Study Suggests Staging is not worth it

mtnrdredux_gwFebruary 3, 2014

Someone asked about painting advice for selling a home and I thought I would give this its own post in case people are looking for this question.

A recent study suggests no benefit to staging your home.

Of course, real estate is hyper local, do listen to local brokers' advice, but question it, too.

Here is a link that might be useful: staging benefit

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Thanks for the link. Very interesting. I'm assuming that there are a lot of variables that may require further study :)
E.g. virtual vs real home; how staging is defined, e.g. is it only color and furniture but also whether it includes cleaning/fixing things to suggest good maintenance; removing clutter/furniture to increase perception of space; price vs speed in selling; demographics of buyers (experienced vs inexperienced), etc.
And then there's the study by the American Staging Association (or whatever their name is).

I think in real life, staging involves going through a place and looking at it with the eyes of a buyer not that of an emotionally involved seller, and address potential problems.

Here is a link that might be useful: homes sell faster

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 11:58AM
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I don't think that article says there is no benefit to staging. It says there is no price benefit, but at least mentions the possibility that the staged home may sell more quickly.

When we were looking for a home we were pretty unmoved by staging (though it's hard not to be negatively influenced touring a home filled with ugly crap). But it has been interesting watching the house hunting experience of the thirty-something guy that works for me. He is looking in an area of mostly 50's and 60's homes. All of the listings he has showed me that he and his wife have salivated over-- and the ones where they have been engaged in bidding wars-- have been the ones that were clearly professionally staged to be very RH and Pottery Barn-esque. They have thumbed their noses at almost identically constructed and finished houses that have not been furnished as "stylishly." So I do think there are plenty of people who need some help seeing things. But I agree that staging probably doesn't usually increase selling price, or help to sell an undesirable home.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 12:01PM
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OK, here are some examples that were shown to respondents.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 12:09PM
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I recently visited a home with an interesting interior, have seen it both empty and staged. Empty, it was hard to envision furniture placement in the living room, but staged very simply showed how cozy yet open it could be. Also, furnishings that are not really laid out well could hinder a sale, but restaging might help. Time is money even in real estate, and if it helps a buyer make a favorable decision faster, it might be worth it. If buyers are also looking at multiple homes, it might help them to keep the houses straight in their minds.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 12:12PM
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the pics that nosoccermom posted are interesting to me -- to me they highlight a problem with the university study. First off, the reactions to a photo or a 3D model are different than seeing, smelling, and touching things in real life. Second: the pictures really don't look much different. Yes, there are strong colors but going back to my first point, seeing them in person won't have the same emotional impact.

It also seems to me that they purposely made sure things had the same layout, the same level of wear, the same level of clutter, and the same quality of finishes. Thus the only variable are decor choices. It would be interesting to me instead to at least do a study with a home before and after staging, to see if they get the same reaction. This is similar to what the Staging Association did, but they had no clear conclusion on the impact on price.

for the record, I am neither pro/con on staging. I am pro on reducing clutter and cleaning up a space.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 12:44PM
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I stand by what I said " a recent study suggests no benefit".

And I certainly wouldn't want to see a study by the American Staging Assoc.!

I agree that you do not want any problems that suggest deferred maintenance, but that is not what most people mean by "staging", IME.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 12:50PM
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That study (or at least the summary in the article) doesn't say anything at all other than that staging doesn't result in a higher price. I expect staging to help sell the property by appealing to buyers' emotions - would I be happy living here? can I make this space work? - not to change the price at which it will sell which is, after all, determined by comparison to comparable properties (square footage, no. of bedrooms and bathrooms, whether the kitchen needs to be redone), not by comparison to comparable decor.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 12:56PM
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Back when I used to watch some of the shows on HGTV about getting your house ready for sale, what I noticed when they had potential buyers come back after the staging--the buyers commented a lot about new new bedding, the new curtains, the tablecloth--all things that will not remain in the house once it is sold. I used to yell at the tv--"If you like the bedding, go out and buy it! It's not worth buying the house to get it because it won't be there when you move in!"

I think a certain type of staging works with a certain type of buyer--the kind of buyer Sas95 talks about. They aren't buying the house, they are buying a lifestyle that they think the house will bring them.

But I've seen staging advice that goes like this, "Move the left picture up two inches. Change the yellow flowers out to red and white flowers. Then set the dining table as if you were about to sit down and eat dinner." Those, IMO, are changes that are not going to affect someone's desire to buy the house. No one refuses to buy a house because the previous owner hung their art too low.

I once viewed a very carefully staged house. There was music playing, the scent of just-baked cookies in the air and a plate of slice 'n bake cookies in the kitchen, there were lit candles and both the kitchen and dining tables were set for a meal.

