Styled, Staged & Sold

Bringing you the latest home design and staging trends. From REALTOR® Magazine.

The Nuances of Staging an Occupied Home

Here's what to expect when working with a stager to prep a property when the seller still lives there.

Many real estate professionals assume home staging is mostly meant for vacant properties where buyers need help envisioning the possibilities of the space. But what about when the seller still lives in the house—and it’s constantly cluttered, dirty, and full of personal belongings? Buyers also will find it difficult to envision the possibilities in an overly lived-in home, too.

This is why every listing can benefit from home staging to improve the chances of a swift sale with a maximum return on investment. To be sure, there is a difference between staging a vacant property and one that is occupied. In an occupied home, stagers often will use the furniture and decor that’s already there.

Consultations for Occupied Homes

To begin the process, a home stager will offer an in-person or online home staging consultation to determine the best plan of action to get the property sold. During the consultation, the stager will tour the home--either in-person or even over a video call—to provide feedback and, in some cases, a written report.

A true professional will recommend highlighting the home’s best features and provide insights and solutions to help the property show well. The stager will handle the home’s presentation, including cosmetic changes, furniture placement, and helping sellers to declutter and depersonalize.

This consultation can help set expectations for sellers to prepare—and maintain—the home while it’s on the market. But sometimes, sellers may need extra assistance to complete tasks.

Providing Hands-on Help

Beyond the consultation, home stagers can share resources to repair, organize, and clean the home (if they don’t already offer these services themselves), set up the property using the homeowner’s belongings, and bring in additional furnishings if needed to set the scene for the buyer. Many times, the stager will also be on hand to prepare the property for photos.

Before Staging:

Staging: Before

After Staging:

Staging: After

Maintenance Expectations for Sellers

The hardest part of living in a home that’s on the market is constantly being prepared to show the space. The more a seller does in advance to prepare and showcase the home, the faster the property will sell.

Home sellers are responsible for daily cleaning and touch-ups, which can be difficult for those who are juggling hectic schedules. Most home stagers will offer checklists and storage hacks to quickly tidy the home before a showing. They also may recommend hiring a weekly cleaning service to reduce the burden on the seller. Regardless, make sure there is a plan in place to keep the home show-ready at a moment’s notice.

Home Staging is Evolving

Staging is no longer universal; stagers have the ability to specialize in certain aspects of their industry. Many companies have ditched large warehouses, inventory, and moving logistics to solely work on occupied homes. So, when looking for a professional, make sure to ask about what services they offer.

Home staging is not about making a property look pretty. It’s a definitive marketing tool for real estate professionals to help grab a home buyer’s attention. However, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2019 Profile of Home Staging, only 28% of listing agents said they staged all of their clients’ homes. Imagine the edge you could have over your competition if you staged every property first!


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Styled, Staged & Sold, created by NAR and REALTOR® Magazine, is produced by professional home staging and style experts around the country.

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REALTOR® Magazine is the official magazine of the National Association of REALTORS® and the business tool for real estate professionals.

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