer offer free staging in today’s troubled market, he does foot the bill for sellers to have a two-hour consultation with his stager. “I used to pay for the entire staging process. Now, we pay $200 for the stager to consult with people. After spending two hours with her, they want to have the staging done and are more than willing to pay for it.”

For Wagner, the $200 investment is well worth it. “If the home is staged, I don’t carry the listing for a long time, I don’t spend as much money on advertising, and I’ve canceled open houses.”

According to Driscoll, decluttering, at the very least, is a must in today’s market. “If you don’t do it, the house will sit for months and months at a time,” she explains. “With a lot of people watching shows on stations like HGTV, they pick up on a lot of things. When they’re out there looking for a home, they’re more picky about things being clean and nicely organized.”

“PODS make the decluttering and staging so much easier,” says Wagner. “It facilitates the staging process and makes it very simple for the homeowner.”

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