You're about to discover a simple home staging technique that professional house flippers have recently been applying to sell their rehabbed properties faster and for more money. It's so good that once you hear it, you'll be thinking, "Why haven't I been doing this already?" But home stagers will NOT be happy that I shared this inner secret with you. It saves you thousands over the cost of a traditional home staging service.
This helpful tip on home staging, will benefit both house flippers and homeowners. Homeowners looking to sell your home and wondering if you should hire a home staging company, this will be useful for you. However, this information is critical for real estate investors because it will help you be more productive.
What is Home Staging?
The concept of home staging is furnishing an otherwise vacant home. What is that going to do? Well, that's going to help a prospective buyer visualize what it's like to live in that house. Often people can't visualize how they would live in a space, so they need to be shown that. You might be the kind of person that can look at an empty slate and envision something remarkable, but not everyone has that ability. There's a reason why homebuilders have a model home that's fully furnished.
3 Advantages of Home Staging
Home staging helps the prospective buyers get a feel for what it's like to live in one of those homes. However, when it comes to the benefits of home staging, there's a lot of misinformation. Conventional wisdom is going to say that home staging increases the amount you can sell your house for. In fact, the Home Staging Resources Organization surveyed five thousand respondents in a 2018 study and found that 85% of the houses that had been staged sold for 6% to 25% more than their non-staged counterparts.
What does this mean? What happened to the other 15%? Did they sell for less? In my opinion, this is an example of misinformation. Let me explain why.
1. Not All Homes Are the Same
First, it's very difficult to create an apples-to-apples comparison on a home that is staged versus not staged. The reason is because every home tends to be a little bit different; the layout, exactly how big the rooms are and other factors.
2. The Nicest Homes Get Staged
Then there's the fact that a lot of the homes that are staged are the nicest ones. We attribute the increased sale to the staging but that may not be why it sold for more.
3. Sometimes the Furniture is Included in the Sale
That would explain why in the study the price increase could go up 25%. Most lenders do not want to lend money on the furniture. That means there is never any mention in the MLS remarks or purchase contract that furniture was included in the sale. If you're a real estate agent or a mortgage broker, you know exactly what I'm talking about. So, it may have nothing to do with the house being more desirable and selling for more because the staging occurred. You can’t evaluate this like a scientist in a laboratory. There are too many variables to get a good comparison.
I have a lot of experience with this because I used to have furniture that I would put into a storage unit. My crew would bring it out, put it into the house and then remove it when the house sold. I was basically my own home-stager for a while. Let me tell you, I am not convinced that home-staging truly improves the overall sale price of the property. It can to a small degree, and I'll talk about how, but to a large degree, it doesn't.
Home Staging: Marketability vs Value
Ultimately, there is two sides to this. There's marketability, meaning how fast you can find a full-price buyer. Then there is value, meaning what it's going to appraise for.
What home staging does is it improves desirability. Now, that can translate to value, and let me explain how. When we sell a house, we picture it like a product launch. Meaning, we try to price it low right out of the gates, and then get a MOS: multiple offer situation. We want to get several offers at the same time which creates competition between buyers. I have a video on this called the Kiss of Death When Selling A House.
From a psychological standpoint, that can push the price up. We believe that it's the multiple offer situation that pushes the price up, not necessarily the home-staging. We have a multiple offer situation, which is partly created by having an improvement in marketability. The improvement in marketability is because the house is staged, and people can envision themselves living there, achieving what we wanted.
Some people argue that appraised value is whatever the buyer and the seller agree to, and to some degree, that's true. However, appraisals are also based on comparable sales. Appraisals don’t have a line item in the adjustments section that talks about home-staging. That means that appraisers don't put any value on home staging.
3 Disadvantages of Home Staging
1. Home Staging Doesn't Always Create a MOS
Sometimes we don't create a multiple offer situation. I've had situations where the furniture is perfect, the interior design is gorgeous, and it still sold for the same amount as if I had no staging. Why? Since it wasn't a multiple offer situation creating competition, what the buyer's agent did is they went back to value. When making their offer, they were able to pull some comps from that neighborhood. They were able to make a comparison with what other homes in the area sold for and make an offer comparable.
