5 Home Staging Myths to Overcome Before a Sale

Staging isn’t just about decorating. It’s about creating space, highlighting your home’s strengths and appealing to as many buyers as possible.

Despite the positive impact that staging can have on a sale, some sellers remain unconvinced of its importance due to some myths and misconceptions.

If you’re not sold on home staging, read on for the truth behind some of the most common staging myths.

Myth # 1: My Home Will Sell For Same Amount Whether I Stage Or Not

One seller hadn’t made anyhome improvements in 25 years and was dead set on an asking price comparable to those for updated homes in his neighborhood. He wasn’t convinced that landscaping, painting and other staging tacticswould help him achieve his asking price. His home sat on the market for over 6 months before he called for some staging assistance.

Getting top dollar for your home involves pricing it at fair market valueand marketing the space properly. But those tasks are tough to accomplish if your home looks rough around the edges. If you’re like the seller who hadn’t made updates in decades, you may not be able to sell your home at all without a makeover.

When you sell your home yourself – making it a FSBO, or for sale by owner – it’s especially important to detach yourself from your home and look at it like a buyer will. After all, you won’t have a real estate agent to give you an objective, informed evaluation of your home’s strengths and weakness. Most buyers are scouring listings online and touring homes frequently, so it’s worth it to do some scouting of your competition to see if your home’s presentation measures up. If it doesn’t, staging might be the only way to get top dollar.

Myth # 2: Home Staging Is Expensive

Just like landscaping or renovating, home staging canbe expensive if you have extensive work done. Professional staging fees typically range from $700 to $7,000, depending on the size of your home, how many rooms you stage and whether you rent furniture.

However, hiring a professional isn’t your only option. Many home sellers simply pay a couple hundred dollars for a consultation, which involves a professional stager walking through their home and making recommendations. From there, sellers can declutter, rearrange furniture, paint and add a few accents on their own.

Home staging is likely to be an added cost, but it also adds value to a home. If painting or making some updates seems like too high an expense, buyers may be inclined to think the same thing and offer less for your home than they would otherwise.

Myth #3: Home Staging Is Only For Vacant Spaces

This couldn’t be further from the truth. According to the Real Estate Staging Association, only 10% of home buyers can see a home’s potential. This is hardly surprising, as it can be difficult to see past personal items and interior design choices when you walk into a room for the first time.

Staging is the perfect middle ground between an empty home and one that feels lived in. Every action taken during staging is meant to add universal appeal and make it easy for buyers to imagine themselves living there. No matter how well-kept or stylish a home already is, fine-tuning the presentation can increase its value and help attract offers.

Myth # 4: Staging Is Just About Cleaning And Organizing

Cleaning and organizing play a huge role in staging, but those are just two steps in the process. In many cases, it’s also necessary to make minor repairs, rearrange furnishings, update things like fixtures and flooring, coordinate colors and add accents.

The last thing you want to do is go halfway and leave money on the table. By committing to staging your home – and not just giving it a thorough cleaning – you can leap from presentable to stunning. Follow through on all the little adjustments and best practices that have been proven to impress buyers. When the offers roll in, you’ll be glad you did.

Myth # 5: Staging Is The Same As Decorating

Home decorating is typically a way to express your personality. Home staging is the opposite – a way of depersonalizinga space so buyers can see themselves in it.

That’s not to say that decorating isn’t involved. Furnishings, wall art and accents all play a major role in the staging process. The difference is that you’re decorating for the masses instead of yourself. Design choices should typically be modern and understated, with a few pops of color to keep things interesting. Try not to distract buyers from your home’s strengths, but don’t drain all the life out of the environment, either. Imagine a classy lobby or a hotel room as a starting point.

Fact: Staging Is Worth Considering

If you’ve done a good job maintaining and updating your home over the years, you have a head-start on getting your home ready to sell. But in most cases, even well-kept homes can benefit from some adjustments.

Before you list your home for sale, read up on the latest design trends and consider consulting with a professional stager for help with marketing your home.

You should learn a few tricks to impress buyers and give yourself a better chance of getting top dollar.


Tori Toth is a Certified Home Staging Expert, Regional Vice President for Real Estate Staging Association and owner of Stylish Stagers Inc. She has been interviewed on CNN Money and was named a Professional Stager of the Year Finalist in 2012. Learn more about Tori and her Stage 2 Sell Strategy at


Most Desirable Features for Home Buyers Revealed

What features make home buyers willing to pay more? Is energy-efficiency important to house hunters? Will living in a gated community attract more buyers or keep them away? Joel Cone of looks at the buyer preferences that are shaping the market.

Whether it is a new or existing home, for buyers in the post-Great Recession market, real estate is still first and foremost about location. After that, the buyer’s individual (or family) dynamics kick in when it comes to the home features they prefer. And with the help of modern technology, buyer preferences have definitely changed.

