5 Things Buyers Should Never See in Your Listings- REVISED

Home Stager

As Kate Hart recently addressed, we have all found odd things in our listings.  Things that startle buyers (and ourselves) and cause them to exit a listing before they have completed the tour.

Below is a list of things that your buyers should never see during showings that must be addressed before the  sign goes into the yard.  These things will undoubtedly kill your sale.

1. Sex - Let's just get this one out of the way, shall we?

Whether it be in it's physical form (stumbling upon couples in the act or obviously recently finished) or just suggestive (toys, stripper poles, swings, lingerie, etc.) Nothing can give your clients the heebie-jeebies faster.  Very few people can get past the mental picture.  Let's face it - you don't want to think about what the previous occupants may have done in your hotel room, you certainly don't want to know what others were doing in your potential home. Let's all shudder together...

2. Drugs.  Both legal and illegal.

We will go with illegal first.  We've all heard the horror stories - finding coke lines in the bathroom, the stench of pot permeating every nook of a house, illegal 'gardens', etc.  will not exactly put your client at ease.  It is amazing how quickly all of these things can create the image of 'crack house' in the buyers mind. It is not a homey image.

As far as the legal drugs are concerned, if left out for buyers to see it can lead to one of two things - insight into a sellers life that the buyer does not want to have or opportunity for a less than stellar buyer.  If your seller has large amounts of pain medication sitting on the bathroom sink, your buyer may start to wonder who exactly owns this house?  Are they addicts?  For the addict who may be visiting, it is an irresistible stroke of luck.

3. Rock 'n Roll. 

What lifestyle do these words conjure up in your mind?  Hard partying, low moral compass, transient living?  Imagine walking into a house where this may be the lifestyle of choice.  Would it be filthy, smell like alcohol, have questionable contents?  This type of residence would not have a welcoming atmosphere for most buyers.  Any subversive lifestyle can be an aversion to the normal house hunter.

4. Religion.

This is one of the toughest ones to deal with.  Individuals who have a strong conviction in their faith and practice it regularly tend to display that within their homes. There is nothing wrong with it.  However, if a potential buyer sees religious icons of a faith that they find contradictory to their own it can put them immediately on edge. While the majority of us would be freaked out by signs of cult activity, how would an atheist react to images of the cross? Or a Jewish family to a swastika?  Buyers should have no inkling of the belief system of the seller as it can give them a negative impression of the house itself.

5. Politics.

This really goes hand in hand with religion. Should you be house hunting with Michael Moore, how do you think he would react to a life size poster of George Bush in someone's living room?  Would it make him feel warm and cozy?  I doubt it. Likewise, a staunch republican would not be too happy to find volumes of books written by the Clintons. 

Due to the large amount of comments received, I really wanted to add that Politics covers more than just Democrat vs. Republican.  This really has so many subgroups that the possibility of covering them all is nearly impossible, but this section can be expanded to cover any hot button issues such as PETA vs. Hunters, NRA vs. Anti-gun, Pro-life vs. Pro-choice, and so on...

All of these things have one thing in common- they evoke strong reactions in those who encounter them.  It may be positive, or negative, but can you take the chance?  You may have shown your client the perfect house for them, but if they leave feeling offended or creeped out on any level they will likely move on to a less perfect home where they felt comfortable.

So, how do you talk to your sellers about these things without offending them?  That's easy - make a stager do it.  We come in as a neutral 3rd party and talk to them about all of these things and more.  Plus, we can do it without making them angry with YOU.  Stagers remove this responsibility from your plate so that you do not have to have these awkward conversations with your client.  It is a win-win-win situation for everyone.


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White Rock, BC

Kimerbly, I have not had the experience yet, of running into these issues.  However, I am sure I will. 

There really are thinks that can set a buyer off, so it is in the best interest of the seller to do everything they can.

