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Profile of a Community Problem-Solver: Nora Crosthwaite of Stagerie

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Nora Crosthwaite is a problem solver. Initially she pursued a career in software development, as a programmer, administrator, and project manager for over fifteen years. Then, she decided to put her problem solving skills to work in a more personal way: as a realtor, helping people find and sell homes. Her motivation: being able to see and feel a real impact on real families in her community.

The theme of helping her community runs through everything Nora does. She’s involved in a myriad of organizations, from FemCity Des Moines and Habitat for Humanity to Pi515 and her upcoming martial arts non-profit. All of them are intertwined by the drive to use her problem-solving abilities to make the world a little better for others.

It wasn’t too long before this focus on helping others brought Nora’s tech problem solving skills and her knowledge of the real estate market together. As an agent, and as a home seller herself, Nora saw firsthand the importance of staging. 

What is staging? you might ask. Is that the same as interior design?

Before meeting Nora, we might have asked the same questions. Staging, as it turns out, is very different from designing a home to live in. People investing in interior design plan to live in the home afterwards. It can be very personal to their taste, and the point is generally their own enjoyment. They can budget for large or small projects depending on their personal situation.

Staging, by contrast, is designing a home for someone you’ve never met. It’s creating a blank canvas that a potential buyer can see themselves in. But the trick is to do it on a budget. Staging is almost purely a financial investment. You’re trying to maximize your return in the form of a faster sale for a premium price, and it matters that you don’t break the bank to do so.

Back to Nora’s story. As a realtor, she was using staging in her own business to help her sellers move their properties more quickly and for closer to asking price. The results she found were phenomenal. One couple working with Nora staged their condo and it sold within days for a price they were thrilled with, while another (un-staged) unit in the same building at a lower price point languished for months without an accepted offer.

Staging, it seemed, could be the difference between a quick, successful transition and a drawn-out, painful one. But it wasn’t widely known as a real estate game changer. Consequently, it’s not always easy for a real estate agent or homeowner to connect with a qualified stager.

Some real estate agents have tried virtual staging, where photos are used to create a realistic rendering of what the home could like staged. This can produce nice images to entice buyers online, but doesn’t change their critical impression once they are in the door viewing the home in person. In the end, it may not be enough.

Nora had an idea to solve this dilemma. Using her background in technology, she proposed a new solution: allow people to match with professional stagers located anywhere, upload photos directly from their phones, and receive back detailed instructions on how to stage their homes in a matter of days -- without any outsiders ever setting foot in their homes.

The stagers would focus on practical options using as many of the homeowner’s existing items as possible, and suggesting affordable enhancements where appropriate. This would allow the entire process to be completed quickly and for a low total investment, keeping the return on investment high.

It would also help stagers to be able to bring in more clients regardless of where they lived, making their businesses more viable.

We were thrilled when Nora walked into our office. Right away, we loved her problem-solving spirit, commitment to the community, and decisive approach to spearheading this project. As we worked together over a period of months, we got to know her even better and are so glad that she chose us to work with on her brainchild, Stagerie.

Stagerie is now live, and it brings together all of the elements Nora had envisioned: an easy path for real estate agents to refer or sponsor their clients’ stagings; a smooth process that enables clients to upload photos from their phones in minutes; and a useful, consistent way for stagers to deliver meaningful results that will help people sell their homes faster and at a better price.

The Stagerie story -- and Nora’s -- is a classic example of the ingenuity, genuine problem-solving and commitment to the overall good that makes small businesses the lifeblood of our economy. We’re proud to know you and work with you, Nora!

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