Real Estate


Preparing your house for sale can be an intimidating task, especially if you have spent years filling your space with personal decorations, memorabilia and furniture. If the thought of sorting through it all is overwhelming, area professionals offer home staging services that create fresh and inviting spaces and ensure your home is ready for the market.

Staging helps your home make the best first impression on would-be buyers. If a buyer can’t picture where a couch would fit in your living room, for example, he might not consider making an offer on your property. If your home is overrun by your personal style, a buyer might have a hard time picturing himself living there. That’s where stagers come in.

Staging professionals offer a variety of services at many price points. They’ll assess the items currently in the home and then add newer or more on-trend pieces to help attract buyers. The stagers can even add furniture digitally to listing photos to make the property look better online. These efforts can make sense of the space for the would-be buyer, a benefit that area Realtors say makes an instant return on investment.

John Giles moved into the staging business on Hilton Head Island after a career in retail. Open for two years, his business, Stage and Style, works with sellers’ existing furniture and decorations. He has found that staging isn’t just about bringing furnishings into the home; the space often needs to be emptied of clutter and personality so that the buyer can imaging himself in the house.

 Virtual staging5

Virtual staging (right column) can transform photos of an empty home (left column). This listing on Hilton Head Island is by Mark Mayer of Engel & Völkers.

The de-clutter can be hard on many sellers.

“You want to keep your things that are special to you,” Giles said. “It is a part of your life, but at the same time, it distracts buyers.”

Giles also concentrates on using cost-effective furnishings, shopping at Hilton Head’s consignment stores for the pieces he needs, then selling the items back to them when he’s done with them.

“We have a lot of nice things in consignment here,” he said. “If I have to go new, I go least expensive and just make it look great.”

Giles comes highly recommended by Joe Waters, an agent at Keller Williams Realty who has seen firsthand the importance of proper staging.

 “This year I had two different houses listed right next door to each other,” Waters said. “John gave staging advice for one house and they chose not to use his suggestions. Instead, they moved everything out of the house. John came into the other house and did a great job. They took every recommendation he gave them. It sold for 92 percent of the list price in 35 days. The other house is still on the market 4.5 months out.”

When Kelly Hughes launched her design business, the art of staging was just beginning to earn recognition in the Lowcountry.

John Giles

“I was originally going into just helping people prep homes they were currently living in for the market, but there was a large demand for vacant staging,” she said. “So I ended up answering that demand.”

Hughes expanded into a warehouse, investing in quality new furniture that could be used in clients’ spaces. Staging has become secondary to her design work, but she incorporates the two, bringing new design trends into homes on the market.    

Need to stage just one room? Try doing it digitally. IMOTO Real Estate Photography has four photographers in the Hilton Head Island area. They’ll come to the house and shoot up to around 25 photos for the listing. Within 24 hours and for only $75 per photo, they can add everything from kitchen items to patio furniture to art and TVs to the image.

“Living room virtual staging is definitely our most popular option,” said IMOTO senior vice president Hannah Huppi. “It is a really great way to do one room that is usually a tricky room for buyers to imagine how furniture will look.”

The company also offers drone photography and video and even virtual twilight shots of the front of the home.

“When you see house listings, it is the same color over and over,” she said. “The darker photo with deeper blues and warm lights can give a very big advantage to listing photos, and having this done virtually can be a more affordable option.”