I once was looking for a house personally and was viewing a lovely home with a incredible garden, as I was entering back into the house, a garden snake passed in front of me.  I am snake phobic, I was absolutely paralyzed and was screaming!  My poor husband thought something horrible had happened to me.   Now this was completely out of the sellers hands, they of course had no control over it.  But I can tell you all the "warm and fuzzies" I was feeling for this house, went right out the window.  I still refer to that house as the "snake house"! 

So, if you have control of a situation, do something about it for sure!

Jul 02, 2007 06:26 AM #14
Gerry Banister
RE/MAX Showcase Homes - Beverly Hills, MI
I thought that Bush being in the bathroom was quite appropriate,  However, my clients did not. 
Jul 02, 2007 07:43 AM #15
Michelle DeRepentigny
Success Realty - Athens, GA
Broker Athens, GA
What a great refresher list!  These all sound like such common sense that you would think every seller would realized the potential pitfalls, but so many don't!
Jul 02, 2007 09:05 AM #16
Val Allocco
Staged 2 Sell New York & Long Island - Northport, NY
HSE; ASHSR - Home Stager, for Manhattan, Brooklyn & Long Island


What a great post - and so well written!  You got your point across but in a non-judgemental way.  Good for you!


Another new fruit!  guanabana!!! What's that?!!

Jul 02, 2007 09:30 AM #17
LLoyd Nichols
Premier Florida Realty of SWFL - Fort Myers, FL
SW Florida Homes
Holy Smoke Kimberly. Great Post. Some of these advises seem to be common sense, but for many sellers they are not. Some are funny. Its the house they are selling and a potential buyer may be turned off by some of these personal items. 
Jul 02, 2007 09:41 AM #18
Vicki Bishop GRI - Alabama Real Estate
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® - Bay Minette, AL

How about dead animals mounted on the wall .


Jul 02, 2007 09:50 AM #19
Maureen Maureen
Orangeburg, NY

Here's five more,







Jul 02, 2007 01:11 PM #20
James Frazier
James Frazier Personal Development Coach - Rockford, IL

Kimberely..another great post..I just bid a house yesterday with a teenage boy whose room was adorned with some ..shall we say, striking topless photos...sadly for him, they gotta go.


Ok..what is a "Moosewood" ?.... isn't that a famous vegetarian restaurant?

Jul 02, 2007 01:35 PM #21
Cindy Lin
Staged4more School of Home Staging - South San Francisco, CA
Host, The Home Staging Show podcast

Great post! And may I add... CLUTTER?! :)





Jul 02, 2007 01:39 PM #22
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN

Dan- Thanks and you are welcome.

Joelle - I totally understand - I cannot even watch snakes on television.  I've freaked out over snakd skin, so a live snake would definitley put me over the edge!

Michelle - Well, as a stager, I think most of what we do is common sense, but, well, you know...

Val - I seek only to enlighten... :)

Vicki - That would definitely fall into the political category (along with other hot button issues.)

Maureen - I can add to that ....smoked glass or other mirrored walls, dried floral arrangements, geese wearing clothes, hunter green carpet and Renuzit dolls.  ;) 

What the heck is a goatnut?

Jul 02, 2007 01:42 PM #23
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN

James - Thanks. Leave it to the AR guys to find something more confusing than elderberry!  LOL!!

Cindy - All of these things together is quite a bit of clutter, isn't it?

Jul 02, 2007 01:44 PM #24
Julia Fedak
Royal LePage State Realty - Ancaster, ON

Great breakdown Kimberly.

And if I see one more lace curtain, I'm going to scream.


Jul 02, 2007 02:52 PM #25
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN

Julia - Maybe it's just me, but don't those things collect more dust than your average curtain? :)

Jul 03, 2007 03:27 AM #26

Great post.  I like rock and roll as much as the next person but that doesn't mean it needs to be on display for all the world to see.  The big challenge with the Rock and Roll thing is teenage kids' rooms, I've found.  Most kids aren't all that keen on parents moving anyway, and their band posters and what not are one way they have of rebelling against the whole idea.  Tough nut to crack. 


