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Q:  Marsha, I am ready to put my home on the market. My real estate agent is urging me to hire a professional stager. She says the home will sell faster and for a higher price, but it’s expensive, and I’d rather not spend the money. We are in a hot market, and I’m not sure it’s worth the money.

A:  Yes, it is. There is a tried-and-true cliché that states, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” This is accurate whether you’re selling an original tract home with cottage-cheese ceilings or a Montecito mansion. Staging will elevate and amplify your home’s appeal. A well-designed interior space helps a buyer imagine the house as their home. This often translates to a shorter selling time, stronger offers, and a much better price for you.

Another consideration is that staging has evolved from rare and unique to the status quo. If you don’t stage your house, it will look shabby and dull in comparison to the staged homes on the market. An empty home is boring and uninviting. Even in today’s market, selling a non-staged home will cost you money. 

It’s even more vital to hire a stager if you’ll be living in the home while it’s on the market. The designer will create a look that focuses on giving the house a broad appeal. The furniture and décor she chooses may not match your personal taste, but rather what will close the deal. Once your house is placed on the market, it’s no longer your home; it becomes a product in the marketplace. It’s not fun living in a staged home, but the sacrifice will facilitate a quicker move.

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An important point is that staging is not meant to hide any deficiencies or flaws of the residence. Legally and ethically, the sellers must disclose all known defects. A stager is simply enhancing the buyers’ aesthetic experience. The home inspector will discover and disclose any hidden issues, and if buyers learn the sellers tried to use staging as camouflage, all good will and feelings generated will be lost. The sellers will regret the deception.

Some people might think, “I have all this furniture and artwork; I’ll stage the home myself!” Before you go down that route, let’s look at what stagers have to offer. First, they are talented designers who have the skill, knowledge, and experience to make your home look its best. They also maintain an inventory of furniture, photos, paintings, rugs, and all items relevant to a household. Finally, they will hire the muscle to move the furnishings in and out. Leave the staging to the pros; you’ll be glad you did. 

So how much does staging cost? For a three-bedroom, two-bath house, you’ll be looking in the range of $3,000 to $5,000. After reading this, I hope you see that a better question is: how much will not staging cost you?

Marsha Gray has worked in Santa Barbara real estate for more than 25 years. She works at Allyn & Associates, where she helps her clients buy and sell homes and with lending services. To read more of Marsha’s Q&A articles, visit Contact Marsha at (805) 252-7093 or

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