One of the many marketing strategies that new listing agents struggle with, home staging is probably the most challenging. Hiring a professional stager is expensive, and DIY staging is something of a mystery for most new listing agents.
In order to demystify the process, we worked with top-producing listing agents, including our friends at Ryan Serhant’s luxury brokerage SERHANT., to get the best home staging tips for 2022. After the tips, we include a DIY shopping guide to get luxury furniture and decor for staging at budget prices.
Home Staging 101: Helping Buyers Visualize Their Dream Home
Before we jump into the tips and shopping guide, here is a quick rundown of the basics of home staging, how much it costs and who pays, and a walk-through of the home staging process.
What Is Home Staging?
Home staging is a real estate marketing strategy where Realtors, homeowners, or professional home stagers furnish a home for sale with furniture and decor to sell the home faster. The goal of home staging is to help potential buyers visualize themselves living happily in the home.
Home staging can be done by either a homeowner themselves, a homeowner working with a real estate agent, or a professional home stager.
How Much Does Home Staging Cost?
Home staging can cost anywhere from $500 for a quick coat of paint and some sweat equity, to well over $50,000 for a months-long staging project in a large luxury home. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2021 Profile of Home Staging Report (PDF link), the median cost of staging a home was $300 if personally staged by the listing agent, and $1,500 if staged professionally.
Professional stagers generally charge a consultation fee of $250 to $1,000-plus and then charge a monthly fee that can range from $500 to $700 per room. The monthly fee covers the rental of the furniture and decor professional home stagers provide.
How Home Staging Costs Are Broken Down
The costs of home staging are generally broken down into two categories: expenses to buy or rent furniture and decor, and the expense of the labor involved to stage the home or make quick repairs like painting or refinishing floors.
Who Pays for Home Staging?
Who pays for home staging depends on the value of the home, how aggressively priced the home is, and the agreement the homeowner makes with their listing agent. Since NAR statistics show that home staging can lead to a 1% to 20% increase in a home’s selling price, many homeowners will happily pay for home staging.
What Is the Home Staging Process?
The process of staging a home will depend on what kind of home is being staged, and who is staging the home.
Staging Luxury Homes
For a large luxury home, the home staging process generally begins with the listing agent sending a professional home stager to the home to estimate the scope, direction, and costs of the project. Once the stager, homeowner, and listing agent agree on the scope and price for staging, a contract is signed. Most home staging contracts are for a period of three months or more. Then the furniture and decor is installed in the home. After the home sells, the stager then returns to remove the furniture and decor from the home.
Starter Homes & More Affordable Homes
Unlike luxury homes, most starter and affordable homes are staged by the homeowner working with the listing agent, or more rarely, with a professional home stager. If the home is staged by the homeowner or listing agent, the listing agent will visit the home to go over the scope and cost of the staging project. Once the homeowner and listing agent agree on the scope and cost, they will split the work of staging the home. For example, a homeowner might declutter the home and pay a contractor to refinish hardwood floors or paint the living room, and the listing agent might bring over furniture or artwork to help stage the home.
17 Clever Home Staging Tips From Top Agents
1. Stage Every Room With a Distinct Purpose
When you’re staging a home, always remember that you are presenting your buyer with a fantasy of what their home could be, not how they might actually live. Even if they end up throwing an exercise bike in the living room and a work area in the dining room the first week they move in, always stage your rooms with one purpose and one purpose only. If you don’t, you’ll break the fantasy.
📌 Pro Tip
Virtually stage a bedroom as a home office for Zillow.
Since nothing adds value to a home like more bedrooms, you should almost always stage any room that can legally be a bedroom as a bedroom. That said, many of today’s buyers who work from home are looking for another perk—a home office. This is why virtually staging a bedroom as a home office is a quick and easy way to kill two birds with one stone. You can virtually stage a home office in minutes using Apply Design for just $7 per image.
