Vacant and Fully Staged Homes: which sells?

Home Stager with Showhomes

Showhomes is a national franchise and we train new Home Stagers often. One of my favorite parts of training is a field exercize that clearly demonstrates the difference in a vacant home for sale and a home that is both occupied and fully staged. Our company's success is based on the premise that vacant homes are much harder to sell, take much longer to sell and sell for far less money.

For this exercise, we used two homes for sale in a suburb north of Nashville. Both homes are in the same neighborhood, are priced the same and have been on the market for the same amount of time. We carried a group of people through both houses and recorded their feedback from both homes:

House #1: vacant house:



Here is the positive and negative feedback from 5 people who visited this home:

Negative Feedback Positive Feedback
weeds in planter Lot of space
dark – lighting Master bath big
temp cold, uncomfortable Well maintained
No color Tray ceilings nice
Inconsistent shine of wood floor Bonus room nice and private
Sink dirty Like high finish in garage
no fridge like recessed stair lights
portable chairs Good windows and lighting fixtures
empty mantle Solid house
Tub dirty Good looking house
shower missing enclosure high ceilings nice
house seemed not finished wood floor nice
Misc parts on counters
Carpet dirty. Dusty
windows have dead bugs
dirty windows
Toilets not clean
Large empty loft room
No place to sit
No window coverings – no privacy
Too close to neighbors
Front yard not kept
Lot of leaves
no curtains – feels colder
To big – get lost
Unfinished room at top of stairs
Hard to visualize space
smells like paint
Paint peeling on back door jamb
spiderwebs creepy
scrap of carpet for welcome mat
Storage by fridge left over
Cold and dark
Echo on floor
Echo on marble made subfloor seem hollow or poorly built
Granite didn’t match house – colors don’t match
dead leaves in front
dust bunnies on floor
low outlets framed awkward – looked like substandard building
dead grass
wood floor to marble floor uneven
House empty
Master tub too small
shower odd
scratched wood floor in study
lights out
living room and kitchen eating area small
Pink tint odd

Here is the home staged by Showhomes with a live-in Home Stager:




Here is the positive and negative feedback from the same people:

Negative Feedback Positive Feedback
too many personal photos wel lit
homey feel – warm
very nice colors – eye catchy
great furniture
felt luxirous
upstairs bedroom nice as master
big house – good space
felt more usable, easier to live in
music and fans
full of life
really liked it – cozy
very welcoming
music makes great impression
sitting area in master great
very funstional house
great floorplan
keeping room – great space
extra family room – bonuns room huge
nice playroom
smells nice
closets really nice
garage not cluttered
food in fridge
nice and clean home
curb appeal great
wreath on door
seems like a model
felt like a perfect model home
linens like a spa
patio nice
staging really great
master bedroom awesome
music really helpful
clean garage
warm and very clean
woman’s touch
holiday decorations tasteful
feels like a great family house
live plants look great

Look at them side by side and it’s obvious which home is going to sell faster!

In a pricing survey, all 5 said they preferred the staged home and if they were to put in an offer would start at 5-10% below list price and would all go up to list price to get the home. Several stated they would ‘be embarrassed to low-ball the owner since the home was so well cared for.”

The vacant home, on the other hand, did poorly on the pricing survey. Even though the homes were comparable in most ways, the viewers said they would submit a low-ball offer starting at 70% of the list price and would only go up to 75%.

What do you think?

Thomas Scott

Comments (15)

Gary Swanson
Century 21 Harris & Taylor - Grants Pass, OR

Thomas, I think a well-staged home will sell more quickly than an empty home.  Empty homes come across as being cold and every flaw shows.  Although I also believe an empty home will sell more quickly than a very cluttered home.

Dec 10, 2009 03:28 AM
Anthea Click
Fresh Perspectives - - Franklin, TN
Nashville Home Stager - Selling Nashville, TN homes quickly!


Great comparison. The good certainly outweighs the bad with the staged home, but the bad can be easily remedied. Love the staging too. Great job!

Dec 10, 2009 03:35 AM
Margo Currie
Exit 1 Stop Realty - Saint Augustine Beach, FL

Obviously, it pays to stage the home! My only concern is that a buyer, such as me, would probably conclude that my furniture would look old and outdated after seeing well-planned and staged rooms. I love visiting model homes to get decorating ideas and to see the latest in home furnishings.

