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Articles.
by IAHSP®

Jennie Norris

SENSATIONAL HOME STAGING/TSR

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Articles.
by IAHSP®
Every business has a story. We want to share yours.

The International Association of Home Staging Professionals is proud to highlight business owners and companies in an around the business of Home Staging, Real Estate, Design, and Short-term Rental, though our IAHSP Articles Features. 

Our goal is to highlight and explore the various business models and services that are offered throughout our ecosystem and community, giving both the public and our membership the ability to learn more about the businesses and services available through our vast network of service providers and businesses.

Let's dive right into our latest IAHSP Article.
Q. Thanks for taking the time to sit with us to share your story with our readers. Can you start out by sharing a little bit about you and your company?

I am Jennie Norris, and my staging company is Sensational Home Staging. We serve the greater Denver region and provide occupied and vacant staging for Realtors, Investors, Builders and Sellers. We have been in business since 2002, and have Staged over 6,500 properties to date. We operate out of a large 16,000 sq ft warehouse full of tasteful, on-trend items we use to stage properties for the target buyer. And we love what we do!

Q. Everyone has a story about how they got started, what was the inspiration or the catalyst for you starting your business?

It was 2002. We had moved from the SF Bay Area to the Sacramento area. After working in marketing and sales for environmental consulting companies for 7 years, I became a stay-at-home Mom to our four children, then ages 3-8 years old. My husband was in the tech industry as a Fortune 500 Sales Account Executive, and the tech market had collapsed, so his base salary had been cut by a third and that would be "made up to him in commission." That was livable income for our family, so he came to me and said I needed to back to work.

I told him that would not work because between wardrobe, child care and transportation I would not net any money. I was also homeschooling our children. So I started looking for something flexible I could do from home. I remembered that our Realtor from the SF Bay Area brought a "stager" in to help us get ready for sale and I had tucked that info away. When we were searching for a house to buy in the Sacramento region, I saw an opportunity because not one house was professionally prepared for sale. I have an artistic background, I enjoyed decorating and knew I could transfer those skills into a staging business. I looked online to see if there were courses to take, and I went to San Jose and took two days to get Accredited as an ASP Home Stager from Stagedhomes. I knew how to build a business, as my background is marketing, but Home Staging was a brand new service in Sacramento, and I was not familiar with the real estate industry and why a realtor would want to work with a stager.

I was the first person to launch a business in Sacramento, I did a lot of educating of agents from throughout the region, and helped put Staging on the map. It took a solid 90 days of marketing for me to get my first real opportunity, as agents had not heard about Staging and didn't think they needed it as the market was "hot" Over time, the awareness and need of the service grew, and my staging company included seven Accredited Staging Professional Stagers located in three different counties in the region.

The catalyst was to have flexibility and freedom to set my own schedule and not be told what I was worth, when I had to be at work, when I could take lunch or vacation - and build something that, over time, could include my family. I had no idea what I was getting into with Staging, if it would really support our family, and thankfully the industry grew and it has provided a nice lifestyle for us.

Q. What services do you offer? And why did you choose to offer those particular services?

We are a full-service, professional home staging company and provide Occupied Home Staging Consultations
Occupied Hands-on Staging using homeowner's items
Occupied Hands-on Staging using our items
Vacant Staging for all property types (modest to multi-million dollar)
Short Term Rental Design and Installation

I chose these services as I do not like saying, "no," to a prospect or client, as if they really need a service, they will go find another stager who will provide it, and then that relationship has now gone to someone else. I also like the variety of services we offer so we are not going to burn out doing the same type of properties over and over, and I consider us a resource for our clients. If they need something, I am here to help them get it figured out.

Q. Did you ever have a project or customer, where everything was going wrong or the project was challenging? Can you share about that time, and how did you find a solution, or over-come the challenge?

We have had challenges through the years and I have found it usually relates to communication over expectations. We expect properties to be "stage ready," meaning not still being worked on and it is clean. This is part of our agreement that is shared prior to securing a staging project. So it is always funny to me that clients are surprised that we will not stage a house that is still being remodeled, dirty or cluttered after we have provided specific instructions on expectations.

As an example, we had an owner-occupied client we worked with this past year. His house was to be listed at over $1M and the property was nice, but he also had roommates. The homeowner promised his house would be "stage ready."

When the team showed up, the house was in total disarray, nothing had been completed, and the house was a mess. He was painting his cabinets so all the items from inside were strewn about the kitchen counters. Needless to say, we had to turn around and leave, despite the seller telling us, "This will only take me 5 minutes to put away!" That client stayed up all night to get finished and we came back the next day to complete the Staging. Even though he was frustrated, it was not possible for us to our best work in those conditions, and we were being paid for results, so enforced our agreement.

Other clients, usually investors who are remodeling a property, will hire us to Stage with a specific date in mind, and yet frequently they do not go and check the readiness of the properties themselves. Prior to us putting systems in place, we would often waste our time loading up, driving to a property only to find it was not able to be Staged, and then have to go back to the warehouse, possibly unload the items, etc. To overcome the challenge of us showing up to a property that is not done, we will go and preview it a final time or we ask the client to send us photos of the property showing the areas to be staged are completely ready.

