Does ‘staging’ a home really make it sell faster?

Many people spend a lot of money “staging” a home with nice furnishings and accessories in the belief that it will help sell the house. But there’s never been a scientific study to test this hypothesis … until now.

Recently, Professor Michael Seiler and researchers at the College of William and Mary in Virginia walked 820 homebuyers through six “virtual” homes on high-quality rendering software. The homes were identical, except that some had neutral beige walls and others had unattractive purple walls, while some had “ugly” furniture, some had attractive furniture and some had no furniture.

The result? When asked how much they would pay for the home, each group gave the same average price – roughly $204,000. The staging made no difference to them.

On the other hand, when asked how much they thought other people would pay for the home, the group thought the house with purple walls would sell for 3.7 percent less, and the house with ugly furniture would sell for 4 percent less.

It’s unclear what these results mean. One way of interpreting the data is that when people are asked to assess the value of a random house they haven’t chosen to look at themselves, they approach it objectively (in terms of square footage, number of bedrooms, etc.) and aren’t swayed by the décor. But when they imagine other people who might actually want to purchase the house, they believe that image matters.

In any event, the sale price is only part of the equation. Even if staging had no effect on the ultimate sale price (which isn’t clear), staging would still be valuable if it made potential buyers more interested in making an offer in the first place, by enabling them to better imagine what it would be like to actually live in the property.

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