home staging

“I have heard of a man who had a mind to sell his house, and therefore carried a piece of brick in his pocket, which he showed as a pattern to encourage purchasers.                                                                      Johnathan Swift   1667-1745


 an overview

answers to commonly asked questions about home staging…an alternative to lugging bricks in your pocket.


home staging is the process of preparing a private residence for sale in the real estate market. Using proper staging techniques the  property is made more appealing to a larger  number of potential buyers increasing the chances of a faster sale for the listed price.

 a new industry:

home staging began in the early 1970’s in California, which makes it a relatively young industry. As a new industry, home  staging is  not yet regulated which explains the wide variance in the approaches used, services offered, and rates charged by home stagers. It may also explain in part why in some areas of the country home staging is fundamental and in other areas it’s virtually unknown.  

a different world:

It used to be enough to clean, mow, & make minor repairs before putting a house on the market; a lot of folks including some realtors continue to believe this is true. Perhaps, in some cases it is, but….

In our local real estate market there are houses that have been on the market for well over a year. Nice houses with appropriate prices. And they are not selling. Prices have been reduced repeatedly. The price of one house, whose original listing was for $529,000, has been reduced by $80,000. That’s a chunk of change. The prices of other houses have been reduced by $19,000 to $35,000. None of the houses have been staged.              

Some folks are skeptical that home staging works…or believe it’s an unnecessary expense…or are absolutely certain that their house is absolutely fabulous…or at the least, that their house is fine just the way it is. And it is true that some houses sell without being staged but it often takes longer and the house often sells at a reduced price. Staging does not guarantee a faster sale at full price but it significantly increases the chances. Home staging almost always costs less than a price reduction. If you are skeptical that home staging works then by all means put your house on the market…but if after several months or a year the house remains unsold, with no offers, and little interest, then it might be time to reconsider home staging.

What used to be enough may not be sufficient today. It’s a different world, a different market, a different economy.

 what home staging does:

The ultimate goal of home staging is to sell a house quickly and at its full price by making the house as appealing as possible to the largest number of potential buyers. Within that framework home staging:

 1) neutralizes and de-personalizes the house
2) emphasizes the assets of the house while minimizing its flaws
3) showcases the house and not the home owners furnishings or personal style
4) makes the house appear as spacious as possible         
5) makes the interior as light & bright as possible
6) creates a favorable first impression
7) streamlines furnishings, accessories, & art work. Removes clutter. 
8) works with color, space, furniture arrangement, window treatments, lighting, accessories,  & art work
9) addresses traffic pathways within the interior
10) creates a buyer-friendly house
stop sign           

 first impressions: curb appeal

Psychologists say that we form a judgment about a person within 15 seconds of first meeting them…the same is true for potential buyers looking at a house. It is also said that you never get a second chance to make a first impression and that it’s far easier to make a good impression than to reverse a bad  one.   

The appearance of the exterior of a house and its grounds is commonly called curb appeal. It’s what you see when you look through the car windows as you pull up in front of the house. Poor curb appeal can make such a negative impression that potential buyers have been known to simply drive away without ever exiting the car. Home staging addresses the exterior of the house as well as the interior: the front entrance, grounds, patios, porches, or decks, to create that all-important first impression and hopefully entice the potential buyer into at least entering the house. 

loving Daffy:neutralizing and de-personalizing 

In your own home you don’t have to conform to anyone’s idea of what is stylish and tasteful. So, if you want an eight foot image of Daffy Duck painted on your living room wall because you love Daffy Duck, you’re allowed.  But the moment you decide to sell your home it stops being a home and becomes a house, a product for sale in a highly competitive market. And the chances of finding a buyer who loves your eight-foot, hand-painted Daffy Duck are pretty slim.

No big deal, the new owner can paint over Daffy. The problem is that most buyers are looking for a house that is move-in ready. They don’t want to paint over Daffy. They would rather buy the house two blocks away that is similar to yours with a comparable price tag but doesn’t have an eight-foot Daffy Duck in the living room. Home staging de-personalizes and neutralizes the house so it will appeal to a  larger number of potential buyers than just the one-in–a-gazillion buyer who would embrace having an 8-foot Daffy in their living room.

