Pat Kennedy - Your Washington, DC Real Estate Connection


Is "Staging" Going Too Far?

Years ago, I listed a house that showed extremely well.  The owners were anal retentive neat freaks taken to a whole new level.  I mean, you could eat off the floor of the boiler room in the basement.  You could eat off the floor of the firebox in the wood-burning fireplace!  It had been on the market for over a year, and I was their third agent.  And even I couldn’t get it sold after a hefty price reduction.

When a friend gave me a visit to a great astrologer for my birthday, the wise old seer said, “I see a very clean and beautiful house for sale.  It is too clean.  Tell the owners s to burn a fire and leave a dirty dish in the sink.”

They did.  It sold.

 I thought about them the other day while showing a house in Upper Northwest DC.  The owners bought it a couple of years ago as a granny house needing renovation, paying somewhere in the high $600’s.  They renovated it using builder grade materials and appliances, painted, refinished the floors, and I hope they re-plumbed and upgraded the wiring.  It came back on the market about a month and a half ago at $1.6 million, and was just reduced to $1.5.

When we walked in, my buyer noted that the house was obviously staged by a professional to within an inch of its life, and sure enough, in walked the stager with a little table she added to the scene in the living room.  But even at the reduced price, I thought it was still at least $400,000 too high.

A house that shows well, either because the owners are channeling Martha Stewart or because they hired someone make the place look like they are, will probably sell in less time and for more money than a house that is dated, dirty and smells like kitty litter.  But it probably won’t sell for a lot more than it is worth.

Yes, it’s terribly important to prepare a home for the market, repairing dings, de-cluttering, and in many cases, putting excess furniture in a temporary storage bin.  And many people are hanging out shingles as professional home stagers, charging many thousands of dollars to make a house presentable.  There is a school in Georgia that is offering a course that will provide Realtors and others with a Certified Home Stager designation.

And while I think it almost always a good idea to call in the professionals, especially for the décor and housekeeping impaired, that is not going to compensate for overpricing, problematic showing instructions or poor marketing efforts.

It's about pulling together the entire picture!  And we have to remember that good staging is only one (albeit important) part of that picture!

Comment balloon 9 commentsPatricia Kennedy • June 24 2007 07:10PM


Deja Vu all over again?
Posted by Pam Hofmann, Your Crossville, Lake Tansi & Fairfield Glade Specialist (Third Tennessee Realty & Associates, LLC) about 13 years ago

Patricia: I read your post with great interest. As a Professional Stager let me say loud and clear: "Staging is not an excuse to over price a listing". An overpriced listing will not sell in any market, anywhere, whether it is staged or not. I know a lot of Professional Stagers, mostly from contacts made here on AR, and, for the most part, we don't participate in setting the price of a listing (of course, there are some Realtors that also stage and they probably have a lot to do with setting the listing price on their listings).

Many homeowners are unrealistic about the value of their homes. They get a figure set in their head about what their home is worth and what it should sell for. As all of us involved in real estate know, a home is only worth what someone will pay for it. So regardless of whether the home is staged or not, whether Martha Stewart or their Aunt Lurlene or a Professional Stager staged the property, it won't sell if the price is higher than what the market will bear.

I am often asked by homeowners if I think the house is priced right or if I think they should raise the price once they see how good it looks after staging. I am not a real estate expert, I am an expert at merchandising a property to appeal to the greatest number of potential buyers. I always defer to the Listing Agent as the arbiter of price appropriateness.

Thank you for your post. I think it is important to clarify what staging can an can't do. It can help you sell your home for more money and in less time than a similar unstaged home. It can make your home stand above the competition. It cannot compensate for overpricing, bad location, poor marketing or problematic showing instructions.

Posted by Michelle Minch, Home Staging Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA (Moving Mountains Design Home Staging, Pasadena, CA) about 13 years ago

You know, staging since this post, has evolved and really come to the forefront.  I like this post because it reminds us of the simplistic fact that STAGING WORKS in conjunction with PROPER PRICING and AGGRESSIVE MARKETING! 

Posted by Leesa Finley, RED Properties - Raleigh NC Real Estate (RED Properties) almost 12 years ago

It always comes down to price and value.  What you get for the money.  I've dealt with many a bargain hunter this year and some are very disappointed when they see what they think is a bargain may not be such a bargain after all.  It all goes back to, you get what you pay for but it really must be priced right. 

Posted by Donna Yates, Blue Ridge Mountains (BHGRE - Metro Brokers) almost 12 years ago

This is so true, I have also been a just a few too perfect homes.  Many buyers felt nervous about being able to live up to the standard of too clean therefore concluding the home was not livable for them.

Posted by Mary Strang almost 12 years ago

Patricia..... your post made me think of a story from my past. Close to 20 yrs ago, our home had been on the market for a few months without a single offer. One Saturday, we were participating in a garage sale (in OUR garage) with a couple other familes. Needless to say, that was the ONE day that the beds didn't get made, and yup... there were dirty dishes piled in the sink. Much to my horror, a Realtor drove by with some out of town buyers and no scheduled appt to see our house.....  you can guess the rest. Though I was embarrassed by the state of my house, I knew they couldn't return when the house was through our messy house they went...........and ended up buying it. They said it was the garage sale "neighborly" fun atmosphere that sold them on the house. Maybe instead of "open houses"..... Realtors should just host garage sales every Saturday.

Posted by Nancy Morrish, Stage Tucson! (Stage Tucson! Professional Home Staging) almost 12 years ago

Pat. I agree with you on this. I see few staged houses around here though, too small of a market. I do sometimes wonder about the photos that are airbrushed to make the house look better on the flyer....heal the flaking paint.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) almost 12 years ago

Patricia - I agree.  A listing shouldn't be over-priced no matter how great the staging is...  :)


Posted by Debi Ernst, GRI, e-PRO, Broker/Sales Associate (St. Charles County, Missouri - Prudential Alliance Realtors) almost 12 years ago

It's interesting to go back and read this one.  Now we almost wouldn't think of listing an un-staged house!  And staging still won't help if the price is overpriced.

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) about 6 years ago