Thursday, October 11, 2007


When you are out house hunting, you might notice that some of the homes, although furnished, don't look lived in. That's probably because they are vacant, but have been staged. This is interior design specifically for the purpose of getting a house sold. Come on, you've all seen the shows on HGTV (Home and Garden Television).

The idea of staging is so that people can imagine themselves living in the space. It is a way of raising the value of a property by reducing the home's flaws, depersonalizing, decluttering, cleaning, decorating to create a pleasant flow, and landscaping.

You don't want the buyers to walk into your home and see you and family represented in all of your things. You want them to walk in and see themselves there. Step one is always to remove your clutter and personal items. We all have clutter, don't be offended.

Why is staging so expensive? You are paying an insured design company to come in, create a plan, bring in a house full of furniture, artwork, and knick knacks, and rent it to you for what is usually two months. They will even sometimes do some painting, replace hardware, or do small repairs. The lowest end is a partial staging for $2,000; you won't get anyone to come out for any less, and you can easily go up to $5,000 or $10,000 for a full staging.

Is it worth it? I believe it depends on the property. If you are selling a fixer, staging may look a bit ridiculous. But in general, it can be proven that a property that is staged and well presented will sell faster and for a higher price. In that case, your money comes right back to you. Think of it as saving another month's mortgage. I believe that you do have to spend money to make money, even though it may hurt.

Let me give you an example. At the beginning of the year, Anja and I had a listing for a two bedroom condo on the north side of town. The sellers moved out, and Anja got busy heading up a team to clean the place up, paint, replace hardware and lights, and finally to stage the place. It looked amazing; I was afraid the sellers would want to move back in! They received two very good offers in the first two weeks; both were over asking. Because of that fast initial response, the sellers thought they could get more so they did not accept either offer. Just a side note, the first offer is often the best!

The condo then proceeded to sit on the market for quite some time. The sellers decided to remove the staging because they didn't want to pay for it anymore, and the condo continued to sit on the market. The listing expired. We went to put it back on the market and finally convinced the sellers to have the place staged again. Within the first two weeks, we again received two strong offers. The sellers accepted one of them.

There are two lessons here. Don't pass up a good offer because you think you can get more. Secondly, don't underestimate the power of staging. Both times around the only offers received were in the initial two week period after hitting the market, and it was only after bringing back the staging that we finally got it sold.

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