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Ask Tracy: is staging a good idea?

Q. Do you think staging a home for sale works?

A. Let me answer this question with a little case study.

Highland Park (90042 zip) is undergoing an interesting renaissance. This area lost about 50% of the average price value in the 2 years from the peak to its valley, between 2007 and 2009. When prices dropped that low, a number of investors began buying properties, fixing them up and re-selling them.

I sold a small 2-bedroom 1-bath fixer in Mt. Angelus last year for $235,000. The investor did a huge amount of work including a reworked foundation, listed it for $429,000 and it sold for $455,000 in March of this year.

Even the fixed-up price seems pretty reasonable compared to hip areas like Silverlake and Los Feliz, and so the re-birth has begun. Companies like Better Shelter are going in and doing quality flips. They install good quality systems, artful paint schemes, nice finishes—and then they go all out and stage them even at the lower priced level. It pays off, too. The house at 4955 Meridian was listed for $499,000 and sold for $540,000 earlier in the spring.

Does staging make a difference in the ultimate sales price? It’s hard to say. The flip done from the one I sold last year wasn’t staged, but the one on Meridian was.  It seems to be trendy in Highland Park to stage homes these days. There was a property on Lincoln listed for $399,000 and designed by Native Homes LA that was staged and went into escrow within 3 weeks of listing. My listing on Range View (also listed for $399,000) was staged and went into escrow after just 2 weeks. The key to how staging works is that it makes the property look really attractive and in top condition.  It also helps prospective buyers imagine how their own furniture might work in the house  such as where the television might go, or if a breakfast table and chairs would fit in that corner. It can be difficult for a buyer to figure out a completely blank canvas especially if the floorplan is less than ideal.

Price is just as important, however. If any of these homes had been priced too high, the staging wouldn’t have helped. When you see properties selling for over asking, you know that more than one buyer thought enough of the home to bid on it.

Location is the last piece of the value puzzle.  Here is where the condition and the price are essential. There is a property in a very less-than-desirable part of Highland Park near the freeway that looked adorable in the photos and was priced well for the rest of Highland Park, though not really that inexpensive for that particular area. It went into escrow 11 days after it was listed.

So what’s the answer to the staging question? Some sellers feel that if it’s priced under $500,000, it doesn’t need staging because the low price will sell itself. Others stage any priced home. While it costs money to hire a stager, the money is probably justified by selling the house quicker, possibly with more offers, maybe pushing the price up a bit. If you have a property that has an odd floorplan or is vacant, you may want to consider some staging. If you want tiptop dollar, you probably want to do everything you can to get it. Don’t you?
Did you know? The deal on paint law
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