Does Staging a Property Really Make a Difference?

by Craig Liles

Is staging a property with personal property essential to sell a home? Watch the real estate channels on cable television, and you’ll see the dramatic transformation. Unfortunately, many sellers have lost so much equity in their homes that there just isn’t enough money to invest in the staging process. So, as we consider the cost, we have to weigh that against the benefits.
Back in 2010, the Lehigh Valley real estate market was saturated with distressed properties, foreclosures, and short sales. There was a glut of homes on the market and few buyers actively shopping. The economy was in recession, people were extremely nervous, and many buyers needed to sell their current homes before they could purchase their new one. Those with large homes were looking to downsize, those with modest homes were just trying to hang on, and many were displaced for a variety of reasons pushing them into the rental market.
This had an impact on investors, as well. Many of my clients depended on the ability to FLIP properties as their primary source of income. When homes took longer to sell, it directly impacted their ability to provide for their families. Average market time to obtain a contract was approximately three months and, if you had a property in a less desirable area or had an odd aspect to the home, it took even longer. The marketability of a home is subject to the public’s perception of its location, condition, and price. Therefore, if the property was already remodeled, the price was the only variable left, and investors saw their profit margins disappear.
So, we conducted an experiment. We’d already remodeled a particular home, and it had been on the market for two months with no offers. The seller had even dropped the price from $189,900 to $169,900. That’s when we called in the services of a professional stager, Corrie Taylor of Set 2 Sell, who staged the living room, dining room, kitchen, and master bedroom. We launched the listing a second time and even increased the price to $179,900. In 30 days, we’d sold it for $172,000! The same house that no one wanted at a lesser price in the typically busier Spring Market had now sold for a higher price at the end of summer. From that point, this particular investor began staging every property he flipped, and this fueled his business through the tough times.
Let’s face it. Buyers are highly emotional and tend to make decisions based on their feelings rather than logic. Staging elicits that emotional response that gets many buyers to take the plunge of making the offer. We found it to be highly effective when buyers have multiple options and hesitate to make a decision.
Staging can be addressed in many different forms. It’s easy when a home is vacant, but what about homes that are lived in? Sometimes a Staging Consultation is sufficient, especially when the home’s décor is modern and appealing. A trained professional can illustrate the difference between “living condition” and “showing condition.” It will require a lifestyle adjustment during the period of conducting showings and some discipline on the part of the resident, but a simple rearrangement of the furniture layout, reduction in the number of furniture pieces, and a serious de-cluttering process can make a world of difference.
If a seller is on a tight budget, you can also focus on what “needs” to be staged. Is there a bedroom slightly smaller than most? Staging it with a twin bed will eliminate the emotional statement like “A bed won’t even fit in here!” Removing a king size bed in the master and replacing it with a queen size can open up the needed walkways and change the perception that it’s “just too small”. By reducing the size of the kitchen table in that tight Dining Room or Eat-In Kitchen will make the entire house seem larger. If a kitchen is small, adding a drop leaf or pub table will answer the question “where do you eat?” These simple staging solutions can eliminate objections in the buyer’s mind, and that will lead to a quicker sale. If you consider that a typical price drop of $5,000 to $10,000 is far more than the cost to stage the property in the first place.
Even adding simple décor items to add a touch of class will make the house feel homier and help buyers to envision themselves living there. The goal is to warm the house up and provide some visual interest that helps buyers see the house as a home in which their family would be happy. It’s the emotional reaction that matters and an empty house just doesn’t do it. Even worse, a cluttered un-kept home will chase people away. Seek professional advice and don’t be afraid to invest some money. The return is well worth it!

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