Reginald, Real Estate Pro in San Francisco, CA

Is having a professional stager really worth the cost?

Asked by Reginald, San Francisco, CA Mon Jun 16, 2008

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we have homes in LA and SF since the 70's .When it comes time to sell - I ALWAYS do a refurb on kitchen and baths. If the house is sufficiently costly, then spend the money for Wolf Stoves and ovens, Sub Zero or Liebherr refrigeration, and Miele Dishwashers and washer/dryer. A whole kitchen full of the very best appliances money can buy will cost you $15k if you shop well. Discerning buyer will immediately perceive the quality of the appliances. Most home owners know a sub zero fridge starts at $5k and goes up to $12k. A Wolf Stove starts at $4k and can go up to $14k, the Miele Laundry pair - about $4k, and the sinks, faucets can add another $5k. Granite or Corian counters too @ $5k. And if the asking prices is at or over $1.2 million, then staging sells faster than anything else. The cost of staging a large home can range from a low of $4400 to a high of $25k or more, depending on how much furniture and how long it's kept. It's very easy to let a designer furnish rooms down to the ornaments on tables. That is the most costly option, however, and it also locks in a particular look or style. Great if the buyers happen ot like that style, And the kiss of death if they don't. REMEMBER, LESS IS MORE! Subtle creation of a scenario is what you're after. Not fully furnished move in ready bring your toothbrush! With this slow market count on having the furniture six months and budget for it in your sales/asking price. I seem to get about 20% more in sales price from the staged home than from those which are not. Also, a good staging company can take a dark dreary room and make it cozy and inviting. A sun drenched deck can become an outdoor living space with VERY little effort. Don't forget landscape. A couple grand spent in plants and sprinkler systems to keep them alive can fetch a 40 fold return on that investment. The bigger and pricer the house, the more you should be willing to spend. However, remember that 'less is more' and you want the suggestion of a room - not a furnished model. The most successful 'staging' I ever did was in a grand old mansion on Pacific Ave in SF. The house had 20k sq feet and to have staged the entire thing would have bankrupted me. So we put a grand piano with digital player unit installed in the main living room, a couple of columns holding very elegant plants, some uplit trees, and two gorgeous overstuffed sik upholstered chairs facing the window that viewed the bay. The piano had a huge silk scarf with 2' fringes draped over the back of it and an IMMENSE candelabra on the front of it, complete with 18" yellow candles in it. A bowel of flowers completed the scene.

People never got beyond the living room and entry. The music playing, the chairs looking out at the bay, the fireplace lit, and the scene was set. The second or third couple that saw the house sat there in those very costly silk chairs and wrote out a full price offer, contingent on my including the existing piano, and furnishings in the living room (all plants, columns, lighting, etc.). The sale price was over three million and frankly it needed another three million in work. But the magic, the scene, the sizzle in lieu of the steak was what sold the property. I visited the buyer 18 months later after the major rehab was complete and they had the living room furnished exactly the same way with the addition of a good rug or two and a couple of sofa' s and a desk or book case. Even the same Cole Porter wafting through the house from the digital piano player unit! It cost me $40k to buy the piano and accoutremounts and was worth EVERY penny. I had hoped I could get 2m for the house in its present condition. I got just a shade over 3 million. Today, rehabbed and rebuilt to an excellent standard - it's probably worth well over six million. Pac Heights has that cachet - especially since the house had a six car garage underneath it! (grin)
The other detail is to have the house professionally cleaned top to bottom. No odors from pets, no dirty toilets or sinks. A pro cleaning service to do the windows, walls, floors, bathrooms, etc., the first time and then a maid service to maintain it while it's being viewed. I put a self-serve automatic coffee machine in, along with stocking the fridge with bottles of Evian and juices. Leave a note for realtors to help themselves and serve their clients.

The trick is create an oasis and allow potential buyers to envision a scene wherein they and their family are mentally part of the scene. Once you hit that, (and it can be done with surprisingly few piece of furniture and/or art) you're home free. Like I said - it netted me a million more than I thought I would get without a major overhaul performed BEFORE I sold it and paid for out of my own money. (Scary thought for most property owners - because your idea of "gorgeous" or "great" may be someone else's idea of a disaster.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 17, 2008

Staging is key, regardless of the market. Buyers in SF have become use to seeing staged properties. There's no doubt it has a psychological impact in the minds of the buyers. First of all, as a result of the staging, it helps them to see where.if their own couch/tv, etc may fit. staging also adds an element of luxury and sophistication which makes the buyer feel good (wow, this is where I can live). I've seen it with my buyers time and time again. And my sellers have also seen the difference.