Seriously, the house looked as though aliens had abducted the family moments before we stepped in the door. It was creepy, which I'm sure was not the atmosphere the owners were hoping to create. I did not buy the house, because it wouldn't have worked for me, but it is still the "alien abduction" house in my mind.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 1:54PM
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I think the article has some valid points. I really don't think staging helps get the seller a higher price, in most cases. But I do think that it can help the house sell more quickly (which in the end nets you more $ since you can get out sooner). I have seen that happen quite a bit. Usually included in staging though is a fresh coat of paint. That, I think, can have one of the biggest impacts. It makes the house appear well taken care of, even if it isn't (depending on the home, of course).

The house we bought last year lingered on and off the market for a couple of years. An elderly couple owned it and even though she had very nice furniture/fabrics, it was very "French Country" and there was a lot of furniture. I really think most people couldn't see past those two things. The house didn't need much work - just cosmetic, for the most part - and it is center hall colonial, like many of the other homes around here. But two houses in our neighborhood went on the market a few months after we bought, were decorated like a Pottery Barn catalog, and had both had full price offers w/in a few days.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 2:01PM
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I think it depends on how we define "staging."
Another question is also how aware the subjects were of what was "tested." For example, it's interesting that respondents stated that "other buyers" would pay less for the non-staged house while they would not. It's akin to asking people about how much they are influenced by commercials.
So, yes we'd need to design a proper study, with controlled variables, and definitely have it conducted by an independent organization!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 2:50PM
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Plus $2000 for the staging; minus $2000 because they would have to repaint the purple walls of the staged home. ;) In all honestly, it does not sound as if the study was well-done.

As for the HGTV shows with their open houses, it has been admitted by people that owned the staged homes that the "buyers" are often family, friends and neighbors. I am sure they also say many phrases that have been fed to them by HGTV script writers.

The alien abduction home---lol That tops any of the nicknames of homes we viewed. That would be creepy! Isn't it funny how common it is to give odd names to viewed homes? I used to refer to "the house on Baker Street", and my husband would reply "Which house was that?" So there was the Dragon Castle, Tortoise House, the Whiting View house, etc. We ended up purchasing the Concrete Backyard house.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 3:21PM
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I don't believe anything is spontaneous on HGTV. They tell them what to say, and if they don't say it right, they edit them out.

Colors. I like light neutrals. Others think neutrals are boring and the kiss of death. Paint will fix things.

I do think that an empty house or one with poorly arranged furniture can look sad, forlorn, awkward, small. Some well arranged furniture can give a space life and suggest possibilities. I wouldn't pay more for a well staged house because I understand that I'm being manipulated. However, it might allay some fears or uncertainties because I'm not always that imaginative. :)

Lots of homes being promoted on my local rag's website are staged in extreme MCM, which I can't stand. So all the MCM staging doesn't endear the house to me at all.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 3:51PM
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That's funny - I thought the gray room was the staged one and the purple one the eyesore & too personal! Actually I didn't like either so what does that prove?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 3:58PM
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The entire study is founded on an incorrect premise that the second picture is staged well. It's not. It too is a poorly prepared room for sale. There's a big difference between good staging and completely wiping the personality out of the room, but keeping the clutter. The difference between the two pictures isn't a good example of anything that can accurately be measured by anyone. The entire study is based on a flawed methodology.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 4:00PM
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When we sold in 2009, our house sold the first day listed to the first people who came to look. They were on their way to re-look and make an offer on another house in our neighborhood. It had been on the market for over a year and people were still living there. Same builder, same # of bedrooms. Two blocks over. SAME PRICE.
The house was empty except for MINOR "staging" I did the day before when we listed it with the realtor.
Area rug, piano, and side chair in LR. Nothing else.
Round dining table covered with to the floor cloth. This was to hide that it was pulled off the side of the road, and not redone. 4 good dining chairs and red plaid window panels on clearance from Lowes. I put an ivy plant in the center of the table.
Family room had my old sofa with a white Pottery Barn slipcover. A couple pillows and my leather ottoman with a red throw.
I left the wallpaper on the kitchen/breakfast walls. My realtor almost wouldn't list it until the wallpaper was gone. It was Warren Kimble above painted bead-board. I was NOT changing it.
We had cleaned that house to within a inch of its life and I repainted every paintable surface. Including spray-painting the bright brass ugly light fixtures bronze.
The people who bought wanted to buy my dining room also and LOVED the wall paper, they did not take it down.
OH I did spend $300 on new kitchen drawer pulls and knobs.
A couple weeks after closing I ran into the new owner in Lowes; she was picking out new hardware...
I asked her why they picked our house over the neighbors.
She said it was spotless and I could move right in and I loved the stuff you left in the house. These people are neat-freaks too.
I guess some people can see past the crap to get to the potential of a house and some people need 'help'.
In our case we sold the house in one day.
We are still friends with the buyers

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 4:14PM
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That's funny - I thought the gray room was the staged one and the purple one the eyesore & too personal! Actually I didn't like either so what does that prove?

Ha Ha - me too (I at least wondered which was which, but livewire might have it right - I didn't think the second one could be the "staged" version because it is so poorly staged if at all). When we purchased our condo, it was staged, but so well that I purchased the same dining table and actually contacted the stager to ask about the pillows on the sofa and the rug in the living room.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 4:16PM
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The thing about real estate is that we all have anecdotes, but studies are few.

