Real Estate Staging / Home Staging Blog


Are Model Homes Dying Dinosaurs?

Each year large builders and developers all across the nation invest millions of dollars to build, design and install lush & lovely model homes. Why? It is pretty simple. Models sell homes. As you'd expect, a model is a great tool to help a buyer understand just how to configure and fit furniture within a prospective home. More importantly, builders know a beautiful model interior will connect emotionally with the buyer... enticing them with a possible "lifestyle" to be enjoyed if they bought the home.

Until quite recently, only larger builders could justify, afford and benefit from investing substantial sums of money into model interiors. But now, because of home staging, more and more smaller "boutique" builders have discovered that experienced Home Stagers can inexpensively design and quickly install beautifully staged models that rival the über-expensive models of their larger counter parts.

But a secret only stays a secret for so long as it was only a matter of time before a savvy larger builder discovered the model resource smaller builders were using... and that builder is one of the nation's largest builders, Toll Brother's. Recently Real Estaging worked with Toll Brothers to stage a quick delivery spec home within their Hawthorn Woods Country Club community here in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

What makes this story even more extraordinary is the fact that Toll Brothers ALREADY HAD a lush & lovely model for the same home we staged located about ¼ mile away. Pictured to the left, are interior photographs, taken pretty much from the same view point of the original lush & lovely model and the staged model we designed and installed.  (I am not going to tell you which is which quite yet.) Now I don't know how much time it took to plan and install or how many thousands and thousands of dollars were spent on the lush & lovely model... but I do know we designed and installed our staged model in about 3 ½ days and all for less than $5,000. (Which includes the rental fee for furniture provided by Brook Furniture Rental.)

How will the use of home staging as an alternative to models play out over time? Will developers freeze-up and allow their lush & lovely models go the way of the dinosaur? Well, that is yet to be determined. However, I applaud Toll Brothers for their foresight and innovative thinking in looking at new possibilities and new opportunities. In the future, due to creative thinking like this, it just might be that the vast amount of moneys builders spend on models could be redirected into staging multiple spec homes that dot their communities, and in doing so give more homes within a development their own unique yet enticing model lifestyle image.

Stage It Forward... with ideas and information


PS: The answer to WHICH IS WHICH? can be found in the first comment.


Comment balloon 25 commentsCraig Schiller • April 11 2007 04:28PM


Posted by Craig Schiller over 13 years ago

Craig Baby,

I figured that the bold patterned chairs were what the builder did! Just seems too busy!

I had one of my sellers do a "staged" condo. Then I went over it and removed some items. Love the rule of three. Only three items...four vases on a piece of furniture? Nope. And more? Why not open a store?

And, we've only been on 9 days and all the showing responses are: Shows beautifully. I'm expecting the unit to sell under market time.

Tell me what you think:


Posted by Eileen Landau, ABR, CRS, e-PRO (BAIRD & WARNER, NAPERVILLE) over 13 years ago

Score another big success for Craig!  You go, Craig!

Congrats on entering yet another venue for stagers - the model home!  As usual, your work is amazing!


Posted by Val Allocco, HSE; ASHSR - Home Stager, for Manhattan, Brooklyn & Long Island (Staged 2 Sell New York & Long Island) over 13 years ago

That is something I so desperately want to do.  Some of these model homes I go into are just sooo busy!!!  How did you get into doing Model Homes???

Posted by Kris Floro (All Dolled Up) over 13 years ago
Craig, We know it isn't easy. But you make it look like it is. Great Job!
Posted by Yvonne Root, Home Stager - Northern Arizona (rooms b.y. root) over 13 years ago

Craig: The mind boggles. I actually liked yours better from the get-go, before I read the comments. More "homey" than the "Lush and lovely" rendition. 


