The Cost to Stage a Home

Many real estate agents argue staging is a key component to a successful home sale. And sellers tend to agree. According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019, 77% of sellers that use an agent stage their homes, whether they stage it themselves or have their agent or someone else complete the staging. 

But if you’re in a hurry to sell, or if you’ve already vacated your house, what kind of staging do you need to appeal to buyers? And who pays for home staging? Is it worth the cost?

Overall, 29%  of buyers consider staging extremely or very important to their home search. But younger buyers are more likely to consider it extremely or very important — 48% of Generation Z and 40% of millennial buyers.

What is staging a house?

Staging a house is the process of physically preparing a house before listing it for sale, with the goal of making it appeal to the widest pool of buyers. Whether you stage on your own or use a professional staging company, the aim is to create a clean but cozy atmosphere that allows buyers to recognize the home’s best features without being distracted by the seller’s belongings.

Staging includes more than just furniture and decorating. Depending on the state of your home, it may also include decluttering, painting, completing minor repairs and deep cleaning.

Your agent can advise you on which efforts are worth the investment and recommend experienced stagers. They might even help you avoid unnecessary costs by providing light staging with your own furniture. If you’re not working with any professionals yet, you can find an agent who understands your local market and can guide you through marketing your home. If your agent cannot recommend a stager, you can find reputable home stagers on Zillow too. 

How much does it cost to stage a house?

The cost of home staging varies by the size of your home, whether you’re using your own furniture or staging furniture. You’ll also need to consider the costs of moving some or all of your belongings prior to staging. Even if you use your own furniture to stage, you’ll need to move out at least a third of your belongings to effectively declutter and depersonalize your space. Here are a few average staging costs and average moving costs to aid in your decision-making.

Cost of full-service home staging

According to the Real Estate Staging Association, a verbal consultation ranges between $200 and $525 for a 2,001- to 2,500-square-foot home. Full vacant-home staging ranges from $2,900 to $5,250, on average.

Cost of using movers to move your belongings within the same city

This can take between 7 and 10 hours for a 3-bedroom home and cost $560 to $1,000. You may end up paying this twice if you move out early — once from your old home to a storage unit or temporary home, and once again when moving into your new home.

Cost of a storage unit

This can range from $50 a month for a small unit and $300 to $400 for a large unit. Instead of a traditional storage unit, some sellers opt for a pod, which can cost $150 to $300 a month, plus delivery fees, with the benefit of not having to hire movers both ways.

Degrees of home staging

Home staging can take various forms, depending on your financial investment, the amount of prep time you have, and whether you currently live in the home or have already vacated.

Full-service or vacant-home staging

With full-service staging, a professional stager brings in their own furniture to either furnish an entire home or supplement the few items still there. This works best for sellers who have already completely (or mostly) moved out. In some cases, sellers move most of their belongings into storage to make way for the professional staging setup.

Keep in mind that some stagers won’t work with sellers who are living on the premises, due to wear and tear on their furniture, some of which may be rented.

Live-in home staging

In this increasingly popular arrangement, the seller has moved out, but a temporary tenant moves in, bringing their own furnishings and staging the home as they live in it. As part of the deal, the tenant maintains everything, cleans thoroughly, and makes the home warm and welcoming before showings.

This arrangement is more common in high-end homes or for vacation properties, where the seller lives too far away to do all the work related to keeping a house showing-ready. The tenant typically pays reduced rent in exchange for their work, and the staging company coordinating the process takes a cut of the sale price.

Partial home staging

In partial home staging, a seller hires a professional stager who can provide a variety of services. For example, they can simply consult on changes the seller should make, rearrange furniture and decorative items, or stage a single room. In this situation, the seller may still be living in the home but is moved out or in the process of decluttering and packing.

Virtual home staging

In virtual home staging, the seller hires a professional to create virtual staging just for the listing photos. This kind of service appeals to sellers who already vacated their home but don’t want the expense of bringing a lot of furniture and decor back into the home.

