You Really Think Buyers Will Use Their Imaginations When They See Your Cluttered, Unstaged House?

Real Estate Agent with RLAH Real Estate AB95346

You really think buyers will use their imaginations when they see your cluttered or unstaged house? 

Well, some might.  In fact, there are some buyers who actually seek out these diamonds in the rough.  They are usually shrewd professionals looking for something to buy cheap, then fix up, stage, then resell for top dollar. 

But your buyers who are looking for their Dream House are in a whole other category.  While their agents may be able to spot a great home that, with a little elbow grease or great decor could be fabulous, many buyers looking for the place they are going to live and plant rose bushes and have a great life - well, they usually need a little bit of help.

They are looking for something that is staged to sell.

Buyers often select homes the way we select our mates.  It's pheromones.  They feel an actual physical attraction to the home they choose.  And like people, it's easier for a house to become the object of one's affections if it shows well.

This post was actually inspired by a showing I had last week.  Some things about the house were terrific.  Some were not.

It was most certainly not cluttered.  In fact, it was totally empty. 

The rooms were large and sun-filled.  It had a living room with a pretty fireplace mantel.  There was a huge family room addition with cathedral ceilings, a large screened in porch, and a nicely landscaped fenced back yard. 

But there were two negatives.  The kitchen was re-done in the early 1980's, when white formica countertops were the rage.  And even though it was huge and quite well laid out, my buyer had a hard time imagining what she'd do with it.  And the place was completely unstaged, making it hard to appreciate the vast spaces or imagine how to use all the room.  It was an overwhelming expanse of beautiful hardwood floors.

Then yesterday we looked at a place inhabited by a seller who was reasonably tidy with pretty nice taste in furnishings.  But it looked lived in.  It was still very much the seller's house.  It also could have used some emptying out, a coat of fresh paint, and a hardwood floor refinish.  It wasn't bad.  It just wasn't quite there.

The point is, these buyers just couldn't get her arms around either place.  They didn't call out to, "BUY!!!! ME!!!!!"

I'll give them credit.  They are making the attempt - something a lot of buyers just don't do anymore.

And if it's hard to fall in love with an empty house that is spotless, or a lived-in home that falls short of zen, one that is cluttered with housitosis is even harder to sell -  at least to buyers looking for a home to live in. 

As I write this, I look around my own house, which I'm planning to put on the market in the near-ish future.  And it's going to take a huge amount of work to get it ready for prime time - so much that I'd be mortified to post the "before" pictures.  But it will be worth the effort to live like a compulsive zen minimalist neatnic for a while.  When I sell, my home will certainly be staged to sell!

Perhaps I should begin now!   Time to empty that kitty litter box!

Buyers are becoming spoiled by all of the great stagers out there!


Re-Blogged 11 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. The Scott Loper Team Bux-Mont Premier Properties 03/28/2011 02:59 PM
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  10. Gabe Sanders 04/03/2011 11:54 PM
  11. Gita Bantwal 04/04/2011 12:10 AM
Home Selling
District of Columbia District of Columbia County Washington
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Brad Baxter
Brad Baxter, Weichert, Realtors - McDonald-McKinney - Fishers, IN
Indianapolis Real Estate Broker

Pat, I think it is so important for a seller to do everything they can to give themselves an advantage.  I have noticed that since our listing inventory in our market is low, buyers are starting to have a little better vision if they aren't finding the perfect home.

Mar 30, 2011 12:29 AM #98
Ellie Shorb
Compass Real Estate - Chevy Chase, MD
Realtor DC, MD & VA Luxury Home Expert

Love comment #66 above! Too funny. I have had listings on both sides  - where the sellers allowed me to stage and others where they promised (*pinky swear!) to be neat and I would find cereal boxes, cereal bowls, spoons, juice glasses, etc. on the kitchen table for a 1pm showing! UGH! We had a come to "Ellie" meeting about that. It does matter. Great post!

Mar 30, 2011 01:00 AM #99
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Patricia, I think there are so many choices out there that if the property isn't updated and doesn't look good its on to the next property.

Mar 30, 2011 01:35 AM #100
Ed Silva
RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Pat, so many important points to stress when getting a home ready to sell, but non more vital to action than making the home friendly to a prospective buyer. They don't want to see the over-sized furniture in the rooms, as it makes the rooms look small, nor the wall of fame with all of the family portraits. They have limited money to clean out someone else's mess, they want to buy new furniture and make it their home.

