"Do you think we really need staging?" the Seller plaintively asked? "What's that going to cost?" (It's a legitimate question that almost always comes up.)
"Yes, I do," I answered with no hesitation,"dollar for dollar, staging is likely to be the best return on your investment and as most Buyers now begin their search on the Internet, photos have never been more important." (All true.)
That's the polite way of saying it.
BUT if I were going to be brutally honest, I'd say what my niece, Anna, said to me when I first got onto Instagram and began posting pictures a few years ago:
"Social media isn't about your real life," Aunt Julie, "no one cares how you really live; it's about the illusion of a better life!"
Ouch, got it.
I should preface this by saying that my beautiful nieces are both whizzes on social media and live on them all (except Facebook where evidently, "only old people go"),and like many in their generation, they post almost daily . . . funny, poignant, vivid, sometimes provocative, and truly stunning photographs of their travels and their lives.To look at the photos, you'd think they spend their every waking moment at the beach, eating fabulous meals, or at exotic locals . . . AND that's the point.
Like their posts, staging presents the fantasy - not the reality; a house that's clean, fresh and free of clutter: no mail, catalogs, cords, boxes, bags, coats, pets, toys, or shoes at the front door; no mismatched furniture, worn carpets, or old linens; no wedding photos, posters on the walls, or clothes strewn about on your teenager's floor (yes, they do that). In fact, NO flotsam and jetsam at all; just the hint of the magic that lies ahead . . . . It's a curated life to be sure and make no mistake; no one actually lives like that - but that's beside the point.
Remember, buying a home is an emotional journey, by and large, not necessarily a practical one. Thus, Realtors and Stagers alike are seeking to create a "compelling story" about your home and at the risk of offending, it isn't yours'. (Remember, you are moving on.) Moreover, because nearly every home is staged, those that aren't, suffer greatly by comparison, if not necessarily in person, than online (which is where the hunt begins!) It's why, you'll see very few homes that aren't staged in our highly-coveted and competitive marketplace. NOT staging is akin to showing up at a fancy dress ball in blue jeans.
Still not convinced?
Here are just a few facts according to the 2017 report on Home Staging by the National Association of Realtors (NAR):
Certainly. Some homes look like they belong in Architectural Digest and are "camera ready" almost from the time you walk in, but in my vast experience, they are far and few between. Even these homes benefit from LOTS of critical editing and a neutral third eye. Earlier this week, I asked a client (and professional decorator) who decided against staging, if I could rearrange her family room, and then promptly did. And when I sold my own home, I had my favorite Stager identify what needed to be put away before coming to market and then took her advice.(It was painful, but I did it.) Staging needn't be "one size fits all."
Additionally, the "fixer" that's truly a "diamond in the rough," is better left alone so that renovators and developers can see the bones of the house and the inner workings.This is a case where the Seller should present the house in its raw form. Clean it, clear it, inspect it, and fully DISCLOSE and you're likely to have a much better post-closing relationship with respect to the Buyers' expectations.Staging isn't meant to cover up a property's defects, but to enhance the positives.
Finally, given the cost of our homes here in the Bay Area, it makes no sense to cut the budget for this critical tool. In fact, the better the staging, the better the result and isn't that the goal? The bottom line is that in almost every home, staging sells your home faster and for more money, and that's undeniable.
How can I help you?
Check out some "before and after" photos on my website at: juliegardner.com
P.S. My new email address is: email@example.com
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.