Home staging isn't a new idea. It started on the West Coast in the 1970s, but the concept has spread across the country. According to the Wall Street Journal Guide to Property, "There are three primary factors home shoppers consider when deciding whether to bite on a property: the location, the condition and the price." Since a homeowner can't change the location and would want to stay firm on the price, that leaves condition as the most important variable. Most homeowners probably wouldn't show their house without at least tidying it up, but staging a home involves other, more subtle, improvements that can make a home more attractive to buyers.
Professional home stagers are known as Accredited Staging Professionals (ASPs). Your real-estate agent could be able to help you stage the home (some agents are also ASPs) or recommend a stager.
One benefit of home stagers is that they often have their own supplies -- like furniture, rugs and art -- which reduces the time and money spent looking for "neutral" items. They also provide objective insight.
If you're already strapped for cash, adding another person to the mix may not be feasible. But when you consider that many sellers end up lowering their price about $5,000 to $10,000 from the initial offering, it could be worth it. Most estimates put the average home-staging fee at around $500 to a few thousand dollars for a home that's priced at less than a million dollars. However, if extensive staging is necessary, like new paint and furniture or expensive landscaping, that price can quickly go up.
You can typically find home-staging professionals through your real-estate agent or on the Internet. Just make sure they can supply credentials and multiple references.
Next, we'll look at what you need to know to stage a home on your own.