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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 home staging sounds easy enough to tackle on your own, (declutter, depersonalize, rearrange some furniture, and top it off with some tasteful decor) “it’s difficult to know how to tie a room together,” says Peter Sollecito, a top-selling real estate agent in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area who regularly advises clients on their staging options.

The eye of a professional can bring that “X” factor to the table that takes your home from run of the mill to Elle Decor, but how much help you need depends on your eye for design, 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 and your options range from a one-time consultation to total oversight—we’ve developed a guide based on these factors so you can decide whether you can go it alone or whether to call in reinforcements.

A room in a home that has been professionally staged.
Source: (Francesca Tosolini/ Unsplash)

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

Every homeowner has their own personal design style. Some fill each inch of wall space with a frame or knick knack while others prefer the minimalist aesthetic.

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. You can even find great sample images online on professional interior design websites, Pinterest, or Houzz.

For fans of splashy colors, bold prints, exotic textiles, or unusual furniture, it will be a stretch to incorporate the understated décor in neutral hues that you need to use when staging a house without guidance.

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 inspiration 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 Sollectio. “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 on your personal taste. It’s merely an acknowledgment that your personal style is too interesting for the average home buyer.

Remember, the whole goal is to achieve a subtle décor scheme that’s pleasant enough to appeal to a wide number 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 they’re ready to sell.

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

Let’s say your home already contains the majority of the furniture and décor you’ll need to create a look that will appeal to the masses. In that case, then 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 every week, so they know the interior design styles that 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 out there 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 Survey for Q1 2019, over 75% of top agents across the country have offered complimentary staging services to their real estate clients, either with their own design skills and props or by partnering with a staging pro in the area.

A home that has been professionally staged.
Source: (Kent Rebman/ Unsplash)

Check out the competition

The decision between 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?’”

It’s that simple.

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.

The only way to avoid that is to hire a pro stager.

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 a lot 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 $125 for a 90-minute session.

Sellers that need a little additional help, say a full day (or several days) with the stager’s team doing the redecorating for you, then you’re looking at between $1,090 to $1,500 depending on the number of rooms and the amount of 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), then you’ll pay closer to between $2,300 to $3,200 initially to stage 2-3 rooms. After that, you’ll pay an ongoing rental fee on the furnishings for every month that they remain in place.

Keep in mind that any money you spend on staging goes toward encouraging buyers to make a strong offer: In fact, HomeLight data shows 67% of agents say staging increases the sale price of a home.

If you’re really worried about covering the costs of a pro home stager, talk to your agent. There may be a way to wrap the expense of staging into your closing costs.

Source: (S O C I A L . C U T/ Unsplash)

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

Many sellers don’t want to go the route of hiring a pro stager because they think it will delay their listing. However, listing a few days or a week later than planned isn’t going to hurt you—whereas rushing a property to market that isn’t properly prepared very well could.

Nearly 83% of top agents say that a staged home will sell faster than an unstaged home. Over 21% of agents (the largest grouping) said staged homes sell 6% to 10% faster.

To put that in perspective, the average days on market (DOM) for homes was 49 days as of Jan. 2019, according to NAR. On the typical home sale, then, staging could theoretically shave up to nearly a full workweek (anywhere from 3 to five days) from your DOM.

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 own 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.

“So 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.”

You won’t need to spend hours DIYing your own 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 good enough.

Header Image Source: (Francesca Tosolini/ Unsplash)