If you want potential buyers to choose your property over that of the competition, home staging — the act of making a home look visually appealing to buyers — can make your house stand out from the crowd.
“Buyers often have a difficult time envisioning how a property can be used,” says Dan Keating, owner of Coast Home Staging, based in Long Beach, Calif. “When they see a house that’s beautifully staged, it’s warm and inviting, and they perceive a much stronger value to that property.”
That stronger perceived value often translates into a higher selling price. In a survey, real estate Web site HomeGain found that home staging resulted, on average, in a $1,780 price increase or a 586 percent return on investment. “We’ve seen that the value home staging brings to the table is dramatic,” says Keating. But sellers should understand four staging basics.
There are two different types of staging, depending on whether a home is occupied or vacant. “Most of us have too much stuff in our homes,” says Shell Brodnax, president of the Real Estate Staging Association, or RESA, a trade group in Valley Springs, Calif. One of the biggest tasks in staging an occupied home is reducing the clutter and depersonalizing the place. You’ll want to reduce the number of books on bookshelves, paint rooms in neutral colors and remove artwork that may evoke strong emotions, such as religious imagery or pictures of animals, Brodnax suggests.
Furniture may also be moved around in an occupied home. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of taking what you have in one room and moving it to another,” Brodnax says. If you have a larger budget, you might want to tackle such tasks as changing the carpet or upgrading the countertops to make the home look more inviting.
A vacant home generally needs more work. “When buyers come in and look at a vacant home, all they look at are the problems — the cracks in the walls, the dirty piece of carpet,” says Keating.
To remedy that, a few pieces of rented furniture can give potential buyers more to focus on than the house’s flaws. A few plants and freshly painted walls can also help buyers envision themselves living in the property, which can lead to a sale.
Since every staging job is different, costs vary. For a consultation with a professional stager who will inspect your home and provide a list of suggestions, expect to pay about $350, says Barb Schwarz, founder of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, or IAHSP. Homeowners can do the work themselves, or they can pay the stager to make the changes. If furniture or other supplies need to be rented, the homeowner will also pay the rental fees.
Staging a vacant home will likely be more expensive than staging an occupied home since you’re starting from scratch. “(Staging) a vacant home typically can cost less than 1 percent of the value of the house,” says Keating. “Occupied homes are typically way less than that because we’re using as much of the homeowner’s furnishings as possible.”
Not only can staging help seal the deal when a buyer is inspecting a home, but it can also get that buyer to visit the home in the first place. “Twenty years ago, people would drive by properties and read the paper and read ads and have to go look at them,” says Brodnax. “Now 90 percent are looking on the Internet before they even get a Realtor to show them homes. So if you don’t have amazing pictures of that property, people move that property to the ‘I’m not even going to bother going to visit the home’ list.”
With social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook being used to post pictures of properties, staging takes on a new urgency as a home’s presentation has a lot more at stake and its ability to sell can often hinge on a photograph.
You want someone who has experience staging properties in your neighborhood to the market you’re targeting, says Brodnax. A portfolio should include pictures of the stager’s previous work, as well as photographs of any inventory the stager has available to put in your home.
StagedHomes.com, a staging education company founded by Schwarz, offers an accreditation course; those who complete it get the ASP — Accredited Staging Professional — designation. Trade associations such as the IAHSP and the RESA can also be starting points for finding stagers in your area.
Once you narrow your selection down to two or three stagers, interview them, hear what they propose to do to your home and listen to your gut. “Personality matters,” says Schwarz. “You want a personality that fits with your personality.”