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Holly Gosa | Transforming Your Home into Something Beautiful

In today’s episode of Palm Harbor Local Podcast, we sat down with Holly Gosa of Upstaged to Sell where we will dive into why staging is important before you sell your home and why it is more than making your home presentable.

Holly also gives us a fresh perspective on the housing market and how you could hack your way to your first home sale.

Listen to the podcast episode here!

So Holly Gosa with Upstaged to Sell. Welcome.

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

I’m excited to kind of chat with you. We’ve worked together on a couple of homes staging homes and that sort of stuff. But so let’s just start there and tell people what it is you do it upstage to sell.

Upstaged to Sell is a full-service staging company, we offer consultations, just walking through with a homeowner and the realtor and just kind of giving advice and tips and tricks on what the homeowner needs to do to prepare the home to go up for sale for photos and showings and all of that, we can then bring things back. And we call that an occupied console, or unoccupied staging. And if there are things that need to come back, a lot of the times taking out personal photos, and those kinds of things, all of a sudden your walls are all bare. And so bringing back art or accessories or if you’re missing some furnishings that need to be added, we can bring those back and then fully vacant homes.

So if you’ve already moved out, or have an investment property that is maybe flipped and doesn’t have any furniture in it, we can bring back and furnish the home so that it’s the most appealing and photos and gets the most eyes on it. And then hopefully the most amount of people walking through and putting offers and that process of a homeowner is ready to sell their home, you come in and say make some recommendations. Whether they live there or don’t live there. Here’s what we can do to maximize the exposure of your property.

We definitely see ourselves as part of real tours, like a marketing team. Getting the most attention on the property as soon as possible. So it’s listed that it’s getting the most attention when a stage really well and who’s got professional photos and looks really great on all of the marketing materials that go out on the internet, or paper materials. More people are interested in it. It’s really that like curb appeal effect.

Yes, first impressions, right? It makes a massive difference but to me now home is staged or has been prepared for the market. And I think maybe it’s like the way marketing is and social media now. Right?

Yeah, staging is that much more important.

I mean, everybody’s looking at map properties online first. So if those first couple of photos are random, dated kitchen or something like that, and it’s empty, or bedrooms that have, so maybe they did paint or carpet or whatnot, and they’re vacant, it’s really hard for homeowners to or buyers to look past that and say, like, yep, that’s my house. I want to go into the preview. That’s, the one I might be interested in checking out with. So, we try to make them as appealing as possible in person and, and online.

It’s almost like the HGTV HGTV effect, right? Where it is like, we expect the home to look pretty and put together and magazine worthy. And if it’s not, it’s like, well, what’s wrong with it?

Yes.  And I think for a lot of people that’s it. It’s a little bit of a challenge. We were just talking about like separating yourself from your stuff a little bit.

Everybody has their own memories and attachment to the things that they put in their home and that is wonderful for you living in your home but you want somebody to walk through and to be able to pursue to be able to look at it and say like we want to make this our personal home and so on. Being able to separate the homeowners that are selling, to be able to separate themselves from the house and the stuff and those kinds of things to make it as appealing as possible to the buyers that are coming in so and I think like what you just touched on it, like make it as appealing as possible, right to the majority of buyers, right. So like your style, maybe it’d be great for you and what you want to do, right, or your lifestyle, but for the majority of people that are looking to purchase your home, it doesn’t it’s not what they’re looking for.

And that’s definitely a conversation we have with agents that we work with as well. It’s just like, who is the ideal buyer? Are we looking at a young family? Are we looking at a retired, couple that might be moving in? Of course, there are tons of condos and things like that. Is this going to be an Airbnb-type of condo? Or is this a 55-plus community where you’re going to have  some seniors that are just living here in the winter kind of thing? So targeting the right type of buyer generally for that property as well and how we style it and bring in furnishings and those kinds of things.

So what did you do before staging?

