Home staging has become a popular option for homeowners looking to make their space stand out in the crowd once it goes on the market. These businesses often allow home sellers to rent furniture and other design elements on a weekly or monthly basis to populate a home and give it a unique look and feel. Many home staging services will also offer a consultation to tailor a furniture layout precisely to the home's characteristics. With these services, home staging experts promise your home will sell faster and for more money than what would be possible without it.

However, with the cost of these services running anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, the question of how smart it is to invest in home staging is bound to come up. Realtor.com did some digging to come up with an answer on the value of home staging. Their conclusion: It depends.

As Daniel Goldstein of Realtor.com remarked, home staging is not unlike makeup for real estate. Goldstein spoke to Shell Brodnax, chief executive of the Real Estate Staging Association, to get an opinion directly from an expert in the industry. Even Brodnax was willing to admit that there are limits to what home staging can accomplish. While nice furniture and accessories will make rooms come alive like never before, it's much harder to conceal flaws, even with the best staging money can buy.

Still, Goldstein found that many have had success with staging services. He spoke to one New Jersey resident who managed to sell her home within a day of the showing, and for $30,000 more than the asking price. The owner paid $7,000 to have her home staged before the open house. According to statistics from RESA, this is on the high end of staging costs, but the owner strongly believed it was a main factor in the home's quick sale and generous offer.

Does it really work?

Studies have been designed in the past to analyze the effects of home staging on buyers. The results could be used to argue either for or against the practice. One study, conducted by RESA, analyzed the sales data on 170 homes with an estimated value between $300,000 and $500,000. RESA found that homes that had been staged sold in just 22 days on average, while non-staged homes stayed on the market almost four times longer - 125 days on average. A grain of salt may be necessary here, since RESA is, after all, generally in favor of staging. However, anecdotal evidence works in their favor, too. Many real estate agents found prospective buyers often expressed warm feelings towards staged homes, compared with those that were left bare.

On the other hand, staging does have its detractors. Another study published in the Journal of Housing Research found that staged homes did not sell for significantly higher prices than non-staged properties. In the study, researchers even compared similar properties using different styles of furniture, one group having "upscale" wares, while another had decidedly "ugly" accouterments. Both groups fetched similar prices, regardless of staging design.

In addition, many real estate professionals will agree that in the right market - which is to say, a popular one - staging will work as little more than an afterthought for buyers. There's also plenty that buyers can do themselves to stage a home, usually with minimal effort and investment.

While sellers won't want to forego the home inspection, the debate on home staging rages on.