Rich Bennett, Realtor

Zephyr Real Estate
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Oct 10, 2011
Like anything else in real estate. It depends.
I am part of a national referral group and have discussed this with agents in different markets. In San Francisco, during our current buyers market, it is to the sellers benefit to "fix" the property, paint and stage. When buyers are looking for the perfect home and there is a surplus of inventory, then the home that presents the freshest and most liveable, with the least needed to move in usually attracts offers.

This is the goal of staging. It shouldn't be so fancy that one oohs and ahs too much. Just fresh enough to make someone say, "I could live here". Recently I used a different stager than my usual go to stager and found that the property sat a little longer before sale. I also had a listing for a while where the sellers had moved out of state and left their furniture and some art intact thinking the home looked staged. After several months of no offers, I encouraged them to "move out", and stage. The home had multiple offers within 2 weeks of the completed stage.
I have a colleague in another market who says it is just not done there and its' true, the homes move more slowly. In my opinion staging is worth the cost. Use an agent who has good staging connections and may be able to help you negotiate the cost or find a stager to meet your cost requirements so that using the staging advantage will work for your budget and affect a sale at what will likely be sooner than an unstaged home.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Sep 30, 2011
Three years ago I said that staging is important. Today I say that it is a MUST for every house when Selling Price justifies this expense. It is extremely difficult to sell unless house is PERFECT. Of course there are plenty of exceptions, but at today's market good staging is a vital differentiation point.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Sep 26, 2011
ARTUR URBANS…, Real Estate Pro in Burlingame, CA
It's nice to see everyone say "Yes" to this post.

A lot more agents need to feel this way and maybe even offer it as part of their service (You may even get a few more clients that way).

I'm not a professional stager (former realtor) but I offered this service when I listed a home. I think some agents think the sellers will get offended if they try and communicate that the home needs to be "cleaned up".

Let the seller know in the beginning of your first meeting that, the way you live in a home is not the way you show it if you're looking to sell fast and for the most money. That will get their attention.

I BLOG about the importantance of how a home should show if you want to sell faster and for the most money. All my information is FREE.

Pure FACT, homes sell FASTER when staged. (Price is still #1, but condition is 2nd)

When I Iook at homes online, I can't help but to shake my head at the pictures agents and or homeowners are uploading.

I have an article on my blog about "How to take better pictures". Feel free to take a look.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Sep 26, 2011
This is an old post but the subject never gets old!

It would depend on the home; but aside from that I would say yes. Don't wait until the home has been on the market and allow it to get stale before you use a stager. Many homes for sale are just that "Homes" when actually they should be "Houses". Staging will allow the potential buyer to get a little more comfortable once the home has been de-personalized.

