Dear Ray,

I’m preparing my home for sale.  The home has been cleaned & painted, and I’ve had the lawn groomed and edged, and flowers planted near the front porch.  It looks lovely.  My agents says I need to go one step farther and have my home professionally staged.  What is your advice on staging a home?  Is it worth the cost?  

M.S.

 

Dear M.S.,

Homeowners frequently ask me, “Do I really need to hire a company to stage my home?” Let’s be honest, staging is major up-front cost.  While everyone agrees that a staged home looks better, is there a financial upside to staging? Is staging really worth the added expense?   

Staging your home in preparation for selling is an increasingly popular trend. I’ve been selling homes long enough to remember when there were just a few companies that offered staging services. Back then, the only staged homes were new, model homes. A decade ago, only a small percentage of listed homes were professionally staged.  Nowadays, there are dozens and dozens of staging companies. In 2016, more homes are staged, than not staged. 

It’s important to remember that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. In the past agents would turn on all the lights, add a vase of fresh flowers, and bake cookies. That’s not enough for today’s picky buyers.  

An empty house has always been more difficult to sell than a furnished house. Staging helps the buyer imagine themselves living there by accentuating your home’s best features.  A staged home also photographs better, and good photographs are key to attracting buyers to come and see your home.

Full disclosure: When the staging trend began, I wasn’t a big fan of staging. However, it didn’t take long to convince me that the benefits of staging outweigh the cost. The same is true of professional photography for your home. Having your home staged and photographed by professionals can have a major impact on the success of selling your home.

As an industry, staging has evolved rapidly. Staging in 2016 is less about decoration and more about transformation. A well-staged home sells more quickly, according to a 2013 study by the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA). Staged homes spend 90 percent less time on market.

You’ll find most staging companies are very accommodating. As a homeowner, you can expect to be presented with a menu of options for staging your home. Some staging companies will work with you, helping you de-clutter and stage your home with your own furnishings. Most staging companies will offer a basic package of staging which includes several rooms, such as the living room, dining room and master bedroom. Or, you may opt for whole-house staging which will include bathrooms, kitchen, basement, porch and patio.  

Today, a home staging company will come to your home, evaluate your needs and consult with you, presenting a variety of options tailored to your home. Often, the stager may recommend painters or contractors to spruce up your home before placing their furniture & fixtures. The stager will choose the paint colors and style of furnishings which best highlights your home’s features. They add art and accessories which are the finishing touch. The range of services is almost unlimited. Cost vary, of course. A basic staging package will run around $3,500 for the initial set-up, with a monthly rental fee of approximately $1,500 thereafter. Because staged homes sell quickly, it’s likely you won’t need to maintain the staging for more than 60 days.

Personally, I’ve witnessed the transformation of some of my listings from ordinary to extraordinary. I recall one home (which I felt was perfectly fine prior to staging) that received a jaw-dropping transformation, worthy of a magazine cover. The home sold within hours of being listed for more than the asking price. The buyer was duly impressed and asked to purchase some of the furnishings at time of sale. (The Realtor — yours truly — asked the stager for the living room paint color code!)

While staging can make a big difference, remember that good staging won’t conceal stained carpet, a leaking roof and holes in the drywall. Make necessary repairs first, and invite the staging company to add the finishing touch.

It’s my opinion that staging is indeed worth the added expense at the time of sale. Start with your agent. Most agents maintain a list of the best staging companies. 

Ray Akers is a licensed Realtor for Lake & Co. Real Estate in Seattle. Send your questions to ray@akerscargill.com or call 206-722-4444.