Seller 101: Importance of Staging

Hello to all those home sellers out there. Today, I’m going to cover the topic of staging. In terms of to-do items, this will usually fall on my list immediately after a home has been visited by contractors and cleaners, and is almost ready to hit the market. I always educate sellers on why I believe staging is worth the cost, but ultimately it is their choice, of course.

Let me explain why I recommend this step to you, as a seller, and why I would do so myself if I were selling my own home.

I’ll start by saying buyers have a difficult time envisioning a space when it is vacant. I’ve taken hundreds of buyers through hundreds of homes, and let me tell you it is difficult to decide if a king bed will fit in a 8’X10′ bedroom when it is empty. By bringing in trendy artwork, rugs, and nice furniture, the creative work is done for the buyers. Adding mirrors and lamps with daylight bulbs, will make the space feel bigger and give the illusion of extra natural light. With the right furniture in place, buyers will envision how they would use the space themselves and start to see it as their own home. In addition, popular television channels like HGTV have created a certain expectation by many buyers – turnkey, beautiful decorations, and no clutter.

Just as important, staging will distract from parts of the home that may need cosmetic updates. I will tell you from first-hand experience – if a home is vacant the first thing a buyer will notice are the small flaws that may be present. Scratched paint, faded flooring, chipped tile, old window treatments, etc – these are just a few examples of small things that will draw the buyers eye if furniture isn’t present. But not just any furniture. An old worn couch from the 70’s and a bookshelf cluttered with stuff isn’t going to help in convincing the buyers that this is their dream home. It’s important the furniture in place leaves a lasting positive impression.

Keep in mind, photos are SO important. Once a listing is published, photos are going to be the first thing that a buyer sees and play a large role in whether or not they take the time to actually go and visit the property. When photos are taken after a home is staged, they make a great first impression on the buyer and are more likely to compel him or her to visit the property, in comparison to photos of a property that is vacant.

I feel confident in saying staging commonly contributes to an outcome of more, stronger offers and procures them faster. In my experience, I frequently find homes that are staged receive more buyer interest than those similar, nearby listings that are not staged. Let me support this with some data:

-According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2021 Profile of Home Staging, 82% of buyers agents agreed staging helped buyers envision the space.

-According to the Real Estate Staging Association’s 2020 statistics, which included a survey of 13,000 staged homes, 85% of staged homes sold for 5-23% over list price.

-According to that same survey, with an average investment of 1%, approximately 75% of sellers saw a return on investment of 5-15% over asking price.

-Our team specifically has had multiple scenarios where a seller decided not to stage before listing and received little buyer interest when the home came on the market. A couple of weeks later the client changed his or her mind, staged, and as a result received multiple offers in less than a week.

One option that many of my clients frequently decide upon is partially staging – meaning the “major selling rooms” are staged and the other rooms are left to the imagination of the buyer. This is less costly and still does the job well. So what does “major selling rooms” entail – usually the living room, dining room, kitchen, owner bedroom, and owner bath. I would recommend asking about this option if your stager doesn’t offer it up front.

Let’s dive into cost. This will vary depending on size of home and location but it usually runs from $2,000 to $5,000 in the DMV. Homes with a larger square footage cost more, as well as homes in locations that are more difficult with parking (for example downtown DC). A 1 bedroom, 1 bath condo in Virginia will usually cost around $2,000, whereas a single family home in DC will be in the top of this range. Your trusted agent should be able to get you a quote or multiple quotes to help in making your decision.

As a side note, there are a few exceptions. The first is if you are selling the home while you still live there. If this is the case, it is worth considering if your own furniture is well suited to stay in the space while on the market. If you, as the seller, have nice furniture that is in good condition and complements your home, then it is likely your trusted agent can help you declutter and add some nice touches and decorations that will leave a good impression on buyers. If this is not the case, it would be my recommendation to think through alternatives to make the space vacant. In addition, homes being sold as a tear down or that are older and being sold as-is (with original finishes) may not be the best candidates for staging. It is likely that these homes will undergo a full revamp anyways. In addition, if a home is sold either off market or during the coming soon phase, these are also examples when staging is not recommended.

A final note, there is one alternative option to staging that I’ve had client use called virtual staging. Most professional real estate photography companies now offer this. A digital expert can work with you and your agent to decide which virtual furniture you’d like added to your photos to help the buyers envision the major selling rooms better. This usually costs about $50 per photo. While I think this is a good alternative, it won’t have quite the effect that traditional staging would have. That said, I think this is better than moving forward utilizing neither option.

Enjoy this wonderful, sunny day!

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