I was a teacher, teacher. I taught Spanish, middle, and high school Spanish for, like 14 years. I was in the online world. And then in brick and mortar school. We lived out in Colorado, and then up in Michigan for a few years. COVID hit our kids were doing online school, and we moved to Florida. And so I finished up my teaching career. I suppose I just got an email that my license for one of the states is expiring. Okay, burn the bridges. Oh, we’re done. Yeah and COVID happened in March, we finished out that school year in Michigan.

And then our kids started an online school in Florida. So they did their first semester online, in Florida, and then went back to the brick-and-mortar school here to open up here. And we, I kind of was like, Oh, I thought we were going to be doing this for the whole school year. But they decided we gave them the option.

Do you want to go back and they met a ton of kids in our neighborhood and just wanted to be back in the building? And so I was kind of, what am I doing? 

I was home. It was their teacher.  For at-home learning. And I had gone through a certification class for staging and really my intention was to do some consultations and do work alongside different brokerage offices or whatnot, and kind of help out as far as the staging goes and doing consultations with their sellers. But I’ve met some realtors in my neighborhood. And one of them said, Oh, well, this, this other lady in my office has done, she does some staging on the side.

And I was like, oh, okay, well, maybe I’ll just like tag along with her and find out like, what she does, and like how they run their business. We ended up chatting for a little while. And she was like, Would you be interested in buying the business?

And I was like, Oh, wow. Big guy big turn here. And so my husband and I talked about it and decided that I was going to make it a huge leap and just buy the business. So I bought the inventory, the client list, I bought the name. So upstage, to sell existing, Odessa, Trinity area prior to me being the owner, and they were in business for about three years. And so they all had, it was three business partners and they all had other jobs, one of them being a realtor. So we work with her a lot and she stages most referred for listings. And so I bought the business in March of 2001.

So two years now just over two years did you how did you get into staging and why staging?

My husband and I have always done a lot of flips and renovations and those kinds of things. Our first house was a fixer-upper. And so we really enjoyed that process of just like creating a home and like decorating and doing all of that. I didn’t know that staging was a thing until we went to sell our house in Colorado. And we had a stager come through and work with us and just say like, here’s what I would recommend bright yellow tulips on the center of the year would look amazing with the color palette that you’ve gotten the house and those kinds of things. And she didn’t bring in anything but had done basically that consultation and she was I reached out to her when I was like, I’m gonna go through the certification class, what’s your thoughts? And she was like, do it like, community’s awesome. She was a big encourager to me to do that. But I so when we sold our house in Colorado, she had done that consultation with us. And that was my first like, kind of exposure to the staging industry.

So how was that introduction made? Did your Realtor at that time introduce you to the stager?

So they were a realtor was a friend but they had this lady or other stagers come out for all of their properties and provide consultation and just give him some, again, some tips and tricks on like how to best prepare the house.

So do you think a lot of homeowners are in that same boat where they don’t know if staging is an option? Or they have that haven’t even considered that before?

I would say not a lot of homeowners, in particular, know that that’s even an option. And until Realtors bring it to their attention that like, hey, and I will say from the staging community side of things like we really are trying to make it more known. And also that it becomes a standard practice within the real estate industry that agents and homeowners alone they can reach out, this doesn’t have to be through an agent, necessarily, but it is an option and it helps you get more your, like, at the end of the day, everybody’s looking to get like the highest value. And for most people, this is their biggest investment, their biggest asset. So being able to move on to the next phase of life and get the most out of their home is the goal for everybody.

So, I know you’ve only been in it for two years now in staging but as staging has grown over the years? 

I should know, probably some more stats, but I feel like the first it was like 30 years ago, the first Queen of Home staging was like, it was about 30. So it’s definitely grown more recently. And as you mentioned earlier, like HGTV has a huge effect on it, like and I don’t even think necessarily when people are watching some of the, like flip shows or whatnot that people put into perspective that that is, is staging, now when, when that all happens, but it’s like they renovated this whole house and it looks great, and the colors are wonderful. And they put in these built-ins and whatever. But then there’s the greenery and the vases, the bedding, and all of that stuff that it has to give a finished look.