Dec 10, 2009 03:37 AM
Natasha Little
Showhomes Greenville - Greenville, SC
Showhomes Greenville

This is so true!  I took part in this exercise when I went through Showhomes' Home Staging course.  I was truly amazed at the difference the staging made - and I was already a believer. 

I don't know if you remember, Thom, but the staged home we looked at was actually about 10 years OLDER than the new construction comparison home and upon closer inspection and reflection, the unstaged home actually had better fixtures and finishes, but the staged home still blew it away when it came to the pro and con list and side by side comparison.

It was January and the empty home was cold.  There was nowhere to sit and relax.  It had a really weird staircase that I still remember as one of the trickiest and scariest looking I have EVER seen in a new house.  Many things about it looked cheap and impractical.  Even though it was listed at over a half mil, we all thought it was over-priced by $75K to $125K.

The managed home was warm and cozy and inviting.

I like this post.  If the worst feedback we get is too many personal photos, I'll take that over the other long list of complaints any day!

Dec 10, 2009 04:09 AM
B Lucas-Thrower
Staging - Interior Redesign & Home Staging - Franklin, TN
Interior Redesign and Home Staging

Staged is always tickles the buyers imagination and allows them to dream. Especially if staged beautifully. These are. Congratualtions.

Dec 10, 2009 05:35 AM
Karen Otto
Home Star Staging - Plano, TX
Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging,

Hi Thomas, I agree a vacant property is much harder to sell for many reason.  Nice job! Question though, was the exterior of the home changed? The two houses look very different on the outside.

Dec 10, 2009 11:17 PM
Monica Stanciu
Staged 2 Sell Solutions Inc. - Markham, ON
Staged 2 Sell Solutions, Markham, ON

Hi Thomas!

Thanks for the post, it is great to see these comparisons.

Yes, staging WORKS!

Dec 11, 2009 12:59 PM
Wendy Carroll
Coeur d'Alene, ID

I love the lists!

We staged a model in a new townhouse development that had only sold one unit and several months.  Following staging, they were selling about 1 a week.

We were there when a buyer came in with his folks.  They had just seen an identical emtpy unit and hadn't been too enthusiastic.  When they came into the staged unit, they began talking about where ttheir furntiure would go - in a positive way.

It was a treat to hear the comparisons.



Dec 12, 2009 03:29 AM
Kevin Vitali
EXIT Realty Beatrice Associates - Middleton, MA
Helping Massachusetts Home Buyers and Home Sellers

A great list of feedback comparisons.  It funny to see how a change in price or staging or condition can prompt drastic changes in the feedback.

Dec 13, 2009 05:10 AM
Chrissie Sutherland
Ready Set Stage - Greensboro, NC

If that doesn't prove that vacants are hard to sell, I don't know what will.  Great point.  Thanks for sharing.

Dec 17, 2009 12:19 PM
Lori Bonicelli
Bonicelli Design - Marietta, GA

I think that a vacant unstaged home makes the seller look desperate.  If I was buying a vacant home I would first submit a very low ball offer, walk away and then come back later maybe.....

Dec 24, 2009 07:07 AM
Marcus Martin
Showhomes-St.Petersburg - Saint Petersburg, FL
Your Vacant Home Rescuer

Hey Thomas!!! I have read this a couple of times and realized I have not left a comment :( Great job as always. Very powerful approach and it clearly states the benefits of stagging. I hope all is well Happy New Year. I'm going to re-post this one!!!

Jan 04, 2010 05:43 AM
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

Buyers often have a hard time "visualizing"  . . . a vacant home shows each apparent gaff in the wall, scratch.  Buyers will focus on "things" -- like furniture, wall decor -- and not be as nitpicky, IMHO.

Jan 13, 2010 04:19 AM
Valerie Sagheddu
Apostle Art Home Staging & Design - Stroudsburg, PA
~Home Staging Professional, Poconos, PA

Buyers pick apart vacants...great study!

Jan 28, 2010 12:53 AM
Home Staging
Showhomes - Nashville, TN

Just learned today that we picked up a contract to stage this vacant home as a result in our staging the home around the corner!

Jan 29, 2010 12:17 PM