Phyllis Pafumi of Restyled to Sell is a Home Staging Expert® based in New Jersey and offers full-staging services from New Jersey to Staten Island, New York. She’s one of the most talented and busiest Home Staging Experts® I know! The first moment she had a chance to catch her breath, we took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her business.
Hi, Phyllis! So how long exactly have you been professionally staging homes and why did you decide to get into this field?
I started in March of 2006. I was laid off from a job that I really did not like so much and went to the unemployment office, and they asked what I loved doing and I said decorating and restyling homes. They sent me to their SEA Program (Self Employment Business Program) and I went to learn how to run a business. All of my family and friends advised me that I should start staging homes professionally because it was something I was already doing for my family and friends for 30 years (for free). I took my staging course with Lori Matzke (Home Staging Expert® Certification Workshop) and within 2 weeks had my first job and have never stopped working since.
What was your background before that?
I was a Real Estate paralegal and taught dance classes for over 25 years!
When did you realize the Home Staging business was truly the business for you?
I always loved this but never thought you could actually make a living from it. When I was laid off and after talking to my unemployment advisor and when asked what I really loved to do, I had my ‘a-ha’ moment! There were no openings in my field and I really had no choice. I had to work, this was ‘do or die’, and I swore I would make it work!
What do you love most about Home Staging and what do you like the least?
I love helping people sell their homes! I love that every day you meet someone new and the job never gets boring. I love the choosing and designing of builder’s model homes. I love that I get to shop and spend other people’s money! What I mean by that is that every house may need something new and we do get paid for our work and inventory. What I like the least is the consultations. I find them boring and to me, redundant. I want to do the staging, and frequently start flipping the furniture around for them during the consult! I also stopped doing Realtor presentations as I found them to be not very productive and it took time away from my staging jobs.
Was there anything about the business that totally surprised you in the beginning?
YES! It was nothing like you see on T.V.! I remember after one of my first jobs, everyone couldn’t wait to hear what I had to say about how it went, and I came home disappointed and told them I felt like nothing more than a glorified house cleaner.
Has the Home Staging Industry changed since you first started out?
When I started, no one knew what staging even was. I was one of just three Home Staging companies in the entire state of New Jersey! Today, every T.V. show and every household talks about staging! Sellers interview Realtors and base their decision on whether they work with a home stager or not. Right now, there are too many stagers out there competing and trying to undercut each other. This is not a good practice for the industry. When I started my business, other stagers throughout the country would chat with each other and help each other out. Today, they are not as willing to share information as we did many years ago. I cannot imagine where I would be today without some of my fellow stagers from 2006-2009! We would collaborate on marketing materials and share a lot of helpful tidbits. No one does that anymore.
Do you have a specialty?
YES! We are known for our ‘2-HOUR MINI-REDESIGN’…this is a service we provide to our REA’s. We show up, sight unseen, and totally transform the house using only what the clients already own. We do several of these a week and it is amazing how creative we have to get, but we always leave totally stunned by how beautiful the house turned out! Personally, if I had my choice, I do love staging vacant homes and this year, we’ve had more vacant stagings than we’ve had in the past 13!
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Home Staging?
That anyone can do it! People think that just by watching HGTV, they are now a stager. I actually get upset when I see a homeowner decluttering their home, then place a bowl of lemons on the table and call it staging. UGH! Some people have no clue the amount of time and energy it takes to properly stage a home for market. It is all about highlighting the selling features and downplaying the negative features. Putting a bowl of lemons on the table will not sell your house! Staging your home with the correct furniture placement, proper decluttering and accessorizing will enhance the space, and with a professional, experienced home stager, the house will sell quickly for more money.
If you could give one piece of advice to sellers looking for a home stager, what would it be?
Check their website out, get referrals, and do not choose based on price only.
Would you do anything differently if you were just starting out in the industry today?
I don’t think so. I’m happy with the business model I have chosen. I decided long ago to work with a furniture rental company to assist me in the staging of vacant homes and I am blessed to have been working with the same company for the past 13 years. I am happy with all my decisions!
If you could give one piece of advice to people who want to start a Home Staging business, what would it be?
Be prepared for a lot of work! Develop a good business model and be true to yourself. Try not to copy others, it will only frustrate you. Work with a (furniture) rental company in the beginning and try not to get into debt buying too many large pieces of inventory. When I started out, as I would get a vacant listing, I would specifically shop for that home. I eventually built quite a nice accessory inventory to cover each style, color, and theme. And finally and perhaps most importantly, ANSWER YOUR PHONE WHEN IT RINGS! If you don’t, they will just call another stager!
Any final words of wisdom you’d like to share?
Being a home stager is a rewarding but challenging business. This might sound strange, but if you are only in it for the money, it will not work for you. You must be in this business because you have a heart to help people. You will hear all sorts of sad stories with each household you enter. Be prepared to be kind, generous, and loving. Take one day at a time and before you know it, you will be exactly where you want to be…running your own successful business! I remember when I first took my course with Lori, she said she did 4 consults a day. I remember turning to one of the other students and saying, “That is crazy! That means you could be making up to $1000.00 a day!” Well, here I am, doing up to 4 consults or 2 hands-on stagings a day. In time and with the right attitude, you will be successful.
Thank you for taking the time to share your insight, Phyllis! We are so honored to call you a Home Staging Expert®!
If you are looking for a Home Staging Expert® in New Jersey or Staten Island, New York, please visit Phyllis at www.restyledtosell.com or contact her directly at 732-995-3425.
*All photos depicted are the property of Phyllis Pafumi and www.restyledtosell.com. All copyrights apply.
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