If you have already put yourself in the position that your home has become stale then it is time to get it off the market, call in a stager and de-personalize. Oh, and please price it to sell, work closely with your REALTOR who is in a position to do some research on your behalf.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Sep 25, 2011
Yes, yes, yes! Reginald, there are allot of properties on the market. You need to be in top of mind viewership by the public. If your property was not originally professionally decorated or has not been since you purchased it, it should be before it is presented to the buying public in photos, videos or tours online or in person to anyone. Buyers need to see how nice their furniture could look in your property. Sometimes propertIes are sold with everything in it for more money because of how well it has been staged. It is well worth it. Don't be sacred of paying a little money to get your property the best face on the 1st view. They might not come back if it is not in proper order. Actually, they will state that the price should be allot lower when it does not look like it is in proper showing state. You don't want that at all.
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0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 18, 2008
Listings only get one chance to make a first impression -- Staging makes all the difference! With all of the technology today, sometimes the "first impression" is on the internet on a Virtual Tour or scrolling through the MLS pictures on the listing sheet. When a buyer is actually in the home, they can overlook some of the color and clutter, particularly if it is a very nice location, neighborhood, etc. When searching homes on the internet, there is not that same advantage. Many times homes get eliminated (by prosective buyers --and more importantly agents-- before anyone steps in the door! Staging is not decorating -- it's "de-personalizing". It's making the home appealing to 95% of the buyers who view it -- including those buyers on the internet. Staging often takes very little money but can net at least 5% more in the sales price. My last two listings sold in less than 30 days at close to full price. If you asked my clients if Staging made a difference, they would be very quick to answer with an emphatic "YES!!".
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 17, 2008
Hi, In this market where there is a glut of inventory, you want your home, your listing to stand out and be memorable. No more do buyers need to "see" past a mess. They can go to the next home that is staged beautifully and imagine living there. You want your house to shine and speak. You want buyers to leave saying "i love that house with the sailboat painting" or "I want to go see that house again that had the dining room table set so beautifully". You want them to remember your home above all the 15-20-30 others they will see. So YES, stage it, or have a pro stage it. And also, be sure it's priced at the low end of the comps in the neighborhood AND very important, be sure your commission paid to realtors who bring buyers is equal to or higher than any other in your neighborhood. Not only do you want buyers to remember your home, you also NEED realtors to want to bring the buyers, and to do that, you have to pay them a fair commission. Good luck.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 17, 2008
Staging works!!! You can go to and find a Realtor, who like me, has their staging accreditation. We can not charge a fee, it is part of our commission and a service that we provide for listing with us. Now, we will not do the work but we will tell you what to do and give you clever ideas. If you want the service of a full time stager then your ASP Realtor can recomend one.

Good luck,
Jean Tickell
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 17, 2008
You would detail your car before selling, why would you not do that and MORE for a home owner's biggest investment?
Having said that - Staging is not something easily done by the realtor or the homeowner
Tempting? Yes. Practical? No.
The home owner cannot see past his/her belongings and the realtor will be hesitant to hurt the homeowners feelings. Besides, how many realtors specialize in contracts, negotiating, marketing, staging, photographing, etc., etc.? It is a unique agent who is truly competent in all areas and an even more unique person to admit that they are, in fact, not expert in all areas and, therefore, hire other professionals. Go with the agent who says: 'I focus on marketing, contracts, negotiating and honing my pricing skills and hire people who make staging and photography their livelihood.
For most home owners it is difficult to see their home from a buyer's eye when they've been living in it. It is not a matter of having great design taste; it is about showcasing the home minus the personal touches and belongings in order to appeal to the greatest range of potential buyers.

Empty house? Staging a house helps buyers imagine their families living in the home and how their furnishings would fit into the space.

Still want to do it yourself? Hire a stager as a consultant for a few hundred dollars to prepare a detailed plan to follow. Once the work is complete – have the stager return just prior to the Open House for a second assessment. You will be glad you did.
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0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 17, 2008
Totally worth it! Homes USUALLY sell faster and for more $$$ when they are professionally staged
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0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 17, 2008
Just to second the other comments: Yes, it is worth the cost.

Addressing Jackalope's point that some staged homes look "staged," the comment is valid, but when you start noticing the staging, as Jackalope has, it's an indication that it's not as well staged as it could be. It's a fine line between neutralizing, on the one hand, and presenting rooms that allow a potential buyer to envision themselves occupying. It shouldn't be overly sterile, but it shouldn't be overly frilly or gimickey, either. Admittedly, what Jackalope (or I, for instance) might consider frilly would look perfectly attractive yet unobtrusive to someone else.

And when evaluating the cost, remember that it's not just the fee paid to the stager that's important (versus, say, a price reduction on the property), but also the time frame in which the property sells. If a property is vacant...or if the owners have a contingent contract on another property...selling the property in, say, 45 days versus 100 or more days if unstaged makes staging well worth the cost.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 17, 2008
Don Tepper, Real Estate Pro in Fairfax, VA
Here's my two cents as a buyer re: staging.

What I love about staging is that there are pros who have come in and made the seller declutter the place, so it gives you a better sense of the space you would be working with. Their placement of furniture and artwork helps those (um, like me) who can't visualize or decorate to save their lives. So in that sense, it's really wonderful for prospective buyers.

