Jacksonville-area housing market may be sizzling, but 'home staging' can add thousands to sale price




While the housing market across the First Coast and Florida is sizzling, those seeking to sell their homes probably shouldn't forget to properly stage their dwelling before they put it up for sale.

Home staging is usually a professional service that helps sellers design the furniture and accessories so the home is more attractive to potential buyers. While houses are selling perhaps at their most rapid pace in recent memory, some say homeowners could be missing out on tens of thousands of dollars in additional revenue if their homes aren't staged properly, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

"It probably helped to the tune of $25,000," said Joshua Downing, who recently sold his home in the Royal Palms neighborhood of Atlantic Beach after having it professionally staged.

There were peculiar modifications to the single-story ranch house that was originally built in 1960. So Downing said he and his wife hired a professional stager.

"This house had the kitchen taken out and moved to an extension on the back of it," he said. "Where the carport had been, they enclosed that area and made that into their living room and added an extra bedroom."The house sold within a month of going on the market, and staging it no doubt made a big difference, Downing said.



"The house next door... was for sale at the same time," he said. "Our house sold for $560,000, their house sold for $485,000."

Downing hired the contractor Showhomes Home Staging, a Jacksonville franchise for a larger national company that has about three dozen sites across the country.

The proof is in the pictures

Kaye Biby, owner of the local Showhomes franchise, said many sellers are eager to forgo professional staging in such a hot housing market. But that's a mistake, she said from her office off Philips Highway, where her company has a warehouse to store the furniture and goods they use to stage homes and offices.

A vacant home will cost $2,000 to $6,500 to stage and that includes supplied furniture for a period of 60 days. If a home is furnished, the staging costs will run $500 to $2,000, she said.

Staging for camera images has become one of the most important facets of selling a home because the pandemic weighs heavy on buyers who may not want to physically visit.

"Ninety-something percent of people initially look for homes online," Biby said. "Those pictures need to show the home in the best light. For that to happen, the home needs to be staged, whether the homeowner lives there or if it's a vacant property."

She acknowledged many people trying to sell their homes simply never consider staging. Biby said the proof is in the pictures.

"To be honest, all you have to do is look at some of the pictures of homes for sale online," she said, chuckling nervously. "It's amazing that there are still people who don't understand the importance of staging.

"They think that it's a hot market and they don't need to stage their home and they'll get all these offers. Granted, they will. But staging has proven over and over again that they will get a quicker offer for more money and the buyers will be happier," Biby said.


The house sold within a month of going on the market, and staging it no doubt made a big difference, Downing said.

"The house next door... was for sale at the same time," he said. "Our house sold for $560,000, their house sold for $485,000."

Downing hired the contractor Showhomes Home Staging, a Jacksonville franchise for a larger national company that has about three dozen sites across the country.

Don't just count on the hot real estate market

Missi Howell, president of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors, said home staging isn't universal.

"It depends on the property," Howell said. "I'll make recommendations to the seller as to decluttering, neutralizing and depersonalizing."

Howell is not a professional home stager, though she has taken several home staging classes to help her understand what's necessary to help move a home sale.

"If it's an empty house, it needs personality. If it's a house that has dated belongings in it, then there could be some recommendations there," Howell said.

The housing market may be the hottest it's been on the First Coast in recent memory. Home prices have reached record levels in the past year with the median cost for a home standing at $307,230 in September, a record according to the association's data.

Even with the seller's market, Howell said home staging should not be overlooked, though the service can get pricey.

"They hear that it's a hot real estate market and the neighbor's house sold in three days. But they don't see all that goes into that," Howell said. "They have no idea about negotiating. They have no idea about getting the home ready to be listed, professional photography, all of those things."

Downing said given the unusual layout of his Atlantic Beach home, Showhomes was able to stage it with fitting furniture that Downing acknowledged he wouldn't have been able to figure out.


"When people walked in, they could see what the bed would look like in the bedroom and what the couch would look like in the living room with the fireplace going. It made a huge difference," said Downing, who paid about $2,500 for the staging services.

It makes a difference according to feedback from sellers, Howell said. The National Association of Realtors produces an annual report that focuses specifically on home staging, and in 2020 buyers would pay up to 20 percent more for a home that had been professionally staged compared to other houses not staged and that was mostly during the pandemic.

Another data point in the national report showed that 82 percent of sellers said staging helped the buyers visualize the home as being their own. "It's an emotional connection," Howell said.

Buyers are more sophisticated when looking at a potential home. Biby said media focusing on home buying have upped the ante on that sophistication level.

"There are numerous [television] shows on selling a home and how a home needs to look," she said. "People pay attention to that and that's what they want to see whenever they are looking for a property for sale."

Elements to consider with staging and selling a home

• Curb appeal is essential. "If they don't like what it looks like when they drive up, a lot of them aren't even going to come in." Plant flowers, paint your front door, keep up lawn maintenance, consider whetha mail box or a light needs to be changed.

• Neutralize the interior of the house. Do not have different walls with different colors. Uniformity of colors makes potential buyers feel more comfortable.

• Management of odors. Pet smells, food or smoking can drive a potential buyer right out the door. Provide air fresheners but make sure the smell is simple, clean and neutral.

• Limit the amount of furniture and accessories. "They have to declutter."

• Stage rooms for the purpose they were designed. A dining room should show with a dining table. A bedroom should have a bed in it. A family room should be a comfortable sitting arrangement with perhaps a TV. An office should have a desk and working area.