Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Is Staging a Home Useful and Worth the Money?

Some think staging a home for resale brings a higher purchase price and quicker sale than homes not staged. Unfortunately, the evidence one way or the other is weak.

When you put your home on the market, you need to do everything in your power to make certain potential buyers can visualize themselves living in your house. The first order of business, then, is to get rid of clutter, such as everything stuck on the face of the refrigerator, everything on the kitchen and bathroom counters, religious and family pictures in the most public rooms, excess furniture in the living and family rooms, cardboard boxes of stuff on the floor, guitar stands, stuff on top of end and coffee tables, and so on. The list can go on and on and on, and this part is only Stage One.

Closets may also be part of Stage One. Overstuffed linen closets are a turnoff, for example. Clothes closets shouldn't have so many clothing articles hanging that the rod bends in the middle. It's best if clothes are arranged by type and hung with the same style of hanger, making the closet look roomier.

Stage Two includes highly customized decor, such as luminescent little stars on the ceiling, too many paint colors in a single room, clashing carpet patterns or colors from hall to bedroom, appliques on walls, rock star/political figure/ actor posters on walls, and just about any of the personal touches people use to individuate private spaces.

Stage Three has more to do with traffic flow and how furniture is set out and pieces matched. Stage Four involves phases of redecoration and even remodeling.

So, what to do? If you can't Stage One de-clutter on your own, get a stager to do it for you. De-cluttering is far and away the most important step. It makes your home feel bigger and cleaner than it really is. Don't worry about putting the excess "stuff" into the garage. Buyers will know you're moving and not be surprised.

Stage Two is nearly, if not just as, important. Note that Stage One and Stage Two are virtually free.

Stages Three and Four are really important as well, but the decisions in executing them have to be made in a larger financial context.

My sense is that the importance of full-on staging is related both to the price of the home and to market conditions. A home listed at $1 million and up better look as though it's worth it, and if you have a home in that price range, you can probably afford a stager.

For low- to mid-priced homes, it's not so clear cut. If you are using a broker, ask if staging is included in the listing fee. It often is with the busier listing brokers. For most homes in most markets, a staging consultation would probably be $100-$200.

If the market is slow, with too few buyers and too many sellers, staging might provide the edge you need.

All of which is to repeat that the evidence one way or the other isn't clear. In the absence of that, common sense will just have to do.

Agree, disagree or have an opinion? Let me know!