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When Selling Toronto Real Estate, Is Staging Worth it?

 

Welcome to Canadian Real Estate, Housing & Home.

Allow me to introduce myself! I’m Steve Fudge and I’m celebrating over three decades as a realtor, property consultant, and proud resident of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Today I’m sharing one of the recent instalments from my Dear Urbaneer blog series, where I guide homeowners – a couple – who are energized by the prospect of refreshing their newly empty nest to suit their new lifestyle à deux.

Read on!

 


 

January 2024

 

Dear Urbaneer:

We’re in the process of getting our home ready to go to market, with tasks such as de-cluttering and attending to smaller maintenance issues. While my partner and I agree on this to-do list, we are split on whether or not to stage our home, as we don’t want to move out while the property is for sale and disrupt our children’s schedules. If we do decide to stage our home, what is the most effective approach? Is home staging recommended and why? What’s involved, and what might be at stake if we decide to forgo that part of the process? Our home is in a desirable location with a lot of features that would be appealing to future buyers. Is that enough?

Signed,

Is Staging Worth It?

 

 

 

Here’s my reply:

Dear Is Staging Worth it:

Great question, and one I receive regularly from clients.

For example, I recently reconnected with a couple whom I served nearly a decade ago when they were in the bloom of fresh beginnings. At the time I was navigating their property ladder climb from a King West 2bed stacked townhouse – think stairmaster with roof terrace – into a charming half-renovated century home in a beloved urban neighbourhood. Having done business effortlessly in the past, after receiving our pre-emptive Offer he paved the path for us to secure the property in advance of the public open house. Fast-forward to now, and they’re raising two of the cutest kids ever and facing the possibility of a relocation. I was called in to crunch numbers & analyze the price to stay + the costs to go. 

During a discussion on preparing the property for sale, the topic of staging came up, including the question “Does professionally staging a property demonstrably translate into a higher sale price including a satisfactory return on investment?”

On an “intangible but essential” level, it can be beneficial to go the route of home staging. But before you call the moving company to put your contents in storage so the staging firm can deliver their rental items, read our post How To Prepare Your Home For Sale which offers our counsel in getting your property ready for market in the 2020s. Paring down, pre-packing contents, addressing nuisance deficiencies, and undertaking a deep-clean mini-refresh so your residence presents organized, well-maintained, and immaculate should be your priority. After all, presenting your property at its best demonstrates pride of ownership, and ensures the wagging tongues in your neighbourhood aren’t criticizing your housekeeping.

Enlisting a professional staging service to style a vacant property can be a wise investment because some Buyers have trouble spatially understanding the scale, proportions, or dimensions of a room when it’s devoid of contents, while others require furniture to be situated in a room to understand its purpose and function. Also, there are instances where existing furniture – typically sectionals or wall units – may be too large in size or scale for a space, so replacing them with smaller pieces can make a room appear larger and visually balanced. However, there are many instances when  I find the practice of staging to be a bit extreme. For example, who began setting the expectation that the process of selling your home requires having your contents removed and placed in storage, a temporary stage set of highly-contrived status-packaged domestic goods delivered and installed in your residence that no one is allowed to touch or sit on, while you and your household camp out in temporary accommodations until your property is sold? We at Urbaneer have a solution that will help sell your home. And be assured, it isn’t about helping retailers promote their latest goods at your expense, but about showing buyers how your residence could work for their particular wishes, wants, and needs. It’s called a Style Enhancement. However, before I tell you why I created this service, I want to explain how the shelter industry – including many realtors – operates.

When it comes to the merits of staging, the hook realtors typically use feeds into the idea that a potential purchaser can be convinced not only to fall in love with your house because of the way it’s been packaged but to also pay top dollar because of it. In other words – and this makes my blood boil because it’s so unkind and manipulative – many realtorsactively and intentionally tap into the insecurity of Sellers by saying if they don’t pull out all the predetermined stops to entice Buyers, their property will be branded as undesirable, it will languish on the market, and it will garner tens of thousands of dollars less. 

I call bullsh*t.

