It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.
These days, staging a home—redecorating it with furnishings and decor selected to appeal to buyers—is an important step that nearly every homeowner should think about when it’s time to sell their house.
When potential buyers view a home—whether online or in person—you want them to be able to picture themselves in your space. But it’s hard to do that when your personal stuff is everywhere. That’s where staging comes in. It’s a tool to highlight the strengths of each room and eliminate anything that could give potential buyers pause—be that clutter, personal belongings, or design decisions that just aren’t for everyone.
If you’ve ever doubted the power of staging a home before listing it, this Pennsylvania home will make you see the light.
Built in 1925, it has many great features and tons of character, but it still didn’t sell when it was listed for $810,000 in August 2019. In June 2020, it was relisted with brand-new photos of fully staged interiors. We’re talking streamlined furniture and rugs in clean, neutral colors. No more mismatched wooden furniture! And just two months later it was sold for $820,000, a little more than the initial asking price.
Since home staging costs around $2,000 to $2,400 a month (the furnishings are rented), that seems like money well-spent, especially when you consider the money lost on extra mortgage payments while the home sits on the market.
We went right to our experts to find out why the staging of this house attracted a buyer—and how you can have the same success in your home. Here’s what they had to say.
The living room in this house had a lot of great features, but the original setup didn’t allow them to stand out.
“When you have a feature wall, such as the stone wall shown here, it’s best to showcase that instead of covering it up with bulky furniture,” says Dawn Gerali, a real estate agent with West USA. “The modern, lighter-colored furniture and minimalist artwork works well to make this a comfortable, inviting space.”
“By simplifying the color of all the furnishings, it is less distracting to the eye,” explains Lisa Vail, designer with Vesta. “A potential buyer can easily find themselves stepping into the space and making it their own.
Vail adds that swapping out the furniture is a quick and easy move that gives the perception that the entire house has been updated.
There was nothing really wrong with the original kitchen in this house, but it had a mismatched vibe that made it hard to present a functional, uncluttered space. Yet the magic of staging changed all of that with just a few simple swaps.
“The kitchen island has been staged with bigger stools and place settings, and the shelves have been cleared as well,” says Will Rodgers, a real estate consultant with KW Realty McLean. “This gives the buyer the idea that the kitchen can be a good area for meals, and makes it appear less cluttered.”
Jill Valeri, a home stager and owner of Welcome Home: Interior Design Solutions, says the staged version of the room just feels better to potential buyers.
“The matching stools, place settings, and small vases by the stove create a visually appealing rhythm in the space, while emptying the built-in shelves makes them less distracting,” she says. “The overall effect is that the buyer can now focus on the beautiful marble and vast counter spaces.”
Obviously the selling point in this dining room is the gorgeous ceiling beams, but unless the room is staged right, they may look more like a hindrance than anything.
“The ornate furniture in the before photo competes with the wood-beamed ceilings and windows. It detracts from the room’s architectural features,” explains Gerali. “The sleek, modern furniture in the after photo draws attention to the beautiful ceiling and the natural light coming in through the windows.”
Marla Perez, account executive with Vesta, agrees.
“Staging this dining room made it feel larger and more grand,” she says. “Changing the orientation of the dining room table elongated the dining room, and adding a neutral rug brightened the space. The updated furniture and upholstered dining chairs created a more formal dining [area] for entertaining.”
Very little has changed in the bedroom of this home, save for the new furniture and decor, but it feels like a totally different space.
“They have elevated this room simply by adding the appropriate-scale bed and neutralizing the color palette,” says Vail. “The original bed was way too high for the room and drew attention to the odd nook it was set in. But now it looks like the nook was built intentionally for the bed.”
Rodgers emphasizes the impact of the cosmetic changes.
“This bedroom feels more airy and natural after the old chests and dressers were replaced with plants, neutral-colored linens, and a serene piece of art over the bed,” he says. “This gives buyers a relaxing feel upon entering the room, which is perfect for a bedroom.”