Stuff: To Stage And Declutter Or Not, That Is The Question

This past weekend I did a listing presentation of an older client I sold a home to some 17 years ago.  It was pristine.  It had been painted within the past couple years and the carpet had been replaced then too.  Clean as you could want.  The issue facing us however was do we approach this home like we do most listings where we get it cleared out of excess stuff, take the pictures off the walls, remove a bunch of furniture etc. and make it look staged and sparse or do we do some light decluttering and put it on the market right away?

One of the things to keep in mind when selling real estate is that every seller is different and therefore the approach to each home requires flexibility.  This may seem obvious enough, but in my experience the approach of declutter and stage to get the highest and best price is still the best.  The question becomes even if true, is that always the right approach?

Let’s take this example and break it down starting with, what do we know?  We know if we make it look like a model home it will sell faster and for more money.  We also know however, that our seller has a lot of stuff.  That stuff would need to be removed and disposed of as part of the staging and decluttering process. The thing is, whether done as staging or moving, that stuff needs to be dealt with and disposed of  at some point.   As you may or may not know, stuff doesn’t have much value.  Unless it’s rare or museum quality, its value is not generally significant.  Stuff is just stuff.  We all have too much of it and selling it is difficult at best.  If you are in a restrictive HOA and you can’t have a garage or estate sale, the challenge is magnified.  This is really where the individual seller’s needs need to be assessed.  In our example the question is, is it better to hold off selling while the family tends to the stuff or get the stuff stored and deal with it at a later time?  It has to be dealt with eventually so deciding when is the question, rather than if.  Either approach postpones selling some, but storing and dealing with later at least accelerates the listing date.  Most people don’t opt for this though because moving and storing feels like twice the work.

In our example we also have the option of selling with all the stuff still in the house.  The price likely wouldn’t be as high but it would put off the need to address the stuff issue prior to selling.  Once the home is sold the clock is ticking and now the stuff must be dealt with.

Not every seller is after every dime.  Some would rather take a little less and address the issue over the time of marketing and escrow.  Market conditions also enter the decision process.  One advantage our area has, is that the market is very strong and inventory is low.   Standing pat and doing a few little things so we can sell right away might not have a big impact on sales price.  It certainly wouldn’t be so huge as to make the decision obvious.

So the answer of stage or not to stage is not as clear cut as it was in the down market.  Much will depend on the individual seller.  In most cases, staging is still the best choice (Check out  my website here for homes that have been staged to sell, can you tell which ones have, let me know).

Staging almost always yields a higher sales price and in a shorter amount of time.  My role as agent and advisor is to help my client make the best decision for them, in the current market, for their current situation.  As for this seller, I’m leaning towards sell “as is” and take advantage of the lack of competition in the market place.  A month from now, I might not recommend the same approach.

About Tim Freund

Tim Freund has been a licensed real estate agent/broker since 1990. He spent 14 years as a new home sales rep, ran his own boutique resale brokerage for 5 years and is currently an Estates Director for Dilbeck Estates/Christie's International Estates in Westlake Village, Ca. Tim is a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), an Accredited Buyer's Representative (ABR), a Corporate Mobilty Specialist (CMS) and a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES). Tim has successfully negotiated a loan modification for a client and is a professional short sale negotiator. Tim has been married 28 years, has 2 children, is a native Californian and has been a resident of the Conejo Valley since 1991.
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