The $45,000 Question: Does Staging Have to Be Expensive?

Luxury Home Staging

This luxury home at 17615 Cedar Creek Canyon Drive was completely staged for the seller.  Photos: Lance Selgo/Unique Exposure Photography.

Home staging has been receiving some nice press lately. The New York Times ran two articles in January about the art and necessity of staging to bring top dollar for your property. Do you need to spend $45,000 and replace all of your furniture to get that longed-for list price?

No, not in general but there are instances when it happens. While staging is the norm on the West Coast, and certainly in the luxury market on the East Coast, the rest of the country falls somewhere in between, thinking either staging is a must or that it’s not imperative.  The issue lies largely in the perception of the term. What is staging?

It’s not an easy answer.


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Staging a vacant home creates a visual impression that helps the buyer to connect emotionally and easily recall the assets of the property.


Staging is site specific. Some homes require nothing more than a professional consultation with the seller doing the suggested work. A verbal consultation will only cost you about $200 in the Metroplex. If you want a detailed report, add another $50 to $75 into the mix.

Other houses need more, a lot more, much like the home mentioned in The New York Times piece entitled “The Art of Home Staging.” There are plenty of houses that need reinventing to match the desires of buyers in the current market. Even in a hot market. Even in a market with low inventory.

A home has to be priced right and, of course, location is extremely important. Without those two crucial items in place, no amount of staging will help with a sale. If you are spot on with pricing and your location is not an issue, then the importance of the visual impression and the feel of a home simply cannot be overlooked, as buyer expectation has become very sophisticated.

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Staging draws attention to built in features of the home.


This particular article hit the nail on the head with reference to what people want. They want to be presented with a lifestyle. It’s much like what photography stylists do for Neiman Marcus. Who doesn’t want to live in a bedroom that looks like it was pulled from their linen catalogs? You look at that bed and want to own every last pillow. It’s gorgeous and it makes you think, “If I buy those sheets and pillows, my life is going to be serene.” Logic goes out the window. It’s all image, and we buy into it every single time.

Selling a home is no different from selling a set of sheets, or a car, or a can of Coke. You are branding and marketing a product. How effectively you do that is evident in the return on the investment.

Home Staging Tips

Kick Phony to the Curb
You should not be able to tell a property is staged. Those days of the tray on the bed and the dining table set for dinner are over, or they should be. There are still old school stagers doing these things but to echo The New York Times article, people don’t live that way, it looks phony.

Yes that’s a nice word for reducing your stuff. No one wants to see your collections. No one.

Personal Photos with Purpose
No photos of you and a former president or your child or you at the Margarita Ball. Yes to a beautiful photo of someone on the slopes that you cannot recognize or a beach scene, remember it’s about lifestyle. Photos of your dogs are also considered lifestyle friendly, just don’t overdo it.

It’s Curtains for Drapes
Heavy custom draperies may have cost a fortune but they cover up at least a third of the beautiful windows you are selling. Remove them.

Paint to Sell
Neutral is not necessarily neutral. It does not mean white, but we do like white. It however does mean you cannot keep the red dining room or the burnt orange den. Don’t hesitate to paint wood cabinetry. Get a color consultation along with your staging consultation.

Odor Eaters
Nothing beats the scent of clean. Not chlorine smell clean, just clean. No scents, no baking cookies, just clean.

Show Towels
White is always right. Have towels you use just for staging.

What’s in Your Closet?
What should be in your closet is about a third of what’s in it now and everything should be off the floor.

Remove and Rent
When is it necessary to remove furniture? That depends on your target market but when you do, remember white is your friend.

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