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Staging a Home for Best Return

Staging a home can significantly improve the price a seller gets and reduce days on market. How do you determine what staging to do to get best return on investment?

Follow us Step by Step as we prepare an actual home for sale.

Other Articles by Nick Boothby

Useful Staging Links

Staging a Home

Introduction to Staging

Staging a home for sale is so important that some Realtors, or the Staging Companies they recommend to you, charge $200 for a first report, and then $75 (or more) an hour to actually stage your home! These costs are above the cost of material or workmen that may be needed.

The goal of staging is not to express your own personal tastes, but rather to make your home appeal to the broadest possible range of buyers. The idea is to dress up or stage a home to look its best for sale; touch up blemishes, remove clutter; and project an image in which buyers can easily picture themselves.

Before you get into the details of staging, read Nick Boothby’s article on getting your home ready to sell. It will help you get through the basic preparations. Then you can start planning more detailed staging, if your home needs it.

It is possible to go overboard and stage a house to the point where the return is simply not justifying the investment. This article offers a broad range of suggestions but not all will be effective in all cases . Remember who you are marketing to and focus your efforts in that direction.

As resources are always limited you must focus on the more important areas. This is where Nick Boothby’s advice is useful. He can advise you on how much staging is useful and where to concentrate your staging efforts. He will of course help you and provide accessories Free of Charge! All part of the Nick Boothby service package.

A last bit of advice before we start staging your home. Detach yourself. Try to see your home as an object that you want to market. under the best possible conditions. This distancing will help you in the preparation process. Staging is not about presenting yourself but rather about showing the house with YOU mostly removed.

Staging your Home, Upgrade your Colours

Painting is one of the most economical improvements you can make to a home and the return on investment is great. You need to determine what colours are currently fashionable and would work for your home. Go to big paint stores and check out the demo sheets and chips. Look in decorating magazine. Take a walk in the mall and look at the fashionable colours in clothes and cosmetics. This will help you figure out what colours are "in" and what colours are passé. Compare this to your existing colour scheme. Maybe you only need to add a few accents to update your look, or maybe a more extensive painting exercise would help. Your research should result in a small handful of paint chips, some background and some accent colours. If you are lucky some of the colours will already be in your home and you merely need to refresh a few walls. Avoid darker colours if you can and all things being equal choose more neutral shades. Avoid using a lot of colours in one space, it has the effect of making the room feel smaller.

Choosing lighter colours over darker ones is often a good choice when staging a home, because it makes it look brighter / cleaner / more cheerful.

Nick Boothby can give you suggestions, or send you to people who can help you.

Staging a House, Depersonalize

Depersonalizing is a major step in staging a home. In essense it removes YOU from the home and makes it possible for buyers to visualize themselves living in your home. If you followed Nick 5C ‘s to getting your home ready, you have already started to depersonalize your home. Most people know they should remove family photos but then stop once this is done. Consider putting collections, souvenirs, awards and trophies away. This also applies to flags.

Unlike decorating a home to live in, where your personal taste is central, staging a house for sale seeks to remove you and leave room for the buyer.

Removing photos is a good move not only to depersonalize, but photos always attract attention away from the home.

Also it is often very good thinking to put diplomas away, particularly if there is a possibility of negative emotional reaction to the profession. A law degree or doctorate might be intimidating in a neighbourhood where such professions are rare. In an upscale neighbourhood a diploma might help you be perceived as the “right” kind of property. Object that links you to a political or religious organization are good candidates for storage. So are objects that show strong affiliation to ethnic groups unless you are marketing directly to this group. In some areas, it is also wise to remove alcohol from plain view.

You want to be as uncontroversial as possible and offer no target for potential personal negative bias. Depersonalizing your home allows you to market to the largest possible number of people. Remember that people may well open cupboard doors or drawers. So don't leave private personal stuff on top. This also applies to your books. This is where personal judgement comes in and where Nick Boothby can help you.

