Staging - The Seller's Perspective

Home Stager with RE:STYLE Home Staging

I recently met with an older couple to do a walkthrough consultation of their home. Throughout the tour, I made my assessments. Most of my comments were met with resistance from the seller. Her favorite phrase was "Oh we're not going to do that." Keep in mind that these were simple "decluttering" suggestions and "packing because you will be moving" suggestions.

Near the end, the seller confided in me that she understood everything that I was telling her, that I made sense in my assessments but that she and her husband were older and tired and just didn't want to do what I suggested.

Another reason for their resistance she said was the fact that homes in our area are taking longer and longer to sell. They need to be able to still "live" in the house. The house may take months to sell and they didn't want to compromise how they lived and enjoyed their home.

A big difference between these sellers and other sellers is that they want to move - they don't have to move. I think if they had to move, they may have a different attitude.

But it made me think about just what goes through the minds of the seller as we are critiquing their home. In our practice we strive to justify every recommendation that we make with solid reasoning.


Seller thinks - Get rid of all their stuff, throw away their memories, can't live without my Hummel collection

Stager says - Begin packing, start with items that are not necessary to survive on a daily basis, editing excess items and knick knacks make a room feel larger, buyer's can focus on the space in a room and not be distracted by your personal things.


Seller thinks - This stager doesn't have any taste, my floral wallpaper is beautiful, it takes too much time to paint, it takes too much money to paint.

Stager says - I can appreciate how much love and effort you put into decorating your home to your exact tastes, buyers prefer homes that are move in ready, buyers will deduct from their offer if they feel they have to take on the cost of removing wall paper and painting, the deduction will be far greater than your cost to change it.


Seller thinks - I still have to live here on a daily basis, what is wrong with all the pictures of my grandchildren? I need those magnets on the fridge so I have the phone number to the pizza place

Stager says - Buyer's need to see them selves in the home when they are touring. Your grandchildren are beautiful, but buyers will spend time looking at your photos wondering about who used to live here. We want them to spend their time looking at the space. Magnets on the fridge distract from the beautiful kitchen, let's place these items from the fridge in this folder, in this drawer, so everything will still be in easy access to you when you need it.

Furniture arrangement

Seller thinks - They better not move my TV! I like my TV right where it is, you can't move the couch away from the windows, that is where the dogs lay to see outside.

Stager says - I'd like to rearrange the furniture so that the TV isn't the main focal point when entering the room, I'd like to show off some of the best features of the house so the buyers will really take notice of them. I'd like to make the fireplace and the view from the windows really catch the buyer's eye. We will move it so you can still watch TV comfortably, but arrange it so the fireplace is the focal point.


Seller thinks - What is wrong with my dried floral arrangements and brass candlesticks? What is wrong with my collection of doggy statues? My pink candles are pretty.

Stager says - Less is more, we want the buyer to focus on the home - not your things. We use accessories primarily to enhance the space with color or as a prop to evoke an emotion.

These are just a few examples of objections that stagers receive from sellers, unfortunately they are not always verbalized by the seller. After the stager leaves, the seller may chose not to make any changes. It is important that as a stager, we arm are sellers will solid reasoning behind our suggestions.

Stagers - have you faced similar or other objections? Will you offer to us your solid reasoning?

Comments (17)

Ashley Berg
Realty Executives BRIO - Seattle, WA
Seattlenulls Green Real Estate Agent

I think you hit the nail on the head!  There are indefinitely two sides to every story.

May 27, 2008 08:04 AM
Debi Ernst
St. Charles County, Missouri - Prudential Alliance Realtors - O'Fallon, MO
GRI, e-PRO, Broker/Sales Associate

Great post.  I'm not a stager, but I do make suggestions to my sellers.  I hear some of these same arguments.  I think your logical reasoning was great!  :)

May 27, 2008 08:05 AM
Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging Consultations that Sell Portland Homes"


Excellent post, which I'm bookmarking.  You've stated the same objections I've often heard from sellers.... and also listed some gentle reminders of what we can tell them. Another one is "in today's competitive market, we need to do everything possible so that you gain the most profit/equity when selling this property.  If you follow these suggestions, your home will be seen as move-in ready and appealing to your target buyer."

