In many cases, staging will determine how easily a home will sell, but luckily, it’s one of the few factors that your clients have control over. With a little guidance from their great agent (read: you!) any smart homeowner can get their home picture perfect and buyer ready.

Of course, we’re not talking about major renovations here—just deep-cleaning, uncluttering, and maybe a fresh coat of paint. As agents know, the point of staging is to remove anything that will distract a buyer from all the great things the home has to offer. But for some sellers, it’s easy to go overboard if they’re not careful.
Here are a few of the biggest pitfalls we’ve seen when sellers over-stage a home and how agents can help them avoid these missteps.

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1. Don’t Be Dull

Are you selling a hotel room? No? Then a home shouldn’t look like a hotel! The purpose of staging is not to make the home boring and bland. The goal of staging is to get the potential buyer to feel that the home looks nice all the time, so it should feel like real—but incredibly neat!—people live there.

As agents, we typically prefer boring over cluttered and crazy, but remember, a few spots of color photograph well and will stand out in listing photos. Simple touches add subtle interest, like a red throw pillow or a turquoise fruit bowl—just don’t go too wild.

2. Selling With Smell

When you’re listing a home where sellers are living, sometimes it can be tough to keep a listing in tip-top shape for spur of the moment showings. Of course, no one wants a home to smell like last night’s beef stroganoff when a potential buyer arrives.

Many sellers overcompensate with potpourri and air fresheners. Beware of overwhelming a serious buyer with seriously strong scents. A home should smell fresh and clean, but not heavily perfumed. A seller’s best bet is to invest in a deep clean to remove lingering smells and avoid cooking anything too potent during the list time.

3. The Sound of Music

Ditch the tunes. Mood music backfires more often than not. Sellers won’t be able to guess the buyer’s musical tastes, and it can make some buyers feel like they’re being manipulated.

4. The Elephant Graveyard

Sometimes it’s necessary for the homeowners to move out before the house sells. But too many sellers take their best furniture and possessions with them to their new home, leaving only the most run-down furniture behind.

In a sparsely furnished house, it’s even more important that the pieces left behind are tasteful and add to the ambiance of the home. The old sectional sofa sitting forlornly in an empty living room will just make the house feel abandoned. The house should be well furnished or completely empty. Not somewhere in between.

5. Wasting Money on the Wrong Renovations

Many sellers undertake huge projects right before they sell. Perhaps the bathroom is outdated, and they’ve always wanted to fix it up. Or, the kitchen appliances may be decades-old and in desperate need of replacement.

But it’s hard for sellers to guess which renovations will provide the greatest return on their investments. Small touches like new cabinet hardware or new light fixtures might go a long way toward making the home feel up to date, without doing a major renovation costing tens of thousands of dollars. Sellers should depend on their savvy agent to help figure out how much updating is needed so the home will sell easily in the current market.

6. Remove Clutter, Don’t Just Move It Around

Agents say this to virtually every client: When it comes to selling a home, less is more. An uncluttered home makes listing photos more attractive, which translates to more showings, and it makes the house feel open and airy.

But it rarely works to try to hide the clutter. A serious buyer will want to look under the hood, kick the tires a little. That means they’ll explore the basement, open up your closets, and even look under your sink. So it’s important to that agents stress the importance of getting rid of or storing extra belongings. It might seem like a lot of work, but it will make it easier to move out once the seller gets the offer they’ve been waiting for.

These tips were originally written by Trulia contributor Virgina Mcquire.

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