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To Stage or Not to Stage

Is Home Staging really worth the investment?

So you’re selling your house. You’ve got all the repairs made, the baseboards dusted, the welcome mat laid out. The question is, do you really need to “stage” it to be able to sell it?

(If you aren’t familiar with the term “home staging” it refers to a type of decorating, specifically for the purpose of showing prospective home buyers that your house could work for them.)

How staging sells houses.Staging sounds expensive, in the midst of a time when you’re already hemorrhaging cash. The costs associated with selling a house are painful, encompassing everything from getting the heater fixed so it will pass inspection, to putting in a new shower curtain that you think buyers will like better than your old one. So why spend extra money to stage your house, when you’ve already gone to such lengths to make it nice and inviting?

Well, I’ll tell you.

(But first let me say that I’m not a home stager (anymore), nor am I endorsing any particular stager or company. This is just a subject that I have personal experience with, that I wanted to pass along to you. Hope it helps!)

First the bad news.

The short answer is yes. You need to stage your house. Especially if it’s vacant.Dining room and living room before staging.

Most people (other than realtors and interior designers) are notoriously bad at visualizing a space differently from how it actually looks. I always underestimate how true this is.

I tend to think most people can mentally pick up their furniture, move it into the new house in their mind, and rearrange it in the way it will work best, then make an informed decision about whether that house will work for them.

As it turns out, this mental exercise is all in my head, not in most other people’s heads.Staged dining room and living room.

This is the mistake we made with our Flip House recently. We bought this diamond in the rough, fixed it up, made it beautiful, and put it on the market. (If you haven’t already read that story, start here.)

Then we waited for people to fall all over themselves trying to make offers the first weekend.

Well, sadly, that first weekend happened to be mere hours before this country’s most, shall we say, unusual presidential election ever. People were not buying houses. And then a couple of weeks after that it was Thanksgiving, which turned into the crazy Christmas season. No buyers. People were saving their money, trying to decide what to do with it if our economy falls apart.

Meanwhile, we’re sitting on a beautiful house, wondering why no one appreciates it like we do.

The answer is staging.

As nice as all the finishes are now, with the more open floor plan, and the gorgeous kitchen design, people just couldn’t see themselves in this house. That’s not because the house isn’t wonderful, it’s just because they couldn’t picture it.Empty living room with no staging

So we decided to spend the time and money and stage the house. And do you know what happened? Just a few short days later, we had an offer! I’m happy to report we’re currently under contract, and at a price that makes us very happy investors.Kitchen and living room staged to sell

How does this little cautionary tale help you?

Now for the good news.

It doesn’t need to be expensive or time consuming to stage your own home! While I do highly recommend hiring a professional home stager to help you, especially if you don’t enjoy decorating, there are many things you can do on your own to get started. I’ll be back next week with more details on how to stage your home yourself.

Empty master bedroom before staging

This master bedroom looked small and plain before staging. All it needed was a bed and some accessories to make it look cozy and inviting. And big!

Master bedroom staged to sell with furniture and accessories.

Staging is about more than cleaning, decluttering, and making your house look good. It’s about setting the stage for a buyer to walk in and have that “Ah-ha!” moment. You know, the one where their eyes glaze over, and they start imagining themselves putting down roots. They want to raise their kids here, do their dishes in this sink, sit and watch their TV in that chair.

But they can’t do that if that chair doesn’t exist.

Staging your house to sell is a different animal from decorating your house for your tastes. Get ready to pack your personality away and save it for your new home!

See you next week for that part of the project, and in the meantime, let me know below in the comments if you have questions about staging your home. That way I can make sure to answer them next week!

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Friday 21st of August 2020

Staging is no doubt way more than just cleaning, decluttering and making your house looks good. Staging your house is a smart move. Staged houses with good photographs gets way better responses on their listing.

Donna Janke

Friday 10th of February 2017

Staging is important, but it doesn't need to be expensive, just takes some work. We spent time de-cluttering, de-personalizing, and cleaning everything. Our real estate had a stager come in before the open house and, although she rearranged a few minor things, her primary focus was also cleaning. I agree with Susan that many people have a hard time visualizing what a space would look like if it was empty. The first time we looked at the home we bought two years ago we rejected it because it was empty and my husband couldn't imagine what it would be like to live there. We later saw another unit in the same complex with the same layout that was furnished. We wanted to buy that unit but it wound up selling for more than we were willing to pay. We went back to the other unit, still on the market, and could now see the potential.


Monday 13th of February 2017

Donna, your story is a perfect example, and I'm glad it worked out for you! And you're right, it doesn't need to be expensive. Usually you can just use the things you already have, and with a little thoughtfulness, pull together a well-staged home.


Friday 10th of February 2017

We are considering selling and with three small kids still at home, staging seems overwhelming. Any tips?


Monday 13th of February 2017

Hi Shannon! I think staging around life with kids is definitely the hardest thing. I'm working on a post right now about how to stage your house in general, but for now the best advice I can give is to pack up at least half the kids' stuff. We just moved last year, and I had my kids help pack away things that they were "saving" for the new house. With most of their stuff out of the way, it made staging a lot easier. Then we just prayed for the house to sell quickly!

Carole West, Garden Up Green

Friday 10th of February 2017

I agree it can make all the difference. We have our farm up for sale and with all our cleaning out the staging process is so much easier. Great post!!


Monday 13th of February 2017

Thanks Carole! Yes, the first step to staging is cleaning and getting rid of everything that's not absolutely essential. Best of luck selling your farm!

Jeri Walker (@JeriWB)

Thursday 9th of February 2017

I'm all for staging, but sometimes I laugh when I'm on Zillow and see rooms where maybe a random vase has been added to the corner and nothing else. I'm pretty good at visualizing how things will fit in empty rooms, maybe because my mom rearranged the living room furniture when I was a kit at least once a month ;)


Monday 13th of February 2017

Ha! Yes, just like everything else in design, even staging can be done badly!


Creating a color-filled life. Conquering my little world one DIY project at a time. With lots of coffee and chocolate. Albuquerque NM. Pinterest ~ Instagram ~ Facebook