The first impression is often the most important one when it comes to buying a new home. That's where a professional home stager comes in. These design professionals can transform a house into a dream home designed to captivate potential home buyers as soon as they see it.
Home stager Gloria Crowley says staging is a growing trend in the U.S. real estate market.
She carefully chooses which pieces of furniture and household accessories to take from her warehouse outside Washington, D.C., to a moving truck for today's job.
“We select things for the house that we think will have the house show best," says Crowley. "And then we take some extra things in case they don’t work the way we thought they would work.”
Her job is to make the house look appealing, so potential buyers get that good first impression.
“About 15 years ago, I was a real estate agent and I staged my own listings, and it turned out that they sold faster and for more money," she says. "And so, eventually, other agents asked me to stage their properties and now I do mostly staging.”
Today's job is at a vacant house in Washington, D.C., which is up for sale for $890,000. For a $6,000 fee, Crowley and her team give it a makeover.
"Decisions are constantly evolving and changing because what we think might be a good solution ends up switching once we get more things in the room, so it is a constant process,” says Jania Helm, an interior designer who used to decorate homes to reflect her clients’ tastes.
When she began working with Crowley three years ago, staging a house required the opposite approach.
The homeowner paid $6,000 to have this vacant house staged. (VOA - J. Soh)
"Staging involves taking a look at the home and deciding how to best appoint it so that it shows and appeals to the broadest audience.”
There are no statistics, but Crowley says home staging has become more common in recent years as the real estate market has become more competitive. She says she is busier than ever.
"If there are 10 houses on the block and nine of them don't show well and one does, the one that does is the one that is going to sell.”
Some houses don’t need a lot of staging, others require a total renovation. The fees for home staging can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands depending on how much work is needed.
Real estate agent Evelyn Mattar believes it’s worth it to the seller.
“I can say it does make an empty house sell quicker," says Mattar. "And therefore you have to consider how long the sellers are carrying it on the market if they owe things, if they owe money on a mortgage.”
Furniture from Crowley's warehouse dresses up a vacant home. (VOA - J. Soh)
According to Mattar, a 26-year industry veteran, staging has become even more critical as realtors increasingly use online virtual tours to show off their properties.
"If you get online and see a virtual tour of an empty house, it doesn’t really give you the proportions and how you are going to live in the house," she says. "And if the house does not show well, people aren’t interested in going to see it.”
Once the staging is complete on Crowley's latest project - the Washington, D.C. property - the vacant house has been transformed into a showcase.
Leslie Heister came to the weekend open house. “It looks nice. I think the staged houses help you kind of envision how you would fit in the house yourself.”
John Young came with his family. “We looked at the virtual tour and see how the house is laid out. And the space was a lot of what we were looking for.”
Young says they will have to look at more houses before making any offers but - thanks to a good first impression - this house will be on his list.