Top 10 Things NOT to do When Listing Your Home for Sale

Home Stager with Rooms in Bloom Staging & Design Inc.

In an age when home staging is such a prevalent real estate tool, it is amazing how many real estate listings are out there which are clearly not in any way ready for potential buyers to walk through. We work with a lot of realtors and know just how tight their marketing budgets are when it comes to their listings. It only makes sense to maximize these dollars by showcasing pictures of modern, bright, uncluttered spaces which will attract buyers in droves. This seems logical to me and I know of many realtors who will refuse to list a property unless the sellers work with a professional stager and follow their recommendations.

In the spirit of being helpful, we have compiled a list of the top ten things NOT to do when listing a property for sale.

Defer Basic Maintenance

Opting to let the new home owners take care of basic maintenance is a highly risky move. At best, a seller may attract a property flipper who is comfortable taking on these tasks and who puts in a low offer or at worst, buyers will be turned off by all the work which needs to be done just to make the house liveable. Either way, its a bad first impression and is often a key reason why a property lingers, sad and unloved, on the market.

Leave up Wallpaper & Borders

Even though wallpaper IS making a comeback, its not wise to leave it up when you go to sell your house. Why? Because wallpaper and borders are often very personal decor choices and a seller seriously narrows down their buyer pool if they opt to wait for someone who will love it just like they do. Murals and specialized painting applications also fall into this category for the same reasons. We can’t stress enough the importance of neutralizing these decor choices with some great modern paint hues which have broad appeal. If only 1 person in 50 likes wallpaper, guesstimate how long it will take to sell the house? If on the other hand a property appeals to 23 out of 25 people, think about how much FASTER it will sell and for how much more money …

Click to open image!

Click to open image!BlClick to open image!ock the front of the House with Bushes & Trees

Yes, and if you’re wondering, I saw THREE local MLS listings today where it was impossible to see the front of the house because of overgrown bushes and trees. Curb appeal is a vital component of getting any house ready for sale as buyers driving by properties at all times of the day need to actually SEE the front of the home.

Pack a Room Full of Wall to Wall Furniture

In order to create strong visual appeal, rooms need a balance of scale appropriatefurniture and open areas in which buyers can navigate around or through the room. Rooms which have every wall jammed with furniture and ‘stuff’ make spaces appear a lot smaller than what they, adding visual clutter and turning off buyer’s who are looking for large, bright and airy spaces. It can also end up looking like a seller hosts parties for 20 or more instead modeling a modern, functional living space. A living room for example, should be staged with a sofa & loveseat (or two accent chairs), coffee/end table set, rug to anchor the space and a set of table lamps. That’s it. No bookshelves, curio cabinets, pianos, chests etc unless the room is huge and its possible to define multiple functional areas with plenty of navigation room in between.

A functional and appealing living room

Put up EVERY Piece of Artwork You Own

We like to get a room down to having art or a framed mirror only on one main wall. This visually pulls the eye to one main area (usually a focal wall or focal point) without making the eye jump crazily around a room. Not only does this cut down on another area of clutter but it makes rooms feel larger.

Block Architectural Focal Points in a Room

Architectural focal points are normally features such as a fireplace or windows in a rooms. These are key selling points to a house and they need to be enhanced and showcased instead of blocked with furniture. Many times we have seen real estate listings  where these types of focal points are completely blocked and eclipsed by furnishings within a space. As people are not buying a seller’s furniture, but are buying the architectural elements in a house, it makes sense to highlight these focal points instead of obscuring them. This is where a professional stager can really help; editing out furnishings and arranging them so that the eye is naturally drawn to the right focal areas.

Its Important Not to Block a Room's Focal Points

Showcase a Kitchen or Bathroom Which Features 1970′s or 80′s Decor Styles

We have written blog articles about smart, modern upgrades for kitchens however the bottom line is, kitchens and bathrooms are key decision making areas. Dated cabinets with dated hardware aren’t going to impress buyers. Stained, scarred or discoloured countertops are another detraction for most people touring a house. Paint, new hardware and new countertops are smart and budget friendly upgrades which instantly updates these types of spaces. 72% of buyers who are not impressed by a home’s kitchen or bathrooms will keep shopping and will pay MORE money for a home which features these upgraded rooms.

Bright, updated Kitchens Make Buyers Fall in Love!

Don’t Clutter Rooms up with ‘Stuff’

Heard the saying ‘clutter eats equity’? Couldn’t be more true. Well loved homes feature layers of things which we keep around us to make us feel more comfortable. From extra furnishings to collections showcasing our favourite things, rooms easily become clogged and can appear overwhelming for potential buyers. Peeling back those layers to reveal the true size, shape and function of rooms in a home not only showcases their innate charm but also makes them appear bigger and brighter which in turn increases a home’s intrinsic value. We tell clients all the time that a home up for sale needs to model a lifestyle upgradebecause that’s what people buy. They cannot visualize what a room looks like if its filled with clutter, so they will keep shopping until they see a home which models a lifestyle they want to have.

