Is It Better to Stage a House or Empty It?

It’s been a long time since I moved, and based on the fact that moving is one of my 5 least favorite things, I’ll most likely spend the rest of my life in this condo.

But I have a friend who recently purchased a new house, and they’re trying to figure out the best way to sell their current home. We had an interesting discussion about whether it’s better to stage the house or simply empty it and move out.

From the sound of it, realtors prefer to stage houses. They want to help people what it would be like to live in an immaculate, decorated home. As a kid, sometimes my parents would take us to staged houses just for fun, and even then there was a special sense of wonder as we explored every room and imagined our lives in them.

On the other hand, an empty house provides a clean slate. It reeks of unlimited potential–there’s nothing between you and your new life. Also, there’s a sense of immediacy to it. When I see a blank house/condo, I feel like I could move in tomorrow.

What do you think? For the purpose of selling your home, is it better to stage a house or empty it?

11 thoughts on “Is It Better to Stage a House or Empty It?”

  1. When a house is staged, not only can you get a better idea how it’ll look with furniture, it also looks bigger. That is to say when it’s empty, it’s hard to imagine stuff fitting well, while when it’s staged you can see that a nice big couch really does fit comfortably in that room…

  2. My job for the last 8 years has been running my own construction/project management company ( and, in my opinion, there are a few things to consider. Are you staging it through a professional company or through the owner’s actual belongings? If the latter, do they match the house/look or even each other?
    If not, will buyers be able to grasp the size of the room and what can/can’t fit in it? As Seth mentioned, people have a hard time visualizing space and what can fit in it.
    I deal with it all the time when people tell me the size they want their house to be and either don’t have enough needs/rooms to fill it up, or expect to fit twice what their space allows.
    Pro design tip – when contemplating building or moving, measure your current rooms and ask yourself – “Does this work? Or could it be bigger/smaller, and how much?”

    It always come down to cost, but I would lean towards a professional staging company.

  3. When I see staged pictures, I’m looking at someone ELSE’s home, not mine, and it’s harder for me to imagine the place as my own. Also, Mira and I tend to use rooms for different purposes than other people (needing several offices, library space, etc.) so it’s hard to visualize our shelves of records where someone else has a credenza. I also love just looking at floorplans, though, so it makes sense that a blank slate is better for my imagination of what can be.

  4. If it’s turn key and you get a good ID to do the staging then stage away. If it needs even a little work staging can steal the “potential” factor that a buyer might otherwise see in it. I personally dislike staged or even lived in houses because they usually show off thier shortcomings instantly. One that always kills me staged or not is the fireplace as the foam point of the living room… That’s where your TV goes. And no your TV doesn’t go above the fireplace. We entertain plenty enough but nobody has ever asked where the fireplace is (its in the dining room since we swapped dining and living when we remodeled).

    It really depends on the house and the buyer you are after.

  5. When recently looking at places online I do feel more like I was drawn to staged apartments. It’s hard to tell perspective from just a few pictures. How big is that bedroom, Living room? Will there be space to put my game collection?

    I know one thing I was turned off of was places that had like 3 pictures, versus places that had 10 or more. And this was for 1 bedroom apartments. I would also say that you want to professionally stage and/or clean it it versus current resident if you can. I saw many places with current residents stuff and many times it was disorganized or messy.

    I ended up not liking the “in the city” vibe of Chicago for places I could afford. Started looking at suburbs and found one place with some great staged photos, drove out and saw it the same day. Saw a staged version of the apartment, It really helped give some perspective. It got that good feeling about the place, could imagine everything fitting, and could not find a place I liked more than that one. I’ll be moving there soon.

  6. Jamey,

    So, I come at this from a few perspectives…first, as a Real Estate agent in Philly back in the late 80s, the concept of “staging a house” was completely foreign. We can thank the rise of HGTV and other outlets to set expectations for home sellers and buyers alike. As a Serviceman, one of the reasons I left the Air Force was that I grew incredibly tired of packing-up the house every few years. Having purchased a few homes in the past 20 yrs, I would prefer the clean, empty house. I’ll walk-in with my tape measure and a binder of cloth and paint swatches.


  7. It’s been really interesting to read these various perspectives! I should have clarified that I was talking about professional staging (like in Arrested Development). I’ll make sure my friend reads this. 🙂

  8. I think that the staged version looks more attractive, but I may have a cultural bias. In the UK, it’s rare to see empty homes for sale – they’re normally still occupied by the current owner. The only ones that are empty are either new builds (which are often staged to look lived in) or in dire need of repair. How do Americans manage to afford to move into a new home before they’ve sold their old one?

    • Renate: I’m not sure how common it is. In the case of my friend, they’ve completely paid off the mortgage on their current home, which gives them some flexibility.

  9. Just sold my condo last August, after buying it empty 5 years earlier. Place did look bigger staged with a minimalist look. I was skeptical when it was suggested. At this point, I am convinced it was the right thing to do.


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