5 Reasons Selling Your Vacant House is a Mistake

Home Stager with Showhomes


A vacant house is like a vacant stare. Something is just not right.

Trying to sell a vacant house adds obstacles and depresses the sales price, says Showhomes, a nationally franchised home staging company. Showhomes uses live-in home stagers to lower the cost of staging and produce faster home sales. Take a look at its top five reasons why selling a vacant house is often a mistake in today’s market:

1. People don’t simply buy houses; they buy the next chapter of their lives.

This is an emotional experience and emotion influences what people buy and how much they will pay. Vacant houses are devoid of life, and the chance to make an emotional connection is lost.

2. Vacancy distracts buyers from looking at the house itself.

They wonder: “Is this a divorce?  Why did they move out? Are they selling because they have money problems? Is this home hard to sell?” They’ll make a low-ball offer, thinking the owner is desperate.

3. When a house is vacant, buyers focus on flaws.

They look at nail holes, carpet wear and gaps in the molding rather than how the space works. In a vacant house, floors, walls and ceilings are all buyers see. This drives the price down.

4. People can’t visualize how furniture fits.

An empty bedroom might appear awkward or a living room might seem cavernous. Some spaces might confuse buyers because a use is not obvious. Buyers are derailed and move on to the next house.

5. Vacant houses don’t show as well as staged and occupied homes.

Without people, even the best home quickly looks and smells vacant. Dust settles, leaves scatter, and stale smell spreads. These cues often shorten the showing time, leading to fewer sales.

“Home owners don’t realize how much harder a vacant home is to sell. In today’s market, you have to win the beauty contest,” says Thomas Scott, VP of Marketing at Showhomes. “Vacant houses simply underperform staged homes and the increased sales price provides an excellent return on what staging costs. Choosing to stage your home should be an easy decision in today’s market.”

About Showhomes

Showhomes is a home staging business with a twist: the company uses live-in home stagers to manage vacant houses while they are on the market for sale and offset a home owner’s expense to stage the home. The innovative marketing strategy has been producing results since 1986 and the company has helped over 25,000 home owners sell vacant houses valued at over $8 billion. For franchise opportunities and more information, please visit www.showhomes.com and www.showhomesfranchise.com.


Comments (44)

Heather Cook
Beyond the Stage Homes - Kitchener, ON
Delivering beautifully staged spaces

Thomas - excellent post and completely true!

Its a fact that unstaged vacant properties sit on average, over six months on the market without selling. Compared to staged vacant properties which sell, on average, in about 28 days - its obvious that staging makes a tangible difference to the selling process.

In my blog on Vacant Home Staging Basics, I discuss why modern furnishings make all the difference. It's all about selling buyers on a lifestyle upgrade, never making them guess about a room's function or about what can fit in a space. Because if they can't visualize it, they won't buy it. If they're guessing, they'll wait until they see the right house where they will be sure of how they will live.

As many of us often say: "Price brings in the buyers; staging sells the home."

Apr 08, 2010 02:37 AM
Deena Cottingham
GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography - Calgary, AB
Home Stager & Photographer

You're preaching to the choir, but keep on going! In my area, a lot of homes are vacant because someone has improved it and then put it up for sale. And often, they've done some "improvements" themselves, which lack in the perfection department (a-hem). Selling vacant just makes a those little flaws and oopsies stand out so much more!

Apr 08, 2010 03:29 AM
Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

I have seen really good floor plans with dreadful furnishings not sell. I have also seen very small rooms look smaller with the wrong furniture. I know that you are promoting your concept and it can work, but sometimes vacant is best.

Apr 08, 2010 06:31 AM
Marian Goetzinger
Pine Knoll Shores Realty 252-422-9000 - Pine Knoll Shores, NC
Crystal Coast Real Estate NC

Thomas, I agree with you but I more often deal with elderly owners who have enough "stuff" in their homes to furnish three homes.  I'd much prefer them vacant than that but nicely staged would be ideal.

Apr 08, 2010 06:33 AM
Shanna Hall
Real Estate Solutions - Kirkwood, MO
I love selling houses!!!St. Louis, MO 314-703-1311

Excellent blog- I showed a house this morning where the buyer spent way too much tiem trying to figure out the situation rwaather than focusing on the house itself...

Apr 08, 2010 07:46 AM
Home Staging
Showhomes - Nashville, TN

Thanks for all the comments and viewpoints!

The real estate staging association's annual staging survey, based on large numbers of homes says that fully staged homes sell 78% faster than comp vacant homes. Similarly, we see the homes we stage often sell for 15-20% higher than vacant homes in the same areas.

If you deal with foreclosures and short sales where getting a high price is not the object, and the home is priced to dump, the price sells the house, even when staging would get a higher price.

Apr 08, 2010 08:08 AM
Duane Murphy
Expert Real Estate Partners LLC - Appleton, WI
Broker- Owner-Real Estate -

I would add I think it depends fully on price of the home. Of course a "staged" home will always show better than vacant though!

