Who knows what buyers really like in a home?

Home Stager with Showhomes

Wayne Muelver, the Marketing Director for the Showhomes Milwaukee franchise emailed me this to post on our blog:


"I hear a lot of talk in my market and online about what buyers like,  
and oh 'my buyer appreciated this', or 'I know buyers love that'. The
funny thing is, who ever said we should give buyers what they want?

As a Home Stager my job is to work for the interests of the seller.
And the same is obviously true of the listing agent. What concerns me
is the lack of context I see when Home Owners or Agents are applying
these likes and dislikes of buyers. Confused? Not sure what I am
talking about? Exactly my point. Context matters, so here it is.

I hear everyone from Home Owners to REALTORS say, 'Why do staging? My
buyers prefer to see empty homes'. Another common one is, 'Well I sell
lots of vacant homes and I find them easier to sell because I can
always get in and out quickly'. I have had dozens of Home Owners tell
me that when they bought the house they did so because it was vacant
and they could see the entire space as a blank canvas. It is easy as a
professional Home Stager to respond by explaining how they are wrong
about buyer preferences because buyers pay more for a staged house.
The trouble is that if you do that you are just as wrong as they are.
The truth is, both stagers and those who preach the preferences of
buyers are correct but they are applying that knowledge the wrong way.
The real question is why?

I think most buyers do prefer to look at a vacant home because then
they can see all of the houses flaws without distraction. I know I do.
I can move more quickly through the house and can analyze the building
in my head on the way to the next showing. Then after seeing every
crack and hearing every creek echo through the house I know exactly
how to position myself when it comes time to make an offer. Lowball!
Is that the goal for the seller or should it be? To strengthen the
buyers negotiating position? Now maybe if you are a buyer's agent, but
if you are the lister or the Home Owner for that matter the last thing
you should worry about is the preference of the buyer. Consider it
sure. You don't want to impose a contemporary style in a very
traditional neighborhood just to create a distraction. Good staging is
invisible meaning that buyers leave not remembering that the house was
well staged, but rather that when they were there the place just felt
like home. You have to be on the same emotional plane as the buyer but
don't be concerned about how a buyer prefers to see a room empty or not.

In order to drive a premium price, every vacant listing should be
fully staged to de-emphasize the flaws and play up the strengths. Try
to make it look like someone lives there too. Get cloths in the
closet, some food in the fridge and some dishes in the cabinets. Do
everything you can to get the buyer to focus on the authentically
wonderful life they could have in the home, instead of focusing on the
home itself. Builders will have to check their ego at the door and let
buyers get emotionally attached to the house before they swamp them
with details about superior construction methods. At the end of the
day, what drives a premium price is not wether the home was empty, or
the insulation has a high R value. What drives a premium price is
emotion. Establish a total environment from the sights and sounds to
the smells and the ambiance. Then, after they experience all that, go
ahead and nock them out of the park with the high R value or the fancy
wiring. Get a buyer to take a step outside themselves. Let them be
distracted from their negotiating tactics for a while and you will see
higher prices and faster sales on the sellers terms rather than the

-Wayne Muelver
Showhomes, Southeast Wisconsin

Comments (3)

Chip Jefferson
Gibbs Realty and Auction Company - Columbia, SC

Every buyer is looking for the best that there money can buy. As we all know sometimes that isnt even feasible in there expectations.

Jul 18, 2008 12:11 AM
Suzanne Champion
N.J. Realty - Westerville Ohio - Columbus, OH

What Wayne is getting at, in part, is a presentation that stresses the Benefits of living in the home, not just the Features.  It's so hard to remember that when selling sometimes!  Thanks for the reminder.

Jul 18, 2008 12:26 AM
Natasha ~ Showhomes Greenville

Wayne brought up some excellent points that I will mention the next time I talk to listing agents.  I think sometimes they 'forget' it is their job to get the seller the highest price for the home.  Hence the reason a lot of them will recommend a price reduction before they will recommend staging.  That frustrates me more than anything!

Jul 18, 2008 07:52 AM