Someone just asked me about staging their home. They wondered if they should put their house on the market and see what happens. Then, if it doesn't sell, they might consider staging it. Of course, my recommendation is to stage first because the cost of staging is almost always much cheaper than the first price reduction a seller may have to make.
I just read an article about Staging Myths on Ezinearticles which addesses the question and a couple of others, so I thought I would pass it along:
Myth 1: Professional home staging isn't necessary if a home is beautifully decorated. To say that a home doesn't need staging because it is professionally decorated, misses the whole point of home staging. Some of the most beautifully decorated homes are very personal in taste. When a home reflects a very specific taste, chances are that it won't appeal to the most buyers. This isn't a criticism of a homeowner's personal style; it's simply good marketing to create a product that will appeal to the most buyers. For example, if a home is very contemporary, a stager may recommend adding some traditional touches to appeal to more buyers.
Myth 2: Professional home staging should only be used after I put my home on the market and it doesn't sell right away. The best opportunity for a quick sale is to find the right combination of price and presentation at the outset. Obviously, price is the most important factor in getting that sale. But presentation is a close second. Professional home staging is all about making certain that the home makes its best presentation. So to maximize your selling opportunity, it is best to prepare a home before it enters the market. Does it pay to stage later in the process? If the house is priced right and hasn't sold, it is smart to consult a professional about its presentation. A professional home stager will be happy to help at any point in the selling process.
Myth 3: Professional home stagers are very critical and will "put down" my style and my belongings. Professional home stagers are trained to quickly evaluate a home's positives and negatives and make recommendations that will ensure a home makes its very best presentation once it hits the market. Successful professional home stagers are never critical of a homeowner or his or her style. Rather, they assume the role of partner with the homeowner, working with them to achieve a common goal-selling the home as quickly and for as much money as the market can provide.
Myth 4: Professional home staging will require me to make a lot of changes and spend a lot of money on a home I am ready to leave. The starting point for home staging is to use what you already have to make the best presentation. Usually that requires some changes, but that doesn't necessarily mean spending a lot of money. In fact, the most common problem is too much furniture and too much décor. Streamlining furniture and furnishings-and rearranging them to show off the best features of the home-doesn't cost anything except the guidance of a home staging professional. When a change to the home is needed, a professional home stager is a great resource at getting a certain look for a bargain price. Most stagers are accomplished bargain hunters and they also have an inventory of great accessories that they rent by the month at a modest cost.
Myth 5: Professional home staging is expensive. There are home staging services to fit all budgets. A professional home stager will offer an initial consultation for a modest fee (about $100) that includes a one- to two-hour walk-through ending in a checklist of the top five or 10 steps to take to prepare a home for sale with a recommendation for staging services, if needed. A professional home stager usually will offer a "do-it-yourself" service, which provides a detailed plan that the homeowner can use to stage each room of the home (about $200-300). Of course, you can hire the stager to complete the staging of the home and that fee will depend upon how large the home and how much work needs to be done. A small, occupied home would probably require at least a half-day of staging (after a homeowner cleans and de-clutters) while a large home might require one to two days of staging. These services can range from about $500 to $2,000 for simple projects--not a lot of money when you consider the value of a home and its monthly carrying costs and time on the market today.
I know I'm biased about staging a home, but it's because I've seen so many sell much faster. And I also know that it is very possible to stage a home yourself and have the same results. Either way, just make sure the home is staged before it goes on the market.