First the synthetic white orchids are placed on a console, then in a windowsill, before coming to satisfaction on the mantelpiece. 

They are one detail of hundreds in a three-bedroom period property on Marlborough Road, Dublin 4, that is being sold out of receivership. 

The property, which has just gone to market, for €1.495 million, was in the process of being staged when The Currency visited. 

Artwork and mirrors were being hung on freshly painted walls in the hue of “subtle”, tradesmen were traipsing up and down the steam cleaned weaved carpets and decisions over where to place scatter cushions, side tables and vases, were constant.

Overseeing it all was Breeda O’Sullivan, the home stager, who says her clients sell faster, get more interest and tend to get a premium on the asking price. 

While the concept of a showroom is familiar to Irish buyers, the idea of individually staged homes is relatively new, having migrated from Los Angeles in the last few years. 

Typically staging involves dressing an empty house with soft furnishings and accessories and painting the walls and doors, but it can also mean changing carpets, respraying the kitchen fittings and landscaping the garden.

The intended result is a home of clean lines and soft tones, where sofas and beds have no corporeal imprint. More than just a property but an aspirational lifestyle, without the clutter of daily life is presented to potential buyers. 

“It’s all about the first impression someone sees and that is usually on the internet. 

“So you’re scrolling through and no one wants to see photos of other people’s children on the wall, just like you wouldn’t want to see a portrait of the person that slept in your hotel room the night before you,” ” O’Sullivan said, while on a top down tour of the Malbourgh red-brick. 

“It takes the guesswork out of it for the buyer, they can imagine themselves living here.”

O’Sullivan charges between €3,000- €15,000 depending on logistics, how difficult the property is to access and how much furniture is needed. 

“One of the first things we do is take down the curtains as we want to maximise the light. You want to make it as neutral as possible.” 

In an O’Sullivan staged house, the art comes first – think inoffensive large oil abstracts in pastel shades, bed sheets are always white with a pastel metallic eiderdown that picks up the colours in the art, and there are mirrors everywhere.  

“You try to design for the buyer, whether it is a family or a young professional.

“But I did a house around the corner from here, with seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms and it was a couple and their two dogs bought it. So you never really know.”

O’Sullivan currently has fifteen houses staged and is down to the dregs of her inventory which is stored in a warehouse in North Dublin. She picks up pieces from wholesalers, auction houses and in a pinch from TK Maxx, the discount department store.

“Inventory wise, I’m afraid to count how many sofas and beds I have. I could open a hotel. The beds we use, they look great, but no one is going to sleep on them.

“The contract lasts for two months, by then the house should have gone sale agreed and be well on its way to being sold.”

A life-long entrepreneur who started out in the beauty business, O’Sullivan has been home staging for two years, and has noticed a shift in how prepared people are to invest money in the service.

She tells a story of a three-bedroom house she staged recently, for two brothers in their sixties who were selling their family home in Blackrock

“They weren’t quite sure what I was about, but they trusted me. The house was going up for €645,000, they spent €15,000 on staging and it sold within a week for €810,000.”

O’ Sullivan works with DNG, Hunters, Knight Frank, and Sherry Fitzgerald, who recommend her, or one of her peers to their clients, to maximise bidders, speed up the process and get more attractive offers.

O’Sullivan finds it hard to put a percentage uplift on her work, other than to give some individual examples. 

A recent five-bed detached home she staged on Cambridge Road in Rathmines, had a guiding price of €2.5 million and sold for almost a million euro over. 

23 Elgin Road on Dublin’s embassy belt which she staged was on the market for €3.5 million earlier this month, and went sale agreed in less than a week, for well in excess of the asking price – the sale hasn’t been finalised yet, so O’Sullivan won’t give the final price. 

In the US, where shows like Million Dollar Listing and Selling Sunset, have created a new fandom for property porn, staging is charged on commission and is tied to the real estate agent but in Ireland the rates are flat and stagers are independent. 

