If you are selling your home and hope to earn top dollar, it's smart to invest in the services of a professional home stager. Home staging is a type of decorating that essentially sets the stage so your potential buyers can envision themselves living in your home. Home staging, when done well, emphasizes your home's assets and plays down its quirkier elements. After your home has been staged it should look brighter, bigger, cleaner and generally more attractive. Home staging can be done when a home is empty, or while you (or the current residents) are living there. Hiring a home stager gives you another pair of eyes to objectively assess and then organize your home so it is appealing to prospective buyers when they search for houses online or do walk-throughs with their real estate agents.
As homeowners, we are too biased toward our own personal taste to create a space that other people could imagine living in. Unless your buyers are interior designers or have a good sense of home decorating, seeing your personal taste heavily represented in the space can make it hard to see themselves living there, which can discourage them from buying. Having no home decor at all isn't a good alternative; an empty home can also be hard for potential buyers to imagine living in. This is why a home stager is so crucial. A study of 1,081 homes by the Real Estate Staging Association found that unstaged homes spent an average of 184 days on the market before staging. After staging, those same homes sold within an average of 41 days. In comparison, homes in the study that were staged before going on the market sold within an average of 23 days — a difference of 90 percent. Although it is an investment, home staging typically much cheaper than lowering the asking price for your home.
Home stagers may have an interior design or similar design background. Many also take home staging courses and obtain certifications, although there is no single regulatory body that standardizes education or licensing. Most home staging professionals offer a variety of services that help the home seller ready their house for the market. These services can include decluttering, rearranging, or bringing in and staging furniture and decor in a home. Typically people hire professionals to help with home staging in preparation to sell a home or to rent a home out, but it's also possible to hire a stager simply as a way to get fresh, objective suggestions for how to restyle a home. Some clients choose to have their entire home staged and others focus only on certain rooms. Pros can stage living rooms, family rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, master bedrooms, other bedrooms, bathrooms, offices and basements. You can also ask your home stager to style outdoor living areas like pool rooms, patios and outdoor kitchens. The larger the home staging project, the more you will end up paying. Usually it costs more to stage a home that is completely vacant than one that has furnishings in it.
Here are the cost considerations for staging a home.
Occupied vs. vacant
The most significant cost factor for staging a home is whether that home is vacant or occupied. Vacant homes generally cost more to stage because the professional must provide furnishings and decor to create a welcoming environment for potential buyers or spark the interest of online shoppers. You may have the best house on the block, but if it's vacant and doesn't look good on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) online real estate portal, buyers may just click right past your listing. Think of your real estate photos as you would your online dating photos — you want to put your best foot forward. Some home staging professionals have warehouses with stock furniture and decor they use to stage houses. They can pull traditional, transitional, modern, or rustic furnishings and decorations depending on the target demographic and the architecture of the home. Typically, home stagers use neutral color palettes to appeal to a range of tastes and styles. If the professional doesn't already have furnishings and decor items on hand, they will select and rent the necessary furniture and pass the cost on to you. If movers are hired to transport heavier items such as beds, dinner tables, large rugs and couches, the cost of that labor will also be factored into the home stager's quote.
When a home is occupied, the home stager will typically work with the buyer to plan how to stage as many rooms in the home a the buyer desires, or as their real estate agent or the home stager recommends. The home stager may consult with you and offer recommendations that you then implement, or — for a higher fee — the home stager and their crew can work on-site to physically do the work for you, moving furniture, packing up excess decor and artwork, and rearranging items as needed.
Whether a home is vacant or occupied, most stagings begin with a consultation. After you and the home stager have agreed upon a fee, the stager will visit your home, assess what needs to be done, and work with you to create an action plan. You can then either work to execute the plan on your own or hire the home stager to complete it for you. Purchasing only a consultation is a cost-effective way for DIY types to stage their home with limited professional assistance. The consultation could include everything from guidance on home decor and furniture arrangement to recommendations on home improvements like painting the front door or repairing saggy blinds. Here are some examples of average consultation prices:
- Just Organized by Taya in Houston, Texas: $200 for a two-hour consultation with DIY tips and guidance. Clients receive a free, on-site, 30-minute consultation when a four-hour staging session is booked.
