Here's the Inside Scoop on Staging Homes to Sell in the Hamptons

The architecture might be flawless and the materials top of the line, but what happens when great bones aren’t enough to sell a house? During the past several years, home staging has become a major tactic for getting the best price—and fast. “If a developer is having trouble moving a property in a competitive price range, staging is necessary,” says Enzo Morabito of Douglas Elliman Real Estate. “Particularly when a listing has an open floor plan, which is very popular nowadays, clients find it difficult to visualize how to use the space.” Good stagers, he adds, often bring in furnishings that are so appealing, buyers often purchase them along with the house. “Turnkey properties have never been more in demand.”

“Not having to wait three months for a sofa makes for an easy transition,” concurs Charlie Esposito of the Corcoran Group, who is currently listing a new $16.5 million seven-bedroom residence on East Hampton’s Hook Pond Lane with the firm’s Debbie Brenneman. Completed in May, the house has been kitted out by interior designer Jaclyn Baldari, who was hired during the concept phase by the 1.6-acre property’s developer, Abstract Builders, to help select everything from door hardware and plumbing fixtures to appliances and paint colors, and even the size of the floorboards. “I like to use a designer from the beginning so that he or she understands the entire picture,” says Abstract Builders’ Jeffrey Schneider. In many cases, a decorator or a stager might simply rent furnishings for the period during which a home is on the market, but with this property, “Abstract Builders actually purchased the items I sourced because what the staging companies offer isn’t at the level of a $17 million house,” explains Baldari. Which is not to say that buyers always sign up for the whole kit and caboodle. “We sometimes end up negotiating and throwing in the furniture, but if we don’t feel like the value is there for us, we’ll store the items and use them on the next project,” says Schneider.

The demand for move-in-ready Hamptons residences has become so intense that two Manhattan-based design firms with staging arms have recently opened outposts here: Ash, a design and development firm with its roots in staging, now has an office in Sag Harbor, and interior designer Elena Frampton has set up a branch of her firm, Frampton Co, in Bridgehampton. “We’re trying to unlock a home’s potential and bring it to life through furniture, art, accessories, flowers, music, and scent,” says Ash’s director of staging, Andrew Bowen. To avoid a cookie-cutter look, Ash—which recently worked with both the Corcoran Group and Bespoke Real Estate on listings in North Haven, East Hampton, and East Quogue, ranging in price from $4.395 million to $15.975 million—supplements pieces from its own line of furnishings with collected items from across the globe and locally made products. Frampton, who has dabbled in staging for several years in both New York and the Hamptons, is currently working with brokers on projects in Bridgehampton, Amagansett, and Wainscott. “It has become commonplace in the world of staging to use generic furnishings in an effort to widen the appeal of  a space,” says Frampton. “The problem is that buyers today care about good design and don’t want something that’s so vanilla.” 

In older homes at the higher end—those typically priced above $3 million—staging “is rarely necessary because most have been decorated by a professional,” Morabito says. “In these instances, we’ll just remove any clutter.” Easier said than done, counters New York–based decorator Nina Carter, who argues that “working with sellers can be difficult because they all think their house is beautiful. A fresh coat of paint, new bedding, and a neutral palette can work wonders.” Whether staged or preserved in amber, Baldari adds, a home ultimately sells “when people can see themselves living in it.”