If You Want to Sell for Top Dollar:

Why Property Staging is A Must

The Right Look, Touch and Feel. 

(And don’t forget the right smell, marketing, and overall ambiance) 

A good stager’s art will capture and appeal to the best possible buyers on a visual, visceral and emotional level. Sure, hiring a gifted designer and stager to transform your vacant property may seem expensive — why can't I just buy a couch myself you may ask — but it is an essential ingredient in achieving a successful sale. (Besides, you get more than just a couch with a stager, you get the couch, the rug, the bedding, the art, the accessories....)

Staging will show people how they can change their lives by living differently and better than they do now. We cannot underscore how important it is. To forgo staging will run the risk of costing far more than staging would have been. Skipping staging usually results in a diminished sale price. We have worked — and work— with many of San Francisco’s best stagers and designers. A few of our favorites are featured below and each has a different approach, price point and availability.

We collaborate with each of them on paint colors, art, furniture pieces but will then add our own personal touches like fresh flowers, scented candles and high-end accessories to make a property that much more appealing.  

Staging a property means creating a space that buyers can visualize themselves in and aspire to own. 

What the Studies Show

According to Bankrate.com, various studies have shown home staging can be a worthwhile investment.

Investing just 1 percent of a home’s value in staging, 75 percent of sellers who stage their homes professionally saw a return between 5 percent and 15 percent.

Eighty-five percent of staged homes fetched offers between 5 percent and 23 percent over list price, according to 2020 data from the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) 

Similarly, 23 percent of buyer’s agents in the NAR report indicated staging helped increase offer amounts anywhere from 1 percent to 5 percent.

The adage of time is money applies here, too: According to HomeAdvisor, staged homes spend between 33 percent and 50 percent less time on the market.

The Money Tree
“We think of our homes as places of warmth, familarity and love; of shared stories and memories.... There is a timeless simplicity to the pull of home.” 

— Queen Elizabeth II

And Raffi is a priceless element of our presentation.


How Staging Usually Works

Unless you’re there rare exception out there who can self-stage (and we have had success with clients who are) you’re going to need to hire the stagers. Here’s the process usually: 

1. Who. Talk to us about which stagers our clients have used with success

2. Stager Site Visit. Schedule stager visits to property (usually 10-30 minutes long). We can handle these for you too.

3. And... Review the estimates. Visit properties that are currently staged to see their work in person.

4. Decide. Once you like one, sign staging contract; provide payment information for deposit (usually 80 percent)

5. Vacate Property. Simple enough, right? But if the stagers have to clean inside, paint or wash windows they will mark those services up. We have other vendors we can refer you to so ask us more information. 

6. The Stagers Stage. Assuming the stagers have the keys (or there’s a lockbox), parking permits pulled and permissions obtained (needed for many condo buildings) the stagers will do their work which can take a half day to 3 days. They will lay down moving paper, pad furniture and the such. 

7. The Stagers Finish. After the details are finalized and the pillows are fluffed we’re ready for photos and showings to start. The remaining portion of the staging fee is usually due now. 

8. The Stagers Maintain. After open houses and showings are underway the stagers will return to the property to water plants, change out flowers or change out furniture if requested.  

9. The Stagers Break It Down. Once it’s clear the buyers are going to close on the property — either when all contingencies are removed or when closing documents are readied — the breakdown takes place (usually 1-3 days). 

10. Broom Clean. The stagers will leave a property broom clean. They should patch holes in the walls for the art they hang but it’s unlikely they’ll do a paint match unless agreed upon. All keys are returned. 

Some Notes 

  • Property staging has been considered to be ‘advertising’ within the meaning of tax deductions and adjustments to any capital gains taxes you may have to pay.
  • Think of staging as an investment in your property that will yield multiples of a staging fee. 
  • You don’t want agents paying for staging as it wouldn’t be fair to everyone involved: agents may opt for the cheapest possible and wouldn’t reap the return on such an investment like a seller would with a higher sale price. 
  • Partial Staging (either using your furniture or only staging part of a property) is unusual but possible under the right circumstances 
  • No, you cannot use the stager’s furniture for the most part. Display only! 
  • Stagers may add a 10-30% markup for additional services and products beyond installing and removing all furniture. Ask us about our vendor network instead.  
  • Almost all staging contracts are for a 60-day minimum with 80% due as a deposit to lock-in our staging dates with the balance due upon completion of the installation. 
  • Extensions are cheaper. And it’s usually not possible to get a pro-rata rebate if we sell quickly.  
  • Sometimes it may be possible to buy staging items — it never hurts to ask.

The Stagers We Use.

There are many talented staging companies in San Francisco, here are four of them who have helped our clients in the past.

Arthur McLaughlin

Luxury, high-end, venerable friendly. McLaughlin’s team has helped us prepare everyhing from lofts, garden apartments, Victorian houses, Mutli-unit buildings and much more with great results. 

JV Staging

High-end, consistent, hard-working, friendly. Woman-owned team of Valerie and Jane. has helped us prepare everything from lofts, single-family houses, Victorian flats, Mutli-unit buildings, SOMA studios, large houses and more.  

Birch & Tailor

Luxury, high-end, edgy, chic, stylized, frenetic, fabulous and friendly. Chris Miniello and his team has helped us prepare properties from the start with a wide range of capabilities from houses, condos and more. Expect a curated/bespoke approach. 

