How to stage a rental for a showing

Written on January 3, 2018 by , updated on January 5, 2018

stage rentalStaging a property is like being on your best behavior while on a first date—the purpose of both is to make a great first impression.

People stage houses all the time when they want to sell. They want buyers to see the home’s potential and to imagine themselves living there. Sellers who stage typically use a real estate agent to guide them or hire a professional stager.

But is staging necessary when you want to rent your property? Before you learn how to stage a rental, it’s best to determine whether you even should.

Related: How to maximize your rental income through renovation & decoration

Staging—it couldn’t hurt

There’s no controversy about whether staging makes people ooh and aah over a property. It does. The whole purpose is to get buyers—or in this case, renters—to love what they’re seeing so much they want to live there. So it’s never a bad thing to stage a property.

But if you’re in a competitive rental market and are having no problems getting good tenants to rent your property(s), you probably don’t need to invest the time or money it takes to stage a home. Heck, you might even be able to rent your property with clothes strewn about the floor and dishes in the sink (although you probably shouldn’t try that in your home!).

When not to stage

Professional real estate investor Dustin Heiner is a strong believer in not staging your home for rent. “What I have learned from my years of investing is to never stage a rental property,” he says. Why? “The mindset of a renter is having a place to live, not a place to own.”

In other words, renting is typically a temporary situation, and buying is usually permanent. It’s more difficult to get people to commit to something permanent. Back to that dating comparison: A rental is like a date you go out with for a while but isn’t necessarily “the one.”

Real estate broker Kris Lippi of Get LISTED Realty also thinks staging is unnecessary for rental properties. “Staging is too cost prohibitive, logistically doesn’t work due to quick move-ins vs. sales, and probably won’t help the outcome of finding a tenant. For rentals, it’s all about meeting the tenant’s requirements, such as number of bedrooms, in the school district they need to be in, and rent within their budget.”

Kori Marin, a Realtor at Fox Marin Associates, believes staging a rental property is a “total waste of time and money.” She gives some advice of what to do instead of staging:

  • Showcase a professionally cleaned unit, including sparkling windows, appliances, kitchens, and bathrooms.
  • If needed, a coat of fresh white paint can bring a rental property back to life.
  • Hire a professional real-estate photographer to snap some great photos of your property.

There are times, however, when staging a rental property is beneficial. Maybe you’re renting in a high-rent area with lots of competition. Staging might make the difference in whether you rent such a place or not. Whatever your reason, if you want to stage a rental property, here are three tips on how.

1. KISS (keep it simple, stupid)

Just doing something minimal can work wonders. Jeff Miller, co-founder of AE Home Group, says, “Whenever we turn over a rental unit, we stage it with a simple ‘Welcome Home’ doormat. When potential tenants tour our homes, it is the first thing they see.” Don’t think a doormat is that special? Miller explains: “This creates a psychological effect called ‘priming,’ which influences peoples’ subconscious. Potential tenants enter the property focused on the positives of why this should be their next home.”

Jamie Crouch with Home Again Properties also believes little things can make a difference when trying to rent out property. “I always steal from my personal home if I have a table I’m not using or lamps, trinkets, etc.,” she says. “You don’t have to get carried away with furnishing the place. And you don’t have to stage every unit that comes open, only the harder-to-lease properties.

Crouch recommends the following to stage a rental:

Bathrooms

  • Put out fresh white towels with a ribbon tied around them.
  • Fold a hand towel and place it next to the sink to help hide an ugly counter.
  • Put a dish filled with boutique soaps next to the sink.
  • Place a plant on the counter.
  • Hang a trendy shower curtain.

Kitchen

  • Hang a hand towel from the oven door.
  • Throw in a matching rug by the sink.
  • Place a cookbook on a stand.

Master bedroom

  • Get a blowup mattress and put it on some totes.
  • Cover the bed with a trendy comforter and lots of throw pillows.
  • Place end tables if you have some.

Back patio

  • Set up a small bistro or dining table.
  • Put out some planters with flowers. (Fake flowers work.)

2. Stay in budget

In general, you’ll want to spend less money to stage a rental property than you would for a property you were selling. Allison Bethell, real estate investment staff writer at Fit Small Business, gives some tips:

  • Include lots of lighting, such as overhead lighting combined with a desk and bedside lamps.
  • Use mirrors. Mirrors make small spaces appear larger.
  • Put out plants. Plants show the renter in a subconscious way that the home has enough light to support a plant.
  • Pick up accent pieces at discount stores.
  • Have on hand a few major furniture items that hold up well and that you can switch out between properties.
  • Consider renting furniture.

Chris Taylor, a broker with Advantage Real Estate, says space and functionality are important to renters, so it’s a good idea to stage a closet. “Stage it to show how it can store coats, shoes, cleaning supplies, luggage, and more with an inexpensive organization system like double rods or adding storage cubes or plastic drawers.” Other storage staging ideas from Taylor include the following:

  • A wall mounting for bikes
  • Shelving for added storage
  • A kitchen storage cart
  • An over-the-toilet storage unit

“These small improvements can be made with less than $100,” he says.

3. Know your audience

If you typically rent to a particular type of tenant based on your property’s location, such as young urban professionals, families, or college students, make sure you stage a rental in the most effective way for your targeted group. Shelly Place of Triplemint says, “If you know your demographic is looking for something specific—a nursery, for example—stage one room as a nursery. Don’t stage it as an office.”

Place says that although staging is important, the economics often don’t make sense, particularly for units that typically rent in a few days. “But if you have a big rental project, like a new development with multiple units, you absolutely should consider staging a model unit.”

Related: The power of premarketing: How to host 70 showings in 7 days

The bottom line

Whether you want to stage your rental property or not, it’s always best to make your property look its best by doing a thorough cleaning between tenants, sprucing up the paint, and making any necessary repairs. This cost of doing business will always pay off.

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3 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Ugh

    Model and staged units are a big red flag that scream “Bait and Switch”. As someone who has rented in different cities throughout my adult life I can honestly say I don’t trust anyone who shows me a staged unit. If it doesn’t come with the rental don’t put it in there.

    • Jeff Miller

      I would have to completely disagree. Landlords that put time into staging their rentals are the ones who are willing to put in the additional effort required to provide an above and beyond product. It’s really a sign of someone who cares, not of someone who’s trying to hide something.

      • Sally

        This is false. I’ve rented from landlords who staged units. The units they used as model units were all updated with everything looking high end. The apartments they rented were trash. They had cheap and some times broken appliances. They were dirty. They did not respond to maintenance requests.

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