Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Home Staging Issues

Here is an article from Bankrate.com that shares many of my concerns about home staging companies and how they manipulate buyers into making offers on properties.

There is nothing wrong with making your home look as good as possible when you go to sell it.  My concerns are with the process that makes them look good on occasion.

Most home staging companies do an excellent job in giving even the most average property a special "je ne sais pas quoi."  But home staging often gets VERY expensive.  A friend of mine recently paid $500 for an "initial consultation" and more than $3,800 for the actual stage.  This sum is in line what most staging firms charge.  This article sites a final sum of more than $6,000.

So what are my concerns about staging companies?  I have four of them.

First, many homebuyers think that staging companies are miracle workers.  If you own a home you should spend money painting, landscaping, and especially CLEANING EVERYTHING before you think about hiring a staging company.  All this is far cheaper and much more effective if you want an offer.  Here is great advice from the NAR on the subject of staging and getting your home prepped for sale.  Here is even more super advice from Realtor.com on the same prepping and staging subjects.

Second, many homes do not need staging.  The technique works best on expensive homes.  Sure, you can sell a 500 square foot studio condo with a good stage but why spend the money to try?  Staging is ideal in luxury settings where rooms are not distinguishable without ornamentation.  Can you tell it's a music room if there is no piano in it?

Third, the interior design skills of stagers are often excellent but, in my opinion, sometimes cross the line into manipulation.  For example, putting smaler scaled furniture into a room to make it larger is an effective technique but it really is just an attempt to fool buyers into believing a room is bigger than it actually is.  Many buyers see through these techniques and they can backfire.  This article discusses the home staging backlash and I will admit I have one too.  When I visit a home that smells of French vanilla coffee and freshly baked bread I immediately go searching for the source of REAL ODORS, like cat urine and mildew in the basement.

But mostly fourth, I think that home staging is a panacea born of the recent super ultra buyer's market where sellers are beyond desperate for offers.  When you have thousands of home owners burying statues of St. Joseph in backyards in the hope this will find buyers, home staging seems a reasonable alternative.

The vast majority of home staging companies I have encountered do a great job.  They have an eye for color, lighting, texture, and decor that most average people (like me) do not have in abundance.  But their fees can often get costly and it is important to never forget they are not miracle workers.  Home stagers can often get a higher price for a great property but cannot turn lead into gold if your condo or fixer property is a stinker.  Follow this advice when you go to sell your properties and you can't go wrong.