Dax’s Data: The Value of Professional Staging & Photography

Dax Nollenberger
- Dax Nollenberger

Dax’s Data: The Value of Professional Staging & Photography

The Monetary Value of Professional Staging & Photography

Let me begin by just saying this, the value of professional staging and photography is real and I have the numbers to prove it. 

Before I dive into the numbers, let me tell you exactly how I collected and analyzed the data. I looked at over 500 recently sold single-family homes in Santa Cruz County from July 17th, 2021 to November 5th, 2021. I scrolled through the pictures on the MLS and marked whether it was staged, with or without the owner’s furniture, and if it was professionally photographed. I also graded both the staging and photography on a 1-3 scale. In an attempt to be as objective as possible, I set up criteria for my grades. For staging, a “1” grade is consistent with mismatched furniture, outdated and cluttered homes, and homes that did the absolute bare minimum to be able to call it “staging”. A “2” grade has a mixture of both good and bad. A home with some effort but not the obvious professional stage job. The “3” grade is reserved for highly professional-looking homes. Homes that presented exquisitely due to the staging. I used similar criteria for homes with photography. A “1” grade is reserved for poor photography. Photography where the lighting, angles, and overall presentation were done by someone with zero care for how the home presents. “2” photography is photography that is sufficient but lacks the professional detail and editing skills. “3” photography is highly evident when you see it, it’s various camera angles, great lighting, drone footage, and high-quality editing. 

The goal of this project was to place a monetary value on the highly professional services that the Brezsny Associates team provides. Previously, we could say “we highly recommend professional staging and photography because it’s going to get you the best price for your home.” Through experience, we know this to be true, but we didn’t have the numbers to back it up. Now we do. Professional staging can run you anywhere between $5k-$20k+. Pricy, I know, but at the end of this you’ll understand that, in all likelihood, your return on investment will far exceed that. Call us about the staging services that the Brezsny Associates team can provide! At the end of this blog, you will understand just how valuable that is.   

Enough with the “sales” pitch, let’s let the numbers do the talking. 

First things first, let me tell you what we recommend. To present the home in its very best light, we suggest (in most cases) vacating the home and using quality professional staging and photography. Quality is key in staging and photography, more on that later. 

Why is vacating a home ideal? For a variety of reasons that can be discussed in a listing appointment but mainly it allows the buyer to be able to visualize the home in its minimized state. It’s much easier to see a home as yours when it doesn’t feel like someone else’s. The numbers reflect that there is a clear monetary value to vacating the home prior to list. 

So, what are the numbers telling us? Vacant homes go for 3.42% over the asking price, on average. This compared to 1.85% for owner-occupied homes. That 1.57% difference projects to a value of $23,550 on a $1.5MM listing. Occupied homes also take longer to sell and sell for less per sq ft, on average. Now, it should be noted that the average and median home prices are higher for owner-occupied homes. This can be chalked up to the high-end listings. High-priced homes are much more likely to have owners continue to occupy until close because they typically take much longer to sell. Whether or not the home is occupied is just a small piece of the sale price puzzle. Whether a home is staged or not has a much more significant impact on the final price.  

It turns out, not just any staging will do though. Leaving furniture, making the bed, setting the table, and doing a deep clean is not going to move the needle and create a monetary impact on sale price. In fact, poor staging (1 grade) and ok staging (2 grade) are less effective at creating value over the asking price than not staging at all! 

The top chart tells us that any staging is better than no staging at all. Although the .45% isn’t a huge gap, it’s still almost $7000 in projected value on a $1.5MM home. The bottom data tells a much more compelling story though. High-quality staging is what actually has an impact on value. Let’s say your agent is trying to advise you to vacate and professionally stage the home. You’re on the fence and just can’t wrap your head around spending $5k-$20k on professional staging. You decide to leave your furniture in the home instead. The home presents as cluttered and outdated. It’s a “1” stage grade. Based on the data analyzed, high-quality staging gets, on average, 5.23% over the asking price while low-quality staging only gets 1.68%. Professional staging creates 3.55% more over asking, on average. On a $1.5MM listing, that’s $53,250 in potential value lost with poor staging! 

Is it possible to stage with your own furniture and still present “3” staging? Yes, but it’s unlikely. Of the 162 homes in the data set that were staged with their own furniture, only 24 got “3” staging grades. 

The data tells us that using professional furniture is much more effective when presenting the home than using your own. The average % over asking (list to sale price ratio) is 2.81% higher when using professional furniture. The average sale price, median price, Days on Market, and Price/Sqft are all better when using professional furniture, as well. 

But what about professional photography? 

The story is the same, quality matters. What’s clear from the top chart is that professional photography adds value to the listing. What’s evident in the second is that QUALITY photography adds even more! The projected value on a $1.55M home with “3” photography vs “1” is $49,500. 

High-quality staging and photography produce the best result for the seller. The combination of “3” staging and photography as compared to “2” staging and photography is 3.3%! That’s $49,500 in projected value on a $1.5MM home. 

We recommend vacating a home (if possible), getting high-quality professional staging, and excellent photography. The monetary value of these actions is significant. This chart tells us that with our recommendations, it’s most likely to produce the best monetary result.  

So, what are the main takeaways? 

  1. Professional staging and photography significantly increase the sale price of a listing, on average.
  2. Quality matters!
  3. Investing in your home prior to list has serious return on investment. 

The value of a team of agents that does significant volume is that we know what it takes to present a home to get the best price. We have excellent designers/stagers and an exceptional photographer. Give us a call to talk about all the high-quality services that we can provide. 

Authors Note: Projections are not a guarantee. The numbers tell us that our actions as a real estate team create the very best result. It does not mean we can guarantee these kinds of returns in the future.

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