Should We Stage or Leave the House Empty?

staged living room in home
••• Frank Schwere/Stone/Getty Images

Question: Should We Stage Our Living Room or Leave the House Empty?

A reader asks: "Is it better to show our home empty or should we try home staging? I think our living room looks a little bare and doesn't really convey how wonderful the space could be, but my husband thinks home staging is too expensive."

Answer: In most home selling situations, a home shows better with furniture. Staring at a ceiling, floor and four empty walls make it hard for buyers to visualize their own belongings in the home. If buyers can't picture themselves living there, they are not likely to buy it.

Home staging can mean the difference between a sold or expired listing. Staging often brings a higher price for the home; some stagers estimate sellers make seven to 10% more when a home is staged. It doesn't really cost to stage, it pays.

Staging a living room, as with any other room in the house, is done to evoke emotions because buyers need to fall in love with the home. They buy on emotion, not logic.

The photos on this page show what a living room in a Land Park home in Sacramento when it was vacant and the amazing transformation after it was staged. This is a home that was on the market for two years as a vacant home and had not sold until it was staged.

Before Staging the Living Room

  • The first thing you notice in this room in the "before" photo is the modern light fixture, because it doesn't reflect the 1935 character of this home.
  • The room is enormous, almost too large for a formal living room, but you can't see the possibilities because it's empty.
  • The eye is drawn to the far corner, where a tangled web of cable wires lie.
  • It feels cold and barren, and it doesn't speak to you. It's just a room.
  • What are those shelves in the curved recessed wall for? You don't really know.

After Staging the Living Room

  • Setting a mirror over the fireplace, flanked by candles, draws the eye to the marble surround. Suddenly, the fireplace becomes the focal point of the room.
  • A rug under the coffee table brings warmth to the space. Home decorating magazines on the table add a classic touch.
  • Plants breathe life, bringing the outdoors inside. The tree in the corner hides the tangled mess of cable wires.
  • Red accents in the chair pillows and the vase of flowers add color and vitality. The room is alive.
  • The curved bookcase now contains books and knickknacks. Plus, the chair, lamp and table in front of the bookcase turn that section of the room into a separate area for reading.

    Home Staging Tips for Living Rooms

    • Arrange knickknacks in odd groupings such as 3, 5 or 7.
    • Use bright colors for accents such as flowers, pillows, throws.
    • Bring in plants to liven up the space.
    • Arrange furniture in vignettes to create conversation areas.
    • Use smaller sofas and chairs to make the room appear larger.
    • Artful placement of mirrors adds depth and dimension.
    • Showcase a generous usage of soft fabrics such as silk, lambswool, satin by tossing throws over a chair or sofa.
    • Don't block windows, let in the light.
    • Plug in lamps to illuminate dark corners.

      After staging the living room, this home sold in three weeks. The buyer walked in the door and said, "Wow." Bang. Sold.

      At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.