Reveal to Your Clients the ‘Ugly Truths’ When Staging

By Audra Slinkey, Home Staging Resource

Sometimes you have to give clients a big dose of reality, and it isn’t always pretty – particularly when you’re talking about something personal like the condition of their home. But don’t be afraid to utter the “ugly truths” to maximize your sellers’ chances of selling a home and for top dollar.

Here are some of the ugly truths you may need to be prepared to talk about:

Ugly Truth #1: The ugly truth is that anyone who has watched the real estate market over the last few years knows there’s no such thing as a “set price” for a home. The price is determined by what the buyer is willing to pay AND the buyer likely is willing to pay a lot more for a “model home” look.

Ugly Truth #2: Another ugly truth is that when it comes to home staging, you get what you pay for. This means that the more a seller is willing to pay to transform their home (using an expert stager’s advice), the more they stand to get out of the sale.


BEFORE – Photo credit: Designed to Appeal,


AFTER – Photo credit: Designed to Appeal,

Ugly Truth #3: Finally, the last ugly truth is that buyers cannot see past a seller’s furnishings to the potential of the home. Look at the before photo …would you be able to imagine it as beautiful as the after photos?


BEFORE – Photo Credit: Designed to Appeal,


AFTER – Photo credit: Designed to Appeal,

You only need to look at the before-and-after photos of this home to know why they got so much more than they were even asking. This seller’s agent walked them through the “cost of not staging” and let them decide. Do you think they made the right decision?

If you’re a real estate agent who struggles with getting your seller’s onboard and committed to the sales process, you may want to share with them this article … pictures always speak louder than words.

phpgKLtM0AMABOUT THE AUTHOR: Audra Slinkey is president of the Home Staging Resource, a RESA Accredited home staging training and certification company. Slinkey has personally trained over 3,000 stagers worldwide and is a bestselling author and international speaker. She also serves as president of the American Society of Home Stagers and Redesigners. Connect with her on Facebook!

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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  1. Staging looks awesome, gets lots of wow, but recent statistics that I read from newsletter that it did not contribute to buyers’ decision to buy or not.

  2. wendy

    Disappointing -pictures should have been taken from same spot at same angle to see real difference. If this was a portfolio of a stager I was considering, I’m not sure i’d use them.

  3. Steve Freeman

    Regarding the living room; how many sellers can afford a completely new suite of furniture and furnishings? If one could rent those items, which in my market is highly doubtful; but if it could be rented – would the costs of rents be recouped in the increase in price? It’s a calculated risk to be sure. Also, I agree with what Barbara Cullington says.

  4. Based on my experience, I have shown that staging and HDR photography make a difference in both higher price and shorter time on market! I frequently sell in a Multi family community of over 1800 town homes built between 1989 to 1998. Although the developer built to market at various price points, basically they are very “cookie cutter”.

    Neighbors frequently remark, “how’d you get that price?” And Wow! That went fast! My most recent sale closed today, was on market 8 days, and failed to sell in the past two years with two different agents. The property sold for $20,000. Over the previous asking prices. Plus I’ve gotten two new listings and a new buyer off sign calls and web site. Agents who do not realize that Internet marketing is a visual medium are missing the boat. If a picture is worth a thousand words, HDR photos via the Internet are worth???

  5. Andrea

    Seriously? Who can purchase all new furniture. Unrealistic

  6. Tiffany Abbiate

    For Those of you that have stated it is unrealistic to purchase an entire room full of new furniture ….. Have you ever used a stager? Most staging companies provide the furniture and accessories as a part of their fee and yes it is essentially “rented.” Obviously the larger the room and the more upscale the furniture, the higher the cost…. But it’s all relative.

    I personally have staged some of my clients homes and have my own staging furniture, accessories, lighting …. Everything down to the picture frames with photos, fake fruit in the fruit bowls and bright colored towels and decorative floral arrangements for those dreary bathrooms that no one thinks about when they are “living” in their home. Although this was indeed a very large upfront investment on my part, it is a service that none of my competition offers at this time; therefore it is that much more attractive to sellers. (I offer this as a part of my listing fee so it doesn’t cost them anything additional.)

    If you have never utilized the services of a staging company, I would check out A few in your area, ask fellow agents who they prefer and why, price them out and determine exactly what your seller will get for each level of staging. Do the research BEFORE you are rushing around before a listing consultation so you are prepared.

    Staging a property is certainly a game changer in the San Diego market; in pretty much every area of our City – regardless of price point. Now that short sales and REO’s are almost non-existant (in comparison to years past), the shift in the market has created its own demand for agents and sellers to step up their game!

  7. A Taylor

    The furniture is usually rented through the staging company….do you not have them in your market?

  8. staging can be done with the current furnishes. for example I prefer the traditional furniture in the “before” photo. It just needs a bit of cleaning up, removing personal items thrown about, etc. A second photo taken from the exact same spot, with the exact furnishings (placed differently) would make a much better impact on a seller.

  9. In my area, there are several staging companies that provide rental furniture at a reasonable price. No need to buy new furniture. A number of today’s buyers have trouble imagining their own furniture in a new home. New, modern staging gives them perspective.