Using Daffy is a bit over the top but the principle is sound. 90% of potential buyers have difficulty visualizing what their furnishings will look like in a new house. It becomes even harder when the seller’s personal style overwhelms the basic attributes of the house.

The houses mentioned earlier, the ones sitting on the market for over a year, are nice homes…really nice homes…in the price range of $300,000 to $600,000. One house is beautifully designed using high ticket materials but…it’s so full of furnishings that it’s hard to see the actual features of the house.  

Another house has such a formidable Victorian style: pink carpeting, velvet upholstery and window swags, elaborate vintage wallpapers…that it is truly impossible to image any other style in the house. 


Sometimes by holding firm to their preferred style, sellers limit their chances of selling the house quickly or at its full value.

when a home stops being a home: letting go

The moment the decision is made to sell a home it stops being a home and becomes a house, a product, a commodity; a product for sale in a highly competitive market. It is problematic for many home owners who have difficulty detaching emotionally, who have trouble making the transition from home to product.

It is hard to be objective about our homes, our taste, our furnishings, and our things. (I mean come on; we’re talking about our Stuff here.) Additionally, a home is often the repository of dreams and memories. Of course it’s hard for most people to detach and see the house and its furnishings objectively. To see them as they really are. Or at least to see them in the context of staging.

One of the greatest services a home stager performs is to bring objectivity to the equation. A stager does not have emotional attachments to the house and is able to view the house and its furnishings impartially through the lens of a specific set of goals.

decorating vs staging: two sides of the same coin:     

                                decorating vs staging
                                gnigats sv gnitaroced         

In many ways staging and decorating are two sides of the same coin. Stagers & decorators work with space, color, furnishings, accessories, & art work but their goals are entirely different.

A decorator emphasizes individual style, personalizes the home, and focuses equally on comfort, function, and aesthetics.

The stager neutralizes and de-personalizes the home, emphasizes the attributes of the property, and focuses more on aesthetics and less on comfort. Choices are based not on the client’s personal taste but on a mainstream approach appealing to a greater number of potential buyers.

home staging services: what they may look like

Consultation-the stager tours the house and property, compiles instructions/recommendations specific to the property, and provides a verbal and/or written consultation. The written consultation may be for an additional fee. The staging plan can be fully implemented  by the home owners based on the stagers instructions and recommendations, or the owners may contract professional services (cleaners, repairmen, carpet cleaners, landscapers, painters) to complete specific  portions of the plan.  The consulting   stager may also contract to do hands-on staging.

Hands-on staging-the stager carries out the actual work, de-cluttering, arranging furniture, art work and accessories, re-organizing, and embellishing. Services vary and the fee is often hourly.

Vacant home staging-the stager brings in furnishings, art work, and accessories to furnish or partially furnish a vacant house. Furnishings are from the stagers inventory or a rental store and the rental fees are paid by the home owners.

Online staging– a written consultation/staging plan is formulated based on photographs of the house and grounds and information provided  by the home owner. The plan is then implemented by the homeowner. The advantage of online staging is that it is usually less expensive, and less intrusive.


Virtual staging: furnishings, accessories, and art work are digitally added to a photo of the room (often vacant) providing an image of how the  room could look when furnished; often used in online listings to attract the interest of potential  buyers. The approach is  somewhat controversial, with critics complaining the altered photos may not give a realistic representation of the room’s actual  condition.

and then there are the TV home stagers          clapper    whose primary function is to keep us entertained and make things really confusing. For many folks the only exposure they have to home staging is what they see on TV and while the shows are entertaining and the results often spectacular they may not be representative of the real world and real staging. Hollywood strikes again! Most stagers do not have access to warehouses of furniture, original art work, and accessories.  Most homeowners do no live in multi-million dollar homes. Most staging budgets do not include free labor.

different approaches: stagers may or may not…

–work only with the owners furnishings.

