there is such a thing as too much de-personalizing...blandness does not inspire offers

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Home Stager with a fresh space :: home staging & thoughtful organizing

Usually when I go on a staging consult, it's an occupied house which generally means that personal items have accumulated in the home such as family photos, toys, prescription bottles, calendars, religious or political items, etc.  These are the kinds of things I recommend removing as the main goal of staging is to get the buyer to visualize themselves in the home.  But lately, I've been running into an opposite problem.  Sellers who "get ready" for the Stager or misunderstood what their Realtor told them (or the Realtor didn't really understand the concept of "depersonalization"), or in some cases, just never got to the accessorizing part of living in a home.  This is a two-fold issue so here you go . . .

De-personalizing means removing things clearly belonging to the seller that could impact the buyer in a potentially negative way.  Now we don't know who is coming to look at the house so we need to take precautions:

  • remove family photos, diplomas, gold records, framed news articles, kids awards, kids names in wood letters on their walls, etc.  This is partially because you want the buyers to see themselves there, not you.  But it is also for personal safety. Do you really want people knowing who you are, where you work, where your kids go to school and how cute your kids are?
  • remove medical items such as prescription bottles, medical equipment, etc.  This is partially because you don't want these items to go walking, but also because a savvy Realtor will use whatever they can to get their buyer a deal.  I know an agent who got their buyer a killer deal on a house because she could tell from the progression of medications that the owner had a serious illness.  Further research revealed that the sellers were on the brink, so they swooped in.
  • remove any religious or political items.  I don't care how devout you are - you don't know if the prospective buyer is a Buddhist, atheist or born again Christian; or Republican, Democrat or Communist- just don't go there.  You are just asking for trouble.
  • put away all mail and paper that may have your name or other personal information.  I can't tell you how many times I'll look at a house and there are bills scattered everywhere (this is a whole 'nother issue with organizing but also a whole 'nother article).  In this day of identity theft, bad move.  This also goes for calendars or planners.  People looking at your house don't need to know you are out of town next weekend, or that your kids play soccer at the local ball field on Tuesday nights.

So what's left?  Lots of stuff, if you are like most people.  But when you are staging your house, you want to be sure that you do leave some personality, just not be "personal".  This means accessories such as artwork, plants, books, pottery or other decorative pieces and more designed to bring out the great features of your home such as the fireplace, countertops, bathrooms, etc.  If you are bringing in a Stager (and you should), give us something to work with.  Selling your home is the time to pack up belongings that have personal meaning and set your home up like the product it is.  Think nice, neutral accessories that bring in the feeling of a model home or the merchandising feel of a Pottery Barn, West Elm or Restoration Hardware. 

I met with a nice couple last week and they had de-personalized so much that the place looked abandoned.  I hated to tell them this but my job is to give them the truth.  The truth was, the house was so boring and plain vanilla that there wasn't much I could do.  Beige walls, beige floors, beige furniture, no art, no books.  I had nothing to work with.  What I did do was give them specific instructions on what they could do themselves (they were on a tight budget) to make the house stand out in the crowd.  We've been emailing ideas back and forth - I'm thrilled they are getting with the program!  I'm going to check on their progress next week - one of the few times I've asked clients to go shopping - usually I'm telling them to pack it up. 

Great places to acquire these types of things, if you don't already have them include Big Lots, Target, Pier One, Old Time Pottery, Stein Mart, TJ Maxx/Home Goods, Bed, Bath & Beyond (be sure to check clearance and use a bunch of their 20% off coupons).  I also recommend rummage sales and thrift shops.  These are great places to get cheap accessories that look great - sometimes just a fresh coat of paint, or the judicious application of a Sharpie or wood stain pen can make something look new.  You don't have to spend a lot - but use what you have wisely.  Highlighting the features of your house with accessories can make the difference between someone remembering your house or not.  The bland house with bland walls and bland stuff evokes a nothing house with no personality.  You are selling an image, a feeling of what it would be like to live in that home.  Blandness does not inspire an offer. 

 

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Rainer
18,518
Peg Prather
Vancouver, WA
Vancouver, WA

Liz; it's funny that it seems there is always too much "stuff", or not enough! For the homes that are bland and have little to work with, we bring in the Wow Factor with artwork, accessories, greenery, etc. Then the homeowners pay us a nominal amount to rent these items, and they don't have to go buy new things. It works out great!

May 19, 2009 03:03 AM #1
Rainer
24,484
Liz Jenkins
a fresh space :: home staging & thoughtful organizing - Franklin, TN

You are so right about the rental aspect of staging - I don't do vacants and refer those out.  It is a great option for many clients and thank you for pointing this out - I should have included this option in my post.  Appreciate the comment!

These particular clients became enthusiastic about getting things - they had never really purchased accessories and had little idea about what to get or where to put it.  It's funny - I was acting almost like an interior designer on this job but it was great to see their enthusiasm once I detailed what they needed. 

May 19, 2009 03:47 AM #2
Rainer
58,736
Laurie Calhoun
Gloria Home Staging, Inc. - Winter Springs, FL
Seminole County FL Home Stager

We're working on a home now that is full of stuff (which the owner refuses to pack up), but is stll bland. The realtor wants us to add "zing". But how to add interesting things when there are still so many other things around... Hmmm.

