The Art of Home Staging
It’s amazing what some paint and proper furnishings will do. These before and after photos are compelling! … ~ John
Like many sellers, Fran Sarro and David Waite were initially reluctant to stage their apartment.
Their agent, Anna Kahn, an associate broker at Halstead Property, had already helped them declutter and identify home improvements for their two-bedroom ground-floor co-op at 134 West 82nd Street.
Following Ms. Kahn’s advice, the couple had spent about $45,000 tearing out carpets, installing hardwood flooring and new light fixtures, painting, repointing brick and replacing siding on a wall in the rear garden.
But they stopped short of hiring a professional stager to swap out their furniture and art. “I was extremely skeptical,” Ms. Sarro said. “I couldn’t see why things that I had collected over my life, sparsely placed, would be a problem.”
They listed the apartment for $1.85 million in June 2014. Then they watched, dismayed, as it sat on the market for six months, while they gradually cut the asking price to $1.65 million. “I had over a hundred showings, and could not sell it,” Ms. Kahn said. “Not one offer.”
The couple took the place off the market that December, and at Ms. Kahn’s behest, sent for the home stager Nahila Chianale, the owner of NCC Luxe in New York.
To Ms. Chianale, the home’s décor was too eclectic, “like Victoriana meets ’80s meets Ikea,” she said.
She instructed the couple to empty the apartment, except for one small bench that she deemed attractive. Then, for about $26,000, she had the kitchen cabinets, shelving, doors and door frames painted white, and moved in an entire home’s worth of contemporary furniture, including shapely clear acrylic dining chairs and a white pedestal table, an Italian linen sofa and a chrome-and-glass coffee table placed atop a cowhide rug.
When Ms. Kahn relisted the staged property last April for $1.495 million, “the place was mobbed,” at the first open house, Ms. Sarro said.
A bidding war ensued, and the apartment soon went into contract for $1.8 million, before closing in July.
“I can’t believe how it worked out,” Ms. Sarro said. “I still shake my head.”
The practice of home staging has long elicited strong reactions. Agents and professional stagers point to examples like the Sarro-Waite apartment, and say staging can usually help a home sell faster, and for a higher price, offering a larger return on the investment.
Homeowners, reluctant to spend the money or admit that their decorating choices might not be catnip to buyers, are often loath to pay strangers to impose their tastes on their premises.
But as staging has evolved over the past decade, many real estate professionals say it has become more important — and more sophisticated — than ever.
“It always makes a difference, and is essential in this market,” said Richard Balzano, an associate broker at Douglas Elliman Real Estate who frequently refers his clients to stagers and even pays for the preliminary consultations.
In the past, many stagers focused on decluttering and implementing minor tweaks in furnished homes. Or they appointed vacant apartments with basic rental furniture to prove that rooms were large enough for regular sofas and queen-size mattresses.
Today, they are increasingly tackling all-out transformations that aim to present compelling contemporary design, while projecting a complete aspirational package.
“It’s not just about solving a problem now, but much more about presenting a lifestyle to prospective buyers,” said Jane Saidenberg, the design director of Studio D, a staging company with offices in New York and San Francisco. “People want it to look like a shelter magazine, or like something they’ve seen on TV. It’s more elevated than it has been in the past.”