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Remodeling and Home Design

Anatomy of a Vacant Staging

I completed the staging of a vacant home a few days ago that illustrated many of the challenges faced in our industry. To the uninitiated, vacant staging refers to the process of furnishing and accessorizing a home in such a way that it reflects a certain universal ideal of what home buyers aspire to, highlighting the home’s best features while minimizing those that may be deemed less desirable. The goal is to evoke an emotional response from a potential buyer, allowing them to picture themselves living their ideal life in THIS home.


The first problem faced when staging a vacant home is cost. While it is not necessary to bring in all the furnishings needed to reside comfortably, you do need enough furniture to suggest comfort, and to illustrate how spaces might be utilized. Whether renting or purchasing, furniture is expensive. Few people realize that most rental furniture companies require a 3 month minimum charge, and pricing is structured so that they recoup the suggested retail price of rental furniture in about 6 months, meaning that when renting, you are typically paying a minimum 50% of suggested retail, plus tax, delivery, and often an insurance surcharge. Professional Home Stagers usually qualify for some type of discounts from these rental furniture companies, but the savings are minimal. Also, selection is limited, and the styles usually skewed to serve a lower end market. Then there is also the cost of accessories, art, lamps, rugs, towels, bedding, and staging services to consider.


Many home stagers carry their own inventory of furniture, but this requires a larger operation able to provide the logistics and staff needed for warehousing, delivery services, insurance, etc., all of which is reflected in pricing as well, although often less than that of rental furniture companies.


My company falls under the category of stagers who inventory smaller furnishings and accessories used to augment rental or purchased furniture, which I offer at a flat monthly rate. This allows me to stay lean in my pricing, and to save my clients from having to rent or purchase many of these kinds of items at a much higher cost. Often, rather than renting furniture for my clients, I assist them in purchasing quality used, clearance or discount furniture suited to their property’s unique needs, and then fill in with my own inventory. Frequently, this furniture sells with the home, and what does not sell can be sold to used furniture stores or on Craig’s List, somewhat reducing the overall cost of staging. Yet other times, in much the same way as with Occupied Staging projects, clients will want to use furnishings they already own to save some cash, and this can be the most challenging for the stager, because the items may not be the ideal in style, color, condition or quality. As a stager, I work with what I must, and such was the case with this project.


Below are photos of the furniture they wanted to move from a small investment condo they owned to the vacant home. These are all inexpensive items from IKEA, most of which had seen better days:

ikea-sofa bed-and-chair table-and-bookcase ikea-media














Here are some before photos of the property:


dining great-room great-room-2 gr-niche mbr mbth gbth













In addition to the existing furniture items being of substandard quality and condition, they were also not the appropriate style for this more luxurious and traditional home. Accessorizing and augmenting with higher-end, more traditional furnishings would be key to presenting a home that would appeal to buyers. I had my work cut out for me.

First, I would need a nice dining set for the large dining room. Also, there was a large recessed area in the huge great room that needed a purpose. Counter stools were needed, and a nice entry table. Thankfully I was able to convince the homeowners that the tiny IKEA table and chairs were not going to work in the breakfast area. Off I went to scour my favorite used, clearance and discount furniture stores. Below are the photos of what I found:

breakfast-set dining-set server-and-hutch entry-table bar-stools















Finally, with the magic of accessorizing, the finished and staged product:

entry-and-niche dining-rm dr-and-gr gr-2 breakfast sofas kitchen mbr2 mbr3 mbth2 mbth3 gbth2




























Note the use of numerous decorative pillows and a beautiful faux fur throw to punch up the look of the sofas. The iron scroll base of the floor-model clearance breakfast table set coordinates beautifully with the chandelier and the style of the home. The $299 bargain-of-a-lifetime sideboard and hutch is the perfect solution for the recessed niche in the great room. Beautiful accessories and a balanced arrangement give the IKEA bookcase presence. The $899 dining set and chairs looks much more expensive, and showcases how spacious the dining room really is. This staging job resulted in an immediate referral from another Realtor in need of staging services.


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