The truth of the matter is that professional staging services are one part of an overall strategy used by realtors that can serve their self-interests ahead of their clients – to sell more real estate in the shortest amount of time with the least effort possible while making it appear they are doing all the heavy lifting. This blog is not to disparage professional staging services but to middle-finger the shelter industry and complicit media for perpetuating a narrative I believe is inaccurate and misleading. 

 

 


Pretty & Packaged

Did you know Professional Staging Services weren’t even a thing in Toronto in the year 2004? Over the past two decades, the commodification of shelter, the power of the media, and the growth of property technologies (PropTech) have reshaped the sales and marketing of real estate. As prices for shelter went up, so did real estate commissions. But the increased commissions didn’t line the pockets of realtors, they were funneled into PropTechs to maintain market share. These integrated efficient speedy systems allow real estate brokers to further control and commodify the trade of bricks and mortar, facilitate more sales faster, and provide consumers with perceived value-added benefits. Alternatively, if you view reality from a dystopian lens, real estate brokers paid PropTechs the price of admission to avoid being rendered obsolete and left penniless in The New Economy.

Whatever your lens, realtors now consider the services of professional real estate photographers & videographers, virtual stagers, and firms that create 2D-floor plans or interactive 3D virtual home tours essential. Now that we’ve seen how drone operators can generate high-resolution orthomosaics, and how property developers can convince investors to take a risk because of the polished effectiveness of photorealistic “fly-by” tours using 3D Modeling with Augmented Reality technology, we want them to be part of our sales programs too. In a new economy with AI, nobody wants to be sidelined and everyone will pay the price to make one more dollar of profit. This includes Sellers. We can’t wait for a fly-by video like the Choice Reit Bloor Dundas Site Tour below to be adapted to the resale market. 

Quite frankly, it’s not a matter of if, but of when. The conditions have been set in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal whereby how much a property is worth is not only about Current Market Value but Future Market Value. However, before that hits the collective consciousness our current shifting market conditions are recalibrating global interest rates which went too low during the pandemic.

 

 

Sheep Or Lemmings?

It’s important to understand that the 24-hour loop of HGTV directly and intentionally cultivates the tastes and desires of viewers. The objective is to keep feeding the audience different aesthetics and furnishing stylings so all the cookie consumer profiles develop a hunger for it. This is delivered in the form of a houseporn climax – called ‘a reveal’ – which is delivered near the end of every episode. In return for advertising revenues, the media commodifies these trends and promotes the HGTV brands as ‘designer stars’, disseminating them to the population at large for the shelter industry to produce and serve as part of our mass-pirational domesticity. One effective way to accomplish this is by co-opting professional stagers and realtors, intentionally or otherwise, by feeding them products or promotional material appropriate for home staging.

As you’ll see in my analysis below, properties for sale in Toronto that have been outfitted by professional staging services are serving up collections of cream, vanilla, or ivory upholstered seating planted on variations of nubbly wool and sometimes graphic textured carpeting topped with a peppering of coffee or side tables. We’re being fed a diet of soft ethereal spaces with pops of colour and a smattering of metal or glass to invite some sparkle and reflection. The contents have sumptuous curves to balance the narrow elongated spaces typical of Toronto’s domestic architecture. If you see these placed in a new contemporary build or a substantially renovated flip, the dwelling will feature quarter-sawn white oak floors in a herringbone pattern and the walls will be cloud-white. Chances are somewhere there will be a piece of weathered driftwood casually placed like someone forgot their walking stick. 

Anyone with children will instantly know these manufactured stylized settings would be impossible to live in. The first day most kids just being kids would ruin the furniture before they were tucked into bed, and someone from Mommy’s Book Club would spill red wine on one of the ‘Everything Cream’ furnishings. This doesn’t mean the professional staging service has failed, however. It may be a better means of Winning because instead of the realities that accompany raising lovable miscreants, the staging has fed into the Dream of how Mommy & Daddy wish they could live.