- Staging 2 Sell It in Marshalltown, Indiana: $250 for an initial one- or two-hour consultation and design session, which includes a written report. Additional design consulting costs $65 per hour.
Even if you are still living in your home, hiring a home stager to help your house become sale-ready is a brilliant move. Home stagers know how to showcase your home using your furniture so that the space comes off beautifully in your MLS photos. Staging an occupied home typically requires less time from the home stager as well as less financial output from you because the home already has furnishings. Staging an occupied home generally entails developing a plan to declutter existing furniture and decor, create easy pathways through the home, eliminate odors, and earmark small repairs. Home stagers will gently identify fixes for things you may not even notice anymore — like that cabinet that's hung crooked for years — because they see with eagle eyes what will scare homebuyers off. They'll also provide recommendations for getting your home sparkling clean, since not many homebuyers get excited at the prospect of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a house with dirty baseboards or dusty cabinets. Clients may opt for a consultation only, or can hire the professional for a set number of hours to provide hands-on staging, including moving furniture, hanging or taking down art, and decluttering. For occupied homes, Just Organized by Taya charges $800 for a full day of hands-on staging.
Staging a vacant home involves creating a vision and then populating the home with furniture and decor that will appeal to the targeted homebuyer or renter demographic. Some home stagers have their own stock of furnishings to use, while others partner with furniture rental companies. In either case, the cost of staging a vacant home covers transportation and physical setup of the furnishings. If items are rented, the final bill will include the rental costs. For example, Just Organized by Taya's starting price for staging a vacant home is $2,200. Home staging costs can be as much as 1 percent of the home's selling price, depending on the home stager's level of involvement and the resources required.
How to hire a home stager
The first step in finding the right home stager for you is to look at their portfolios online; they should have great MLS photos from their work with previous home staging clients. In addition to photos, look at the professional's website and social media presence, and decide whether you find the images of their recent work appealing. If you were in the market for a house, would the photos attract you to take a second look or schedule a walk-through with your real estate agent? When you find an aesthetic you love, be sure to read past client reviews and read about the home stager's background, experience and training. Confirm that your prospective client has a business license and up-to-date liability insurance, which protects both you and your house if an accident should occur. Next, communicate clearly about fees and make sure you have a clearly written contract that outlines the terms of service, relevant dates and timelines, and other necessary details. Plan ahead to get the home stager you want. Just Organized by Taya recommends allowing at least a six-week window for the process. You don't want to save this task for the last minute.
Tips for home sellers
Selling a house can create big challenges, not with the physical move but also the emotional impact of leaving your home. Even if you're very motivated to sell, it is easy to get attached to your place and find it difficult to make changes. Working with a home stager will help transform your house into a product that someone else can see as their home. These suggestions from Just Organized by Taya will help you make the transition:
- Transforming your house into a product that others can envision themselves buying means a quicker sale and a higher price.
- Detach yourself from your fond memories of your home and start thinking of it as a product. Set aside your personal taste, and trust the home stager to handle the decor and furniture placement.
- If you are staging an occupied home, have it professionally deep-cleaned and remove any traces of clutter — especially for walk-throughs.
- Take down all your family photos. Buyers will find it hard to imagine their own family living there with pictures of your family still hanging on the walls.
- Minimal decor makes the biggest impact. Trust your home stager's less-is-more approach.
Where you live can also affect your home staging costs. Expensive real estate markets like San Francisco and Manhattan may have higher pricing for home staging services if competition to hire pros is fierce. Big cities with a high cost of living and a high cost to do business will have higher rates for home staging services because of the higher costs of furniture rental, moving services and business overhead.