If you’re reading this, then you probably know that home staging has one of the best ROI’s in the business. According to NAR, staged homes sell higher prices, and sell quicker than vacant homes.
The only problem of course is that hiring the right home stager for your listing can be tricky. Home staging is expensive, hard to do properly, and can make or break your listing.
That’s why we spoke to top producing listing agents and home stagers from around the country to get their best tips for hiring and working with a home stager to get the best ROI.
Figure Out The Scope & Budget of Your Staging Project
In order to accurately create a plan for home staging, first you need to figure out the scope and budget for staging your listing.
Budgeting is pretty straightforward. Since NAR data says that home staging increases sales prices by roughly 6%, you need to use that figure to get a ballpark idea of what you can spend for staging.
Remember also that your listing will sell more quickly if staged, so if you’re in a hot market during the busy season, then you might be able to avoid price cuts if the listing actually closes more quickly when staged.
This is a tough variable to quantify, so look at closed and expired listings in your MLS to see which listings lingered on the market, and which listings closed within a few months.
Now that you have a sense of what you can spend, you need to sit down and plan out the scope of your staging project. Here are a few questions you need to work out with prospective stagers you’re thinking of hiring:
1. How many (and which) rooms should you stage?
2. Does it make sense to spend more for higher end furnishings? How many months
3. How long will you need the listing staged?
4. What work is your homeowner willing to provide on their own? (painting, plants, flowers, etc.)
5. Can the stager integrate your homeowner’s extra furniture into the staging?
How Much Does Home Staging Cost?
Unfortunately home staging can be very difficult to get general prices for as it varies widely by location (you’ll pay through the nose in NYC), quality of furnishings, scope of the staging, and length of the staging.
However, as a rule stagers generally charge three different fees. One for the initial consultation (generally between $100 and $500), one for the delivery and installation of the furniture (generally between $1500 and $10,000), and finally a monthly fee for the rental of the staging. (generally between $500 and $5000 per month)
Here’s Kelli Howison of Windermere Real Estate breaking down how much staging costs in Seattle:
”In my experience in the Seattle area, a 1,000 square foot, 2 bedroom condo will cost between $1,500-$3,000 plus a monthly “rental” fee that typically runs between $350-$500. A 2,500 square foot house with 4 bedrooms will cost between $5,000-$8,000 to stage with a monthly fee usually around $500. For very large and luxury homes, staging can easily run $15,000+ with a considerable monthly fee.”
While it obviously won’t help for showings, virtually staging your listing is a fraction of the cost of home staging, and also allows you to stage different rooms in different styles to appeal to as many buyers as possible.
For example you might stage a home office as a gym, as a child’s playroom, workshop, man cave etc. etc. and show these to leads who seem on the fence about how they’d set up the space.
This is a great way to help your buyers visualize themselves living in the home and using the layout more creatively to fit their needs.
Finding & Interviewing Professional Home Stagers
Now that you’ve learned how to assess the scope and potential budget available for staging, let’s dive in to how to find and hire a professional home stager for your listing.
Get Referrals From Other Listing Agents
One of the best ways to find well qualified home stagers is to ask your broker, coworkers or listing agents from other firms you have a good relationship with for recommendations.
While you may not find that perfect stager for your listing, you should still get a working list of professionals to talk to to find the best stager for your needs.
Look on Houzz, Yelp, or Other Local Rating Sites
Another great place to find professional home stagers is on Houzz, Yelp, or other local ratings sites. Make sure to check out their website and see if their aesthetic matches your listing.
For example, some stagers are focused entirely on “transitional” staging. In other words they choose rather bland furniture and very muted colors in order to appeal to as many people as possible. While this is great for some listings, others listings might need a little more personality.
For example, a turn of the century loft space, a victorian with intricate interior details, or any home in a hip young area might benefit from adding some personality to the home staging. Think the hottest trends on Pinterest or Houzz, or more local trends that might work perfectly with your listing. For example, let’s say you have a time capsule mid century modern ranch. Mid century knockoffs would enhance that aesthetic and ideally increase desirability of the listing.
Make Sure the Home Stager You Hire Has Experience Staging Homes Similar to Your Listing
Like hiring a Realtor, it’s very important to hire someone who has experience working with listings like the one you’re trying to stage.
For example, if you’re trying to stage a $10,000,000 brownstone you should be looking at stagers with experience staging that caliber of home. If you’re looking to stage a $250,000 condo, then stagers who have experience in that market will offer the best bang for your buck. They’ll also be more used to working with owners who are willing to chip in and use some of their own furniture, or even partially staging some rooms.
Here’s Shawn Breyer, Owner of Breyer Home Buyers on the importance of hiring the right stager for your listing:
“Make sure that the home stager you are interviewing has a track record for staging homes with similar price range and style. You can verify this information by asking for photos of homes they have staged, along with a link to the listing, which should match their pictures and show you the price the home sold for.”
