If you’ve put your home on the market, your goal is to sell your house for the asking price within a relatively short time frame. Home staging is the key to achieving that goal. Home staging portrays your home in a way that buyers can’t imagine living anywhere else.
The beauty of home staging is that it can be accomplished in a variety of ways and at a range of price points. You can do it yourself, engage a professional, or use a hybrid approach.
Do you recall preparing for your first job interview? Whether you were meeting with the lead project manager at the building site or sitting down with the head of sales, you wanted to make a good impression.
You ditched your joggers for dress slacks and removed the piercing from your nose. Likely, you dropped some of your favorite phrases and muzzled your opinions about the 2024 U.S. presidential election.
Joggers are comfortable, and a pierced nose might be your trademark look, but you wanted to tailor (the pun is intended) your image to appeal to a wider audience. Your friends love your acerbic wit, and you have a passion for political science, yet you wanted to create a broadly appealing vibe.
Doing those things increases your likelihood of getting a job offer. You developed an image and cultivated an impression to be universally appealing to potential employers. You were self-staging!
Home staging is all about portraying your property in ways that are broadly appealing to potential buyers.
Home staging is not a single action. It is a variety of efforts and methods to get your home ready for “interviews.”
Home staging can include any of the following tasks:
- rearranging furniture
- adding or removing decor
- modifying space
- repairing and maintaining
We will get into the specifics of the tasks in a separate section. Yes, it looks like an intimidating list. However, you decide which tasks will produce the biggest impact and determine the time and money you spend to accomplish the tasks.
If we had to give a one-word answer, we would say “yes.”
Selling a house is one of the largest-dollar transactions you will make. It involves copious amounts of time and affects your personal finances and tax reporting. Selling a house also requires legal considerations (i.e., disclosures) and demands critical thinking (i.e., the timing of putting it on the market) and decision-making (i.e., setting a list price).
As you can see, you are invested through the mere act of selling your house, regardless of the amount for which you sell. Home staging can maximize your investment and lead to a higher sale price!
The National Association of Realtors (NAR), with 1.5 million members, is the largest trade association in America, and its focus is real estate. Brokers, salespersons, and appraisers comprise NAR. It makes total sense to consider NAR’s view on home staging.
NAR strongly advocates that sellers take the time to stage their homes based on these data points:
- Eighty-two percent of buyers’ real estate agents agree that staging a house allows potential buyers to see its potential as their home.
- According to 23% of buyers’ agents, compared to similar homes that were not staged, staged homes increased the offer amount by 1%–5%.
- The same percentage (23%) of sellers’ agents cited that the offers on staged homes were 1%–5% higher than on homes that were not staged.
That the same percentage of both buyers’ and sellers’ agents reported a 1%–5% increase in offers made and accepted (respectively) is both telling and relevant. Buyers and sellers have naturally conflicting goals. Buyers want to pay as little as possible for the property they want. Sellers want to make as much money as possible when they sell their property.
We’ve addressed the value of home staging by looking at it from two vantage points.
From a qualitative standpoint, we understand how a potential buyer may envision and interpret a staged home. From a quantitative standpoint, we consider the numbers put forth by real estate experts who have collected and measured data.
Now, we’re going to narrow our focus to the seller’s perspective. We’re also going to move from the general concept (home staging is worthwhile) to the specific (home staging can lead to certain outcomes).
Let’s consider three ideal outcomes that can result from home staging.
Most potential buyers start their house hunting online. They look at real estate websites and click through interior and exterior pictures of available real estate. Most images will show clean surfaces, clear walkways, and yards free of old car parts (unless it’s a commercial property ideal for a scrapyard).
What makes someone go from using their computer mouse to click through the house photos to taking transportation to see the house represented in the photos? A well-staged home is the change agent.
Sure, a house on the market has been photographed after its surfaces have been cleaned. However, a staged home boasts surfaces made of newer material (e.g., quartz instead of laminate or high-quality laminate designed to look like quartz).
Naturally, photographs show the walkways are clear. Yet, home staging means they are photographed to emphasize their breadth and width. If the flooring is unique or new, the photographs should include a glimpse.
We were injecting a bit of humor by mentioning the “old car parts,” but there is a grain of seriousness to that quip. If you love refinishing antique automobiles, it may not occur to you that not everyone does. It’s critical to portray your property to appeal to the masses as opposed to leaving your property the way you love it. You don’t plan on continuing to live there.
Potential buyers are not looking for a house; many are looking for a home. As such, they’re looking for real estate that provides more than a roof over their head. They want to find “home sweet home,” as the saying goes.
Through home staging, a seller can create the kind of welcoming ambiance that transforms a house into a home. While individual tastes vary, there are some general principles that can be applied. Think of how to make your property welcoming, light, bright, and warm.
Sumptuous flower beds in brilliant hues greet visitors before they’ve even stepped inside. Rooms full of light convey openness and space. Neutral and uncluttered walls painted in warm shades (e.g., cream, taupe, etc.) provide a canvas.
Buyers will feel welcomed as they step out of their vehicle. They are uncrimped as they meander through well-lit and spacious rooms. They see the halls and visualize their belongings falling into place.
For an extra (and inexpensive touch), have a mildly scented candle in a subtle scent burning. Fragrances like vanilla and cinnamon suggest someone is cooking in a cozy kitchen. One real estate agent advised a seller to have baked cookies before an open house to make it feel more like home!
A buyer with this kind of experience is more likely to develop a connection with a house. Connections can turn potential buyers into buyers.
