This is an article I wrote which is being featured not only in Rooms in Bloom's newsletter, but several other Realtor newsletters in our area. I just thought I would share. Also - if anyone else has any input on how they handle inquiries about the feasibility of staging vacant homes, I would love to hear what you say. For us, we get inquiries daily which is why I thought I would write this short article.
Vacant Home Staging Basics
Yesterday, my partner Alana and I received our third inquiry from a Realtor about what was involved in staging an empty house they had listed. This particular house had gone on the market at the beginning of December and had received very little interest. The family had already moved out and left nothing behind. We were asked by the realtor, did we think it was worth it to stage the house to garner fresh leads and interest from buyers? Well, you tell us what you think. Of the two photos below, which one would you rather market or buy? Which one do you think would give buyers the best sense of room proportions and house potential?
Yes, maybe after viewing the pictures it seems fairly common sense to invest the money in staging as the results are spectacular. However, the cost of vacant home staging can be quite prohibitive for realtors and sellers alike. We strive to point out however; we live in an age where buyers are incredibly discriminating. People expect the home they will be will buy to mirror something they have seen on HGTV so the staging cost needs to be factored into the basic house selling budget. It's important to realize that only 10% of buyers have the ability to realize a home's potential - regardless of whether it is staged or not. That means if a house isn't showing well, then the sellers are missing out on connecting with 90% of the people walking through the home. With those kinds of statistics, sellers can't afford not to stage their homes.
Vacant home staging is an essential way of getting buyers to connect emotionally to a house. Stark, empty rooms only tell potential buyers that this house is unloved and fails to project the image of a lifestyle which someone will want to buy into. This is why model homes are always furnished. Empty models are just empty rooms. When someone buys a home, they are buying into a lifestyle, envisioning their new lives within the walls of that house. Furniture gives buyers an excellent sense of a room's proportions in addition to defining the spaces so that there is never any guesswork as to what a room's purpose is. In addition, if that house also has any design flaws, required repair work or obvious faults, there is nothing to distract a buyer from focusing on that particular element. For example, we staged a huge home recently which was beautiful but had acres of white carpets which desperately needed to be cleaned and stretched. Without furniture, there was nothing to distract buyers from thinking of how much money it would take to make the carpets livable - or to replace them altogether. This home had sat on the market for six months before we staged it, and then within two weeks of staging it received multiple offers.
So what exactly is involved in staging a vacant home? First, there is the initial consultation where professional home stagers will come out and view the home, take measurements and create a room by room design. Yes, there is usually a cost associated with this service however it is an essential part to the process. The second step is to decide how much of the house you want to furnish. Depending on the house and the layout, you may or may not have to furnish every room. We stress main living areas, master bedrooms and bathrooms as those areas garner the most interest from buyers. Some homes, due to their open concept design would look awkward unless all connected rooms are staged. Your home staging professional will be able to advise you on exactly what should be done to create the overall effect you need to lock in people's interest and emotions.
This means that once furnished, the seller will be paying a monthly cost to continue to rent the furnishings. This cost is a percentage of the overall cost of the items being rented and can range from $36 for a set of lamps to $250 for a complete bedroom set. This cost should go down for subsequent months as long as the home staging company has negotiated those terms with their furniture rental company. Rooms in Bloom always tells their clients that after the first month's rental, the furnishings cost goes down 10% for each subsequent month.
When we talk to our clients about staging their vacant homes and they balk at the cost, we caution them to view the big picture. If their house sits on the market for 120+ days (national average according to the statistics from the Real Estate Staging Association), can they afford the carrying costs for two homes? Of course there is never a guarantee that staging will ensure the house sells, however staging has been proven to help sell a home in a third of the time than an un-staged home. Selling a house is stressful at the best of times, but using the tools at your disposal to give your property the best possible chance at selling fast and for top dollar can't be discounted.
So, you decide - which house would you be drawn to from the pictures below? This is the tangible effect staging has on potential buyers. In an age where people want the house of their dreams but are less willing to put in the work to achieve it, staging fills the gap and gives buyers what they are searching for.
Heather Cook, Rooms in Bloom Stylist, January 2009.