Karen Otto

Chief Staging Officer, Home Star Staging in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area Accredited Staging Professional

Former Regional Vice President, Real Estate Staging Association

This is part of a series of interviews with other professionals who participate in the real estate transaction.

How do you normally interact with real estate agents?

We partner with and support agents on the front-end marketing of homes for sale. Some agents like to be present if it’s the first time their sellers are working with a home stager. Most agents like to understand how the process works. A good stager can easily explain the process and what staging can do for selling.

What are some of the most common topics that you deal with?

Not every home commands the same expectations from buyers. A first-time homebuyer looking in an entry-level market doesn’t expect the highest-end finishes. Move-in ready, clean, and updated is key. I explain to sellers that a buyer may be able to roll already made improvements into a mortgage, but they are usually cash-strapped at closing and can’t afford to do much updating. They are often willing to pay more for a home that is move-in ready.

Which cost-effective updates return the investment? Unless you’re flipping a home, the updates generally recommended are cost effective, easy, and cosmetic, such as updated indoor and outdoor light fixtures. Some of the biggest returns on investment are painting with current neutral tones, refreshing baseboards, trim, and doors, and updating floors and counters. For furnishings and styles, you’d be amazed at what some key new pieces like updated linens, pillows, and artwork can do for a tired space.

There can be some reluctance to stage, especially in a seller’s market. But that investment can pay off with offers of tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars more over asking price when every buyer who walks through the door falls in love with the home. That really starts online with professional photos. Many buyers won’t even go see a house they don’t love online.

What are the most common misperceptions about your role in the real estate transaction? About staging itself?

1) That it’s too expensive. Home staging consultations are the most cost-effective way to provide homesellers with the information they need to stage the home themselves. Sellers can pick and choose to do all, some, or even none of the work. Consultations generally range from $150 to $300 for a few hours of on-site meeting and recommendations. Vacant home staging proposals are based on the scope of work, which includes square footage, style of furnishings, number of rooms to be staged, cost of labor, and timeframe of rentals.

2) That it’s only for luxury properties. Every home in every price point can benefit from staging.

3) That it’s only for vacant properties. Ask a stager about their occupied home staging services.

From a cost-effective home staging consultation to photo-styling services using what the seller has or even offerings of rental items, it’s important to educate yourself on the variety of services at your disposal for staging.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Buyers buy with their eyes, hearts, and minds. They are looking for a home to satisfy lifestyle expectations and create memories and dreams for themselves and their families. Staging can help steer those expectations and allow them to visualize themselves in their new home.