Question: What do home staging services do – and are they worth the money?

Answer: The point of staging a home is, simply, to make it more appealing. You know about getting rid of clutter, touching up paint and replacing the dead shrub by the front door. Staging takes that “fluffing” process to an entirely different level. If nothing else, you gain an expert’s suggestions for making your house look its best.

Staging has become very popular in the real estate world in recent years, and there are various services available. Fees range from less than $125 for an in-home consultation to several thousand dollars for a full-out staging of a home. The cost of staging is typically paid by the seller, who hopes/expects to recoup it when the house sells.

Here are the three basic levels of staging.

  • Vacant Home Staging Let’s say a builder has a brand-new $5 million house ready for the market. Many would-be buyers have a hard time imagining furniture, rugs, plants and accessories in a big empty house. So, the builder hires a stager to bring in everything to warm up the house and make it more approachable. Many spec homes in River Oaks are staged, as are model homes in suburban subdivisions. If you have a house for sale and have already moved out, leaving your old home vacant, your real estate agent may suggest you stage at least some of the rooms, typically living room, dining room, kitchen and master bedroom. Prices vary, but in Houston you should expect to pay $300 to $800 per room; the contract is typically for 30, 60 or 90 days.
  • Occupied Home Your home is for sale and you still live there. But you realize your furniture is dated, or maybe there is a puppy stain on the couch. The whole house just needs a little oomph. In this case, a stager may move some of your furniture into the garage or a storage unit and replace it with some of her own. She will seriously declutter your bookshelves and tabletops. She might bring in fancy bed linens to make your bedroom sexier or impossibly fluffy bath towels for the bathroom, or she might remove all of the family photos on the walls and replace with a single piece of art. She will make your home photo-worthy, so it looks its best on MLS and in your agent’s sales brochures. Fees are variable, depending on the size of your house and how many rooms you choose to stage. You are responsible for taking care of the stager’s property. Note that some stagers will not place their furniture in households that have smokers or pets.
  • Consultation/One-Day Makeover The stager comes to your home and, using only your belongings, she rearranges, rehangs and redisplays your furniture and accessories. This is the least expensive service, and sometimes a consultation is all that you require. This might cost as little as $125 for an hour’s consultation. If she spends the day with you and brings in her movers to help with the heavy lifting, it might be more like $600, and it’s usually a flat fee for the day. It can be gratifying to see how attractive your own possessions can look with a little creativity and a professional eye.

Is staging worth the money? As with everything in real estate, it all depends. It depends on the market conditions, the house itself, the buyer’s expectations, the quality of the staging. But there have been some studies to suggest that staged houses do sell more quickly and, often, at a slightly higher price. Remember that there is no guarantee that staging will bring you a bigger offer. But it should definitely help your home stand out among the competition. Your home will look roomier, fresher and move-in ready. Sometimes that’s all it takes.