Stage This Room!

Two hours. Three rooms. $250 Budget.Three REALTORS®. Go!

July 1, 2007

Could you walk into a room and, in two hours, working mainly with what’s there, make it more attractive to buyers? Taking a cue from “Iron Chef,” REALTOR® Magazine posed this test to three practitioners earlier this year. In the pages that follow, you’ll see just how our stagers rose to the challenge.

In February we dispatched each one, along with a camera crew, two professional stagers (who provided only commentary), and some helping hands, to a Chicago-area home. The practitioners staged a home office, a bedroom, and a living room, respectively. Each had a $250 budget and one opportunity to see the room before the big day.

Our stagers demonstrated how creativity combined with a few accessories, a little reorganization, and ruthless paring can make a property stand out in today’s slower markets.

That’s important not just at showings but also on the Internet, where buyers increasingly rely on photos to narrow their choices, says salesperson Mark Jak, ABR®, of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Chicago.

Even in a fast-paced market, staging can pay off. A survey of 2,000 practitioners conducted by HomeGain in 2003, at the height of the boom, found that staging could increase the sales price by $2,275 to $2,841. Cleaning and decluttering could add $2,093 to $2,378 to the final price. Likewise, a 2004–2005 survey of owners by training company found that staged homes sold for 6.9 percent more than homes that weren’t staged.

Such statistics have led to a dramatic uptick in practitioner interest in staging. says enrollment in its Accredited Staging Professional designation courses has increased 49 percent in the six months ending March 30, 2007, compared with the previous six months.

Small bucks net big rewards

As our makeovers show, staging doesn’t have to cost a lot or take much time. One of our stagers, Bobbi Williams, relied on items she already had. Professional stager and trainer Lori Matzke looks around sellers’ homes for staging props and stages only key room s— the entryway and any room visible from it (first impressions count), the main living area, the kitchen, the master bedroom, and one extra room, such as a den or deck. “Those are what buyers usually base their decision on anyway,” she says. She also encourages sellers to “tuck away anything smaller than a football. Who wants to pay my fee to pack for them?”

Professional staging costs $500 to $1,000 and up for an average-sized home. The price generally includes painting, carpeting, accessories, and labor, but costs can go higher, depending on the extent of the work.

Many real estate practitioners today include staging as part of their marketing services, either doing the job themselves or hiring and paying for a professional stager. In such cases, sellers pay only the cost of new accessories, furniture rental, paint, or new carpeting. Often the stagers — with some help from the sellers — do the heavy lifting.

Sometimes, convincing sellers that their beloved home needs a makeover takes finesse. To illustrate staging’s value, Bobbi Williams of Keller Williams in Chicago tells sellers what she learned from her staging mentor,’s Barb Schwarz: “A car depreciates the minute you drive it off the lot. But what’s the first thing you do if you sell it? Detail it. Your home is an asset, so now it’s time to detail it.”

Even getting sellers to recognize the need to declutter isn’t always a cinch. “They’ve been living with clutter for years and just don’t see it anymore,” says Dede Banks, ABR®, CRS®, of Renaissance Realty Partners in Lake Forest, Ill. To help home owners see their houses as buyers would, Banks takes photos of rooms. When she shows them to sellers, the problem areas become more apparent.

Christina Hoffmann
Senior Speech Writer

Christina Hoffmann has covered real estate and homeownership for two decades, including as REALTOR® Magazine managing editor and’s content manager, with added expertise as owner of a demanding 100-year-old house. She is currently a senior speech writer at NAR.


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