Do I really have to remove all personal items when selling my house?

Home Stager with Room Service Home Staging

Do I really have to remove all personal items when selling my house?


When you’re on a listing appointment, I have a feeling that you are asked this question. And, if not, I know that during your discussion of what to do to prepare their home for sale, you discuss removing all personal items. 

We all agree as to the importance of this but do you ever explain to your sellers why it is so important? 


I walked through a listing appointment with an agent years ago and as she entered each room she tossed out the “remove all personal photos and albums” line. No explanation why, but I think it’s important that sellers know why. 

Stagers and agents have their reasons why, but here’s why I think it’s important to hide, remove, or store personal items. 


1.It’s important to let buyers see the space.

Just like anything else we say when preparing a home for sale, it’s important to remove items, including furnishings, that would take away from a buyer seeing the SPACE!

Even a beautifully arranged wall of neutral photos can be too much if it eats up the space that buyers are looking for. 


2.Let the buyers begin to see themselves in the space. 

As long as everything they see says someone else’s home it will be more difficult for them to see this as their home. 


3.Sellers will not want their personal information out for strangers to see. 

Degrees, licenses, awards...anything that has personal information on it could be gold to someone with the wrong intentions. 



4.Personal items and photos could become more interesting to the buyer than the home itself and use up a lot of viewing time. This is also true of collectibles you have.

A real experience...we were looking at a home on the market once and the owner was an assistant coach with the NFL working for his father who was the local NFL coach. I know I spent a lot of time looking at his walls and photos of some of my favorite NFL players. I don’t even remember what the house looked like. 



5.If there are children living in the home, you don’t want to broadcast their names to strangers. 

Remove plaques, posters, backpacks, and anything else with a child’s photo and/or name on it. 


There will always be exceptions so don’t fret if there are some personal items you cannot remove. 

Another true story...a client and recent widow was having a difficult time selling the home that she and her husband had lived in. He had always taken care of everything and asked if she could keep one photo of her husband in the kitchen for support. Before each showing, she tucked the 8x10 photo of her husband in a corner where he would not be noticed. 

Life is only hard if you make it that way. 


So when you talk to your sellers about how to prepare their home for sale, it helps to explain the “whys.”   They’re more likely to buy into it and make your job a little easier. 

Comments (32)

Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi Kathy - all of this makes perfect sense.  My daughter would not want anything advertising who they were inside the house.

Apr 13, 2021 06:56 AM
Kathy Streib

good for your daughter, Grant!!!!  When I would give a consultatio and tell this to parents they were shocked that they hadn't thought of it.  

Apr 13, 2021 05:40 PM
June Piper-Brandon
Houwzer Inc - Baltimore, MD
Piecing Dreams One Home at a Time

Kathy, this is great information.  You brought up many points I mention and some I didn't think of.  Thanks!!

Apr 13, 2021 07:04 AM
Kathy Streib

Glad to be of help, June. 

Apr 13, 2021 05:40 PM
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

This is very good advice to share with prospective home sellers.

Apr 13, 2021 07:15 AM
Kathy Streib

Roy- thank you!!!  

Apr 13, 2021 05:40 PM
Sharon Lee
Sharon Lee's Virtual Assistance - Jonesborough, TN
Retired and loving life

Kathy-This is excellent advice.  Nowadays it is especially important to be careful with anyone knowing about your kids. 

Apr 13, 2021 07:38 AM
Kathy Streib

exactly, Sharon. And so many things have a child's name on it...from their backpack to furniture to wall art. 

Apr 13, 2021 05:41 PM
Beth Atalay
Cam Realty and Property Management - Clermont, FL
Cam Realty of Clermont FL

Hello Kathy, if the sellers don't know the reason why they should do certain things, they will most likely start consulting others. Those who are selling their homes must pack anyway, prior to going on the market is the best time.

Apr 13, 2021 07:43 AM
Kathy Streib

Beth- They're going to be packing anyway so why not now!!!  And, thank you for the feature in Bananatude. 