Realtors LOVE properties that are staged, and they’ll do everything in their power to have you take a sip of the Kool-Aid. They may bring in a consultant to assess your home even when you say you’re not interested. When you tell your realtor you’re unwilling to move out of your property so it can be fully staged, they may switch tacks and convince you to stage portions of your home for the very very very short time your property will be on the market for sale (while, under their breath, they’ll murmur you will not be allowed to enter any of those rooms until the contents have been picked up and returned to the staging warehouse). So why do realtors go to such great lengths to make this happen? It’s simple. Realtors love properties that have been staged by professional staging services because they are model houses devoid of clutter and humans. They require significantly less effort to sell than the domiciles most withered weathered Canadians seek refuge in after navigating the trials and tribulations of everyday living.

Realtors won’t admit their motivation is self-serving, so they flip the script to make it all about serving YOU! Have you noticed how many realtors incentivize Sellers by offering ‘Free Staging & Storage’? It’s on billboards and flyers and promoted as the best thing since MLS. It’s also a highly effective way to get Sellers under contract, under control, and on a schedule that ensures profits come first. This charade works well in a market where prices are going up because the realtor is guaranteed to come out winning. Even in a declining market, it can be spun into saving the Seller from losing even more money. All I ask is that if you’re a Seller considering this I beg you to read the fine print of the shill.

Here are a few random kernels I’m sowing:

  • Be wary of agreeing to invest in upgrades or renovations to your property under the false promise of profit. In a shifting market where values are flatlining or declining, the chances may be you’re spending money to lose money.
  • If you’re preparing your property for sale and your ‘To Do List’ becomes a ‘Too Much To Do List’, your realtor may suggest they call their trades to ‘save the day’. Ask them straight-up if they’re earning a referral fee. They were obliged to disclose this when you discussed the listing contract.
  • If you are vacating your property and moving into temporary accommodations in advance of listing your property for sale, understand this also facilitates the process of emotionally detaching from your Home. Who suggested this was what you should do?
  • If by error or intent, you move into temporary accommodations that are uncomfortable for you and yours, it could fuel your motivation to buy or sell. Pay attention to this because you may accept less money to sell your property, or pay a premium to buy one, to extract yourself from this shelter-squeeze.
  • The further you are from the property in distance, or the longer it’s been since you crossed the threshold, the more a realtor may position the property as an economic good in need of maintenance and repair that is depreciating. Many factors impact value that you may not be fully aware of because of time or distance. It may be worth crossing the threshold before you sell.

 

 

 

7 Different Reasons To Engage A Professional Staging Service

There are many reasons – true or false – why a homeowner imminently listing their property for sale may consider engaging a professional staging service – or why their realtor may recommend one. These include:

1) A well-appointed residence can make a great first impression and even incite desire in the Buyer.

2) Furniture helps show the scale and proportion of a room, which is critical if a Buyer has challenges with spatial awareness.

3) Selecting appropriate pieces can mitigate flaws in the design and flow of a problematic space plan.

4) Home staging can communicate the use or functions of a space, which can be helpful in flex or multi-purpose rooms, or even reinforce uses your target market desires, like setting up a nursery to dupe newlyweds.

5) Some staging companies believe the use of aspirational furniture elevates the value of the property. ***I, however, do not.***

6) Some staging companies suggest Buyers – familiar with the Before and After ‘Reveal’ format common in HGTV renovation shows – will discount properties that are not staged. ***I suspect some Buyers who discount properties that are not staged will still find themselves securing a purchase and being delighted with it*** 

7) Although enlisting a professional staging service is an investment, many claim that it results in a higher sale price that offsets the cost. It’s presented as a value-added sweetener for the benefit of the Seller. ***In Toronto, many Sellers undertake cosmetic improvements to the dwelling in advance of getting it staged, so that it is visually cohesive. If staging is putting on lipstick, painting the walls is blush***                                             

 

 

 

The Upsides & Downsides Of Then & Now

In the 2000s and earlier, most century-old properties being listed for sale in downtown Toronto had been occupied by owners or tenants for years. They generally suffered from some wear and tear, or worse. And they were often filled with some stuff or a lot of stuff. With the bar set at indifference or resignation, the listing paperwork was signed and the ‘For Sale’ sign went up a few days after the decision was made to sell. Although there was occasional house proud Queen of her Domain who swept the front walk of her 1960s plain Jane box of buff brick and the King of the Castle who used tweezers to remove the green micro blades of grass threatening to consume the cracks in his driveway daily when properties were going up for sale most homeowners at best might give it a good clean, or perhaps replace a broken window, few were proactively donating, delivering, or discarding anything that wouldn’t be moving with them so their house presented better.