Value is what the property appraises for. Unless you have a multiple offer situation this is ultimately what buyers' agents are going to refer to when they're encouraging their buyer to make an offer.
It can cost thousands of dollars to professionally home stage a property. There is the expense of the purchase of the furniture and then the moving costs. You also need to account for the skill of being an interior designer to make sure the décor is appealing.
You don’t just have the cost but also the hassle of going out and buying your own furniture and then renting the storage unit, paying your crew to get it in and out of storage, and in and out of the house dinging up the walls.. Plus, you won't be able to do every house identically as some furniture won't fit in certain houses. It won't be able to get around that corner and up those stairs.
Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people asking if it is worth the cost and hassle. For many years, my answer was always, “The price point of the home has to be high relative to the cost of staging so that it's a tiny fraction of the overall sales price.” Furthermore, you get your best bang for your buck if we're talking about a condo or other small square footage; where you don't need as much furniture, but the sale price is still high.
Remember, homebuilders don't stage every home. They just do the model home to be more efficient. So, if you can be efficient with your home staging, my previous advice was always, go that route. Otherwise, don't stage. It's not going to be worth the extra up-front cost to do it. Which leads us to this game changing tip.
Epic Home Staging Tip for House Flippers
If the biggest problem is cost, then a solution would be to reduce the cost but still get the benefits. The solution is Virtual Staging.
What is Virtual Staging?
Virtual staging is when you have a professional take pictures of the house, then send them to a virtual staging company. There they Photoshop furniture into the pictures. That means no hassles and a much lower cost. For high quality work they usually charge around $35 a picture. The company I use is Box Brownie. They were the first ones on the market, and they are fantastic. There are probably other good ones as well.
One reason virtual staging is so great is, the buyers are making their decisions when they are looking at the pictures on-line. So often these days, between Google Streets and the pictures they see, most homebuyers have already committed to purchasing a house before they ever show up! When they show up to view the house they are really just validating all their assumptions about the property. They are making sure the pictures weren’t misleading.
For example, I don't recommend you virtually Photoshop in a kitchen island when there is no kitchen island in the house. You don't want to Photoshop in features that don't exist. You can get away with furniture because you can put in the MLS notes, "There will be no furniture in the home at the time you see it." Furniture is movable. So, you can pull off the virtual staging and not be lying on the images.
Use Professional Photos
I recommend you use professional photos. I have a photographer that works with a lot of real estate agents. For $150 to $200, she will take pictures of each one of my rehab houses, enhancing the lighting and colors so they look nice. Then, I send it over to Box Brownie where they add all the appropriate furniture. So, they also play the role of interior designer which is a bonus.
Virtual Staging is a Game Changer for Flippers
When I was first introduced to this, I had an apprentice who was struggling to sell a home in the mountains. I told him not to buy it because it was way too expensive. He bought it anyway, and it was 90 days on the market and not selling. It wasn’t selling because the price was too high, but he didn't want to drop the price for fear of losing money. Reaching out to me he asked for my advice. He needed to get some furniture in the pictures, but he didn’t have money for a staging company. I told him how I had recently heard about virtual staging and suggested we try it out and see what happens.
In one week, he had an almost full price offer and it sold. This is an example of a property that sold from the internet, because people who were looking at this mountain community were typically far away. They were sold based on pictures first, and then they would come to see it later.
Virtual Staging for Homeowners
This epic home staging tip for house flippers applies to homeowners as well. Get those professional pictures done and get them virtually staged. Traditional home stagers are out there right now cringing, because this tip is taking business away from them. But here's the reality: the pictures are where all the home-staging value comes from. Because that’s where people are making buying decisions; on their phone, before they ever show up to the house.
That's why I believe in this epic home staging tip for house flippers. If you're a real estate investor and every single house should be virtually staged. Of course, if you're wholesaling from complete burnout, that's a little different. You can't put furniture in something like that. Otherwise, virtual stage every one of your deals. You'll make more money, sell faster, and save a lot of money if you've been doing the traditional home staging.
(A representative of Box Brownie just informed me that they actually charge $32 per image, NOT $75 as shown on the video)