Home Staging: What It Is & How It Works

Many homes are going under contract the first weekend they’re listed, and sometimes without any preparation for the market. Still, real estate professionals can’t promise sellers that their property will stand out and receive the highest offers unless buyers fall in love with the home. That’s where staging makes a big difference. In what ways does staging capture buyers’ hearts for a successful top-dollar sale? Let us explain.

If you are a homeowner on the verge of selling your home, please do this. Do a search for similar homes to your own, which are on sale in your area, and compare them to your home. What will you find? In all likelihood you will see homes that look like they were lifted right off the pages of a home design magazine. Now ask yourself what chance your home has against these homes, especially if they are the same size as yours and going for around the same price. This is where home staging comes into play.

What Is Home Staging?

You’ve seen gorgeous images of faultlessly decorated homes in magazines, on TV, and on social media. They inspire jealousy, or maybe just inspire, and they are all staged. Home staging brings out your home’s most striking attributes so that the greatest numbers of prospective buyers can picture themselves living in it. Home staging is a marketing strategy. It’s adding and rearranging furniture and decor. It’s doing whatever is needed to spruce up a house so it sells rapidly and for the highest possible profit.

By minimizing the house’s limitations and highlighting its best qualities you are packaging your house in the most attractive way that will lead to more interest, higher offers, and quicker sales. Home staging, if done right, elicits a relaxing and welcoming atmosphere where potential buyers will want to tarry. A well-staged home will attract buyers to online listings and showings and hopefully result in sizable offers.

The Psychology Behind Home Staging

A lot of work goes into buying a home. Buyers look at innumerable home listings and make split-second decisions whether to move on or to see it in person. For your home to stand out, it has to feel like home to a potential buyer. Of course all functional details are in play, but engaging a buyer to develop an emotional affinity to the house plays an important part. Home staging is an art, but also a science. A possible buyer should be able to visualize how he or she would customize their new home; the stage you set should be neutral yet feel customizable. Visualization is the chief construct in home staging. If buyers can see themselves living there, they will develop a personal attachment to the home and feel good about investing in it.

Why Is Home Staging Important?

According to the 2021 Profile of Home Staging by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 82 percent of buyer’s agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home. Home staging is a common and effectual practice that professionals feel confident about spending money on.

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Consider these numbers which substantiate that fact:

  • Staging the living room was found to be very important for buyers (46 percent) followed by staging the master bedroom (43 percent) and staging the kitchen (35 percent).
  • Among buyer’s agents, having photos (83 percent), videos (74 percent), and virtual tours (73 percent) available for their listings was more important since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 23 percent of seller’s agents reported that staging a home increased the dollar value offer between one and five percent, compared to other homes on the market that are not staged.
  • 31 percent of seller’s agents said they staged all sellers’ homes prior to listing them for sale.
  • 48 percent of seller’s agents used a staging service for some of their homes.
  • The most common rooms that were staged included the living room (90 percent), kitchen (80 percent), master bedroom (78 percent), and dining room (69 percent).
  • The median dollar value spent when using a staging service was $1,500

To emphasize, the three key benefits of staging a home are:

  1. Staging helps a prospective buyer visualize living in the home.
  2. Staging can increase the amount of the offer.
  3. Staging can lead to the house spending less time on the market.

What Are Your Home Staging Options?

There are three options, but you can also do a combination of all three. When looking to stage your home, you can do it yourself (DIY), get your real estate agent to do it or help with some of it, or you can hire a professional home stager to do it all for you. What type of staging is right for you depends on your specific situation and your budget.

How Do I Stage My House Myself?

If you want to save money, and if you have the time and desire to do what it takes to present your property in the best way, the DIY option is obviously the best way. The tasks you might need to perform will be an array of repairs and home design: rearranging furniture, decluttering, removing personal photos and decor, adding new curtains and throw pillows, repainting, touching up the walls, and a whole lot of cleaning. You can also add homey touches like cut flowers and houseplants, and make sure your house smells amazing (candles, a diffuser, or even a plate of fresh baked cookies work) and don’t forget the exterior. We’ll go over that in detail later in this article.

Can I Ask My Real Estate Agent to Stage My Home?

It’s not your real agent’s job to professionally stage your home, but they also want to sell your home quickly and profitably. Some might provide recommendations or help you find a professional home stager to either do a consultation or provide the home-staging services. However, others might do more to refresh the property. Some real estate agents are certified home stagers themselves and can be very helpful. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to enlisting the help of your real estate agent in staging your home. It all really depends on your personal circumstances, your budget, and how much work your home needs.