Apr 13, 2021 05:42 PM
Ron and Alexandra Seigel
Napa Consultants - Carpinteria, CA
Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy


When Ron and I sold my mother in law's home, she would hide the family photos when we had a showing, and the minute the door was closed, she would put them back.  Her home was lovely did not need staging..  Towards the end, she refused hiding them. LOL A

Apr 13, 2021 09:00 AM
Kathy Streib

Ron and Alexandra- I get it...if your home is on the market for a period of time, you sometimes throw up your hands!

Apr 13, 2021 05:43 PM
Andrea Bedard
Thompson Company, REALTORS® 240.593.2860 - Silver Spring, MD
Fluent in German and Real Estate * M.A. ABR ASP

The why is super important, Kathy, I agree. If there's one reason most - if not all - sellers understand then it is that of safety. Don't compromise your personal/sensitive information. On the other hand, a little bit of personality is good thing, I point that out as well, we want to invoke feelings and sell a home

Apr 13, 2021 09:15 AM
Kathy Streib

Andrea- I couldn't agree more. You can add personality to a house for sale without having to use personal photos. 

Apr 13, 2021 05:48 PM
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Hello Kathy and Excellent blog and this should make your list on Sunday this week.  Can I reblog this down the road.


Apr 13, 2021 02:39 PM
Kathy Streib

H Will- I would be honored if you reblogged it. 

Apr 13, 2021 06:02 PM
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Kathy I have always wondered why Sellers seem to have an objection many times to removing personal items.  After all they are sell the house, so why would it make any difference to them, but for some reason it does.

Apr 13, 2021 02:43 PM
Kathy Streib

George- I think that if we took the time to explain to them why, they would be more willing. 

Apr 13, 2021 06:03 PM
Hannah Williams
HomeStarr Realty - Philadelphia, PA
Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-820-3376

Kathy '

I love this post!  This is one of the biggest problems I have with sellers.  I always explain why  90% of the people understand then there are the 10% that just will not listen.  If I take the picture down it will leave a hole in the wall.   They just refuse to comply. 

Apr 13, 2021 03:21 PM
Kathy Streib

Hi Hannah- sometimes it's a matter of control, especially if they don't really want to sell. 

Apr 13, 2021 06:06 PM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

This is so important for sellers to understand.  Great explanation.

Apr 13, 2021 06:04 PM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Featured in the group:  BARTENDER, MAKE IT A DOUBLE.

Apr 13, 2021 06:05 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

I noticed that with some people it is kind of a vibe and kind of play it by ear kind of thing

Apr 13, 2021 08:45 PM
Anna Banana Kruchten CRS, CRB, Phoenix Broker
HomeSmart Real Estate BR030809000 - Phoenix, AZ

Excellent advice Kathy!  It's so important to share the 'why' of removing personal photos well as names of kids in their rooms. Buyers want to imagine their 'new' home and how it will work for them. 





Apr 13, 2021 09:14 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Here in Los Angeles I can not tell you how many times I have to say this:)) Ego maniacs wanting to show off their trophy wife's photos, their entertainment awards and the list goes on and on, Endre

Apr 13, 2021 10:50 PM
James Dray
Fathom Realty - Bentonville, AR
Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results

Morning Kathy.

Haven't listed a home in a while, when I did, that was one of the first discussion we had.

Apr 14, 2021 12:11 AM
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

Giving reasons WHY they should do the things you are suggesting usually increases the odds of sellers actually doing them!

Apr 14, 2021 09:42 AM
Carol Williams
Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals. - Wenatchee, WA
Retired Agent / Broker / Property Manager

Hi Kathy,
I've had limited time in the Rain lately so I'm catching up on a few posts. This made me chuckle because I just had a dream last night about helping someone clear out all the clutter and personal items from their home in preparation for selling.  I have no idea where that came from!

Apr 16, 2021 07:13 AM
Kris Collis, Associate Broker
Smart Way America Realty - East Stroudsburg, PA
Professional Results you Expect 570-801-5525

Excellent reasons and list for seller to begin decluttering.  It really does make favorable impact on buyer.  And so much easiier and faster for them to reach a decision about the house.

Apr 23, 2021 11:36 PM
Carla Freund
Keller Williams Preferred Realty - Raleigh, NC
Carolina Life RealEstate & Relocation 919-602-8489

I let sellers know we don't want the buyers to get distracted by their personal items. That is usually enough to get them to remove personal items.

Apr 28, 2021 08:24 AM