The agent was impressed. The “fix and flip” seller had done a great job rehabbing the home. The kitchen and bath were completely remodeled. The carpet was new. The colors were neutral. The roof and furnace and other big ticket items had all been replaced.
There was just one problem. The property was vacant.
Make no mistake – this property would sell. However, the agent knew he’d get more money for this client if he convinced the seller to spend a bit of time and money on getting the property properly “staged”.
Staging is the process of optimizing a property so that buyers see it in its most favorable light. For an occupied home, it involves getting rid of clutter and rearranging furniture and accessorizing. For vacant homes, it involves bringing in some furniture and décor and creating the “model home” effect.
The seller was agreeable. For about $1200, the property was staged with furniture and decor and it had a great feel when you walked in the door.
Now this agent is fanatical about staging and took some extra steps.
The lamps in key rooms were put on timers so that they would come on in the morning and stay on all day. Well-lit homes “show” better, even on bright sunny days. To make sure that buyers and their agents did not turn lights off, the agent put little devices on the light switches that prevented them from being switched off.
Since it was winter, the thermostat was set to a comfortable temperature. Appropriate music was playing softly at all times. Air fresheners completed the package.
When all was ready, the house went on the market. And here is where the story gets very instructive.
The same day this property hit the market (let’s call it Property A), another “fix and flip” property popped up in the same development (we’ll call it Property B). It too was an excellent rehab that had slightly better upgrades, like slab granite in the kitchen instead of granite tile. It also had one more bedroom and an additional half bath.
And one more thing … Property B was priced lower than Property A.
To say the least, the agent for Property A was alarmed.
His concern melted away when he previewed the property. He walked in and found it vacant. The thermostat had been set to 60 degrees to save on utility costs and it was actually 60 degrees inside on that cold, cloudy, snowy day. Plus, all the lights were off and the only available lights were those in the ceiling in rooms like the kitchen, dining area and bathrooms – no lights at all in bedrooms, living room or family room.
Cold. Dark. Vacant. Silent. Not a great recipe for success.
Property A went under contract right away and at full price.Property B sat for a while and then sold for almost 3% less … despite being a somewhat better property in terms of features and upgrades.
Does staging improve the bottom line for sellers? This real-life scenario comes as close as possible to scientific proof that the answer is “Yes”. Beyond this one example, countless experiences we’ve had with staged and un-staged properties tells us that staging is an effective strategy for improving a seller’s net proceeds.