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Should You Get Professional Home Staging or Do It Yourself?

At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.

While professional home staging may seem easy, experts such as Peter Sollecito, a top-selling real estate agent in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, have a word of caution.

“It’s difficult to know how to tie a room together,” he says. Sollecito regularly advises clients on their staging options in his market.

The eye of a professional can bring your home staging to the next level, but the amount of help you need will depend on neighborhood trends, your budget, and how much time you have to dedicate to the project.

Pro staging costs anywhere from $1,500 for smaller homes to $10,000 for luxury homes. Your options range from a one-time consultation to total oversight — we’ve developed a guide so you can decide whether you can go it alone or call in reinforcements.

Find an Agent Who Can Help You Stage Your Home

An experienced agent will understand the value of staging, provide DIY tips, and refer you to the best staging experts in your market. HomeLight can connect you with a top-performing agent near you.

Can you set aside personal preferences and stage for the masses?

Every homeowner has their own design style. If your home’s décor looks like the interiors you see on HGTV or the DIY network, you may only need to do some tweaking or simplifying to stage your home for sale.

Just keep in mind:

  • Interior designers design to please the homeowners, not buyers. So you may need to do a simplified, streamlined recreation of your inspirational photos with less furniture and fewer knickknacks.
  • It’s hard to decorate for someone else. “Unfortunately, when most sellers stage their homes, they don’t know how to decorate with the masses in mind,” says Sollecito. “And if you can’t do that, you need to trust the pro stager to do it for you.”

Get your agent’s opinion

Not sure if your taste will appeal to the masses? Ask your agent.

“Agents can tell whether or not their sellers need staging help when they walk through the house during the listing presentation,” says Sollecito.

“Their personal interior design taste will either appeal to the masses or it won’t.”

Don’t get offended if and when your agent does suggest bringing in a pro stager. This suggestion isn’t a reflection of your taste. It merely acknowledges that your style is too much for the average home buyer.

Remember, the goal is to achieve a subtle décor scheme that’s pleasant enough to appeal to a wide array of buyers without pulling focus from the house itself.

That’s why even luxury homeowners who’ve previously paid thousands of dollars to an interior designer may need to shell out a little cash to a pro stager when ready to sell.

Figure out if you can get away with a little light coaching

Let’s say your home already contains the furniture and décor you’ll need to create a look that will appeal to the masses. In that case, you might be able to DIY the staging — if you solicit the expert opinion of your agent to advise you.

Real estate agents see dozens of houses weekly, so they know the interior design styles buyers are going for. They’re in the best position to advise you on which stuff to keep and which stuff needs to go.

They’ll also have great recommendations on rearranging your furniture and tips on where to pick up inexpensive decorative accents to complete your staging.

But don’t panic if your agent isn’t comfortable giving you this advice.

Some of the best agents don’t have an interior designer’s eye, and that’s OK. They’ll most likely have a stager on staff or have a relationship with a pro stager who can give you the design advice you need.

According to HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights End of Year survey for 2023, over 31% of top agents across the country say that good staging is essential to selling a home. Many agents will offer their real estate clients complimentary staging services with their design skills and props or by partnering with a staging pro in the area.

Check out the competition

Whether you should DIY your staging or hire a professional stager comes down to what your neighbors are doing.

“When I have clients that question the value of staging, I take them through other properties up for sale in their communities,” says Sollecito.

“Once they see the differences between properties that are professionally staged and those that aren’t with their own eyes, I ask them, ‘If you were a buyer, which home would you purchase?’”

If you’re selling a house in a neighborhood where all other similar houses up for sale are professionally staged, then your unstaged home will take longer to sell and/or sell for less. Hiring a professional stager can help avoid this.

Run the numbers on different home staging packages

Whether you can afford to hire a pro stager is a question only you can answer. However, it’s easier to answer if you know how much professional home staging costs.

Answering the cost question comes down to knowing what level of staging you’ll need.

If your interiors already have mass appeal décor that just needs rearranging and streamlining, then you may only need a pro staging consultation, which can cost as little as $150 to $600 for a 120-minute session.

Sellers needing extra help, say a full day (or several days) with the stager’s team doing the redecorating for you, then you’re looking at between $1,500 to $2,000 depending on the number of rooms and the time the job requires.

If the pro stager needs to supply furniture and décor (to stage a vacant house or one where outdated décor needs to go), you’ll pay closer to between $4,000 and $5,000 initially to stage 2-3 rooms. After that, you’ll pay an ongoing rental fee for the furnishings that remain in place every month.

Keep in mind that any money you spend on staging goes toward encouraging buyers to make a firm offer. HomeLight data from 2023 shows 67% of agents say staging will help sell a home.

Don’t let the extra days of prep work be a factor

Many sellers don’t want to hire a pro stager because they think it will delay their listing. However, listing a few days or a week later than planned isn’t hurt you — whereas rushing a property to market that isn’t adequately prepared could.

According to the National Association of Realtors, 81% of buyer’s agents report that home staging makes buyers more likely to picture themselves moving in.

In perspective, the average days on market (DOM) for homes was 48 days as of September 2023. Staging could shave up to nearly an entire workweek from your DOM on the typical home sale.

Welcome the inside knowledge of the neighborhood

Professional home stagers will know the interior design styles that sell homes in your area. Most have their inventory of furniture and décor items that are “on trend” with local buyer preferences that they can use when staging your home.

“I’m a big believer in letting the pros do what the pros do. It’s the pro stager’s business to know what type of staging buyers are looking for when they walk through a home,” advises Sollecito.

You won’t need to spend hours DIYing your staging. You won’t need to buy bland décor that you won’t want in your new home. And you won’t need to worry about whether or not your amateur efforts are reasonable enough.

“There’s no negative in paying for a professional stager who has their pulse on what type of staging attracts the most buyers in your market.”

Header Image Source: (Francesca Tosolini/ Unsplash)