Sometimes the owner just vacated with what they wanted and left everything else behind. One time my clients were exasperated finding the teardown they purchased filled with contents. A house-picker agreed to empty it for free on the provision they could keep whatever they chose. My clients consented and once the bins were carted off a few days later the picker thanked them and shared that he found $17,000 in bills and a container of gold jewelry hidden in the house. This occurred in the late 90s so he did alright. Another time my Buyers moved into their Victorian to find a section of the attic blocked and boarded up. At midday they took a crowbar to the wall and smashed through, discovering a bedroom actively being occupied by the tenant who rented the Upper Suite in the attached dwelling next door. Let it be said, it got very awkward at dinner time when the tenant came home.

In the 1990s and 2000s, when I was listing houses for sale in the downtown core, most dwellings not only had wear and tear but were also filled with the occupants’ contents. This included feature walls of family photos, cabinets of curiosities, shelves holding high school trophies and ParticipACTION Badges, and sometimes a corner cabinet reserved for the Royal Doulton figurines. Every time you walked into a dining room you’d look at the plate rail to see if there was a row of Franklin Mint plates. Everyone seemed to have collected the one with the kittens.

 

 

Even after the ‘For Sale’ Sign went up, the collection of ‘one day I fix’ items stacked along the basement wall masking the mold and mice infestation had yet to be purged. Nonno’s workshop still had the faded Lola pin-ups with bottle caps covering her breasts and Nonna’s cold room remained neat as a pin because she still mopped it every Tuesday morning after saying her prayers. These homes had wear and tear. These homes were filled with contents. These homes also held occupants. Realtors routinely showed listings while families ate dinner in their kitchens. Realtors were ignored by gaggles of teens swooning over the contestants on American Idol. Realtors discovered little Nonnas standing in their basement kitchens hidden by bushels of tomatoes as they lovingly laboured making their annual prized tomato sauces (25 pounds of tomatoes make about 40 cups of sauce which is 20 small jars, or 8-10 large jars).

These properties still sold.

Now, at this very moment, some Sellers have been convinced that a cosmetic refresh and professional staging are necessary and they’re freaking out because it’s January and they only have until May to complete their scope of work before the ‘For Sale’ sign goes up. If you casually mention real estate around them they’ll start mumbling “Painting, flooring, lighting…” followed by several additional albeit incoherent domestic tasks ending in ‘ing’ because they’re on the ground in a fetal position sucking on their thumbs. The next time you go to a dinner party, should someone at the table mention they’re undertaking a kitchen and washroom tune-up because they’re contemplating selling their home, everyone at the table will instinctually chant in unison “Because HGTV tells us that’s where potential profits lie, like buried treasure”.

This may seem unrelated, but the Canadian government spent 20 years creating an unsustainable asset-based economythat – unwittingly or not – convinced a generation or two of Canadians that real estate is infallible. This is despite the latest data showing real estate values are declining, even in established family-centric neighbourhoods like Riverdale where one coveted status marker just dropped $65,000 in 90 days. In other words, before your property becomes a sparkly showcase like an HGTV Reveal, assess your risk and evaluate your prudence. The market will recover, but we still have some bumps ahead.

The Urbaneer Team is not entirely immune from the pressures of conformity, nor from the expectations of the market even when they may be misguided. We see the merits of a deep clean, of having the windows washed inside and out, and giving some properties a little nip and tuck. We start by arranging a presale inspection report in advance of listing and if it’s optimal to attend to some of the deficiencies identified on it before coming to market, we’ll coordinate the work and attach the receipts so Buyers know they’ve been addressed. However, truth be told, right now some sellers give us the Side Eye when we try to talk them off the high-stakes ledge of real estate in the 2020s, when it’s not unusual for a homeowner to spend anywhere from $15,000 to $85,000 preparing their property for sale, even before it gets staged.