Staging a House, Unclutter

You have probably already put away some of your things but could still do with more empty space. Visit a large furniture showroom and note how they set up displays. If filling cabinets with knick-knacks and bookcases with books made them sell better they would certainly fill up the display with accessories. In fact the purpose of the furniture is suggested with a few minimal accessories, but otherwise left bare. You want your buyers to clearly appreciate the features your home offers but not be distracted. You also don’t want your buyers to have questions about how well a room functions and what its purpose is. Staging a home aims to eliminate conflicting messages and questions. about the use of a room. It’s a family / breakfast room or a dining room, but not both at the same time. Uncluttering will help people focus on the rooms rather than the interesting objects. It will of course help them imagine themselves in the house.

The process doesn't need to be painful, see it as the beginning of packing, but get rid of the boxes. Chose what you leave behind carefully. It should fit in your decorating scheme. Act either in unity with other objects in colour or style or contrast to provide an accent piece. Often pictures/ paintings/ ornaments/ area rugs / cushions are used to add sparkle to the room.

Staging a home, Get the Light Right

Forget mood lighting. You want your home to look bright and clean. Realtors noticed this long ago turn all the lights on when showing a home. It makes a home appear cleaner and larger and more cheerful. (remember the psychological side). If your light fixtures are dim you would do well to either put in brighter bulbs or change fixtures to a brighter ones. Upgrading fixtures is a relatively inexpensive upgrade that returns well. Occasional lamps also help. Try to avoid harsh cold light and for showing, a warmer bulb often looks better than cooler fluorescent fixtures.

Pull open drapes and window shades unless the view is dreadful.

Mirrors help make a home brighter and look larger

Staging a Home, Furniture

Unless you are going for a Quality "classical antique" look, modern neutral furniture is preferable.

  • Is your furniture the right scale for the room?
  • Could removing a chair make the room look larger?
  • Does it match other furnishings?
  • Is it dated, old, tired?
  • Does it look appropriate, fine and of good quality?
  • Does it reflect the purpose of the room.

Staging a home often starts with uncluttering. Put extra furniture in storage. You might not need 12 dinner table chairs, 4 might do. You want to suggest the purpose. Put away knick-knacks. Removing a leaf from the table will make the room look larger. (Remember to use common sense. If the room is a formal dining room designed to accommodate 20 guests then that might be what you focus on and emphasize.)

You need to be able to move around the furniture comfortably and not feel trapped. Several people at a time will be viewing the home so make sure flow is easy and people don't get trapped in corners.

Professional stagers often remove existing furniture and replace it with more modern neutral pieces, plus a few accent items. Your furniture should look inviting, clean and modern and be of good quality. It isn'’t completely logical but the perceived quality of the house is affected negatively if the furniture and accessories are not nice.

Cupboards, drawers, fridge, and closets will all be opened, so pay attention and stage as well. Arrange your clothe neatly and separate by category or colour. Make sure there is lots of empty space. This goes for cupboards and kitchen cabinets even for the refrigerator.

A note about leaving personal papers in places that could be opened by potential clients. You expect people who are looking to open built-in cabinets and drawers. They are not being nosey. If your credit card bills or overdraft bank statements or private pricing info about your home is in plain sight you will have given your potential buyers invaluable information about your circumstances.

Staging a House, Pets

Pets should not be around when buyers come for several reasons.

The whole process can be very upsetting for your critters, better not to have strangers walking around when you're not there. They could get out, they could start spraying...some people are hysterically frightened by dogs (or cats, or mice, or bunnies) and will not go in or feel comfortable around them. At the opposite end of the spectrum some people LOVE critters and will not pay attention to the house.

Some perfectly well behaved animals feel they need to guard their home and will do their best to protect and keep intruders (or buyers) out.

Pet smell is very offensive to some people and having pets around might suggest smell even if there is none.

Staging a Home, Back yard, Garage, Terrace.

Don’t forget the garage, it needs to be cleared out and cleaned, but don’t go overboard. Inspect the garage door and make sure it opens properly.