2. Use Sconces Instead of Table Lamps in Bedrooms
If you want to instantly add a bit of glamor to a bedroom, consider adding wall-mounted lighting instead of table lamps on the nightstands. If you buy two sets of wall-mounted light fixtures, one modern, one traditional, you’ll be ready to stage any style home. Since you won’t need to wire them, installation takes just a few minutes. Here’s Ashlei De Souza, a broker at SERHANT. and host of Staged on the SERHANT. LISTED YouTube network:
“Not all sconces feel dated! Embrace the luxurious hotel feel and pick some fun wall mounted lighting on either side of your bed. In smaller bedrooms, this trick allows you to go with nightstands that are more petite to keep your room feeling as spacious as possible!”
3. Add Floating Shelves to Draw the Eye Upward
Accessorizing tight spaces can be challenging, so it’s no surprise that many listing agents and even professional stagers struggle with it. Here’s a clever solution for adding visual appeal to tight spaces using floating shelves:
“A floating shelf in a small area such as a foyer can provide a space for storage or accessorizing without making the area feel tight. By stacking a few shelves like a bookcase, you draw the eye upward and can use more of the cubic square footage of a room without a large furniture piece taking up space. To keep it extra airy, go with Lucite!”
4. Use Mirrors or Reflective Art to Add More Light & Depth to a Room
Placing a mirror on a mantle or leaning against a wall can instantly add light and depth to any room. However, mirrors can also be statement pieces that can work as affordable focal points for a room. Here’s Ashlei:
“It’s no secret that mirrors can brighten up a room by reflecting light around the area. Stacking or arranging small mirrors or going for a reflective piece of art instead is a great way to update this hack and create a focal piece in your room!”
5. Break Up Book Shelves With Small Sculptures, Vases, or Collectibles
If you’re trying to stage a home that’s filled with books, try removing some from the book shelves and replacing them with small sculptures, vases, or collectibles. This helps break up the look of a wall of books and can make a room feel more open and inviting.
6. Add Seating to the Primary Bedroom If You Have Space
Since almost every primary bedroom in luxury homes has a seating area, try to add seating when staging the room. Chances are you won’t have space for a loveseat, but a small upholstered bench at the foot of the bed or a comfy chair in the corner will make the bedroom feel much more inviting and cozy. For example, check out how cozy this rust-colored velvet chair looks in SERHANT. new development The Huxley’s primary bedroom above.
7. Remove the Clutter, Not the Personality
Whenever a home stager or experienced listing agent tells you to declutter a home before showings, take that advice with a grain of salt. While you should absolutely remove excessive clutter that makes the home feel claustrophobic and toss that stack of boxes on your dining room table, don’t go overboard. Many new agents declutter to the point where they suck the personality out of a home. The living room above is a perfect example of a happy medium.
8. Invest in a Few High-end Accessories for the Kitchen
Investing in a few high-end kitchen accessories can go a long way in helping build the fantasy that people with good taste (and lots of disposable income) would love in the home. Just remember that they don’t have to be super-high quality and expensive—they just have to look super-high quality and expensive.
9. Use Large Potted Plants to Fill in Empty Spaces
Potted plants do more than just clean the air. They are also perfect for filling in empty spaces in the home when you don’t have enough furniture. You can see this in action in the picture above. This room only has a chair, a credenza, and a pouf, but the plants make it feel much less sparse.
10. Paint the Walls Muted Colors & Let the Furniture Pop
Even though dark paint colors are trendy for kitchens and bathrooms these days, choosing colors can be tricky, and you risk alienating a sizable percentage of your buyers if you get it wrong. Instead, err on the side of painting with softer, muted colors and let the furniture pop instead.
11. Build the Fantasy Lifestyle With Art & Fashion Books
There is a very good reason why almost every high-end home you see on Zillow is staged with oversized art and fashion books. They help build the fantasy that people with great taste would like the home. You can see a great example of staging with art and fashion books in this photo from the SERHANT. new development The Huxley in East Harlem above.
12. Paint Kitchen Cabinets to Upgrade a Kitchen on a Budget
If you’re working with a dated kitchen, a fresh coat of paint can work wonders to bring it into the 21st century on a budget. Asking your homeowner to tackle the project or hiring a professional to spray them will be a fraction of the cost of replacing them.
