|Spring Real Estate 2004
Publication Date: Wednesday, April 7, 2004
All the home's a stage
by Gretchen Roberts
Bull was selling his mother's ranch home in Menlo Park. The house
was packed so full of furniture and memorabilia, it was difficult
to see its potential. Bull's real estate agent suggested hiring
a home stager to maximize the value and price of the house.
Soon Stage Right, a Palo Alto-based staging firm, removed
old carpets and drapes, repainted inside and out, refinished
the hardwood floors, replaced light and bath fixtures, spruced
up the garden and patio and staged the interior.
And that is precisely the point of staging: to show what the home could be. We
become immune to the horrifying things a prospective buyer would notice first
thing when touring the house -- the kids' fingerprints on the window, the layer
of filth atop the refrigerator, the dank smell pervading the basement.
You may think these problems shouldn't affect the buyer -- after all, it's your
stuff -- but home buying is a very psychological business, and though buyers
may see the potential in a house, no one pays top dollar for a house with potential.
Most real estate agents and stagers in the area believe staging will help sell
your home more quickly and for more money, but monetary results are hard to quantify.
Joy Valentine, a Los Altos-based real estate agent with Coldwell Banker, wanted
to test that theory. She analyzed 2,772 properties between March and September
1999 in eight cities in the Bay Area to determine what effect, if any, staging
had on the net price, the percentage of sales price over list price and the length
of time on the market.
For all properties, both staged and unstaged, the average number of days on the
market was 30.89, and the average difference in sales price over list price was
1.6 percent. In the staged sample, which included 129 properties, the average
number of days on the market was 13.9, and the average difference in sales price
over list price was 6.32 percent.
Valentine's results prove what we instinctively know: People
like to be impressed. But, she said, "there is a fine line
between enhancement and camouflage, and staging is somewhere
Staging is a combination of interior design and neutralization.
While a stager might use some basic design principles in color
cannot be tailored to a specific taste. "The main difference is we're working for
the buying public," said Jenny Bisset of Stage Right. "It
needs to be pleasing to a number of people."
Bisset said people know the home is staged when they come in,
so it's not deceitful. "It's
selling the idea of an open, spacious home without the clutter
problems. For a lot of people, that's a fantasy."
Any stager or real estate agent could tell you clutter is one
of the biggest targets when preparing a home for sale. Kit Davey,
A Fresh Look
in Redwood City, said most people are immune to their own junk
and need a neutral
to help them get rid of it. "This is the number-one issue, the quantity
of clutter," Davey said. "Eighty-five percent of staging
is having things clean and put away."
Davey doesn't stage empty homes. She uses existing dÈcor to create a simple,
clean look that will appeal to buyers. "It's often a matter of editing,
of taking out pieces that aren't working, and finding things that exude the right
message," she said. A bonus for homeowners: You'll take Davey's
furniture-placement lessons with you to your new place.
However, the prevailing trend in the Bay Area is to move out
and stage an empty home. Stage Right advises sellers to move
the opportunity. "It's
easier on everyone," Grace Stratos of Stage Right said. "And
in this area, a decent house, properly staged, usually sells within
But staging isn't supposed to upstage. "We attempt to show the house rather
than the staging. It's not overdone so you can't see the house's bones," Stratos
The most surprising feature of staging is that it will always work to a seller's
advantage. If the housing market is sluggish, staging will give your home an
attractive edge over the competition. If the market is strong and the home will
sell regardless, you can use staging to increase the selling price.
Bill Bull said he would use home staging again. His overall investment to revamp his mother's home was $23,000 -- a hefty sum. But he estimates that the staging work increased the home's selling price by around $80,000. "You get your money back and much more," he said. "Staging maximized the potential of the house."