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Q. Running a business is not always easy. What have you learned about yourself and your business, since launching your company?

I have learned I have a great capacity for doing what others will not in order to have a success that others do not have. The Staging industry has grown in the past 21 years that I have been involved - from being something that was seen as a flighty hobby to a full-fledged, lucrative business. I have learned that I am not a quitter, having made it through the worst real estate market downturn in recent history (mid-2000s), and I am tenacious, not letting rejection stop me from doing what I love. The business is a business - and many of us who launched businesses and were the first in a region, were not taught how to own and operate a successful business, and had to learn along the way. A lot of trial and error, mistakes that taught me what not to do, and watching what other colleagues were doing helped me find my path.

Q. We've all had either an employee or a customer that makes what we are doing worth it all. Can you share with us a story about an employee, vendor or customer that really impacted you and touched your heart?

A few years ago before the market was a hot market here, we had a client, Isabel, who was 80 years old and I was asked to do a staging consultation for her as she was planning on selling her townhouse and move to St. George, Utah. Her real estate agent paid for our initial staging consultation. Isabel was a former registered nurse who had found her way into the reflexology and massage healing arts. In fact, she created the diagrams that show how hands and feet are tied to massage, reflexology and healing, so she was a rock star in her world. She would see clients at her home, so one of the challenges was turning her lower family room back into a family room without renting any furniture, We had to be very creative with how we used her furniture and decor, and when I told her the price for the hands-on portion of the Staging ($500) she started to cry. I just could not leave her like that.

A church group came and helped pack up 60 boxes from her home and stored them in the garage. I decided to donate our time to her so her townhouse could be staged. Since her family was not helping at all, and she did not have the funds, I knew it was the right thing to do. The last townhouse that had sold was for $199K and she wanted to get $244K for her property. Her agent told her it would never happen, and wanted to list at $205K. Isabel insisted that the price be higher, and after Staging, photos and listing the property, it sold for $230K. It set a record for the highest priced property sale in that community! It made it all worth it to see the smile on her face and to get a hug from her before she moved away.

Q. If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice on how to manage or grow your business, what advice would you give yourself?

I would advise myself to make changes faster than I did in the past. I had team members who were dead weight, not doing their part to help market and expand, and who stopped paying their referral portion back to me for the leads and clients I sent to them. I don't enjoy being a "bad guy," so I would usually just wait for them to figure out that it was not working and they would leave. My being passive ended up costing me money and clients, and so I would tell the old me to treat it like a business from the start, and realize it is business, not friendship. I also fought opening up a warehouse because I did not want to be responsible for another operation, so it was years before I finally took the plunge. It did add another huge overhead piece and requires more people to run the operation, but it also allowed me to keep $250K per year or more that I was paying out to third-party rental companies, and in turn be able to control the look of the items we use for our staging projects.

Q. If a potential client were reading this article right now, what would you tell them about you, your team or your business that would convince them to choose your company?

Our company is the leading home staging company in Colorado with more awards and credentials than any other. With more than 6,500 properties staged since 2002, we have the expertise to know how to properly prepare any property for sale. More than that, we are not in this just for income - we care about the results our clients get and see us as a partner in that success.

Our Staging and Moving team are rock-stars. They are fast, efficient, and responsive - if a client has ideas, we listen. If they need advice on what to do to update their house, we provide that and do not look at every question as a way to increase our revenue. We know how stressful selling a property can be for all parties involved, and our goal is to help decrease that stress by providing a quality service that elevates the buyer experience and helps the seller get a great offer.

Q. What is one fact about you or your business that most people might not know?

We are a family business in many ways - my daughter is our lead stager having worked with me for 8 years, and our niece is one of the stagers on the team too, having worked her way up from assistant. My nephew has been a warehouse manager and lead driver for our truck. My husband and sons have all helped in various roles through the years, and I actually enjoy working with my family as I trust them.

Q. Where do you see your business going in the next 5 or 10 years?

Our goal is to continue to serve clients throughout the Denver and front range, increasing our revenue and volume, add to our services with increasing our design services, and then look at my exiting the company by that 10 year mark, if not sooner. I want to get the systems in place so the company runs like a well-oiled machine, so another person can step in and run things with ease.

Q. It was so great sitting with you to learn more about you and your company. How can people find out more about you and your business?

People can find out more at www.SensationalHome.com and on our social media profiles on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Our 888-WE-STAGE is an easy number to remember and calls come to me.

Q. Thank you so much for sharing your story with IASHP Articles!

Thank you for inviting me to share!

Articles.
by IAHSP®
Every business has a story. Articles by IAHSP wants to tell your story.

With Articles, we highlight the many businesses that make up and surround the business of Home Staging and Real Estate. We feature local businesses to learn how they got started, what makes them unique and where they are heading. Share the stories you read with your social network and help others discover local businesses that are doing amazing things, globally.

Every business has a story. We want to share yours.

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