13. And Don’t Forget to Replace the Handles & Drawer Pulls
If you do choose to paint the cabinets, consider replacing the handles and drawer pulls too. Cheap cabinets generally have cheap-looking hardware, so sticking the old hardware back on freshly painted cabinets might look odd. If the cabinets are old-fashioned-looking, adding modern hardware can make a surprising difference.
14. Don’t Forget to Accessorize the Bathroom
While you might be able to get away with empty kitchen counters, an empty bathroom looks cold and lifeless. To quickly add life to a bathroom on a budget, add accessories like plants, candles, or high-end soap bottles.
15. Use Gender-neutral Furniture & Decor in Children’s Bedrooms
Whenever you stage a child’s bedroom, make sure the furniture and decor you choose are gender-neutral. You have no way of knowing the gender of your buyer’s children, so creating a typical boy’s or girl’s room can kill the fantasy for them. Instead, they should immediately be able to imagine their child being happy in the room. This picture from The Huxley is a great example.
16. Refinish Damaged or Heavily Worn Hardwood Floors
Refinishing hardwood flooring is an easy and affordable way to upgrade a home. If the home has wood floors, make sure that they are not damaged or heavily worn, especially in larger rooms with lots of open floor space. You could have the most beautiful furniture in the world, but if the floors are scuffed up and dirty, the entire room will feel cheaper. Even a quick refinishing of a laminate floor will make the whole house shine.
17. Stage the Front Entrance of the Home
Since the front door will be the first impression your buyer gets when they step out of the car, staging the front entrance is crucial. You don’t have to go overboard here either. A few potted plants, a chair and cafe table if there’s a porch, or maybe even sconce lighting and you can easily make your front entrance much more inviting.
Where the Pros Shop: DIY Home Staging Resources on a Budget
Whether you’re ready to hang your shingle as a stager or just want to have a few decorative pieces to help your homeowner stage on their own, knowing where to shop is crucial. Nice furniture and decor is expensive, but not if you know where to shop.
Here are some resources professional stagers and prop masters use to buy high-end (or high-end- looking) furniture and decor on a shoestring budget:
Best for: Lighting, art, vases, kitchen and bath accessories, bedding, and more
eBay can be an incredible resource for smaller items that would be prohibitively expensive to buy retail. It’s perfect for high-end lighting and small kitchen appliances since you can sort by “for parts or not working” to buy broken items that still look great for a fraction of the retail price.
Best for: Decor, art, collectibles, lighting
Although they’re mostly known for pricey art auctions, you can often find auctions of estate sales that have very affordable prices. Just beware that Live Auctioneers charges buyer premiums, so factor that into the price you bid.
Best for: Furniture, lighting, kitchen and bath accessories
Depending on the city you live in, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace can be a goldmine for home staging. Why? Well, wealthy people who need to move often give away nice things for free or well below cost. I recently got a pair of $800 Visual Comfort sconces for free from Craigslist.
Sales at West Elm & Pottery Barn
Best for: Kitchen and bathroom accessories, decorative objects
While the furniture at stores like West Elm is expensive even on sale, their kitchen and bathroom accessories are surprisingly affordable and even more so on sale.
Best for: Furniture, lighting, shelving, kitchen and bath accessories
IKEA is a stager’s best friend! You can get sleek, modern-looking Lack shelves starting at just $8 per shelf. Sure, it’s not well-made, but their furniture and shelving often look more expensive than they are.
Best for: Decor, collectibles, lighting
If you’re looking for quirky, one-of-a-kind decor, look no further than Etsy. Many Etsy sellers have recently begun to sell vintage decorative items like old cameras. They will be more expensive than on Craigslist, but the selection is much better.
Your Own Home
Best for: Kitchen and bath accessories, art and decor
It’s the little things that help make a kitchen or bathroom feel like a home. One trick a prop master I used to work for used was to save bottles of high-end soaps, lotions, and other cosmetics and decorate sets with the empty bottles.
Over to You
Have a great home staging tip we missed? Let us know in the comments.