Pat Evans gets jittery when she goes into a house for the first time.
“Suppose my vision doesn’t come to me?” said Evans, a professional home stager and owner of Pat’s World Staging & Re-Design in Richmond.
“Suppose I can’t come up with a plan?”
Her vision of how to decorate a home for a speedy sale has never failed her in the four years she’s been in business.
“It makes me a better stager,” she said about her nervous bent. “I am always on top of my game. I feel blessed to have the vision.”
Evans works with real estate agents and investors who buy fixer-uppers to renovate and flip. She helps homeowners stage their houses for sale. However, most of her work is in vacant houses.
“I call her the house whisperer,” said Sheila Payne, an agent with Clocktower Realty Group in Richmond who has worked with Evans on about half a dozen houses.
“She sniffs a place out,” Payne said. “She comes in and properties sell within days because of her. ... Once she works her magic, they all sell.”
Staged houses sell in an average 23 days, according to a recent study of 1,081 houses by the Real Estate Staging Association, a trade group of home stagers, designers, decorators and real estate professionals.
Unstaged houses are on the market for an average 184 days, while houses staged after they go on the market sell on average in 41 days, the study shows.
“Houses have personalities,” Evans said. “I get a feel for a house. You stage for the house itself. If it’s a traditional house in Church Hill, you don’t stage for a contemporary house.”
Her work in a Cape Cod house in the Forest Hill Avenue area in South Richmond was on view for the nation to see last November on HGTV’s “House Hunters.”
The episode, “From Dorm Room to Dream Home,” featured a newly married couple from Houston, leaving their lives as resident university associates and full-time jobs, to move to Richmond and start anew.
The couple didn’t pick the house staged by Evans — choosing instead a traditional Colonial in the suburbs — but no matter.
“My invention was on HGTV,” Evans said. “I am really proud to be part of something like that.”
Julie Karvelis, the agent for the HGTV house, buys and sells distressed real estate.
Karvelis now has 22 houses in various phases of being bought, renovated and/or sold. For each, she is budgeting staging by Evans.
“Pat makes a house look superb,” said Karvelis, with Ridge Point Realty in Mechanicsville. “She is doing all my staging.”
Evans staged 40 to 50 houses, all in the Richmond area, last year. Her goal, she said, is to double the number each year.
Evans, who has been an administrative assistant for a financial institution since 1990, didn’t set out to be a home stager. “It just happened,” she said.
Four years ago, she helped a friend who was trying to flip a property off Chamberlayne Avenue in North Richmond. She staged the house, and it was under contract within weeks.
Prospective buyers commented on how nice the house looked, she recalled.
“I thought about it and prayed about it,” Evans said. “I did a lot of research, and here I am.”
It’s not easy being an older entrepreneur, said Evans, 53. Still, “you’re never too old to come into something that is your passion.”
Her entrepreneurial bent for staging began as a teenager when she would rearrange her pink bedroom every month, adding touches of cream and black.
By day, she still works as an administrative assistant, honing her organizational and people skills. By night, she stages houses.
“This is my fun,” she said about her business.
Evans’ work appears on Houzz, a website for the architecture, interior design, decorating and home improvement sectors. And she is featured in the book “Women Innovators: Leaders, Makers and Givers” by Tamara Patzer.
“These are the stories of women who are innovators ... women making a choice to show up, to contribute,” the author says in the forward to the book. “They innovate. They do it. They take action and make things happen in the world.”
Three people work for Evans on a part-time basis, moving furniture and decor into houses for her to arrange at night or on weekends. It takes one to two days to do a staging.
“When people go into vacant houses, they have a hard time visualizing it,” Evans said. “A staged home gives potential buyers ideas on how they can live in the house.”
Her job is to create the space with furniture and accessories, and add warmth, coziness and color. “I don’t like bland. I like a pop of color.”
In one house, she used lime green and purple accents. “And believe it or not, it worked,” Karvelis said. “I like her colors. She knows how to pull it all together.”
To accommodate her growing business, Evans turned two rooms and a hallway in her Chesterfield County home into storage spaces for mirrors, pictures, beds, throw pillows, flower vases, tables and chairs and all the other items used to stage a house.
When she outgrew that space, she rented climate-controlled storage units.
Last May, she leased a 3,500-square-foot warehouse off Maywill Street in Richmond, where staging items are neatly arranged in groupings. Sheets and bedspreads in original plastic bags are aligned along a wall. Vases and artificial flowers take up an aisle.
“I can breathe,” Evans said about separating her home and office. “I have a life now, and it’s so enjoyable.”
She stocks up at such stores as Pier 1 Imports, HomeGoods and Ross Dress for Less, and buys off season for discounts. When items go out of style, she donates them.
Once her vision kicks in, she inevitably needs to purchase at least one item per job, despite a warehouse full of home décor.
Evans charges up to $300 for a consultation, depending on how long it takes. Stagings in vacant houses start at $1,800.
She sometimes stages a whole house; other times just the main living areas.
“You need to be very mindful of people living in houses and whether the move is for happy reasons — getting married or moving up — or for sad reasons, like the death of a spouse,” Evans said.
She recalled working with a customer who had lived in her house for more than 50 years. “It can be overwhelming, so you have to be careful.”
Decluttering is almost always the first order of business for an occupied house, she said.
“Pat is a genius,” said Payne, noting how quickly a house in Henrico County went under contract after Evans consulted with the owner.
“She walks around and gets a feel for the house,” Payne said.
Evans convinced the homeowner to remove an area rug, making the family room appear larger. Personal pictures were tucked away. A dark room was repainted in a neutral color.
“I have been blessed with this business,” Evans said. “I still can’t believe this is something I created.”