The Staging Advantage

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Selling your home? It pays to ‘walk and talk’ with a stager.

Artlicle by Katrina Cantrell, Published July 2019
Guest Contributor to The Virginian-Pilot

Homeowners often ask if it is necessary to stage one's home in a seller's market. My response is, "yes, absolutely!" Regardless of price, location, market conditions and time of year, it's advisable for sellers to invest in home-staging services and maximize their home's potential for selling quickly and at top dollar.

Staging yields significant returns on investment. The National Association of Realtors reports that a 1% to 3% investment in home staging yields an 8% to 10% return on that investment. The investment in staging is typically far less than a home's first price reduction, which can start at $10,000 to $25,000.

Also, time on the market adds up with mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, utilities, etc. If a seller chooses not to stage his or her home, it's equivalent to leaving money on the table.

As part of my service package to home seller, I offer a complimentary "walk-and-talk" consultation, during which I walk through the home with the homeowners and assess each room to discuss how we want it to appear in online photos and in person. Suggestions for furniture placement, paint color, updating light fixtures and much more are provided.

With a buyer's eye in mind, a stager will use furniture and accessories to create the "wow" factor for a memorable first impression. Home staging allows potential buyers to easily imagine a home as their own and makes houses look bigger, brighter, cleaner, warmer and more inviting. Using proven staging techniques, staging will draw potential buyer's eyes toward the best features of your home.

By the end of the consultation, the homeowner will have a game plan on how to stage the home. There are basically three staging options: modification of existing furnishings, supplementation of furnishings to enhance appeal and full staging for vacant homes.

As with any contractor working in your home, I recommend interviewing at least three staging companies and always requiring proof of home-staging insurance (not decorator or interior design insurance). Sellers should also check references and ask to see a stager's portfolio.

Here are some quick staging tips to get you started:

Show off what you are selling

My favorite staging quotes is, "If you can't see it, you can't sell it". As a real estate agent I'm selling things like windows, hardwood floors, fireplace mantels and beautiful counter tops. Remove curtains if they are dated and blocking light. Roll up oversized rugs if they are hiding beautiful floors, and make sure your fireplace mantel isn't hiding behind knickknacks.


During the "walk and talk," use color coded adhesive notes to designate what stays for staging and what is destined for charity pickup, the garage or a storage unit. "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo is a best seller on how to declutter and organize your home. It's a quick read and a great way to start the process, especially if you are downsizing.

Show a room for its intended purpose

If you are using your formal dining room as an office or a small bedroom as a storage room, make sure you stage the room for its intended purpose. Buyers are paying for square footage, so don't keep them guessing about ample storage and the ability to entertain in the dining room.

Pretend to be the buyer

My second favorite staging quote is, "The way you market your home is different than the way you live in your home." A professional home stager helps sellers view their home more objectively. Can a buyer walk around your dining room table without turning sideways? If not, consider taking out a table leaf and removing a couple of chairs.

Think multiple listing service photos

Over 90% of homebuyers shop online for homes, and sellers have seconds to impress online buyers before they click to the next listing. By rearranging your existing furnishings and possibly supplementing with inventory, staging will enhance the positive attributes of your home and set the stage for eye-catching MLS photos.

White-glove clean

Professionally clean the home prior to the staging date. Remove all personal toiletries and cosmetics from bathroom vanities, tubs and showers.

Think boutique-hotel luxury

When it comes to staging the bathroom and bedrooms, new towels and new bedding go a long way and are well worth the investment. Consider buying linens that you'll use in your new home.

Pop color

An inexpensive way to achieve a decorator look is to paint walls a neutral color and then pick a pop color and repeat it throughout your home. For example, consider painting your front door yellow, red, green, orange or blue, and carry that color over to pillows on your sofa, napkins on place settings, and towels in the half bath.

Keep personality and character

A seasoned stager will be careful not to overdo it and deplete the home of character and personality. For example, removing too many items can make the home feel vacant and bland. While each home is different, pick a general theme for each room based upon the homeowner's furnishings. For example, a global theme works great with a Moroccan-style rug and travel photography, and an abstract painting of the ocean is a great starting point for a coastal theme.

I hope these staging tips help you prepare your home for the market, and I wish you much success.