Check out Their Website & Instagram & Ask for More Before/After Photos
The next step to hiring a great home stager is to check out their website and social media presence. Do the interiors look professional and inviting? Does the furniture and layouts match the architecture of the home?
Here’s professional home stager Sharon Derry from Lime Tree Home Staging in St. Louis, Missouri on the importance of vetting a potential home stager online:
“Look at examples of the stagers’ work. Visit their website. Peruse their Instagram feed. Is their style a good fit for the home you want to sell and the area in which it is located? Do the stagers understand how to present a home so it looks good in photographs — the first place buyers typically see a for-sale home?
Finally, understand that home staging is undergoing a sea change right now. The standard approach — a generic, transitional style with all new furnishings and a tight color palette — is being replaced by a more eclectic look. A new generation of stagers are styling homes in a way that feels more natural and liveable, with a mix of old and new furnishings and attention to what’s trending on Pinterest and Instagram. Be sure you choose a stager whose approach you’re most comfortable with.”
Interviewing Home Stagers and Sealing the Deal
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential home stagers, it’s time to call some of them up and ask them a few questions. Keep in mind that this should be a quick informal conversation and you are unlikely to get quotes or ideas without a thorough consultation.
Here are some questions you should ask potential home stagers:
1. How long have you been staging homes?
2. Can you send me recommendations from other listing agents?
3. Do you have insurance?
4. Are you comfortable working in other styles than what’s on your website?
5. What are your terms for rentals?
6. What accreditation do you have?
7. Do you offer free consultations or pricing quotes?
8. Is your team available on the dates I need?
Once you’ve interviewed a few stagers you should try and get at least three separate quotes from three stagers to help narrow your choice down.
How Long Does Staging Take?
Generally speaking, once you have a consultation and a quote, you should be ready to schedule an appointment with your stager to get the ball rolling. Here’s Kelli again on how long it takes to both stage and strike (remove the staging furniture) a home professionally:
“Depending on the size of the property to be staged, it should take the stager 1 or 2 full days to complete the staging (possibly longer for extremely large houses) and most stagers require 7 to 10 days notice to de-stage the house. Be sure to consider the closing date in your real estate contract and the stager’s required notice to de-stage and plan accordingly.”
Make sure this works with your schedule and your homeowner’s schedule!
Remember to INSIST Your Home Stager Has Insurance!
Here’s coach & Realtor Chantay Bridges CNE, SRES on the importance of your stager having insurance.
“Make certain they have insurance. This is very important, remember the home they have full access to does not belong to you. This will help to protect you as well.”
Does Accreditation Actually Matter for Home Stagers?
This is a tough one. Many Realtors and stagers insist that the stagers they hire are accredited by ASP®, RESA®, CSP® AHS, LEED etc. Some are ambivalent, and some think that since they’re generally pay to play, these accreditations aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.
While you shouldn’t totally discount accreditations as it shows the stager is at least serious enough to pursue higher education in the field, they should be taken with a grain of salt. Instead, rely on their portfolio and recommendations from other listings agents.
To get a sense of both sides of the argument, here is Glenn Kirby, Owner of Boundary Real Estate Group, a division of Keller Williams South Park, one of the top grossing Keller WIlliams offices in the world.
Glenn Kirby is the owner of Boundary Real Estate Group, a division of Keller Williams South Park. Keller Williams South Park is one of the top-grossing Keller Williams offices in the world and the Boundary Real Estate Group is one of the most productive and successful teams at KW Southpark and the Charlotte area.
“Accreditation is an important factor in selecting a stager. An accredited professional knows that staging isn’t about interior design. Staging is ultimately about making a home attractive to more potential buyers by using techniques to help people envision themselves in the space. A talented, accredited stager can help sell a home for more money by helping the home appeal to more people.”
Now contrast that with Justin Riordan founder of Portland based Spade and Archer design agency:
“Spade and Archer requires all of our Design Managers to have a four year degree in interior design or a related field. That being said, a vast majority of the resumes we receive are rejected because the applicant does not have formal training. Find out how long your home stager has been working in the field and what they did before they became a home stager.
Everyday I meet people who want to come work at Spade and Archer. A vast majority of them sell themselves on passion. They have no experience and no education in design and feel that I should hire them because they really, really, really like interior design. As much as I enjoy these people’s company, it is not a sound business practice to hire on passion alone. I hire based on education, experience and temperament, you should too.
Let’s talk about the pink elephant in the room. My name is Justin M. Riordan, LEED AP. Yes, I too have a bunch of letters behind my name.”
Taking the Next Steps
Okay, now that you have a better idea of how to hire a home stager, let us know how you do!