Is Home Staging Worth the Investment?

By Kealia Reynolds

In a competitive real estate market, home staging has become a popular way to increase a home’s selling price and sell a house faster. But is it worth the investment? We talked to a couple of real estate agents and got insight on what the home staging process looks like and if it really works.

What does the home staging process look like?

Home staging can be as simple as a cleaning the entire house and removing personal, day-to-day living items or it can be a significant investment involving painting or even landscaping. Think of it as depersonalizing a home so prospective buyers can imagine themselves in it.

Typically, the process starts with a full assessment of the home, with the home stager addressing the following questions: What’s the general condition of the home? Is there sufficient and visually appealing lighting? Does the house need a new coat of paint? Are there any necessary repairs?

According to Steve Snider, real estate agent at CORE, the home staging process is as straightforward as bringing in a stager to come up with a plan. “He or she will help lay out the space to maximize what can be done with an apartment. Then, the stager will often create look pages that highlight the textures, colors, and furniture styles of where they see the apartment going,” says Steve. After price is factored in, the process can be executed in a week to 10 days.

CORE real estate agent Jessica Silver maintains that having an accurate floor plan is important during the staging process. “I use [the floor plan] to determine what furniture to use—size, style, color. You’re not going to put a queen-sized bed in a room that can easily accommodate a king. Alternatively, you wouldn’t put a larger bed in a room that should have something smaller; it’s all about space.”

Also critical to the home staging process is the lighting, art, mirrors, accent pieces, and extra touches that bring the space to life. “Flowers are also an important addition. I like orchids and hydrangeas—they add just enough without overwhelming,” says Jessica.

Does home staging really work?

According to Jessica, “[Home staging] absolutely works. People want to envision themselves in the home and for most, it’s hard to do that in an empty room or a home that has unique furnishings.” With challenging listings, like those with limited light or no view, potential buyers more quickly note shortcomings and can be lost as potential buyers.

“I’ve been the second broker on many unsold listings that were empty. I staged the apartments and quickly sold them; in multiple cases, I received full-price offers at the first open house. I’ve even had sellers purchase new appliances if the kitchens need updating—it’s less expensive than a full renovation and gives the room a fresh look,” says Jessica.

According to Steve, “Home staging is often one of the main reasons that apartments sell. Buyers really need to feel connected to the space and most sellers are not designers. The unique qualities, the room sizes, and the specialties really need to be accentuated.”

Though Steve says that staging will not necessarily yield more money in the end, he maintains it may be the difference between sitting on the market or selling.

How does home staging affect listing and selling price?

According to Jessica, home staging can mean the difference between selling a home for $2 million or $1.7 million. “A home that’s empty, or sparsely furnished, doesn’t present the same value as a home that’s well put together,” says Jessica.

She recalls a scenario when she took over a listing that had been on the market for seven months with one low offer. After convincing the owner that the money spent on home staging would be worth the investment, the listing sold for over the asking price after the first open house.

Steve has another take. “For me, this is the biggest variable. I personally don’t think that staging guarantees you a better price or automatically justifies a higher list price. The reality is that staging generally helps sell apartments faster and for less of a discount than other comparable apartments.”

What are the pros and cons between hiring out for home staging and attempting to do it yourself?

According to Steve, “The clear advantage of hiring a professional is that you get furniture that is much more specific to the space than off-the-rack furniture from rental outfits. We’ve had stagers make custom rugs to fit in a hallway or make a corner round to fit around a column. That’s hard to do from a furniture rental store or buying pieces from IKEA.”

However, price is a huge factor to consider in the home staging process. Though you can save money staging yourself, the time of picking things up, arranging for movers, and finding all of the accessories isn’t always ideal. “The goal is for an apartment to feel congruent and that isn’t easy when a seller tries to piece meal items from different sources,” says Steve.

What to consider when hiring a professional home stager

Jessica and Steve both recommend asking for references and examples of past work, specifically in homes similar to yours that have proven success. “If you spend the time, energy, and money and you’re sitting on the market for 120 days, you might start questioning the effectiveness of the staging,” Steve says.

Here are some questions to ask a potential home stager:

  • How long have you been working as a professional home stager?
  • What formal training have you received?
  • Do you work with a furniture rental company or do you have a warehouse of pieces to use. How does that affect the quoted price?
  • How long will it take to prep the home?
  • Are you familiar with the real estate market in my area and the expectations of buyers in my price range?

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