How to stage your home for maximum impact

When you put your house on the market, does it become simply a house for sale? Or does it become a product?

I’d argue that to sell your home as soon as possible and achieve a maximum return, you should think of it as a commercial product. Like any product, you want your home to be attractively packaged and presented. It should appeal to buyers’ interests and needs while also playing to their emotions and senses.

One of the best ways to transform your home into a desirable product is through staging.

Unless you’re an interior decorator or have an exceptional design sense and lots of resources, I recommend hiring a professional stager. A professional stager typically has a background in interior design, marketing, home furnishings, or real estate, or sometimes a combination of those skills.

There are two basic types of staging: partial and full.

A partial staging—for sellers who still live in the house

In a partial staging, the seller usually resides in the house. The home needs to be functional and livable, but at the same time, it should be compelling and pristine.

The stager typically recommends what you should do to streamline and improve your home’s appearance—such as de-cluttering the kitchen or painting the interior. The stager might also recommend cosmetic repairs, such as replacing or refinishing a hardwood floor. And the stager will often bring in new artwork, rugs, plants, and other items to give your property more polish and pizzazz.

While rates vary, the owner of a 1,200 sq. ft. condo in San Francisco might expect to pay $2,000 for a partial staging for three months.

Full staging—for empty houses

An empty house is much harder to sell than a furnished one. Buyers have difficulty seeing what the house would look like if they lived there. Plus, an empty house is usually devoid of charm, which buyers respond to.

So when the seller has already moved out, a full staging helps bring the home back to life. The stager decorates the entire home with rented furniture, artwork, decorations—everything needed to warm the place up.

The same owner of a 1,200 sq. ft. SF condo might pay $4,000 to $5,000 for a full staging for three months.

What to look for in a professional stager

Generally speaking, look for a stager with a ‘good eye’—someone who can give your home a fresh, appealing look that’s appropriate to the property. For example, a professional stager would decorate a Victorian home differently from how he or she would dress up a 10-year-old loft.

If you’re looking for a stager yourself, go to open houses, especially those that are similar to your own. When you like what you see, find out if the stager who did the house left flyers or business cards. You might also ask the Realtor for background on the stager, such as their previous experience and credentials. Or ask your own Realtor for recommendations.

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