Home Staging Real 101 Episodes

Remote Staging Consultations With Home Stager Michelle Finnamore


Tracy Brock [00:27]: Hi everybody, this is Tracy Brock from Real 101, and I’m happy to welcome to our show Michelle Finnamore from Michelle Finnamore Interiors Limited. Hi Michelle, thanks for being here!

Michelle Finnamore [00:38]: Hi Tracy. Thanks for inviting me today. I’m glad to share this new way of doing business for agents.

Tracy Brock [00:43]: Yeah, it’s great. So, to start with, why don’t you just give me a general idea of your system; what do you guys do?

Michelle Finnamore [00:52]: Okay. So, the main focus of our company is home staging. We’ve been professionally staging for 17 years, and we were doing renovations coming from that. They might have needed a bathroom done or whatever, and I have a construction background. I’m past vice president of the Barrie Builders Association, so I have lots of trades I can rely on, and we would get the real estate listing agent, their listing moving forward very quickly because of all that. And then I would get asked to do their new home. Did they need a full renovation? Did they need just finishes selected? We worked for builders. If they were launching a condo, we would pick all the selections for the buyers and get them through the process very quickly so the builder could just move forward. So that’s what mostly what we’ve been doing. But then COVID happened and we had to pivot and how do we offer our services when we’re not supposed to be in the house.

Tracy Brock [01:43]: That’s very true.

Michelle Finnamore [01:43]: So, we can talk about that today.

Tracy Brock [01:45]: Okay perfect. So, what you do now is you conduct video consultations. And how do you know when somebody’s ready for that or how do you start that process?

Michelle Finnamore [01:55]: All right, so we work for real estate agents, I don’t work for the public. And it’s something where the agent would contact me, they’ve already spoken with their listing, homeowners and they know they have a general timeline of when they’d like to get the house listed. They would let me know if there’s any particular issues they would like me to address; sometimes it’s pet odors, sometimes it’s just too much furniture. There’s all different reasons why they might want to just discuss something with me a little bit ahead of time. And then from there, they would give me the homeowner information and I would contact them to book the consultation. Or they would ask me for two or three different dates, what works for you, and they would book it with the homeowner. So, either way works. We did a little over 400 video consultations during Covid, so I’m really good at it now.

Tracy Brock [02:45]: Is that why you’re offering these video consultations to real estate agents?

Michelle Finnamore [02:49]: That, and plus what happened was a lot of people’s lives changed during that timeframe. So ,the agent I had, some of them, they moved far away out of my area, like to London, Ontario. Some people moved, they sold their house and they moved to Kentucky. So, they wanted me to do their renovation there. I didn’t go there, I did it all online with them. And, some people moved out east, as we all know, many people moved out to Halifax and now other areas out there. So, this is why we developed the way that we do it with people to make it easy and also that the agent would feel comfortable in recommending this to their clients.

Tracy Brock [03:28]: So, majority of your home staging now is, or renovations for that matter all done through video consultation?

Michelle Finnamore [03:33]: The majority of it is now. We, since the last six months or so, yes, we’ve been going back out to houses, but I still regularly do three or four video consultations every week.

Tracy Brock [03:43]: What’s the furthest distance somebody’s lived where you’ve done a video consultation for them?

Michelle Finnamore [03:48]: One was Calgary and the other one was the Kentucky one. That was definitely far away.

Tracy Brock [03:54]: That was far, yes.

Michelle Finnamore [03:56]: I would’ve liked to have gone to Kentucky, but yes, no, it works because I’m a very detail-oriented person. I have the process down pat. I make the agent look extremely good because it’s all new to people. Right? They’ve never done it before. The homeowners have never done it before for sure. I mean, now the agents that I’ve worked with, they’re accustomed to it, and they know how it works. But it was a big stretch for a lot of people to imagine how can this possibly work, right?

Tracy Brock [04:23]: Yes.

Michelle Finnamore [04:24]: How can this, the details that are like in a normal consultation, which takes at least an hour, how would you nail all that down? How would you not miss anything? And so. I have my different processes, which we’ll talk about today, and the agents, they would let me know right after I was done the consultation with their client because they would text me or call me and say, okay, look at the text I just got from the homeowner. They love you; they think this is great!

Tracy Brock [04:51]: That’s nice. That’s really nice,

Michelle Finnamore [04:52]: So, I’m going, okay, yes. So, I’m making everybody look good. And that’s important because that’s how you build your brand in the marketplace, right? As an agent you get referred because especially with this, you’re giving that homeowner a different experience than what anybody else is giving out there. So, it really helps to make you stand out in the marketplace.

Tracy Brock [05:13]: Yes. For a realtor, that definitely would be a bonus to have something value added to their marketing plan. Really. So, they obviously in some capacity it financially benefits the realtor as well, doesn’t it?

