“If I walk into a vacant house and I believe buyers are going to have a challenge seeing the furniture layout in a room that’s small or awkward, I’m going to recommend staging right upfront,” says Chris Pappalardo, one of the top 2% of agents in Greensboro, North Carolina ranked for successfully selling homes fast.
“Sometimes you just have to put a piece of furniture in place to show the scale and scope of a room so buyers can see, ‘Yep, that fits.’”
Renting furniture for staging your home can be a smart move for a seller with a bare-bones property on the market. But you’re selling a house, not all the contents inside—so we’ll show you how to give buyers’ imaginations a little nudge to see your home’s full potential with only the most impactful furnishings and room stagings.
How furnishings warm up a room and make a property more marketable
To visualize how proper staging and furnishings make a home more marketable, just take a look at the below before and after images provided by Nicole Gittens, principal staging designer at New Vision Interiors and Events who specializes in staging vacant homes.
Here we see how furniture brings life and definition to two different living spaces. In the first space, a plush set of armchairs around the fireplace makes you want to cozy up with a good book. In the second example, a sleek sofa decked out with colorful, textured throw pillows creates a warm, comfortable living space that still feels modern.
Once upon a time when you were a buyer, which type of home would you have been more excited to make an offer on? If you’re like most, houses that look like the “after” photos would be more apt to catch your eye.
According to the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) 2017 Profile of Home Staging, 77% of buyers say that staging helps them see a house as their future home. Buyers who are more excited about a property are more apt to make a better offer—which is why in most cases you’ll more than make back any money you spend on renting furniture.
In fact, 58% of seller’s agents say that a staged home is likely to increase the amount a home sells for by anywhere from 1% to 20%.
“Let’s say the furniture rental is going to be a minimum of $900. When the buyer walks in and sees where their furniture can fit into your house, they’re going to be really excited,” says Pappalardo. “They may pay $5,000 to $10,000 more because they’re excited about the property, so that $900 is worth it.”
Is it possible to sell your empty home without adding furniture?
Sure, it’s possible to sell a vacant home. But biting the bullet and renting furniture to fill your home will likely help it sell faster and for more money for three key reasons:
- A staged home is more visually interesting for buyers to view. And if yours is staged well, your home will stand out to buyers—most of whom will tour an average of 10 homes in 10 weeks while house hunting.
- Staging helps buyers visualize how they could potentially arrange their own furniture in your home.
“We don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” says Pappalardo.
- Staged homes make for better photos, which means your listing will draw more attention online. And a strong online presence is essential—95% of home buyers list looking at homes online as their top information resource during the buying process.
The ABCs of the furniture you’ll need to stage the house
No matter how much staging a vacant home makes sense, it’s still daunting to consider the costs when you’re strolling through an empty house.
Luckily, when you’re renting furniture to stage a house, you don’t need to fill it to the brim with lots of pieces. In fact the exact same room will feel small both when completely empty or overstuffed with too much furniture.
It’s all about striking the right balance. Less is more, so you only need to rent a few key accent furnishings for each room you’re staging to give buyers a general idea of how furniture fits.
For example, you don’t need to bring in a TV stand if you aim the sofa at the area where a TV would go. And you don’t need a full bedroom set in the master when just the bed will do (unless the space is so awkward or tight that you need to show where a dresser works).
And you don’t need to stage every single room, either. The National Association of Realtors 2017 Profile of Home Staging found that you only need to stage spaces most important to the buyer. Those top 5 spaces to stage are the living room, kitchen, dining room, master bedroom and master bath.
We’d advise focusing on these must-have staging pieces for each of the most important rooms:
Kitchen: barstools (if there’s a counter); dinette set (if it’s an eat-in kitchen)
Living room: sofa or loveseat, end table(s), lamp; area rug (to define the space in open concept layouts)
Dining room: dining table and chairs (if you have a formal, tight fit dining room, or a large, undefined area in an open concept home)
Master bedroom: full, queen or king bed (depends on size of room); dresser (optional, unless needed to show “it fits”)
Master bathroom: none (unless you need a stool for a built-in vanity or a linen cabinet to fill a “wasted space” area)
The type of furniture you rent is just as important. Each piece should be attractive, but unobtrusive so that the buyers can focus on the space rather than the furniture (see this Knightsbridge Tufted Scroll Arm Sofa from Overstock in “Grey Velvet” as a tasteful example).
Opt for pieces that are neutral in color, such as tans and grays—but keep in mind that neutral hues don’t always play well together.
Just because both the sofa and armchair are gray, doesn’t mean they’ll match. If one is a warm gray, and the other a cool gray, they’ll both look discolored.
If the room does need a pop of color to brighten the space, add it in small doses, like a vibrant throw pillow or vase.
There’s more flexibility to play with furniture styles to add visual interest to each room.
