“Why do you think model homes sell so fast?” asks Laura Sanders, a 15-year veteran real estate agent in Coral Springs, Florida. “It’s because they’re staged. Sellers get the money they spend back and they sell quicker.”
The stats validate that you’ll increase your odds of a quick, high-offer sale if you opt to stage your home.
According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2017 Profile of Home Staging, 58% of sellers’ agents reported that staging increased sales prices anywhere from 1% to 20%.
And the Real Estate Staging Association discovered in a recent survey that 90% of homes staged prior to listing spent less time on the market than unstaged homes.
With all those figures in favor of home staging, hiring a pro sounds like a paying proposition—until you get to the price tag. Do a quick search on home staging costs and you may just get sticker shock.
Some sources put the price anywhere from $1,000 to $8,600 for only two to three rooms. And some sources even say you’ll be charged an additional $500-600 per room, per month for furniture rental fees, with a minimum commitment of 2-3 months.
Don’t let all those zeros scare you away from home staging, though—it can actually be quite affordable (or even free!) with some strategic planning.
Before you can determine the level of staging your home needs, you first need to understand what professional stagers actually do.
What exactly is home staging and why should I do it?
Stagers don’t just plump pillows and add a few vases of fresh flowers. There’s a whole lot more involved in home staging than simply straightening up like company’s coming.
“Sometimes people push back and don’t want to spend that money. But I tell them this is about an investment to net the most amount of money. That’s what staging is going to do, because the look of the home is so important.”
Just go window shopping at any mall or shopping center and you’ll understand why your home’s “look” is so vital to having a successful home sale. Store owners know that their gorgeous window displays motivate customers to spend more money, more readily.
In real estate, your display is your online photos. And thanks to digital media, it’s more important than ever for your home to be well-staged both in those photos and in person.
“A staged home is not exceptional anymore, it’s expected,” says Jenn McCormac with Carousel Home Staging. “We have been conditioned by the marketplace to believe that any home for sale should look like the images we see on social media platforms and on popular home improvement shows like Flip or Flop and Fixer Upper.”
So just how much does it cost to make your home look like it’s been designed by a home improvement show host?
The cost of home staging
Some home staging quotes are as little as a few hundred dollars, but other sources say it’ll run into the thousands. So which is it?
In order to really break down the costs, we need to look at the two main types of home staging projects: vacant homes and owner-occupied homes.
Vacant homes are generally more expensive because your stager is bringing in all of their own furniture and decor. That’s where those monthly rental fees come in—you’re paying to rent that stager-owned decor by the room and by the month.
Staging costs increase based on how many rooms you stage and how long you need the furniture in place (i.e. until your home sells or you accept an offer). Other costs may include consultation fees and moving expenses for the decor.
“There’s staging and then there’s luxury staging, says Nicole Gittens, principal staging designer at New Vision Interiors and Events who specializes in vacant homes. “Staging costs start around $1,500 for smaller homes with less square footage, and it goes up to $10,000 for luxury homes with significantly larger floor plans.
Owner-occupied homes are a different story. If the stager is able to use your existing furniture and decor to get the job done, you cut out the rental and transportation costs, which is a major money-saver.
So, lived-in homes can be significantly less expensive—but not always. Lived-in homes are, well, lived-in. Since the stager has to style around all of your stuff, this can amount to hours or days of extra, expensive labor.
“Homeowners who are worried about affording staging need to find a stager that can help them achieve the staging goals they have within the parameters of their budget,” explains Gittens. “It’s my job meet them in the middle with options that are affordable, so they can still reap the benefits of staging.”
So just how can you keep those home staging costs from creeping up too high? Let’s take a look at the top five options:
1. Wrap staging costs into your closing costs
Let’s say your home stager has come up with a spectacular, yet affordable staging plan that’ll show off your home in it’s best light in a tough market—but it’s still going to cost you a couple grand.
How do you swing that when you’re already struggling to pay moving expenses? Ask your stager if you can pay them out of the proceeds of your home sale.
“Many companies, like Carousel, will work with clients to make the staging affordable by letting them pay for the majority of the staging costs at closing, once the property has sold,” says McCormac.
Not all stagers will agree to delaying payment in full until after the home sells because of those few bad eggs who run off without paying, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
2. Stage only key rooms in vacant homes
It’s easier for buyers to visualize how their own sofa and end tables will fit into your living room if they actually see similar furniture in place.
But completely staging every empty room in a three- or four-bedroom house isn’t affordable for most home sellers. If you need to save money, don’t bother staging every inch—just stage the rooms that your potential buyers will use the most.
“For vacant home sellers on a budget, we would just stage the common areas plus the master bedroom,” says Vanessa Nielsen, a professional stager with Encore Staging Services.
“Depending on square footage, vacant home staging can range anywhere from $2,350 to $3,350 as a base price for the standard areas—living room, dining room, kitchen, all bathrooms, and the master bedroom. All other areas are at an additional fee.”