Michelle Finnamore [05:25]: Yes, because I typically, what I do is I do that consultation for about $25 less than I normally would because I’m not paying for gas. So that works. The other thing is, if they’re like, I’m doing one in Niagara because that’s where their client moved to. So that’s quite a ways from me, that’s at least a two-hour drive anyways. So, this way it keeps everything within their budget that they can offer it to their client as a thank-you gift for letting them list their house and get it sold. So, this is another way of offering a thank you to the client instead of just sending them flowers or whatever it is they do, or wine and cheese. This is really something that homeowner needs, and they really appreciate their agent offering a service to them.

Tracy Brock [06:09]: So, who’s the ideal client for a video consultation?

Michelle Finnamore [06:12]: Actually anyone that has a place listed for sale, because it doesn’t matter if they’re younger or older. If they’re downsizing, which we get a lot of, and then from there it’s more or less there’s certain segments of society, like the techie people that are used to doing a lot of stuff online. Their first question now to their agent is, does she have to come out because I can just do this online, right? Like they’re asking, which is great, right? Because then the agent goes, oh yes, I have a person for that. You know, she’s very capable and she’ll do it with you online. We just book a time and we do it on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger and away we go.

Tracy Brock [06:48]: Okay. So, in your opinion, is it better for the homeowner to be in the home or is it better for the home to be vacant? Can you do it these videos?

Michelle Finnamore [06:54]: Most of the properties I do are occupied.

Tracy Brock [06:57]: Okay.

Michelle Finnamore [06:57]: If they can move out, for certain people it’s a lot less stressful. Say anybody that has like two or three children, anybody that has pets, they typically I’ll suggest to them always, I always give my clients options. Like, this is 1, 2, 3 different ways of doing it. So the first option is, do you have a place that you can go stay, especially the first week that your home is staged, right? When you do all those open houses and things that we’re allowed to do now, and if they do, great, okay, that’s what we need to do. And especially if they have pets, pets can be very upset by all the strange snooze smells coming in the house and people, you know, I’ll just put them in a room downstairs. Well, no, because they can hear that there’s strangers in the house, right? And they’re not very accepting of all that and you’re not there, so they’re even extra stressed. So, this is the types of things that we make the suggestions and hopefully they follow through on what works best for them. And when we give all the suggestions, whether it’s vacant or occupied, everything is taken care of, right? From A to Z, there’s nothing left undone. Like this morning I got texts, I always get texts from clients, this happened last night, there’s an emergency, what do I do? And I go, okay, do this, do that, send me the pictures, I’ll give you the answer. And if I’m not with a client, like I’m actually in somebody’s house or I’m doing a consult, I always let people know, I’ll answer them as soon as I’m done that consultation and you will have your answers, you’ll know what to do, not to worry.

Tracy Brock [08:20]: Okay. So, what does the homeowner have to do to be ready for your initial consultation?

Michelle Finnamore [08:23]: Okay, so I send them in writing, how I would like it to proceed. And if they want a follow up phone call, that’s fine too. So, what I ask them to do is make sure that their cell phone is fully charged. I don’t recommend they use iPads because they’re a little heavy for holding for an hour, right? So, you basically want something a little bit lighter. I want them to hold the phone at their chest height, I want them to flip the camera. We start at the front entry and then we go into the foyer and do each room from there. I then let them know that they need to pan slowly and steadily from left to right. And that’s how I take in the room. If I need to go back, I’ll ask them if we can please just go back to the left a little bit more, or if there’s something that’s like artwork that’s up too high, that kind of thing, I’ll want to see how much down we can lower it, things like that, so it’s very detailed. It’s not something that goes by quickly. And the nice part is I take all the notes,

Tracy Brock [09:24]: So how long does the process take approximately?

Michelle Finnamore [09:28]: Usually an hour. If it’s a really big house or several floors, it could take an hour and a half. Condos can be as short as 30 to 45 minutes, but that basically all the notes are taken room by room. They’re emailed to the homeowner right after the consultation.

Tracy Brock [09:47]: Yep.

Michelle Finnamore [09:48]: They are very well organized. And I also attach pictures of previous work that if I said, okay, stage the bed like this, and they don’t know what a hotel fold down is on a bed, then I would send them that picture how to stage the countertops and the kitchens. And this goes a long way towards the listing photos because listing photos, I’ve been told that on the real estate system online that the time the buyers looking at pictures and they’re saying that they’re flipping left every three seconds. Just like on Instagram you have three seconds to get their attention with each picture. That’s how important it is that everything is exactly where it needs to be because when the photographer comes, they’re not touching anything, it has to be ready. So I make sure that the homeowners understand that and it’s very clear and if they have any questions they can contact me afterwards with pictures and questions.

