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Inside Gig Harbor Real Estate: Do staged homes really sell for more?

Posted on January 4th, 2023 By: Paige Schulte

Where do buyers see your home first? ONLINE!

Currently the market has tipped to favor buyers. There are more options for them to buy (110 homes in Gig Harbor and 62 on the Key Peninsula as of Jan. 3) and the most compelling home will win the hearts and money of the buyers. This means excellent preparation — cleaning, staging, landscaping and all those maintenance items that you may have put off — are mandatory to get top dollar.

Now more than ever, your agent should obsess over every detail to make your home shine online. Your photographer should look at every angle to see how it will show on screen. That’s where we need to sell the buyer first — on a computer or smartphone. The first impression of your home will likely be on an iPhone screen. We all know that first impressions matter.

A staged home will draw more attention from people browsing online real estate listings.

Photos and video can be key

Dominic Wilkerson of DomDoesMedia shoots for many of the top agents in the Gig Harbor market.

“I love to photograph a home when it is staged,” Wilkerson said. “It helps tell the story of what the home feels like. An empty room can also be confusing in photographs without something to anchor it and convey the size and layout.”

Ninety-eight percent of buyers start their journey online to purchase a home. In the hot markets of 2020, 2021, and 2022, we’ve seen skyrocketing numbers of buyers purchasing homes sight unseen. Reminding us that what your home looks like online matters.

According to the National Association of Realtors, “82% of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.” In addition, NAR reports, “97% of agents recommend decluttering your home before going to market.” The other 3% are misinformed, I think.

Yet NAR’s study found that just 31% of listing agents stage all homes before putting them on the market.

Good photographs of a well-staged home can help it attract more attention online, where most buyers first learn about homes new to the market.

Different options for staged homes

At Neighborhood Experts Real Estate we believe in it so much we pay for it for our clients. So do most of the top agents in the local market. We strongly advise staging even if you live in it, and even if your favorite designer picked out all your furniture. When you edit, pack, purge, and stage you can play up the gorgeous style you already have and highlight the best features of your home to attract the most buyers.

Ideally, staging elevates your home to where buyers think, “Wow, I can get all of this for just ‘X’ price.”

“As the seller, don’t sweat, you don’t have to be a designer,” said Falynn Auston, real estate agent at Neighborhood Experts Real Estate. “The top stagers thrive on bringing personality to your home and drawing the buyer into its story without being distracting. Because the more buyers fall in love, the bigger the check they’ll write.”

There are a few options when it comes to staging. These include occupied styling, a partial stage (i.e., you’ve emptied a few rooms) or a full vacant Stage. That last one is when a professional stager walks through and makes recommendations. They’ll arrange to work with you, the seller, to prepare it for market, so it shows well both the online and the in-person experience is elevated.

Agents should hire professional stager

Real estate agents should love the numbers, know the comparable sales, have a pricing strategy, and be a confident negotiator. But they should leave the staging and design to professionals in those areas, unless they have a real background in interior design.

Bringing in a stager, even just for a consultation, allows them to get their eyes on your home and provide guidance on how you can prepare for them to dress it up. Then they head to their warehouse to load up the moving van with modern-day trends that will make buyers swoon.

Well-staged homes can help buyers envision living in their new purchase.

Stagers and real estate agents should go into production mode to amplify your home’s best qualities to bring it to life online, highlighting features that make is stand out and neutralizing the decor so as many buyers as possible can see themselves living in the spaces.

“Staging is what brings a home alive. People walk in and envision their life when a home is presented well. Staging takes an OK home to a Restoration Hardware dream home,” said Christina Fitzer of Coldwell Banker Danforth, another top-producing agent in Gig Harbor.

More than just a tepee and a teddy bear

Top professional stagers have a deep inventory of furniture, accessories, and designer touches. They don’t just plop a tepee and a teddy bear in the corner of a room. Top stagers use current trends and colors — no bistro tables and awkwardly angled red rugs in the middle of a living room.

A top agent team will typically coordinate designer input, recommendations for repairs, staging, cleaning, and a high-end media package. This will help the firm’s marketers and agents get a buyer’s attention. This also helps the buyer envision their future life as they walk through it in person.

Great staging leads to great digital and print marketing. This helps the buyer’s agent and the buyers feel confident to pay full price (or more). A full media package often includes elements that makes your home more attractive and more memorable: Drone footage, 3D tours, professional photos, lifestyles videos, social media reels, YouTube shorts and videos, and full websites so all the media is located in one place for buyers to look through and community videos that can help teach and sell the buyer on the community not just your home.

Staged homes pay off

Staged homes see an average of 15% more money than non-staged homes. They also sell 87% faster than their “naked” competition. Some agents cover the cost of staging with no extra charge, so you get more value when you hire them. Often you fetch more for your home when you list it for sale.

One careful distinction: there’s a time and place for virtual staging. Most agents who use it are cheap.

In the more than 350 homes we’ve sold, we’ve used it four times, all for very specific reasons when traditional staging wasn’t an option. (Remember when COVID rules said no to stagers? That called for some creative alternatives.)

If an agent offers to virtually stage your vacant listing with no real reason, politely decline — it’s a cheap way to get out of investing in your home. The experience from online to in-person is a bummer and leaves the buyer disappointed. We know; we’ve been on tour with them when they can no longer see the vision of those big empty spaces.

Even occupied homes can be staged with help from a professional in the field.

Regardless of the price of your home, you should get the same incredible value with your agent team: full all-inclusive service, staging included.

Best of luck to all the sellers prepping for market, remember if it’s not compelling its not selling, look at your home online and in person through the eyes of a buyer.

2020 Paige Schulte was recognized by the Wall Street Journal for her use of virtual tours and digital media for buyers during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic. She was named 2022 Finest Realtor in Gig Harbor by Gig Harbor Living Local. Schulte is founder of the Neighborhood Experts Real Estate office located in Gig Harbor, she also sits on the board of her foundation ChelseaPaige Foundation that donates funds back to non-profit organizations in the greater Gig Harbor area.

Paige Schulte