Your house is probably one of the biggest items you’ll ever sell, so you want it to look as good as it can, which is where home staging comes in.
Hiring a home stager or doing it yourself may cost you a few hundred dollars, but the amount of money it will save you from having to lower your asking price or selling in two weeks instead of two months can be priceless.
“Staging makes a house look its best as a product and focuses the buyers’ attention on the home itself as opposed to the seller’s stuff,” says Rhonda Duffy, a real estate and home staging expert. “Home and its features are what they are buying. When you stage a couch, face it to the fireplace not the flat screen TV on the wall. The TV will be gone, but the fireplace is a permanent part of the house’s features.”
While home staging can be expensive if you have to rent furniture to fill an empty house, it doesn’t always have to be. According to Shell Brodnax, chief executive of Staging & Design Network, home staging can cost as little as $150 to $300 for a consultation to as much as $6,000 if the home is vacant and void of any furnishing. If you hire a stager to realign the existing furniture it can cost around $1,000 to $1,500, says Duffy.
The type of home stager you choose also matters a lot. Cleaning up and de-cluttering may make it look nice but if that’s all your home stager is offering its time to look elsewhere. “There are vast differences between home stagers,” Brodnax. “If you look at before and after photos and the home seems tidier, that’s not staging.”
According to experts, home staging can be a DIY project if you understand the five tenets of a good staging. Experts say the first thing -- and one of the most important ones -- is making sure the home is de-cluttered. That means anything you aren’t using on a day-to-day basis needs to be placed into a box and put away. “If eight pieces of furniture are in a room and six would be better, try to find a temporary home for the other two pieces,” says Duffy.
Equally important as de-cluttering is getting rid of any personal items in the house, even if you have pictures of the most adorable children or grandchildren hanging on the wall. By removing any personal items potential buyers will be able to see themselves in the home instead of feeling like a visitor in your house. What’s more, you never know what can offend would-be buyers so it’s better to remove than risk losing a buyer.
Cleanliness is another big one and according to Duffy can get you 3% more in a sale compared to a dirty home. You also want to make any repairs before you put the house up for sale. Avoid any major upgrades to the home that aren’t purely for your own enjoyment. Yes you want to replace a cracked counter top or paint the rooms neutral if your preference is bright purple but don’t install a brand new bathroom in hopes of appealing to a buyer you don’t know exists. That can be a dangerous and expensive game to play. “Most agents will come in and spend your money like a drunken sailor on a shore leave, making all sorts of expensive changes,” says Duffy. “Resist the urge. Be smart. Most people don’t get a dollar for dollar return on the money they put in the changes once they decide to sell.”
Curb appeal is another thing that doesn’t have to cost a lot but can make a huge difference in how fast and how much your home sells for. The front of the house is the first thing potential buyers will see. Have an overgrown front yard and chances are potential buyers are going to have a bad first impression. Have a clean, nicely landscaped front and buyers will be excited about seeing the rest of the property. “A couple of hundred bucks, a back breaking day at the home fix-it store, some pansies and some pine straw will go a long way,” says Duffy. “An agent more than likely will be fumbling with the lock box and key for several minutes…You want their (buyers) first impression to be a good one.”