What I don't love about it is that it, well, looks staged. I can't tell you the number of dining sets I've seen that have the chairs decorated with full-chair covers, very frilly multi-plate setups with napkins tied with silk sashes, etc., and that's just the dining room. In the end, at least for me, a lot of the times the setup can look forced and fake. At the same time, it does get me to understand the proportions of the room better.

Overall though, I'd say it's 85% positive and if I were selling, I'd seriously consider it.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 17, 2008
Hi Reg,

Since I am a stager, my answer is obviously biased. :o)

With the mea culpa out of the way, I'd have to say.....absolutely. Professional stagers have (usually) received in-depth training because staging isn't decorating. Staging is identifying and highlighting the property's attributes while minimizing any negatives. Stagers are trained to spot problems with curb appeal, eliminating clutter, and deftly handling the removal personal items that will be distracting to buyers. A well trained stager is worth every penny. Recent stats show that a staged home sells, on average, 63% faster than a non-staged home.

There are a few Professional Staging Associations; I'm a member of Accredited Staging Professionals. You can search the website for an accredited staging professional in your area. Be sure to look at some of their work to see if you like what you see.

Lastly, the cost of staging is usually significantly less than your first price reduction.

Good luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jun 16, 2008
Hi Reg,

Unless your property is a fixer, in San Francisco it has become a necessity. Originally only houses in the multi-million dollar price range were staged. Today everything gets staged (a recent buyer client bought a one-bedroom condo in Diamond Heights, and it was beautifully staged). If you don't stage your property, your home will compare unfavorably to buyers out there, who've now come to expect "pretty". Remember, staging is not remodeling. It usually doesn't make sense to remodel a home for sale, but it almost always makes sense to stage it.
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0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jun 16, 2008
Staging works! Staging is all about presentation, and the aim is to make the home's interior as well as exterior, pleasing to the eye. Home staging is not decorating; it's about using items, accessories and pieces of furniture in new ways that you might not have considered before. It's about putting many extra things away, about decluttering, packing up collections and cleaning up your property. In effect, you are preparing your rooms so that buyers can envision themselves living in the home. I am a Realtor who does staging for my clients; perhaps when you are interviewing Realtors you might want to check and see if he/she has taken a staging course and done any staging as it might be one way you can save some money when preparing to put your home on the market.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jun 16, 2008

In my opinion it really depends. Staging can make a huge difference in the first impression of your home to potential buyers. Staging allows the home’s best features to be highlighted and can help minimize less desirable ones.

There varying degrees to staging and finding the one that best fits your needs as the seller is important. Staging can include remodeling a kitchen or a bathroom as well as furnishing the home to a consultation to determine which pieces of your own can be used, how to best arrange furniture and what can be done to help with the visual impact of the home with various accessories. Utilizing this latter technique can help keep the costs down, while still having the impact of staging.

De-cluttering, de-personalizing and cleaning your home is very important. You want buyers to walk in and be able to envision themselves living there. If the home looks cluttered, or there are a lot of family pictures around it will be hard for a buyer to look past these things.

Many times the impact of staging can be under estimated. What is a really good idea to do is to visit homes in your area that are currently on the market. What are your first impressions of the home? Where any of them staged? Looking to see what the norm in your area is can help you determine what makes sense. If the competition is staging, you may really want to seriously consider staging yourself. You want to ensure that your home looks as good if not better than the other comparable homes to draw buyers to your home.

Staging is a great tool in helping to sell your home. The level of staging you do will depend on your budget, the competition in the area and your timef rame, but I do think it is worth considering in helping to market your home.

Good luck!

Lisa Cartolano
Alain Pinel Realtors
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jun 16, 2008
Dear Reg,

The simple answer is yes! yes! yes! You should more than get back the cost of staging. A good stager makes a home/condo/loft look cleaner, up-to-date and adds color where needed and beautiful flowers and greenery.

Ask the stager for references or a website where you can look at finished products. Good stagers have that. Go to my website and click on Resources. Go to stagers.... and check them out. I am happy to give recommendations.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jun 16, 2008
I believe so. Especially at this market having property staged is a a critical differentiation. Staging the property cannot of course justify unreasonable pricing. Also, you used the word "professional". Make sure that it is the case. There are many very good ones, but every now and then you might find someone who really doesn't "belong".
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0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jun 16, 2008
ARTUR URBANS…, Real Estate Pro in Burlingame, CA
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