And so I wish they could almost like take that look and okay, it’s a stage and then lets it’s on stage it and to show people like what it looks like what a difference it really made.
We did all the renovation, right? It’s bacon. This is what we tell our investors all the time to just like, you’ve put so much time and money into this property, like make it look the absolute best. So that top dollar for it, because it’s the ROI on it that they’re looking for.

And the investors probably have to have like, the biggest opportunity to make a difference, right? Because the home is most of the time it’s brand new. Right?

Right. So they touched everything everything is clean and not always clean. But hopefully, if they’re doing their job correctly, right, it’s clean and then just to have like a vacant space with gray floors, gray walls, and then you just look like everybody else. That’s a big concern.

Yes. So, what are some challenges that you come across in staging? 

Holly Gosa | Transforming Your Home into Something Beautiful

Yes. So, what are some challenges that you come across in staging? 

I guess for different aspects of it like you just mentioned with different investors and things like scheduling is just we tried to be as accommodating and as flexible as possible. But when you’re dealing with like timeframes of trying to fit everybody in and all of that, I’m sure you see this as well, trying to schedule like the photographer to come and ask to come and a cleaner to come and all of those people, if one of those things gets knocked off, then everybody gets pushed back. And just trying that’s, that’s one challenge that we’re always just interacting with. And we try to stay ahead of it and make sure that we’re communicating as much as possible what our schedule looks like, and timeframes and those kinds of things.

But then, I would say, as well, like homeowners working with homeowners for occupied homes, we really do try to come in and, again, the end goal is getting you the most money for your home. So we’re trying to get your houses as prepared as possible, but you are dealing with relationships, and it’s, personalities and those kinds of things. And so trying to communicate those and be sensitive to people stuff. I actually walked through my grandfather’s condo recently, like see my grandmother who has passed, and I was like, This is really hard for him to like, actually, like you gotta take down all the personal photos. So I say that so often, but then when you like, see your grandmother, you’re like, oh that’s, that’s a hard thing to like, just take the photos off the wall.

So recognizing that it is personal and that some people have lived in their home for 2030 years, and then like, this is my home, I can change all these things, and you’re gonna make it look different. But the goal is for you to move on to whatever’s next. So sometimes that’s an even more sensitive conversation because they’re maybe not wanting to move. So having those relationships and having those conversations that are a little bit sensitive can be a challenge sometimes, but I enjoy, like, chatting with people and learning what they’re doing and where they’re going and try to be encouraging and positive on the next steps and all of that, and whatever their journey is.

I love that. I think that’s a big part of it, right? And kind of makes them feel a bit more comfortable about, making those, or making those changes and stuff that you’re recommending  to maximize their profit on the property. It’s, that’s always a delicate situation, like any time you have somebody that lives in the home, and it’s like, oh, you should paint the red wall, or the orange wall, a different color like I don’t want to paint I love the red wall.

We I, my husband and I, that our very first home I said was a flip. And I had like, traveled during college and was in Spain, because I had a Spanish degree and summer in Spain and different travel experiences. And I was like, Okay, we’re doing the Mediterranean like a bright orange wall. And it was like, he hated it the entire time. It was bright orange. It was like, God for the day that we finally were like getting ready to move. And it was like, Okay, we’re going to a neutral paint gallery. But I like, in my mind, like, this is our home, I wanted to be like creative and whatever. So we had this sponge painted orange terracotta type color. It was like, it made sense for us. And that’s the stuff that we had in there at the time. And are just like, We really like the Mediterranean kind of feel to it. But at some point, then you’re like, what is the most appealing to other people? Because this doesn’t have any connection to anybody that is looking at our home?

What is one thing that you think separates you from other stagers? 

I am super active on social media and pretty active in the community as far as networking and being a part of a lot of groups that are various, I guess, across the board as far as like, the service industry and those kinds of things. But I am relatively new. So I don’t feel like I am, like, kind of stuck in like a set way of how I’m running. So flexible in that and changing. We’re looking at right now we’ve been occupied staging on like, how we currently deliver it and like shifting some of those things. So as far as differences, other people have kind of been around for a long time, and just kind of like, this is how we do it. But also, like, I love meeting people and networking with people, and connecting people to others.