Specific styles help create an ambiance and accent your home’s architectural style, such as mid-century modern or Mediterranean. Just steer clear of “notice me” attention grabbers:
- A sleek, neutral sofa suggests instead of shouts mid-century modern style.
- Subtle wood carvings and muted patterns accentuate the beauty of a Mediterranean mansion rather than attracting all the attention.
- Avoid over-the-top furniture that overshadows—even if you own an opulent luxury home.
If and when to rent outdoor patio furniture, too
Now that you’ve staged the top 5 areas most important to the buyer, what comes in at number 6 on that list? It’s not the office, or kid’s bedroom—it’s the backyard.
“The National Association of Realtors discovered that the number two photo in marketing should be the backyard because that’s what buyers want,” explains Pappalardo. “So if the home has a small deck or patio area and you need to show them that a grill and patio furniture will fit, then it’s absolutely worth renting outdoor furniture.”
Backyards have become so popular among home buyers lately because of the ever-popular outdoor living trend. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) found in its recent home design trends survey that outdoor living spaces remain a top priority for home designers.
The same interior color and furniture style advice applies outside, too. So stick with neutral hues and attractive unobtrusive styles. Add pops of color with outdoor rugs and throw pillows.
However, instead of the tans and taupes that work so well inside, go with lighter whites and creams outside—to stand out against all the muted browns and greens provided by mother nature.
Where should you shop for home staging rental furniture?
Knowing which and how much furniture to rent is just the beginning—the real work starts when you start shopping for a place to rent the pieces you need.
Unfortunately, it’s not so simple as just grabbing pieces from your local rent-to-own furniture store. Most have strict contracts because they’re focused on selling, rather than leasing furniture—even their refurbished pieces.
While it may be possible to lease pieces from rent-to-own stores, you run the risk of being on the hook for a minimum six-month rental agreement, or to buy the furniture for a lot more than it’s worth.
A better option is renting from a local (or national) consignment store—although most also require an extended rental period.
“North Carolina has consignment stores and furniture warehouses where you can rent pieces directly,” says Pappalardo. “In my market it’s typically a minimum three-month rental from a consignment store. You don’t have to keep it for all three months, however you to have to pay for the full three months, whether you use it that long or not.”
However, if you’re looking to rent furniture from a consignment store while you’re still living in the home, you may be completely out of luck.
“Most of the consignment stores we deal with won’t rent furniture if the house is going to be occupied because they don’t want to deal with the wear and tear, or the potential for furniture damage,” explains Pappalardo.
There are however national chains like CORT Furniture Rental that cater to the needs of professional stagers and homeowners that are DIY staging.
With CORT, you can choose to rent individual pieces or entire rooms of furniture for as little as a one-month lease. However, it may be smarter to opt for three-month contract upfront, as their prices get lower with longer leases.
The expense of renting furniture depends largely on how many pieces you rent and for how long. But the rental on the furniture itself isn’t all you’ll be paying for.
Along with the costs of renting the furniture, you’ll have delivery and pickup fees, too,” explains Pappalardo. “You also have to put down a security deposit, which is usually pretty sizable.”
Skip the DIY furniture rental and hire a pro stager?
After all the chaos that comes with selling one house and moving into another, the idea of renting furniture to fill your vacant home may sound like one hassle too many—especially when you start adding up how much it’s going to cost you.
“Renting furniture from rental companies has its pros and cons,” says Nicole Gittens of New Vision Interiors and Events. “Although rental companies typically have a vast inventory selection, their higher fees can definitely add up in the long run.”
That’s why the best agents often suggest hiring a professional stager to handle the whole process for you—especially if you’re selling a high-end home.
“In a $200,000 house with room size or layout challenges, I may ask the owners to buy, borrow, or rent just a couple of pieces for those rooms so that I can stage it,” says Pappalardo. “But for homes at a higher price point, like a $500,000 luxury property, I don’t even play, we just give it to a stager.”
When you work with a stager on a vacant home you’re getting multiple services for one reasonable fee (if you hire the right stager).
Pro stagers have the market knowledge on what buyers want to see to help them pick furniture that’s the right fit for your home. They also have the expertise to style those picks to showcase your home’s best assets.
And the best part is, working with a stager can actually save you money. Why? Because it’ll probably cost you more to try to rent directly from a furniture rental company yourself.
“The benefit of working with a stager is that they will either have their own inventory of furniture, or they’ll have existing relationships with companies who rent items,” advises Gittens. “Stagers with their own inventory can keep your costs down, especially if your rental needs to go beyond 30 days.”
And if your staged home still isn’t selling (and the list price isn’t the problem), you have options to fix the problem when you’re working with a stager.
“With my stager, it costs me between $200 to $500 a month to put rental furniture into a vacant house. And that even includes changing out the style,” says Pappalardo. “So if a house hasn’t sold in a month, we may change the furniture style from contemporary to modern.”