Sell a Home Which is Unfurnished

As mentioned above, buyers are looking for a home which models the lifestyle they want to have after they purchase a property. It is an emotional choice which is made after they fall in love with a house, already visualizing how their life will be once they have purchased it.Homes without furnishings lack warmth and appeal; they often appear cold and sterile which turns off buyers. Additionally, a lack of furnishings means rooms have no defined function which decreases the value of the home and when only 10% of buyers can visualize a space with their items in it, sellers are therefore losing 90% of their buyer poolwho just move onto the next house.

We hope this helps in terms of what not to do when listing a property for sale. When the average buyer is 28 and the average seller is over 50, there is a significant gap in decor styles and the expectations buyers have today. This young, design savvy buyer pool know what they want and will pay more money for a home which showcases the upgrades and lifestyles they are searching for. Sellers who tap into this need, taking care to invest in key upgrades and staging ensure maximum appeal and a swift, profitable sale of their home.

Posted by

Heather Cook  is Co-Owner and Principal Staging Designer of the award winning Rooms in Bloom Home Staging & Design Inc. based out of Kitchener-Waterloo, ON.


Contact us today so we can help you create the WOW Factor in your home.



Re-Blogged 5 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Kathleen Vetrano 06/05/2011 07:17 AM
  2. Alana Merritt 06/05/2011 12:53 PM
  3. Jim Frimmer 06/12/2011 04:36 AM
  4. Stacia McCallum 06/12/2011 06:46 AM
  5. Kelly Mac Group (619) 319-7010 San Diego Beach and Luxury Realtors 06/12/2011 07:38 AM
Home Selling
Ontario Waterloo Region Kitchener Kitchener-waterloo
Stage It Forward...
Color it SOLD!
Canadian RE/Max Agents, Mortgage Brokers, Home Staggers Etc.
Advice for Sellers
home staging
real estate staging
vacant home staging
staging to sell
rooms in bloom
renovating to sell

Spam prevention
Show All Comments
Kathleen Vetrano
RE/MAX Gateway - Falls Church, VA
Helping YOU Achieve YOUR Dreams

Heather, I have re-posted your blog.  Once again it is that important and spot on information.  Thank you!

Jun 05, 2011 08:45 AM #5
Mary Ann Daniell Realtor
Coldwell Banker United, Realtors - Subsidiary of NRT LLC - Killeen, TX
Delivering Successful Results Since 1999

Hard to get those sellers to accept that they have to change the way they live when their home is on the market.. but those that "get it", end up getting their homes sold faster.    Thank you so much for this lovely post - I'll share it with those sellers who need it!

Jun 05, 2011 09:24 AM #6
Sally Weatherley
Vancouver Home Staging, Home Stager Vancouver, B.C

Heather - You've hit on so many important points when presenting a home for sale.  We've seen all of these scenarios and applaud the home sellers who are open to improving their home when placing it on the market.  Great list here!

Jun 05, 2011 10:21 AM #7
Brian Madigan
RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage (Toronto) - Toronto, ON
LL.B., Broker

These are all good points. I had never heard the expression "clutter eats equity". I think I'm going to start using it.

Jun 05, 2011 11:20 AM #8
Heather Cook
Rooms in Bloom Staging & Design Inc. - Kitchener, ON
Quality Home Staging

Kathleen - Glad you found the post relevant and interesting!

US Mortgages -  I think we have all seen some memorable things when visiting homes up for sale and all we can do is continue to educate sellers on the just what a great ROI staging and its components get for them. Its a great motivator.

Shannon - Yes, we often see focal points such as fireplaces literally obscured in rooms by furniture and 'stuff'. The staggering difference simply re-arranging and editing out furniture can make in a space is often a revelation for clients who have lived with the room 'as is' for so long.

RE/MAX Best - Good luck with your sellers. The tools I find useful in convincing clients who are on the fence about staging are facts about staging, statistics on ROI as well as 'before & after' pictures which showcases the difference staging can make in a property.

Kathleen - Thank you for the re-blog!  Glad you enjoyed the post!

Mary Ann - Yes, its hard for many sellers to accept that they must make changes in order to sell their home however the stats most definitely support the ROI when sellers invest in their homes.

Sally - Thank you :) I'm glad you agree with the points in my post and appreciate you taking the time to comment!

Brian - It's a great saying and totally true! Thank you for taking the time to comment!

Jun 05, 2011 12:27 PM #9
Valerie Sagheddu
Apostle Art Home Staging & Design - Stroudsburg, PA
~Home Staging Professional, Poconos, PA

Excellent, well written post Heather...I suggested. Awesome job pointing out some of the "Big" issues buyers need to be aware of when trying to get the attention of prospective buyers!

Jun 05, 2011 01:20 PM #10
Karen Otto
Home Star Staging - Plano, TX
Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging,

Great list of the top 10 NOT to dos when selling Heather! Suggesting for a feature!

Jun 05, 2011 02:30 PM #11
Anna Dovger
Add Value Home Staging LLC, 281-704-6607 - The Woodlands, TX
Home Staging -The Woodlands, TX

I suggested it too. I wish every seller will read it.