Flawed or no, I think it's very interesting to see an academic attempt, and presumably an unbiased one, to test the dollars and sense value of staging. Thanks for posting.

In my experience, staging is definitely less important at the high end. Luxury buyers will personalize everything anyway, so they certainly aren't paying for cookie cutter neutral decor.

I can imagine though, that at some price points in less expensive areas of the country, it could really matter to someone that the walls are freshly painted, for example. That expense might be material, and it is paid for out of pocket, not over thirty years at 4%.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 5:00PM
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Haha, funny that it's not even clear what the staged version is :)

Option 1: Some study participants saw a home rendering with ugly purple walls and mismatched furniture. Troy Hines/HBA Architecture & Interior Design

Option 2: Other participants saw a rendering of a room with neutral paint color and matching furniture. Troy Hines/HBA Architecture & Interior Design

Hm, doesn't look like that company does even do residential interior design....

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 5:04PM
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I think we are a jaded group. Crazy colored walls don't scare us, they make us think. Many home buyers cannot see past the wallpaper.2 stagings blogs to check out: Decorista and Bungalow at Home.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 6:01PM
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And to continue ratherbesewing's post.....and those who cannot comprehend the word 'decorating', will pay a few extra $$$. It's all part of the emotions of the *buyer* not the seller, in searching for a home. Buying a home is a 'first five minutes decision.' If you were to put two exact homes side by side, and one is immaculately cleaned, decluttered, repainted, and looks great on walking in, a prospective buyer will pay extra $$$. Many of us come here because we feel 'decorating challenged'~what's a few extra $$$ on an already big mortgage and work already done, in a way we like?

I sold a home 2 1/2 years ago in San Diego in one of Ca worst down markets, and had 3 offers, one $5k less than the $650k asking, even before the sign went up or before the MLS listing. The second was a cash offer at full price. The third was after my 'verbal' agreement on the first. Because the first offer would be the first home for a young couple, I gave them the opportunity to submit another offer and they came up the $5k they had asked off. Four years before, the very start of that horrific 'crash', I was living in a condo which I listed in Sept, sold in Dec, and had 5 offers, getting only $3k less than the $406k asking price. Do I think staging or having a clean, decluttered and nicely decorated home helps? In a NY heartbeat!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 11:06PM
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I expect curb appeal has greater dollar value than staging. My neighbor and I sold our houses about the same time. The interiors were equally well kept and decorated. My house had fabulous curb appeal and hers was more desert stark naked. The same realtor was handling the sales. The neighbor was appalled that mine appraised for several thousand more than hers.

The fellow inspecting compared the exteriors to girls you would ask to a prom, telling her if the houses were girls and he needed a prom date, he would not look at hers twice, but would be delighted to take my house.

So I expect curb appeal is big dollar appeal. Unfortunately, she never spoke to me again after having been friends and neighbors for 9 years.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 12:11AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I think it depends on what staging is. Have you ever seen the tv program "sell this house"? They would take a home that's not been staged and on the market for a long time and then stage it for literally hundreds, not thousands of dollars. The end result was great by comparison. Not sure what the track record was on the actual sale, but for the amount of money spent, it would surely pay off. The rooms and the house looked so much better once they were done adding fresh paint and declutttering. Also, they never talked about their "secret" but it was noticeable in the after shots...they used small can lights as uplights in the corners of small rooms to make them feel lighter and brighter.

I staged mother's condo in the really down market of 2012 and it cost me nothing. She had it well decorated but it was lived-in. So I decluttered and rearranged some stuff...cost me nothing but her place was under contract within a week.

Our old house was also sold in the down market of 2010. There, we put a lot more money and effort into the place to update and fix some issues we had in the basement. Upstairs was mostly paint, wallpaper, swapping out hardware, changing some light fixtures. We had 3 offers within 2 weeks and essentially got our asking price.

I don't care what this study says...I've seen too many people who can't look past the cosmetic and buy on the "feel" of the home rather than what they are actually purchasing. They comment on the sofa or the table or the art, when they are buying none of those things. And when you are trying to appeal to the widest possible audience, then you want to include those who are not interested in any sweat equity but want move-in ready.

We looked at a home up the street with an asking price of $1.5 million. Home has a lot of "wow" factor including the balcony bridge across the 3 story foyer. We went on an open house just to look around...I even told the agent that they really needed to have the place cleaned if they wanted to sell it. But she brushed me off. I'm on the balcony and can barely see out the 3 story high windows because they were so dirty. I'm looking down into the sconces below and they were full of dirt. They had a stove downstairs that was covered with grease...and even the shower curtain had mildew on it. I certainly don't want to shell out over $1mil for someone else's dirt! The place was on the market for over 2 years. I don't know if they ever sold it or if the family just kept it.

But if staging means remodeling, don't do it. Well done studies by the NAHB et. al. always show that you never get your money back from remodeling. So remodel to improve the house for yourself while you're there, and then you may get some, but not all, of it back when you sell.

