By Bill Primavera
One of my most important jobs before listing a property is to help my sellers prepare their homes for showing to prospective buyers.
I was reminded during a recent presentation at my William Raveis office by home stager Susan Atwell who recommended engaging a home stager. Why? Because nobody can look at their homes objectively, even someone who’s been in the business a long time.
Atwell didn’t plan a career as a home stager. An English major in college, her true passions were science and math. After a few years in the business world, her love for logic first evolved into a successful career as a computer scientist.
So when she first heard that staged homes sell faster, it seemed to make sense. But she still wondered, how do they really know? In her mind, she figured there’s only one way to prove that home staging works, and that’s scientifically.
At her recent presentation, she said, “To perform this scientific experiment, it would be necessary to take two identical homes, one staged (or decorated to sell), one un-staged. Everything else being equal – the home’s location, its price and promotion to potential buyers – and then see which one sells faster.
“But, since we know this isn’t really possible, we can still devise a comparable strategy. Not one that we recommend, of course, but one that many home sellers unwittingly end up trying.”
Regardless, she stated, this technique will still prove true if staged homes really do sell faster than un-staged homes.
Here are the steps:
First, attempt to sell a home “as is.” Then wait and see what happens. If there is no sale, stage the home. Clean, declutter, put away personal items, freshen up paint, add lighting, update bedding, remove old window treatments, put out fresh towels – anything that will show off your home’s best features while making it feel both inviting and move-in ready.
Once staged, wait an equal amount of time, or until the home finally sells. Compare how long it takes to sell.
Atwell said that she unwittingly performed this experiment some years ago with a friend whose home was on the market for nine months with no sale and no offers. The market was beginning to cool, but when the home was originally listed, the market was still hot – proving that even in the best markets, some homes won’t sell “as is.”
Its total transformation cost less than 1 percent of the listing price, Atwell said. Once staged, the home sold in just two months, with multiple offers and the beginnings of a bidding war. At the time the home was listed, there was a seven-month inventory of homes glutting the market. This means that under normal or average conditions, this home would not be expected to sell for at least seven months. Staging lowered that time to two months.
Even with her passion for decorating – and her acknowledged addiction to home staging television shows – it wasn’t until Atwell saw firsthand the impact staging had that she was truly convinced that it worked.
The Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) has used a similar approach – but on a much larger scale – to prove that home staging is effective. Each year RESA compiles a report based on feedback submitted by hundreds of home stagers around the United States. Here’s what they found in 2011:
–RESA studied 174 homes that were previously on the market for an average of 156 days before the homeowners gave up trying to sell on their own and called in a professional home stager. Those same homes were staged, relisted and sold on average in 42 days, a 73 percent reduction in time on the market.
–RESA also studied 410 homes that were staged before they went on the market and sold in 42 days on average. The study concluded that it doesn’t benefit the homeowner to list the property first to see if it will sell.
So even if a home hasn’t been staged yet, Atwell said that’s okay because evidence shows that it’s never too late.
There are two variables not taken into account in RESA’s study. It is not known if the asking price was adjusted or if the same real estate agent was used throughout the selling process. The influence of either could be significant.
It is also possible that anxious home sellers are not only more willing to properly prepare their home for sale, but may also be more willing to price the home to sell because there is no amount of staging or marketing that can make up for an excessive asking price.
Don’t forget that even if a homeowner is planning to dwell rather than sell, there are great benefits to engaging a home stager for better utilization of space, furnishings and décor.
For more information about home staging, call Susan Atwell at 914-525-0454 or visit www.atwellstagedhome.com.
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.