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Image from: stunninglystagedhomes.com

What Does a Professional Home Stager Do?

If you have the budget for it and want someone else to do the work, opt for a professional staging company. They will have the design and interior decorating experience to do wonders with your home. They will look at your home inside and outside, evaluate its marketability, and then provide a consultation on what should be done to increase the home’s appeal to prospective buyers.

How a Staging Professional Can Fast-Track the Sale of Your Home

1. Professional Stages Create Mass Appeal

When you stage your home yourself, your preferences will limit your choices to designs that make the home attractive only to people like you. But professional stagers are objective and will introduce trends that are dominant in the market and incorporate approaches that appeal to a mass audience. This makes the home more attractive to a large pool of potential buyers.

2. They Understand How Homes Are Sold Today

Professional stagers know how to sell a home using the tools of digital marketing. They recognize the power of photography and the internet when trying to sell a home in today’s market. That is why they employ techniques, such as color, lighting, symmetry, and placement to create images of the home that evoke positive emotions in buyers.

3. They Sell Dreams

When most sellers market their homes themselves, they promote its features. But a professional stager promotes the home’s benefits. Rather than selling a house they sell dreams. That is because they recognize that people’s desire to buy a home is an indirect way of trying to fulfill their deepest aspirations and their desire to find happiness.

4. They Highlight Your Home’s Potential

Professional stagers know how to use color, lighting, furniture, decor, and more to draw attention away from the worst aspects of a home and fasten it to its best qualities. They will show prospective buyers how to arrange their furniture or the best way to utilize an awkward part of the home.

5. Home Stagers Have Strong Networks

Using a professional stager will give you access to a network of professionals who could make it easier to connect to the eventual buyer of your home.

6. Professional Staging Helps You Outshine the Competition

When buyers are trying to choose between two similarly priced homes, the staged home will always have the edge. Furthermore, staging your home makes the physical walkthrough easier because buyers arrive with a positive impression of the property and will be guided through the vision of the home.

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The sum effect is that a staged home sells faster and for more money. Where a staged home takes days to sell an unstaged home might take weeks. The carrying costs and anxiety of having a property on the market for weeks are more great reasons to have a staging professional stage your home before listing it.

How Much Does Home Staging Cost?

According to the price guide, Fixr, (on average) a homeowner pays $1,000 to $3,000 to have their home staged professionally, but of course you can find home staging services for more or less.

The average homeowners can expect to pay $1,500 for an initial consultation, a day of staging, and no furniture rental. A simple consultation is between $200-$300. A full-service staging with furniture rentals could cost up to $10,000. An empty house will be more expensive to stage if you add furniture, but you can sometimes still stage an empty house without furniture to save money.

If you are staging the home yourself, consider the cost of paint, repairs, and cleaning supplies, storage options as you declutter, accessories, and decor.

Is Home Staging Worth It?

According to the Real Estate Staging Association, 75 percent of sellers who invested 1 percent of the home’s value in staging saw a return on investment (ROI) between 5% and 15%. Those are strong numbers.

For starters, potential buyers spend an average 40 minutes in a staged home; in a non-staged home it drops to a mere 10 minutes. This means the staging is holding their interest and drawing them in, which is more likely to result in an offer. On top of that, staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more than a non-staged home according to UpNest, a real estate advisory company. This helps you meet two goals almost any home seller would have: selling quickly and for a higher price. This typically makes any home staging costs worth it.

Is home staging worth it in your case, specifically? Consider a few factors and then decide:

  • Your timeline
  • The total cost of staging
  • The value home staging could add to your home
  • What the seller’s market is like where you live

If you can’t decide on your own, ask your Realtor for suggestions (as he or she knows the local market) or hire a professional stager to come for a consultation-only visit.

Home Staging Process

Let’s go room by room and then head outside.

Living Room

  • Declutter (put away books and magazines, clear surfaces from personal items)
  • Remove unnecessary furniture to create more space
  • If you have dark curtains, replace then with neutral colored ones 
  • Update lighting if it’s dim
  • Put cords and wires out of sight
  • Pull furniture away from walls
  • If the walls are painted in a dark color, consider painting them with a lighter, neutral color
  • Remove personal photos and decor
  • Add warm touches like flowers, attractive decor (vases), throw pillows, candles, coffee table books
  • Hang the largest piece of art on your largest wall
  • Clean the floor, shampoo if you have carpet
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Dining Room

  • Declutter
  • Improve lighting (open blinds, hang light colored curtains, update lighting fixtures)
  • If using table leaves, remove them to make the room look bigger
  • Add house plants, a bowl of fruit, or a flower arrangement
  • Set the table (only if it adds to the ambiance, not distracts from it)