Here is a link that might be useful: Remodeling pay back

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 10:12AM
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The problem is, all of the stories about selling for such and such a price at such and such a time are pretty useless, since they do not control for price. The best way and fastest way to sell a house is to price it correctly. So these personal experiences are not particularly helpful unless there was some way to know if the price was high, or low, or just right.

The best examples are probably where I am, in Manhattan, where you do have identical or nearly identical apartments selling. I do not see a staging benefit there (we are in the market, currently looking to downsize from our 3br to a 2br with outdoor space)

A study like this, is helpful. It is not perfect, but it is helpful.

A friend of mine who is a decorator now spends half of her time staging. Her take on it to me was "people want to believe that staging works, rather than accept that they are at the mercy of the market and competing inventory".

It is a given that everything must be clean and in good working order. That's not staging that is housekeeping!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 10:56AM
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Buying a house has a huge emotional component to it, sure.

But I am not sure that staging, in terms of what it has come to mean on TV shows where they are actually trying to sell a "lifestyle"--and even buying new, anonymous accessories and "depersonalizing" is worth the money.

Sure, clean it up, make sure things are in good repair, take down the huge glamour shots of family members (I don't care about personal pictures but the huge portraits all over I find kind of annoying).

But I looked at a house that was clearly uninhabited that had "dinner preparations" artfully arranged in the kitchen and the LR was supposed to give the impression they had been interrupted when watching TV.
---All covered with dust and still in position when I looked at the house again over a month later.

Maybe we aren't typical in here, but I had an emotional response to a house that was fully decorated in the "layered collector look"--not staged in the least--, I had a positive emotional response to a house with an attic full of pans to catch rainwater, and drapery that had rotten to virtual strings at the bottom, and finally to a house that was fully staged, top to bottom with paint, furniture and accessories all in a scheme that I thought was hideous. I made offers on all three houses at various points.

It wasn't the surface treatment of the houses that I responded to, so maybe I don't quite understand how someone could respond to something that is potentially so superficial.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 11:19AM
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Depends. Maybe.

Depends on your area. Depends on the local economy. Depends on how many houses are up for sale or rent in your area. Depends on your local schools and available resources .....

a)Check your market -- go to sites like or and check the listings for your area code. Inside stats AND outside stats too. Check the photos to see what catches your eye -- and what you would change.

b)Clean, cleaner, cleanest.

c)Clear clutter and start packing. Yes -- be aware of security issues (like stashing bills and paperwork, medicines and very personal photos or personal clues to your or your family's identity)

d)Maintenance issues (inside and outdoors) Make a list, check it twice -- then clean, fix, stash, trash.

e)Make it Pretty. Check the budget -- and be honest -- consider a new bedspread? Maybe new towels? If possible -- add a layer of fresh mulch to the gardens; have a pot of flowers by the front door; add a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter; some fresh flowers in the dining room. Sometimes the small stuff does matter ....

And yes .... SOMETIMES ... having another person look at your rooms and suggest changes does help! Maybe shift chairs or change the direction of the dining room table .... maybe remove a small rug ... or stash (pack) some (not all!) of the personal stuff ....

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 11:38AM
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I'm suspicious of many studies as they are often slanted to present a particular view so not really valid. Staging has become an industry and is likely a ploy by the home decor industry to increase profits. IMO TV shows on staging are probably staged! One may not recoup costs of extensive staging.

Abraham Lincoln said "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

A common variation of this quote is: "You can please all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot please all the people all the time."

IMO staging is something that *may* fool some of the people and I admit I will tend to initially not be as critical of a house that is carefully staged. However anyone who knows what to look for when purchasing a house will see beyond either careful staging or no staging at all.

When we were moving frequently and bought houses frequently we deliberately looked for 'fixers' that needed cosmetic work and were not staged, or sometimes not even cleaned. This was a very good way for us to increase equity and we could clean and reno a house to be very livable in a short time and make a good profit when selling in 2-3 years. So staging for us when purchasing was a negative but when selling was important as we priced according to our costs of reno plus profit and always sold quickly. However, that was in the 80's and 90's when RE was a different game and now it depends much more on the individual market.

I had a short career in real estate and have always been amazed at the lack of prep some people will do when selling. I'm also amazed at what some people buy and often at higher prices than what I would pay.

IMO a clean house that is 'under-decorated' will sell fastest and it's something I need to remember for next time. When I last staged my house for sale I removed at least half of my personal possessions and thought the house was fairly neutral but staged nicely. When I spoke with a realtor who had showed the house to a client she complimented me on my decor and I said I frequented yard sales for much of my decor. When she immediately answered emphatically "I must start yard-saling" I realized my decor was likely distracting from viewing the house and next time I will strip it further. I tend to collect one-of-a-kind items which many people probably find interesting and they may focus too much on the decor. One vase of flowers from my garden will be my decor in the future! LOL

So I guess my opinion on staging is that it depends on many factors but personally I will not spend a lot of money on it.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 12:13PM
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Maybe we're the odd ones out here, but we were more concerned with living space, furniture placement, storage, the condition of the roof/siding/plumbing/heating/electrical, whether the basement was dry, and school quality and nearby services. All of that trumped whether the walls were papered or purple or whether the house was spotless or not. No first five minute decisions for us.