When I walked into the office, I was like, Oh, we’ve worked with like four or five agents that are it. I didn’t realize it was this office. We’re connected to So, I love meeting new people and connecting with them. So just across like, I feel like I interact with so many different professionals in different areas, so connecting them. But also just giving back to the community and being a part of a smaller networking group we give quarterly to different local organizations that are doing work, not necessarily in the real estate world. But then just recently got connected with pineapple projects. Okay, work with people coming out of homeless homelessness, and set up homes for them. So putting in all the furnishings and decorations and that kind of thing, and really just like setting them up for the next stage of life.

So that’s been a fun project as well. So just giving back in networking and being active, I suppose in the area.

I love that. I think connections and relationships, that’s a big part, of any business. And I mean, that is business, right? Like the relationship you have with, with your customers and you, your partners do, what to you? As far as staging at home, like do you have like a certain style? Or is it does it change? Depending on like you said before, like, who that ideal client is? Or who do we think the ideal buyer is for that property?

I would say we have a pretty traditional style, like maybe transitional a little bit like into the slightly more modern, a little bit of the, like, not mid-century, but I feel like that’s kind of the styles that are coming forward. And when we’re seeing like design styles coming out, like from the designer brands, and those kinds of things. A little more casual, not as like formalized. But we definitely have to take into consideration, especially with an occupied home what is the style of the furnishing that, because if we have like some pretty traditional, like, oversized, I’ve encountered a lot recently of like, the darker furnishings, and those kinds of things, if we bring in like a bright white super modern piece of art or other furniture to bring in, that just doesn’t match the style, either up the home or what they currently have in there. Just like, it just stands out. Like, that doesn’t seem like it’s in here. So making it all blend together is probably back to your challenge question. That’s one of the biggest things is working with people’s style, and then also the style of the home and then the ideal buyer. Right, that’s got it, thanks. Just making all of that work together and flow seamlessly. So it doesn’t feel like oh, that room on stage that room is very different.

Obviously,  I see the importance of staging, right? And anytime I work with a seller like we at least have that consultation, where it’s like, Okay, here are some recommendations to make some improvements, take down some photos maybe shift some furniture around whatever it is. What do you like, what do you see as the importance of staging, I’m sure, obviously, you think it’s very important. What are you seeing when people follow your recommendations like for occupied homes or even for unoccupied property?

I think I’m not sure if this is what you’re asking exactly. But like the biggest thing for each of the rooms of any of the homes is like the flow of the room and like the function of this space, so like having a singular function for a space is a big deal especially when you’re getting into like some of the smaller homes, maybe like on the beach or whatnot. It’s like we only have two bedrooms so we’re trying to like to have an office and a guest room and like exercise space or whatnot.

But really maximizing the floor space shows off like the square footage of the house or the condo or whatnot. And then that it flows nicely like visually so for your eye within the photos but then also like in person that you can like to walk through the space and you can work around your desk or you can get it across the treadmill that you’ve gotten the corner peloton or whatnot. So those I think are important pieces of it. Making sure that the space is functional but also like flows nicely with the whole house and its vibe of it.

Do you have like any stats on homes that have sold staged versus homes that are not?

Yes, I do. I mean, the big ones that come out from like the real estate staging Association run, like all of the numbers and work with the National Association of Realtors. And so they’ll put together like numbers every year. It’s like, the ROI is like 400% that you receive stage versus on stage is it is kind of difficult to see apples to apples.

I wonder how they get that data in there in the first place like National Association realtors, like, because it is hard to say like, well, if this home wasn’t staged, it would have sold for this. Right? But I definitely have seen a difference in my personal experience where the home is staged. And it sells faster. And then also like, sometimes it changes. I mean, just the look and feel of it. Like ups the value right there. 

