Home Staging 101

Home Staging 101 — A primer for an essential home marketing tool

It is a 43-year-old idea that is now a hot trend in real estate marketing. Home staging has been made increasingly popular not only by TV shows about selling homes and designing spaces, but also by real proof that it works.

Many homeowners, however, are only vaguely aware of the idea of home staging and surprisingly, the majority of real estate professionals are still not using one of the most effective marketing tools for their listings.

Yet, many successful sellers and their REALTORS® will tell you that homes that have lingered unsold on the market for months are often sold within weeks, or even days, once they are home staged.

What is Home Staging?

Home staging is a marketing tool that helps turn your listing into a "product" that competes with and outshines the other comparable "products" on the market and appeals to the greatest number of buyers. It is the competitive edge for your listings so that they sell faster and for more money—a win for you and for your client.

Home staging is not decorating a home or baking cookies, as many people assume. It is a psychological and physiological strategy to turn listings into desirable properties. It creates a look and a feel within a home that helps buyers see the potential of living there rather than notice its faults or the specific tastes of the current owners.

It is about showing spatial proportion within a room, while making its key selling features stand out. The staged home never looks cluttered and has plenty of places where viewers’ eyes can rest and use their imagination to visualize it with their own belongings.


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Home Staging Neutralizes

In an occupied home, home staging neutralizes a space allowing buyers to imagine living there, rather than feel like they are intruding on someone’s home.

Neutralizing an occupied home starts with taking down all family photos, removing distracting art collections and knick-knacks, decluttering in general and hiding pet items. Painting over bold wall colors, removing wallpaper and changing carpet can be an important part of neutralizing a home.

In a vacant home, home staging creates a homey, intimate feeling in a fairly neutral way with select furniture, artwork and accessories brought in to sell its features and show spatial proportion.

When a house is completely empty, all of the flaws call out the buyers attention. But when furnishings are added with home staging, eyes are able to move around the room easily without getting hung up on imperfections.

"Sellers have a very short window for a buyer to fall in love with their home," says Jasmyn Jefferson, Windermere Professional Partners, Tacoma, WA. "From the moment they walk in, the home must be inviting. That is difficult if a home is vacant. When a home is staged, buyers immediately get excited about a home’s possibilities."

Why Recommend Home Staging?

You owe it to your listing clients to help them prepare their home in the best way possible to maximize the profit on its sale. Home staging and good photographs are important pieces to that selling puzzle.

"Preparation of the home for market, which includes proper staging and results in high quality photos and video, is as fundamental to the sale of real estate today as newspaper advertising was 15 years ago," says Matthew Plummer, owner of MVP Realty Group in Olympia, WA. "Our listings have sold for more money in half the average market time over the last 12 months and I attribute that success, in large part, to careful preparation. I explain the importance of home staging at our first client meeting and include, at minimum, a staging consultation…"

Results from a National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) survey of more than 2,300 REALTORS® show that staged homes favorably influence buyers’ perception of a home.

In the survey, 81 percent of the brokers who represent buyers said their clients can better visualize a staged home as their future home. Why? Most buyers have a hard time seeing the potential of empty space. Home staging shows room proportions, possible furniture layout and warms up the home.

A large majority of buyers first view properties online. Nearly half of the buyers’ brokers surveyed said buyers are more willing to tour a staged home when they view it online. There is little worse than seeing a completely vacant home in online pictures that make it hard for the buyer to understand the purpose and size of the rooms.

Twenty-eight percent of the brokers surveyed said their buyers tend to overlook the faults of a staged home. It is because staging provides an emotional and physiological experience that bonds a buyer to the home.

Sales data shows that staged homes sell for 5 to 10 percent more than un-staged homes.

What Does Home Staging Cost?

Prices for home staging services vary depending on location around the state. Large urban areas have higher costs for staging relative to the higher costs of the properties.

"The investment in staging is always less than the first price reduction."

For an occupied home, most staging companies offer a staging consultation, where they advise the home owner on how to make their home look best with their existing furnishings. Prices can range from about $150 to $300 for the consultation. If further help is needed, companies usually offer an occupied staging service where they come into the home to do the work; prices for that service depend on the work and time it takes.

For a vacant home, many staging companies have an inventory of furnishings that they bring in to give it the homey feel it needs. The amount of furnishings will vary depending on the budget and the layout of the home. Often, less is more, as it helps buyers imagine possibilities.

Pricing for vacant homes is usually broken down into a one-time "staging fee" plus a monthly rental fee. Some REALTORS® choose to cover the expense of the staging consultation as a "marketing fee" for their clients because they believe in the process so much. More common is to have the home seller pay for staging.

Convincing Sellers

Some REALTORS® have a knack for convincing their clients to stage their homes because they are firm believers in staging and can convey its importance. Home staging is part of their listing presentation, so it is first and foremost in their seller’s mind.

Home staging sets REALTORS® apart from others who don’t have anything unique to offer in marketing a property for top price.

"One of my clients is an investor who stages all his homes so that his ’product’ sells at the highest profit and in the least amount of time," says Jasmyn Jefferson. "I explain to sellers that when they sell their home, it becomes a product that must compete on the market. Home staging can give their home a competitive edge."

From my experience, homeowners who follow through with staging consultations are grateful they trusted their REALTORS® suggestion. A well-priced, staged home will not undergo the same price reductions of un-staged homes that sit longer on the market.

Whether they are REALTORS® or the homeowners themselves, clients are able to repeat convincingly what we tell them often…

"The investment in staging is always less than the first price reduction."



Lisa Poundstone

Lisa Poundstone

Lisa Poundstone, PhD, is the owner of Design Smart Home Staging & Redesign, LLC and her company has helped stage thousands of homes. She is an Accredited Staging Professional (ASP®) and was the 2013 and 2014 Winner of the Best of South Sound for Interior Design. Contact her at (360) 480‑5810.

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