June 5, 2021
TJ McArdle

First, let me say this: Look at home staging as an investment. This will help lessen the sticker shock. Also, I can assure you that this investment is nearly always going to be less than the average price reduction in the list price, which according to Zillow is 2.9% of the list price. And in a cooler market, many home sellers may go through multiple price reductions before they find a buyer willing to put an offer.

The investment in home staging is nearly always 

less than a list price reduction

As I'm writing this (summer of 2021), the market is crazy hot. But contrary to what many people believe, that's all the more reason to stage! Buyers are clamoring to submit their best offers on the homes that most appeal to them out of fear that another buyer will outbid them. I've been seeing buyers willing to pay as much as $200,000 or more over asking price (not on million-dollar homes... just median-priced homes!), and some buyers are even willing to write into their offers that they will still pay that much over list price even if the house doesn't appraise at the price they're offering. Some buyers are even willing to waive contingencies! It's mucho loco out there right now!

But most buyers aren't willing to go to these extremes unless they are really excited about the house. If it feels to them like they're having to settle for a house that only evokes a "meh" feeling from them, they may still submit an offer in a hot market (because they know there aren't many other choices out there), but it probably won't be their best offer. In other words, if you invest the money and effort into evoking a "wow" reaction from buyers rather than a "I-guess-this-house-will-have-to-do" reaction, it could make the difference between one or two offers with terms you're not crazy about, or an all-out bidding war between buyers willing to only stop short of offering you their first-born child.

Will your house sell in a super hot, on-fire market like this without staging? Probably... but why set the bar so low? By not staging, you're missing out on a huge opportunity to pull the maximum equity out of your home. Don't leave money on the closing table. If you're the homeowner, you will get a return on the investment in staging in the form of higher offers with better terms, all of which will result in more money in your pocket after closing. If you're a listing agent, consistently partnering with a quality, professional home staging company will elevate your brand and reputation. The better-than-average stats you'll accumulate will impress prospective clients during your listing presentations, and those stats, coupled with the gorgeous MLS photos that will populate your website and social media pages, will earn you more listings and fill your pipeline, meaning higher commissions and more of them.

So, moving on to the part you want to know: How much mula will you have to dish out... excuse me... invest to stage your home listing? Well, to give you a rough idea, 60% of members of the Real Estate Staging Association (aka RESA, of which Larimar Home Staging is a member) reported charging an average of 1.5% percent of the home's list price for vacant home staging, which resulted in a 15-25% ROI for their clients. 

60% of members responding to the Real Estate Staging Association's 2020 "State of the Industry" survey reported a 15%-25% return on a 1.5% investment in their vacant home staging services

Following the 1.5% of list price model, the average cost to stage every room in a $450,000 house would be $6,750. Many clients opt for a lower-priced package that includes only the "key" rooms of the home (living, dining, kitchen and primary bed and bath). The price of that could be .5-1% of list, bringing their investment for staging down to about $4,500.

But these pricing models don't work in every market, or even for every home in the same market. So while .5-1% for partial staging and 1-1.5% for full staging is a good guideline for guess-timating the average investment in staging a home in the US or Canada, you may be quoted far lower or higher in your market for your particular listing. There are many variables that need to be taken into consideration, including but not limited to...

