When staging a home for sale, what’s important?


By: Mary Umberger

Orignal Post Date: September 11, 2011

Reporting from Chicago— Andrea Angott has a doctorate in psychology and is a postdoctoral associate in the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. She generally spends her days studying how consumers make decisions about their healthcare. But last year she detoured into the curious world of home staging.

Staging, for those of you who have never flicked on the HGTV cable channel, is the process of decluttering, rearranging and otherwise dressing up your home to make it appeal to a broad array of potential buyers. It’s a specialty within the world of real estate that has passionate proponents who say it creates an idealized view of “home” that makes someone want to buy it. Skeptics say it can be expensive and time-consuming and doesn’t necessarily make any difference in getting a place sold. In any case, many tenets of staging practitioners have become entrenched in the process of selling homes.

Angott was curious about the motivations behind each design decision. Were brightly painted walls really a turnoff, as staging lore insists? Could the mere sight of a cat litter box in the house send prospective buyers fleeing?

To Angott’s knowledge, staging never has been put to a rigorous, empirical test, and she wasn’t in a position to undertake one. But she decided to take a preliminary step: to gather impressions from those with experience in staging of which principles appear to be most important. She explained how she approached it:

How does someone who’s researching healthcare issues in a business school take up a study of home staging?

I had finished my Ph.D. and got a post-doctoral job and was moving across the country. My fiance said he would move with me for this job and said he was going to sell his house in the Ann Arbor, Mich., area. As part of the package from his real estate agent, he got a consultation with a stager, and I was there for that. She went through the house and told us everything she thought we needed to change. She mentioned some theories she had as to why some things would be effective. I got interested in what the underlying psychology of staging is.

When I got to Duke, I was chatting with this professor about research ideas, and he said that staging would make a great study, and I agreed.