Why Sellers Should Stage Their Homes

Experts say staging will increase the purchase price.

It’s a $2.1 million, multilevel home on Grizzly Peak, with bay views and a large, landscaped yard. In its present state, bereft of furniture except for a piano and table in the living room, it seems a bit cold and forbidding. Tomorrow, that will all change.

The staff of Pauline Pearsall Staging is on the scene with a truck filled with furniture, art, and accessories to give this house a lived-in look—if the people living in it had amazing taste, an unlimited budget, and no personal clutter.

“We’re creating a feeling of serenity, so everyone can feel like their stuff can go into the staged house,” said Karma Wood, Pearsall’s senior managing designer.

Home-staging services like Pearsall’s can fill an empty house with furnishings, art, and accessories designed to appeal to the kind of buyer most likely to be looking at a particular price in a specific neighborhood. They’ll also do a “fluff,” that is, work with the seller’s own things, removing clutter, rearranging, and accessorizing to make it look its best.

Pearsall’s 17,000-square-foot West Oakland warehouse is stuffed with carefully organized furnishings: racks of glass tabletops, a room full of bagged bedding, racks of chairs, shelves of lamps and vases, even two rooms of blooming orchids and plants thriving under special lights.

Real estate agents strongly advise home sellers to invest in staging, insisting the house will sell for more money.  “Even though it’s a seller’s market and the inventory is low, it’s still very important that your property shine,” said Adrian Huntington, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. “When a staged and non-staged property are competing, the staged property will show better, get more interest and more offers. All the higher-end properties are staged.”

If agents advise all their clients to stage, is this a self-perpetuating myth?

Soraya Motley, a broker with Pacific Union who works in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, wanted to find out. She analyzed eight years of her listings, approximately 400 houses, dividing them into three categories: homes that were staged; those that were empty; and those that contained owners’ or tenants’ belongings.

She found that staged homes sold for an average of 108 percent of the list price; vacant homes sold for an average of 102 percent; and homes cluttered with personal property sold for an average of 98 percent.

The median price of homes listed in Oakland in August was $612,500, according to Zillow. So that 6 percent price difference between a staged home and a vacant one equals $36,750.

Motley did this analysis five years ago but sees the trends holding true today; 90 percent of her clients opt for staging.

“All the buyers today want a move-in-ready property,” Huntington said. “They don’t want to see anybody’s toothbrush. What they do want to see is an image of what it will look like when they move in.

Faces of the East Bay