Staging 101: Experts Explain How to Maximize Profits From Selling Your Home | Featured Real Estate Articles

Doug Childers/Homes Correspondent

We all know you need to declutter before you put your home on the market. This can help make the property feel larger and encourage the buyer to imagine living in the space. But it’s not just a salesperson’s job to limit the number of exhibits, especially if you want to maximize your profit. The type furnishing matters, too.

Think fresh, current and discreet.

“You want to show off the fixed assets of a home,” said Johnathan H. Miller, owner and principal designer of Richmond-based Jsquared Interior Staging & Design. “Rooms should look attractive in the photos, but they should highlight the features of the home you’re selling, like crown molding, for example. You don’t want to lose a sale because of noisy pillows.

He added, “The point of staging is to depersonalize the home and create a marketable product that has mass appeal.”

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To achieve that showroom-style look, salespeople and real estate agents are increasingly working with professional intermediaries.

“Seventy-five percent of my sales are staged,” said Laura Peery, realtor at The Steele Group Sotheby’s International Realty. “If my sellers have housing, my perfect scenario is staging the house. I wish I could have a fresh coat of paint – best return on investment – then stage and go to market.

The financial return of a well-organized property can be impressive. Earlier this year, Miller staged a home in Richmond’s Fan District that ultimately sold for $1.255 million, or $250,000 above the asking price.

“Johnathan’s showmanship is the reason we got this much above asking,” said Chris Small, the home’s listing agent and a real estate broker and president of Small & Associates.

Small estimated that he had used a professional stager in 60% of his ads over the past three years. “And in each case, we got a lot more for the house than we would get without the staging,” Small said.

A brief history of staging

Hiring a professional director is a relatively new concept, at least in Richmond.

“It’s been around for 15 to 20 years, but it only hit the East Coast 10 years ago,” Miller said.

At first, staging was mostly limited to high-end and expensive properties, but it has expanded to virtually every price point.

“Today, about 76% of agents stage a house rather than leave it empty,” Miller said. “It wasn’t that high before 2020 and the Covid pandemic. People didn’t want to be exposed to Covid, so we gutted houses and staged them.”

Richmond has 15 interns registered with industry associations.

“There’s no official licensing program, but there are online certifications you can get,” Miller said.

Peery said she advises her clients to work with an experienced set designer rather than just an interior designer.

“And look at their work first,” she said.

“People think staging is part of interior design, but interior design isn’t meant to please everyone,” Miller said. “Interior design is all about customizing a space for the people who will live in the house.”

Staging, on the other hand, is all about designing a space that will appeal to as many people as possible. And that means avoiding aggressive color palettes, furnishings, and accessories that might be off-putting to potential buyers. For example, hanging a framed mirror over a fireplace would be a better option than a bold abstract piece of art, Miller said.

“Think of it like hitting the factory reset button,” Peery said. “Staging brings things into a neutral environment that buyers can rely on. This is one of the reasons buyers often want to buy the staged furniture.

Another advantage of working with an experienced decorator: they will likely have a large inventory from which to draw furniture and accessories.

Miller has enough furniture stored in a warehouse in Shockoe Bottom to stage 55 large properties at once, for example.

Staging an entire home might be ideal, but staging at least part of it is better than leaving it empty, Miller said. He added: “You always want to stage the heart of the house – the living room, the dining room, the kitchen and the main bathroom.”

In most cases, the seller pays for staging, which can range from $1,500 for a small property to $30,000 for a large, expensive property like a $3 million house.

“Most of the productions I’ve done cost between $5,000 and $14,000,” Small said.

Many sellers might be hesitant to invest more in a property that, in a strong real estate market, might sell quickly as is. But the extra investment is likely to pay off, if the staging is well executed.

“Every home I’ve staged since 2019 has recouped the cost of staging, sometimes multiple times over,” Miller said. “And the seller can deduct the staging costs from their taxes as a marketing expense for the sale of their home.”

Laura J. Boyer