The way a home looks in its listing is so important. It is the one of the first things (second only to location) that will hook a buyer’s interest and persuade them to view it in person. I know that homes that present well sell well, so for me, staging is a key strategy in selling for my clients. In fact, statistics show that staged properties sell for an average of 7% more than unstaged properties and twice as quickly. I believe so strongly in the value of staging that I include a free professional staging consultation and professional photography session for all my clients. And since staging often sparks a lot of questions, I wanted to dedicate this blog to explaining what to expect from staging.
The process of presenting a home
Staging is the process of presenting a home to give it a perfect online presence in the listing photos. It gives potential buyers a blank slate in which to see how their lives would fit and enables them to envision themselves living there instead. If successful, this strategy can trigger an emotional reaction in buyers, increasing their interest in and bond with the home.
During the initial consultation, a professional stager will walk through the home, identifying features to highlight or things to downplay. S/he will also be looking at furniture and décor to use and personal items to remove, such as photos, religious objects and military items (tipping off a buyer to a transfer could weaken the seller’s negotiating position).
Some sellers find it difficult to remove personal items, especially when there is an emotional aspect to them. Interestingly, I’ve found that men tend to struggle with this more than women (I’ll leave the psychology behind that to the professionals) so this is an area where couples may need to lean on each other to complete the task. And if there is an especially meaningful or difficult situation, a discussion with the stager can often find the right balanced solution.
The value of staging
There is sometimes a concern that staging will cost too much, both in the service itself and the new items they will be told to bring in. I work with a network of experts that I know and trust to guide my clients in maximizing their homes’ saleability while using existing furniture and décor to minimize costs. With this in mind, it’s best not to declutter too much before the staging consultation so the stager can see everything they have to work with. My staging partners also try to avoid the need to rent storage space and will instead look for relocation space in other rooms, basements and garages. This may also present a good opportunity for sellers to sell some of the items they don’t want to take to their new homes, avoiding the costs of moving them twice.
Other sellers worry about the amount of work it will be to pare down. I try to remind my clients that when the house sells, these items would need to be packed up anyway, so they’re simply doing it a bit earlier. In the end, acting on the advice of the stager is the seller’s choice, and the more effort they put in, the more benefit they’ll see. For those that prefer to have someone else do the work for them, stagers usually offer this service at an additional fee.
Should sellers expect to live in a staged home until it sells?
The short answer is yes, to the most realistic extent possible. Some staging changes are easy to live with while others may only be feasible for the photo shoot. Whenever possible, I recommend showing the house in a state as close to the listing photos as possible so that buyers see what they expected. If the home looks too different, buyers may get the sense of a “bait and switch” and start questioning other aspects of the listing.
A few situations that deserve special mention are pets and children. With pets, I recommend removing toys, beds or other pet belongings for photos and showings, but this can be challenging to maintain. It may be obvious and not relevant to photos, but it’s important to ensure that there are no pet smells in the home during showings. Ask a friend (or me) if you’re worried about being “nose-blind”.
For kids, moving is already hard enough so I understand that expecting them to live in a staged room isn’t realistic. Do what you can and use the opportunity to start preparing your child—both physically and emotionally—for the move by downsizing, donating or packing belongings.
Staging a vacant home
Finally, staging a vacant home is just as important as it is with an occupied home and can make an empty space feel more inviting. Buyers often struggle to imagine what a room can look like occupied or with their own furniture, and this is especially problematic with unusual floorplans or room shapes. Staging can provide some context and an idea of how to use the space. There is also a risk when showing a vacant home that buyers may start speculating as to why it hasn’t yet sold, and this can lead to lower offers.
The end result of staging is a listing that looks good online, increases interest from agents and buyers, increases showing traffic, and attracts better offers. Sellers are in control of what stays, what goes and how much effort to put into their staging but in my experience and opinion, the effort always pays off with a faster sale at or above asking price.