A question I get asked fairly regularly: “Is it really necessary to stage my house for sale in this market where it seems like every house sells in a week or two?”

The answer depends on where your house is located. Each geographical region – and even every city – has different buyer expectations for how homes are presented for sale. In some areas, practically every home for sale gets staged; in other areas, only the most expensive homes do.

Q: What is staging? What is not considered staging?

A: Staging is the use of furniture, decor, plants, etc., to make a house more appealing to a broader range of buyers.

Staging is not decorating. Stagers do not decorate a house for sale – they are creating a mood or mindset for potential buyers.

Q: Can I use my own furniture?

A: Definitely. Many stagers will work with your existing furniture, but remember that today’s buyers may be attracted to a more contemporary look and feel than the furniture you bought when you first got married. Staging depersonalizes a home so that visitors don’t feel as if they are invading your space; it helps them imagine themselves living there.

Q: Why do you recommend staging?

A: Many buyers are not able to envision how a house would look with their own furniture, so staging can help them feel more comfortable and relaxed when they are touring a property. Staging helps present your house in its best possible light to the broadest possible audience to attract the highest number of buyers.

Q: Why is that first impression so important?

A: In today’s market, many buyers make a buy-versus-not-buy decision within the first 30 seconds of seeing a house. If their first impression is less than favorable, the chances of them making an offer drop substantially. Many purchases are emotional rather than rational, and staging helps with the emotional side of buyers.

Q: How much does staging cost?

A: Depending on the size of the house and how much furniture is used, it can range from a few thousand dollars to $10,000 or $15,000 for 30 days’ worth of staging. I have seen staging bills as high as $75,000 for super high-end homes. Stagers often charge a weekly furniture rental fee after the first month.

Check with your insurance company to make sure the furniture is covered in case something happens to it.

Q: How long does staging take?

A: Most stagers can stage an average size house in a day.

Q: Can my house be staged while I am still living in it?

A: Yes, but remember it is staging – not decorating – so the beds may not be real and the furniture may stain easily, which is why it’s not recommended to live in a staged home.

Longtime Los Altos resident Owen Halliday is a realtor who manages the Sereno office in downtown Los Altos. Call him at (650) 492-0062 or email Owen@Sereno.com.