Childhood experiences often play a part when it comes to choosing a career path further down the road. This was undeniably the case for the owner of Staged Above, Shari Auldridge.
Having a Dad who opted for a military career with the Air Force, Shari became very familiar with the moving process; they moved a lot! She learned about packing items away, parting with some possessions and learning how to arrange everything into new locations, settings and spaces.
An American Kid In Japan Makes The Return Trip
Shari’s family, including her older sister and younger brother, lived in Japan for 4 years. Shari attended Second through Fifth grades there and considers it the most interesting place she ever lived. “It was awesome, as a kid, being there.”
“We never flew back to the States for the whole 4 years, so when my Dad was stationed right after that in Texas, they bought a car and drove from California to San Antonio just to be able to experience the drive,” shares Shari.
She further recalls, “We were, all of us, excited to see a K-Mart, as ridiculous as that sounds. It was like …Oh, a K-Mart! Oh, a McDonald’s!”
An Air Force Brat’s Early Basic Training In Staging To Sell Homes
Early on, Shari and her Mom shared a passion for viewing model homes. They would go around on weekends and take a look at what was out there, just for fun. “I liked looking at things like that; homes on the market…how people decorated.”
This early introduction caught and held her interest, in a big way. Of course, it wasn’t called ‘staging’ back then but that’s exactly what it was. It helped to develop her keen eye for details. And, it ultimately led to the start-up of Staged Above, her own very successful and highly in-demand staging company.
A Final Move For This Air Force Brat Turned Army Wife
Shari’s husband was Army. “We actually met in Arizona when he was stationed there in the Army and my Dad was Air Force.” They have lived in Washington County, MD since 2001; it’s the place that her husband calls ‘home’.
“I’m unhappily here and stuck! I’ve been here 12 years! It’s the furthest North I’ve ever lived. I can’t stand the cold weather. I feel like I’m stuck!” Then, looking at the plus column, Shari continues “But, I have a great business here and good friends and things like that…but..I’m not crazy about the weather!”
Shari is the proud Mom of 3 boys and one daughter, ranging in ages from 9 through 18. Her oldest son is in the Criminal Justice Program here at Tech High.
“He’s already enlisted in the Air Force. We were hoping for Air Force because we felt like that was a little bit safer but he ended up deciding to join one of the most dangerous jobs in the Air Force. So, as a Mom, that’s a little bit scary,” she confides. “But, I’m proud of him!”
The Transition From Stay-At-Home Mom To Entrepreneur And Business Owner
“I was a stay-at-home Mom for 12 years before this. Prior to that, I was in Real Estate years ago.” During those years, Shari loved helping the clients to prepare their homes for successful viewings. “But, essentially, most of my time as a wife and Mom has been as a stay-at-home Mom.”
Then, as all of the kids went off to school, Shari decided she had to do something. It’s not too surprising that this gal with a built-in passion for making everything look great decided to decorate wedding cakes. She was great at it but “there was really no money in that. It was a lot of work!”
It didn’t take long for Shari to move onward from there to become a professional Stager. It was such a natural career choice for her, as it combines her life-long passion for staged, model homes with her prior real estate experience in preparing homes to be shown to potential buyers.
Reflecting on creating her own business, Shari says “Going from being a stay-at-home Mom to a business owner is a huge change for the whole family. But, I have a very supportive husband who has really picked up. He actually does most of the cooking now, which is kind of nice.”
Staged Above Becomes A Major Player In The Real Estate Scene
Staged Above was born about 3 years ago and it hasn’t stopped growing since! Shari’s successful endeavor, in large part, is due to both her passionate interest in her work and her determination to be the best in the Staging arena.
Even though professional credentials are available, not every Stager seeks proper training. “There is no training required to call yourself a Stager,” reveals Shari. “I have my ASP (Accredited Staging Professionals) accreditation.”
This dedicated professional has taken a 3-day course in Annapolis; twice, in fact! She’s also a member of RESA (Real Estate Staging Association) and attends their yearly conferences.
