If you’ve ever felt an enticing pull from a glamorous store window or from photographs online, you know more than ever how good design can impact your spending. Home stagers operate using this very concept.
But with a wide range of costs and benefits, it can be difficult to figure out if home staging is right for you. So, let’s break down the costs of home staging, how it works, and give you some tips on how to make the most of your money.
What Is Home Staging?
There are many different views of what home staging is – some may view stagers as laissez-faire workers who merely light a candle or plop down a vase of flowers before calling it a day, while others associate home staging with intensive, top-to-bottom home renovations.
In reality, both scenarios can be true – the quality and intensity of a home staging varies depending on the stager and of course, your home.
Generally speaking, however, home staging is a marketing strategy that combines interior design and psychology to generate more money for you, the home seller.
There’s even a growing industry for home staging awards which acknowledge the best in the redesign business – think of it as the Golden Globes for modeled homes.
So, how did home staging rise to the forefront of the real estate world? Well, because it works.
But don’t just take it from me.
The Benefits of Home Staging
Just like everything else, home staging has its fair share of skeptics – after all, can some new chairs or a fresh coat of paint really make that much of a difference? The short answer: yes.
Unstaged homes may appeal to contractors looking to buy fixer-uppers for their own profit, whereas staged homes make it easier for first-time home buyers to really visualize living their lives in your home.
But what do the numbers say?
According to a 2019 report from the National Association of REALTORS®, “Eighty-three percent of buyer’s agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize a property as their future home.”
Additionally, the NAR also found that on average, for every $100 spent by the seller, the potential for return could be as high as $400.
With the opportunity to reap these rewards in mind, let’s make sure your home staging tactics are on the right track.
The Dos and Don’ts of Home Staging
Do: Remove Personal Belongings
In a Q-and-A with the Chicago Tribune, Dr. Andrea Angott – who has a Ph.D. in psychology and has been studying the behaviors behind home staging’s success – discusses the most important steps to take when staging.
She found that one of the most important things to do when staging your home is remove all personal effects from your bathroom. This includes toothbrushes, razors, soaps and beauty products.
In the Q-and-A, Angott theorizes that this is of great importance due to the fact that “… people don’t want to feel that the house they’re buying is lived-in … they don’t want to imagine that other people are inhabiting the place they want to buy.”
This reasoning is also why stagers will tell you to depersonalize your home and make it as “neutral” as possible – this means no family photographs, collectibles or antique-esque furniture.
This tip might sound misleading – after all, isn’t home staging a form of remodeling? But what we mean is this: don’t go wild with new renovations.
Home staging should fix purely cosmetic blemishes because chances of receiving a full return on your remodel are low. Additionally, no matter how “to die for” you might find your new remodel, you could be cutting out a whole market of potential buyers who don’t share your same tastes.
Typically, it’s safer, and less stressful, to simply stick with easy fixes.
Do: Understand Your Target Market
When it comes to real estate you want to make selling your home as seamless as possible, which means understanding your target market.
Is your neighborhood fit for families? Is your home a great space for new couples? If you can figure out what pool of potential buyers would be most likely to purchase your home, you can then stage with their tastes in mind.
Don’t: Sell An Empty Home
A general rule of thumb in real estate is to try and avoid selling an empty house – something which is reserved for a “last resort” situation. This is because unstaged houses generally spend more time on the market and wind up selling for less.
With vacant homes, buyers typically have a harder time visualizing their lifestyle and though it may seem counterintuitive, empty rooms actually seem smaller than furnished ones. It will also be easier for buyers to fixate on minor flaws, seeing as they’ll be a main focal point in your empty room.
To combat this, you can still fix up your home in small ways – skip ahead to the section on “soft staging” for more ideas, or consider sprucing up your landscaping for increased curb appeal.
Whatever efforts you choose to make, they’ll be well worth it in the end.
So, How Much Does Home Staging Cost?
If you’ve been looking for a black-and-white answer about how much hiring a home stager will cost, chances are you haven’t found one. That’s because staging costs vary greatly depending on your home and your situation.
But if you’re looking for an estimate, feel free to try out Home Advisor’s True Cost Guide or simply keep reading to learn more.
Vacant Vs. Owner-Occupied Homes
To properly discuss the potential cost of a home staging, we must first talk about the seller’s living situation: are they occupying the home for sale or living elsewhere?
Both situations present different costs but usually owner-occupied homes give a stager more to work with. In owner-occupied homes, the stager will be able to utilize the furniture and decor the seller already has for the final staged designs. A vacant home, however, calls for a stager to rent or buy new pieces to furnish your home.
This doesn’t guarantee, however, that having furniture on hand will save you tons of money. Yes, vacant homes require rented or purchased pieces, but owner-occupied staging still calls for the cost of labor, and depending on how many items you have, you may also be looking at storage costs down the road.
This is why it’s also important to know what kind of home you have before staging.
Assess Your House
Let’s say you have a multilevel home – obviously your stager will need to make trips up and down stairs to properly stage the key rooms in your home. If their redesign calls for bulky furniture, they may even have to hire movers to get things where they need to be.
A ranch-style home won’t have the same costs in labor as a home with three stories, which is why finding an exact price for staging online can be so difficult.
So, it’s up to you, the seller, to weigh the costs your unique home may have and figure out what staging options are right for you.
How Can I Save Money on Home Staging?
Make the Most of Consultations
Although home staging consultations generally still cost you money, the per-hour rate of a consultation will be significantly less than a general labor fee per hour. So, take advantage of this time to be as productive as possible.
Typically, consultations last just 2 hours during which time home stagers will assess your furniture and decor to decide what pieces can be used or what should be stored. By setting aside decorative pieces and furniture ahead of time, you can save your stager the labor and time of sifting through your home for those eye-catching pieces.
Stage Key Areas
Obviously staging fewer rooms will save you money, but be sure to spruce up the most important areas of your home. This includes the kitchen, dining room, master bedroom and living area.
You should also keep the entryway where potential buyers will first enter as nice as possible – you want them to have a positive first impression of your home.
This tip really depends on your home stager and your individual situation, but it can’t hurt to ask your stager if you can pay them using money from the sale.
Including staging in your closing costs can save you money in the moment, but if you’ll need the money from your sale to go elsewhere, this may not be for you.
It’s all about assessing what works best for you.
Finally, there’s the tactic of soft staging.
Soft staging is decorating and accessorizing your home to add small touches without fully furnishing the space. This can range from fruit bowls to artwork to area rugs.
Soft staging is generally discouraged by real estate professionals and stagers alike since the more effort you put into staging, the more return on the investment you’ll get. However, it is a cost-effective solution for sellers looking for a frugal fix and is always better than selling a vacant home.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, you want your home on the market for as short a period as possible – to save money from the monthly upkeep and to ease the stress of selling.
Staging your home, regardless of whether you pull out all the stops or use the soft staging technique, can decrease your time on the market and put more money in your pocket.
If you want to take a more hands-on approach to home staging, check out our article on affordable DIY Home Staging Projects.