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Extreme Home Staging: Does It Really Pay Off At Closing?

owners staging a home for sale
If you’re trying to decide whether staging a house is worth the money, read this first.

If done right, staging a house can help it sell fast. A well-staged home makes a great first impression in online listing photos, helps the buyer visualize themselves living there, and presents your home as a well-cared-for investment. Even the most basic home staging can help you net top dollar for your house.

But in competitive markets with high asking prices, sellers are taking home staging one step further. Enter extreme home staging. Sellers in hot markets like New York City, San Francisco, CA, and Los Angeles, CA, are spending tens of thousands of dollars to stage a home from top to bottom, including small renovations such as widening doorways, updating bathroom vanities, painting, and more. But is it worth it?

When should you consider a prelisting extreme home makeover?

If you’re struggling to sell your home, tackling an extreme home makeover before you relist your property can pay off big. To help you decide whether you need to go extreme, consult a real estate agent. They should be able to tell you how your home compares with others in the neighborhood, and if it just needs a simple declutter … or an entire overhaul.

“I acquired a listing that had been on the market for sale for more than a year with deep price reductions,” says real estate agent Richard Balzano of Douglas Elliman in New York, NY. “It showed very poorly. I organized various changes to the space, closing some openings, removing some doors, and refurbished the entire apartment: cabinets, floors, walls, and the bathrooms, and then rented furnishings for the entire eight rooms, which redefined the space.”

The cost of this extreme home staging? A whopping $100,000. But that investment was earned back and then some. “The property was at least a $3.5 million listing and had been discounted down to $2.8 million by the time of the expiration of the previous broker’s listing. With the staging, the apartment sold for $3.625 million,” says Balzano. Ka-ching!

Is home staging necessary?

For many sellers, home staging can translate to a fast sale. “Professionally staging a home is like merchandising a retail store, because every piece goes together,” explains Ariel Cohen, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman. “When you walk into a retail store, there’s a message or a theme, and it makes a buyer want to buy. That’s exactly how an apartment or home should be too. It’s no different than walking into a sales gallery to look at the finishes or models.” If you’re listing your home at the top end of the market, you might consider kicking your staging up a notch — maybe finally updating those builder-basic kitchen cabinets to custom or updating outdated light fixtures to something more modern.

Is home staging worth the money?

If your home for sale is empty, the answer is probably yes. With the popularity of shows like Million Dollar Listing, where extreme home staging is the norm, it’s become more of a trend to completely redecorate (and sometimes redesign) a home prior to listing. And if it increases the sale price substantially (enough to cover the cost of staging), making the investment seems like a worthwhile gamble.

“Buyers are visual. In a huge empty house, it can be very difficult for buyers to see how to use the rooms as the developer intended,” says Rachel Hillman, founder of Hillman Homes in West Newton, MA, who recommends staging to her clients. “I have buyers who have looked at homes [without furniture] and said they were too big, even though they are the same size as another house that we viewed with furniture. Staging can really help buyers see all the possibilities for using each room for the best use and value.”

It’s always important to keep in mind that extreme home staging doesn’t make sense for every listing, says Krisztina Bell, a professional home stager with Virtually Staging Properties Inc., which helps get homes for sale in Atlanta, GA, open-house ready. But for homes that are lingering on the market, it can be very lucrative — especially when you consider the loss of reducing the listing price. “Extreme home staging of this nature should be looked at as not a cost but as a well-spent investment when selling a furnished or vacant home,” she says. “It may sound stressful, but a seller does not want to have the home sit on the market.”

Do you think extreme home staging is worth the money? Share your tips and experiences in the comments below!