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How to Stage a Vacant House

February 22, 2013

in Tips When Selling a Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

staging a vacant house for saleMost homeowners learn about the value of staging their homes for sale from their real estate agents. The statistics are clear: Staged homes sell quicker and for more money.

What happens when you don’t live in the home? If you’ve used it as a rental or had to move to the new home before putting your current home on the market, you’re stuck with a vacant home for sale. The average homebuyer doesn’t have the ability to look at empty rooms and realize their potential, according to Kiki Wanshura, regional sales manager at Obeo, a virtual tour and marketing solutions company in Utah.


When confronted with the need to market a vacant home, the homeowner has several options.

Hire a Professional Home Stager

Think back to the last time you were in a model home. Everything was perfect: the furnishings, accessories and color palette. Model homes are carefully staged to emotionally appeal to buyers. This is one reason so many new-home buyers overspend on upgrades – trying to get their home as close to the model as possible.

Hiring a professional stager to stage an entire house may cost from $2,000 to $5,000, depending on where you live and the size of the home.

Stage the Home Yourself

A less expensive alternative to hiring a professional stager is to do it yourself. Most large cities have furniture rental companies where you can rent a sofa and end tables or enough furniture to fill an entire house. Use large moving boxes as beds. When covered with a comforter or quilt and lots of fluffy pillows, unless someone touches it, nobody will know it’s not a real bed.

Purchase accent pieces from thrift stores, garage sales or online, such as at Craigslist or eBay. Hang a shower curtain and some towels in the bathroom, and place a few decorative items on the kitchen counter.

Model homes are good sources of ideas, or go online and look at some home decorating sites for inspiration.

Virtual Staging

What would you say if I told you that you could stage your vacant home, even replace the flooring and paint the walls for a couple hundred dollars? With virtual staging, you can do all that and more.

Virtual staging is a relatively new concept that is catching on all over the country. Virtual staging professionals work off of photographs of the rooms and add furniture and accessories from their digital warehouse.

Although the house won’t look the same in person as it did online, virtual staging captures the buyer’s attention at that important stage when they’re looking at homes online. It’s important to let buyers know that the photo they’re viewing online has been virtually enhanced to avoid giving them the impression that they’re being deceived.

The cost of virtual staging may run as high as $100 per photograph, according to Kim Palmer of the Star Tribune.

Hire a Home Manager

Nothing gives a home that lived-in look as much as when someone actually lives in it, with food in the refrigerator and clothes hanging in the closets. And there are now businesses that can help home sellers achieve this look. For example, Showhomes is a nationwide home staging service that provides what they call “resident managers” to live in vacant homes while they’re on the market.

The managers are meticulously screened and most bring their own furniture and accessories. Best of all, rather than the homeowner paying for utilities on the empty home, the resident manager pays them. Showhomes purchases the additional homeowner insurance required.

Hiring a professional tenant is not for everyone. Showhomes, in fact, only supplies its services to homeowners whose homes are listed at $500,000 or more. They charge a staging fee of anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 and, at closing, the homeowner pays .25 percent to 1 percent of the list price to the company. Since Showhomes is a franchise, some pricing structures may differ by region.

“On a million-dollar home, we would typically charge a $2,500 setup fee and a $5,000 success fee if and when the home sold, paid at closing,” Thom Scott, director of operations for Showhomes tells the Daily Breeze. “If we didn’t succeed in producing a sale, the homeowner would only pay the setup fee.”

Homowners in larger metropolitan areas may find a local company that provides this service, such as Quality First Home Marketing in San Diego and Luxury Homes Atlanta.

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