All the Market’s a Stage

Perception is everything. Consider a recent experiment in England that crossed food with fine art. Diners were presented with the same salad elements: in one case tossed together, in another separated neatly, and in the last instance constructed to imitate a painting by Wassily Kandinsky.

“Before participants sampled their plateful, the Kandinsky-inspired dish was rated higher for complexity, artistic presentation and general liking,” according to coverage of the tasty trial in The Guardian newspaper. “Participants were prepared to pay twice as much for the meal as for either the regular or ‘neat arrangements.’”

Twice as much, eh? That’s no salad to sneeze at, particularly when some of this aesthetic insight can be applied on a much larger scale – a scale appropriate to what is often the largest investment in a person’s life: real estate.

From kids' play room to sunny, showplace study after staging by J. Hodges + Assoc. (Photo by Chris Piller)

From kids’ play room to sunny, showplace study after staging by J. Hodges + Assoc. (Photo by Chris Piller)

“If the house is furnished, people can sit down and picture themselves living there,” shares Jason Hodges of metro D.C.’s J. Hodges and Associates, whose business is about 60 percent Interior Design and 40 percent staging. “The pictures are typically the first impression and the way you get someone in, and photographing an empty house is difficult. It’s really giving the experience of living in a house, versus living in an empty property.”

In other words, the staged house is the Kandinsky salad. An empty house might be the elements separated neatly, the tidy-yet-lived-in house is the tossed salad. All have their selling points, but it seems it’s the Kandinsky that beats ’em both. And that’s where staging comes in.

J. Hodges + Assoc. staging of living and dining, incorporating seller's exquisite chandelier. (Photo by Chris Piller)

J. Hodges + Assoc. staging of living and dining, incorporating seller’s exquisite chandelier. (Photo by Chris Piller)

The National Association of Realtors, for example, has released a 2015 Profile of Home Staging., which offers data gleaned from responses of 2,373 member Realtors. Of those, 10 percent found staging a home made no difference. But 37 percent found buyers willing to pay up to 5 percent more for a staged home versus an un-staged counterpart; about a quarter found increases of 6 to 10 percent; and 12 percent of respondents found increases of 11 to 20 percent for the staged homes.

That data aligns with Hodges’ experience.

“The stronger markets are the ones where staging is occurring the most, where people are getting a great return on investment,” he says. “It’s a lot of work and it’s exhausting, but I love seeing the house transformed. It’s amazing when you go into an empty house and set it up. It comes to life and feels like an entirely different place.”

And whether in a salad or a home sale, who wouldn’t appreciate a little more green? –Will O’Bryan, MetroNando licensed operations manager

For more information about staging, visit the Real Estate Staging Association.  

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