Apr 08, 2010 08:17 AM
Ted Tyndall
Davidson Realty Inc. - Saint Augustine, FL
I will help You find the Home YOU want to Buy

Thomas, good points. However, I have a buyer that refuses to declutter so she is on the other extreme.

Apr 08, 2010 09:19 AM
Nick Snow
North Port, FL

Just curious, and perhaps I missed it skimming over the replies, but is there any sort of corroboration with the Home Staging Association's findings - preferrably from a source that doesn't profit from the sale of staging?

While I will not disagree that a well-staged home shows better than one full of clutter, I'm not sure if I bite on them showing all that much better than a vacant home. As a buyer, I would rather be able to see all of the walls, floors, how large the room really is, and get a feel for the home itself instead of how the home looks when carefully staged.

With a small room, one might stage using 7/8ths scale furniture (or smaller), and in a huge room it might be staged with enormous over-stuffed items to make it appear as though it's not really a lot of potentially wasted space. I'd much prefer to see the rooms for what they are.

I do realize though that many people are not visual and would have a hard time conceptualizing what their own furniture would look like in a given space.

I'm a bit of a skeptic at heart, so a Staging Industry advocate coming out and suggesting that staging a home is the end all of interior marketing raises my eyebrow - much like if the NAR were to announce that member agents achieved much better sales statistics due to their membership in the Association versus non-member agents.

Apr 08, 2010 09:49 AM
Michael J. Perry
KW Elite - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist

You are right about vacant homes showing all of their pimples (*L*) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Apr 08, 2010 12:52 PM
Kathy Nielsen
http://atlantahomestaging.net - Marietta, GA
Atlanta Georgia Home Stager

Proof is in the pudding (and in this case the before and after pictures).


Congratulations. Your post is being featured in the group Staging Before and After Pictures.




Apr 08, 2010 01:03 PM
Lisa Stafford
Broken Arrow, Tulsa, McGraw Realtors - Broken Arrow, OK
Broken Arrow OK Homes For Sale

The before and after pic's are great.  There needs to be a balance because some sellers need to sell their home vacant instead of leaving all their STUFF!

Apr 08, 2010 02:01 PM
Mary Ann Daniell Realtor
Coldwell Banker United, Realtors - Subsidiary of NRT LLC - Killeen, TX
Delivering Successful Results Since 1999

Actually a vacant home is very desirable in the Ft Hood real estate market.   Buyers arrive here with a short period of leave and days that the army will reimburse hotel costs.   Finding a great vacant home that they can move in to on a temporary lease is often a life saver for families stuck in a hotel room with three children and two dogs!  On the flip side, it is hard to keep a vacant home fresh and feeling "warm".  The best agents know that just a little staging can bring these vacant homes to life and help them sell quickly.

Apr 08, 2010 04:18 PM
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

There's so much truth in this.  I had a listing where I really didn't want the seller to move out as the home was so beautifully decorated I knew their moving would have a negative effect.

Apr 08, 2010 04:28 PM
Patrick Jeary

Real estate blogging encourages a culture and principle of RESPECTFUL debate. Great stuff as usual…. Thanks for this.

Ios on The Bay Condos

Apr 08, 2010 09:45 PM
Rose Marinaccio
Coldwell Banker Residential Properties - Scarsdale, NY

I competely agree with you, vacant homes take much longer to sell. Just look at the first photo you put up. What a beautiful room! The windows are great, and they let in so much light. But all buyers will be paying attention to are all the fences outside. It's distracting.

Apr 09, 2010 01:45 AM

Your pictures tell the story.  Staging really shows a buyer the potential of a home.

Apr 09, 2010 02:53 AM
Liz Gallagher
LG Home Harmony - Home Stagers & Organizers - Montreal, QC
Montreal Quebec RESA member

You sure made that room come alive ... it's much easier for potential buyers to REALLY see it's potential now. Very inviting.

Apr 09, 2010 12:54 PM
Noah Levy
Coldwell Banker - Highland Park, IL
Coldwell Banker Highland Park IL

I agree 100%. I wrote a blog last month to stage or not to stage -that is the question and feel strongly that if the seller's have the $$ to have the home staged they should! It makes a huge difference.

Apr 10, 2010 12:11 AM
Home Staging
Showhomes - Nashville, TN

Thanks, Noah, and great blog post!

Not spending the money costs FAR more than what the staging costs. With use, its pay at close which helps a lot of owners get a fully staged home. It really puts Realtors in a bad spot - a home that would sell if staged just ends up sitting for large amounts of time.

We're starting lunch and learn Realtor CE classes on staging in conjunction with RESA and local MLS systems to help arm Realtors with relevvant stats and sales strategies to explain the real cost of vacancy to owners. We're in your area so keep an eye out.



Apr 12, 2010 04:21 AM