Kitchen

  • Clean the refrigerator inside and out
  • Declutter the cabinets
  • Clean and clear the counters
  • Clean the oven
  • Update or repaint cabinets if they’re dated
  • Clean or remove appliances (toaster, coffeemaker, tea kettle, etc.)
  • Replace old hardware, knobs, or faucet
  • Fix any leaks

Bedroom

  • Declutter the closets and bookshelves
  • Change the bedding so it’s fresh
  • Add pillows and throw blankets
  • Remove personal items
  • Pull the bed away from the walls
  • In the closets, organize clothes on hangers. Don’t overcrowd, and try to use the same kind of hanger
  • Clean the floor, shampoo if you have carpet

Bathroom

  • Fix any leaks
  • Recaulk if necessary
  • Replace the faucets and shower head if they’re old
  • Paint or stain the cabinets if they’re dated
  • Hang new, clean towels in a neutral color
  • Provide new soap in an attractive container
  • Clear the area around the sink (remove personal items like toothbrushes)
  • Organize and declutter any drawers, cabinets, or linen closets
  • Empty or put away the wastebasket
  • Clean the mirrors, the toilet, the floor, the shower, and the tub
  • Clean or replace shower curtain
  • Always keep the toilet seat down

Hallway/Entryway

  • Clean the floor, shampoo if you have carpet
  • Replace a welcome mat if needed
  • Paint the front door if needed
  • Fix the front door if squeaky
  • Consider adding mailbox if needed
  • Declutter coat rack, shoe rack, and closets

Outside/Curb Appeal

  • Trim trees and bushes
  • Mow your lawn
  • Remove dead leaves
  • Clean gutters
  • Add flower boxes or potted plants or plant flowers
  • Pressure wash the deck, the patio, the pool area, and the exterior of the house
  • Touch up/repaint the exterior of the house if necessary
  • Fix cracks in the sidewalk
  • Add sealant to your blacktop driveway
  • Clear away any debris
  • Replace mailbox if it’s old
  • Upgrade lighting fixtures and doorknobs
  • Declutter (put away tools, toys, pool and grill accessories, rusted and dated outdoor furniture, trash cans)
  • Accessorize your porch, deck, or patio (add attractive furniture and plants, lights, candles, etc.)

Home Staging FAQ

What Happens to Furniture after Staging?

Unless they’re using the homeowner’s furniture, home staging professionals rent furniture from a furniture store or buy their own inventory. After the home is finished being staged, the furniture returns to the staging company or store. If you fell in love with a piece, you can ask the stagers to sell it to you (if they own it) or get product information and find the exact same item for sale at the store they’re renting it from.

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Is It Better to Sell a House Empty or Staged? 

As we cited above, buyers prefer to see a house staged. Empty houses may not seem as warm and inviting, and can wrongly convey the notion that a house has been lingering on the market. Another downside is that without furniture and decor to distract, every scratch and little defect is easier to spot (we’re talking about minor imperfections, any serious issues must be disclosed). But there are some advantages to selling an empty house. Some buyers would actually prefer to see a house empty, without your belongings in it, to imagine themselves living in it. Another advantage is that it shows that the house is move-in-ready which can sometimes help sell quicker.

Should You Set the Table When Staging a Home?

You can if you want, but it’s only recommended if you have a grand dining room with a large table. Setting the table can showcase how comfortably you can sit many people and how perfect the room would be for entertaining large groups. If you set the table with china, crystal, and linen napkins, it will also play on the elegance of the room and create a focal point.

For smaller homes, however, setting the table is not necessary. It can prove distracting. So only set the table if you think it will add to the ambiance, not distract from it.

What Is the Difference Between Home Staging and Interior Design?

One of the most important distinctions between home staging and interior design is the intended audience. Home staging is meant to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible. Interior design, on the other hand, answers to the specific aesthetics of an individual or family.

Although there are overlapping concepts, the purpose is different. Interior design aims to create a beautiful and comfortable space for you, the end user. The result will express your own personality, taste, style, and preferences. Home staging’s sole purpose is to market the property to sell it faster and profitably. Home staging must keep to neutral hues to appeal to a mass audience of as large a number of potential buyers as possible. With interior design, the sky’s the limit.

Homes can be sold without being staged. But if you’re talking about selling quickly and for top dollars, staging is a necessity. Even in a seller’s market when homes are sold in a matter of days, staging can lead to even more showings, more offers, and better opportunities. Staging your home could be the difference between one good offer that you have to accept or multiple good offers and a bidding war that benefits you, the seller.

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