How I tell Clients "Your Home Needs Some Staging"

Real Estate Agent DRE# 01874909

I know sometimes it's difficult to convince clients that the home that they lived in and loved isn't quite ready for the market. People are used to their surroundings and they take every comment in a very personal way. Some agents/Brokers simply have no tact at all. I have seen agents tell their clients, Oh my God this place is a mess, dump, not up to par, or a real challenge to find a buyer etc., I know it's hard, but I think it's important to be both honest and to utilize a more motivational approach to convince your client's that they need to do some work on their home to prepare it for the market.

Right now, I am using my free staging consult as a way to get listings. The first people I target are the ones who have a listing contract that is going nowhere and have homes that, lets just say should have never been listed in the condition they are in. To me it's an opportunity to fix a problem and get what might be a great listing. I also just began a marketing campaign with door hangers that offer a free consult to those that might be interested in listing their home.

The first approach I take when entering a home is to look at the good and the bad. I can always find good in a home. I have a never ending visual concept of what a house could look like with a little work. And I always take into account the money that needs to be put out for the things on my mind.

When I begin to talk to a client, I always start by giving them a compliment about some aspect of their home. For instance, if the home has good architecture, I tell them. If the clutter is hiding it, like a wagon and toys in front of a fireplace, I let them know that it's important that the toys not visible so potential buyers can admire their beautiful fireplace, everyone loves a good fireplace and you want to show it to them.

When addressing problems with a home, such as bordello red walls, Hot pink bathrooms, Kitchens that have wallpaper from the 60's or 70's, and last but not least, grungy shag carpeting that look like green worms feasting, here's the approach I take. I know you love your designer red wall and I think it is great if your going to continue to live here, but it is really important that we try to appeal to as many people as possible so we can sell your home as fast as possible. I have samples of color pallets that are the most popular with new home buyers, and you won't even have to worry about choosing the right color, these colors are proven to be the best and most popular colors that will help make a home feel bright fresh and new without the big expense of remodel. Remind the homeowner that fresh paint is the single most important thing that a person can do to make their home feel fresh, new and ready to move in. Also it is the most affordable option when watching their budget.

One of the great trends that home buyers have been asking for is hard wood floors. I like to tell sellers that if their home is older, chances are they might have hard wood floors that may be hiding underneath. If they do, I always tell them people love hard wood floors, If you have them then you should show them. Hard wood floors are always a selling point and sometimes the floors need little preparation to make them market ready. But if they need some work, It usually costs far less to have someone refinish the old wood floors and make them look spanking new, then to re-carpet. If the carpet needs to be replaced, it is important that you try to get the buyers to do it. If they can't afford it, then I always have coupons from professional carpet cleaners that can do miracles with old carpet. Sometimes the carpet can be dyed to get rid of spots and stains. A good cleaning can make a dingy carpet look brand new and take musty smells out of house.

One of the things that make or break a deal is the kitchen, If the kitchen has old or ratty looking cabinets, a great way to remake a kitchen on the cheap is to paint those cabinets white, and put on some up to date hardware. You would be surprised at how good an old kitchen can look with this fix. I always look at the grouting on counters. If it is old and hard to clean, a re-grout is a great inexpensive way to give a kitchen a fresh clean look. I always have a list of handymen and home fixers that I will give to clients that can do the work without it costing an arm and leg. This is especially helpful for those that are busy and don't have the time to do the work or seniors that simply cannot physically do it at all. I tell them I can give them a list of people that I have seen do good work, but it's important that they use someone they feel they can trust and the decision is strictly up to them. I don't endorse or recommend anyone in particular, the list is just a guide in case they do not know anyone. New looking and updated major appliances can go a long way in clinching the sale. If the home owners appliances are old and outdated, I suggest they go on Craigs List or a used appliance store to get updated newer appliances at a great bargain. If they can't afford to buy a new stove or fridge, this solution can cost as little as $400.00 to $800.00 if they look in right places. I also have a list of used appliance stores in their area that offer appliances at reasonable cost.

Another issue is clutter and personal items. This one is tough, how do you tell your client that the big fat Pig on the mantle isn't a great selling point. Maybe the Crushed velvet Elvis picture really does nothing for the decor in the room. The horrible bath curtain with giant purple and red fish isn't all that cool. The old dingy toilet seat with a cushion that no one in their right mind would want to sit on needs to go. Here is the approach I take:

The Bedroom and Bath, I tell the client that the way to appeal to the most people possible when selling a home is to give the feeling that they are walking into a five star hotel room. Everyone loves the look and feel of walking into a five star hotel room and a master bath that has a spa look to it. These things can be done easily without much work. I tell them that fresh new bedding always impress home buyers. And I make it a point to remind sellers that it is important to appeal to both men and women. So the flowered spread might be better off packed away for their new home, and instead present the room in a neutral pattern and color scheme that will have mass appeal and give the impression of luxury without spending a lot of money. I have flyer's that show how to make a bed look great when staged well. They can look at the pics, and choose a similar look for their bedroom that will give that master bedroom a great new updated look.

In the bath, new pristine shower curtains that are neutral will always have a wide appeal to buyers. Fresh new rolled towels in comforting colors that are well placed can make a bath seem like a spa. Again, I give them a flyer with simple easy to do looks. The cost is small but the effect is big. I let people know that when a buyer looks at a bathroom that a seller must try to present their baths to the same standard that they would expect if they were to stay in a hotel. I tell them this before I see the bath, That way I don't have to tell them that the pee stains on the floor or the moldy icky curtain and beat up toilet seat are a turn off to buyers. Tell them to walk into their bath and think to themselves, would I find my bath to the standards of good hotel? If not, then they need to try to make it as close as possible to that standard. I also tell them that brand new toilet seats always make a great impression on buyers and faux wood seats and cushion seats don't appeal to many people. Besides they might want to keep their comfortable cushion seat for their new home.

Clutter and personal items: When dealing with these things I always remind the seller that a perspective home buyer needs to see the home as if they were to live in it. Personal items always distract them from imaging themselves living in that home. I tell sellers that less is more, less items on shelves counters walls and open cabinets always make a room look and feel bigger. The more usable space they can show will mean the more space the buyer can imagine if their things are in it's place.  I also tell the sellers to remember that when a potential buyer goes through a home, that many times if they like a personal item in the home that they might ask for it to be included in the sale as an incentive to buy. I tell my home buyers that they don't want their loved possessions being a potential bargaining tool when they get an offer. Most people do not like the idea of their cherished personal items being included in a potential offer.

I could go on and on about home staging, but I hope some of this information and suggestions will help anyone out there set the tone for a staging talk with their clients. It's always important to let people know why something should be changed and why it is to their benefit that they change it. A home that is great for living in is not necessarily the home that is great for marketing. They need to know this in a nice respectful but honest way that will get you both the sale you are looking for.

My name is Blaine Richards and I have been doing photo marketing and flipping homes for years and now I have joined Keller Williams Hollywood Hills, CA as a sales associate. My Web site is -, You can also find staging tips and co-branded videos on my site that you can use on your site as well.

Best to all - Blaine






Comments (1)

Katie McBride
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Hopkinton, MA
The McBride Team

I find that many homeowners think they can stage their home themselves.

Jan 21, 2010 10:22 PM