During the month of October I will be doing a weekly series on real estate staging. This has long been a topic that has intrigued me. When I sold my first home 12 years ago, all that was required was keeping the home clean, maybe removing some ePreview »xcess furniture, and maintaining the yard. When I went to sell my dad’s home three years ago, it was vacant and staging wasn’t an approved use of funds in the probate sale, but my son, along with a friend and some help from my brother, completely cleared the yard of vegetation, cleaned the whole house, and repainted every room. I hung nice curtains, fancied up the bathrooms and kitchen and that was our version of staging, or at least as much as I could afford out of pocket. But since starting to write for this blog I have noticed an overwhelming number of homes that have been staged, and on all price levels. Looking at listing photos online, I can now tell which homes have not been staged, which have had their interior redesigned with existing furnishings, and which have been totally staged. I have often wondered why staging is done, what it entails, and what the benefits are. So I am doing my homework, researching stats, interviewing professionals, and hopefully will find out some information that will be useful to you. (NOTE: These articles will be significantly longer than our normal posts, so please make sure you jump to the second page to get the full story.)
There is no doubt in my mind that staging improves the salability of a home. Developers of tract homes and condos have been utilizing staging for years, setting up model homes that look like designer showcases, all the better to sell their inventory. So why shouldn’t individuals do the same thing? As an independent observer, I feel that not only does a home look better when it is staged, but it looks better in online photos, which can be the first impression that buyers get and first impressions are very important. The commonly accepted theory is that the first impression process occurs in every situation, whether it is meeting an individual, reading an ad, or walking into a home, and once that impression is made, it is hard to turn the tide. Not impossible, mind you, but difficult. We are still a society that tends to judge on looks, and homes are no different.In a nutshell, staging is the act of de-personalizing and de-cluttering a home, making it marketable to the largest audience possible. Buyers want to envision themselves and their furniture in a home. What staging does is allow that to happen through “window dressing,” as it was so aptly put in an article on Kiplinger.com. Each room needs to appear as neutral, functional, and large as possible, necessitating less furniture than the average homeowner uses. New furniture, provided by a stager, looks better than the ten-year-old sofa that the dog has chewed on or the glass dining room table with the chips in it. Kitchen counters are removed of all daily accoutrements, save a coffeemaker, and replaced with baskets of fruit or flowers. Bathrooms lose those shaggy toilet seat covers and gain high-end towels, candles, and sink accessories. Bedrooms have new bedspreads, lots of throw pillows, and generic art, instead of grandma’s quilt and pictures of the grandkids in random frames. It is all about appearances. HGTV thinks so, too, and is among the cable TV stations to feature shows on the growing trend of staging. In addition to such shows as Designed to Sell, Secrets to Sell, and Curb Appeal, they also have a few tips and trick available in online articles “Secrets of Stagers” and “Top Ten Staging Don’ts.” How much staging affects the price and time on the market varies, depending on where you live and who you talk to, but there is some general statistics that reinforce the notion that staging is a beneficial practice. In the 2006 article “Home Staging Attracts Buyers and Improves Sales Performance” by Diana Hudson for Designing Online, the author describes staging as a beauty contest and I think that is an apt analogy. She goes on to say, “Known in California as the ‘secret weapon of real estate,’ staging is the art of preparing and packaging a home for sale and industry statistics seem to bear out its value. The National Association of Realtors found that staged homes are on the market 13.9 days as opposed to 31 for non-staged homes. NAR statistics also indicate that staged homes sell for an average of 6.9 to 10% over listing price.” Those statistics match up with data on StagedHomes.com, which show an average 6.9% sale price increase and 50% less time on the market for staged homes overall. One study they conducted by StagedHomes.com compared DOM Before Staging (163.7 days), DOM After Staging – for homes that did not sell and then were staged (13.7 days) and DOM After Staging – for homes staged first then listed (8.9 days). Although this was a study done with only 300 homes, those numbers are impressive.
While a 6.9% increase in price does not sound like much, on the typical $1,000,000 Bay Area home, that is $69,000—enough for a new BMW550i sedan with all the bells and whistles, or to send your daughter to Belmont’s private Notre Dame High School for 4 years (including books, uniforms, and extracurricular activities), or for a family of 4 to take a 42-day cruise aboard the QE2 from New York to Sydney (in outside staterooms). Certainly food for thought.
Part II: Staging 101: The Key Components