Mar 30, 2011 01:38 AM #101
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, 914-419-0270, - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

I went to a realtor open house a few weeks ago - a large 4 bedroom condo in a very nice area.   The "bones" were great, a beautifully redone kitchen, nice bathrooms, large rooms, but.....  it had been rented and the renters were very very very messy (they deserve 3 very's).  The entire kitchen counterspace was totally covered - with things and food and crumbs and grease.  The stove was greasy and probably hadn't been cleaned in months; the playroom floor was literally covered with toys; I had to watch where I walked.  The walls needs some repainting due to scuffs and stuff.  It showed very poorly, and I doubt the sellers (who had moved) knew what it looked like.  Anyway, in my opinion, buyers would not be able to see past the crap, and so I agree totally - homes need to be decluttered, cleaned, and staged in order to attract the right buyer(s).

Thanks for the post!!!

(PS, and the house is now temporarily off the market.  Hopefully they'll scrubbing it down!)

Mar 30, 2011 01:39 AM #102
Scott Fogleman
New Home Team 804-573-9592 - Richmond, VA
New Home Team

great post! many buyers have a hard time looking past the clutter, if you want to sell, make it look that way!

Mar 30, 2011 02:10 AM #103
Jeff Coon
Annie Mac Home Mortgage - Toms River, NJ
Branch Manager

I am one of those people who have a hard time imagining away all the clutter & seeing myself & my stuff in the home.  Stage it for me, and make it easy for me to buy!

Mar 30, 2011 03:00 AM #104
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

This is all so true.  Buyers - especially first time buyers and relocating buyers - just want to experience that "love at first sight" feeling when they walk into a home.  

Mar 30, 2011 03:26 AM #105
Cindy Logan

Well said!  People don't realize what a difference staging makes.  No imagination.  Even investors, who think dirty houses are the smell of money, sometimes have challenges picturing.


Mar 30, 2011 04:04 AM #106
Randy Harden
Wieder Realty, Inc. - Pompano Beach, FL

I think the key is to find the happy medium between clean of clutter and lightly lived in. I find that completely empty properties often lack the warmth that invites buyers to mentally invest their emotions into a home.

Mar 30, 2011 04:16 AM #107
Cory Barbee
San Diego, CA
Broker (760) 563-4022

I don't think buyers have a lot of home builders relize this...that's why they go to the extent to stage their models....

Mar 30, 2011 04:41 AM #108
Bill Gillhespy
16 Sunview Blvd - Fort Myers Beach, FL
Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos
Hi Pat, For some buyers it is difficult to see past a gaudy paint color let alone to imagine how a home might look after a sale.
Mar 30, 2011 04:46 AM #109
Kim & Kristine Halverson, Santa Monica Real Estate :) - Santa Monica, CA

Hi Pat:  Staging a home whether you have great taste as a Seller or simply hiring someone is the BEST way to go to get the most money!!  It would make it a lot easier for buyers to chose if Seller were able to stage.  :) Kristine

Mar 30, 2011 05:03 AM #110
Irene Kennedy Realtor® in Northwestern NJ
Weichert - Lopatcong, NJ


Very few folks can envision when a home is totally empty.  I carry chalk, a tape and bed dimensions in my car; when necessary, I map out how the buyer's bed will fit into rooms...

Mar 30, 2011 05:51 AM #111
Nina Rogoff
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Medfield, MA
Selling Norfolk County Homes

Lots of buyers are also watching HGTV and feel that all houses should be "staged to sell". I have a couple of clients who have amazing housekeeping standards. Their homes always looked staged to sell. Price it well and you have a marketing dream come true!

Mar 30, 2011 08:05 AM #112
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

They only thing they might imagine is how cheap they will get it.  And they will come in low.

Mar 30, 2011 10:37 AM #113
Dawn A Fabiszak
Private Label Realty ( Denver metro area, Colorado - Aurora, CO
The Dawn of a New Real Estate Experience!

Pat ~ great post.  Sometimes a vacant home is difficult for a buyer to visualize actual sizes.

Mar 30, 2011 04:44 PM #114
Joseph D. Federico
Donahue Real Estate Co. - Dedham, MA
Eastern Massachusetts Real Estate

Pat-Great post indeed, buyers are getting spoiled!

Apr 04, 2011 12:23 AM #115
Judy Jennings
The Green Company - Ashland, MA
Broker - The Lanterns at Warren Woods - Ashland MA

Pat - The majority of people can not visualize anything other than what is right in front of them. You make that point very clear in this post. If I was going to put my home on the market, I would use a stager too.

Apr 04, 2011 01:45 AM #116
Matt Robinson
Professional Investors Guild - Pensacola, FL

Some MIGHT, but MOST won't.  That's why rehabbers and stagers are in business...buyers for the most part have ZERO imagination..and even if they say they do...will always lean towards the fixed up, cleaned up staged home.

Oct 18, 2011 05:48 AM #117
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Patricia Kennedy

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