By Kathy Vogeltanz
The current real estate market can make it a real challenge to sell a home. But there is a way to gain an edge. Many sellers are using home staging to sell their properties quicker and for a higher price.
The premise of home staging is simple: buying a house is an emotional event. Potential buyers have to feel good about a home before they’ll make a commitment. With the help of expert staging, buyers can easily imagine themselves living in a house. And when done properly, staging can also make rooms look larger and give the appearance of more storage space.
Just how important is home staging? A Maritz Research poll revealed that 63 percent of buyers will pay more for a house that is move-in ready. Additionally, an AOL Money and Finance poll showed that 87 percent of buyers said home presentation makes the difference in most sales.
Greg Lyles, Broker at Conrad Lyles Realtors, said that staging should not be confused with decorating. “A well-decorated house is a good start, but decorating appeals to the owner while staging is designed to maximize the appeal to a potential buyer,” he explained.
Of course, Lyles warned that no amount of staging will make up for a house that’s not clean or well maintained, especially in such a strong buyers market. He recommended that before listing their homes, sellers should have their house inspected, make repairs and clean it thoroughly.
Paige Earles, president of Pearle Staging & Design and chapter president of the Real Estate Staging Association, knows the importance of a good first impression.
She shared a long list of success stories, most notably that of a home that was sold one day after it was staged – for the full asking price. “The buyers had viewed the property previously when it was vacant, but weren’t interested in purchasing. They viewed the property again after it was staged and said they couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.”
The 2010 home staging statistics released by RESA show that a staged home spends 78 percent less time on the market than an un-staged home; and the National Association of Realtors has found that the longer a home sits on the market, the lower the sales price will be.
“Buyers don’t make emotional connections to dirty spaces, outdated fixtures, taste specific décor, personal memorabilia, clutter or homes that need repairs,” said Earles. “Buyers also don’t connect with vacant properties; empty spaces are cold and unwelcoming.”
Krisztina Bell of Virtually Staging Properties said that empty rooms actually seem smaller than furnished rooms, leaving buyers to wonder whether their furnishings will even fit. She and her husband Jay have virtually staged vacant homes all around North America from their Atlanta offices. They also offer traditional vacant home staging through No Vacancy.
According to the National Association of Realtors, 90 percent of homebuyers view properties online. Unfortunately, every vacant home appears identical online, like a big empty box. By adding tasteful furnishings to the photos of a vacant home, virtual staging can make a house stand out and get potential buyers in the door.
“We use our technology to transform cold, empty photos of vacant homes into inviting scenes that help the buyers see its many attributes,” Krisztina said. “Simply put, if a buyer doesn’t understand the home and recognize its best qualities in the first five to seven seconds they view it online, they won’t want to see it in person.”
Many homeowners try to do the staging themselves, but it’s a good idea to call in the talents of a professional. Few homeowners have access to the appropriate furnishings or the patience and skill needed to cost effectively stage a home while maintaining their already hectic schedules.
Is it worth the money to pay for staging? Definitely! The average return on investment for a professional home stager is 343 percent once the house sells. And the average cost of a complete staging project is usually much less than a property’s first price reduction.
After recently listing a vacant home, Liz Bankston of The Bankston Group tapped into the expertise of Virtually Staging Properties. “We were able to draw two offers within the first week and actually closed on the property in just 17 days, capturing 96 percent of its list price,” she said.
Often, homeowners list their home first and only consider staging after it’s been on the market for a while. Experts claim that it’s not a good strategy; additional real estate statistics prove that homes that have been staged before being listed sell quicker than homes that were listed first and then staged.
Bankston summed it up: “When selling your home, be the hot new dish, not sloppy seconds.”