Home Staging; The Definition
Home staging is a marketing process that prepares real estate to be shown for sale, within time and budget constraints, to increase both real value and perceived value of the property for target buyers. producing faster sales and higher prices. It can also be used to market property for rent.
This is my definition and not the only one you will find. Let’s break it down and explain.
- Home staging is marketing, i.e. it’s done to promote a sale.
- It is a process, i.e. a series of actions or steps taken to produce the result.
- It is for real estate, usually homes, but any ‘real property’ can use the principles.
- It is only done in anticipation of showings to sell or rent. If there is no intention to sell or rent, then it’s not home staging. If it is to be sold or rented sight unseen and never shown in pictures or in person, then the process of home staging would be pointless.
- Home staging always has time and budget constraints built in. The purpose of staging is to enhance speed of sale and return on investment. Taking too much time or investing too much money would erase benefits.
- Home staging increases both ‘real value’ and ‘perceived value’ in the eyes of a specific group – the most likely buyers, also known as ‘target buyers’. Some of the steps in the process increase ‘real value’, e.g. the actual costs of a repair or upgrade like hardwood floors. Other steps add ‘perceived value’, e.g. adding props to remind potential buyers of the lifestyle associated with the location, amenities, status of the community, reputation of the builder, etc.
- Increases in real and perceived values make the target buyers more likely to buy or rent the property, and, to pay a higher price for it. A faster transaction with higher return is the purpose of home staging and the main benefit for home owners.
This definition also hints of things home staging is not, two of the factors making it distinct from Interior Decorating.
- It is not done to add real or perceived value for the property’s current owner.
- It is not an open-ended process with unlimited time and money to complete.
This definition explains the meaning of home staging clearly and distinctly, but, a definition must become widely understood to be truly useful.
A clear and commonly understood definition prevents misunderstandings.
A phase has meaning to the speaker and to the listener. A commonly understood meaning allows both to use the phase as conversational shorthand and still communicate clearly. If they each have a different definition in mind, misunderstanding will be created.
For example, if a real estate agent tells a client they need home staging, it is important for both to have the same thing in mind. If the client think it means “tidy up” and the agent thinks it means “repair, repaint, replace” a misunderstand has been created. In this case, the misunderstanding of what the client is going to do before listing their home could result in an unrealistic asking price and an unhappy working relationship between client and agent.
A widely accepted definition would help Stagers educate and promote.
A commonly accepted and well defined term would help professional Home Stagers be consistent and clear as they educate and promote home staging to consumers. Professional home staging is a self-regulated and growing industry. The skills and services various practitioners bring to the marketplace varies widely. Until practitioners are unified on the definition of home staging, their messages about what the industry has to offer will be inconsistent and consumers will be confused.
Many terms are used for home staging: real estate staging, property enhancement, house doctoring, house fluffing and more. And, there are terms which seem to refer only to the final phase of home staging: home styling, showcasing and open house preparation. There is also a related term which refers to home staging for one particular kind of home – model home merchandising.
As an aside, many professionals prefer the interchangeable term ‘real estate staging’ because they consider themselves a part of the real estate industry. Because home staging still is used far more often, let’s stick with the term home staging for this article.
Not all home owners know what home staging means.
Most people understand the concept of ‘preparing homes for sale.’ But, it is unclear whether all consumers know what term to search to locate professional help with it. Some people still don’t even realize there are professionals who specialize in this. If they see the phrase home staging, they have no idea what it means.
Those who are aware of the term home staging have a variety of preconceived notions about what it entails. Some think staging is just a good clean and tidy. They might look for a cleaning service or an organizer to help with their staging. Some think it is the advice their real estate agent will give them on how to prepare their home for showings. Others think home staging always means removing everything from their home and starting afresh with new furniture and accessories. Most people would want to avoid that scenario.
Consumers don’t know how home staging differs from Interior Decorating.
Some consumers look to Interior Decorators for home staging. And, vice versa, they sometimes call a Home Stager for interior decoration assistance. Consumers don’t all understand if they want a space customized for their own enjoyment, then they are looking for advice on interior decorating. If they are preparing a home for sale or rent, they need home staging for advice specific for that outcome. Practitioners of both professions will sometimes provide either service. They must change mindsets when they switch between services.
Unfortunately, consumer confusion has been increased by using the term home staging in ways other than originally intended. In the beginning, the term ‘home staging’ was what California decorator and real estate agent, Barb Schwarz, called her process of preparing a home to show for sale. Now the term crops up in slogans like ‘staging for living’ or ‘staging for dwelling’ which are really just make-overs or re-designs without intention of selling, in other words interior decorating. If, by definition, home staging is done specifically for the purpose of selling, then using these contradictory terms muddies the waters.
Read our post Selling Your Home; Who Should You Call for a closer look at what Stagers do and the benefits.
What are the differences between Interior Decorating and Home Staging?
