Should Properties Look Staged?

Home Stager with New View Staging & Redesign

My point of view is an emphatic, NO!

My goal in staging is to make a property "beautifully lived in," never "staged." This is why I don't subscribe to staging gimmicks such as champagne glasses and a wine bucket on the edge of a bathtub, or a tray with a teacup and a book at the foot of a bed. These are cues that an amateur stager has been lurking! This is simply not how people live. Properties should look like homes - one that a potential buyer would feel comfortable in.

Also - some recent discussions have come up in the staging community about whether properties should be advertised that they have been staged. My response is an even more emphatic, NO!!

I don't think that we should in anyway advertise that a property has been staged, only perhaps if it is a builder's model, in which case everyone would assume that no one lives there. I think that it does a disservice to our clients. if a buyer knows that the property has been staged, they may feel that they have been mislead in some way, and discount the value added. The effects of professionally staging a home should be subliminal, not in your face. In my opinion, some of the "magic" is gone when we advertise it. 

As staging professionals, we all want our work to be acknowledged. I think that this is entirely appropriate  - but only from our CLIENTS, colleagues, and Realtors. 


Comments (28)

Lori Kim Polk
Premiere Home Staging : Home Staging Services - Roseville, CA
Home Stager - Roseville, Sacramento

Absolutely, I agree... But, when you have a client that is paying you $$$ to Stage their home and they want a wine and cheese set-up..... we will do it.  I Stage in an area where wine, cheese, brandy snifters, cigars, and books are a big thing.  It is almost mandatory to have these things out, then during the Open, they become the real thing.  It also depends on where you are. I do not do the signs anymore though... I think the Staging should be discreet in your higher end homes especially... like Craig said " The home should be the Star, not the stuff."

Oh, and I am not an amateur because I use these :)

Oct 08, 2007 03:13 PM
Cindy Lin
Staged4more School of Home Staging - South San Francisco, CA
Host, The Home Staging Show podcast

Well then, call me an amateur!

I stage with fake fruits and place settings, I also stage with fake tree, fake flowers and fake beds. My job title "stager" also implies the state of the home is "staged," i.e. faked. If I were to stage homes realistically, then just let me pile on some clutter here, here, here, here and mmm... more here.

Puh-lease, I don't think we have any position to say someone is an amateur just because they use fake fruits or fake platter on the bed. After all, all it took for me to call myself a stager was a 3-day course. (Or maybe that was only the case for me, and most stagers did go to a staging university) I didn't go to a 4-year university on staging, or have an advanced degree in staging, and I am certainly not in a position to differentiate some as amateur or not just because I use fake fruits or not.

Sometimes putting platters on the bed is a measure of stop kids jumping on beds. I do so when I want to prevent people from jumping on the beds, when I know it's a family oriented area and kids are very tempted to play with the bedspreads, etc. I have had bedspreads & couches came back with muddy foot prints. (BTW, who let their kids do that?!) I also have bedframes came back broken because some parents failed to control their kids during the open house.

Staging with fake fruits or not, it's not going to deflect the buyers feeling it's too staged. OH TRUST ME, BUYERS KNOW IT'S STAGED. They may be first time buyer, they are inexperienced but not stupid. Several of my friends are buying right now, they can differentiate a staged home easily. There is just no way someone lives like that, unless they employ a butler and several maids. It's VERY difficult to live in a staged home. Staging also it not going to take away the sparkle away from the home. In my opinion, it adds fun for the stager and it makes the home more lived in. 

And don't be afraid to put your business cards out there. I got LOTS of calls from those staged homes. Even if they don't call me now, they hold on to my card then they call me, or they give it to their friends. 1/3 of my business comes from that. Also agents who tour homes tour frequently, it's good to let them know that you are working a lot. I advertise my clients' listings with the wording "staged by staged4more" and the photos have my company's watermark on it. It's part of the branding, none of my clients had a problem with it.  

This is a business and our job is about shameless self promotion. Not placing business cards out there is only doing yourself a dis-service. If your client doesn't want you to advertise, all they will do, and they will, is to chuck your materials in a drawer. 

I do apologize if I come across harsh, but I really don't think using fake fruits or food is terrible, let along disqualify me as a professional stager. Moreover, those themed bathroom, spa-like baths that we go ga-ga about here on AR? Yeah, staged too! What a surprise!

They do fake food (fruit, cheese, lobster, you take your pick) at Pottery Barn all the time, in their catalog, did it stop people from buying knowing that the tablescape is staged at their store? N-O! They are still selling like hot cakes. In the meanwhile, I will still be using my fake food, thank you very much. And I am still a professional stager, not an amateur. I have certainly invested way too much in it to be called one.