And I bought just this is personal, anecdotal. But we recently staged a home. And a realtor was about to just about to list another home on the same street, like literally three, four houses up, walked through our stage house during the open house and was like, oh, no, we can’t list this house vacant. If this is a staged out, this is our competition, just three doors down. So she ended up having a stage in both houses that went under contract within the first weekend. I would have been nice like Harrison had she not stage. Of course, we love that she did. But it’s kind of difficult.

There’s another staging company out of like Orlando area, and they had a situation recently where it was one was virtually staged, one was left vacant, and then they had staged it, they pulled the numbers on it, and it was significantly more percentage sold above, asking, asking, and then like, was still sitting and like days on the market. And as well as like, whether or not you’re gonna get the listing price that you’re asking for?

The big thing I always say is just pricing presentation if it’s priced at the price point that it needs to be. And it’s presented really well. And that’s a lot of factors, right? So that should be staging. But that can also be your photography, that can be how it’s actually pushed out to the market, for people to view the listing at all, it’s just thrown up there. And there’s no real marketing behind that listing going up. That nobody sees it’s still like, it doesn’t matter that it’s a new listing on the MLS. It knows that it’s there.

So there’s, there’s a lot of factors that come into it. But there’s, there’s plenty of stats. 400% is one of the big stats, some people have said, like five to 23% above a vacancy.

So if it was unstaged and it’s hard to pull some of those right. And days on the market. Like I mean, that’s, that’s money in your pocket to write sometimes, as well. So and then you gotta think about, if you’re on the market for 30 plus days all the showings that you have during that time, you’re leaving the inconvenience of like, if it’s occupied, right, you have to vacate the property for an hour at a time, whatever it is.

And so just that inconvenience, factor two adds up as well. It’s maybe it’s not money, but that adds into the factor of in my opinion, of staging versus not staging it. 

.Another thing. I mean, price reductions are huge. And like, I know that I think for some sellers, a price reduction doesn’t feel like it feels like Monopoly money more than like putting the money out there. But you’re typically looking at at least a $10,000 price reduction, that is $10,000 off your money. So to like to invest in the staging upfront, to not do a price reduction later. You’re really saving yourself money. Like you’re earning more on the sale of your home at the end of the day.

So everybody if you’re listening, and you’re gonna sell your home, call Holly, let’s stage it. Yes. And make you more money. Exactly. Well, I want to wrap up with one question and if you’d be new to the area, I think would be kind of cool. But what is it like when you’re not working? What is one thing you like doing whether it’s going to a local park or the beach, or a local business, what’s your favorite thing to do?

I love hanging out with my family. We get outside quite a bit. So we’re going on bike rides or out on a boat or something. like that. We love going to the beach. We enjoy the beach. Like I said before we lived in Colorado. We loved being outdoors there and so we’re outdoor people, I guess I would say but really enjoy. Country line dancing. Oh have been to the country line dancing the stockyard a few times and then, there are a couple of local breweries that wicked pours up I enjoy going over there and cool hanging out with friends at Starkey Market.

I’ve heard I have not been stalking the market but I’ve heard great things about that. It’s obviously a really cool space. 

It is a great outdoors and they’ve got like, like music on the weekend. And food trucks and all of that stuff.

Very cool. What what’s your favorite beach to go to?

We try to go down a little bit further south away from some of the crowd. Like a kind of Bellaire area. And in between, like there and down by like, St. Pete Beach.

Those beaches are beautiful. I think more so then. I mean, I love Honeymoon Island and going out there. clear waters, obviously  a beautiful beach, but the crowds there are just next level.

But hopefully, we’re getting into the hotter time. Or not as it’s not as spring break. got crazy. All snowbirds and stuff. I was down at Clearwater one day and oh my goodness. Yes. A lot. And you get to like the line of cars to get into

You just sit in traffic for an hour. So it was just like, okay, maybe we’re becoming locals. were annoyed by the other people that are there.



Stroll through the laid-back streets of the Palm Harbor community with this informative podcast, proudly brought to you by Donnie Hathaway with The Hathaway Group, your trusted guide and local expert in navigating the diverse and ever-changing property landscape of Palm Harbor.

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