While crime rates, shopping malls and restaurants, local entertainment or places of worship may be part of the equation in determining where a buyer wants to live, the layout and features being offered on the interior are playing a greater role than ever before.

Due to the advent of the internet and cable television, buyers have numerous resources available to help in their home buying decision. From interior design and real estate websites, to real estate-oriented television shows on both major and cable networks such as HGTV, home buyers can do more research on their own before ever beginning their home search.

“Buyers are smarter now because of the internet and all these television shows. They walk into a property after watching shows like Kitchen Crashers last night and see a lot of these things already done,” said Realtor Brandon Carey with Ascent Real Estate in San Diego, Calif. “Now it’s a trigger in their mind that it’s the right property for them. If these homes already have these items taken care of, that’s a no brainer for them.”

The proliferation of these websites and television shows is making buyers smarter about the products that are being used in homes. Because of that information, certain things they like stick out to them. Things like the type of flooring, cabinets and countertops that were used in the kitchen.

In San Diego in particular, Carey and his design people are noticing a trend towards open floorplans, clean lines, and the popularity of the color gray at the moment. Particularly home remodelers and investors who flip homes are using a lot of gray these days in kitchens and in bathrooms, he noted.

Two of the nation’s largest real estate organizations – the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders – conducted surveys on buyer preferences that were released last year. Here are some highlights from their respective results.

Based on a survey of homebuyers between 2010 and 2012, the National Association of Realtors’ 2013 Home Features Survey reported:

  • The typical home purchased was 1,860 square-feet and was built in 1996
  • The average home bought had three bedrooms and two full bathrooms
  • Repeat buyers, buyers of new homes, married couples and families with children typically bought larger homes
  • First-time buyers and single women tended to buy older homes
  • Slightly more than half of the homes purchased were single level
  • Single women placed higher importance on single-level homes, while single men wanted finished basements
  • More than three-quarters of all buyers purchased a home with a garage
  • Among 33 home features surveyed, central air conditioning was the most important feature to most buyers, followed by a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, a home that was cable-, satellite- and/or internet-ready, and an en-suite master bathroom
  • New kitchen appliances were more important to single men and married couples than to other buyers

From a regional perspective, the study showed that:

  • Southerners tend to buy newer homes and place higher importance on central air conditioning
  • Garages were more important to new home buyers, Midwesterners and suburbanites
  • Basements were more popular among buyers in the Midwest and Northeast
  • Northeastern buyers also valued hardwood floors more than buyers in other regions of the country
  • Buyers in the Northeast put more value on homes with a dining room than a living room

A majority of buyers were willing to spend more money on a home in order to have:

  • Central air conditioning
  • New kitchen appliances
  • A walk-in closet

Buyers placed the highest dollar value on:

  • Waterfront homes
  • Homes that were less than five years old

Rooms that buyers were willing to pay the most for:

  • A basement
  • An in-law suite

Most important rooms for buyers to have in a home:

  • Laundry room
  • Den/study/home office/library

Ninety-seven percent of recent buyers were satisfied with their home purchase, the study noted.

“Most satisfied homeowners still said they would like more or larger closets and storage space. In addition, nearly half of recent buyers would prefer a larger kitchen, and two out of five would prefer a larger home overall,” said NAR Vice President of Research Paul Bishop.

Within three months of a home purchase, 53 percent of buyers undertook a home improvement project, the report added.

As for the homebuilders, the NAHB conducted its 2012 survey in two phases: the first phase used screening questions to identify recent home buyers who purchased in the past three years as well as home buyers looking to buy in the next three years. The second phase consisted of a detailed questionnaire given to those two identified groups of home buyers.

Here’s some of the highlights of the NAHB findings reported in 2013:

  • Just over half of all home buyers would like to buy a new home
  • Buyers expected to pay about $203,900 for their next home
  • Buyers want a home with an average 2,226 square-feet
  • For 25 percent of the buyers the size of the lot was not important
  • Nearly half wanted three bedrooms with 32 percent wanting four
  • More than half of the buyers surveyed wanted a single-level home
  • Two-thirds of the buyers wanted a full or partial basement
  • Nearly half of the buyers who wanted a two-story home wanted the master bedroom on the second floor, and the washer and dryer on the first floor
  • Living space and the number of rooms was important to about two-thirds of buyers
  • Buyers tended to focus on the quality and appearance of components such as doors, cabinets, countertops
  • Quality and brand name was important for appliances

The study showed that when it came to the most desirable features in a home, buyers were most interested in two themes in their homes:

  • Energy efficiency – energy star-rated appliances and windows
  • Organization and storage – particularly a laundry room and garage storage

Among the most unwanted features were:

  • Being located in a gated community
  • Being located in a golf community
  • A two story family room
  • Wet bar and wine cooler
  • Ceramic tile countertops

Accessibility features found most desirable by buyers were:

  • Full bath on the main floor
  • Doorways at least 3 feet wide
  • An entrance without steps
  • Lower kitchen cabinets

Half of all home buyers want amenities such as electronic systems and technology features included in the base price. As for technology features, few buyers have them but many want them in their next home.

