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By Allison Videtti
When my husband and I decided to put our condo on the market a few years ago, the real estate market in our area wasn’t exactly going gangbusters, and condos were sitting on the market for what seemed like forever. We’d knew we really had to wow buyers if we were going to compete with the glut of condos like ours available.
So, we decided to stage the place.
My husband is in real estate, so he knew what features we needed to highlight (our awesome lake view and big bedroom), and I have a pretty good eye for design, if I do say so myself, so we opted to stage it ourselves rather than hire a professional. We saved some money taking a DIY approach, but still had to invest in a few things like rugs, pillows, art and other decorative items.
For us, the investment paid off: Our place was under contract in 3 weeks, even as other comparable condos in our building were sitting on the market. But that doesn’t mean staging — whether doing it yourself or paying a professional to do it for you — is worth it for everyone.
If you’re trying to decide whether to stage your home, here are a few things to consider.
If you choose to hire a home stager vs. doing it yourself, be prepared to pay up. According to the pros at Angie’s List, the cost to stage a home can range from a few hundred bucks to around $6,000. Most home stagers will charge you at least $150 to come to your home for a consultation, and then charge an hourly rate for the time they spend setting up the furniture.
You’ll also need to pay to rent any furniture, artwork or textiles (rugs, pillows, curtains, etc.) that the stager uses. The rental fee can range from $200 to $400 a month, depending on the amount of stuff you need (so if your home is vacant, be prepared to spend some serious cash). If you haven’t yet moved out of the home you’re selling and have nice furniture, you may be able to get away with renting only a few key items.
If you choose to do it yourself, don’t head to your local big-box store right away. Instead, make a list of what you need and ask your friends to borrow some of the items. And be sure to check out local garage sales — you can get odds and ends like lighting, artwork and tabletop décor for $5 to $10. Only after you’ve scavenged all you can should you buy things retail (and you should try to do so when those items are on sale).
If many sellers in your neighborhood are staging their comparable homes to sell, chances are you’ll need to do the same to get top dollar. On the other hand, if other sellers aren’t staging their homes, you may do just fine without it — or, it might give you a competitive advantage. Ask your agent for a recommendation based on what he/she normally sees in your area.
And remember: You don’t have to stage every room, so ask your agent what he/she recommends. According to a study by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), the living room and kitchen are the most important rooms to stage.
If your agent does see a lot of staged homes in your market, ask him/her what difference it makes to sellers. Are staged homes selling for more than vacant homes? Do staged homes have a shorter market time than those that aren’t staged? According to the NAR survey, 22 percent of Realtors® representing sellers say that staging increases a home’s value by 6 to 10 percent — although there are likely a variety of factors outside of staging that contribute to that increase.
If a $2,000 investment in staging results in a sale price of $10,000 more than you might have otherwise gotten, or a shorter market time that saves you $5,000 in mortgage payments, it’s probably worth it. But if you’ll only see a small bump in your sale price, you may want to forego staging and instead simply organize and depersonalize your space.
Allison Videtti is a social media/digital marketing specialist at Alliant. In her previous life, she worked in real estate and held multiple positions at a Chicago-based digital marketing agency, overseeing content strategy for a number of financial services clients. Allison's always been a saver and is something of a personal finance junkie. She loves reviewing her spending and updating her budget, and can't get enough of finance-related blogs and podcasts. Her favorites? Wisebread.com and the Planet Money podcast.