Some are suspicious of our motives because the people pouring Kool-Aid number far greater. Let me put it this way. Being one of only 3% of Toronto realtors in the industry for 25 years or more, I’ve operated in market conditions similar to the way they are now, and I’m telling you now is not the time to rely on ‘a tried and true program’ because that ‘tried and true program’ didn’t exist the last time we were in these market conditions. An owner-occupant should not agree to vacate their house, have the contents removed, see their property professionally staged, and buy into a potentially false promise they’ll get the sum they want on the date they receive offers. We created our Style Enhancement Service – which takes around 20 hours of person-power to complete – and included it in the listing commission, not only to be value-added by saving you thousands of dollars but to buffer you from the possibility the Toronto real estate market may take a turn for the worse as soon as tomorrow. Are you that confident you’re immune from the Canadian asset-based economy sewering itself? Are you not reading the headlines?

Enlisting the services of a professional staging company is not inexpensive. Typically one rents the contents by the month which includes the costs of moving the items in and out of the dwelling, as well as styling them into a cohesive lifestyle package. Creating an immersive environment is not only limited to placing furniture in a space. As I mentioned, many sellers undertake a cosmetic refresh of their dwelling in advance of listing so that the property is turn-key move-in ready, or at least it presents as such. Once the dwelling is ready, then the staging company can bring in all the contents which, along with furniture, includes items such as bedding, towels, soft furnishings, art, sculpture, and plants. One can also upsize your order to include fresh flowers or professional cleaners weekly. Those green bottles of fizzy water you see on the counter that are the running joke of every buyer on their dwell hunt? They typically come with a basic package.

By and large, the monthly cost ranges from $6000 to $12,000 per month for a basic package depending on the size of the dwelling, the number of rooms being staged, and the quality of the contents provided. However, depending on the cost of these services and the current market conditions, it can quickly become cost-prohibitive if the property does not sell firm and binding within the first 30 days of coming to market.

 

 

Every Professional Staging Service and Realtor operates their business differently. Here are some of the potentialities you should be aware of, so ask questions:

1) When enlisting a professional staging service the Seller forgoes control in the decision-making process as to what items are selected for the property and where they are placed. We recommend you look at the Staging Firm’s property portfolio to see if their design aesthetic aligns with your own. Or your realtor may be like us, and have past feature sheets of properties staged according to their directions by firms they have existing relationships with. 

2) The quality, colour, and condition of the pieces brought in as part of the staging program can vary dramatically. Most staging companies rent the contents they place in your home from a large furniture facility. Every piece is catalogued and their rental dates are blocked out in an online calendar. However, if a property doesn’t sell and the owner elects to extend the staging contract, some of those rented pieces won’t be coming back on time leaving the staging firm to select alternate and often inferior versions

3) Sometimes the options available are also limited because the staging company is renting pieces from a furniture rental firm where a lot of the content is identical except for its colour. The majority of pieces they buy tend to be ‘classic contemporary’ or ‘transitional’ because they pair easily with other interior design styles. That these firms have an infinite supply and selection and choice is a misnomer.

4) When agreeing to have a property staged, the contract may stipulate no one will use the furniture for their own or others’ enjoyment, and that the dwelling will not be occupied while the staging contents are in place, failing which any damages incurred will be covered by the party enlisting the services.

5) The Urbaneer Team dedicates 0.5% of the listing commission to the preparation, sales, and marketing efforts on every property (if we spend less you’re refunded the difference) and offers our Style Enhancement Service to owner-occupants to be competitive per the terms of our listing schedule. The listing incentive offered by many realtors for Free Staging & Storage often duplicates the 30-day contracts being offered by most staging companies, meaning if your property hasn’t sold within 30 days, you may be obliged to extend the staging contract and cover the storage costs for your contents on your dime. Alternatively, you may see the staging contents removed and your stored belongings returned to the property before your dwelling has sold. Urbaneer may not only be competitive but cost less. Protect yourself and read the fine print on our competitor’s contract. Pull out your calculator and do the math.

 

 

 

Is It A House Or A Home?

