Nowhere in life is the old adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder truer than in real estate. One womanâ€™s dream home might be a mid-century modern, Mad Men styled contemporary, while anotherâ€™s includes all the gingerbread charm of a classic Victorian. But when it comes to prepping a home to be viewed and (fingers crossed!) sold, there is both art and science to staging a home before its listed to maximize its appeal to the broadest number of target buyers.
challenge is this: staging is an investment, one every seller canâ€™t afford to
make (although studies have shown professionally staged homes sell faster and
for more than non-staged counterparts). So many take it on as a do-it-yourself
project which, like all DIY home improvement projects, can be fantastic or,
mmm, not - depending on the approach, skill, and resources of the â€œselfâ€ who
does it. Â
only thing worse than not staging your home for sale at all is to spend your
time and money doing the work only to have buyers react badly to it. Here are a
few common scenarios in which sellers think their staging is awesome and
buyers, well, beg to differ:
1. Â You used beat up or ugly furnishings and decor. Â Great staging -
DIY or professional - includes choosing furniture that shows the home off in
its best light, and positioning the furnishings optimally, too. Â Sometimes
this can be done using certain pieces of the sellerâ€™s furniture, other times,
furniture must be rented or otherwise obtained. Â One area in which
budget-minded sellers like to save money on staging is by finding cheaper
alternatives than renting new furniture from a staging company or store.
this era of Craigslist, eBay, Freecycle, estate sales and other peer-to-peer
online stores and trading sites, there is an abundance of access to used
furniture at great prices. I have no bone to pick with the smart sellers who
use these tools to replace their own furniture with something that is in better
condition, more attractive or a smaller scale than their own, so as to highlight
how much space their home truly offers. That said, using old, floral sofas from
Craigslistâ€™s Free Section, unattractive thrift store â€œartworkâ€ or even your own
truly worn out, old furniture is a recurring reason buyers cite for focusing on
how bad the staging is vs. the house itself.
worse, the furnishings you might think was THE BEST BARGAIN EVER might actually
give your nice home a worn-down, unkempt feel to the buyers who come to see it.
2. Â You created distracting themes and scenes. Â My friend Barb Schwarz
is the head of the International Home Staging Professionals Association; she
defines staging as â€œpreparing a home for sale so the buyer can mentally move
in.â€ Â The goal is for buyers to visualize the new-and-improved versions of
their lives that your home will help them realize, so some pro stagers will set
up objects to communicate the lifestyle activities that a home facilitates.
Â Itâ€™s not bizarre to see a breakfast table and chairs on the patio of a
home with lovely views, a crib and baby gear-vignette in a small room suitable
for a nursery, or a popcorn maker and recliners to show off a media roomâ€™s
though, these scenes and vignettes can go rogue, creating borderline bizarre
scenarios that distract and detract more than they help.
A beach scene (ball, umbrella and all) in a midwestern bedroom, a lively Parisian mural and Eiffel tower replica in a California condo and bizarre collections (taxidermy, anyone?) are all real-life examples of staging scenes that have done more harm than good.
3. Â Your house is neither clean nor clutter-free. For various reasons, some homes just take time to sell. And if youâ€™re living in a home that is on the market for long, it can be challenging to ensure it is perfectly pristine at all times, meaning every single time a buyer enters it. And it doesnâ€™t take a truly filthy house to turn a buyerâ€™s impression of your home from awesome to awful. The little messes that a family accumulates through daily living can be perceived by buyers as distracting at best - disgusting, at worst.
If your home is well staged, do not underestimate the power of piles of clothes, mail, paperwork, dishes or kidsâ€™ toys to deactivate the home-selling power of all the hard work and money that went into preparing the property in the first place.
4. Â There are glaring gaps. Â Sometimes a homeâ€™s
staging leaves a glaring gap, an elephant in the room house, so to
speak. Â This often happens when sellers run out of time and money to
prepare a place, but it can be avoided through smart advance planning and
budgeting for your pre-listing property preparation. Â
5. Â You lacked a neutral, expert eye. Home decorating and home
staging are two different things. When you decorate your home, you customize it
with your specific tastes, preferences and aesthetics in mind. When you stage
it, you aim to neutralize your homeâ€™s look and feel so it appeals to more
buyers and doesnâ€™t have turn-off potential.
Schwarz puts it this way: â€œDecorating a home is personalizing it. Staging a home is depersonalizing it.â€
cannot count the number of beautifully decorated homes Iâ€™ve seen where the
seller must have thought they needed to do zero staging, and where the seller
was simply wrong. Their very personal tastes in Elvis quilt art, red lacquer
furnishings or sewing machine collections had been beautifully executed for
them, but also were so highly personal, so very specific that it was
near-impossible for a buyer to envision their own lives or families or homes or
activities taking place in that space.
is one reason I encourage even sellers who are on a tight budget and canâ€™t
afford pro staging and sellers whose homes that have been beautifully
decorated to at least have a home staging consultation with their agent and a
professional stager. Â These pros can call out little â€œeditsâ€ (furniture or
decor items you should remove) and give you advice about what buyers love and
hate to see in a home that you might be able to execute yourself at a
surprisingly low cost.