We have all either seen or heard of that TV show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” where adults try to answer questions that a fifth grader could answer.  You assume the adults would know the answers because…well they’re adults and have had more years of life and learning under their belt.  Well, often that’s not the case…the fifth graders usually win.

I found myself this past week wondering if home sellers were smarter than real estate agents. I was contacted by two homeowners who were interested in staging their vacant investment properties.  Both of the properties were in New York City, however one was for sale and the other was a very high-end rental.

Both homeowners realized that they needed to furnish and accessorize their properties in order to stand out from the other properties on the market for rent and for sale.  In fact, one of the homeowners believed in staging so much, she had staged by herself another of her investment properties, which is for sale.  But after realizing it was a lot of work and very tiring (welcome to my world!), she decided to hire a professional for her rental property.

This homeowner told me that her real estate agent didn’t think it was necessary to furnish either apartment.  The agent felt they would sell and rent without staging.

I did a quick check of the rental unit on www.streeteasy.com, and it showed competitive rentals in the same price range, location and type of building.  One of the units had one bedroom more than the subject unit, AND there were pictures of furnished rooms for prospective renters to imagine themselves living in!

More than 80% of buyers and renters start their search online, so don’t you think photos of furnished and decorated rooms would be more appealing than those that are not?

What if you were looking online and saw these photos?




In the other case where I was contacted by the homeowner whose property was for sale, I spoke to the real estate agent myself, not knowing in advance her position on home staging.  When I told her who I was and that I had been to the property in order to prepare a home staging proposal, she vehemently stated “No furniture!”.  She went on to state that she had sold other units in the townhouse complex and she was able to sell the units without them being furnished.  She also told me what she was listing the property at and that she was going to probably accept offers that were 5% less.

So I told her that…

The cost of staging is almost ALWAYS less than the first price reduction and in this case it was (2%).

Then I told her WHY the units should be furnished, and after every one of my statements, she said “I disagree!”

  • Empty rooms appear smaller than they really are
  • No emotional connection can be felt when buyers walk into an empty house
  • Most buyers can’t picture where there furniture will go and if it will fit
  • Most buyers can’t imagine themselves living there if there is nothing there
  • Small defects stand out because there’s nothing else to look at

I could have given her other reasons, but I got tired of hearing “I disagree!”.

What do you think?  Are home sellers smarter than real estate agents when it comes to home staging and selling homes?