By Mary Purcell, MoneyGeek.com
Home staging has gone mainstream and is now widely used to make a home more attractive to potential buyers. According to a 2017 survey by the National Association of REALTORS®, a majority of real estate professionals believe staging increases the sale price of the home anywhere from 1 to 15 percent.
But even if it doesn’t increase the value, most agents agree that staging reduces the amount of time the home sits on the market, which is music to any seller’s ears.
Not all homes need a dramatic makeover, but most homes will benefit from at least a thorough cleaning and culling.
“Staging and preparation can include as little as some fresh paint, but in most cases we also landscape, replace dated light fixtures and hardware, and in many cases refinish hardwood floors, replace countertops, bathroom fixtures, etc.,” says Nicole Kennedy, a home staging expert in Piedmont, Calif.
More real estate agents get on board
Lori Matzke, founder of HomeStagingExpert.com, provides home staging workshops around the country in addition to running her own staging business in Minnesota. She’s noticed an increased interest and involvement of real estate agents in the staging process.
“Back when I started staging (in 1999), agents were not interested; they didn’t want to have one more thing on their plate,” Matzke says. “My classes are now 90 to 95 percent agents. I think you’re going to see a lot more agents learning about staging and how to advise their clients, because more and more homeowners are demanding that.”
That doesn’t mean agents will be doing the staging themselves, but they will have an eye for what is needed, and will facilitate the interaction between the seller and the stager. “It really helps the homeowner to have an educated real estate agent,” says Matzke. If the agent has prepped the seller about what needs to be removed and cleaned out, it makes the stager’s job faster and cheaper.
Complete vs. partial staging
Staging can range from small efforts like decluttering to a complete move out and refurnishing. Complete staging of vacant homes is a growing trend, according to Matzke. Whether it’s new or model homes, or the seller has moved out, many stagers today only work with vacant homes.
In the booming Bay Area housing market, Kennedy says buyers are accustomed to short sales cycles, so having the home primed and ready is expected.
“Fewer than 10 percent of homes I stage are partial–where we keep some of the furniture and belongings, edit out and add in where needed,” notes Kennedy. “This can be challenging because the staging has to fit in with existing styles and pieces, but it can make more sense to sellers who are staying in the house through the sale.”
Matzke says the complete staging trend isn’t limited to hot real estate markets.
“It’s been trickling down into smaller markets, not just in the larger metropolitan areas,” she notes. The ubiquity of staging on HGTV shows has probably made the idea more palatable to sellers and agents across the county.
Embracing a personal touch
One of the golden rules of staging has long been to keep things neutral to appeal to the widest range of potential buyers. But stagers are increasingly adding a little more design, style, and color to the home.
“Staging is becoming a bit more personal and less stale than it has been in the past,” Kennedy says. “It used to be standard to remove all family photos and personal items from the house, but today’s buyers prefer to see a house with a little personality. They want to see a ‘real’ house that they can imagine themselves in and small, personal details that create an aspirational image can help reach buyers on an emotional level.”
Matzke agrees. “It’s becoming trendy for stagers to do a little mixing with vintage pieces to give it a designer look. I think it gives the place more depth and I’m seeing more chatter about it on blogs.”
Following the design trends
While most of the staging do’s and don’ts will remain the same in 2018, our experts expect some new design trends to emerge in many staged homes next year:
- Color: After a few years in which just about every design magazine is covered in gray, Matzke has a bold prediction: Gray is dead. “People are embracing beige and creamy white again,” she says. “I think that’s good because not everybody’s furniture fits with gray.”
Stagers are also increasingly adding a pop of color or an upscale design element to appeal to design-conscious buyers.
“Adding a pop of color in a room through accessories or artwork is common,” says Matzke. “The two big colors I think you’ll see a lot of in 2018 are dark teal and millennial pink … especially if you’re marketing to first-time homebuyers or a younger crowd, you might want to add those colors.”
- Floors: It used to be that preparing a home for sale meant replacing old, stained carpet with new carpet, but Matzke says that, too, is changing. “A lot of people are replacing carpeting with wood and faux wood flooring–at least on the main floor,” she adds.
- Countertops: While quartz is the latest countertop trend among high-end homes for 2018, Matzke thinks most of America will stick with granite next year because of cost. “Design magazines are pushing quartz, saying it’s going to be the hot trend for 2018,” Matzke says. “And for the really high-end homes they’re probably right, but for a majority of America, I think it’s still going to be granite.”
- Glam: Although it sounds counter to the rule of keeping things neutral, HGTV and design magazines have popularized a bit of glam. “For a long time you’ve seen people adding a little bit of rustic, heavy metal designs, but now you’re seeing a lot more shiny metallics,” Matzke says. “Even gold–it adds a bit of bling to the house.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Purcell is a freelance writer and health and finance researcher. She covers homebuying, savings and other personal finance-related topics for MoneyGeek.com.