Oct 08, 2007 03:53 PM
Betty Haney
Haney Consulting - Calgary, AB
Lorraine you have a great post going here.  Margo and I mostly stage vacants and as soon as a buyer opens the door of an empty closet or sees an empty drawer in the kitchen - they know it's staged.  When we do stage occupied homes some of the clients want us to leave cards and some don't.  I agree with Lori Kim that lots of clients have expectations they want us to meet and so we will use wine with glasses, set dining room tables, and put throws and books on lounge type chairs and the end of beds.  We do a lot of this even if the client doesn't ask.  So far no one has asked us to remove anything.  One thing we don't use anymore is raffia.  LOL  Betty 
Oct 08, 2007 04:14 PM
Susan Peters
Dove Realty Inc. - Seattle, WA
The Better it Looks the Better it Sells

I use wine, cheese and fruit for my photos. And I must admit that I placed a book on a chaise lounge just the other day. My feeling is anything goes, as long as it is tasteful and fits the style of the house.

By the way the house sold in 3 days for 5k over list so I don't think that 'gimick' offended anyone. 

Oct 08, 2007 04:33 PM
Nancy Morrish
Stage Tucson! Professional Home Staging - Tucson, AZ
Stage Tucson! of opinions here.  Well, going back to the first house my hubby and I bought WWAAYY back in 1980, the dining room table was set for 4.... music playing.... all the "tricks of the trade" and we bought it (literally) - hook, line and sinker (is that the saying?)

First of all....  yes....  even when a house is Staged, people know when it's not occupied, so we're not "fooling anyone"  -- I doubt very much that any prospective buyer would feel misled by seeing a tray with a tea set on a chaise lounge with a book beside it. What we need to remember is that most people are unable to "envision" things like that  -- we recently Staged a property that had a room that was added on, and it had rather low ceilings and was fairly small and away from the rest of the house. We placed nice artwork, tree, chaise lounge and a couple of wicker pieces and DID put a tea set and a couple of books and made the room a desireable "retreat" and it looked beautiful, so instead of thinking "wow, these ceilings are low"....people hopefully think   "wow, what a nice place to relax with a bit of privacy away from the main rooms...."    isn't that what Staging is?   putting things in a room that will take the emphasis off of something that might not seem too positive?     also.........we have it in our contract that we can display our name and info at the property, and honestly, we get a fair amount of business from Realtors seeing our work and recommending us to their clients.        AND.....  I don't know about you, but the market is pretty darn slow in Tucson.........and often, clients contact us after their homes have been on the market unsuccessfully for a few months...........the Realtors OFTEN put in the remarks that the house is "Staged" and they feel that this might be what is needed to get Realtors "back into the home" and give it renewed interest. 

.........AND...........we love putting a cutting board in the kitchen with "fun permanent veggies" on it.... or yummy looking cookies, .........many of our clients love it when we do these things....  I guess we are "amateurs"

Oct 08, 2007 06:48 PM
penny white
Jacksonville, FL

I believe that our job is to show off the potential of the space we are staging. Sometimes that means having tables set etc. so people can envision themselves having guests over for dinner or a cocktail party. Couples like to romanticize their relationships, so why not have champagne glasses on a tray on the bed? I have a couple of nieces that stage the areas they don't want to have cluttered up by everyday living.  The dining room table never has junk piled on it if the table is beautifully set. So this is a choice we have to make as a stager, no right or wrong!

                                                                    Penny White


Oct 08, 2007 09:55 PM
Heather Chotard
In Style - Edmonton, AB

This subject always makes me laugh. "Don't advertise the home as being staged" and in the very next blog, "get the word about staging out there"

I don't understand why some people see the need to hide the fact that A. The Realtor is on top of his/her game, and knows that staging works! Or B. The home has amazing potential and it can look amazing, with the correct tools.

I personally always leave a little kitchen counter sign, that reads "This home was professionally staged" and a stack of business cards. When other Realtors bring clients in, and the home is now up to the the WOW factor, 9 times out of 10, I receive calls from that same Realtor, wanting to stage his/her listings.

There is nothing wrong with a home being staged, so I still don't understand why some people hide the fact that is.I personally want to get the whole staging idea "out there" so I try to do my part, and it helps my business grow...and rapidly.

I am proud of the work that I do, and I want my name attached to it. God knows how many other stagers would get the calls after Realtors viewed my work, just from guessing at who was behind the job.

The other subject regarding the fake fruit and wine glasses, is totally dependant on the stager themselves. I personally did not use any of these props, that is until I starting styling homes for a local magazine.

We all know how great any layout of a home magazine looks, it looks lived in, it looks classy, it makes readers think "oh i want my house to look like this" so I started to bring in "some" of the elements from magazine styling, into my business.. And its a hit!

