By Janine Pringle
Staging, the act of making a property more attractive and appealing in order to highlight its best features, has never been hotter. The reason is simple: making a good first impression can go a long way toward generating interest in a property, increasing the sales price and shortening the sales cycle. Miami is one of the hardest hit cities from the mortgage crisis fallout, with real estate prices projected to fall about 22 percent in 2008. In such a tight economic environment, staging is setting the standard for preparing properties for sale and as such continues to experience extraordinary growth.
Thanks to programs such as HGTV’s “Designed to Sell,” the staging industry has earned widespread recognition. For homeowners, staging has become an expected part of the home selling process, as a staged house sells, on average, 17 percent higher than an un-staged house, according to U.S. Housing and Urban Development. Commercial property owners and managers are also adopting the practice. Staged office space can help prospective tenants envision the possibilities for executive offices or cubicle workstations, and stagers are also providing furniture to outfit swing spaces for companies in transition.
Many stagers find it difficult to match their level of inventory to fluctuating business needs. That’s why many choose to partner with a furniture provider such as CORT, a Berkshire Hathaway company with a large inventory of residential and commercial furnishings. CORT has served the staging industry for more than a decade, and in addition to providing short-term leases on pieces, CORT manages the delivery and removal of large-scale pieces, allowing staging consultants to maintain an inventory of smaller accent items.
Sellers in today’s market are faced with tough competition and declining property values. According to a 2007 HomeGain national survey, staging offers a 343 percent return on investment, significantly higher than the return on making repairs or renovations to a home. With such a significant return on investment, the market for staging is growing. For the first time, properties worth over a million dollars are utilizing staging. The staging of vacant homes is also on the rise, as the slow housing market means that people often cannot stay in their homes until they are sold.
In an attempt to cut costs, some homeowners may try staging their own property, but a professional opinion is a valuable resource. Aside from creatively marketing a property, the most critical benefit of staging is psychological. Staging consultants know the nuances that make the property attractive, such as ensuring a feeling of openness with neutral colors. Staging takes a property through the transition from a home to a marketable product by helping potential buyers envision themselves in a home, and sellers to detach from the home.
Commercial Properties Also Turning to Staging
Impressed with the return on investment earned from home staging, property owners and managers are hiring consultants to stage their commercial properties. Whether staging a lobby or reception area, cubicle configurations or executive offices, staging operates for commercial properties the same as it does for residential, as a tool to help prospective tenants envision themselves in the space.
In some cases, stagers are working in bare office buildings comprised of just concrete floors and metal studs. A staging consultant may take this space and create different sections to illustrate an executive office or workstation. Similar to staging a home, this allows a prospective buyer or tenant to imagine working and thriving in that space. In some cases, the property management firm leases the fully furnished staged space to a company while their own space is being completed.
Looking forward, the industry will work to establish industry-wide standards of accountability and professionalism among staging consultants. The International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP) is driving this movement by establishing the Accredited Staging Professional (ASP) designation. This designation is attained by attending a three-day staging course, which teaches not only the psychology and philosophy behind staging, but also how to start your own staging business. The real estate community, bound by its own licensing and education requirements, will look for the staging industry to establish similar standards. As the staging industry evolves and continues to add value to the real estate process, the potential for growth is limitless.