Credit: Mauricio Bergamin

If someone had told me in early 2020 that COVD-19 would impact our local real estate market so dramatically, I don’t think I would have believed them. How could a global pandemic with varying levels of stay-at-home and/or social distancing orders in effect for over one year (not to mention millions of people unemployed and 500,000+ deaths in the U.S.) translate into a housing boom for our area? 

As how and where we work has shifted and with more employees working remotely, the local markets have seen a significant increase in out-of-area buyers, many of whom are coming from the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, and other metropolitan areas. This increase in buyers, coupled with fewer homes coming on the market in recent months, translates into, well, a great time to sell and a rise in home selling prices. In fact, the median home selling price in Santa Barbara jumped 20 percent from 2019 to 2020. 

Credit: Sarita Relis Photography

In today’s market, buyers need to move quickly and are more likely driven by emotions. But I also believe buyers come with expectations, and getting the best offers means tapping into their emotions while meeting their expectations. 

Here’s how home staging can play a critical role in both meeting expectations and striking an emotional connection with potential buyers:

(1) Many buyers expect to see a home staged. Here’s a little more about our out-of-area buyer: If they’re coming from many parts of the Bay Area, L.A., or N.Y.C., home staging is now the norm. Buyers may think that if the seller didn’t bother to stage it, what else have they neglected to do?  

(2) Gets them thinking about family dinners. When prices are high, buyers are less likely to have funds for renovation. When a room is staged, buyers tend to think about the family dinners around the dining table instead of just focusing on the outdated kitchen that they can’t afford to renovate right away.

(3) Helps buyers feel confident. In an empty room, buyers may find it difficult to know where to place their furniture. The more questions a buyer has, the more uncertain they may become about purchasing your home.

(4) Rooms feel larger with furniture in it. Many people think a room looks larger with no furniture in it, but it’s just the opposite. Rooms actually appear smaller when empty. Staging helps buyers know that their sectional or king bed will fit in a room. 

Credit: Courtesy

(5) Don’t leave money on the table. According to a 2020 report by the Real Estate Staging Association, 85 percent of staged homes sold between 5-23 percent over list price, and 75 percent of sellers saw a return of investment of 5-15 percent. Sellers who forego staging can end up leaving a lot of money on the table.

To be fair, not all homes require staging in order to impress buyers. If a home is already furnished with updated, light-colored furniture and décor that is proportional to the room, then skip the staging and invest time in de-cluttering and adding a fresh coat of paint both inside and out. 

Christine S. Cowles is owner of Styled & Staged Santa Barbara, offering home staging and interior styling services. She is a certified Staging Design Professional™, member of Santa Barbara Association of Realtors and Real Estate Staging Association, and a proud WEV graduate. She can be reached at


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