Should you always stage a home for sale?

Home Stager with Set Sale and Go Home Staging

I was recently asked the question "Do you ever recommend that someone do nothing to their home, or do no staging at all?".

The answer is simple....there is always some level of staging that should be done to properties that are going on the market, but there are things to consider.

Always keep in mind your Return On Investment (ROI). You don't want to put any money into a home that you are not going to get out of it. If the work you are doing is going to increase the potential selling price of your home by more than the money invested in the staging, then it is worth going the extra mile. Usually, when I am making recommendations to homeowners, I suggest improvements that they can handle themselves. If the property warrants it, I also have a list of service providers that can help out. You have to remember that labour costs are high, so if you can do the work yourself, the greater the ROI.

Of course, money isn't everything. Some people need a quick sale more than anything and staging will definitely help with how fast your house sells.

I do have two recent clients to whom I recommended minimal staging or no staging at all. 

Property #1: Cute Cottage - Move in Condition 

I was brought in by a Realtor on a property that was about to go on the market. The Realtor knew that I had some background in construction and have renovation experience and he needed that experience to evaluate this property and advise his client accordingly. What I saw in this house was appalling.

This homeowner had been badly taken advantage of by 2 different contractor/handymen and the house was a disaster. It was small and had a cute layout, but the 6 different kinds of flooring on the main floor, with no proper transitions between them chopped the house into little ugly pieces. A secondhand kitchen was installed in an unworkable layout, exposing sections of an old floor where cabinets used to be. The tiling was unevenly spaced and unlevel, and without grout. This was only the beginning, but were the most obvious of the disasters.

I felt that the owner's money would best be spent fixing the house, not staging it. There was no way paint, appropriate furniture layout, art, vignettes and a bowl of apples was going to detract anyone's eye from the disaster that was this man's house.....and he couldn't see it. The Realtor agreed with me.

This homeowner ended up choosing an agent who listed the house as-is, for far too high a price and in the description called it a "cute cottage in move in condition". I couldn't believe it. The house never sold.

Property #2: 80's Revival Townhouse

This property was owned by an older woman who because of her condition needed to move into a nursing home. She had a townhouse that was sold, but at the last minute the deal fell through, leaving her with an empty house to sell and to sell quickly.

The house was probably beautiful in it's day. It was entirely pink and grey, with plush pink carpeting and grey ceramics and cabinets everywhere. There were beautifully hand-crafted custom draperies throughout the house, in of and grey.

If this house could have just been painted to do the update, I might have suggested it. The tough part was the cabinetry and the flooring. I know that this house probably could have taken between $25-35K in renovations. The owner probably would have recovered that money but not much more. In this case the timing was more important.

The agent and I spoke, and we agreed to have a maid service and steam cleaners come in a give it a good clean, and then price the townhouse aggressively to get it sold.

It worked. Someone saw the value in the place and wasn't afraid to live in the time-warp while gradually doing the upgrades. A good situation for everyone involved.

Would I ever suggest NO STAGING?

Absolutely not. Even property #1, above, got recommendations from me. They were just more than what the owner was willing to do, and he just couldn't see it.

I always suggest homeowners put forth the effort to make their home look its best. Even just a good clean and packing a few things away can make a big difference on the impression your home makes on potential buyers.

I always make the "best case" recommendations to prepare a house for sale, and then help the homeowners prioritize the list based on budget, time lines and skill level.....and of course keeping in mind that Return on Investment. Ultimately, the house always looks better than it did to begin with. You know a really good job has been done when the homeowners say that they want to stay.

Comments (8)

Bobbi Herman
Realty One Group - Peoria, AZ
Realtor, Peoria Arizona
I agree, there is always improvement.  Every home can usually declutter at the very least.
Feb 14, 2008 03:30 PM
Darrel Davis
Winter Garden, Florida - Winter Garden, FL
Southern Heritage Realty

We have an assortmant of silk flowers, yardsale items, and general nick nacks that we use on our vacant homes. They are a great help in breaking up the otherwise flat appearance of vacant space. You can generally pick up enough items to buffer a 2400 square foot home for $100 or less. These are reusable and require very little storage space as they are only stored when your inventory shrinks!

Feb 14, 2008 03:37 PM
Juliet Johnson
Vizzitopia - St Johns, FL
Jacksonville Photography & Digital Marketing
These are two excellent examples of how the stager teams up with the realtor as part of the Marketing Team for a property.  Pricing is a crucial issue, and I really can't stress this enough to my folks:  No improvements = no value added = no appreciation in worth = low, "aggressive" list price.
Feb 14, 2008 11:47 PM
Kathy Riggle
Houston Home Staging
Every property and selling situation is unique.  Improvements are always needed, but the budgets have to be considered, too.
Feb 15, 2008 08:33 AM
Sandra Hughes
Redesigned Spaces - Northern Virginia - Fairfax, VA
Redesigned Spaces - Fairfax County, Virginia
Katherine - I agree with you wholeheartedly.  All houses can use staging but when there is only so much money and repairs are needed that has to come first.
Feb 15, 2008 08:45 AM
Isabel Gomes
Gomes Design - London, ON
Interior Decorator, Stager - London, Ont
Katherine, I agree completely.  It does not always mean major work but simple shuffling of furniture and accessories.
Feb 15, 2008 09:00 PM
Becca Briggs
Rochester, NY

Great Post - now if only the homeowners would listen.  We have one that wants to paint the whole inside of the house. $2500 could be used so much more wisely in replacement of dated lights and a non working olive green wall oven.  They just don't get it sometimes, like house #1!!


Feb 16, 2008 12:48 AM
Karen Hubert
Center Stage Design-real estate staging, Ancaster/Hamilton - Ancaster, ON
Home Stager
Very good post Katherine, and I 100% agree.  I have never been in a house that didn't need something to help it sell.
Feb 16, 2008 01:29 PM