One of the conundrums I navigate as a realtor is my belief that taking an owner-occupied property, removing its contents, and intentionally manufacturing an HGTV stage set strictly for profit as a listing strategy may be at the expense of celebrating the character, patina, and residual energy of four walls that have nurtured joy, laughter, and love. To take a Home and turn it into a House doesn’t strike me as a fail-safe approach to attaining top dollar. In fact, I think it could stall a sale, which is why I’m curious why Sellers fall for the bait without reflecting on how gullible they may be.

 

 

Curious Minds Want To Know “Do Professionally Staged Houses Get More Money?”

Professional staging services have been in Toronto for about two decades now. It’s entrenched in the psyche of consumers and positioned by realtors as a ‘must-do’. Even we created our much more economical Style Enhancement Service 13 years ago because we worried Sellers could be penalized if they didn’t cater to their target markets.

When I first embarked on trying to determine whether professionally staged houses get more money, I initially looked at the 74 sales in North Riverdale that sold in 2023 that were not tenanted and realized that because most had hints that a professional staging service had been present it wasn’t possible to be objective in determining whether they sold faster or for more money. However, 20 of these sales were vacant which created a sort of level playing field. And of these 20 vacant residences, 12 were professionally staged and 8 were left empty or with some or all existing furnishings. 

Before I dig into that I want to show you some staged homes that sold in Riverdale in 2023.

 

Switched At Birth?

I’m a realtor who has been selling Toronto properties for over 3 decades and reviews MLS nearly daily. This means I had become immune to seeing the obvious, which is crystal clear when you look at the images above. Each living room is from a different staged property in Riverdale and yet look at how similarly whitewashed staged properties have become. Not only are they painted in one of the 200 shades of white, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to see a warm and fuzzy neutral couch, two armchairs on a textured rug, a demure coffee table holding a stack of art books, a mirror, a standing lamp, some neutral art leaning against the wall, possibly on a Mid-century modern credenza. Ditto the dining room with its wishbone or upholstered dining chairs and jaunty modern light fixture. Every bedroom features a neutral carpet, a pair of nightstands, a single chair with faux plant, and an inviting indulgent bed with a draped throw.

When staging first came to Toronto, the objective was to create a unique domestic setting that helped distinguish it from other properties on the market. It was supposed to be memorable, not forgettable. Now staged listings are actively promoting the latest trends in home furnishings which is why they’re surprisingly matchy-matchy and perhaps feel a bit one-note. If you’re a buyer who likes this aesthetic, you may be overjoyed to see it repeated, but if your tastes are different I’m not sure this effect could convince you to pay more. This is why I question why Sellers are told a professionally staged property will incite a Buyer to pay more for their house, or at least $1 more than all of the costs incurred directly by the Seller to create this effect. Common sense would say that if every property looks the same then it negates any premium because the bar is identical. Why would one of these dwellings get more money than any other one when they all look identical? If one did, it’s not because of the staging.

Although ‘Free Staging & Storage’ clearly isn’t ‘Free’ because the Seller is paying their realtor a commission, does it truly serve a Seller’s best interests to have them vacate their property so a mover can remove all, if not a lot of the Seller’s contents and a professional staging service can replace them with a pastiche of consumables seen on an HGTV reveal? As importantly, why must a property be rendered devoid of personality? My favourite aspect of our Style Enhancement – which is about inserting visual cues that the Buyer Profile will identify and connect with so the dwelling feels more like the home they will create – doesn’t mean sacrificing the spirit of Home. We believe in layering as many of the owner’s keepsakes, mementos, and Yes Photos! into the decor creates a living environment that resonates more authentically. I don’t understand the rationale and reasoning to infuse anonymity and artifice. Wouldn’t you prefer to see who and how the existing owners live? Do Buyers truly want to walk into pre-packaged stage sets that reveal nothing about the Sellers? Is anonymity better?

 

 

12 Vacant Dwellings Were Staged

Twelve of the 74 freehold single-family dwellings in our sample that sold in North Riverdale in 2023 were vacant and professionally staged.

These 12 sales represent the extreme in terms of price, size, and condition,  being fixer-upper Estate Sales to 5 professionally executed substantial transformations.