Posted by Boomer Jack Boardman & Carl McIntyre, the Codgers (Noted Curmudgeons) over 13 years ago
Craig...WOW!!! Very nice work!! I guessed yours right off the know how?  The vases!! You've got that signature vase thing going on! :)   Your staging and color choices make is SO much more warm and inviting! :) 
Posted by Teresa Meyer, Home Staging Cincinnati-OH. (Cincinnati Home Stager) over 13 years ago


Indeed models are a tremendous source of income for us...developing those relationships can take time, as it did for us, but the right contact opened the door, and we are thrilled with how the road went from builder's models to cover story photo shoots to high rises. PLUS score big on those models when the buyer wants to buy it ALL! We recently did sucha feat. In our story, the realty company hired us to spend the developer's money to furnish an urban modern penthouse in a swanky new riverfront high rise. We selected the wallcolors, and sold window coverings to them too, then it sold furniture and all for somewhere near $1.5 million. So for our next model, (its staged right now! and condos are selling) we invested in a new collection and hope to earn the markup when it sells to the condo buyer. I have attached 3 photos of the penthouse...I think...they don't look llke they attached but I hesitate to go again to avoid sending them twice. Let me know if I should try again.


Posted by Paula Springer over 13 years ago
Craig, You travel to Boston? Very impressive. Nice post. So you didn't like the purple window accents?
Posted by Michael Ross, North Shore of Boston (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 13 years ago
I think the problem with the models is that they would spend money in big ticket items like custom window treatments and designer furniture that was not really necessary and does not make that much of a difference.  You did a superb job Craig .....but you already know that!   : )
Posted by Rick & Ines - Miami Beach Real Estate (Majestic Properties) over 13 years ago

Hi Craig,


Great job!  For those of us who have been doing model homes for builders this is yet another service we can offer . . . staging!  And with the standing inventory that just about every national builder is sitting with right now, staging is an affordable alternative.  I'm finding that they are most receptive!

Posted by jeannene edwards over 13 years ago

More and more builders are using stagers to stage model homes because of the difference in pricing. Honestly I don't see the difference. I have staged (2) model homes so far and thought, wait a minute, how did this happen?? Builders are loosing money and they don't need the designer drapery treatments and expensive wallpapers, etc. that have been used previously in model homes.

Stagers are doing a great job for a fraction of the cost and the houses are selling!!

Phyllis Pafumi 

Posted by Phyllis Pafumi, ReStyled to Sell Staging Homes NJ (ReStyled to Sell Home Staging New Jersey) over 13 years ago

Craig, great article and very nice staging job,too.Whatta inspiration you are!

 Can you provide some technical assistance? Someone saw my profile on AR & called me about staging a model home.

Would you share your experience? What did you do first? This is my 1st BIG project & I want to do a GR8 job. Do you have a standard contract for staging jobs that you're willing to share? How did you structure your fees? I visited a furniture rental store today.It seems to be a spendy way to go.

Thx for your input!

Gale in Alaska :  ) 13+ hours of glorious sunshine!!!!

Posted by Gale Larson (ShowCase Residential Staging) over 13 years ago

Nicely done, Craig and what an excellent post.

I've been fortunate to have staged three separate models in the past 8 months.  The builders have all been ecstatic with how much more affordable it is to use a stager.  Leasing the furniture and accessories also means that the builder isn't straddled with these items once the homes are sold.   

Again, an excellent post and another incredible example of your work!  Thanks for sharing.




Posted by Kathy Nielsen, Atlanta Georgia Home Stager ( over 13 years ago

Craig, You have PERFECT timing! (Do you have my phone bugged? haha ) I received a phone call yesterday concerning staging of model homes. Going Monday to measure, photograph, discuss! Thanks for your blog amd Please keep writing!!

Thanks, Leslie

PS the phone caller knew of me because of AR!! Yes, Yes, Yes! 


Posted by Leslie Godbold, Motivation Speaker, Radio host "Positively Living" (WZGM AM1350 Independent Asheville Radio) over 13 years ago
Craig ALL the Builders New Model homes in Austin are staged! I never see one that is purely empty.
Posted by Danny Smith (DISCOVER TEXAS HOMES) over 13 years ago

Interesting timing Craig. . . I have had a thread going this week about bidding on a job for a custom home builder.  He is a high quality builder who does amazing work and feels the typical "model" is too "over the top" and can mask the amazing features of the home.  It is after all about the home and not about the expensive custom window treatments and themed wallpaper!

