Home staging often plays a critical role in helping sellers achieve the highest possible price for their property. However, if you are in a super red-hot seller’s market, should sellers even bother with staging? 

Before Christmas, my brother decided he was ready to sell our family home in California and move to Austin. I got an extraordinary deal from the developer on the last new unit in our subdivision, including a 4 percent commission, a complete appliance package, plus no HOA dues for the first year. 

To secure this deal, we had to close in 30 days. To do that, we had two options: Sell the California property to an iBuyer or obtain a new loan on the Austin property. With the low interest rates and the ability to buy with 5 percent down, we decided to get a loan and close in Austin as quickly as possible. 

Should you stage or sell ‘as is’ in a red-hot market?

In most markets, staging results in the seller obtaining the best possible price. However, the market where my brother’s home is located is blazing hot. The house right across the street just closed for $100,000 over the comparable sales. Another nearby fixer just received 47 offers.   

Given that information, our agent recommended selling the property “as-is,” except for doing some handyman work that needed to be addressed. In her opinion, we wouldn’t get our money back from staging. 

This advice felt off to me because every bone in my body wanted to stage the property. Furthermore, in my mind, the property is not an “as-is” property. We recently replaced the roof, the windows, the kitchen appliances and all the stucco. 

The house has a true primary suite with double sinks and a walk-in closet, a rarity in this location and price range. Due to the drought and water restrictions, however, the backyard is pretty dismal. Nevertheless, the comp across the street had a similar situation in its backyard and still sold very quickly. 

What matters most to the seller: time or price? 

I turned to Greg McDaniel, my co-host on RealEstateCoach Uncensored, for his advice. He asked a question you should ask on every listing appointment when you discuss staging and price:  

“When it comes to pricing your property, doing repairs and staging, what matters most to you: selling quickly or getting the highest possible price?”

He went on to explain:

“If you want to get the highest possible price and time is not an issue, rather than selling “as-is,” it makes sense to do the necessary repairs, have the backyard seeded and stage the property. If time matters most, you must decide how much less you would be willing to take to do a quick sale.”

Given that we have the Austin property under contract and can close without selling the California property, McDaniel raised an additional consideration:

“Even if you sell quickly, the question is: How much will you spend each month in carrying costs on both properties?”

Stage it, show it vacant or virtually stage the property? 

My brother wants to donate everything in the property to charity. I was on the fence about marketing the listing as a vacant property, but McDaniel reminded me of an important reason for doing this:   

“Given the current COVID-19 restrictions, you will get a lot more showings if the property is vacant,” he said.

On the other hand, buyers often have trouble envisioning a vacant property if un-staged. McDaniel explained what happened on one of his vacant listings:  

“The property sat on the market and hadn’t received any offers. I decided to stage it virtually using BoxBrownie, and it went under contract in only two days,” McDaniel said.  

BoxBrownie and the iScape app are two great tools homeowners and agents can use to stage both interiors and exteriors of homes virtually. Rather than paying for real staging, these apps are a great option when the property is vacant, needs work or would benefit from better photos. Here are two examples from BoxBrownie:

Here’s an example from iScape:

How would you rate the quality of your alternatives? 

When sellers want to overprice their property, they will often tell you, “If we can’t get our price, we really don’t have to sell.” 

One of the most powerful questions you can ask when this happens is: “If you don’t sell, how would you rate the quality of your alternatives?”

This approach will quickly help you determine if the seller honestly doesn’t have to sell. It also works well with sellers like me who are waffling back and forth between several options. 

How to help the seller decide

When you encounter a seller who is having difficulty deciding what to do, review the benefits and challenges with doing each of the following:

  • Staging or not staging
  • Selling the home vacant or with the furnishings
  • Going after a quick sale or trying to net the most money

Walking the sellers through each choice’s benefits and challenges helps them identify which approach would work best for them. 

Takeaways for your next listing appointment

The next time you encounter sellers who don’t know if they should stage their property, sell it vacant or furnished, or do additional work, here’s what to do: 

  1. Lay out the options and the potential costs the sellers might incur with each option. 
  2. Turn the decision back over to the sellers by saying: It’s your choice, what would you like to do? 

Ultimately your role is to be a conduit of information and ask questions that help the sellers arrive at the best possible outcome for their unique situation. Always remember, “it’s their house and it’s their decision.” 

Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

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