If you showed up to a job interview with an ill-fitting suit, an outdated resume and bad breath, you probably wouldn’t get the job — no matter how qualified you are. The same principle applies to selling your house. Even if a house has great bones and is in a prime location, staging can make it seem more attractive to potential buyers.
“Just like when you meet someone for the first time, within one to three minutes you form an impression of that person and decide whether you like them or not,” says Barrington home stager Terri Votanek. “Same thing happens when buyers are online looking at homes — you have a short window before they click on to the next home or decide to make an appointment to view your home.”
The cost of staging varies based on the size of the home and the extent of services needed. Votanek says you can expect to pay $350 to $750 to stage an occupied 2,500- to 3,000-square-foot home. She says the cost for staging vacant homes is typically 1/2 to 1 percent of the sale price. Northfield stager Audrey Gourguechon says her clients can expect to spend $150 to $1,000 to stage an occupied home, and $1,800 to $2,500 per month for vacant home staging.
Money spent on staging could be a very good investment. Ninety-five percent of staged homes sell for an average of 17 percent more than non-staged houses, according to a survey by the International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP). To put that in perspective, Gourguechon points out that 17 percent of an $800,000 house is a whopping $136,000. Staged homes also tend to sell faster — in an average of 11 days versus 90 days for non-staged houses, according to IAHSP.
Gourguechon says she sees those stats play out in the Chicagoland real estate market. She recently staged a Winnetka home that sold for $2.3 million in 11 days with four offers.
“For this project, we spent time selecting paint colors for the living, dining, guest bedroom and office. We also decluttered, moved furniture around and brought in new accessories,” Gourguechon says. “We consistently notice that attention to these areas makes a huge difference in sale price and time on the market.”
Staging Secrets From the Pros
Whether you’re working with a professional stager or getting your house ready for sale on your own, incorporate these tricks of the trade.
1. Make sure professional photos highlight each room’s focal point. Votanek says to check furniture placement before having photos taken. “In your photograph, you don’t want the buyers looking at the back of a sofa blocking half the room and fireplace,” she says. “You also don’t want buyers who can’t exit doors or walk up to windows that have great views because the sofa is blocking the access to the door and window.”
2. Some color is good. It’s widely known that neutral palettes work best when trying to sell a house. But, Votanek says you don’t want your home to appear sterile. Color accents through pillows, artwork and accessories make the room visually pleasing and draws buyers’ eyes to the focal point and then around the room,” she says. “So, yes to colorful pillows, artwork and accessories, but no to four walls painted red!”
3. Bring furniture into a vacant home. Clutter is distracting to potential buyers, but Votanek says an empty house is unappealing, too. Use furniture to warm up the space and help buyers visualize themselves living in the home.
4. If it’s smaller than your fist, pack it up. Confused about which accessories should stay and which should go? Votanek’s rule of thumb (er, fist) is that anything smaller than your fist should be removed. “In photographs and in buyers’ eyes, it is clutter and visually distracting,” she says. “Same goes for small artwork hung around a room — one larger statement piece is best.”
5. Leave two appliances on the kitchen counter. If counters are cluttered with food processors, stand mixers and the like, buyers may get the impression the kitchen lacks sufficient storage space. Votanek says only the microwave and coffee maker should be visible during showings.
6. Get a “bed in a bag.” No one wants to see the crumpled sheets you slept in last night (no matter how high the thread count). But, there’s no need to drop a lot of money on high-end bedding that is just for show. Votanek says to swap the bedding you actually use for a clean and neutral “bed in a bag.”
7. Put out the “show towels.” Damp and musty-smelling towels are a major turn-off for potential buyers. Votanek recommends keeping a clean, unused set of towels to display for showings.
8. Less is more. When it comes to staging, what you bring into a house is often less impactful than what you take out. “A lot of our time is spent removing extra pieces of furniture and storing accessories,” Gourguechon “This helps to maximize the space and encourages flow within the house.”
9. Remove family photos. Yes, your children are gorgeous. But, you want buyers to picture themselves in your house, so it’s best to keep family photos to a minimum. Gourguechon says two or three small frames on tabletops are fine, but remove larger photos from walls.
10. Stash personal items in decorative boxes. If you’re living in your house while trying to sell it, you obviously need access to everyday items like toothbrushes and unpaid bills. But, those things can be eyesores in an otherwise tidy home. Gourguechon recommends purchasing a few decorative boxes where you can quickly stash frequently used items before showings.
11. Create conversation areas. “A lot of the homes that we stage have sofas and chairs pushed up against walls,” Gourguechon Instead, arrange furniture in cozy conversation areas, where buyers can envision themselves sitting with family and friends.
12. Create feel-good connections. We’ve all been in houses that make you feel good as soon as you walk through the door — that’s the feeling you want to evoke in your house. North Shore home stager Diane Lefebvre says you can use attractive focal points to direct buyers’ attention to each room’s best feature. “A connection is a point in the room that makes you feel good,” she says. “For example, it can be a beautiful flower arrangement or an open window with jasmine outside.”
13. Know your audience. When creating focal points, it’s helpful to know what special touches will appeal to your target buyers. Even if a room has no distinguishing features, you can create a focal point with furnishings. “A luxurious headboard will still make a room more appealing even though it is not part of the house that is for sale,” Lefebvre says.
14. Don’t forget to stage the yard. Potential buyers will size up your house from the outside before they ever step foot inside. That’s why Chicago staging pro David Cieslak recommends doing a post-winter exterior cleanup, including the yard, windows, screens and gutters.
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