The Secret to Staging a Vacant Home

Home Stager with The Home Stage

 Several years back, during the high of the real estate market, "home staging" was not a term that most realtors and home owners were aware of.  Now that the real estate market has hit an all time low, sellers and their agents are desperate to make their property stand out in the sea of competition.  Sure, everyone knows to clean up the clutter, put the family photos away, and add some fresh flowers, but there is much more to home staging, especially when staging a vacant home. 

Developers and builders have known the staging secret for years.  The secret? A staged home will absolutely sell faster and for more money than a vacant home.  Buyers who walk through a staged home envision themselves having dinner parties in the formal dining room, watching the big game in the media room, and cooking family dinners in the kitchen, all thanks to strategically placed furniture and accessories.  I often say that this business is a bit like psychology.  As a stager, it's my job to know what a buyer wants, and not just that one specific buyer, but ALL buyers.  The furniture and accessories that I place into a vacant home need to appeal to the widest range of buyers possible.  Cast the biggest net, and you'll catch the most fish!

When staging a vacant home, my goal is not to showcase the furniture and accessories that I bring into the home.  My goal is to showcase the architectural details of the home.  By adding the proper scale furniture to a room, that room can appear much larger than when the room is vacant.  Using accessories atop larger pieces of furniture can move a buyer's eye up to notice a vaulted ceiling or detailed crown molding.  Adding small accessories in a kitchen or bathroom can warm a naturally cold space, and keep a buyers attention long enough to notice the details that often times take hours to choose.

When I first began my career as a home stager (many years ago!), I met with a luxury custom home builder in the high-end suburb of Lake Forest, IL.  His company had just finished building a $3 million, truly magnificent, spec home.  He was VERY skeptical about staging and gave me a thousand and one reasons why staging was not right for his would distract from the millwork, it would make the rooms appear smaller, it would scratch the floors, it would make the home feel cluttered, on and on.

I convinced him to take a chance, and let me stage the home.  If he wasn't happy, or thought that any of his reasons held true, I would remove everything.  I knew that the true test of this project was not just making him happy, but convincing him that staging was just as important as any other element in the building and selling process. Sure enough, the end result was fabulous, and resulted in multiple offers and a signed contract just days later.  The best testimonial came from the family who purchased the home..."we had looked at over 40 homes in this area, and from the moment we walked in the door of this home, we immediately knew that this was the one our family was going to live in!"  As for the skeptical builder, I not only gained his trust, but managed to sell him completely on the staging process, and we have gone on to work on over 10 projects together.  He even claims that "he will never sell another house without first having it staged" and that, is the ultimate compliment!


Comments (6)

Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities
Charlemagne International Properties - Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A.

Clients are preparing an older home for sale with new flooring, paint and thorough cleaning--full staging is out of the question but I plan to advise them to make a few strategic staging efforts.

Jun 14, 2010 04:24 AM
Anthony Stokes-Pereira
Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty - Nanuet, NY

Hi Steffanie;

Great staging tips, I thank you for sharing and good luck!

Jun 14, 2010 04:34 AM
Roberta Anderson
Hearth & Home Staging - Silverdale, WA
Hearth & Home Staging, Staging Kitsap County

Steffannie, what a wonderful testimonial from the family who bought the home and from the builder!

"I often say that this business is a bit like psychology." how very true!

Jun 15, 2010 04:12 PM
Julie Davis, Amy Blank - Rediscovered Interiors, LLC
Rediscovered Interiors, LLC - Andover, MN

Excellent post!  I loved your analogy of "casting the biggest net and you'll catch the most fish."  How true!  Congratulations on your success!


Jun 15, 2010 06:06 PM
Martha Stanton-Smith

Well said.  I like your comment about your purpose not to showcase the furniture, but to showcase the architectural details.  Sometimes I forget that one in my excitement.  LOL  Keep up the good work.

Jun 20, 2010 10:45 AM
Linda Leyble

Wonderful article and so true.  I always wonder why developers spend so much money on all the archetectural details - and then they don;t want to spend any money staging the home so that the buyers could actually see these beautiful details.  Penny wise and pound foolish.  It's amazing what people do not notice when they walk in to a home - a lot!  People need to be "shown." 

Fabulous article. I staged a $3.5 million house this past spring that previously did not sell for 9 months.  After our staging - the property sold in 3 weeks.  Staging works!!  I am about to do a spec house for a builder - putting together the proposal over the weekend.


Great job...thanks for your insight!

Linda Leyble

Beautiful Staged Homes  (GReat River NY)



Jun 24, 2010 11:39 AM