We’ve also put together DIY staging guides for the most important rooms to stage, so look no further to find even more ideas for staging the rooms buyers care about most.
Get all the staging tips you need to:
- breathe life into the living room
- make the master bedroom feel like a retreat
- honor the kitchen as the heart of the home
- preserve a classic dining room space.
Vanessa Nielsen Before and Afters
3. DIY owner-occupied staging after a professional consultation
Whether you’re strapped for cash or simply a fan of interior decorating, one guaranteed way to save money on staging is to DIY the staging—with some professional guidance.
“You don’t have to spend all this money on staging,” explains Sebastian Frey, a top HomeLight agent who’s sold 9.16x the number of single-family homes as the average agent in the Watsonville/San Jose, CA area.
“Most people that I work with just need some guidance in what they should do from a staging consultation. Then they carry that out with their own sweat equity. Doing it that way is not going to cost very much and it’s not going to take very long,” says Frey.
Of course, this only works if your existing furniture and decor is already magazine-worthy. No matter how beloved your belongings, worn rugs, stained couch cushions, and tattered knickknacks just won’t cut it.
Your stager can tell you what works and what doesn’t during the typically two-hour consultation. But that won’t be easy if they visit when your home’s still in its lived-in state.
You can make the most of that consultation time if you do a lot of the grunt work before the stager arrives. Start by decluttering and depersonalizing, packing away everything (except your best decor items) that’s not a necessity, then give it a top-to-bottom deep clean.
Do your best to DIY stage what’s left—keeping an additional assortment of artwork and decor set aside for your professional stager to pull from.
With less clutter to wade through, your pro will have plenty of time to advise you on the finishing touches. They may even make some of the changes for you—and a few won’t even charge you for it.
“There are definitely some homes out there that have amazing furnishings, but they just need a fresh eye and a second opinion,” says Nielsen. “For these homes, I’m happy to do a thorough consultation as I do at every home, and I end up not charging the homeowners for my time.”
But don’t get overly ambitious with your Art minor or the rosy-eyed view you hold of your grandmother’s antiques.
“In my experience, only about 5% of sellers have any design sense, or have furniture that’s up to par,” Nielson adds. “But whenever I visit a home that’s already got great pieces, I happily tell them they don’t need to spend their money hiring me or anyone. I feel we have this fiduciary duty, just like real estate agents and loan officers, to do what’s in their best interest.”
4. Soft stage your vacant home
If even partially-staging your vacant home isn’t an option financially, it may be worthwhile to invest a little money in soft staging.
“Soft staging only involves accessorizing the home with artwork and accessories that warm up the home and does not utilize furnishings,” explains Gittens. “It’s a last resort for a seller who can not afford traditional staging and doesn’t want the empty home to feel too cold upon entry.”
Along with artwork on the walls, soft staging includes things like colorful towels in the bathrooms, or a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter. These colorful, attractive additions draw the buyer’s eye so that they focus on the pleasant features of your home rather than searching for any flaws.
The trick is finding a stager who’s willing to only soft stage your home.
“I do not offer soft staging services. There is a lot of time and work that goes into our staging jobs and at the end of the day it has to be worth everyone’s time,” explains Gittens. “I think if a seller is willing to consider soft staging, the stager should present some other options that do involve lighter furnishings that will still get the job done.”
That step up from soft staging doesn’t have to be expensive. For example, it’s often cheaper to rent a pair of occasional chairs and a single end table than a full living room set.
“A lot of times living spaces can still be shown in their best light with more intimate conversational seating areas,” says Gittens. “The best way to cut costs when staging is to find a stager who is willing to work with you.”
5. Hire an agent who provides complimentary staging services
Some sellers don’t have to worry at all about how to cover staging costs—because they’ve opted to hire a real estate agent who offers complimentary home staging.
“If you can’t afford it, hire a Realtor that is a certified home stager because they can help you,” suggests Sanders. “Like for me, I am a certified home stager, and I don’t charge extra for that service.”
Of course, not all agents are also certified stagers—some agents simply pay for staging out of their own pocket because they truly believe in the value home staging provides for their clients.
“I give my clients a staging consultation for free,” says Frey. “I walk through the property with my stager that I pay for, and I record our conversation. Then I transpose it later and I write down a list of things to do room by room. So my clients can literally stage their house for free if they put in the work.”
To stage or not to stage…
The verdict is in: almost any agent will tell you that home staging saves days on market and makes their clients more money.
“For example, I have a property right now that backs onto a turnpike,” recalls Sanders. “It was listed unstaged with another realtor for months, and it was horrible-looking, with horrible pictures. I used staging to take away from that negativity and put it back on the market with new pictures. We had an offer within three days.”
With the help of the right Realtor and professional stager, you too can design an affordable staging plan that will get your home sold—but won’t bust your budget.