Do you know what I don’t get? There is a price spread of over $2,600,000 between the cheapest and most expensive sales here, and yet you could take any piece of furniture from one listing to the other and it would fit in. Um. Ok. Isn’t that the definition of generic?

The purpose of our Style Enhancement is not only to maintain our clients’ aesthetics and project their personalities but to also inject some approachable identifiable pieces from Big Box Stores that nearly every prospective purchaser will see and know. Allowing a Buyer to say “Yup. I See Ya Ikea!” is a way to convey through furnishing familiarity that the dwelling is accessible, not precious.

A lot of realtors and professional staging services promote the idea that Sellers are well-served when their house is filled with what is called ‘Aspirational Staging’. They believe a dwelling filled with expensive contents and presented as a ‘ShowHome’ will translate into a higher sale price. This is twisted and cruel. It exploits people’s anxieties about who they think they should be instead of focusing on who they are. ‘Aspirational Staging’ by my definition is incorporating items that are approachable, comfortable, and well-designed. We do this by mixing high and low, lost and found, & personal and mass-produced items. What makes it aspirational is demonstrating that a Home is not about being filled with status markers, but about how it feels. And I believe a place that feels like Home will accord a higher value than one that is pre-packaged and contrived. 

 

Stats
12 Vacant Dwellings That Were Staged

Selling prices range from $828,000 to $3,456,789
They attained 95 to 129% of the list price with an average of 111%
The average days on the market was 15

 

 

8 Houses Sold Vacant & Empty Or Partially Furnished

Eight of the 74 sales in North Riverdale that sold in 2023 were vacant and not staged. Four of these were Estate Sales. Only two appeared to be in fair condition while the rest looked like they needed a significant renovation.

Many of these properties were sold in as-is where-is condition with minimal effort invested in preparing the properties for sale. In contrast, a high percentage of properties that are staged either undergo an intensive cosmetic refresh in advance of the rented furniture being delivered, or they’ve been substantially renovated by property developers and the staging is the dressing.

I want to be clear here. I recommend a professional contractor stage their substantially renovated vacant property as part of their sales strategy. It’s an expectation of the high-end market and they will be penalized a sum far greater than the cost of staging. What I don’t understand is why homeowners who are selling their primary residence of many years are being told they must make a substantial investment refreshing their property for no guaranteed return, that a truckload of contents must be delivered to manufacture a false domestic setting because how most everyone lives is either shameful or sub-par, and they must relocate into temporary accommodations to attract a Buyer.

This data suggests that undertaking these efforts does not translate into a faster sale but will dramatically increase your lead time to come to market.

 

Stats
8 Vacant Dwellings Without Staging sold from $1,008,000 to $3,210,000
These attained from 92 to 130% of the list price with an average of 113%
The average days on the market were 8

 

 

Take Away Compare & Contrast

To my surprise, the vacant properties that were staged sold for an average of 111 % over their list prices compared to the vacant dwellings that were not staged which garnered 113% over their list prices. Given that half of the vacant dwellings that were not staged were Estate Sales being sold in ‘as-is where-is’ condition, they presented at the opposite extreme of the dwellings that were staged. Given most properties that get staged also undergo a cosmetic refresh for a sum of $20,000+ is not unusual + the costs of storage and staging – I would have thought the professionally staged properties would attract more competition which would result in a higher percentage over their list price. 

What I’m certain of is:

  • Vacant homes that need work can be sold as-is where-is without any staging.
  • Quality new or substantially renovated houses that are vacant would benefit from staging. It doesn’t add value to the sale price but it can convince a Buyer to bid.
  • For owner-occupied dwellings, I would not put my furniture in storage and stage my house for any reason, including the promise that I could live in residence and sit on the furniture if I felt like it.

 

 

Vacant Victory Means Selling The Dream – List $1,599,000 Sold $1,910,019

Ironically, one of the vacant property sales included here was owned by one of our clients, whom we also represented when they purchased the property 14 years earlier. Now that the kids had become adults, our Sellers were ready to dispose of their Edwardian pile of bricks and mortar wrapped in old decking that was leaving them perpetually overwhelmed by the growing list of To-Dos & Must-Dos.

