Dressing up a house for sale used to amount to fluffing the pillows and putting a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table.
Those days are long gone.
Professional home staging is big business and can shave weeks — sometimes more — off the time a residence is on the market.
At least 83% of buyers find it “easier to visualize the property as their future home when it’s staged,” according to a 2019 National Association of Realtors (NAR) report. That same examination revealed that almost half (44%) of seller’s agents believe that staging increased the value of the home from 6% to 20%.
Frankie Harkey, a sales associate with McGraw Realtors, redecorated and furnished homes herself for years until she began using local stager Cindy Gasior for that process about a decade ago.
“When I saw her work and called her, my life changed,” Harkey says. “What it did for me was increased my business because I was not off gallivanting around getting some towels or doing this or having my husband come over move furniture. I can work more.
“It freed me up and my sales increased and my houses were selling quickly. It just became a merger more or less.”
How a home is presented online is what lures someone past the threshold, Harkey said. And the more stunning the virtual views, the better, she says.
“It’s all about the pictures now,” Harkey says. “They go to Zillow or they go to YouTube and they better be good pictures. If they don’t like the pictures, they aren’t going to go (to the house).
“It’s so powerful, the internet. When I got started, there was one picture on the Internet. Now you have 36 pictures on for a listing. It just keeps going up.”
Carrie DeWeese has been with Chinowth & Cowen Realtors for 11 years, nine of which she has used a home stager.
“Now that everybody watches ‘Million Dollar Listing’ on TV and HGTV, they have come to expect it,” she said. “So if they go online and don’t see a staged home, they are more than likely to overlook because it’s not what they’re used to seeing on television.
“I really feel like it’s an investment for me and money well-spent to help the seller get the home sold. You just don’t get that second chance to make a first impression. So you should put your best effort out there. It’s the same for my buyers. When they see a home online that hasn’t been staged, they kind of turn their nose up at it.”
In a 2018 Home Staging Resource study of more than 4,200 staged homes, 85% of the residences surveyed sold from 6% to 25% more than their unstaged counterparts.
“Buyers these days have families, they have activities,” DeWeese says. “They lead busy lives. They want to walk into a home, see how they are supposed to live in that home and put their couch down and TV up and just start living.
“They don’t want projects. They want to think about how I’m going to use this space. If they have to think this hard, they are going to move on to another home.”
Gasior, founder and owner of Transitions Home Staging, is among the most well-known, local names in the industry. A former longtime public tax accountant, she latched onto home staging in 2005 after selling her CPA practice in Bartlesville.
“Once Realtors start staging their houses, they get kind of spoiled because their houses all look really good,” she says. “They sell faster and for more money. It’s something they can offer. It just kind of builds on itself.
“It’s real standard on the coasts. Every year, it’s done more here. But way back, it was a hard sell. I didn’t get houses unless I was the last resort.”
She’s a frequent honoree of the Real Estate Staging Association, capturing about a half-dozen awards from RESA since 2013, including the organization’s Professional Stager of the Year national title (occupied category) in 2015. Seven years ago, she helped furnish and decorate 11 lofts in Bartlesville for some of the cast of the movie “August: Osage County,” which was filmed in Oklahoma.
She hasn’t had to wow any Hollywood types since then, but she stays busy. Gasior has about 40 homes staged right now and is on track to do about 130 for the year.
Her engagement can start as innocently as one-hour, “walk and talk” consultation, during which she gives clients recommendations such as painting, replacing the carpet or buying new lampshades. But the price scale typically moves along a “good, better, best” curve, she said.
Many times borne by the homeowner, initial fees for staging can run $1,800 for a small house ($400 to $500 after the first month) to $15,000 (first month) for a $2 million home, Gasior says.
She adds that her fees are “always far less” than the first price reduction.
The average days on market for a Tulsa-area home in May was 38.5 days, according to data compiled by the Greater Tulsa Association of Realtors. That average was 19 days for a home staged by her team, she says.
“I try to communicate to the seller that this isn’t a home, this is a product,” Gasior says. “I’m more of a marketer than an interior designer.
“I’m trying to package your house to give people what they want. Some people just don’t want to spend the money on it, but they need to.”
Gasior re-creates the look of her vacant and owner-occupied homes with items she stores in about a 4,000-square-foot warehouse in Bixby. The space contains every household furnishing imaginable, including sofas, loveseats, lamps, artwork and pillows and books.
“I don’t want to think too much how it looks now,” Gasior says of her creative process. “I want to think about who’s looking at it. So when I work with a Realtor, I’m thinking who is our buyer? Who’s going to be looking at this house.
“There are a lot of times on vacant homes when it’s an older couple downsizing. So it’s probably going to need to appeal to younger people. That’s when you can make the most impact, when you can get that ship turned the other way. Sometimes it’s just paint and light fixtures and then bring in more transitional furniture. That’s where you really can get the drama and make the difference.”
Tulsa City Councilors offered a forum recently on the Equality Indicators report, which uses 54 equality measures that compare outcomes of groups likely to experience inequalities.