Another is, Show rooms, they are staged, but everyone seems to sit down, talk about the art work, touch the fake glass of wine, or at least I have. But never once have I gotten distracted, because I get stuck on the whole, "This room is staged! I feel betrayed"

I get the best creative ideas from things like this. To either bring into my own home, or bring to my business. And so far, the input has been amazing.

Oct 09, 2007 02:44 AM
Janice Sutton
1st Stage Property Transformations - Murrieta, CA
Home Stager - Temecula Murrieta

I agree that buyer's know when the home is staged.  

I stage vacant homes a little different then occupied homes.   I leave business cards next to the Realtors cards in vacant homes but never in occupied homes.  I sometimes set tables in vacants but never in occupied.....etc.  I don't think this topic is as black and white as some stagers see it.   It really depends on the situation in my opinion. 

Oct 09, 2007 03:24 AM
Kathleen Garvey
HomeSmart Cherry Creek - Denver - Denver, CO
Denver's Neighborhood Expert - Listings & Sales

WOW....lots of lonnng posts here. 

As a designer,I believe the idea is to sell the 'dream'.  We all dream of breakfast in bed, spa-like bathrooms and kitchens well-stocked with 'fresh-looking' fruit.  We are selling a vision of 'what could be' lifestyle....and setting the 'stage' is our job. 

Staging is part of real estate selling and I think more stagers should pay attention to the quality of design work they are putting out there, not the 'artificial living' props.  Regards-Kathleen G



Oct 09, 2007 04:32 AM
Bill Duncan, Home Status Inspection
Lorraine,  I get to see alot of staged house and I agree with you.  If you give away or advertise that it's staged then the emotion that the prospective buyer feels may not be felt to be natural.  You want people to feel natural in a house.  You get that by everyday effects...not whimsy or stunts.
Oct 09, 2007 11:49 AM
Michelle Minch
Moving Mountains Design Home Staging, Pasadena, CA - Los Angeles, CA
Home Staging Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA

I guess I'm an amateur...

I use faux vegetables, fruit, cake, wine, cheese (although I think I'm over the cheese thing), when appropriate. I set dining room and/or kitchen tables, when appropriate. I use silk flowers and silk plants all the time. I use what I feel is appropriate to the situation and the target market.

I  believe that we are dealing with a very well educated home buying public, that has access to many, many home shelter magazines, catalogs & TV shows about interior design & home staging. People aspire to live in the homes they see in those magazines, catalogs & TV shows and I feel it is my job to create those environments that appeal to home buyers in that same way. If I have to use fake fruit and vegetable to do it - thats what I do.

I put up a discreet 8 1/2 x 11 sign with my business cards. I get 3-5 calls from every home I stage from people who have picked up my cards. Sometimes it is a Realtor who would like to hire me to stage, and sometimes it is a homeowner that would like to hire me to do the Interior Design on their home. Many Realtors that I work with advertise to other Realtors that their listing was staged because they know they will get a better turn out on Realtor caravans and that other Realtors are more likely to want to show a staged home, than an unstaged home.

If a Realtor wants to advertise their listing to the public as being staged, fine with me. I don't second guess their knowlege in how to best market their listing.

Oct 09, 2007 01:02 PM
Reece Mack
Simplicity Home Design, Thousand Oaks, CA - Thousand Oaks, CA

You can add me to your list of amateurs as well...I guess there are a lot of us out there!  Thank goodness, I was hoping I wasn't alone.

I believe in setting the scene with whatever it takes to make the room feel warm and inviting...not over done.  That is why you have to treat each house and even each room like it is its own.  All that extra stuff might work for one house but not in another.

I know that I LOVE going to look at model homes!!!  The majority of them are staged with fake food, fake tvs/dvd players, games set up, toys laid out and tables completely set.  None of those things have ever been a distraction...they just add to my experience of enjoying and falling in love with the house.

I would love to see some pictures of your staged homes as I am curious to see how a home looks without any of those items you have mentioned...maybe I am missing something here?

But in the end, it is all a personal preference.  Each stager in each town and state has their own style and way about them...and if their phone keeps on ringing for work, than they must be doing something right!



Oct 09, 2007 05:58 PM
Kathleen Lordbock
Keller Williams Realty Professionals - Baxter, MN
Keller Williams Realty Professionals

I haven't been putting cards out for open houses but have for the agent tour , however, I am rethinking that position because I think that I am missing out on advertising. 

I have seen ads in the paper "Open house - staged by" in my area, but have seen that staging - Oh, OH. I don't want to be confused with her work or have her take credit for mine.

Oct 10, 2007 04:38 AM
Teresa Mills - Looking Fine by Redesign

I consider myself a "professional" home stager...but guess what....I do use fake lemons, plants, flowers, etc.  I do "stage" with trays and wine glasses, as well as other "quality" props.  While I always focus on a simple...yet elegant design, it my opinion, important to spark the imagination of the buyers.  As we all know, very few people have the "vision" we, as stagers must help them see the potential....We offer "examples" of what living in a particular home could look like...How they choose to live after the move-in is up to their own taste and discretion.  As for advertising...I do leave a nicely matted and framed company placard and my business cards ONLY when the Homeowner and the Realtor approve.  We must follow our own set of ethics....that's my take on the subject!

