No matter where you do business, there’s a common thread that seems to be emerging from the multiple listing services almost everywhere: Unless a house is staged, the probability is that it won’t sell.

The research on properties that are staged vs. those that are not staged is clear. Staged properties generally sell more quickly and for more money than those that are not staged. The issue is how to persuade sellers to stage their homes, especially if it’s going to cost thousands of dollars to do it effectively.

If you’re struggling with this issue with your sellers, here are four tried-and-true ways that can help you persuade reluctant sellers that staging their home will help them net more from their real estate sale.

1. It’s not your house
The most important part of the staging process is to help sellers understand it’s not their house anymore. In other words, the way they live in a house, which is all about them and their lifestyle, must now shift to making the house as desirable to as many potential buyers as possible. This means getting rid of those beautiful custom paint colors in favor of "builder beige." They must also replace any distinctive artwork, family pictures, or other unique items and replace them with generic pictures and accessories that allow the buyers to visualize their belongings in your house.

If the sellers seem reluctant to embrace this change, explain that they are going to have to pack up those items anyway. Rather than running the risk that some of their special belongings may be damaged, it’s smart to begin the packing process early and store those items safely away.

2. Create a different vision
A major obstacle in sellers staging their homes is related to the sellers’ inability to picture their house differently from how it is now. It feels like home to them, so why shouldn’t it feel like home to someone else? Granted, most people recognize that they have to fix what’s broken and perhaps paint or re-carpet. Unless the seller is a decorator, however, it’s pretty hard for them to envision what must be done in terms of staging. You can overcome this issue by bringing a decorator in to chat with the sellers about what they can do within their budget to make the home look its best.

3. Give Fluffy a vacation
While many pet owners have difficulty with the idea of having their pet live somewhere else temporarily while the house is on the market, it’s often a good idea. Since so many people have animal allergies, help the sellers understand how important it is to not limit their showings to people who love animals and are not allergic to them.

Furthermore, most animals are unaccustomed to having strangers on their turf, especially if their masters are not home. This means the animal is more likely to run out through an open door or to aggressively protect his or her territory. Housing Fluffy somewhere else (or at least crating the animal during showings) protects not only the buyers viewing the home, but it keeps Fluffy safe as well.

4. Persuading sellers to spend the money
When we sold our last home, our real estate broker told us we needed to spend about $10,000 to bring the house to top notch condition that would net the maximum price. Our house was only 8 years old and was in excellent condition. Needless to say, I was extremely surprised until she explained her reasoning.

"An 8-year-old house has 8-year-old appliances. While your wallpaper is nice, it really needs to go; wallpaper is out of fashion and dates your property. Furthermore, your brass features scream 1999. You’re competing with two brand-new subdivisions within two miles of your home. That’s your competition.

"To be competitive, I recommend that you paint the walls in the kitchen, the wall around the fireplace in the family room, as well as your bathrooms with the colors they are using in the models right now. We will also update the light fixtures in the entry, dining room, and the bathrooms using the same styles they use in the model homes. You don’t need to go expensive; just make it up to date. Buyers will walk up to your house with all the beautiful landscaping that the new properties lack, see a house in perfect condition with today’s latest colors and fixtures, and they won’t even be thinking about the 8-year-old appliances."

What made it easy for us was that our agent had an entire team who could come in and do the work. As she put it, "All you need to do is to pack your personal belongings. I’ll handle the rest." Since I was commuting between Austin and Los Angeles every week, it was a relief to know she would handle all the issues I didn’t have time to address.

Did it work? Absolutely! We sold the house the first day for full price, all cash.

You owe it to your sellers to have the conversation about what they can do to show their house to its best advantage. Failure to do so means a longer market time, less money for the seller, and possibly an expired listing for you.

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