Is it worth the extra money to "stage" a small co op(1/1) in this market before selling?great area.

Asked by Gugi99, Fort Lee, NJ Mon Feb 2, 2009

Have to sell small 1/1 co op in Fort Lee NJ. Interior need some "TLC" great location etc. Is it worth putting $$ into interior before showing it? Will I get it back i today's market?

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Jeanne Feeni…, Agent, Basking Ridge, NJ
Tue Feb 3, 2009
Hi Gugi99, Jeannie Feenick back again - meant to comment that the colors of the bedrooms in the Woods End townhome were not changed - I would have preferred that they be neutralized but the owner had just painted them and so they stayed as they were. It did not impede our sale, but I do know that they buyer changed them quickly after moving in.

You've inspired a great discussion - thanks for the post!

Jeannie Feenick
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Darlene White, , Mendham, NJ
Mon Feb 2, 2009

I'm a realtor and I own a home staging business. My personal experience is that my staged homes seem to sell faster than my non-staged homes. It's important to remember that staging alone will not sell your home. There are four elements of a sale: price, location, condition, and market. While no one can control the market or location, they can control the price and the condition. Homes that are priced right and staged often sell faster and sometimes for more money than they would non-staged.

When I show homes to buyers, many can't visualize the true potential of a home. If there is something that needs work or updating, they immediately begin deducting the money for these updates from the listing price. They will often then come in with a lower offer. Homes that are staged show better and people buy into furniture and condition as a direct reflection of price.

If you like, you can take a look at my staging website at and hopefully that can answer more questions for you. Take a look at the before and after gallery.

Just remember that staging is not rehab. It's making a home look it's best for a minimal investment and it really makes sense in any market when done correctly.

Please feel free to call me with any questions at 862-268-0514 or 973-418-3427.

Best Wishes,
Darlene White
Mountain Resort Properties & Simplicity Home Staging & Design
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Dp2, , Virginia
Mon Feb 2, 2009
You've already received some good answers, but I agree most with Bill E, William, Walter, and Jeanne.

In addition to the advice you've already received, you'll need to decide on what kind of buyer you wish to target: 1) retail buyers (the majority) will pay the most, but aren't looking for homes that require TLC; 2) investors like to buy homes requiring TLC, but won't pay top dollar for it. You also need to determine how soon you need/want to sell your property. A mentor once told me that there are 2 reasons for why a property doesn't sell: 1) ugly property, and 2) ugly price/terms. Stated another way, ugly properties in any location with great price/terms will usually outsell properties in great locations that have ugly price/terms. Next, you'll need to prioritize between the factors: what's more important to you (price/terms, time, marketing [including repair and staging costs])?

Keep in mind that your property is competing with ALL of the other homes in the current inventory in your market--especially with the ones in your neighborhood. Sellers who are determined to sell their properties expediently will do something to their properties to make them stand out.
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Jeanne Feeni…, Agent, Basking Ridge, NJ
Mon Feb 2, 2009
Hi there Gugi99, good link from Walter - although a full staging job may not pay for itself, it is very important that your unit be clean, fresh and appealing. The least expensive way to freshen up a home is paint, so if your home needs to be neutralized (ie, bold colors at play)and/or freshened up, then this is money well worth spending. Carpet is next quick hit - if the carpet is tired looking or stained, replace it. After that, clean, clean, declutter, and depersonalize. If there are any odors, make them go away. Do your best to be objective, looking for anything that catches your eye in a negative way and make it go away. As stated earlier, when a buyer picks up on a sense that maintenance is not up to par, they begin to question the big stuff - often without merit, but nonetheless, nit picking begins.

A seller I worked with recently faced a similar dilemna - together we decided that fresh paint and light staging would help. Nice warm neutrals (a good very basic Benjamin Moore color incidentally is "Barely Beige" and if you have some molding paint them high gloss white and watch everything pop), Murphy's Oil Soap cleaning of the wood floors (spelled terrific), major decluttering, and then some very light staging with accessories like a fresh framed print over the fireplace, some bold color accessories to carry through a theme - we used all of their existing furniture which was dated, but the fresh paint and the accessories we tossed in changed everything. Below is a link to the listing photos - ...the seller actually used a little darker color on the walls than the barely beige - but it was still very much in a beige/light taupe spectrum. Our efforts paid off, we succeeded in selling the townhome quickly and at 96% of our asking price.…

The money you spend and effort you expend may not be paid back in dollars - but it will likely cause your unit to be one of the ones that successfully sells rather than sits. Spend carefully and wisely and engage the services of a good agent to market the heck out of it and you'll do fine. And remember, most important of all, no amount of staging or hype will sell an overpriced home - price it right, spruce it up so that it is appealing and start packing!

