Staging is an investment, one every seller can’t afford to make. So many sellers take it on as a do-it-yourself project that can,depending on the approach, skill, and resources of the ‘self’ who does it be amazing or not quite so amazing.
1. The sellers used beat up or ugly furnishings and decor.
Great staging includes furniture that shows off the home and what it has to offer. Sometimes this can be done using certain pieces of the seller’s furniture. Other times, furniture must be rented or otherwise obtained. One area in which budget-minded sellers like to save money on staging is by finding cheaper alternatives than renting new furniture from a staging company or store.
In this era of Craigslist, there is an abundance of access to used furniture at great prices. I have no bone to pick with the smart sellers who use these tools to replace their own furniture with something that is in better condition, more attractive or a smaller scale than their own, so as to highlight how much space their home truly offers.
How to help your sellers: Have a consistent message throughout the process of listing the home. Clean and simple staging typically highlights a space. Before letting sellers go to town on the staging, show them examples of well staged homes and one that’s not so great. The visual examples can help get your message across better than simply talking it through.
2. They created distracting themes and scenes.
The goal when preparing a home for listing, is to all for buyers to visualize the new-and-improved versions of their lives that the home will help them realize. For example, it's not strange to see a breakfast table and chairs on the patio of a home with amazing views.
Occasionally, though, these scenes and vignettes can go rogue, creating scenarios that distract and detract more than they help.
A beach scene (ball, umbrella and all) in a midwestern bedroom, a lively Parisian mural and Eiffel tower replica in a California condo and bizarre collections are all real-life examples of staging scenes that have done more harm than good.
3. The house is neither clean nor clutter-free.
For various reasons, some homes just take time to sell. And if a client is living in a home that is on the market for long, it can be challenging to ensure it is perfectly pristine at all times, meaning every single time a buyer enters it. And it doesn’t take a truly filthy house to turn a buyer’s impression of a home from awesome to awful. The little messes that a family accumulates through daily living can be perceived by buyers as distracting.
Do not underestimate the power of piles of clothes, mail, paperwork, dishes or kids’ toys to deactivate the home-selling power of all the hard work and money that went into preparing the property in the first place.
How to help your sellers: Make sure your clients understand that you know how challenging this situation can be. Empathize with them and help them create standards for showings.
4. There are glaring gaps.
How to help your sellers:
- Rooms—Listen, I personally live in a house that is beautiful everywhere until you poke your head into my young adult son’s room. So I can relate to these sellers. This situation might be okay to live with, but it’s a real home staging fail for a property that’s on the market. Remind sellers not to let there be one or two rooms that it looks like the stager—or house cleaner—missed. And this goes for the garage, closets, cupboards and drawers, too. Buyers like to look inside these areas to see how much space they have—if they are crammed full of junk, it creates the impression that the house lacks storage and order.
- Exterior vs. Interior—Some homes have amazing curb appeal, but walk in and they look rundown and not well cared for. And the opposite is true: some look like Martha Stewart handled the inside and a junk dealer extraordinaire was in charge of the yard. Neither of these is ideal. Again, here a visual tour can help. Make note of the most budget-friendly or simple-to-do projects that may be able to help remedy any eyesores.
- Multi-sensory gaps—If a home is beautiful to the eye but smells bad, is strangely hot or cold, or has a noise issue (think: neighbors’ music, freeway noise or strange in-house creaks or whirrs), buyers might appreciate the visuals but fixate on the multi-sensory challenges. Especially if there are pets, sellers may need a gut check on whether their home is smelly—sellers might be so used to it, that they can’t sense it anymore. Here, honesty is the best policy. If you have a super smelly property and don’t want to offend the seller, you may want to consider bringing in a stager for a consultation (use someone who you have a good relationship with and often send referrals to). After they look around, have them write notes for the seller. The third party perspective can help get the point across without causing tension within your client/agent relationship.
5. The seller lacked a neutral, expert eye.
Home decorating and home staging are two different things. When an owner decorates a home, they customize it with your specific tastes, preferences and aesthetics in mind. When staging it, the goal is to neutralize the home’s look and feel so it appeals to more buyers and doesn’t have turn-off potential.
Remind your sellers that decorating a home is personalizing it. Staging a home is depersonalizing it.