  10. The seller needn’t purchase new furniture and décor. The home Stager will bring them either from their inventory, or through a rental company. Data shows that staged homes sell for more and in a shorter time frame than comparable un-staged homes. I’m an accredited staging professional, along-side being a full-time Realtor. My staging services are free to my seller clients. I wouldn’t go through the time, expense and effort if I wasn’t sure that I can sell the homes for more money and in a shorter time frame.

  11. First off, thanks everyone for the comments…I love it! There are many ways to stage a home successfully and I love how you all listed a few…the point being that we need to weigh the ROI.

    Secondly, this article was a follow-up to another article that stated that this was a multi-million dollar home that sold for OVER 100K over asking price, so the renting of furniture was a small cost to the greater income potential:

    In most areas across the country, renting furniture for occupied homes may not make sense but in this area it absolutely did have a huge ROI.
    Barbara and Steve, every recent statistic on home staging has shown large increases in return on investment. Even the latest NAR stat last week stated that staging made a difference in sales price. Here’s a growing list of industry stats that you can show your sellers if you’d like and I’m always adding to it:
    2015 promises to be a great year for housing and staging, so cheers!

  12. I had to comment because I am new to the staging world, but have been in the design world for several years. The staged home usually spends from (correct me if I am wrong other stagers) from 1 – 2% of the selling price, and the positives far out weigh the price. Staging is a relatively new frontier and you most certainly could rent the furniture. If you do not rent the entire room, you could rent by the piece to update the look. If you are the client that wants to get on with your life, have another town or home in mind, you want this done as soon as humanly possible you are pumped to get this accomplished. In the case of the home above it looks like it could be rented furniture or from a staging company that stocks their furniture. You will be amazed at how stimulating the new furniture or updating can be to you and your buyer.

  13. Lynn, *you* may prefer the traditional furnishings, but studies have shown that the average purchaser does not – although I’m sure this is affected by the particular market. Generally speaking, today’s buyer is after a lighter, more contemporary look in their interiors – and the fact of the matter is that that, and predominantly light surfaces, make a space look bigger. Dark finishes tend visually shrink it, and break it up, both of which work against a sale.

    While I quite agree with you for my own personal taste and home, at the end of the day, neither your style preferences as the realtor nor those of anyone else involved the transaction matter in the slightest, only those of the person who is signing the check.

    The purpose of staging like this is to create a “least common denominator” situation that will appeal to the broadest possible segment of the most likely buyer demographic. It is to set the stage so that people can see what types of furniture pieces will fit, to suggest uses for spaces, especially those that might be ambiguous, to play up the assets of a home, and to downplay or completely hide its negatives (visually – many will still need to be disclosed, of course). It is in no way actually about style. You want to remove as much as possible that a potential buyer could push up against.

    Lighting is also critical; in these before images, it is very dark. The after images include a lot more light, which visually open up the space. Yes, there are more lamps – but there are also far fewer dark surfaces to absorb the light.

    People make a big mistake when thinking about staging in that they confuse it with interior design, which it definitely is not. Interior design is about bringing the personality and preferences of the individual, specific client to the space and deeply personalizing it to their particular needs and desires. Staging, conversely, is about *removing* all traces of individuality and making things as fairly generic as possible so as to appeal to the broadest possible base of potential buyers.

    No matter what it is, what one person thinks is cute or beautiful will be a total and complete turn-off for another – including even the most exquisite antiques and artwork in the most professionally, tastefully decorated interior.

    The place must look up-to-date (although not necessarily frankly “modern”) in both style and color, and the furniture and artwork selected must be unobtrusive and abstract enough that they are not distractions.

    They must form a backdrop upon which the average buyer can visually project their own lives and tastes – because only about 10% of people can see past what is actually there to imagine what a space would look like with their own things, or indeed with *anything* else. When you give them a predominantly white, neutral backdrop that is not broken up by stuff and other finishes, that allows them to visually fill in a lot better than when there is anything else, or to imagine themselves in the space exactly as it is.

    I’m an interior designer and I recently had my own beautifully-decorated home staged from the floor up because of these issues, hiring someone else just because of timing and logisitics, but I still pretty much directed things and certainly laid the backdrop and direction. It sold in less than a week for 50K above asking price, for cash, with five backup offers, all above asking price. I am absolutely certain it would have just sat for a lot longer had I not done this, because the cold, hard reality is that my style, and in that space, would simply not have had nearly as broad an appeal. On my same street, a month earlier, two other similar units sold fairly quickly as well – but only at asking price. One was nicely but only partially staged; the other not at all. I still walked away with nearly 10% more than they did even after the cost of the staging. And I’ve watched the home of a relative, even more exquisitely decorated than my own, sit and languish for nearly a year across the same time period in no small part because they simply refuse to do anything to stage it. Like it or not, even the most beautiful decorating by the most prominent designers just doesn’t necessarily sell houses. You really do have to dumb things down for the average buyer, often in a very big way.

  14. Very Nice decorating furnish er , thanks to sharing