Oct 10, 2007 09:57 AM
Kathy Riggle
Houston Home Staging

If the client doesn't mind, I will just place a postcard in an acrylic frame(both sides can be read) beside the realtor's card. No one will leave with it, but they can make note of my website if they are interested. Pretty unobtrusive-mostly realtors notice it.  I agree with the comment that buyers like to be entertained & some properties really need that touch of class...


Oct 10, 2007 11:32 AM
Karen Otto
Home Star Staging - Plano, TX
Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging,

Staging works. Period.  Passing judgement on how others do it isn't going to bring our profession anything but bad press. 

We ARE Professional HOME STAGERS. That is my title and I use it and wear it well.  I am not ashamed to use it or promote it or put cards in a home that the owner has agreed to say it was "professionally staged".  I get calls from Realtors asking for my services by those cards.  I use what works in a home, if it be fake food at times or a wine bottle and glasses, so be it. 

Should Realtors hide their signs? NO! This is a house for SALE and if it looks great because it was STAGED what is the shame in that?  If we are to move forward in our profession and bring it to the place it needs to be a STANDARD PART OF A RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE TRANSACTION - SHOUT IT from the roof tops.  This is a viable profession, a much NEEDED service and we should not have to HIDE anything. I am passionate and adamant about this.

Oct 10, 2007 12:17 PM
Terrylynn Fisher
Dudum Real Estate Group - - Walnut Creek, CA
HAFA Certified, EcoBroker, CRS, CSP Realtor, Etc.
Good job Lorraine hitting a cord with many.  I agree with most of the points on the side of advertising and showing a home is staged.  The point is to evoke a feeling in the buyer as to what they might want.  What they need might be different.  I want a clean office, usually it's full of work, a good thing, but it looking at a home I want to see a "staged" clean office, as I always have the hope and dream that mine will look like that someday.  It evoked emotion and action in some cases as what they see fits their vision.  Advertising, well they do know anyway, buyers are sophisticated and educated, whether you say it out loud they know a staged home when they see it.  It is refreshing for them to see it clean, kept up, and in showcasing condition.  Who wants to buy the dirty, smelly car?  Why are homes any different.  Actually in general they are not. 
Nov 18, 2007 07:35 AM

Lorraine-A great post with so many different views.

It is not ideal in any industry to miss an opportunity to advertise your goods or service. Cost opportunity weighs heavily if looked at from a numbers perspective and if not utilized properly will hurt a business in the future. 

If the agent or owner doesn't mind my material of cards/brochures to be left behind, then why would I give up the chance to reach a greater number of people that I may otherwise never come in contact with. My work is a reflection of what the majority of homeowners in a price range would Ohh-Ahh over, and that this property would not be forgotten and compared to every other property they see as the standard to rise towards. 

We EXPOSE POSSIBILITIES and HIDING is not in our job description:}


Nov 18, 2007 08:07 AM
Lisa Sherman
Interior Aura - Salem, OR
Home Stager, Interior, Redesign & Decorating - Salem Oregon

As in life, I believe we (all stagers) are unique in our own way.  Our uniqueness is what designates some businesses from others as well as those that are successful and those that fail.

I must say that in all the homes staged, it is always the star and shines very brightly.  Along with Heather, I also display a beautifully framed sign that states "this home professionally and proudly staged by Interior Aura" along with business cards in all vacant and model homes.  I am proud of my work and the services I provide to clients and Realtors.

I prefer to consider both "amateur" and "professional" as unique.

Lisa Sherman ~ Interior Aura

Nov 18, 2007 02:21 PM
Elaine Manes Gage
Home Staging Online Services - Denver, CO
Staging done ONLINE!

I have mixed feelings about the subject of "too much" staging. When I place a tray with a coffee cup and book on a chair, it's to help the buyer imagine what a wonderful spot this would be to sit quietly and read. Or a bottle of wine and two glasses by an over-sized tub is just to evoke a feeling of romance the buyer COULD experience if they purchase this home. I don't use fake bread or cheese, etc. because I'm not sure what psychological response that is trying to trigger. The same thing with placing articles of clothing in closets. I have to have what I consider a legitimate reason for placing the items, not just because model homes have them!

As far as advertising when a home has been staged, I think it would be beneficial for the Realtor to know it's been staged. That way, they know ahead of time that the home will show well, and they may not have to preview it. As far as the public knowing it has been staged, I'm not sure it's harmful, but I don't think it's necessary.

Nov 19, 2007 12:13 PM