Jun 05, 2011 03:06 PM #12
Heather Cook
Rooms in Bloom Staging & Design Inc. - Kitchener, ON
Quality Home Staging

Thank you ladies!! Glad you liked my post and agree with my points!!

Jun 05, 2011 03:17 PM #13
Janet Jones
Just Your Style Interiors, LLC - Kihei, HI
Home Staging, Interior Redesign Kihei, Maui, Hawaii

Heather--great list.  The thorough explanation of each point and the photos really makes this an outstanding post. 

Jun 05, 2011 11:37 PM #14
Julia Maher
Nestings: Connecticut Home Staging and Model Homes - Fairfield, CT
Connecticut Home Stager

That one stat:  average buyer is 28, average seller is over 50 - really says it all right there!It reinforces that sellers should do everything they can to update and streamline!

Jun 06, 2011 03:08 AM #16
Heather Cook
Rooms in Bloom Staging & Design Inc. - Kitchener, ON
Quality Home Staging

Janet - As so much of what we do is visual I knew that just making the points wouldn't be enough so I tried to find photos which captured the essence of my message. Glad you enjoyed my post!

Valerie - I would love for all these things to be on every seller's 'to do' list when it comes time to sell their homes. Thank you for suggesting, I am glad the post resonated with you!

Julie - You culled out the most IMPORTANT stat out of the whole blog post. This is one of the top reasons why there is such a disconnect between buyers and sellers these days and why our jobs are so vital. This age and generation difference is only going to become more prevalent.

Jun 06, 2011 04:36 AM #17
Pamela Smith
Ventura County Home Staging - Thousand Oaks, CA

Your last paragraph was the zinger. The over 50 crowd has got to understand who their prospective buyer is. It's one of the first things the realtor and I discuss with the seller. Once everyone has a clear understanding of who we're appealing to the rest comes relatively easy!! Great blog!!

Jun 06, 2011 09:52 AM #18
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

I've suggested too...what a great list for sellers to take very seriously.  If every seller followed this list...what a beautiful place MLS would be!

Jun 08, 2011 09:57 AM #19
Sandi Gerrard
Saint Thomas, ON
It's all about colour

Good blog Heather, and congrats on winning the RESA award for your region.

Jun 08, 2011 10:29 PM #20
Stacia McCallum
Illustrated Properties - Jupiter, FL
Palm Beach County Real Estate

Heather, great information.. I wanted to share it again so I hit that little "Re-Blog" button. :)

Jun 12, 2011 06:47 AM #21
Allen 2222
Austin, TX

Oh, the WALLPAPER!!!! I haven't seen this on any recent lists, but boy you nailed that one. Especially the big florals, especially stripes, especially wallpaper that is tattered or torn or dated or or or. Actually ALL of it needs to come down. it's even worse when accompanied by dated furnishings, and too much of them. 

Jun 12, 2011 07:03 AM #22
Heather Cook
Rooms in Bloom Staging & Design Inc. - Kitchener, ON
Quality Home Staging

Pamela - I know that there is a 'lifestyle staging' wave going through our industry and its right on target. Sellers need to prepare and showcase their home to appeal to their target buyer pool. Missing the mark means a long, lonely road on the market.

Sharon - we can only hope that with constant education that sellers will realize just how drastically the real estate market has changed. Buyers have Model Home Mentality and in order for home owners to sell for the true value of their home, they need to accurately showcase their home to appeal to this picky buyer generation.

Sandi - Thank you :) glad you enjoyed the article!

Stacia - Thanks for re-blogging! I appreciate it! Glad you enjoyed the article; hope your fans do too.

Alison - I gotta tell you, there is a part of me that LOVES wallpaper when it comes to design. When it comes to selling though, its one thing that must go as it is very taste specific. I just saw wallpaper at a house I previewed two nights ago and the whole room had a 'hawaii' theme with island girls in leis on a border going around the whole room. That doesn't even include the co-ordinating pillows, art and accessories. It was to commemorate the couple's honeymoon trip to Maui which was sweet, but it wasn't going to help sell the house.

Valerie - Oi! Glad you caught that leak before it got too bad! Glad you liked my list - I tried to make it as extensive as possible!

Oct 19, 2011 04:33 AM #24
Shellie Alicia Carter
REAL. | Realtyka, LLC - Maplewood, NJ

This was/is a great post - I'll be sure to share this advice with my clients.



Jan 09, 2012 12:08 PM #25
Lynne Conrad
Activ8 Business - Fredericton, NB
Activ8 Real Estate Business Support

Wallpaper... a tricky issue.  Love your comment.  I had a client take a new home that was pretty much wall to wall, wallpaper.  After seeing that home... there is a limit to wallpaper. LOL. Having a focal point is important and too much wallpaper can take that away.  Definetly on the list of what NOT to do.   

Jan 07, 2014 10:25 PM #26
Show All Comments

What's the reason you're reporting this blog entry?

Are you sure you want to report this blog entry as spam?


Heather Cook

Quality Home Staging
Ask me a question
Spam prevention

Additional Information