They, too, asked about the value of staging, in part because they were surprised at how common staging had become since the last time they actively looked at dwellings for sale 14 years earlier. It was so ubiquitous that they questioned whether it had the same impact as it once did. They also weren’t convinced the 10k expense would translate into a higher sale price. From their point of view, their residence had a unique layout and they were concerned staging would box the Buyers into a predefined space plan. They felt the power of imagination and possibility was greater than a packaged program.

After analyzing the target markets, preparing the due diligence package, and crafting the sales and marketing strategies, our listing recommendation included an unusually short brief.

  • One: refresh the paint and replace the broadloom throughout the house with seal it with a KISS because, as all parents know, these two undertakings are the antidote to 9 years of sibling rivalry.
  • Two: come onto MLS using the List Low Holdback Approach with a Set Offer Date.
  • Three: Be vacant and invite a quick closing, if possible.

Our Sellers made a wise decision in our opinion. The property garnered a sum of over $1.9 million. Our sellers also received a $7500 refund because we didn’t spend the entire 0.5% listing allowance.

Incidentally, of the 21 three-storey semis with parking to sell in Riverdale in 2023, this sale ranked 6th in terms of highest price.

 

 

All of the furnishings and keepsakes above belonged to our client, which we curated to help sell his home.

 

The Urbaneer Style Enhancement

When people enlist our services to sell their homes, we love giving them the gift of an Urbaneer Style Enhancement. This is when we use as many of the owner’s existing contents in the property as the foundation of our Style Enhancement, from which we inject vintage and contemporary items – whether that be art, sculpture, soft furnishings, or decor pieces – to help show the dwelling to its maximum potential and best use that will speak to all of the property’s specific target markets. Our objective here is to ensure the space plan flows, there are designated areas for different domestic uses, that unique features are highlighted, and that it retains and respects the flavours and flourishes of the owner’s decor. It’s a clever cost-effective solution that saves our Sellers thousands of dollars while creating an approachable appealing environment.

We do believe that a household should be able to occupy a residence while it’s on the market for sale. We always request a viewing be booked the day ahead. We often limit showings to 3 weekdays from 12-7 pm and one Saturday or Sunday from 12-5 pm. If a cooperating broker has Buyers who would like to view the property outside of our posted times, we will get it sorted.

The contents and about 20+ person power hours of styling to execute our Urbaneer Style Enhancement is FREE. The cost of movers, cleaners, and other miscellaneous expenses associated with preparing a listing for sale are added to the 0.5% commission allowance that is part of the 2.5% + HST listing fee. If your property sells quickly, meaning not all of the 0.5% commission allowance dedicated to the listing, sale, and marketing of the property has been spent, it is credited in your favour. Our program is effective, visually compelling, and it saves you money. And you don’t have to move out.

We do recommend enlisting a Professional Staging Service when a just-built or recently renovated property is vacant and going to be listed. This is because professional staging pairs well with shiny new construction and sparkling substantial renovations, and less so if the property comprises a mish-mash of styles or is in cruddy condition. In other words, fancy real estate should be paired with fancy furniture. They help sell each other, while lipstick will only go so far when mutton is dressed as lamb. Also, expansive expensive properties look cheap when empty. 

Below are some of our past listings using Urbaneer’s Style Enhancement Service.

 

7 Kenaston Gardens #623

 

161 Woodmount – We knew Buyers would penalize our Sellers for their dated kitchen, potentially knocking off $20,000 to $40,000 off the purchase price. Instead, we painted the cabinets and replaced the countertop and faucet for around $1300. This kitchen will inevitably be replaced, but by shifting the optics from ‘Must be reno’d’ to ‘Ok for now’ it freed up the $20,000 to $40,000 sum slotted for a kitchen reno so it could potentially be directed to the purchase price on the day of Offers.

 

3939 Duke of York Blvd. #1609

 

541 Markham Street

 

43 Lower River Street #326

 

14 Alpha

 

400 Wellington #710

 

 

Thanks for reading!

~ Steven

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