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What is the difference between home staging and interior design?

Most sellers look to their listing agent or a professional home stager for guidance on how to spruce up their home to appeal to potential buyers… But they don’t always like what they hear, especially if it means spending money. The concept of home staging can be off putting to those who confuse it with interior design.


When it comes down to it, there are four major differences between home staging and interior design.


1. Audience: General Buyer vs. Specific Owner


One of the most important distinctions between home staging and interior design is the intended audience.


Home staging is meant to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible. Interior design, on the other hand, answers to the specific aesthetics of an individual or family.


For example, where an interior designer may recommend a bright, bold wallpaper in a child’s bedroom to personalize their comfortable space, a professional home stager will opt for neutral paint colors to appeal to more buyers.


2. Decision Maker: Professional Home Stager vs. Owner


Another key difference between professional home staging and interior design is who makes the design decisions.

An interior designer works to please the homeowner and the homeowner ultimately approves all final decisions. When it comes to home staging, it’s the professional stager who makes the calls.


Frequently we are asked if clients can pick and choose from inventory. In short, no. A typical seller response: “You mean I’m paying for staging and I don’t get to choose my sofa?” Correct! Because remember, you are not purchasing a sofa. You are hiring a professional who 1) has experience in design and layout, 2) understands the competitive real estate environment and 3) follows current trends that appeal to the target buyer in order to create a quick and profitable sale of the property.


Homeowner detachment is an important part of the home selling process and can be incredibly challenging for sellers. Going into the process, it’s important to educate sellers and encourage them to change their thinking: We are working together to market a property for sale, not decorate your personal home for everyday life.


For example, a home stager will replace a worn-out recliner with fresh, modern furnishings that appeal to buyer aspirations. An interior designer will incorporate the recliner into the overall design if the homeowner insists on keeping it for comfort.


3. Focus: Asset Merchandising vs. Personal Lifestyle Functioning


While both home stagers and interior designers enhance the aesthetics of the property, they each do so with a different approach and end goal in mind. The home stager is an asset merchandiser who approaches the property as a commodity for sale. This requires an understanding of the science of design and layout, the competitive real estate environment and current trends that appeal to the target buyer. The ultimate goal of the home stager is the quick and profitable sale of the home.


In contrast, the interior designer incorporates specific functional and lifestyle needs in order to create a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing living space that suits the particular needs of the homeowner.


For example, a home stager might decide to present a bonus room as a multifunctional family space due to the home’s location in an area known for great schools. An interior designer will turn that same space into an exercise room, art studio or man cave, depending on the homeowner’s wishes.


4. Speed: Days vs. Weeks or Months or even Years


Real estate staging takes significantly less time than interior design for two distinct reasons:

  1. By the time the professional real estate stagers enter the home, their process is in motion. They have already gathered the information (market research, current trends, neighborhood demographics) required to get started. The interior design process, on-the-other-hand involves a step-by-step decision-making process that often requires homeowner approval for each detail along the way.

  2. Well-established professional staging companies typically have their own inventory of the materials and furnishings needed to create an inviting space that appeals to target buyers. Interior designers have to spend time researching and shopping for furnishings and finishes based on homeowner preferences and waiting for ordered items to arrive. Many items are back ordered for months.

Simply put, home stagers work quickly to prepare the property for sale, and interior designers take their time to make a house a home. For example, a professional, efficient real estate staging teams typically require two week’s notice to get on the calendar and require 4-6 hours to stage a vacant 4-bedroom home that’s otherwise move-in ready, while professional interior design projects might need months to years depending on the project requirement.



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