"Palos Verdes Resident since 1947"


Staging has become a hot topic lately, I suppose because with a slower market, sellers are looking for any edge they can get.  Staging, in case you don’t know, can refer to anything from re-arranging the existing furniture in the house to bringing in a complete house full of new furniture, towels, accessories, dishes, wall hangings, etc, all in an effort to make the place look more attractive to a buyer.   For the purpose of this discussion, I’m defining staging as the latter.  If you haven’t read my article on getting ready to sell, entitled Potential Buyers Won’t Take a Shower at Your House please do, because it ties into this.

Stagers are all over shows on networks like HGTV, mostly because the transformation makes a good 22 minute show.  And, of course, the staging made all the difference in selling the house or at least in the sale price, right?  One is even making the claim that staged homes sell for 30% more than non-staged ones.  Please.  If the show my wife and I were on (Designing for the Sexes) is any indicator, 1) the producer and director generally have a pre-scripted idea of how they want the show to go, and b) what ends up on the screen may not be what actually occurred.  The goal is viewers and ratings, after all, and an accurate portrayal of what actually went on may not be sufficiently rivetting.  In our case, they needed conflict, and made sure it was there, even if it wasn’t.  If staging is the major theme of the show, the conclusion is hardly going to be that staging didn’t materially contribute to the sale.

My approach to staging is affected by my general approach to selling your house:  it all comes down to money, and I do not recommend that  you spend any that you’re not going to get back at least dollar for dollar, hopefully more, whether it’s on staging or anything else.  Yes, you may sell a staged house for more (actually you may not, as explained below), but did you sell it for enough more to pay for that staging?  Spending a buck to get fifty cents back just doesn’t make sense.  Whole house staging, by the way, generally costs $5000-$10,000 up front, plus a monthly rental of $3000-$5000.  Once you’ve paid to have the house staged, you’ve spent that money, so you’d better hope you recover it in the sale price.

So when is staging a good idea?  Generally, if you have a brand new or completely remodeled, but empty, house, staging  can be quite beneficial.  After all, if it’s new or newly remodeled, it has an up-to-date look that will benefit from the addition of up-to-date furnishings.  Vacant houses tend to look kind of sterile and forlorn, and the buyer might even infer that you, the seller, are more desperate because the place is vacant.  So, in those cases, staging is certainly something to consider.

When is staging not advisable?  Pretty much any other time.  If you’re selling an older, unremodeled but furnished home, bringing in a house full of new furniture can actually hurt you.  The contrast between the old decor and the latest, trendy furnishings will only emphasize how dated the house is and, if the prospective buyer isn’t completely aware of it, he now can’t miss the fact that all those lovely new furnishings, the only updated items in the house, will disappear at close of escrow.  And you just spent all that money.

A better bet with an older, furnished house, is to work with what you have.  Presumably the furnishings and house decor

One of my recent listings, and a nice use of existing furnishings

are from about the same era, and assuming they’re in reasonably good condition, move those big velour chairs that block entry to the back yard, that extra desk that makes the bedroom look crowded and smaller, move that extra dresser and bed that’s making the 3rd bedroom look small to the 4th bedroom that’s been used as an office, and de-clutter the bathroom and kitchen counters.  You can use the garage to store the items you don’t want in the house — just make sure the buyers can see the garage and they aren’t flattened by falling furniture when they open the door.

I see homes where the heirs have removed all furnishings from their parents’ home for a Trust Sale.  Unless the furniture is in really bad shape, this is a mistake.  Generally, the last thing you want as a seller is to be selling a vacant house:  all the cosmetic flaws are right there for everyone to see, giving buyers the impression that there is more work needed than may actually be the case, the rooms can actually look smaller than if furnished and, again, you may look more desperate to sell.  You probably are not desperate, but that’s what the buyer may think when writing his offer.  The existing furnishings also can let the buyer know that this was a loved family home for many years, as it will be for them.

If you read my stuff, you know that I give my clients advice based upon what I would do if it were my house we are selling.  The above is a prime example, and an example of how that approach can translate into more dollars in your pocket at close of escrow.  But you need to be completely ready when we hit the market, so feel free to call me at 310 613-1076 or email at [email protected].   


  1. Laureen Vivian

    Hello Dana!

    Thank you so much for this advise! We were going to do exactly the wrong thing!

    We will be looking into selling Dad’s house vs. leasing it…. thinking Honda, Toyota exec. or Marymonth Prof. or Dr. or? But it is South Shores and not PV so the school district is poor…. Need that childless couple with some $…
    Also, need an appraisal for the trust….can you help with this?
    Thank you again, Laureen

  2. danagraham


    Sure I can help. I gave your dad a value a few years ago for some purpose (can’t recall what), but obviously out of date now.

    School district is not that big a deal as, to people looking in San Pedro, school district is a given.

    Glad your read my article cuz people waste all kinds of money prepping a house for sale without asking the crucial question: am I going to get it back (or more) in the sale price? The house might sell for more, but not enough more; so unless one is prepared to remodel the entire house (and it’s dicey whether you get that money back), it’s best just not to go down that road. On the other hand, some people spend $10K on carpet and paint and think they’re going to get $100K more for the house — rarely true.

    Anyway, call me 613-1076 and we’ll work something out.

    Dana Graham DRE #00877973
    Prudential California Realty
    310 265-2141 (direct)
    310 613-1076 (cell)
    Prudential Legend Award
    Palos Verdes Resident Since 1947
    Website: http://www.DanaGraham.com