Our first two homes were architectural gems in the rough that were out of fashion at the time and dowdy & dirty. As much as we loved the homes, we waited for the engineering inspection report before committing. And if we couldn't get houses at the right price, we would have walked away (and did for some houses we were interested in.)

Surely we're not the only ones who look past interior decorating?

Candles & cookies & music? Obvious manipulation -- a real turn off. Wouldn't want to deal with that broker anymore.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 1:27PM
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"Candles & cookies & music? Obvious manipulation -- a real turn off. Wouldn't want to deal with that broker anymore."

You know, in addition to calling it the alien abduction house, the other feeling I was left with was, "They are trying too hard." It did kind of make me wonder if there was something about the house they were trying to hide, or something like that.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 1:46PM
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Well, I didn't mean to imply the broker & seller were trying to hide something. I just don't like anyone playing on my emotions. Especially when it comes to making big financial decisions. Definitely need to be rational there!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 1:59PM
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I just came back from looking at a small condo:
Original 80s appliances, laminate cabinets with oak edge, ditto the laminate counters.
Dirty wall-to-wall carpet, but the bedroom was "staged":
two wine glasses, a bottle of red wine, and RED ROSE PETALS.
And the kicker: A see-through negligee in the closet!

This post was edited by nosoccermom on Wed, Feb 5, 14 at 1:14

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 4:05PM
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I am speechless. But this is a good topic - thinking of selling in the next 3-12 months. I cant' believe we are going to go through this again!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 4:28PM
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That is pathetic and sad.

Having gone through the sale and purchase process last year, here are my insights.

We had an updated, lovely decorated house that we had been in for 16 years. I moved between 50 and 60 boxes and containers of goods to my in-law's basement. My basement was empty except for cleaning supplies and shelving units. Did this because we had the basement painted, and it was just the easiest way. That made a difference. Because it showed that there was tons of storage in the basement. Then we had a single garage full of furniture that we removed from the rooms. So each room had minimal amount of furniture in it.
Was this cleaning and decluttering? Or staging? We did the usual minor repairs, and sold in about a month in price range that the realtor agent tour predicted.

OTOH, the house we bought, they probably did some things, but it didn't look like they had done much. It was clean, but that's about it.

There was so much clutter in the home that we actually didn't realize there were built in storage units in the basement until after we closed. The PO had so much in there you couldn't see them. That house had been on the market for several months, and we got a good price on it.

I don't think they had any funds available to make any changes, but they could have removed and updated a lot for no $ and possibly sold faster. Since so much needed to be replaced, due to things being original and just worn out, I am not sure if they would have sold for a higher price if they had decluttered. But someone may have paid more if they didn't have to remove those mauve vertical blinds.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 4:37PM
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I wish I had taken a picture , but I was laughing so hard....

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 4:38PM
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I think what they did may be an effective strategy, because there is nothing about the unit, it sounds like, that would cause you to remember it in any other way---and now maybe hundreds of people have seen it. So like a Katy Perry song, it's obnoxious, but you sure remember it.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 5:04PM
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Great point Ineffablespace. Maybe that is staging at its purest.

And thanks to you I now have KP running through my head. oh-oh-oh OH oh, oh-oh-oh OH

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 7:23PM
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I went to a "staged" house right down to the dining rm table set. I thought it was silly. I was also in one early 1800 house that was full of primitive antiques and I found myself paying more attention to the antiques than the structure. The 3 homes we have bought over the years have all been bought for "location".

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 7:26PM
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Did I understand correctly? The purple room is the staged one? Really? It looks like a stage set, not a staged home. It seems to have been designed for a Sunday-supplement photo shoot, not a home resale.

I thought staging meant neutral but nice, not dramatic and intensely personal. That room looks like a first-year design project, NOT a professional staging job.

In the examples shown, I would say the neutrals of the second picture would outweigh the better furniture placement of the second. Our moves have always been relocations, so we have never had the luxury of doing all the decorating and remodeling before we move in. When I buy a home, I take into consideration the fact that I will need to live with colors for awhile before everything is redone.

Maybe it really gets down to the definition of "staging." And the quality of the decorator doing it.

Which makes me doubt the quality of the study.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 9:23PM
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I think most home buyers are lazy and want to move in with no effort. And the younger they are the more likely they are to want that pottery barn lifestyle look. So some staging of furniture is useful if it makes potential buyers dream of themselves looking cute and having fun in a house that is decorated in a way they like but cannot figure out how to duplicate or personalize.

Every buyer of our homes has wanted to purchase our furniture, at least one room of it, and one buyer wanted all of it. We did not put away pictures or portraits, nor personal items, but cleaned really well and I put more flowers about than was usual. I did write on a place card "from the rose garden in tha backyard" or "from the side flower bed" and propped it up against the vase when I had especially nice arrangements from my own garden. People really loved that. We sold all of our houses within a few weeks, one in a single day.