Searching through listings on property websites, it quickly becomes apparent when a home has been staged or not, but Guy Craigie, director of residential at Knight Frank, says it doesn’t matter whether the buyer is aware the house has been staged, it still has the same effect. 

“Most people come in and they’ll know it has been staged but that doesn’t diminish how much they like it, or how much they appreciate it. 

“It shows that a client has invested in the sale of a property, which in all likelihood means that they’ve invested in the house over time, and they want the very best. 

“If it is left unstaged it can raise questions, like; why didn’t they stage it, have they not been spending money on it, do they just want to sell it quickly?”

For Craigie, getting an “excellent suite” of photos to upload online and pitch to the property pages of newspapers is all important. 

“The more luxurious a property looks, the easier it is to get it featured in a newspaper and that has a considerable impact.”

At the upper end of the market in Dublin, for homes with a guiding price of €1 million plus, he estimates that 30 per cent of properties are being staged. 

“It’s so important from the perspective of seeing how furniture fits. A room that is empty always looks much smaller than reality and sometimes it can be hard for people to get their heads around it.”

While it is becoming more prevalent it can still be a hard sell to clients to understand the benefit of staging. 

“When you have to tell somebody that there is an upfront cost here of say €20,000, it can be a hard sell.

“But history will tell us from our experience, that with staging what you’ll do is generate a lot more interest on the property

“It will find its place in the market a lot more quickly and to be honest with you, in most of our stage properties, we have ended up getting a premium on our asking price.”

A premium for Craige represents a between 3 – 5 per cent above asking price, which tends to be the norm for houses selling for in excess of a million euros. 

For houses at the lower end, he reckons that percentage can be pushed out to between 5 – 10 per cent. 

A living room staged by Sarah Evers

There is a demarcation between the premium home stagers say their work adds and what real estate agents say it adds. 

For Sarah Evers, a home stager who started her career working in retail partnerships with Aer Lingus, there have been multiple occasions where the monetary value of her work has been proven. 

Last year there were two terraced townhouses for sale on the same street, one staged by Evers and one empty; her client sold their home for €65,000 more than the shell property.  

More recently when an apartment in Monkstown that wouldn’t budge for months at €350,000, was taken off the market, Evers was brought in to salvage the sale. 

She painted the flat, changed the carpets, did some minor repairs and it sold “instantly” for €375,000.

“Typically my clients are very savvy, business oriented, commercially oriented people who have already decided to understand the financial gain to staging,” Evers said over a phone interview.

“Home Staging is tax deductible from the capital gains tax on the sale, so if you have the money upfront to invest in presenting the home to the market, it’s a no-brainer.”

Evers puts her average uplift on asking price at 16 per cent, though her record is 38 per cent, for a house that closed at €1.2 million. 

“There’s a lot of money floating around and people have become time poor, so they want a solution. Sometimes people want to buy my inventory that’s in the property. 

“Often it is a win win for me, I have trade accounts with a number of different wholesalers, so I can easily replace things and it saves me having to take it out again.”


While there are some who evangelise the service, there are others who aren’t buying it. 

John McNally of McNally Handy estate agents, doesn’t believe a discerning buyer will pay a premium for a staged home. 

McNally, who has been working in real estate for four decades, hasn’t ruled out using professional home stagers in future, but for the most part he doesn’t think there is a true financial benefit. 

“ A house is not a chocolate box, it’s a lived in house, and people see that, 

“Staging can be very costly, when a client asks me about it i generally say i don’t think it’s necessary. What sells a house is proximity, location and orientation.” 

McNally sells residential at the upper end of the market and currently has houses on the market on Raglan Road, Sutton and Howth. He doesn’t believe there is a true a financial benefit to the seller of staging it. 

“To be frank, I think it’s a bit of a falsehood.

“For people selling a family home or something, generally I would say to declutter and we might arrange furniture differently.

“But I don’t accept that buyers will pay a premium for staged properties, not after what we’ve been through in the last two years.”