The purpose is different. Decorating is done to please the occupant while home staging is done to please a group who are potential future occupants. Also, the thinking is different. Good decorating customizes and personalizes the space for the preferences and lifestyles of those who will be using it. Decorating clients are encouraged to express their personality, to put their stamp on their home and often to incorporate displays of personal collections or treasured possessions. Rooms may be multi-purposed or repurposed to improve function for the owner.
Home staging reverses the personalization, removes the collections and makes the property more of a blank canvas for target buyers. Home staging puts the focus on the features of the property, not the objects in it. Perfection in home staging means each piece leads the viewer, tells the right story, evokes the right emotion and enhances the selling features; it doesn’t matter if the seller isn’t drawn to it personally. If rooms have been repurposed, Stagers will usually return them to their original purpose to avoid sending confusing messages to potential buyers.
In decorating, home owners have the luxury of letting their decor evolve over time, waiting until they find the perfect piece to add. In staging, there is a projected date to get the home on the market and it’s usually imminent. Budgets are also different between decorating and home staging jobs. For example, when a home owner is decorating a new kitchen which she will enjoy for several years, she may spend whatever she likes. The re-sale value might be considered, but, it is seldom the number one influence in decorating projects. For the home staging budget, increasing the return on investment upon sale is one of the top criteria. There is a limit to how much additional investments will continue to increase return, giving a built-in budget constraint. Overspending lowers the rate of return.
To read more on reno’s in the context of an eventual sale, read our post Improvements and Renovations; Keep Impact on Home Sale in Mind.
Several professions have skills transferable to home staging.
Besides the differences, there are some similarities between decorating and staging. They use many of the same skill sets. Both use the same decorating principles to create a mood and alter appearance of spaces.
Decorating is not the only profession with transferable skills for the job of Home Stager. Stagers often take up home staging as a second career and they come from all walks of life. A former accountant can bring skills for preparing budgets and estimating return on investment. Who would have more practical experience with viewers’ reactions to various homes than a real estate agent? Arguably, the perfect person to analyze and reach target home buyers would be a marketing professional.
After all, home staging is not just about making homes pretty. It’s about making them sell. The first skill in the Home Stager’s repertoire must be marketing savvy. The Home Stager first needs to determine the target market and learn as much as possible about what they like. Only then will the Stager be able to successfully use their decorating flair to create a vision that strikes a chord with potential buyers.
Read more in this post about How the Stagers’ Job Overlaps Other Professions.
Home staging is not only done by professionals.
While discussing these attributes of the professional Home Stagers, we must acknowledge that home staging is not an activity performed only by professionals. There is a growing market for products to educate and guide do-it-yourself home stagers. Even the consultations provided by professional Home Stagers can be geared to enable homeowners to stage their own homes.
This is no surprise. At least at first blush, it seems home staging should be mainly common sense. Although the name home staging was coined a few decades ago, the practice of sprucing up in order to sell is probably older than the first property sale. Even a caveman wanting to convince his woman to change caves probably had the sense to kick the debris aside and light a comforting fire before dragging her in to see the new shelter – home staging of sorts.
Home staging techniques have become more scientific.
Researchers have discovered some interesting things about human decision making and how we decide to buy. These scientific advances have been applied by the billions of dollars to product display and packaging. Home staging is really just packaging for marketing the home. Since the term home staging was first used, this buyer psychology has been applied increasingly in home staging, making the process more and more sophisticated.
For an explanation of the science behind staging, read our post Three Scientific Facts Explain Why Home Staging Works.
Effective home staging can no longer be done entirely by formula.
Stagers are paying more attention to zeroing in on target buyers and to analyzing their lifestyles and preferences. Home Stagers employ all five senses to help potential buyers experience the house – not just view it. Careful thought is given to creating memory points and providing cues to make viewers think of the amenities of the neighbourhood.
Buyers are becoming increasingly exposed to staged homes, and concerned about unethical staging. This makes it necessary to keep the home staging looking natural and not cliché. As home buyers become more aware of home staging, installing a preset kit of home staging items or using vignettes arranged with only a piece or two of furniture have become less effective.
Here are some ways DIY stagers can benefit from a Consultation.
Should home owners be doing their own staging? The answer is as individual as the home-owners who think of tackling it. Like many other home improvements, if home sellers have time, talent, tools and a touch of beginner’s luck, they can do a reasonable job of staging. Success depends on their aptitude and willingness to learn. The ability to see their own home objectively is crucial. In an unsophisticated market with few staged homes, it will be easier for the DIY stager to make their home stand above the competition.
There are some advantages to hiring a professional home stager. Even DIY stagers should consider hiring one at least for a consultation. The potential benefits will be:
- Getting an objective opinion on buyer turn-offs.
- Saving time and effort to research the market and buyer preferences.
- Getting access to resources and services.
- Receiving advice to solve problems quickly and economically.
- Avoiding wasted effort on low priority or low payback activities.
For information about consultations offered by Rearrangements visit this page.