May 27, 2008 08:13 AM
Patty Carroll
Vancouver, WA

Hi Cari, we are not stagers and this is what we share with our clients, it is amazing how some of them just can't see what we are saying. Great post.

May 27, 2008 08:39 AM
Tori Lynn Wallitsch
Prudential Ambassador / Ross Designs, LLC - Omaha, NE

When working with older folks who are content with their home and all of their belongings, I make sure to point out that even though the home may be on the market for a few months, together we can create a strategy that will help them continue to comfortably live in the home while also showing it at it's best.  I use a strategy experts suggest to use with small children - the "either/or" strategy.  "Can you live without the Precious moments collection or the family photo wall?" You may not have a perfect home to show when all is said and done, but it will definitely be improved and usually when people are hesitant but go along with some decluttering and prepacking they find it is not as emotionally devastating as they had thought and will go on to do more.

May 27, 2008 10:02 AM
Melissa Marro
Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team - Orange Park, FL
Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging

Great information.... now if only we could get them all to listen to us instead of what they are thinking!  I mean, it is why they (or their agent) are paying us!

May 27, 2008 12:40 PM
Karen Dembsky
Peachtree Home Staging LLC, Home Staging in Atlanta, GA - Peachtree City, GA
Atlanta Home Staging

I guess you are on some kind of roll, here!  post featured in the group "Real World Home Staging for Newbies"

May 27, 2008 01:13 PM
Michelle Minch
Moving Mountains Design Home Staging, Pasadena, CA - Los Angeles, CA
Home Staging Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA

Cari: My personal favorite is "We don't want to put any more money into this house. We are moving. Buyers can take it the way it is or go buy someplace else". My thought at the time was "I guess they aren't really that  interested in selling right now". The house was on the market unsold for over a year with multiple price reductions. It wound up selling for about 25% less than the original asking price.

May 27, 2008 02:17 PM
Nicole Longstreath
The Wardrobe Code - Newport Beach, CA

That's tough when sellers don't seem to want to follow any advice which they have sought out.

I went into a home recently in an upscale neighborhood of Newport and the interior looked like one DIY project after another - marble tile kitchen countertops, faux painting, etc.  Yuck!

May 27, 2008 02:30 PM
Cari Pilon
RE:STYLE Home Staging - Brighton, MI
RE:STYLE Home Staging

Thanks Ashley, there are two sides ( a right one and a wrong one) lol!

Thanks Debi, the problem is getting them to listen and act

Thanks Maureen, that is a great one to add to the list!

Patty/Scott - Change is a difficult thing to deal with for some people

Tori - that is great advice to offer, kind of like baby steps, try a little bit and then the rest will come easier

Melissa - It is funny isn't it? Pay me for advice that you will never use.

Thank you Again Karen!!!

Love that one Michelle! Some times it is hard for even the most motivated to spend money and then walk awy. They don't realize that they will get that money back and then some!

Nicole - honestly those DIY situations are the hardest for me. Faux painting (unless done well) is a hard one. Trying to convince someone who probably spent days getting that "just right" to paint over it is difficult and kind of sad. The murals in the kid's rooms get to me too.

May 27, 2008 03:08 PM
Chrissie Sutherland
Ready Set Stage - Greensboro, NC

I love your post.  Isn't that the truth.  It's so funny that they call to ask us for help, then when we try to help, they think we are crazy.  I understand that some home owners are more emotionally connected than others, but if you are trying to sell your house in this market, it seems any suggestions from a professional would be worth a try. 

May 28, 2008 11:49 AM
Karen Otto
Home Star Staging - Plano, TX
Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging,

Great post Cari! 