Pay particular attention to the view from the house. That is often all people will look at at first. If you have garden furniture it should look inviting and appropriate for the size of the yard. When you repaint the front door, give the garage and back doors a fresh coat of paint.

Does the fence door close properly, if not fix. Is the paving even, stones clean, gravel or mulch bare in spots? Are there cobwebs? Does the fence need a coat of stain or paint?

If your backyard is not landscaped it is often useful to add a few accent pots to cheer up the view. Nick has offered gardening services and can help.

It is often useful to create a vignette on an empty terrace or porch area, that can be seen from the house. A chair and table plus a few plants will make the area look inviting.

Staging a Home, Details

We love to hate elevator and background music but research and experience has shown that it is conducive to a more pleasant experience for shoppers. Some music has measurable physiological effects on people. So find pleasant background music and play it softly. Avoid anything jarring or loud.

The home should smell nice, nothing overpowering. We often hear about people baking cookies, or preparing mulled wines or chicken soup to make the home smell homey. Avoid strong perfumes, many people either are allergic or dislike perfume. The home should not be too warm or cold otherwise the buyers will wonder if the furnace/air conditioning is working.

What are the actual Costs and expected Returns for staged homes?

As usual it depends on who you ask, on the market conditions, on the quality of the home, on socioeconomics of the area and more! According to A California company Home Gain who did a home improvement survey, Return on Investment for staging was 399% of investment. This did not include cleaning and decluttering, repairs or improvements to light which each improved sale price!

According to Mortgage News daily Home staging pricing for a simple consultation run from $200 (all US dollars but Canadian fees are similar) to $400, yet for extensive staging work on larger homes, be prepared for pricing to run up to $6,000 or more. However, according to, a home staging services, statistics show an average of a 3% minimum increase in final sales price on homes that had been staged, versus those who had not. On a $300,000 home, that's a $9,000 increase-and well worth the home staging fees. has an article on staging along with a few links.

Costs of staging are variable depending on the state of the home, value of the property, and the state of the marketplace. If its a "buyers market" then a more extensive staging exercise might be necessary. Add the cost of repainting dated colours, a consultant if you are paying for one, furniture rental if necessary, storage costs for extra stuff, garden accessories and plants or ornaments. Stagers will often charge 1% of selling price for a full blown affair. Typically stagers will charge for a consultation where they suggest improvements, then apply an hourly rate to actually do the work, shopping etc. The costs of any rentals is added to this. You can expect to pay between 1000 and 4000 for staging a home. (This does not include maintenance or repairs.)

Joy Valentine, is a Los Altos-based real estate agent. She analyzed 2,772 properties between March and September 1999 in San Francisco Bay Area to determine what effect, staging had on the net price, the percentage of sales price over list price and the length of time on the market.

For all properties, the average number of days on the market was 30.89, and the average difference in sales price over list price was 1.6 percent. In the staged sample, which included 129 properties, the average number of days on the market was 13.9, and the average difference in sales price over list price was 6.32 percent.

Designed to Sell A Toronto staging company write that "Staged homes receive 3-6% increase on their equity than unstaged homes." and "On average a staged home sells 2-3 times faster than unstaged homes."

Market condition change and perceived value of properties varies depending on many things. These figures are estimates and generalizations. Get advice from Nick Boothby for more details on your property.


Most listings will not need extensive staging, but all homes for sale will benefit from some. Nick Boothby has extensive experience and he will be pleased to advise you on how to proceed in staging a house for best return.

Call Nick Boothby to discuss Staging a Home for Best Return.

Nick Boothby's experience in pricing and selling Homes in the Beach will help you decide what staging is worth doing and if you will get a good return on your investment.

Nick Boothby, Maddy Dennett and Greg McDowell
REALTORS® / Salespersons

Christine DeMerchant Unlicenced Support Person
Real Estate Homeward, Brokerage
1858 Queen St. E., Toronto, On, M4L 1H1, Canada
tel: 416-698-2090   fax: 416-693-4284
Maddy's cell: 416-951-5507   Greg's cell: 647-984-3065
emails: Nick   Maddy   Greg