Why Staging a Home for Sale in NYC is a Bad Idea

One of the first questions most prospective home sellers have is whether it makes sense to pay for home staging. Does it make sense to pay the equivalent of a small broker fee just to rent some fancy furniture? We’ll explain the pros and cons of physical home staging vs virtual home staging and the price ranges for both in NYC.

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How Expensive Is Staging a House in NYC?

Staging a house in NYC is not cheap. You can expect to pay anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 to physically stage your typical one to three bedroom home in NYC for six months, not including the cost of moving and storing your existing furniture.

Each home staging company will be different and have different pricing structures. Some home staging companies will require a minimum fee regardless of size. Some stagers will quote based off of square footage or number of bedrooms, and others prefer customized quotes and will refuse to price based off of a standard metric.

One of the first questions most prospective home sellers have is whether it makes sense to pay for home staging. Does it make sense to pay the equivalent of a small broker fee just to rent some fancy furniture?

Here’s a sample quote from a local Manhattan based home staging company:

Thank you for your kind note. Typically our installation fee will range between $12 – $15 per sq ft.

With that said we do have certain minimum thresholds we need to meet for an installation. A 1,000 sq ft unit would come in at our minimum installation fee of $18,000.

We are able to offer a 6 month complimentary term for our inventory, although if the staging period extends beyond 6 months we would require a monthly rental fee of $1,400.

I hope you find this information helpful, please let me know how I can be of any assistance.

All the best,

Pro Tip: Larger apartments and townhouses can be more much expensive to physically stage. For a large, single family townhouse you can often pay $100,000 or more.

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Is Physical Home Staging Worthwhile?

Physical home staging is rarely worthwhile in NYC given the hassle and the expense. The money is almost always better spent elsewhere, whether it be on premium advertising or simply lowering the price. As one of our senior partner brokers put it, “there’s no way you can prove to me that $30,000 can’t be spent better elsewhere.”

Furthermore, the argument that buyers are used to seeing physically staged homes because of all of the new construction inventory on the market is baloney. You can’t seriously expect to believe that a sophisticated buyer of a multi-million dollar NYC apartment is not going to see very clearly what they’re buying. Buyers aren’t stupid. They clearly understand that the apartment is for sale, not the furniture. To assume that someone who’s about to spend multiple millions of dollars on an apartment will confuse the two or be unduly influenced is preposterous.

Lastly, the argument that you need to stage your home because buyers need to see modern furniture is ridiculous. If the point is to guess what the prevailing furniture fashion is, then you’ll never win because everyone has different tastes and you might as well leave the apartment vacant.

We understand that this is a contrarian opinion, but keep in mind that most articles written about this topic are sponsored advertorials written by home staging companies, or sponsored content by real estate agents trying to justify why the seller is paying 6% commission.1

1Although it can happen, rarely will a real estate brokerage agree to cover a seller’s home staging expenses.

Pro Tip: Physical home staging can be worthwhile when you have scale. Why do you think real estate developers always have at least one model unit that is fully staged? If you have many identical or similar units to sell, then the cost of physically staging one unit can be very worthwhile.

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Is Virtual Real Estate Staging Effective?

Virtual real estate staging is highly effective if professionally done. Virtual staging is an especially great idea for vacant apartments with no existing furniture whatsoever.

Professionally done virtual staging can give prospective buyers an idea of what life might be like in each room. Furthermore, vacant rooms can sometimes be hard to tell apart, so virtual staging can give buyers direction on the use case for each room.

The easiest way to virtually stage your apartment is to order one or two virtually staged versions of your photographs along with your professional photography package. It’s important to let an experienced editor virtually stage your photos. We’ve seen too many cases of owners wishing to save a few bucks and trying out virtual staging software by themselves for the first time. The last thing you’ll want are cheesy photos with furniture that looks completely out of sync with the original image!

Pro Tip: Photos that are virtually staged should be labelled as such to prevent any confusion.

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How Much Is Virtual Staging in NYC?

Virtual staging can cost anywhere from $50 to $150 per virtually staged photograph and is typically priced as an additional cost to a professional photography package. For example, let’s say it costs $500 for 8 professional photos that are digitally enhanced and re-touched. If you want one additional, virtually staged version of the vacant living room, you’ll have to pay an additional fee on top of the $500 you already paid.

This is different from virtual decluttering which can cost anywhere from $30 to $75 per photo. Digital editors can remove furniture and visual blemishes from a photo such as crooked edges, unsightly furniture, and miscellaneous clutter. You can also have the walls virtually painted a different color or have the floor virtually smoothed of blemishes.

This presents significant savings vs physically staging a home, not to mention the savings from not moving and storing any pre-existing furniture.

Unless you are a developer with many units to sell or you have a very large apartment with horrendous existing furniture, it almost never makes sense to pay for physical staging vs virtual staging. If you really wanted to spend $20,000 or $30,000, why not simply lower the price? Or pay for featured and premium advertising?

Pro Tip: If you have eclectic furniture that you suspect will be a major turnoff to most buyers, then consider moving it to storage or your new home during the sale process. You can then very affordably virtually stage the apartment while giving walk-in buyers a blank canvas to envision their new home.

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Disclosure: Hauseit and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, financial and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. The services marketed on Hauseit.com are provided by licensed real estate brokers and other third party professional service providers. Hauseit LLC is not a licensed real estate broker nor a member of any multiple listing service (MLS).

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