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What Do Home Staging and Online Dating Have In Common?

Lately, speaking to many of my home staging clients, I find that the HGTV version of staging has really confused and distorted the idea of what staging is all about in real life. It is NOT about ripping out walls and doing a full kitchen remodel in 2 days. It is NOT all about putting phoofy trays on the bed with a split of champagne and a copy of Gone With the Wind. So what is staging, really? – and why do it? – and how?

Simply put: Home Staging is the thorough preparation of your property within your means and time frame to show it in it’s best light and make it appeal to the greatest number of people possible.

Okay, that was accurate, but boring, so here’s the more imaginative way of explaining staging.

Imaginatively put: Home Staging is like online dating for houses.

Headshot 1Headshot 2Headshot 3houseHeadshot 4

That might sound a little crazy, but it’s a better analogy than you might think.

The way people shop for houses has changed drastically in the past few years. Eleven years ago when my husband and I were looking for a home, our broker decided which homes to show us and our first view of them was when we pulled up in front. Fast forward to four years ago, when my husband and I were again looking for a home — I went online to look before ever contacting a broker. I skipped past anything that didn’t have several photos that looked great. I sent my broker a list of properties I wanted to see and that’s where we went. Any house that only had one photo or had poor photos didn’t stand a chance.

So this is where the “online dating” similarity comes in. If you were going to join one of those websites, sure, you could put up a blurry photo taken one day when your hair was a mess, you hadn’t shaved or applied make-up (pick your gender) and your shirt had a spaghetti stain down the front — but do you think you’d get any calls? NO! People skip right past the ugly ones. And even if you do show a nice picture of your face, but then when your prospective date meets you in person, they find you wearing a leather fringed vest with flower print, bell-bottom pants from the 80″s — or just as bad, they find you to be completely vacant and without charm — do you think the meeting will last past the first drink? Again, NO!

If you want to get calls, you’ll fix yourself up to look your best, and splurge on a professional portrait. That’s what will get you the best shot at getting calls in the first place. And on those first dates, you’ll want to dress up in the most flattering outfit you can and be your most inviting and charming self. Do that and you have your best shot at finding “the ONE”!

Exactly the same principle for houses! You need to have your home staged beautifully so that it looks it’s very best in the photos in the first place. Have a pro take the photos too so that they really stand out from the competition. And once a potential buyer makes the decision to see your property based on the photos, when they arrive, it needs to be in tip-top shape, looking fresh and up to date. Vacant white rooms are completely lacking in any charm!

And just how do you stage the property in the first place? Here are a few of my most popular articles from the past year on home staging.

People will just drive right past if your house doesn’t look good on the outside. The changes can be simple but have a lot of impact. The house in this article could use just a bit more landscaping, but look at how much they did with just two changes!
Just Two Changes Make All the Difference

You’ll want to have your home freshly painted – but don’t go for white walls throughout. It’s cold! Read this post to get color ideas.
Paint Color to Sell Your Home: It Isn’t White!

People want light and bright homes. Here are some tips about windows.
A Room With a View

Here is a success story about how home staging helped sell this home in ONE DAY!
Success Story: Home Sold In One Day in THIS MARKET! – See How

I hope these articles put you on the path to staging your home beautifully for sale. It can be hard to see your own home through a stranger’s eyes though, so if you want help with it, I’m just a phone call away!

Oh, and by the way — NONE of the people in the photos above were on an online dating site. I just liked their headshots, so don’t ask me for their phone numbers ;0)

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AZ Mortgage Broker: Michael George
Arizona Wholesale Mortgage Inc. - Phoenix, AZ
AZ Mortgage Rates

Good post.  Put a smile on my face.  Especially since all my friends are doing the online dating thing right now for whatever reason...

Mar 11, 2010 07:01 AM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Pangaea- what a great analogy.  And think about it, we'd do everything we could to make ourselves look good if we were putting ourselves "out there" for online dating. We'd wash and detail our car if we were picking up our special someone for the first time.  Why wouldn't we do the same for our homes when we put them out there for someone to buy?

Mar 11, 2010 07:29 AM
Bill Swanson
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Ambassador - Omaha, NE

Pangea, I agree totally! One thing I've noticed with the gaining popularity of HGTV is a lot of my sellers already know the value of staging because they've been watching TV and picking up hints already! Great post!

Mar 11, 2010 09:41 AM
Robin North
Dramatic Spaces Home Staging and Design - Cambridge, ON

Sometimes it takes an analogy like the one you used to help sellers realize the importance of properly preparing their home for the market.  We often say that the majority of buyers have difficulty imagining what a place will look like so we set the stage as much as possible.  When we can paint a picture or give them something to reference, like on line dating we are helping them see what a difference home stagig can make.  I enjoyed your post.

