Keren Crispin says she knew she needed help the first time she opened her Dix Hills home to potential buyers. When she hosted an open house for the unoccupied 3,000-square-foot property, a couple expressed concern about how their furniture would fit in the expansive space.
“I was blown away. How could they not see it?” says Crispin, 47, an investor from Great Neck. “It occurred to me … people need imagination. If it’s not staged, people have no idea where they’re going to put the TV or the couch or the table.”
With the help of home stager Janice Hauptman of Remix and Match in Roslyn Heights, Crispin had her living room, dining room, kitchen and family room staged for six months for $7,500. She defined each room of the open concept home and incorporated neutral tones so the rooms easily flowed into each other. The home sold in under two months.
Used by real estate agents, investors and home sellers, staging is the process by which furniture, décor and accessories are rearranged or brought in to enhance the look of homes for sale. It can be done in both vacant and occupied properties to make homes look comfortable, yet not lived in, says Jennifer Post, chief executive and creative director of Visual Vantage in Brookhaven. “You want to do things that cozy the place up and make it feel like a home, but not make it look like it’s lived in,” says Post.
According to the National Association of Realtors 2019 Profile of Home Staging, 44% of buyers’ agents said that staging increased the dollar value offered for a home. The report also revealed that 53% of sellers’ agents said that staging helped a home sell more quickly.
"If you spend a couple of thousand dollars now, you’re going to sell your property anywhere from 9- to 12% higher than if you hadn’t staged,” says Carmela Abella, owner of Abella Home Staging and Redesign in Port Jefferson Station. “And you’ll sell faster. Vacant properties can sit for months and you’re paying for the carrying costs. It’ll be the same amount as if you’re staging.”
Staging on a budget
If you don’t mind staging your home yourself, many agencies will offer low-cost consultations. Stagers will come to your home and provide comprehensive reports — prices vary depending on the size of your home — that include suggestions on which changes can be made to make the home more appealing. That could include changing the paint color, eliminating clutter, rearranging furniture or switching out light fixtures.
For an initial hourlong consultation, Post charges $250 to $350 for homes under 2,500 square feet. For larger homes — which typically require more time and often more recommendations — the price goes up to $350 to $450. “Our goal is to make suggestions on a tight budget, to help the client do minimal work but make the most impact,” says Post. “We want to up play the property’s good qualities and downplay the things we think will hinder the sale.”
Among the more common tricks is painting a home neutral colors, such as light gray, gray or beige, says Luisa Rizzo, New York State president of the Real Estate Staging Association trade group and designer at Design Remix in Roslyn. “One of the best things anyone can ever do to their home is a whole paint job; that’s one of the first things I recommend,” says Rizzo.
Cleaning up also makes a big difference. “Always start with decluttering,” says Rizzo. While dozens of tchotchkes lining a mantle may carry special memories, they may be a distraction to home buyers, she says.
Virtual staging — the process by which designers use editing to “add” furniture, artwork and other accessories to photos of vacant rooms — is also another service many stagers offer. While Hauptman notes this option is not as popular as actual staging, it can be a cost-efficient way to attract online buyers, at an average of $50 per photo. Most clients choose to virtually stage multiple rooms, spending an average of $450 on virtually staging their home, says Hauptman.
Staging with some frills
Living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens are the trifecta of staging, experts say — if you have a limited budget, make sure these are the areas you focus on, says Abella. In the living room of a vacant home, she’ll usually add a sofa or love seat, and depending on the budget and space, she’ll also incorporate an area rug, cocktail table, two chairs and end tables. Accessories — pillows, lamps, centerpieces and wall art — are also important elements, says Abella.
In dining rooms, Abella notes that “every chair has a price tag.” She usually sticks to a table, as well as four chairs. If the room is large, she’ll also add a server or buffet table. The kitchen will see similar treatment, with the addition of a table and two chairs, as well as a couple of stools.
Once the room is balanced with neutral colors, Hauptman will incorporate accent colors on pieces such as decorative pillows, chairs and rugs. Simple things like decluttering, rearranging furniture and cleaning also go a long way, Hauptman says.
Staging costs differ based on the size of the home, scope of the project and the duration of the staging, says Hauptman. She adds that most rental package leases are three to six months, with the average cost running from $8,000 to $15,000.
The size of a home makes a big difference in staging costs, says Abella. Since luxury homes usually take longer to sell, she recommends they be staged for at least six months, which can also drive up prices.
“If you’re looking to do a million-dollar home or more, it has bigger rooms so there has to be more furniture. You have to do at least four rooms, because the house is so large,” Abella says. “Living and family rooms take anywhere from $350 to $450 a month, the dining room is $200 to $300, the kitchen is $100 to $200."
Depending on the size of the rooms and the furniture, staging a luxury home can run anywhere from $15,000 to $40,000, says Hauptman. High-end homes also often require expensive pieces, but sellers of luxury property can mix and match to save money, she says, adding that the important thing is to highlight the home itself. “If there’s a focal point like a fireplace or high ceilings, I like to bring in artwork so your eye focuses up and you get the height of the ceilings. If there’s a special view, I want to swap out window treatments and let the natural sunlight in to brighten the space,” Hauptman says.
If you happen to have more wiggle room in your budget, you can also extend to doing spaces such as the backyard and patio. Lucille DeFina of Staged Long Island in Merrick recounts a recent project where she refreshed the backyard of a Franklin Square home in under 20 minutes, by simply rearranging the chairs, adding a throw blanket and some pillows, and putting some fake fruit on the patio table.
“It looked so homey and adorable,” she said. “You can change the whole feel just with a few accessories that basically cost nothing. It went a long way.”