Realtor.Rock: Everything you wanted to know about home staging but were afraid to ask—part one

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Realtor.Rock is a bi-monthly column where local Realtors share their expertise on real estate matters.

This week’s Realtor interview experienced some delay, so this article is actually by a home stager (me) and not a licensed Realtor.

OK, let’s start with the nagging problem of the name.

What is home staging?

Although I am a professional home stager, I wish it had been called something else. Property merchandiser, marketability inspector, curb appeal consultant—something, almost anything else but stager. The term “staging” seems to confuse too many people. So let me cut to the chase.

What is a stager?

A professional consultant with design and marketing expertise who can objectively evaluate a home through the “buyer’s eyes,” identifying the negatives and stumbling blocks that may prevent a timely sale and skilled at the techniques of removing these blocks. A professional home stager is trained in the fine art of presenting property so it shows in the best possible light and appeals to the maximum number of buyers. Although this service is relatively new in the Midwest, in other parts of the country it has become almost standard practice.


Because it works. All other things being equal, a staged home will sell faster and for more money than an equal non-staged home. And it usually pays for itself. In fact, Money magazine, in their June 2006 issue, listed home staging as the No. 1 thing a home seller could do to improve their chances of a profitable sale. In most cases, the return on investment exceeds the initial cost.

Why does it work?

Because people buy homes on emotion. They buy a home that “feels” right, and how they react to any given home will determine their level of interest. The days of just listing a home, sticking a “For Sale” sign in the front yard, doing a little clean-up and de-cluttering, and then hoping for a quick sale are rapidly disappearing. Today’s buyer does not want to replace, repair or remodel. There are plenty of homes out there competing with yours that do not need anything done to them, that show very well—both in the Internet marketing photos and in person, and that attract a large number of showings because of their emotional and visual appeal. These are the homes that are going to sell long before a home that has not been properly prepared.

Well, why can’t I just stage the home myself?

Perhaps you can if you have a natural eye for decorating (although most of us think we can—the truth is most of us can’t) and you have a variety of skills that will be needed to properly stage a home. Staging is an involved process—much more than just sliding some furniture around and clearing off the kitchen counters.

Most of us simply do not have the ability to be objective when it comes to judging how our home looks to potential buyers. Most of us are not trained in decorating, furniture arrangement, or accessory choices—not to mention the psychology of home buying and selling. We decorate our homes like we want them to look and feel, which is fine for living, but not for selling.

Is home staging like interior decorating?

Yes and no. Although one needs a good sense of design for both interior decorating and home staging, they differ both in intent and in practice. Interior decorating and design is done for the customer living in the home and usually involves the purchase of new furniture and accessories. Home staging, more often than not, involves the removal, rather than the addition, of new furniture. Home stagers may need to add some accessories, but these are usually rented rather than purchased. And the intent is radically different. With interior decorating and design, the designer is creating a space with the unique taste and desires of the customer in mind. In home staging, it is just the opposite; we are attempting to create a space that will appeal to a large number of people. A professional home stager is skilled at creating certain moods and emotional connection points that emphasize the positive qualities of any given property.

But I sold my home seven years ago and didn’t need this, so why now?

In the last few years, everything in real estate has radically changed because of the increased use of the Internet. Now, with a few clicks of a mouse, I can view every home available that meets my search criteria in any area. This translates into greatly increased competition. Part II will explore this and other new challenges to marketing real estate.

Why didn’t my Realtor suggest this?

It is not their job. They are hired to market the home; it is up to you to prepare it properly.

Note to Realtors: If you would have any interest in being featured in this column, please contact me.

James Frazier is the owner of A Defined Design-Professional Home Staging Service. He can be reached at 815-997-3212 or through his Web site at

from the Sept. 19 – 25, 2007, issue

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