I think people's reasons to move, buyers motivations to sell and personal tastes are so diverse that it would be difficult if not impossible to quantify the effect of staging on price--- especially when the staging is so poorly conceived. And as someone pointed out, even if the purchase price is unaffected (IMO not proved here because of the flawed methodology of the study), if there is a mortgage there's a definite financial advantage to selling quicker.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:12AM
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The purple room is the one with "ugly purple walls and mismatched furniture," i.e. the non-staged room.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:24AM
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Professional stagers can get carried away to the point the home doesn't look lived in. Glasses on a tray on a bed, an open bottle of wine on the counter w/2 glasses posed close by, a glass of milk/ with a cupcake~I don't care for food or drinks used in a display setting, unless it's a simple bowl of fruit.

A throw over an arm/corner of a sofa or chair, and pillows nicely placed, with a few useful tchotchkes is all that's needed, and fresh flowers, anywhere. No need to go over the top.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 1:24AM
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The post about the old HGTV shows on staging--if you watched and listened you ALWAYS heard the lowering of the price was what SOLD the house!! I believe maintenance makes a difference to buyers. The rest is location and PRICE, PRICE PRICE!! We looked at a home once upon a time. It had a floor to ceiling pile of laundry in the basement, it had a CRAZY woman in a bathrobe and towel on her head wandering about. We decided against it due to the lot size and the messy divorce it was being held captive in. It is a realtors job to get a buyer PAST the crap that will go with the seller!! I think staging is about leaving a lasting impression so when a buyer who is shopping multiple listings thinks back on their day your house STANDS OUT. Thus the cookie smell. Odors are HUGE memory joggers. Somebody attempted to create a new industry "house staging". They make for fun watching.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 6:11AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

If staging means decluttering and cleaning and de-personalizing, minimizing furnishings and uncovering windows, I don't see how it can't pay off as it costs nothing. If nothing else, a clean, neat room says this house has been cared for.

But leaving furniture, as opposed to vacant, tells buyers how it can be used and gives them a sense of size of the room. Mother had a small house she rented and it was definitely much harder to rent when it was empty than when it had a bed and a sofa in it to show the size of the room....people would walk in and say, "I can't even fit a bed in here!" They had to see it....they couldn't imagine it. So you have to spell it out for them.

And when I had my old house on the market, I had a little scented plug in that emitted a cinnamon scent. It made the house smell nice...I certainly enjoyed it when I walked in and presume the buyers did as well. It made the house feel more occupied.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 8:19AM
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There is good staging and poor staging. I think if it is done right it does help. I guess it also depends on your definition. There is hardly any way to figure if it does make a true difference since there are so many variables to consider.

I have staged a couple of homes that sat on the market for a very long time. Then, once staged they got an offer in a week (both of them). Could it be coincidence? Who can know for sure. I do think putting lipstick on a pig will not sell a house. There is always the inspection. So, again there are so many variables.

Here is just an example of a before and after I staged. I do think it helps, certainly does not hurt.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 8:25AM
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and after...

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 8:26AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I was waiting for you to check in on this akt...I know you've done some really nice work with staging.

This post was edited by AnnieDeighnaugh on Wed, Feb 5, 14 at 8:30

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 8:29AM
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Well I'm going to have to sit down w/ a cuppa joe and thoroughly read this! Thanks for posting it.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 9:21AM
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Nosoccermom, was the condo in a location for the boss' afternoon quickies? Or were they appealing to first-time singles?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 9:33AM
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We bought our house when it was totally empty. Nothing was "hidden" and I could see the space for what it is. I prefer it that way but I am most likely in the minority.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 9:44AM
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Yes, ATK, you did a wonderful job with a horrible room (I can say that since it is not anyone's room). But it is still plain as day that it is a low dark room with chintzy moldings and outdated windows. I don't think people miss that.

Someone above make a great point. On those HGTV shows, a lot goes unsold until a price reduction. And the realtors at the open house often talk of over improving.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 9:47AM
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Actually, that "horrible room" was somebody's room and home. It was at the time and then someone bought it and proudly made it their new home.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 10:07AM
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Of course, which is why one would never say it about someone's home.

But are you saying that horrible rooms/houses do not exist simply because someone once called them "home", even proudly. That's a little silly.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 10:41AM
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No. You said you could say it was a horrible room because it "wasn't anyone's room" and "one would never say it about someone's home" -- but it is and you did.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 11:19AM
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My goodness. Put aside the Clintonian parsing.

I think my meaning is clear, but in case it was not, I will restate it.

There are horrible houses and horrible rooms. I think the before, on which AKT did a great job, is a horrible room.

If that room were owned or inhabited by someone I knew personally, or someone on this forum, I would certainly not pronounce it a horrible room. Why would I?

To suggest that one cannot ever pronounce ANY dwelling horrible or ugly or whatever, because someone once inhabited it, is silly PC nonsense. And rather off track for the thread.