One elderly couple told me, "we'll let our kids take care of this stuff when we go if we don't sell" and I personally related my own story of "taking care of this stuff" when my own father passed away.

I love my dad dearly and miss him tremendously but my dad would always say that "it won't be my problem when I'm gone - it won't matter". I won't go into all the details but it was a traumatic experience flying home, sorting through things and deciding what to keep, donate, give away or throw out. I was the only one who wanted to do this in my family. Had he done that and made those decisions himself, it would have been much easier on everyone. It's selfish honestly to say "I'll let someone else take care of it" it's truly a gift to yourself and others to get rid of things that no one wants or treasures. Memories go with us in our hearts, minds and spirits, it's never about the material stuff of our lives. Take photos of things, make a collage, scrapbook or pillow out of old clothing - there are many ways to keep alive those memories in tangible and intangible ways.

I have a heart for older people. They deserve respect and care when talking to them especially if we're talking about selling and staging a property they've spent most of their adult lives in. But it is freeing for them too to know that the stuff of their lives isn't what matters most. It just takes practice and sometimes a real life story to help them see past that.

May 28, 2008 12:23 PM
Cari Pilon
RE:STYLE Home Staging - Brighton, MI
RE:STYLE Home Staging

You are right Chrissie!

Karen, thanks for sharing your story.

It was cute when we finished staging, the lady was packing up some of her things from a display cabinet, I saw her holding (hiding) something in her hand and she was sneaking her way back to the cabinet. I asked her what was she doing (in a kidding Mom sort of way) and she said that the item was very important to her and she wanted to put it back into the cabinet. It was sweet. Of course I said Go ahead! I kinda felt bad she felt the need to sneak it back.

May 28, 2008 11:57 PM
Kathy Riggle
Houston Home Staging

Excellent post, Cari! The most resistance to staging improvements that I encounter is from my parent's generation.  Those Depression years really made a huge impact on them not wanting to get rid of anything! If family members live close by,  they often will help the folks sell and have the motivation to pitch in with having a family garage sale. Especially if they get a cut of the garage sale profits!


May 29, 2008 08:14 AM
Michelle Molinari
FEATURE THIS... Real Estate Staging & Interior Decor - Lafayette, LA
Feature This Real, Estate Staging & Curb Appeal Concepts

When I bid a job,  my little introduction on what staging is and why it works so effectively harks back to one single phrase..." Staging is the Art of Eliminating Distractions and Enhancing the Architectural Features of the House."

 When something is messy, ratty, busy, loud, or placed poorly, I just say "It is a distraction that we know can be eliminated." I never use the following words: de-clutter, pack, paint, fix, repair, replace, buy, change, remove, relocate, clean,  prune, plant, re-seed, etc.

Almost anything I have to say that sounds like work can be phrased to include my magic phrase!

"We will need to reduce the distraction-level the hedges present to the bay window "

"The color in this room is a distraction to the fine molding, and we will be able to eliminate that."

"The children's toys are distracting in the living room, and we can quickly eliminate that."

LOL.It works, believe it or not. Eliminate is a great word to use, because it doesn't have a negative connotation. It just means "get rid of", but it sounds so much more authortative and necessary!

But just in case the "elimination process" is too taxing ("pack" is a four letter word!), my sister Sue is a professional organizer and people person, and she handles resistant people much better than I do.

Ok, I have to  go eliminate some dirty dishes now...




May 29, 2008 11:28 AM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Cari, Those are all important points and the sellers can think very differently or even take offense.  I can only give my clients the reasons I'd like them to make changes and what I think it will do to help them.  And hope that they chose to make them....

Jun 01, 2008 12:54 PM
- -
- - Bogota, TN

Thanks for yout tasking the time to provide us with this information in the Active Rain network.  AR is the new "cyber backbone" of the industry, and with it's uplink to it will transfrom the marketplace. Agents who don't see which way the cyberwind is blowing are going to find themselves at a considerable disadvantage inside of three to five years.

Jun 30, 2008 04:42 AM