  • The specific type of home staging service are you seeking. Are you just looking for a consultation from a home stager that will coach you on how to stage the house yourself? Or full-service staging in which the staging company brings in tens of thousands of dollars worth of gorgeous, on-trend furniture, artwork, bedding, towels, plants, throw pillows, throw blankets and other accessories and leaves your house looking like a model home? Or are you looking for a level of service that is somewhere in between? Unfortunately, there are a lot of articles circulating online giving a deceiving range for the national average cost of home staging that are factoring in every type of service that a home staging company might provide, including as little as a 1-hour "walk and talk" consultation without a written report in which the stager is going to pop in and give only as much advice to the homeowners as they can squeeze into an hour, and the home owner is going to have to take notes themselves if they want the stager's recommendations in writing to refer back to later. These "average-cost-of-home-staging" articles you may be seeing elsewhere are falsely leading readers to assume that they could get a whole vacant home listing professionally staged with the staging company's furnishings for as little as a couple hundred bucks. So let me clarify for you: If you are expecting to pay less than.... let's say... $1,500 (the very lowest end of the range you might be charged for mediocre, partial staging of a tiny, 1-2 bedroom home in rural America), then all you should expect to get for that price is a consultation and a stager that will come back after you've done your "homework" to provide styling of your own home furnishings before the marketing photos are taken (Larimar calls this our Photo Prep service).
  • The size of the house and - more importantly - size of the rooms to be staged. Bigger rooms will need more furnishings in larger scale to fit the proportion of the room. When a staging company procures the assets they use to stage homes, they - like every other consumer - have to pay higher prices for larger furniture. Also, larger pieces take up more space in a moving truck, meaning larger trucks (which cost more) or even multiple trucks, meaning more drivers and movers will be needed for larger homes. 
  • Whether or not you want the outdoor areas of your home staged. Adding these areas will bring up your staging investment by quite a bit, because staging companies usually charge a premium to cover the high turnover rate of outdoor furniture due to exposure to critters and harsh weather elements. 
  • The quality of staging you're expecting. Home staging is a marketing strategy that elevates the perceived value of the home in the eyes of potential buyers. A house staged with whatever worn-out, mismatched furniture that could be scrounged up on the cheap from local garage sales or Offer Up - or worse, free hand-me-downs from friends and family who needed to get rid of stuff they could no longer stand the sight of -  is going to actually drag down the perceived value of the home. And, unfortunately, there are a lot cheap home staging companies out there doing exactly this. I suggest if you care about whether or not the staging is going to bring the desired results (more interest, more viewings, more offers, higher offers, and ultimately more money), don't choose a home staging company based solely on which one is offering the lowest price. The "low-price leaders" in any industry are usually the lowest priced for a reason, and it's not because their products and services are superior.
  • Price point of the home - The higher the price point, the higher buyers' expectations will be. "Luxury" homes will require furnishings perceived as more upscale than what would normally be used in the average home. If the staging does not match the price point of a luxury home, it will lower the perceived value of the home in the eyes of potential buyers.
  • The number of built-in bookcases, floating shelves and/or glass-paneled cabinets in the home. These require the staging company to provide considerably more decor accessories, which not only cost the company more to procure, but will also take more time to wrap, pack, unpack and style, as well as go through the process in reverse when it's time to destage.
  • Distance between the home staging company's warehouse and the home to be staged. There are additional fuel cost and payroll hours for time spent traveling to and from the warehouse to the work site, and often, the crew ends up sitting in rush hour traffic, especially here in Southern California. Employment law requires the staging crew be paid for the time traveling from the warehouse to the client's house and back again.
  • Logistical challenges. Before preparing a quote, the staging company will take into consideration any challenges they will encounter in order to deliver and install the staging, as well as destage at a later date, such as winding mountain roads, inclement weather and road conditions, steep driveways or steps leading to the entrance of the home, parking restrictions, low-clearance parking garages, wait times for service elevators in high-rise buildings, fees for using a building's loading dock, narrow staircases and/or doorways, switchbacks in staircases, etc.

Good home staging isn't cheap, and cheap home staging isn't good.

Regardless of where you live, the industry-wide standard for services included in a staging agreement will be planning, delivery, styling, rental of the staging assets for up to xx days (the standard range is 30-90), and destaging (the term we in the industry use for returning the property to break down the stage, reload and restock the assets). Some staging companies will also include professional photography. Additional fees may be incurred for rush destaging (your stager will let you know the minimum number of days notice they'll need to avoid a rush fee), rescheduling fees, cancellation fees, replacement cost for missing or damaged staging assets, or to extend the agreement beyond the initial term.

About the Author

TJ McArdle is Principal Stylist and CEO of Larimar Home Staging, LLC in Southern California. She is an Accredited Staging Professional, e-Designer, Certified Color Consultant, Occupied Consultation Specialist, Trends Expert and a member of the Real Estate Staging Association.

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