Sarika Bali: Dressed for success
Home staging isn’t just a nice option. Whether you’re an investor, a real estate agent, or a homeowner, staging has become a necessity to sell properties for top dollar. First impressions are everything. The good news? LUXE Home Staging has developed a proven formula to increase the value in both a buyer’s and a seller’s market.
When Sarika Bali was heading back to work after her maternity leave five years ago, she asked herself, “What brings me joy?” In a moment of pure serendipity, a friend asked Bali if she wanted to help with staging a home. “I had the misconception that a lot of people have about staging, which is that you’re just decorating a room to make it look nice,” says Bali. But she realized it could be much more, and she started looking at ways to apply her background in psychology, sales and marketing to influence people and their buying decisions through design. Combined with her love for interior decorating and design, she started to become even more interested in home staging. For Bali, it was an opportunity to pursue her passion. “I found something that was the perfect fusion of all the things I loved and was good at naturally,” she adds.
In Bali’s case, design may well be bred in the bone. Her grandfather was an engineer in India who ran a construction company that built custom homes and developments across Ahmedabad. Her father is an entrepreneur and inventor who has developed a solar- and wind- powered greenhouse. Inspired by her family, as well as her travels, art, neoclassical design and luxury hotels around the world, she launched her business, LUXE Home Staging, with real estate agents as her main clientele. “These are top agents mainly focused on closing deals, servicing many clients at a time, and they work hard at building a luxury brand. Some premium agents don’t have the bandwidth (time and energy) but also can’t compromise their service — they team with us to prepare the property (and sellers) for market,” says Bali. “So they hire us to represent them — we are an extension of their brand, so we make sure that our customer service reflects positively on their client experience.” Bali continues to add that “the other 40% of our clients are property owners who reach out to us directly, looking for guidance on how to capitalize and plan for sale.” To that Bali adds, “A staging consultation with us includes cost-effective recommendations that will increase the value of your home, a detailed room- by-room packing list, staging plan, and moving resources to get you started.”
To start, Bali likes to build a relationship with the seller. “It’s not just about staging,” she says. “It’s about transition management, as selling your home can be emotional, so that must be handled with care, too.”
Bali likes to take a strategic approach to designing a room and begins by researching the buyer profile for the area. “The way that we dress a home in Brampton is different than the way we dress a penthouse in downtown Toronto,” she explains. You might be able to get away with IKEA for a small condo in Liberty Village, for example, but you need high-end pieces for a multi-million-dollar custom home. Staging is all about communicating and aligning the home with a lifestyle. And that is why LUXE uses a lot of lifestyle props, like spa products or an exercise bike, for instance, to make it easier for buyers to envision themselves, their families, their lifestyles in the home.
One advantage of hiring a company like LUXE that stands out from other stagers is that they’re able to offer flexibility because they own their own inventory, so the pricing is very competitive. Based in Vaughan, LUXE mostly handles homes in Vaughan, Kleinburg, Nobleton and Bolton. And Bali is proud of the work they do. Take a home in Ajax, for example, a house being sold at a time when the market was changing and there was a lot of uncertainty on how that was going to impact the selling price. LUXE did a consultation with the homeowners and gave them a detailed report on how they could really increase the selling price, including cosmetic repairs like painting and kitchen upgrades that cost about $18,000 and staging for about $5,000. “We were able to get them $160,000 above asking price — an amazing return on that investment,” she says. “But you don’t need a big budget,” she adds. “It can start at $250 for custom strategy to prepare your home with or without staging.” says Bali. It’s valuable information to make an informed decision on how to best use your budget to make your home stand out, attract buyers and sell for top dollar.
“NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A FRESH COAT. PAINT IS ALWAYS MONEY IN A CAN”
She offers homeowners a few tips on how to get the best price: first, consult with a certified stager to make the best decision on how to present the home in the best light; second, never underestimate the power of a fresh coat. “Paint is always money in a can,” she says. And finally, don’t forget about curb appeal. You have less than 10 seconds to make a first impression. “If buyers don’t see a house being maintained from the outside, they’re already jumping to conclusions on how well it’s being maintained on the inside,” she adds.
Bali is passionate about LUXE, and it shows. She has big plans, including growing the customer base, fostering growth opportunities with more designers, and getting into more custom homes. But most of all, she wants LUXE to be a stellar staging company by creating a unique and satisfying customer experience. And that is how she defines success. “ To me, success isn’t based on how many stages we’ve completed, success is determined by what our clients gained from working with us — more importantly, how we made our clients feel after working with us,” she says. “We could be jumping through hoops and climbing mountains, but at the end of the day, if the client is dissatisfied — we will go the extra mile to make sure that they’re happy.”