Jul 09, 2007 10:33 AM #27
Ronda Myers-Waters
Willems Realtors, Principal Broker - Chesterton, IN


Great information as usual.  Thanks for the post.  I'll keep that in mind with my next listings.

Jul 10, 2007 04:14 AM #28
Sherri Van Noort
Home Advantage Real Estate - Valparaiso, IN



I thought you might find this story amusing: A potential seller called me a couple of days ago about listing his home in Crown Point.  I asked all of the questions that I usually ask while interviewing a potential seller. We got to the subject of the carpeting and he said that HE thinks the carpet should be replaced before they list the home, however the wife does not agree.  I asked him how old the carpet was, so he told me it was 4 years old. I immediately exclaimed that that if the carpet is only 4 years old, that he may just need to have it professionally cleaned. Then he told me that they have cats and they sometimes pee on the carpet, as the cats' litter box is not always accessible to the cats. He said that his wife goes around after they(the cats) pee on the carpet, the wife follows after them and spot cleans!!!  I proceeded to tell the gentleman that spot cleaning will not solve the odor problem, so the carpet in the whole house should be replaced.  The celler eluded to the idea of just selling at a lower price, so he didn't have to absorb any more costs to get the house ready.  I then explained to him that by spending 2000.00 on carpeting(the whole house needs new carpet) would, at the very least, net him twice what he spent on the new carpet. By the end of our conversation, he got it! He is going to sand and paint the wood window trim(it's peeling) and would install new carpet.  Here is my question: Why are some Realtors not getting educated about  home staging and preparing the home for a quick, profitable sale.  I am constantly amazed at how some Realtors fail to be honest with their sellers.  It may be a little uncomfortable to tell someone that the black leather couch, that has been chewed to shreds by the family rotweiller(sp?) needs to be removed, or that the wall paper the owners hung in 1971 does not appeal to most people. I'm in this to do a great job for my sellers, so if that means that I have to be bluntly honest, in order to get a larger pool of buyers to look at the home; so be it. I'm constantly amazed that some people need a LOT of hand holding throughout the selling process. That is why I think our job as Realtors is so complex. 

Thanks again, for doing such an amazing job at transforming/staging my vacant listing in Schererville.

BTW, I agree with your blog comment that recommends NOT to advertised that the property has been staged. The first reason I feel that way is: We don't want the potential buyers  to feel like the seller is desparate to sell, because the property is vacant and cold feeling. The second reason is: Once the home is staged, buyers can more easily imagine themselves living in the home. If they(the buyers) were informed that the home has been staged, they may assume that the owners would do ANYTHING just to get the house sold.

See you on Tuesday, at the Broker's Open Luncheon.  I will be there at 10:00, to start setting up.


 Talk to you soon!  Keep up the good work, You are very talented and have a good eye for detail. 

Jul 20, 2007 04:40 PM #29
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN

Sherri- Love the story.  I think you answered your won question.  Some people are not hand holders or do not know how to handle these types of situations.  I work with agents who hire me because they don't do either.  As far as educating themselves, I think more will learn when it is required of them. 

You are very welcome- I enjoyed staging that house and I look forward to doing more for you.  I will be there at 10 as well. 

Jul 21, 2007 03:29 AM #30
Lori Hakeem Oxley
Charles Rutenberg Realty, Inc. - Tampa, FL
Great post!  I also agree with the "dead animal" comment.  I definitely think it doesn't not leave a good impression!!
Jul 21, 2007 03:49 AM #31
Shelley - StageRight
Great ideas. I also add anything that implies violence - posters, toys, guns, etc!
Jul 21, 2007 06:03 AM #32
David Slavin
Keller Williams Premier - Katy, TX
CDPE, ABR, SRES Keller Williams Premier
Well written post.  I really agree with your points.
Jul 21, 2007 06:58 AM #33
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