It is apparently commonly accepted for people to go on national TV and make fun of other's homes when house hunting (obnoxious, I say) but on an anonymous decor forum, this is a faux pas? Well then please allow me to apologize!

Dear homeowner of the room horribulus: I hope you did not overpay for your dwelling simply because ATK made it look so nice. I hope you can make it the home you want, if not today, over time, and whatever that may be.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 11:52AM
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Just an FYI, the people who bought the lake house I staged did not pay over asking and they did not like the curtains at all. They were an older couple and loved it just the way it was. There is something for everyone.

And btw, I am not agreeing or disagreeing with anyone.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 3:36PM
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That room looks wonderful in comparison, Aktillery. Hard to believe getting the crud out and making it nice had no effect.

Overall, though, I think Annie has it, and all those who said the same thing. Before the term "staging" came along and developed into increasingly elaborate ways to spend some of the vast sum of money expected to soon be in hand, sellers of course cleaned, painted, decluttered, made the house "look nice," and then tidied scrupulously before heading for work each day. That's not staging. It's just "getting the house ready for sale," and most people understood that failing to do it could end up costing the seller big.

I was an appraiser before "staging" came in, so I can't evaluate the effect. I am nevertheless as sure as I can be that the major return comes from readying for sale, that a modest well done staging might help problem rooms by answering questions about their potential, and that very little, if anything, is gained from the kind of big bucks shelled out for the elaborate redos some of those TV shows are doing.

Annie is right on, though, that leaving a key piece of furniture or two to help people understand scale and excite possibilities can be extremely worthwhile. A lot of people lack the visualization gene, and a bed showing that a room can hold both a queen or king and dresser, no problem, will replace doubt with satisfaction and sparking of ideas. Will the kitchen hold a table and chairs for 4? Leave a set there to show it can. Very important.

Where any other big returns come from--once the house is clean!--now as back then is going to be in remedying functional depreciation, i.e., well thought out and needed remodeling to fix a problem. Moving a door and adding windows so that a plain, oddly placed "what's THIS supposed to be?" room becomes a charming sunroom opening to the back patio, or moving a bathroom door from the living room to a newly created hallway, can have an excellent return on investment or change a house that would take several months and price drops to sell into a successful sale. Staging doesn't get the credit though. Staging, of course, would be nailing down the sunroom idea by setting a fern on a plant stand.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 5:11PM
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Hmmm. Cleaning and decluttering a home for sale may not always be enough if one is hoping to provide maximum appeal.. Some people do not have a good eye for what changes may improve the aesthetics or flow etc., or can get stuck emotionally with their own possessions, taste and vision. I staged a number of homes over a few years mostly for people I knew who were not getting offers. In every case but one where the owner decided to not sell, the homes all sold within days or weeks of 'staging". Frankly, I have no doubt the changes were helpful as the comments left after showings improved. I am turned off by what I perceive to be efforts to manipulate buyers discussed above such as the fake dining table set-ups, and yikes the negligee in the closet! My efforts involved no financial outlay that I recall but focused on furniture and accessory placement or elimination to improve the look and flow, creating balance, and editing, editing, editing. Note that you can have a clean and decluttered space, but still not have a room that has a good feel; sometimes it just takes someone else with strengths in this area (and no emotional attachments) to create an improved aesthetic that leaves a better feel for prospective buyers.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 6:46PM
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Well said peegee!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 6:57PM
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This is a very interesting thread. I was going to say I'd love to see more before and afters (and still would) but then remembered where I am:)

There's something a little sad about staging your space when you are leaving (meaning, you could have done this years ago and reaped the rewards) vs. when you stage (and improve) the space you plan to stay in. I know, life gets busy and the days are full and before you know it....

Words of advice from my wonderful MIL #1 (I have two, I am so very lucky) - when you buy a home, add in the costs of (Kitchen) renovations so that you get them done up front. (Didn't follow this advice with DH#1 but think often of how true it is!).

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 8:47PM
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The last house I sold was on the market for several months. I painted the brick fireplace off-white. It sold within a week. Not sure it had anything to do with the paint or the interest rate dropping to an all-time low, but my realtor told me I should have no problem selling. His words of advice were just to keep it as clean and uncluttered, as if the sorority sister I most envied was coming to visit me for the first time since college. I always did that while it was on the market, but either the coat of paint or interest rate happened and made it sell tout suite.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 8:58PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Here's a nice staging example where it makes the room feel larger.

One thing you're trying to accomplish with staging is to make the house seem like there's little or no work to be done once you move in.

There's a house up the road that is a contemporary that was built in the 80s. The agent is also a stager and she had the home owners repaint the whole house interior stark white. Would not have been my choice, but they left the master bath as it was with the awful pink tile. I can see why she insisted they paint...she said the entire house was done in pink and gray. IAC, the house is clean and neat and move-in ready. But no amount of staging is going to change the fact that the master bedroom is open, like a loft to the living room below and the layout includes many little steps to get from here to there. Despite the fact that the house is priced significantly less than other homes in the area, due to its design, it is still sitting on the market.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 10:29PM
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I think it can be really hard to determine from anecdotal evidence.

