It was the late 1990s and Meridith Baer—at the time a screenwriter—was fixing up a house she was renting in Brentwood between scripts. She did a good job. Too good, actually. When the landlord saw how nice the place was turning out, he asked Baer to leave so he could sell it. Fortunately, she had a backup: A friend had a house that was languishing on the market, and Baer volunteered to spruce it up. After she was finished, the house sold in days, for $500,000 over the asking price. A pattern was emerging. So was a business. Soon, Baer was one of Los Angeles’s most in-demand home stagers.
“I didn’t realize how many people really don't know how to put a house together,” Baer tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “There was this need to dress a home, but no one had identified it. I wish I could say, ‘Oh, I identified it!’ But I didn’t. It was an accident. I just started doing it.”
At the time, home staging was a slightly quirky concept. Today, it’s a thriving industry, and Baer’s eponymous firm is its titan. With offices around the country, a staff of more than 250, hundreds of thousands of feet of warehouse space and a massive inventory of furniture, art and decor, her company stages thousands of homes every year. Most are on the higher end of the market, where Baer’s team helps move billions in real estate annually.
At this scale, Baer’s business is as much about logistics as anything, with containers full of her furniture zig-zagging around the country, chasing real estate’s next hot market. (Surprise: it’s Colorado right now.) It’s become even more complex with the addition of leasing to her portfolio of services, which allows homebuyers who move into a house to rent the furniture it was staged with—in some cases to the tune of $25,000 a month. Still, at base, staging remains an emotional endeavor.
“I always knew I was successful when I left a couple of toys in the kids’ room and I walked into an open house and there were kids running around the house with those toys, going, ‘Mommy you’ve got to buy this house because of this teddy bear!’” she says. “I wanted it to look pretty, but I wanted it to look like home.”
On this episode of the podcast, Baer shares insight into the housing market, offers some perspective for designers interested in staging, and explains why buzzy technology like AR and VR can only take you so far in selling a multimillion-dollar home.
Homepage Photo: The Business of Home Podcast interviewee Meridith Baer | Meridith Baer