Tracy Brock [10:42]: Right. So basically, the homeowner is taking your input to stage their own home and doing it with their own [inaudible 00:10:49],

Michelle Finnamore [10:50]: That’s correct. So, during Covid, when we weren’t allowed in the houses, we would ask them to leave the house and if they were even needed rental furniture, we would have that delivered and set up in place and then they would text to say they were done delivering, the doors now locked again, and the homeowner could go home. So, there’s always a way, believe me, there’s always a way and it’s just you have to be ready to pivot and make it happen for people. When it was during COVID, if they just needed artwork and decor items, some flowers, I would deliver them in bins and have them clearly marked, this is for this room, this is for that room. So, there was no question as to where things went. There was no mystery. Everything went very smoothly.

Tracy Brock [11:29]: Good, good. Well, that’s good to know because I’m sure that alleviates a lot of the stress for the homeowners that are trying to sell their homes.

Michelle Finnamore [11:35]: Yes.

Tracy Brock [11:35]: And for the realtor for that matter, to be honest with you,

Michelle Finnamore [11:37]: Well, this is it. Like the one agent that moved to London, he has me still do his listings. And so, then I’ll say, okay, there should be a piece of artwork over the sofa, it should be approximately this size. There’s one I know for sure it’s at Boisclair, this is how much it is. I’ll send them a picture of it. So, I’m helping them every step of the way. The agents love it because they don’t have to do anything.

Tracy Brock [11:58]: Perfect. And what if there’s some major repairs that need to be done, like something in the flooring or you know, something that really needs to be done and can you help them with that through your consultations?

Michelle Finnamore [12:10]: Yes, because I do have a lot of contractors that I work with all the time and they show up when they say they’re going to, they clean up every day and they’re done when they say they’re going to be. So basically, that’s all arranged. I can get a bathroom totally renovated in 10 days. So, if there’s a real push on for the listing photos, then we can make sure that happens. What do they need? Do they need a roofer? Do they need their deck repaired? Do they need the gardens done? Whatever it is, the agent knows that I’m already ready. Now the agent also will have trades that they recommend as well. And that’s fine. It doesn’t matter who whose trades you use, it’s just you need the timeline to be met. That’s more important.

Tracy Brock [12:46]: And what happens? Okay, so the house is sold, they’ve moved into their new home. Will you help them with their new home as well if they ask for some assistance?

Michelle Finnamore [12:53]: Yes. I love doing that. Actually, I got a text yesterday and the homeowners are very nervous about all the decisions to be made. And I said, don’t worry about it. I said this is what I do, and I have a whole process in place. I have a vision for it and they’re going, so we’re not annoying you. And I said, absolutely not, more questions the better because then I understand more of what you’re trying to achieve. And then that’s how I get you to the place where you’re happy when you walk in through the door every day. So again, that’s another good story. They have to tell anyone who’s going to list their house for sale, they can relay these stories to them from the listing side and also into their new home. And how did we help?

Tracy Brock [13:33]: Okay. Well, Michelle, that’s great. You have an amazing service that from what I understand, could go across Canada. And is there any last comments that you wanted to make with regard to what you can offer Canadians or anybody I guess in North America and abroad?

Michelle Finnamore [13:46]: In North America? That’s right. So basically, it’s how an agent would differentiate themselves from anybody else in the marketplace. Who else has a person on hand that can do all these step-by-step processes with their clients? You are offering full service, concierge service, you can call it that. It actually just goes so smoothly. The agents are happy and I can help you build your brand in a marketplace. That is what I do. I was actually in a brokerage for over 12 years, so I worked with many agents, whether they were brand new in the business or they’d been around for 20 years, and I helped them increase their listings every single year. I was there because we offered the services that nobody else did.

Tracy Brock [14:27]: That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for coming on Real 101. We really do appreciate it. If you want to reach out to Michelle Finnamore Interiors limited, stager extraordinaire, you can follow her through her socials as well as Michelle, do you want to give us your website?

Michelle Finnamore [14:43]: Yes, the website is advantagestaging.ca, on Instagram it’s @therealgotogirl, that’s also on my license plate in case you’re on the road and see me.

Tracy Brock [14:54]: Wave,

Michelle Finnamore [14:56]: And phone number is (416) 928-2999.

Tracy Brock [15:01]: All right. Thank you very much. And thank you for watching Real 101. Please follow us on all your socials like and share the video. And have a great day, everyone in this hot-hot sun. Thanks. Bye.


Episode Hosted By:

Tracey Brock – Mortgage Broker M09001257 Dominion Lending Centres

Website: https://www.TraceyBrock.ca

Phone: 416.788.6207


Episode Show Guest:

Michelle Finnamore / Home Stager

Website: https://advantagestaging.ca

Phone: 416.928.2999

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/therealgotogirl


Production By:


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