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The Complete Guide to Home Staging
August 19, 2021

The Complete Guide to Home Staging

by The CE Shop Team

Real Estate Agents Should Stage in Style

Home staging, or the process of organizing, decorating, or otherwise beautifying a listing, is a critical step in the home transaction process that is believed to help the property sell at a higher price in less time. The process can be intimidating, foreign, or downright confusing for those just starting out. In fact, many agents today may need a lesson in Home Staging 101.

Home Staging: A Brief History

The home staging practice comes with a surprisingly rich history dating back to the early 1970s. Barbara Schwarz, widely considered the mother of home staging, left a career in interior design for real estate in 1972. She quickly realized that well-decorated homes sold much more quickly and typically fetched higher prices, but owners were often offended when faced with decorating requests and recommendations. This necessity paired with her background in theater produced the practice of setting the scene, aptly named home staging. Schwarz’s expertise allowed potential buyers to connect with the home and better imagine living there. 

As her success with home staging grew, Schwarz sought to spread the word. She began offering education to real estate professionals nationwide, eventually developing a professional course and certification

The popularity of home staging exploded during the 2008 recession as sellers needed to go above and beyond so their listings might stand out. Today, home staging remains an important and effective method of selling properties quickly and efficiently. 

Home Staging by the Numbers

If you’re not sold quite yet, the National Association of REALTORSⓇ has compiled extensive data speaking to the power of home staging. For example, nearly half of surveyed buyers’ agents reported that home staging had an effect on most buyers’ perceptions of the property, and 82% reported that home staging made it easier for their client to visualize the space as their future home. 

As it turns out, not all rooms are created equal, though. When ranking the importance of staging room by room, a significant 46% ranked a staged living room as very important, followed by the master bedroom at 43%, and the kitchen at 35%.

Money talks, too. Nearly a quarter of buyers’ agents found that effective home staging increased their client’s offer by 1-5% compared to similar homes without staging. 

Sellers’ agents also see the effects of strategic home staging. 31% of these agents reported staging all of their clients’ homes before listing them. A whopping 90% staged the living room, 80% focused on the kitchen, 78% perfected the master bedroom, and 69% honed in on the dining room.

Nearly half of sellers’ agents opted for a staging service for an average price of $1,500 while 26% offered to do the staging themselves for an average price of $300. 

The payoff? Nearly a quarter of these agents saw a 1-5% increase in offer amounts as compared to similar homes. Plus, 22% reported slight decreases in time on the market after staging.

Harness the Power of Home Staging

Despite the importance, home staging can prove intimidating to many real estate professionals. So, how can you paint a client’s property in the very best light? By following just a few best practices, you can put your best foot forward.

Cater to Local Preferences

In-demand design will depend largely on your location, so begin by researching what local buyers want. Joybird’s 2019 trend report is an ideal place to start. The furniture company analyzed the most common home decor Google searches in each state and compiled a handy list of the most popular home decor style in each state:

  • Alabama: Shabby Chic
  • Alaska: Industrial
  • Arizona: French Country
  • Arkansas: Industrial
  • California: Hollywood Regency
  • Colorado: Asian Zen
  • Connecticut: Vintage
  • D.C.: Transitional
  • Delaware: Bohemian
  • Florida: Coastal
  • Georgia: Rustic
  • Hawaii: Minimalist
  • Idaho: Modern Country
  • Illinois: Industrial
  • Indiana: Rustic
  • Iowa: Rustic
  • Kansas: Vintage
  • Kentucky: Rustic
  • Louisiana: Industrial
  • Maine: Victorian
  • Maryland: Shabby Chic
  • Massachusetts: Shabby Chic
  • Michigan: Industrial
  • Minnesota: Mid-Century Modern
  • Mississippi: Shabby Chic
  • Missouri: Mid-Century Modern
  • Montana: Industrial
  • Nebraska: Art Deco
  • Nevada: Art Deco
  • New Hampshire: Industrial
  • New Jersey: Mid-Century Modern
  • New Mexico: Minimalist
  • New York: Urban Modern
  • North Carolina: Industrial
  • North Dakota: Industrial
  • Ohio: Industrial
  • Oklahoma: Vintage
  • Oregon: Minimalist
  • Pennsylvania: Vintage
  • Rhode Island: Minimalist
  • South Carolina: Coastal
  • South Dakota: Traditional
  • Tennessee: Urban Modern
  • Texas: Vintage
  • Utah: Industrial
  • Vermont: Vintage
  • Virginia: Mid-Century Modern
  • Washington: Eclectic
  • West Virginia: Shabby Chic
  • Wisconsin: Urban Modern
  • Wyoming: Industrial

