You’ve heard of it before, whether it’s because you’ve thought of selling your home or you’ve watched any amount of any HGTV show.
Home staging is mostly what it sounds like: you make your house (or apartment, or condo, or whatever you’re trying to sell) nice and pretty for buyers so it doesn’t languish on the real estate market.
And that makes sense. After all, you don’t go to job interviews in sweatpants and a cheese-stained t-shirt, right? At the very least you put on something that’s unwrinkled and with a button or two. (And if you do wear sweats to an interview, you need to be reading an article on something that’s not home staging.)
But even if that sounds intuitive, does it work? Will you sell your house more quickly or for more money if you stage it than you would otherwise?
Turns out that’s a tricky question because it has a lot to do with the perception of buyers, which can be hard to quantify.
Does home staging actually work?
It depends on who you ask. And also what you mean by "work."
The real problem is a lack of reliable studies on the concept of staged homes.
One study done by researchers at Old Dominion University, the College of William & Mary, and Johns Hopkins University showed people two sets of images: one of a home with outdated furniture and gaudy purple walls, and one of the same room but more subdued and modernized. People thought the latter looked nicer, but didn’t think it was worth paying more for.
At the same time, some studies show that the price of staged homes is, on average, 6% higher than that of non-staged homes.
And that’s where the trouble with the studies come in: they compare staged and unstaged homes, but very few compare the same home staged versus unstaged. If someone has the money to do a home staging, is the house just nicer than an unstaged home? Is it in a safer neighborhood, or one with better schools? How do you compare the impact that staging has on an individual home? Even if you do a before-and-after study, someone’s knowledge of the "before" could mean that they’re not impacted by new furniture or a new coat of paint.
Plus, even if potential buyers think staging a home makes it worth more money, that’s a far cry from them actually paying more money, and there’s nothing out there that says that they do. In this National Association of Realtors study – which is largely pro-staging – they say, "thirty-two percent of buyers’ agents believe staged homes increases the dollar value buyers are willing to offer by one percent to five percent."
Note the phrasing: agents believe it increased the price buyers were willing to pay. Nothing in the study says that staging definitely increased the price their clients ended up paying. I believe installing a popcorn machine in a Tesla Model S would make me more willing to buy one, but that doesn’t mean I’d actually do it if Elon Musk offered that option tomorrow.
Elsewhere in the report we see that only 34% of agents recommend staging for all homes and 13% recommend it for homes that are difficult to sell. If there was some hard-and-fast proof that staging had a positive return on investment, you’d think that every agent would be recommending it to every seller.
But that’s not to say that staging doesn’t have value otherwise. The university study focused on price, but there’s more than that when it comes to selling a home. In the realtor study, when breaking down the value to home staging to buyers, the top two reasons were to make it easier for buyers to visualize it as a future home and to make them more willing to do a walkthrough. It can help bring buyers in and decrease the amount of time your house spends on the market.
So staging can help push potential buyers to view the home and, eventually, make an offer (even if that offer isn’t at a higher price), and it can potentially make it more appealing than other homes. But if you’re looking to make an investment in your home and make money, there are other things you can do.
What you should do to sell your home
Okay, so maybe you don’t want to spend a lot of money on staging since you may not see that money again. There has to be something you can do to make your house more appealing when you put it on the market, right?
Instead of spending time and money on new furniture to make things look nice, make some repairs and remodeling. Pre-sale upgrades can increase the selling price of your home by up to 12%. That’s because these things stick around. Buyers might not be willing to pay more because you stuck a nicer couch in the living room – you’re taking that with you, after all – but new countertops, a replaced roof, or hardwood floors are things the buyer will be using after they move in.
You can also do a simplified version of staging on your own. It could be as straightforward as cleaning and decluttering your home or rearranging your furniture. If you’re moving anyway, you might as well throw out or donate as much as you can, right? And moving some things around can make rooms feel more open and spacious, which can act as a big selling point. Best of all, these changes are free.
Remember, a big part of staging is letting buyers visualize your current home as their future home. Help them imagine it by getting rid of as much of your own stuff as you can.
Selling a home is no small feat. There’s a lot of stress involved and a lot of money on the line. If you’re going to spend even more money putting your house on the market, make sure you’re getting a return on it. Otherwise you’re just flushing it down the perfectly-staged toilet.