Hiring a decorating and marketing specialist to help sell a house might sound like a frivolous cost to investors trying to salvage every dollar in a fallen market.

Typically we figure, a quality house at a fair price will sell itself. Paying a professional stager to rearrange or bring in new furniture, paint the walls neutral colors and hang different pictures surely couldn’t be worth a four-figure fee, the thinking goes. Or could it?

Many real estate professionals insist staging makes a big difference in how quickly a home sells, which can mean a higher sale price, and cite their own figures that show it.

Patrick McLaughlin had such a poor impression of a vacant house he visited at an open house on Long Island that he told his broker friend it would never sell “” it felt cold and uninviting. Then he went back after a professional had staged it and ended up buying it.

“They had art work, furniture, sofas, rugs. It added a great deal of warmth to the property,” says McLaughlin, himself a broker in Sag Harbor, N.Y.

More sellers have been turning to staging to make their properties stand out in a market packed with competing houses.

So, what exactly is home staging? It’s the act of preparing and showcasing a home for sale. Preparing involves cleaning, decluttering, updating and repairing, while showcasing is the process of arranging furniture, accessories, art and light. The investor and the stager work together as a team and decide what needs to be done to present the home on the marketplace.

Staging is all marketing “” that’s all it is. It’s a tool that’s no different than what someone might use to sell a box of cereal.

Now, you may be asking: shouldn’t home shoppers be able to look at an unstaged house and visualize themselves there? Well, they should. But statistics from the National Association of Realtors show that only 10 percent of buyers can see past what is in front of them. It’s just natural for people to react to ‘stuff.’

Why is staging considered more important now? It’s crucial in this market because there are just so many options for buyers to choose from. You need to be different; you need to add extra value to your home. Buyers are very move-in ready, so they can keep on moving right on down the line if they don’t like what they see. It used to be that if you were buying a home you might look at four or five homes before you made your decision. Now an average buyer might look at 35, 50 homes.

Okay but as an investor, you wanna know the nuts and bolts of this right? How much does it cost? It can range from $750 to $2,500 and average maybe $1,000 to $1,500.

You can consider staging on your own by using pieces you have in other properties and stage only a few essential rooms. Either way, staging is an option to consider selling your home quickly.

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