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Why Staging Still Matters in a Sellers Market

In Austin’s current seller’s market where investors are snapping up property sight unseen, staging a home is still a valuable tool for REALTORS®. Even in this market, home staging showcases the property by creating an environment that attracts the highest number of ideal targeted buyers and leads to selling the property faster and for more money.


According to the 2011 national report released by the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA), homes sell 70–80 percent faster when staged. Nationally, the average days on the market for a non-staged property is 145 days versus 29 days for a staged property. According to Home Gain,a company that provides real estate information including articles on home buying, home selling and mortgage rates, staging a property has an average return on investment (ROI) of a 586 percent.

It might seem obvious that staging is required in a buyer’s market, but the practice is just as important in a seller’s market. “In any market, every seller wants the most money for their home,” said Alicia Autrey of Decorator for Hire. “Everyone knows that your home is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay and even in a seller’s market, there are going to be variables in each area and with every home that may make one more appealing than the other. The better your home shows, the more it will sell for and no matter what the market, everyone likes more money.”

Decorator for Hire has staged many homes near central and downtown Austin—areas that historically are always in demand and homes that rarely sit for more than 30 days. There was a vacant home that the company staged on a Thursday, received an offer on Friday and Autrey had to empty the home out the next week. “That house probably would have sold within two weeks, but because it was staged and showed as warm and inviting, which made it emotionally appealing to the buyers, they made an above-asking cash offer before it was even officially listed,” said Autrey.

Richard Kline of The Staging Guy has been staging professionally for the past two years and thinks that the practice gives REALTORS® a competitive edge. “When I began considering staging professionally, I was surprised at how many REALTORS® did not appreciate the value that it brought to their listing,” said Kline. “I heard a lot of ‘My wife does my staging,’ or ‘I don't stage. I bring in fresh flowers for open houses.’ But when I saw their properties’ days on market, it was clear that their process wasn't working. The properties that I have staged on average in the last six months have received offers within eight days, and have all sold within two percent of asking price.”


Since home staging is an important part of selling property, Autrey recommends that REALTORS® join trade organizations, such as The American Society of Home Stagers and Redesigners and RESA to understand legitimate staging practices as well as to develop a network of reputable local stagers. “There are no necessary credentials to be called a ‘stager,’ which is why anyone searching for an experienced stager should ask for REALTOR® referrals and pictures of previous homes,” said Autrey. “Be sure that the photos are of actual local properties and not stock photos. Some staging programs that certify stagers, offer stock photos for new stagers. This is a practice frowned upon by the industry as a whole, but does happen.”

REALTORS® should seek someone who has been professionally trained in staging and is continuing their education. The most respected credential for a stager to earn is an Accredited Staging Professional certification. “I've earned the designation of Accredited Staging Professional Master, the highest level in the industry,” Kline said. “Remember that staging is not decorating. Staging is professionally preparing the property for sale so that when potential homebuyers view the property they can immediately imagine themselves living there.”


The stager begins the process by gathering pertinent information about the listing such as location, size, style, listing price, vacancy status and marketing demographic. Price expectations and the clients’ overall needs are also established. “I tour the house and take notes and photos for my written assessment,” said Kline. “Afterwards, I provide the homeowner with my detailed recommendations on paint colors, furniture placement and room function for each room in the house,” said Kline. “The homeowner can use this assessment as their checklist to complete the process on their own. Once the homeowner has completed all of the items on the list, I return to the property to ensure that everything has been completed, assist with final touches and take ‘after’ photos.” When the assessment overwhelms the homeowner, Kline submits a proposal to complete the staging. “I pride myself on using as much of the homeowners existing furnishings as possible,” Kline said, “but have an extensive inventory of furniture, artwork and accessories that are also available.”

Remember that staging involves more than decluttering and redecorating. Understanding spatial relationships and how to apply them, as well as an ability to see a home through a buyer’s eyes, are skills that only a trained and experienced home stager can offer,” said Autrey. “The relationship doesn't always end when the property is sold because we also offer design services when the homeowner moves to the next house.”

Here are some of the suggestions that can be made during a staging assessment:


Applying a new coat of paint adds a fresh, clean feeling to a home. Warm, neutral colors can lighten and brighten a room or make it feel cozier. The biggest mistake that homeowners make is painting each room a different color. This creates a ‘rabbit warren’ effect, making the rooms feel overcrowded. A consistent color hue will make each room feel connected to the one before it and gives an overall impression of larger space.


Many homeowners maintain inadequate lighting. Place lamps strategically around the room to highlight the dimensions and architecture of the space. Aside from using all existing ceiling and mounted lighting, adding side, table and counter lamps creates ambiance and warmth.


Art needs to be the right proportion, hung securely and at an appropriate height. Mix framed art with sculptural hanging pieces to add texture and interest. As a general rule, the center of the artwork or mirror should be 60-inches from the floor.


Typically, it is not ideal to push furniture against a wall, but sometimes it is the best choice for traffic flow. Not all rooms are large enough to have the furniture floating. The most important issue is to include size- appropriate furniture and the correct amount of it.


Organize accessories with the rule of odds, using one, three or five objects with visually interesting techniques. Color, texture, shape and an overall cohesive look are always important.


It matters. If a REALTOR® can't get buyers to enter the house, then the inside doesn't matter.


Add neutral and seasonal home fragrances. Even if the home does not have an offensive odor, it does contain the homeowner’s odor.


Homeowners must remove their personalities from their property. The moment the property is placed on the market, it ceases to be their home and becomes a product. The property should have some personality, just not necessarily its owner's.


Furniture, photos and collections should be packed up, unless the objects will be needed in the immediate future. The appearance of increased square-footage is always a perk to potential buyers.


Clean the house. Wash the windows. Make the bed. Deep clean showers, baseboards, tiles and carpets. Performing basic cleaning duties will ensure that the property is successfully marketed.

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About the Author

Alicia Autrey, Decorator For Hire
611 Cargill Dr.
Spicewood, TX 78669

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