Staged to Sell

Hi Jefferson,

In the next couple of months I will be putting my home on the market. (I will be calling you to discuss further!) It’s been vacant for about nine months, though, and I’m curious as to your thoughts on staging and what things I can do to prepare it for sale and really bring some sparkle to it before listing it. I want to really maximize my net sales price.

—Victoria, Beverly Hills

I’m reprinting this with permission from Victoria, as we’ve already spoken, but I thought it was a great topic to tackle here in my column. Staging is the process of visually preparing a home before sale so that it can be shown in its best possible light. It can refer to a vacant or an occupied home. When staged properly, a vacant home tends to garner much more attention and showings, becomes more attractive to potential buyers and sells in less time for more money. Proper staging will give it a warm feel and allow buyers to see the home in a lived-in state. They immediately begin to imagine their own furniture and personal belongings in the home, and can really imagine themselves living there. Many people don’t have that vision and really benefit from seeing the home staged.

If the property is vacant, the need for staging can hinge on a few variables. Staging a home can offer many benefits. In larger homes especially, tasteful staging can really serve to help potential buyers envision themselves in the home, as well as give a better perspective of size and scale. Rooms actually feel smaller without a stick of furniture in them. Buyers are able to imagine how they would furnish a room. In a larger home, staging can go a long way towards transforming a cold, detached, emotionless space into a warm, serene, inviting one.

In a vacant home, one consideration you have to make is whether you will experience a sufficient return on your investment. Staging an average-sized three-bedroom home doesn’t come without its cost, but it really should be considered an investment, not an expense. The cost of staging a home will typically cost less than the amount of your first price reduction.

If you’re in a great location, and are priced well, you may get by without staging. Sharp buyers and agents can spot a well-priced home without it being dolled up, but not all buyers (or agents!) are that astute. There are statistics that claim a staged home stays in the market for less time and sells for more money than an empty house does. Additionally, the property will photograph much better staged, and in a time when everyone searches properties on the web, photos can mean everything (as well as having professional shots).

The term “staging” can also refer to the reorganization of a home that is currently occupied and furnished—clearing out some furniture, getting rid of personal photos, packing up knick-knacks and generally de-personalizing the home. Buyers should be taken in by the house, not your stuff. You may think your home is beautifully decorated, but decorating and staging are two very different things.

Put as much of your personal belongings into storage (or, worst case scenario, the garage, though that’s not ideal) and keep the home as neutral as you can in staging it. If the home sells, you are going to have to pack all your stuff up anyway, so consider it an early start. Create vignettes in the home. A fully set dining table, a bed tray with a newspaper and coffee cup on it, a desk in the third bedroom with a faux laptop computer on it.

When all is said and done, it’s up to you whether you want to have your home staged, but at the very least, if you are currently living there, have a conversation with your Realtor or a home staging professional about how you can help make the job of selling the home as easy as possible by ensuring that it shows well.

Jefferson Hendrick is an L.A.-based Realtor with Keller Williams. Contact him with questions, concerns and real estate inquiries at [email protected] or

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