This column is in collaboration with Jaclyn Isaac and focuses on the interior design and inspiration behind some of our favorite places in Jersey City. Jaclyn is an interior decorator and design blogger in Jersey City. Her personal blog can be found here, Dog Lady Design Files.
After witnessing the outrageous selling tactics featured on shows like Million Dollar Listing, staging a home that’s about to be put on the market seems like a no-brainer, right?
That’s not always a seller’s sentiment, and in a market like Hoboken’s, Rita Sisti, In-House Staging Expert for Hudson Place Realty and Owner of Style Counsel, she’s seen it all.
“We had a client once a while back who actually used her appliances as storage! It was very Sex and the City, but buyers wouldn’t likely find that amusing.”
I spoke with Rita at bwe Café in Hoboken and asked her to demystify the home staging process.
Rita Sisti: Years ago, staging wasn’t what it is now. There really wasn’t a “staging” career path. My intent was to be solely an interior designer, but my husband had an apartment that came up on the market that needed help – an unkempt bachelor pad. So I said to him, I’ll go over there and tell these guys what they need to do and get their apartment more marketable, and really that’s how it started. I do this as a service to our agents gratis. We were the 1st agency that started doing this – that’s one of our real differentiators as a company.
Jaclyn Isaac: What is a typical day like as a home stager?
RS: It’s often difficult to persuade a homeowner to spend significant amounts of money on a home as they’re planning on leaving, but that’s part of my job – to best increase a property’s marketability and appeal to as many buyers as possible. There are some basic things people can do – like paint. Years ago it was “don’t smoke in your house, pick up your laundry off the floor”. Now it’s a whole report with written guidelines. If the space needs furniture or décor, I have options: I use my inventory, the client buys new items, or I rent from various vendors. I set clients up with plumbers, electricians, contractors for all types of jobs. I’ll go shopping with them, picking out final accessories, styling their place – the whole thing!
JI: Rent vs. buy?
RS: I definitely rent less. Mostly because you can’t go to the rental companies and rent smaller items for a room and keep it cost effective. In most cases, it’s actually cheaper to buy. You don’t have to worry about minimums or rental periods, especially in a fast market like Hoboken – you would have to hold that furniture for a three-month minimum if you sold it before the rental agreement ended! The upside, though, is that you aren’t storing anything and they pick it up for you.
JI: Do you find a lot of homeowners in this area have the basics down? Like things just need to be refined with paint and cleaned up?
RS: It really runs the gamut – but my rules are always: First you edit, and then you curate. Sometimes you walk into a space and they’ve nailed it… but that’s rare!
JI: Do you ever work on new buildings and new construction?
RS: Working with developers and builders to select final finishes is my favorite thing to do! I love construction; I love the smell of fresh cut wood. We just completed two projects with developers, 705 Clinton and 314 Bloomfield.
JI: What about LEED certified buildings?
RS: Usually everything in there needs to be organic and sustainable. Eight years ago, Garden Street Lofts was the first LEED certified residential high-rise in NJ and all the staging I did for it was completely organic, right down to the art and bedding. It was hard back then to find sustainable items that weren’t super expensive and readily available!
JI: And good looking to boot…
RS: I found furniture made in California and had it shipped out. We wound up moving all that furniture and staging material to the next unit as each unit sold. I still see the items we sourced in their marketing materials for their newer buildings. That’s a priority for me – I don’t like to have people spend money on things that won’t move along with them.
JI: Do you collaborate with local artists and designers?
RS: We did a project in Union City – Union Hill – we used a photographer in the Yardley building. The Neuman leather building is full of artists and furniture makers. I used Andrew Coslow’s furniture from his company APC Furniture, and his partner Joseph Ventura’s art – they’re wonderful.
JI: Thoughts on the rapid expansion of home staging?
RS: Current expectations of both buyers and sellers have changed so dramatically; buyers now expect that the property looks like an ad, a Nancy Meyer’s film set: the throws, lotion in the bathroom, completely aspirational.
JI: Is Jersey City a different aesthetic than Hoboken?
RS: Pretty similar, the bigger difference is between here and the suburbs. I have a friend in Chester; the appreciation for her work would be lost here – buyers are on the hunt for a specific “downtown city” look.
JI: I’m sure you often shop locally when you’re staging a place under a tight timeline- what are some retailers around here that you swear by?
RS: Luna Rosa! They do a lot more than you think they do. Diane Stiglich is one of my favorite local artists – she has a studio in the Monroe Center.
JI: Tell me about Style Counsel.
RS: I take private clients through Style Counsel. They are usually referrals from a staging project; my process is similar to staging, yet I’m able to take more time. For a staging job, we’re usually doing it super fast. I can do it in a week.
JI: Like HGTV!
RS: HGTV amazes me – it’s not realistic. You did this in 4 weeks, for $20k, and you didn’t need to get permits? Where do you live??
JI: Clearly not Hoboken…
Visit Rita and the rest of the team at Hudson Place Realty’s new uptown office in Hoboken on 14th and Bloomfield!