As a home stager, I look at MLS listings and shudder more times than not. What were they thinking when they offered these houses for sale?
Sure, there are some "perfect" homes. Perhaps they have been professionally staged, or maybe the sellers just get it. But there are some homes that cry out for staging so that the house itself can be appreciated for its assets. Following are five times when a home should be staged:
1. When there is so much clutter that buyers can hardly make their way through the house. It's almost not safe to look up at light fixtures, fireplaces, and other amenities because the buyer might trip on something and fall. Too much furniture and accessories can force the buyer's attention elsewhere also.
2. When the house is overdecorated. Sometimes you'll come across a home that has been decorated to the nth degree. Nothing was left undone. Unfortunately, the beautiful decor that would be appreciated by guests is distracting to buyers, who aren't able to envision their own things in the home. The owner's personal style might appeal to only a small group of people. When we sold our "English Country" home, we had to take down the large floral wallpaper in the two-story foyer, among other changes.
3. When the sellers are minimalists. One person's idea of livable might be fine for them, but the general public likes a little warmth when they look at a home. Adding some artwork, greenery, pillows, throws, area rugs, and table decor can do a lot to create a serene, welcoming feel to buyers.
4. When the home "just doesn't look right." Perhaps the furniture is arranged strangely--like ignoring a fireplace or wonderful view, or rooms are used for purposes other than their intended use--dining rooms for offices or music rooms, living rooms with billiard tables in them, etc. Buyers often leave those homes thinking there isn't a dining room when there really is one, for example.
5. When the home is vacant. Vacant homes are very cold to come into. There is no "life." Small imperfections that are not noticeable in a furnished home are glaring in a vacant one. And, if there is anything odd about the floor plan or room configurations, buyers, of whom only 5% can envision the possibilities, can't figure out what to do with the situation. Staging these rooms with furniture shows how they could be used or furnished.
If Realtors would use this formula adapted from RESA's (Real Estate Staging Association) to show their sellers how much money they are spending by carrying a house longer, they will help their sellers see the benefits of INVESTING a little bit of money in staging OVER SPENDING a lot in carrying costs:
Mortgage Payment + taxes and insurance = .0075 X List Price (EX. $150,000 LP X .0075 = $1125)
Operating costs = HOA + Utilities + Maint. + other monthly expenses (AVG. $200 = +$200)
Monthly carrying costs ($1125 + $200 = $1325)
Average months on market for unstaged homes (7)
Cost to have this home on the market for 7 months (7 X $1125 = $9275)
Saved DOM for staged home = current neighborhood DOM X 78% ($1325 X .78 = $7234.50)
Saved Reduction = Money saved by not sitting on market--price reductions or lower offers (Avg. min. $5000, so + $5000)
Total amount saved by staging ($7234.50 + $5000 = $12,234.50)
Total cost of staging Avg. $1500
Total amount saved by staging a $150,000 home after cost of staging ($12234.50 - $1500 = $10,734.50)
Staging is an INVESTMENT with huge returns! What other investment today pays a rate of return of more than 7% in such a short period of time? The more expensive the house, the more that is saved through staging it. If the home is properly priced, a staged home will outshine its competition and sell quickly for a higher amount, and both the seller and the Realtor can benefit from that!