–work mostly with the owners furnishings but bring in furniture, accessories, art or other enhancements from the stagers inventory or a rental store. Homeowners are charged rental fees. 

–use little or none of the owner’s furnishings and bring in furniture, accessories, and art work from the stagers inventory or a rental store. Homeowners are charged rental fees. 

–use mostly props with one or two pieces of furniture to partially furnish a room.

–address, directly or indirectly, cleaning, painting, minor repairs, organization, and landscaping.

use props to embellish the home such as: 

setting the dining room table for a dinner party,
placing candles, plants, and luxury towels in the bathrooms,
positioning a tea cup, reading glasses and an open book on an ottoman positioned before an easy  chair.
 In any given space no two stagers will stage exactly the same way. Staging is more related to the creative arts than to science. The goals will be the same but the approaches used to achieve those goals will vary from stager to stager. Approaches are also determined by the homeowner’s budget.

 it doesn’t take a rocket scientist:

It is a common misconception that home staging is little more than de-cluttering and embellishing: removing a stack of old magazines…adding a vase of flowers…  Obviously it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to place a vase but home staging is more complex than just de-cluttering and embellishing and requires more skill than placing a vase on a table or counter. It takes:

objectivity to: assess a house and its furnishings, determine its appeal or lack of appeal, decide what is working, and what isn’t and how to fix it.

skill to: make a house feel spacious and cozy at the same time, use color, pattern, scale, proportion, and light, and combine and arrange furnishings, accessories, and art work to make a space more cohesive and appealing.   

knowledge about: how to make a house more appealing.  how to emphasize  assets while minimizing flaws, what is current and what is outdated, and what home buyers are looking for and how to elicit a positive response.

Home staging takes more than the ability to place a vase.

 to stage or not to stage, is that the question:

In controlled tests selling identical homes, professionally staged vs. those not staged, the non-staged houses sold in 102 days, while the staged houses sold in 45 days.  (Real Estate Staging Association)
 –In a 2009 Home Gain Survey of over 2,000 realtors, it was discovered that home staging typically provides a 586% return on investment.

A Coldwell Banker survey of 2,800 properties revealed staged homes sell in 1/2 the time of non staged homes

For more statistics take a quick peek on the internet, there are a gazillion sites with stats, testimonials, and views and opinions from both sides of the question.

Home owners can perform many of the tasks to prepare a house for the market or they can contract services for specific tasks like cleaning, painting, carpet cleaning, or repairs.

There is an amazing amount of home staging information available…on the internet…on T.V… in books and magazines. Some realtors are pretty savvy about staging. Some realtors are not. Some of the information is truly helpful. Some of the information is daunting or contradictory, or confusing.  Most of the information is general, common dos and don’ts, or cookie cutter techniques that may or may not be relevant to your house.

A professional stager takes it to the next level by working specifically with your house, your kitchen, your living room, your yard. All the house’s little idiosyncrasies: the oddly-shaped living room that makes arranging furniture a nightmare, the funky divider in the dining room (what were the builders thinking), the wall of bookcases overflowing with well-loved books. When a professional stager develops a staging plan it is unique, specific to your house, and within your budget.  

the best time to stage?

Optimally: before even contacting a realtor.
Definitely: before photographs are taken and the house is listed.
Eventually: when a house is not selling, then it may be time to remove it from the market, stage it, re-photograph it and re-list it at its original price.


Change is hard for many people and moving and selling a home is a huge change. Huge! Change is often uncomfortable and scary. It helps to realize that without change we would sit in a corner and require weekly dusting just like the other furniture. It also helps to remember that living in a house that has been staged and is on the market is a transition, a temporary state. A staged house is not the way we normally live. Think of it as temporarily living in a hotel…without room service.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”                                                                            — Abraham Lincoln

For information specific to working Class certified home staging including approaches, services, and rates please click on services under Home Staging. (coming soon) 


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