Sayde Mark

The ability to do glam, understated and everything in between characterizes this reliable, robust and repeat staging company we've started to work with recently.

88 Staging

Practical. Quality. New. Hard-working. Determined. We've just started working with 88 Staging and you can tell they have drive and determination as they start out in this tough field. 

Tried and True: Harrowing Stories of Staging and Non-Staging

We are hand’s on agents for sure when it comes to property preparation and presentation as we are always looking out for our clients’ interests. Sometimes you can only do so much and sometimes what you do can mean so much

Even the best stagers can have an ‘off-day.’ This is why we are here to make sure those days are few and far between.

One of our more memorable sales that set a high-water mark for Noe Valley was also one where we had a tight two-day timeline to have the stagers complete a 2-month preparation process with their furniture, art and accessories. We had just 2 days before Vanguard Properties’ noted photographer was due to shoot the property for our marketing collateral and property photos.

It was a firm deadline.

After handing over the keys to the stagers on the first morning, we came back later that day to see the process, we saw that something was awry.

Our stager's usual aesthetic — stylish, sophisticated and polished — was replaced by something that resembled a New Mexico-sunset-style pueblo jamboree with few chairs or any items with right angles for that matter. Day one’s results weren't pretty. It could have been disaster.

It was late but we took action and politely (but firmly) reminded the stagers that this wasn't the look our properties are known for and that this wasn't up to par.  Worse is that this was something that had to be fixed within 24 hours or else we’d miss a critical weekend of open houses (which is when the eventual buyers saw the place). 

The sellers, who had overcome a micro-managing streak in the beginning of the process, told us later that they would have panicked as the staging at the end of day 1 was ‘terrible’ but also knew to trust us as they knew we’d handle it. 

And that’s what we did as the next morning when we came back there were 4 large trucks and a crew of about 50 people moving moving things to and fro so that by the end of day 2, the property was, well, stunning. Only one piece from day 1 was still there but everything, to the stager’s credit was replaced and sparkling. 

After the panic, our photographer came, we put in our touches (flowers, accessories) and Raffi’s property video was shot and we launched right on schedule with a mobbed first weekend of open houses (with one agent saying it was the best he’d seen in 40 years). 

But how’d we do sales-wise?

There were seven offers with the winning one being some $300,000 above what the sellers had thought the house was worth, and $200,000 above a pre-emptive offer from a neighbor. Better yet, we also met 4 sets of (eventually successful) buyers from that listing. 

“One thing I learned is that there is absolutely no value in using your own furniture to stage a property. I should have listened to you guys sooner.”

— Seller, who eventually sold his property after we advised him to stage in the beginning but didn't. If he had, he would have probably sold for more and done it sooner.


Clients Who Listened To Us, Saw An Over $700,000 gain in the Property in 2 years

“From the beginning stages of brainstorming ideas, to the execution and final sale, Kevin and Jonathan were with us every step of the way. They knew exactly what needed to be done and who to talk to, whether it be design, painting, hiring contractors or staging. They had a wealth of resources, all extremely skilled and competitively priced. I travel all over the country for work and Kevin and Jonathan will actively help you manage your property during the construction process. Kevin himself did work at our place (changing our shower head) and also met me at different stores to pick materials multiple times.”

— Sellers, Lower Haight/Duboce

Under His Eye - Raffi watches the staging go in

Who’s the Right Stager For Your Property?

We try to match the right budget, stager and property. 


Hi, we’re Kevin Ho and Jonathan McNarry of Vanguard Properties in San Francisco, California. We’re partners in life and in business. Together with our big black Labrador retriever, Raffi, we are top producing Realtors in San Francisco’s competitive and valuable residential real estate market.

We truly love what we do and are passionately committed to our clients, their needs and advancing their interests. We represent both buyers and sellers with many repeat clients but we are always expanding our client base. Our belief is that by working with you you will make better informed decisions in this most important of areas of life.

We invite you to contact us to learn more and to start your success story now.


To that extent possible, the information on this website is copyright protected. But other information such as links, articles and other ephemera are only reproduced here for educational purposes and may not represent our views or are otherwise approved by us. More important, whatever the source, remember to research all matters discussed here to your own satisfaction; trust but verify. 


Real estate is always changing and evolving. Because it’s based on people and people are, well people. Therefore, real estate can be complex and as fickle as it is surprising. And while the information and knowledge on this site is considered to be accurate and correct, it cannot be warranted. Market conditions in San Francisco, in California, and the world can change with a tweet or a sneeze and is beyond anyone’s control as hard as we try.

In San Francisco, things like local, state and federal tax regulations can change quickly leading to big implications that take time to be realized or appreciated. Other factors like rent control rules, eviction control, lending practices and standards, building and zoning regulations are just a few of the other things like pandemics, forest fires or mortgage rates that can change with little or no notice. All of these things and other intangible factors may well impact market values and performance. So keep your wits about you and keep in touch with us. 

Kevin is a licensed California attorney but focuses on real estate about 99.9 percent of the time. It’s important to note that while you can’t take the attorney out of him he will not be acting as your attorney here. To the larger point, you should also seek out qualified folks who work in their respective sectors if you have further questions about X, Y or Z; we have referrals too if you need. 




©  2011-2021, Kevin Ho, Jonathan McNarry, RTI, Inc.

All rights reserved.

Kevin K. Ho, DRE 01875957/SBN 233408

Jonathan B. McNarry, DRE 01747295

Vanguard Properties
2501 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
555 Castro Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

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