May 19, 2009 05:06 AM #3
Rainmaker
2,129,199
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

I told a woman to go through the kitchen cabinets and remove and prepack anything she didn't need on a regular basis.  When I returned the cabinets were empty...bare...nothing.  She was so proud of her accomplishment.  I asked her where all her dishes and food went and she said "the garage, in boxes."  She was actually going to live that way, God bless her!  Her husband was quite relieved when I said the dishes and food could come back in the kitchen.

May 19, 2009 12:00 PM #4
Rainmaker
639,475
Cindy Bryant
Redesign Etc. Home Staging - Houston, TX
"Houston Home Staging Pros"

I've had people take too much away and have left me nothing to work with.  That's when you've got to really get creative.  But yes, sometimes, it can look to bare.

May 19, 2009 12:29 PM #5
Rainer
24,484
Liz Jenkins
a fresh space :: home staging & thoughtful organizing - Franklin, TN

Sharon - I have had that exact same experience! 

Laurie & Cindy - being creative has got to be all stagers middle names!  Personally I love bins.  Lots and lots of bins.  I did a recent blog post (on my personal blog) entitled "bins hide a multitude of sins"! 

I have learned over the years to be really clear about what stays and what goes.  Otherwise what is left is not always what I actually want.  My eyes have been opened to the fact that what I see is not what others see and when I say "leave some accessories" that does not mean dusty floral wreaths and family portraits.  Most of the time I run around with sticky dots or notes, or pile everything I want in one spot and tell them to pack up everything else!

May 19, 2009 01:39 PM #6
Rainer
30,599
Luci Terhune
Bungalow Home Staging & Redesign - Nutley, NJ
NJ Home Stager 973 896-6489

I think sellers are starting to " get it" that they need to de-personalize, but then they do go to the extreme. If I suggest a trip to Homegoods to pick up some accessories, they give me a blank stare, they just don't know where to start and don't always have the budget for me to shop for them. So, I put together an album with examples of " emotional connection points" and pictures of accessories so they know what to look for.

May 20, 2009 12:56 AM #7
Rainer
24,484
Liz Jenkins
a fresh space :: home staging & thoughtful organizing - Franklin, TN

Luci - what an excellent idea - I usually end up emailing them suggestions, and I have a lot of pictures on my website but having something right on hand would be great.  I love the phrasing as well.  Thanks!

May 20, 2009 04:31 AM #8
Rainer
46,216
Debra Valentine
Designing Details ~ Staging & Design, LLC - Bountiful, UT
Utah Home Staging for, Bountiful, Salt Lake & Surrounding Areas

Liz: You make some great points here. Too much or too little is ALWAYS the way it seems to go for me too. This is the precise reason why hiring a stager is so crucial for sellers - it's not intuitive for most people to know when it's "just right"!

May 20, 2009 05:21 AM #9
Rainer
8,857
Andrea S
Fredericksburg, VA

Liz, like you outlined above, you really do need to educate sellers on what types of things to pack up when de-personalizing.  Almost always, sellers thank me for bringing up the issue of security and not giving away too much personal insight into who they are by what they leave lying around (perscriptions, etc).  Great post!

May 21, 2009 05:16 AM #10
Rainer
24,484
Liz Jenkins
a fresh space :: home staging & thoughtful organizing - Franklin, TN

Thanks for the comments!  The security issue is really big with me - people tromping through your house - most don't think of this concern and you can just see the wheels turning in their minds when I bring it up.  I'm not trying to scare anyone - just be realistic and letting them know that I care about them and the personal safety.  Appreciate you reading the post!

May 21, 2009 06:15 AM #11
Rainmaker
53,064
Pam Faulkner
Faulkner House Interior Redesign - Herndon, VA
Room Transformations Fairfax & Loudoun Counties VA

This is an excellent post.  The points you have mentioned are the tried and true that you would think most people would know by now because of articles and TV shows, but they don't.  As for the bare and too neutralized house, I have run into it when a realtor has staged the home or another stager has done the work so apparently this is a concept that is difficut for even professionals to grasp.

I was brought in on one 5,000 sg. ft. home that had been stripped of so much because the stager told the homeowner that buyers wanted to hear echoes when they entered a large house!!!  How did the stager arrive at this idea?  Did they learn this somewhere?

Something you may not have thought about, but it could be a security issue- remove knife blocks and knives from open storage. Consider putting knives in a storage container in a drawer so that they can be removed and/or hidden during a showing.  I've heard some stories that may or may not be true about situations that could have been avoided if precautions had been taken.

May 05, 2010 05:31 AM #12
Rainer
24,484
Liz Jenkins
a fresh space :: home staging & thoughtful organizing - Franklin, TN

Pam - thanks for the thoughtful comment.  I totally agree with you on the knives - I always recommend that people put them away partly for looks, partly for safety & partly from a feng shui perspective.  A good addition to my list!

What's with the echoes?  That's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard.  Echo means empty and forlorn in my opinion when we want welcoming and warm.  Good thing they brought you in to fix it, hmmm?

May 06, 2010 10:15 AM #13
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