“I’m constantly learning. I’m going to a training in New York next month I’m really excited about. That’s through RESA, as well.”
Staging Must Be A Prompt For The Buyer To Mentally Unpack
“It’s not decorating, like people think. It’s really not! It’s very psychological and very different than decorating in someone’s style.”
“You want to get that buyer to mentally unpack! If we can get that client mentally unpacking, they’re going to write the offer,” Shari says with confident enthusiasm.
So, how do you get them to mentally unpack? “It’s not de-cluttering and de-personalizing. It’s so much more than that. You don’t want a buyer to walk into your home and immediately feel like they’re invading someone’s house,” Shari points out.
“You want them to walk in and just freely walk from space to space. You want to create that story for them. You want them to feel themselves living there; to picture their furniture there..their family photos on the wall.” Shari talks to the sellers about all of these things during the initial consult.
The Challenges Of Occupied And Vacant Stagings
Shari relates an experience that stands out, as she considers what it’s sometimes like to help prepare an Occupied Real Estate listing. Recently, one frazzled Mom had tremendous hurdles to jump over to make her home ready for viewing.
Among the ‘no-nos’, there were toys in the dining room and dark paint everywhere! Shari walked the lady through the steps that had to be taken and there was an amazing transformation as it all got done. ‘The house sold in less than a week!”
“Clients really do what I ask because I’m able to relay to them a reason and why I’m asking.” She definitely doesn’t walk in and say ‘get rid of this’ and ‘get rid of that’ and refer to items as being ‘ugly’.
“You can’t do that. These are people’s homes; they live there. They love their things!”
Realtors rely on Shari to know how to get the cooperation of the home owners without hurting their feelings. “We get to be the bad guys. We’ve been trained to know how to talk to them.”
When it comes to Vacant Real Estate, “I do a lot for investors. I also get calls directly from sellers who see the value in it.”
Shari continues, “You don’t really need to stage every room in a vacant but it’s definitely important to do the Main Living Room, your Kitchen, possibly the Dining Room and your Master Bedroom and Bath, at the very least.”
“If there are odd spaces or rooms that people don’t quite understand, it’s good to stage those areas and show furniture placement,” Shari wisely advises. She maintains a warehouse of furnishings and staging props.
Art and furniture can be rented out to Occupied homes, as well, but Shari tries to reuse or repurpose what the sellers already have and ‘get their stuff looking the best we can get it.’
Shari Sold Her Staging Expertise Having No Prior Experience At All
Shari reached out to the local SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) Chapter in Washington County. Prior successful business owners volunteer to help new entrepreneurs to get started. “I knew nothing about owning a business,” confides Shari. “It’s a really cool free thing that’s out there in everybody’s County.”
After the training, Shari made her brochures, met with an accountant, got the Tax ID No. and met again with her SCORE guy. He informed her that he knew of a guy who flipped houses and probably put yard sale furniture in them. “He could really use you,” he said.
Shari then met with a big Realtor and he said “hey, there’s this big investor here in Washington County and he could really use you.” There were like 3 or 4 people essentially telling Shari about this guy, and yes, it was the same guy!
Shari thought, “By the time I meet him, he’s going to be so sick of hearing my name.” Still, she made an appointment to meet with THE guy, Mike Fitzgerald. “He’s a young guy who’s all over the place!”
Shari shared a book with examples of what she could do. She had never (not ever!) had a consult before this. She had never (not ever!) staged a house before, either! She was doing what she refers to as the ‘fake it ’til you make it.’
Mike, a very fast-paced, amazing businessman, flipped through the sample book, liked what he saw and immediately sent her out to do a huge house for him. This happened even though the photos didn’t showcase anything Shari had actually done; they were just pictures of what she COULD do!
Opportunity knocked and she didn’t hesitate to answer! Shari had absolutely no inventory at the time. She charged $100 for the job and spent $3000 to complete it. Totally inexperienced, she had no idea how much time would be involved. But, it was the start of great things to come! Mike loved it.