DIY home staging

This type of home staging is minimal and completely up to the seller. It generally includes cleaning and decluttering, rearranging furniture, and making a few small changes like new hardware or decor. Typically the seller is still living in the home and using their own furniture for staging.

No staging — just cleaning and polishing

When the budget is tight, some sellers forgo staging furniture and decor to focus on the home itself — deep cleaning, handling repairs, repainting or sprucing up the landscaping.

Do staged homes sell faster?

Staged homes or partially staged homes usually sell faster than empty homes, in most markets. With today’s open-concept layouts, staging can be an important tool in helping buyers visualize how a home’s living area is best used. If a buyer just tours a large, empty living room, it’s hard for them to picture a useful layout, so staging can help paint a picture.

According to the Real Estate Staging Association, unstaged homes spend an average of 184 days on the market before selling. But homes staged prior to listing sold in just 23 days — 8 times faster.

If you don’t stage, and opt to leave your house empty, you risk the following:

  • Home defects appear more obvious to buyers.
  • Home can feel cold or uninviting.
  • Property could be more susceptible to break-ins.
  • Seller might appear overly eager to sell.

Is home staging necessary?

If you’re still living in your home but wondering if staging could be beneficial, consult with both your real estate agent and a professional stager to assess the need for staging in your local market. Discuss logistics for your furniture, the complete staging fees and the specific return on your investment in your market.

Home staging can be an effective way to portray your home in its best light, but it’s not always necessary, especially if you already have modern furnishings and your home is clean and decluttered. In fact, decluttering is a big hurdle for many sellers.

If you have limited money to spend preparing your home for listing, take inventory of any repairs and maintenance that need to be done or crucial home updates that buyers will be asking for. Things like new countertops, tile, fixtures and paint can go a long way, and repair work can head off any issues that come up during a home inspection.

Advantages of home staging

Modern appeal

Professional stagers pay attention to home decorating trends and bring fashionable, stylish furnishings that can make even a dated home feel updated.

Depersonalization

When you use a stager’s furnishings, none of your personal items, like photos and keepsakes, interfere with the buyer’s ability to envision themselves in the home.

Neutral design

If you have very specific design tastes, your style could be a turnoff to buyers. Home staging companies are intentional about choosing furniture and decor that appeals to a wide range of people.

Cleanliness

Cleaning everything out and starting from scratch allows you to deep clean every nook and cranny. It can also help you get rid of distinct smells, like those from pets that can linger in rugs, couches and heavy curtains.

Better layout

With a blank slate, the stager can work their magic and showcase the layout that works best for the home.

Less stress before closing

With your stuff already moved out, you won’t have to worry about any last-minute packing before closing day.

A spacious feel

Since home stagers bring along fewer items than the typical homeowner would have, spaces (especially areas like closets and pantries) can seem large and spacious when staged.

Better listing photos

Most buyers are browsing home listings online, so it’s important that your real estate photos and virtual tours are top-notch. A nicely staged home invites buyers to schedule showings.

Disadvantages of home staging

Generic appeal

Staged homes can have a similar look and feel, so your decor might look generic to someone with specific or edgy taste.

Slows the move

When you’re already juggling a long to-do list, the time it takes to find a reputable stager, get a consultation, stage the home, and then have it destaged after you receive an offer can add to your mountain of tasks.

Cost of home staging

Staging costs money, and it’s money that you will likely have to pay before closing (and before you have any of your profits in hand). And if you’re not going to be seeing much of a profit on the sale of your home, another expense can be hard to stomach.

Difficult to visualize

Some buyers have an easier time visualizing themselves living in a home when they have a completely blank slate.

As long as you’ve taken professional guidance from your agent on the possible impact of staging in your market, and spoken to a home stager about their costs, you should be equipped to make the most informed decision for your home sale.

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