Find the Perfect Pieces

Once you’ve determined the right style, you’ll want to find furnishings. As it turns out, there are actually certain home decor touches that can sell a property faster, and some that may keep it sitting on the market.

The Complete Guide to Home Staging

Staging to Help Sell Faster

1. Floral arrangements
Fresh-cut flowers instantly add character and color to a space. “I love to create unique floral arrangements to place in key spaces like the dining room, master bedroom, and living room,” said D.C.-based decorator and agent Amber Harris in an interview with “Artificial flowers can supplement fresh florals, but [you can] ‘wow’ buyers with fresh-cut stems.”

2. Mirrors and other reflective surfaces
Reflective objects can both bounce light and make a room appear more spacious. “Mirrors are an optimal way to create the illusion of larger rooms and draw attention to a home’s entertaining and kitchen areas,” said Virginia agent Lara Rhoades Ewing. Glass furniture and polished metal fixtures provide a similar but subtler effect.

3. Rugs
Large, stylish area rugs embody warmth and texture. They also make a room look finished and thoughtful. “Light and bright area rugs give way to defining the space,” said Dawn Earles, an interior decorator in Waterford, Virginia.

4. Fresh bathroom linens
Soft, luxurious home linens can look expensive and feel comforting. Just ensure they’ve never been used! “No matter how clean your bath and dish towels [are], they’ll never be new again,” said Harris. “Buy new towels and place them strategically. A small investment leaves a great first impression.”

5. Good lighting
You’ll certainly want potential buyers able to admire your handiwork, so ensure all those dark corners are well lit. “Lighting is key to making a home shine,” said Earles, so have plenty of floor lamps, table lamps, and even luxe window finishings on hand.

6. Pops of blue
The psychology of color is critical when it comes to home staging. For example, red might make buyers feel angry while brown can evoke isolation. Blue, on the other hand, has been shown to make buyers feel calm and comfortable. Just make sure it’s incorporated strategically. Earles recommends large abstract art pieces for a few foolproof pops of color.

Staging That Can Keep a Home on the Market

1. Polarizing decor
From college sports to politics, polarizing decor will almost certainly alienate some potential buyers. “I always advise clients to depolarize and neutralize their home before listing to unmark their territory,” said Ewing. “Make a home look as though you are ready to move on, and don’t forget about refrigerator items.”

2. Collectibles
While your collection of coins, action figures, or stamps might be impressive, not everyone will share your excitement. Not only can these items make it more difficult for buyers to picture themselves in the home, but large collections could also make the home look cluttered or small. “Don’t leave buyers questioning whether there is adequate storage space in your home,” said Harris. “Instead of bookcases filled with classic book collections, mix a few favorites with interesting accessories.”

3. Personal effects
Your personal items, whether family photos, musical instruments, or last year’s Halloween costume, can disrupt the homebuying fantasy. “It is critical to leave space for buyers to place themselves in your home,” Harris says. Be sure sellers have stored away anything too personal for best results.

Still feeling some stage fright? The CE Shop also offers an in-depth podcast episode on all things home staging. Listen and learn how to update a property, show off its best qualities, and maybe even inspire a bidding war:


Stage to Success

From incorporating industrial flair to arranging fresh florals, understanding the background, data, and best practices can make or break a successful stage. With this bit of background knowledge, any agent has the power to ‘wow’ potential buyers and stage to success!

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