By Gail Horowitz
Back in 2008 when people asked Jay Hart what he did for a living, he’d say he ran a staging company.
“Now when I meet clients, I say we are a consulting company — a very different answer,” said Hart, the principal and co-owner of Sold with Style, a firm that helps owners and brokers close the deal and get the highest price for a property when it hits the market for sale.
At Sold with Style, Hart and his partner, veteran stylist Barbara Brock, now call themselves “pre-sale consultants” who do much more than bring in modern sofas, bright pillows and colorful artwork to stage properties like a high-end luxury condominium or sprawling suburban mansion.
Today, their firm’s role in the real estate transaction has shifted dramatically.
Nowadays, Hart and Brock focus much more on the condition of a home: updating fixtures, walls, floors, plumbing more than just aesthetics or furniture, to improve the overall appeal of a property to a buyer.
“While styling and furniture still remain a vital piece of the puzzle in how buyers perceive a property,” Hart said, savvy sellers still have a lot of questions…
At what point in the sales process am I most likely to sell and get my best price?
Is it worth it financially to renovate, improve or repair a kitchen, bathroom or basement?
If I do renovate, how can I ensure a return on investment?
What can we do to pre-empt buyer objections before they happen?
According to Hart, Sold with Style hires and supervises contractors, painters, plumbers, electricians, flooring experts and landscapers to do minor or major renovations to a property, with staging designers overseeing and managing the process from beginning to end. In New York City, Dolly Lenz, a top residential broker with Douglas Elliman, contacted his company to work with the owners of an historic townhouse in Murray Hill.
What started as a simple staging project blossomed into a major renovation with the goal of Return On Investment.
Sold with Style also employs a unique, systematic method where they “rate” people’s homes and apartments.
Scores of As, Bs, Cs or Ds represent how ready a property is for sale and highlights the aspects that detract from current value.
“We are like tutors or coaches for our clients” said Hart. “We identify where they are now and develop a plan that will get them to where they want to be.”
“Our job now is to know what makes buyers choose one property over another, or what factors influence a buyer to make an offer close to asking,” said Hart.
He explained how he develops a buyer profile that formulates a picture of who is the most likely candidate for the property (age, sex, marital status, family size) and recommends improvements that will immediately pay back dividends to the seller.
“Our goal is to take the fear and uncertainty out of the process of selling a home,” said Hart, whose staff of marketing experts and designers collaborate to provide diagnosis, evaluation and solutions.
Sold with Style will also stage city apartments or suburban homes for owners, developers and top brokers like Barbara Corcoran and Venture Equity Partners, the developers behind the Bowery Hotel.
They recently modeled apartments for Gramercy 19, a new condominium project in Gramercy Park.
Designers pour through their 3,000 s/f Yonkers warehouse and its dozens of sofas, chairs, and more than 100 pieces of artwork to identify items that can be leased to clients short-term to improve the aesthetics of their property.
Hart, who joined with Brock in January of 2012, is president of the New York Chapter of the Real Estate Staging Association. He left a career in finance in 2007, just prior to the market’s collapse, to start his own staging company and never looked back.
“My background in finance taught me the value of having a successful model that can be used over and over again to create predictable results,” said Hart.