Although the majority of buyers are concerned about the environment, most are not willing to pay more for a “greener” house.

Among the many demographics in the survey race and ethnicity can play a significant role in how a buyer evaluates the features of a particular home.

After controlling for age, income and household type, the survey showed:

  • Hispanics and African Americans want more bedrooms
  • Among the four ethnic groups studied (White, Hispanic, African American and Asian) all would be satisfied with up to 2½ baths
  • Most buyers in all four groups want high ceilings on the first floor
  • They also want the washer and dryer on the first floor
  • Two car garages are the most popular parking option

“Both the NAR and NAHB survey results point to home buyers looking for homes built after 1995 with three bedrooms and two bathrooms in 1,500 square-feet of space or larger. Thus it comes as no surprise that these are the types of properties real estate investors are seeking in order to either flip or buy and hold as rental properties,” said Rick Sharga, Executive Vice President at

Whether it is an existing home or a new home a buyer is interested in purchasing, the availability of newer materials and designs, as well as technology give today’s home buyers more choices than ever before. And they have definite opinions on what features they would prefer to have included in their next home.

What features do you desire most in a new home?

Joel Cone is a freelance writer based in south Orange County, California. For nearly a quarter century Joel’s career — both as a journalist and as a marketing communications specialist — has focused on the residential and commercial real estate industries, as well as the legal community. After a decade as a staff writer for the Daily Journal Corp. group of newspapers, Joel was a regular contributor to California Real Estate magazine for the California Association of Realtors; was the original Orange County reporter for; wrote executive profiles for OC Metro magazine; and has been published in a number of real estate-related publications.


Seller’s Market Favors By-Owner Transactions

Nasty winter weather across much of the U.S. has failed to cool the upward trend in home sales; as spring nears, buyers will continue to hunt a smaller pool of properties.

The numbers prove that this is great news for by-owner sellers.

Sales for the year just ended were the highest since 2006, and overall median prices grew steadily, according to figures compiled by the National Board of Realtors. Nationally, the median existing-home price for 2013 stood at $197,100 — an 11.5 percent increase from 2012’s $176,800.

The supply of foreclosures is also drying up. In its National Foreclosure Report for December 2013, financial and real estate analysts at CoreLogic point to 45,000 completed foreclosures, a 14 percent drop compared to December 2012. The analysts also note that the serious delinquency rate is at its lowest since November 2008.

Mirroring real estate industry optimism, CoreLogic’s Home Price Index Report for December 2013 shows home prices climbed 11 percent over the previous year.

Average mortgage rates remain relatively low, encouraging house hunters to act now. On Feb. 6, Freddie Mac reported mortgage rates lowered for the fifth week in a row. Thirty-year fixed mortgages averaged 4.23 percent, down from 4.32 percent in the previous week, and down from 4.53 percent at the beginning of the year.

If these warming numbers aren’t enough, the spring and summer selling season is about to add its own heat to the 2014 housing market. Schools will be letting out, families will be preparing to move, and getting to the closing table will be at the top of their to-do lists. Traditionally, data shows that more than half of all homes are sold during the summer.

Armed with this knowledge, for sale by owner (FSBO) sellers can take advantage of this flood of buyers.

According to Eddie Tyner, general manager of (one of several online services that help homeowners bypass real estate agents as well as their 6 percent commission), by-owner sellers have distinct advantages in this landscape:

  • Even when represented by an agent, today’s home buyers use the Internet to find their ideal home.
  • An online by-owner listing lets buyers conducting their own home searches quickly connect directly to FSBO sellers to view and make offers on homes without relying on an agent.

“In a tight market like this, home buyers are aggressively using every resource they can to make sure they find the best house at the best price possible,” Tyner says. “Low inventory creates a great opportunity for home sellers. If sellers use all the marketing resources available to them to position their listings everywhere buyers are looking, they are more likely to sell without an agent.” Tyner notes that the reality is that in most cases, for sale by owner sellers reach the same amount of buyers with the same marketing resources and exposure that agents provide.

The worst thing a by-owner seller can do is become complacent, Tyner says. Prospective home buyers are more numerous now, but that’s no reason to skimp on the details. Tyner emphasizes that it’s still important to price your home realistically, stage and photograph your home so that it looks better online than competing properties, and to continue to insist upon pre-approved buyers (not merely pre-qualified) as a condition of showing your property.

Keep all of this in mind and you — and your bank account — will benefit from this rebounding housing market.