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What is Home Staging?

Michael Creel
4 min read
What is Home Staging?

You already know your home needs to be clean, uncluttered, and in good repair; but you can further distinguish your home from the competition by staging it. Staging can be a bit like the “Make-over” TV shows where a not-so-attractive person is miraculously turned into a supermodel!

Although your home may just look wonderful to you, and those pictures of Aunt Betty and the kids seems to add a certain family feel to the room, professional stagers will see your house as buyers do, and can set the scene so that buyers can imagine living there. Often they will streamline the furniture in a room for better traffic flow and to enhance its spaciousness.

They may neutralize “too-personal” color schemes (such as that pink dining room that seemed oh-so-cool when you first painted it) or add touches of color and accessories when and where needed. In vacant homes that feel cold and lack visual landmarks, stagers often bring in rental furniture and create “vignettes” such as a seating area by a fireplace, or reading area by the bookcases.

You can hire a stager by the hour or the room; often you will receive a per-item price sheet so you see what you’re paying for. This is helpful if after time you wish to reduce your cost, you may be able to remove certain items later to reduce cost’s. Homeowners typically pay from $1000 to $3,000 (per month) depending on the level of service required, furniture used, etc. There is also typically a set-up or design fee.

Often you can simply re-arrange your furniture or artwork, change your bedding or window coverings, add an area rug here or a simple vase there, then top it all off with beautiful flowers, fresh fruit and candles!

What is Home Staging?

Home staging is the process of preparing a home for sale, with the goal of getting the most money in the shortest amount of time possible. Home staging is proven to work; if it didn’t, builders wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars decorating model homes. It works for occupied and vacant properties, for small and palatial homes, at all price points, in all markets. And in a soft market with lots of inventory, you really need to do all you can to distinguish your property from the competition.


Most buyers decide in the first 30 seconds whether a house is right for them. That is the time a seller has to capture their interest, and staging your home will help maximize the impact of those seconds to ensure a quick sale! It’s crucial to stage your house before you list, so you can impress buyers the first time they visit. Otherwise, there may not be a second time.


Clutter eats equity, it’s that simple; and the longer you live in a home, the more cluttered it becomes. I once listed a home that had so many tiny mementos and statuettes it looked like a garage sale, I counted 56 separate items on a single table! So remember, you’re about to move anyway, so let the stager help by showing you which unnecessary items to pack up and store out of sight of your buyers. A good, thorough cleaning is also a must to make your home sparkle! Hire a cleaning service if that works best for you and it’s within your budget. You want that bathroom, and kitchen to shine like no ones ever been in them!


It can be difficult for buyers to envision themselves living in your home if they can’t picture their own belongings fitting in to the surroundings. Sometimes that impossible to do because you have so many personal items stuffed into the room, the buyer can’t mentally remove them from the picture. The wall that is covered with family pics from the last twenty years only looks good to you! Remove many of your personal items, including family photos, collections and anything else that might reflect too much of your own taste and keep the buyer from mentally “moving in” to your home.


Vacant houses present special problems for the seller and agent: because the rooms are empty and cold looking, it is often difficult for buyers to envision how they would look with furniture. Sometimes it is impossible to figure out the purpose of a particular space. In vacant properties, buyers tend to focus on every imperfection. Many times I’ve been asked “what in the world would you put in that odd little space?” and staging helps eliminate such curiosities. Funny as it seems, empty rooms actually seem smaller than furnished rooms, leaving buyers to wonder whether their things will even fit. Furniture gives the room scale and proportion. Staging vacant houses solves these problems for the buyer, and can also make a bleak, barren room feel warm, comfortable, and a bit like home.

How Much Does it Cost to Stage a Home?

When you contact a home stager, ask for an estimate. Most home staging businesses will be happy to give you a free estimate (though not all will) and it’s usually a quick process. Keep in mind that this is only an estimate. Get several free estimates and make some calculations to see which will work best for you, and within your budget.

Just like any service, pricing in the home staging industry can vary over a wide range. Some charge an hourly rate and some will charge you a set fee for the entire job. Be sure to ask how they determine their fee. Also, factor-in the condition of your home, the average amount of time homes have been on the market in your area, and the asking price of your home. For the most part, a good agent should be able to determine if a home is in need of this type of service, and if it would be of benefit or not.

Many books are available on the subject for those that wish to do their own staging:

  • Stage Your Home for Profit by Peggy Selinger-Eaton and Gayla Moghannam
  • The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More Money by Barb Schwarz
  • Dress Your House for Success: 5 Fast, Easy Steps to Selling Your House, Apartment, or Condo for the Highest Possible Price! by Martha Webb & Sarah Parsons Zackheim

Regardless of whether you hire a pro or choose to go it alone, one thing is certain, you must be prepared for that first day on the market, and that first open house.

When the curtain opens, its Showtime, and believe me the critics are tough!

Photo: Flicker CC by Real Estaging (.net)

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.