Condominiums and houses in Germany are usually sold unfurnished. The previous occupant moves out and leaves the property “swept clean”, i.e. swept and usually empty. After that, brokers usually look for a buyer. They are increasingly using what is known as home staging. Individual rooms in the property are set up for show purposes, in the industry this is called “staged”. The staging should ensure that potential buyers get a good impression of the property. The aim behind this is to sell the property quickly and at the best possible price.
But in this day and age, is it even necessary to spruce up an apartment or house for sale? After all, demand has long outstripped supply. Because interest rates are low and an investment in financial stocks hardly brings any returns, real estate is selling like the proverbial hot cakes today. And at prices that were unimaginable just a few years ago. So why should you, as a provider, spend any money on a production before you sell it?
“Buyers lack the imagination. There are studies that say that only two out of ten people are able to imagine a room differently than the way it is presented to them,” says Nadja Büchter, who has been working as Home since 2019 Stager works in Essen. Interested parties often come to an empty apartment that may also look very worn. The walls, in some cases, haven’t been painted in years, the ceiling is yellowed, and where the kitchen used to be looks particularly dirty. And you should want to live in such a place? Many interested parties find it difficult to imagine a worn-out apartment as beautiful, even if the location is okay.
The home staging trend originated in Seattle in the 1970s
Another problem: In small rooms in particular, many people find it difficult to assess whether their own furniture will fit in, whether there is enough space for a sofa or whether it might not be too cramped. It would certainly be different with a new luxury penthouse apartment. In fact, it is mainly apartments and houses that are being staged that are getting on in years, some of which are even in dire need of renovation. Such objects, Büchter knows, are not that easy to sell, even in times of high demand. “I recently furnished a one-and-a-half room apartment. The owner hadn’t been able to sell it for a year,” she says. In such cases, sellers are increasingly bringing home stagers on board and are also willing to pay money for this: Büchter estimates between 3,000 and 3,200 euros for the design of a 100 square meter apartment. Costs for craftsmen are sometimes added.
The idea for home staging goes back to Barb Schwarz, an American realtor from Seattle. In the 1970s, Schwarz began prettifying properties that were offered to her for sale. She had craftsmen repair obvious flaws, put some furniture in the rooms and provided more light in the rooms. In the USA, the staging of empty rooms for sale has since become firmly established as a marketing tool in the real estate industry. Hardly any broker does without it, because it is now also a matter of course for customers – from standard homes to luxury penthouses. The local industry association, the Real Estate Staging Association, found in a survey in 2020 that of 13,000 “staged” houses, the price achieved when selling was between five and 23 percent higher in 85 percent of the cases than the initially set sales price.
In Germany, too, more and more brokers are using the opportunity to stage real estate for sale. This also increases the number of home stagers. There are no exact figures, but it is assumed in the industry that there are now a good 1000 freelance home stagers working. You can learn the craft in numerous schools, most of which are run by established home stagers. However, chambers of industry and commerce throughout Germany also have corresponding courses in their programmes.
“A property should always have a consistent color scheme.”
One of the private schools is Heike Uhlemann’s staging academy. She offers her students online courses with video lessons. For 1299 euros you can learn the techniques of home staging step by step. For example, it is about the use of light. Which light sources do you use and how many? In seminars you also learn how to use the light at different heights and how to handle colors professionally. “A property should always have a consistent color scheme, which creates a feeling of harmony,” says Uhlemann, who worked as a home stager for ten years before founding her academy.
At the academy, future home stagers not only learn how to professionally design rooms. “We also teach how to become self-employed, how to market yourself and how to calculate the price for your work. Then there are the questions of where to get the furniture, where to store it and how to work with craftsmen.” , says Uhlemann. You can also book practical modules in addition to the online courses and, for example, be there when Uhlemann implements a staging order for a customer.
Home staging continues to drive up real estate sales prices
Home staging is now also offered virtually. Anyone interested in a property can move through the presented rooms online and thus quickly get an impression of them. In this way, it can also be conveyed whether a room offers enough space for a wall unit or a large bed. Virtual home staging has the advantage that you no longer have to buy furniture and accessories and store them somewhere. There is also no set-up and dismantling because the rooms are furnished exclusively on the computer. The costs arise from the software and from the interior designers who take care of the virtual setup. The virtual interior design is far cheaper. “A room costs 89 euros here, and a real estate agent usually orders three to four rooms in a property,” says Mehdi Sarraj, managing director of Space Renovator, a company that specializes in virtual home staging. The virtual interior design also has the advantage that you can show an apartment in several different furnishing styles and thus reach different target groups. His customers, the brokers, used home staging primarily as an acquisition tool, in addition to pictures and an exposé.
“Many buyers don’t have the imagination to imagine what something old might look like later, and they can’t really estimate what something like this costs,” says Michael Weber, manager of the real estate agent Engel & Völkers in Speyer. Weber has therefore been working with virtual home stagers for a long time. “If the actual condition deters the buyer, but he really wants to live in this location, then it would be a shame to lose this customer just because he can’t take the first step to imagine the property in finished condition,” says Weber.
And the buyers? Especially with smaller or old objects, it is often the case that you have to calculate razor-sharp. Do they really want to pay more just for a production? Home stagers and realtors unanimously answer yes to that question. “In Berlin, you can sell a 30 square meter apartment that is in dire need of renovation for 300,000 euros today. But you can also sell it for 330,000 or 340,000 euros if you create emotions,” says Sarraj.