Ask the Pro: Selling Your Home

It's a buyer's market, and you want to sell. How can you make your home stand out? TIP SHEET's Linda Stern asked Schwarz.

What do home stagers do?
We prepare homes for sale. We detail the house like you detail a car. Staging isn't decorating. Decorating is personalizing. Staging is depersonalizing.

Meaning what?
Declutter the house, and have it cleaned—I mean Q-tip clean!—and painted the right color: light and neutral. Use creativity.

What should home-owners get rid of?
Family photos, collections. Less is more. Get the clutter off the kitchen counter. Cut down on the pictures on the wall, the books on the bookcases. Get the shaving cream and perfume out of the bathroom. Take the leaves out of the dining room table and cut the chairs to no more than four. Take the bedroom down to one dresser.

How much does it cost?
The staging fee is the creative-service fee. The average fee is $1,800 in the Midwest, $2,800 on the West Coast and around $3,800 on the East Coast. If a seller says, 'I can do the work myself,' the average fee for a full staging report in which the stager gives room by room advice is $400. Most lived-in homes have what's needed. If the house is vacant, the homeowners will need to rent furniture.

Is it worth it?
The average staged home is selling at 7 days versus 87 to 107 days for an unstaged home. I just staged a house in Seattle that was on the market at $1.4 million for 9 months. Their staging investment was just under $5,000, and it sold for 1.9 million, almost immediately.

How can I find a stager?
At and the International Association of Home Staging Professionals (, there's a directory of accredited staging professionals—people who have taken my course, signed a code of ethics and have insurance. Call two or three and interview them. Have them come out and give a big picture. Find someone your personality works with and check their credentials. Look at their career book, letters from clients and call references.

Who should stage their home?
Everybody. Whether they own a condo, a loft, an apartment, a trailer or Bill Gates's mansion.