“He thought it was the best staging he’d ever seen in his entire life,” Shari says with well-deserved pride. “He’s used me ever since. I’ve gotten so much business from investors because of this guy who thought I was amazing based on pictures that weren’t even of my work!”
As for the very first Occupied Staging, “I did it for free, just to try to get some pictures. I look back at those now and think it’s funny. They were really bad! I was using really bad air mattresses; they were just laid on the floor!”
Shari continues, “Things have evolved and gotten much better, but it’s always fun to talk about those first stories.”
Shari Offers Valuable DIY Staging Tips For Home Owners
The Master Bedroom and Master Bath need to feel like a Hyatt Hotel & Spa. Go to Target; buy some white, fluffy towels. Put them in the bathroom, or, I can come help you do the ‘Hotel Fold’ on them.”
Shari moves right along, “Don’t overlook color. Add a touch of color by buying some throw pillows and things like that for your couches.” As for the kitchens? “Leave out one or two of your main appliances; put the rest away!”
“Buyers want ‘move-in ready’ nowadays; they’re very picky. Don’t add a lot to their ‘no’ list when they’re looking.” Also, it’s advisable to make the home ‘Q-tip clean’ – in other words, make sure it’s really, REALLY clean!
“Put rooms back to their purpose,” advises Shari. A lot of times, people with kids will take a dining room and use it as a playroom. When it’s time to sell it, it’s important to show the original purpose. “Get the toys out of those spaces and put it back to a purpose.”
“Those are all things a seller can do without me coming in.”
Staging And Photos Work Together
“Photos are very important. Staging and photos go together. Without one or the other, it just doesn’t work.”
People today are looking online before they even call the Realtors or Owners for a showing. Shari says, “I tell my clients to take out their cell phones and look at the place through the lens of their cell phone.”
“That picture needs to look good on their cell phone as they’re NOT driving down 270 looking at Realtor.com,” she jokes with her clients. “That’s the reality of it.”
“A lot of people aren’t even using their desktops anymore. We’re on our phones. The pictures need to really look good and that starts with the editing, the staging and the good photography.”
Even if a purchase isn’t made solely on the quality of the staging and the photos, potential homes are often eliminated from the buyers’ lists based on what’s seen online. “You want them to fall in love with your house through those photos and pick up that phone and call!”
Every Home Seller Wants Faster Sales For Higher Profits
There’s no arguing with some very basic, and impressive, facts about the benefits that Shari’s services bring into the home sales equation. Staged Above can help you to move your home up to 83% faster! The average time on the market for Staged Above homes is an incredible 23 days!
And, don’t be surprised if you get a considerably better sales price, too! Staged homes look better at every glance – in print media, online and during the actual viewing. Potential buyers, housing inspectors and home appraisers regard staged homes as properly cared for, well-maintained and more valuable.
Don’t overlook the possibility that Staged Above’s services may be considered a tax deduction.
Motto Of A Working Mom And Successful Business Owner
Shari is happy to pass along her favorite personal and professional mottos. Regarding the personal motto, she isn’t sure if she heard it from someone else or if she came up with it on her own through experience but it’s now very familiar to her kids.
“Eat or Don’t” This saying is on a chalkboard wall in this busy Mom’s kitchen. “Eat or Don’t. That’s your choice. I’m not a short-order cook. I have too many kids to do that.”
Her business motto is equally ‘to the point’ – “Under-Promise and Over-Deliver” Does it work? “It works every time! If you’re constantly over-promising and don’t deliver on it, people get upset. But, if you can under-promise and over-deliver, people are happy.”
Shari Auldridge, the Air Force Brat, Army Wife, Proud Mom and Owner of Staged Above stopped faking it a long time ago; she has most definitely made it! Put her remarkable Staging expertise to work for you to make Faster Sales for Higher Profit.
Note: If you share Shari’s passion for Staging and you’d like to know more about how to become properly trained and accredited, she’ll be happy to steer you in the right direction. Just ask and she’ll point the way!
Email: Shari@stagedabove.com Give a call or text @ 240-520-1471
Content provided by Frederick Advice Givers Podcast #007