Consider a potential buyer who viewed a property online, liked what they saw to the point of visiting it in person, and established a connection with the house. It is more likely the potential buyer makes a higher offer on that property than they would have done if the house met their conditions, but no more or less.
Knowing how buyers think puts you a step ahead. While on this topic, we encourage you to learn more about what goes into a buying decision, detailed in our blog and book.
We and the NAR have convinced you that staging your home is well worth it. You know the importance of providing a welcoming vibe and lots of well-lit space that serves as a canvas to get people thinking of their belongings nestled into each room.
Great, you’re thinking, now how do I accomplish this vision? Thankfully, there are several practical and actionable methods that can be followed. We’ve split them into three categories.
These are known as “low-hanging fruit,” the easiest and least time-consuming. They are free or inexpensive and do not require a professional.
- Clean thoroughly.
Wipe every visible surface, paying extra attention to the kitchen and bathroom areas. Vacuum the floors, but don’t stop there. Upholstery (e.g., sofas or fabric-covered chair cushions) should be vacuumed, too. Wash windows. For fixtures, furniture, and wood cabinets, apply specially-formulated wood cleaner.
- Remove clutter.
This is not the same as cleaning. Items that are used frequently and left in plain view comprise clutter. Boxes, cartons, and jars on the kitchen counter should be tucked into a cabinet. Items that reside on the sink and shower ledges (e.g., toothbrush holders and shampoo) also should be stored out of view. Television remotes and computer accessories do not need to be on display.
Wires and cables may not be able to be relocated. However, a nest of canary-yellow cable looks disordered. Strategically place decorative items to conceal the underpinnings of your technology.
- Tend to the outside spaces.
Whether the property is attractive from its exterior is called “curb appeal.” Think about a potential buyer pulling to a stop in front of your home. Consider the impact of the first impression. They’ll see the outside before they put a foot through the door.
Ensure the environment around your house is tidy. Mow the lawn, pull the weeds out, and rake the leaves. Remove any plants or shrubs that are dead or might be dying.
Keep toys and bicycles in the garage or the shed. Yard signs supporting a political candidate or announcing your high school senior plays soccer should be stowed away. You might love your family of gnomes, but your potential buyers may not.
These steps go beyond the must-haves listed above. They require some additional time, effort, and money. They won’t consume multiple weekends nor deplete your bank account.
- Take on the small fix-it jobs to demonstrate your home has been well-maintained.
Cover nail holes and cracks. Remove flaky caulking and apply a new strip of caulk. Adjust the shower head that has leaked for the last 18 months. Reattach the rusting latch on the gate leading to the backyard.
- Rework and rearrange the layout of the rooms in a way that maximizes space and draws attention to the room’s best features.
Are your bookcases crafted from beautiful wood and stretch from floor-to-ceiling? Ensure your favorite chair and Anglepoise lamp are not blocking the view. Do you have a storage unit in your foyer? Add colorful baskets or containers to show off the storage potential cleverly placed at an entry point.
- Paint, plaster, and sand.
Walls within high-traffic areas of a home show wear and tear. Refreshing hallways and entrances with a new coat of paint can make a significant difference. If you’ve rewired or removed anything from behind a wall (and created a hole), be sure to apply plaster and sand the area, so it blends.
- Update accessories and decor items as a way to freshen a space or to add on-trend touches. Floor coverings and rugs that are worn or faded should be swapped out. Though bath towels and bathmats aren’t decorations, replace them if yours are matted or stained. Nobody wants to think about what created the stain or what it is, especially in a bathroom. Out of sight, out of mind!
Pursuing the ideas listed below depends on the overall condition of the house and whether you think significant upgrades will make a hefty impression on potential buyers. These ideas involve projects that generally aren’t completed in a weekend and have a hefty price tag.
- Replace appliances to address environmental concerns.
- Upgrade the kitchen with new countertops, flooring, or cabinets.
- Remodel the bathroom(s) to provide the latest in modern conveniences (e.g., spa-like shower fixtures or water-conserving toilets).
If decor and do-it-yourself projects are not for you, a professional can lend a hand (or an opinion or two).
A professional home stager is unique from an interior designer or a professional organizer. Home staging professionals provide decor suggestions, organizational tips, and a wealth of knowledge pertaining to the local housing market. Their focus is marketing your real estate in the most favorable ways.
As with any professional service, there is a range of costs. How much you will pay to have your home staged depends on the property’s location, the size of your house, the amount of time involved, and material costs (e.g., you will pay for your new kitchen cabinets separately from what you pay for the home stager’s services).
Home staging professionals may work as independent consultants or as part of an organization or business. Using the internet or consulting your local chamber of commerce will point you in the right direction.
There is a trade organization dedicated to home staging professionals. With over 4,000 members across the US, it’s clear that home staging is a viable business with sought-after services. It is organized by region. Individual chapters within a region focus on specific cities, towns, and rural areas.
The universal appeal of home staging is that it truly is a “one size fits all” idea. You can dedicate a little or a lot to the mission. You can succeed with the property you already have by focusing on the basics and by emphasizing or augmenting the property.
Consider NAR citing an increase of 1%–5% in price for a staged home compared to a non-staged home. Think of the bevy of television shows dedicated to home improvement and beautification; people’s perceptions of what their home can look like have expanded in full color. Ponder household names like Marie Kondo as evidence that the setup and design of a home matter. Note that an organization dedicated to home staging is 4,000 members strong.
As such, staging is well worth one’s time, effort, and money. You’ve heard the saying “home is where the heart is.” It is clear that today’s buyers also have a heart for their home.
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