Jeannie Feenick
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Walter Burns, Agent, Hoboken, NJ
Mon Feb 2, 2009

Many buyers I am taking out to buy are seeing through the staged homes. The reaction I have been seeing from them is "oh they hired a stager, they must really need to sell." The issue with many staging companies I have found is that the staging does not look natural. It's looks like you are in an IKEA. It may not be worth the money.

If you are looking to do interior renovations, you may want to take a look at this great study from the National Association of Realtors on cost vs. value on renovations.…

Please let me know if you have any additional questions.


Walter J. Burns
Weichert Realtors
1 Newark St.
Hoboken, NJ 07030
201-653-8488 Ext: 230
201-694-8946 Mobile
201-653-4154 Fax
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William Leigh…, , New Jersey
Mon Feb 2, 2009
Gugi99: I always tell my sellers of the "bright penny" rule. If you show a little kid a group of coins, the child will usually take the brightest one. Same with roughly equivalent houses. If the bright house goes, there may well be another on the market next week, putting right back in the "less desirable " category. I spent $30,000 on my own (rather jaded) place and then got top dollar fast. You really do need to freshen the place up.

So much for generalities. If by staging you mean a professional interior decorator type, hired at a significant cost, after the usual clutter and scraped-up walls are painted, it all depends. If you have a luxurious address, you may find it worthwhile. If you have little aesthetic taste and feel helpless, it may also be worthwhile. However, you real estate agent SHOULD be able to tell you how to arrange what you have attractively. After all, they see a ton of homes and unless they are totally clueless, should be able to make some attempt at good advice on that basis, if no other.

While I always say that the average person has no imagination, so you don't want to leave the "bummer" image prevail, they also have specific taste and if all the fancy stuff doesn't strike their fancy, you've spent money for nothing.

My advice: Unless you can at least see that the stager's fee will result in a better return, I'd tend toward a "do it yourself" approach. That said, a neighbor of mine make a great living as an interior decorator to the very wealthy, even down to their yachts!

Best wishes.
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John Sacktig, Agent, New Jersey, NJ
Mon Feb 2, 2009
I would think that you could paint and stage for little $.
Of course you want to freshen up before you put it on the market, like anything else a good looking product will sell.

John Sacktig
Broker / Manager
Orange Key Realty
Office: 732-863-6969
Cell: 732-213-1409
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Laura Gianno…, Agent, Manahawkin, NJ
Mon Feb 2, 2009
What do you mean TLC? If it's just paint and carpet, go for it. You also might ask your agent.

My buyers, when they see a listing that says "needs TLC", are more apt to put in a low offer. They think that if minor issues like paint and carpet have been neglected, then anything major hasn't been taken care of.

Good luck!

Laura Giannotta
Keller Williams Atlantic Shore
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Marc Paolella, Agent, Succasunna, NJ
Mon Feb 2, 2009
Certainly it should be painted, cleaned, and repair anything that doesn't look good. If the appliances are ancient, replace them. Clean the windows and light fixtures. Make the unit smell nice.

As far as bringing in furniture or anything like that, I would not in the case of a small apartment. It will look bigger empty. If you showing it while you live there, move as much of your stuff out of the apartment as possible. Just keep the bare minimum to live.

Up the wattages on all the light bulbs. Make sure your agent uses a good camera to take wide pictures for the internet battle.

If you make improvements such as granite counters or renovating the bath or kitchen, you will get some but not all of your money back. However, you will likely reduce your time on the market.

In the final analysis though, your price needs to be very aggressive for a TLC unit. That is really the only reason someone is going to buy it.


Marc Paolella
Relocation Director
Member, Worldwide ERC
Licensed Realtor NJ
Licensed Appraiser NJ & NY
Century 21 Joe Tekula Realtors
Agent of the Year 2008
Owner: Sands Appraisal Service, Inc.
Phone (direct): (973) 584-4235
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Bill Eckler, Agent, Venice, FL
Mon Feb 2, 2009

It difficult to tell if you will be able to recover your staging expenses but staging could make the difference between selling of not selling the property.

A good case can be made for both staging and not staging. There are units that present themselves very well completely empty, with a fresh coat of paint and new carpet. An empty unit allows the buyers the opportunity to more easily visualize the unit with their furnishings.

Good luck
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