Prevent the Embarrassment of Putting a Home on the Market that Isn’t Show Ready

Home Stager with Simply Staging

This post was inspired by a recent house that I viewed during open house weekend.  The home was full of clutter, the rooms hadn't been properly picked-up and the house was just plain dirty.  When I politely recommended to the listing agent that he might want to consider giving his sellers an education on preparing the home while it's being shown, he politely suggested that it doesn't matter because when the right buyers see it, they'll be able to see beyond the mess.  Really??!!  I don't understand why a listing agent would not take the time to educate the seller on the importance of their home's condition. 

It's amazing to me that the house was being shown this way to potential buyers.  Wasn't the agent at all embarrassed?  Most people wouldn't let another person walk into an embarrassing situation without saying sometEmbarrassing situationhing to them first, would we?  I mean, we'd let them know that they had toilet paper stuck to the bottom of their shoe or that they had a piece of lettuce stuck between their teeth.  We'd tell them because we'd hate to see them be exposed in public that way. 

Well, when I see a house on the market that's in real bad shape, I've come to realize that the poor seller didn't have anyone to stop them before they listed!  The reality is that it's quite embarrassing to have a house for sale out there looking that way. 

Even in today's market, there are plenty of examples out there, just look on the internet and you'll find them - homes that have clothes on the floor, clutter everywhere, unmade beds, dirty carpets and the worst offenders of all - dirty kitchens and bathrooms. 

A potential buyer will not bother to stay long and will likely move on to the next house.  It's and embarrassing situation and a big turn-off to buyers, no one wants to waste their time looking at a house like that. 

If someone doesn't say something to the seller, then how is a seller to know that their house will likely be on the market a lot longer than the average time?  And how are they to know that they'll probably have to reduce their price, several tens of thousands of dollars (or more) just to get people to look at it?  Someone owes it to them to put the truth out there and educate them on some basic home preparation guidelines.  After all, the seller is not the selling expert - it's likely that they really don't have a clue what they need to do. 

As an experienced Stager at Simply Staging, I've heard lots of valid reasons from agents for not talking to the sellers about this touchy subject.  Such as, "I know my seller isn't going to take the news lightly."   Or "They won't do anything that I tell them to do, so why bother."  For whatever reason, if the listing agent feels they can't do it, then how about a Stager?

If a seller is really serious about selling their home, then the truth is that they will appreciate hearing the cold hard facts.  People want to know what it's going to take to sell their house. 

As the seller's agent, if you've tried everything you possibly can to get the seller to clean-up their mess Messy Roomand it's not working, then why not recommend a stager?  What have you got to lose?  Stagers are used to having to break bad news - that's what we do, this is why we're here - to assist in getting a listing in tip-top selling condition, no matter what it takes. 

Surprisingly, when sellers hear it coming from a professional stager, they really do usually take the news better than if it were coming from their Realtor.  Granted, we've had sellers not be happy with what our stagers at Simply Staging have had to say to them about their home, even though we are as tactful and professional as we can be - we do at times end up being the bad guy.  But the listing agent can continue to be the good guy.  As long as we get the house looking great, it really doesn't matter to us who ends up being the good or bad guy because we've achieved our goal.

Home Stagers have a variety of offerings and are providing sellers and agents alike a valuable service.  If the seller doesn't see the value now, they'll see the benefits soon enough.  By the time we're done with a house, it normally sells faster than the average home and for usually pretty close to asking price.  Only until then do we become the hero and only then do we get to shed that "bad guy" image.  I see it as tough love, it's really for the sellers own good.

By partnering up with a stager, you can at least rest assured that you have done everything possible to get your listing looking great in public.  Once we accept the fact that some people genuinely don't see anything wrong with their homes, it makes perfect sense that we have to educate them.  If you've been honest with a client, and have given them all the information needed to compete in this market, then what they do with the information you've given them is up to them - that's all that we can do.  Maybe next time you get a client with a messy house, ask them if they'd be bothered going out in public with a piece of lettuce stuck in between their teeth, if they say they wouldn't care, then that's probably a good indication that it's not worth trying to convince them to clean-up their house.

Simply Staging has been offering Home Staging Solutions for both the "Vacant" and the "Not So Vacant" homes in El Dorado County and the Greater Sacramento area for more than 4 years.  For a free proposal, give us a call at (530) 417-1337 and see what it takes to get your home "Sell Ready".

