I hear a lot on the home and garden TV shows about home staging, and how it helps get a better selling price. What do stagers do, and who pays for it?
Home staging is a marketing tool to make a listed house more appealing to would-be buyers.
Costs can vary, depending on the services provided. A minor home staging might consist of a thorough cleaning, decluttering, removing personal items, moving furniture to create more open space and a bit of painting. A more complex (and expensive) staging might include renting furniture, artwork and carpeting; buying floral decorations and new drapes; and even doing renovations such as installing granite countertops, adding more light fixtures or replacing the bathroom tiles. Staging can help show would-be buyers how great the home looks with fresh paint, new furniture and art.
Sellers should ask their real estate reps about home staging — if it’s the right strategy for their house, if it’s expensive and how effective it is in selling for a better price. While some salespeople are skilled and can stage homes themselves, brokerages often hire third-party firms.
Who pays for staging? Well, that depends upon the terms of the listing agreement that a seller signs with their brokerage. If the cost of staging is included in the fees payable under the agreement, the brokerage will pick up the tab. If it isn’t included, however, the seller will likely have to pay for the staging expenses. Depending on the terms of the agreement, the seller could have one less thing to pay for, or wind up with a bill for those costs even if the home doesn’t sell.
Much like the options and pricing for home staging, real estate brokerages vary in terms of their services and the commissions they charge. Salespeople owe their clients a fiduciary duty — the brokerage must promote and protect their clients’ best interests during a real estate transaction. But the specific services a brokerage will provide under the listing agreement should be discussed up front.
A seller may decide all they want is for the home to be listed, a sign placed on the front lawn and for the salesperson to show it to interested buyers. Many home sellers are happy with that level of service because that’s all they really need. Others might want to be more proactive by hosting open house events, arranging a comprehensive staging, developing a digital marketing strategy or even advertising in newspapers and magazines.
Extra services such as home staging, digital marketing and magazine advertising may also be included in a listing agreement, or available to clients on an à la carte basis. If a seller wants staging, and it isn’t covered by an agreement, I strongly recommend asking for a written cost estimate before giving the green light. If a salesperson offers to enter into an agreement with a stager on behalf of a seller, the agent must confirm in writing what is covered under the agreement, who will provide the services, and who will pay for them. The seller must consent to the arrangement. Another option is a seller could consult and pay the home stager directly.
The bottom line: don’t sign a listing agreement with a brokerage unless you’ve read it and understand it thoroughly. And if you aren’t sure if home staging or other services are included in the agreement, ask your salesperson to explain it.
Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.