Posted by Lori Gilmore, One Savvy Move Home Staging (One Savvy Move) over 13 years ago

Hi there,


Gorgeous work. I knew which was yours right away because it was warmer, more spacious looking and frankly better done! Keep up the great work. KH

Posted by Kate Hart (Hart & Associates Staging and Design) over 13 years ago

Hey there great work!and we are looking into this as well here - in fact we just did a consult on a newly purchased Toll Bros. home here that has furniture and they're moving after only 4 months, funny thing is, we were parked outside the house and other builders are in this neighborhood and our sign was on the car and as we were leaving another builder stopped us and asked for OUR card for a vacant model they had in the development - 

I was wondering - is this model for SALE or SHOW?  Was your budget for 3 months time or a year or more? that is a question that some builders have asked - the rental over a longer time can actually cost more in some cases and they are hesitant - would rather buy the furniture and then have a sale at the end or move it to another location.

As always - thanks for sharing

Posted by Karen Otto, Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging, (Home Star Staging) over 13 years ago

Hey Craig...beautiful job.

I just want to let everyone know that Interior Designers seldom charge a lot of money to do model homes. The whole point in most cases is the agreement with the builder to get the buyer follow up. That means the designer will have the opportunity make his or her income from upgrading the window coverings, wall coverings, furnishings and accessories to the buyers in the subdivision. Carpet upgrades and all floorings etc. as well. Designers also purchase their merchandise at wholesale and pass that on to the builder.

A model home is a staged home so there are as many ways of staging as there are stagers. My concern is every home may end up looking like Brooks showrooms. This problem will need to be figured out but it is definitely an opportunity for really good stagers.

Posted by Sheron Cardin, ARTIST - A Home Stager/Sellers Best Friend! (California Moods Inc) over 13 years ago


You bring up some VERY good points... and I also want to clarify a few things.  While I do not know the EXACT amount paid for the lush & lovely model... it was into 6 figures. (As they say.) WHICH IS A HUGE SOME OF MONEY! HUGE! Multiply that by the 3 model properties on site... and that is a LOT of money.

While, as you described, some builders use the model's designers who then do the sales for upgrade finishes & fixtures, this is not always the case.

I think that the staging approach to design and the typical MODEL design are totally different.TOTALLY. Yes, the core foundation incorporates design... but not evey model designer is going to understand and be able to do staging design.

But also (and this is what I think you meant by "really good stager") not ever stager is going to be able to do the staging design required at the level a developer/builder will need to differentiate the properties look.

YES... Rental furniture can have a "RENTAL LOOK" about it... but not all. If the rental company has depth and diversity in their lines and a commitment to add to their inventory unique items (as Brook does) then a really good stager will be able to create the fresh interiors that entice home buyers.

The MOST IMPORTANT message I was trying to relate is the fact that builders DO have OPTIONS. And there might be ways to use design in new faster leading edge ways that where never considered. Saving the builder 1,000's and 1,000's of dollars.

Them point I guess I was trying to make was to OPEN UP NEW possibilities... cause we all know the old way.



Posted by Craig Schiller over 13 years ago

Great blog Craig.

I love your work!  You can't tell the difference and for a fraction of the cost.

I know that we talked about the difference in psychology between 'staging' a home and 'modeling' a home, but I think that your staging sends the same psychological message of 'lifestyle' as the model home.  You give the same psychological message, there is no difference.

Posted by Jessica Hughes (Ambiance Staging) over 13 years ago

Hi Craig, lot's to talk about here and a huge opportunity for all. I would like to get my hands on a project that pays in the 6 figure category. Very nice indeed and that would make home stagers look even better just for the price alone. I guess you could say I was paid in the 5 figure category. I would estimate what it would cost to furnish a model then that would be the amount I would have to work with for purchasing, installation, and profit. Often times I would find sofas a Levitz for less than wholesale...the difference went into my pocket. If the builder/developer (as you know) does not need to service a sub division, then it is open game. Good point.

Brooks does have a beautiful like of furniture. I would say the business to get into right now would be the furniture rental business, huh!

Posted by Sheron Cardin, ARTIST - A Home Stager/Sellers Best Friend! (California Moods Inc) over 13 years ago

At this day and age who really has 5,000 for models

Posted by Michelle Way, ABR, GRI, WCR ( AVALAR Pro Realty) over 13 years ago

Unfortunately, the quality of Toll Brother's construction, especially in the development you have mentioned, is very much on the decline.  I have inspected a few of the larger homes in this development and found them to be of very poor workmanship and have a number of serious defects.

Takes a lot of 'staging' to distract the buyer, but that is what Home Inspectors are for, I guess. 


Posted by William Decker (Decker Home Services, LLC) over 13 years ago