Mar 11, 2010 11:04 AM
Jonathan Smith
Haynes, ND

Great tips and thanks for the article links - a lot of good information.

Mar 11, 2010 11:15 AM
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

Unfortunately, some homes are not photogenic at all.

Mar 11, 2010 12:50 PM
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

Very informative post. Thanks for all the links to your website. I clicked through to all of them. You are very good at what you do.

Mar 11, 2010 01:00 PM
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

I enjoyed this analogy, most especially perhaps because there is so much truth to it.

Mar 11, 2010 03:22 PM
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

I enjoyed your title and presentation!  You speak words of wisdom!

Mar 11, 2010 03:45 PM
Pangaea Interior Design Kitchen & Bath Design, Remodeling
Portland Oregon - Portland, OR

Thanks so much for the feature! The analogy seems to have really connected with people. It just came to me one day that the internet has made it so that your chances of getting a showing are seriously reduced if you don't I mean your house doesn't look good online -- and that is exactly the kind of brutal scrutiny people get with online dating too. Literally, you have just a few seconds to make that impression online or the click of a mouse will take the buyer to the next house.

And yes, HGTV -- what can ya do? It's television! It's all about the drama!. Love that comment about "junk food for my brain"! Too funny!

Carla - you're right. There certainly are some faces places that are not photogenic. Remember Cindy Crawford's famous quote "Even I don't wake up looking like Cindy Crawford". Just like a person using make-up and professional hair dressers & photographers -- that's where the beautiful staging furniture/art/accessories and the professional photographer can make all the difference. All houses can benefit from a good professional staging & professional photography.

Mar 11, 2010 03:48 PM
Cathy Lee
CL Design Services Home Staging - Danville, CA

Cheers! Terrific analogy and great tips as always!

Mar 12, 2010 02:40 AM
Kathy Burke
Sensational Home Staging~~Danville, CA - Danville, CA
S.F. East Bay Home Staging

I do think that HGTV has done a GREAT job of pushing forward the idea of staging.  Not always with a realistic budget....but they have planted to seed!  I'm also addicted to watching many of the shows on HGTV and FLN.....love Sara Richardson's design work!!

Mar 12, 2010 07:36 AM
Judy Colburn
ProStaged Homes - Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles Glendora, San Dimas Covina, Home Staging

Excellent post and analogy. Love it.

Mar 12, 2010 09:50 AM

This is a great read.  These shows do popularize home staging; however somewhat unrealistically.

I watch W as well & really like Divine Design.

The concern I have is a show like Take This House & Sell it.  The stagers are sarcastic & sometimes rude to the homeowners.  Not a comfortable process for potential home sellers to to imagine themselves in.

Anyone else share this concern?

Mar 12, 2010 03:36 PM
Debbie Walsh
SHAHAR Management - Middletown, NY
Hudson Valley NY Real Estate 845.283-3036

I thought this post was a great analogy.  I had never thought of it that way!

Mar 13, 2010 04:39 AM
Pangaea Interior Design Kitchen & Bath Design, Remodeling
Portland Oregon - Portland, OR

Kathy - yes, at least the idea gets put out there for people to think about.

Sharon - I would be appalled if a stager spoke to a client rudely. I wonder if people have not called a stager because they thought we would act like that? Very possible!

Debra - I still don't know what made me think of it since I've never done online dating. But it sure does fit.

Mar 13, 2010 05:32 AM
Cathy Brosius
Arranged Smartly LLC - Saint Louis, MO
Home Staging St. Louis region

Pangaea, I really enjoyed this post! I would love to use this analogy with sellers, it will help them think about how they present their home to buyers. And don't get me started on that new kitchen for $2,000 on HGTV!

Mar 14, 2010 02:07 PM
Laura of Successfully-Staged

I am glad to see others watch HGTV and see how unrealistic it is..I have been thinking that the way I stage should be a new show. I try to buy all my staging items at yard sales, estate sales but mainly Craigs List..I get some really great furniture from there. Yard saleing will start soon and I am getting ready to roll-so much excitement..can't wait! Love the neighborhood yard sales!

Mar 14, 2010 02:20 PM
Pangaea Interior Design Kitchen & Bath Design, Remodeling
Portland Oregon - Portland, OR

Cathy - Oooooh! You can get a new kitchen for $2000? Yay! Where do I sign up? LOL ... I hope the analogy helps your sellers visualize the impact of not getting thoroughly staged.

Laura -You must have a great eye. I never find things at yard sales. Good luck on getting your "reality show".

Mar 16, 2010 01:59 PM
Connie Hall
All Brokers Real Estate - Portland, OR

If it was really like online dating, wouldn't these people put a picture of a completely different house up on line and let you get the shock when you arrive to the listing. 

Mar 17, 2010 12:10 AM