My first place (condo in a high rise) was sold mid-crash; it was nicely upgraded and staged, and priced right, so I was able to get it off my hands while its neighbors languished on the market. There, I really do think that the upgrades and staging helped get it sold sooner, though I don't think the purchase price was affected much.

I'm under contract to sell my current house. To prep, I had a lot of extra stuff moved out to make the storage spaces feel bigger (it's an old house and storage is key!), I had a painter refresh the main rooms, and I asked the interior designer I work with to stage it (she used Homegoods and the like and didn't spend all that much); we switched a couple of rooms out and changed a small den into a bedroom. The pictures looked awesome and it showed really, really well. (I can say that cause I didn't design it, haha!)

The house also in a very desirable location and inventory is really low right now -- so when good properties come up, they tend to go fast. House had appreciated significantly but we tried to price it appropriately and not too high.

I was under contract the same day it hit the MLS (multiple offers from the prelisting/showing alone).

Some people said: of course your place sold right away! It looked gorgeous and so the buyers lined up.

Others said: you probably didn't have to spend all that money staging -- it's all about the location and you could've sold it as is.

Who knows the answer? Maybe it just makes me feel better to do some staging -- it's one of the few things you can control!

Also, I agree with others that bad over-staging is a major turnoff!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 12:10PM
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Words of advice from my wonderful MIL #1 (I have two, I am so very lucky) - when you buy a home, add in the costs of (Kitchen) renovations so that you get them done up front.

We bought our current condo last August and did exactly this. When we were figuring the finances, including what we'd have to sell it for in 5-7 years to make it "work", we included the remodeling budget up front. We are very close to "target", certainly not over by more than 10%, so if the market is good when we're ready to sell (as it has been for a couple of years in SF - driven by all the "young money"), we'll be looking good, and in the meantime, we have a place we love and that makes so much more sense than it did when we purchased it.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 2:09PM
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I'm getting ready to put my house on the market in a couple of months, and I see staging as a way to make my house stand out more in a competitive market. I don't think it will increase the price I get on the house, but I do think it will help the house sell faster. Anyway, I've talked to a professional "stager" about doing a consultation for $150, which will involve going through my house and giving me advice on decluttering, paint colors and placement of things I already own (I'm painting the interior, I just think fresh, neutral paint makes the house look so much better, and some of the rooms haven't been painted in 10 years). I think it will be well worth the money. Of course, you can spend much more, and go so far as to rent furniture and artwork, and at that point, I doubt that it's worth the money. I should point out that I'm terrible at decorating and picking out colors, others might not need that kind of help.

But getting the house as clean as possible and making sure all the needed repairs are done is just common sense, not staging.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 8:52PM
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One thing to do and worth every cent is to have your windows cleaned inside and out. I paid around 100 or 150 and these guys came and it was a dramatic change once it was done.

TIP: all they used was dawn dishwashing soap, water and a squeegee. For the tough outside dirt they used a soft brillo pad of some sort.

I was sitting in a room on the phone and saw them come up and clean the outside. Then poof! the light just shined in through the window and made that dark room look ten times brighter.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 5:28AM
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In my area, it's about 15.00/window, so a considerable cost for the average house.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 10:45AM
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Wow Nosoccermom! That is not cheap. I guess in Texas things cost a bit less.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 7:08AM
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Time is money and anything that can help a house move faster is worth it IMO.

All the talk about Pottery Barn made me smile. Years ago friends had a vacation cottage that was flooded and everything inside was destroyed. After the home was repaired they sat down with a PB catalog and ordered everything to completely refurnish the entire home top to bottom. Sitting at their table was like being in a catalog page.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 9:39AM
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interesting thread!

esp since we will be selling in the not too distant future...
i am working hard on decluttering this time-- something i haven't had the ability to do with previous sales--- it is amazing how much stuff i have removed and still lots of stuff... i guess since i've been in this house longer than previous homes.

i think 'staging' is hit or miss--- just like model homes i've been in-- i like some ID's taste and don't like some other's.
the curtains in the above photo do absolutely nothing for me and would come down immediately- others may find them to be a nice improvement...
in our youth, before we were more established, the curtains and the decorating would have had more of an influence on whether i wanted the house or not since the time and money i had to put into it meant more to me then...
we have previously bought new construction, but this time around we did not--- i looked at general condition and the age of the homes-- the layout and how much work would need to be done to have it made to our liking. the specific location was much more impt to me this time around- i was very interested in 'walkability' this time...
a nicely 'staged' home, which is decluttered and clean, 'tastefully' and neutrally decorated will no doubt sell on average more quickly than an equally constructed home in an equally appealing area that's a mess...and probably for (alittle?) more than a lovely house that's a mess...

but, whether the walls are gray or purple, whether there are curtains or not, whether the tv is over the fireplace or not, and certainly whether there are wine glasses and rose petals matters most with the young and/or less experienced, or very financially stretched groups i would guess...

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 10:15AM
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