Posted by

Emma Vargas, ASP

Simply Staging has been offering Home Staging Solutions for both the "Vacant" and the "Not So Vacant" homes in El Dorado County and The Greater Sacramento area for more than 4 years.  For your proposal, give us a call at (530) 417-1337 and see what it takes to get your home "Sell Ready".

Comments (27)

No Longer Active in Staging. No Longer Staging
Hickory, NC

Emma, It never ceases to amaze me to find this type of interior photos over and over. Someday, when the word spreads about staging, maybe it will be a pre-listing requirement!! God bless,

Oct 03, 2008 05:14 AM
Emma Vargas
Simply Staging - Cameron Park, CA
Simply Staging

Thanks all for the great comments.

Some sellers will never get it, and eventually a house like in bad condition will sell, but it's going to take a long time and a lot of price reductions to get someone to even consider buying it.  The time and effort that a seller puts in preparing their home is a wise investment because they'll get so much in return. 

Agents-  Please educate your sellers, they'll appreciate you more in the end!

Oct 03, 2008 05:18 AM
Shannon Elizabeth McInerney
DesigningReality - Dumfries, VA

Great article. If I was looking to buy a house and I walked into a home with things strewn everywhere, I would feel very uncomfortable and want to leave ASAP. I would then label the house as "the one where we couldn't see the floors", etc...

Thanks for sharing such great advice!


Oct 03, 2008 07:55 AM
Emma Vargas
Simply Staging - Cameron Park, CA
Simply Staging

Shannon-  I agree.  Most people would remember it as the worst house on the market and label it as such.  That's such a good point.  The house will be memorable, but not in a good way.  Emma

Oct 03, 2008 09:11 AM
Nancy Morrish
Stage Tucson! Professional Home Staging - Tucson, AZ
Stage Tucson!

I couldn't agree with you more Emma.......isn't it mind boggling?  I really wonder how some Realtors make enough money to put food on the table when they can't even remove the food from the table before taking MLS photos.

Oct 04, 2008 04:51 AM
Kathleen Lordbock
Keller Williams Realty Professionals - Baxter, MN
Keller Williams Realty Professionals

I believe that Realtors have a fiduciary responsiblity to tell their clients "the true value of the property and anything that could be done to increase its value."  Now staging does increase the property value  if you are talking repair and replacement , upgrades, etc. De-cluttering and cleaing would increase the desirablitly and ease the sale.

Oct 04, 2008 06:48 AM
Emma Vargas
Simply Staging - Cameron Park, CA
Simply Staging

Nancy-  It is mind boggling.  Some people genuinely don't know that their homes look bad, so it is the Realtor's duty to tell them that it can't be shown that way. 

Kathleen-  I agree with your point as well.  Repairs and replacements will no doubt increase the value of a house.  Removing the clutter and cleaning increases the desirability, therefore increasing a homes chances of selling.  Imagine if a realtor has the seller do both?  That's the best case scenario for the seller.

Thanks for the comments and for reading my post ladies.

Oct 04, 2008 08:59 AM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

Emma, this is the best post regarding staging and addressing the issue of CLEANING a house before putting on the market.

Larry: I LOVE the picture you provided. Priceless!

Oct 05, 2008 02:22 AM
Teresa Bonlak
Room to Stage - Raleigh, NC

Doesn't the realtor get a bigger commission with a bigger sale price? It just makes sense to me that a realtor would want the house cleaned and stagged to help them with their commissions.

Oct 05, 2008 11:27 AM
Laurie Price - Houston, TX


Photographers often have to be the bad guy also. Some agents that I shoot for count on me for bringing up suggestions or they'll make a suggestion and ask what i think about that. I'm there to shoot the property but often i find myself picking up and staging a few items or furniture. .....which is okay but it's so nice when a professional stager has been there and is STILL THERE if something is not right in a shot.  I've come across some bad stagers in the 11 years that I've been shoot real estate. You really have to look at a lot of portfolios to find one that is versatile in all different styles. 

Oct 05, 2008 04:43 PM
Virginia Tatseos
Stage-Show-Sell - Bloomfield Township, MI

From your lips to god's ear.

Why aren't they listening?

Read my blog about detailing a car  and consider posting on the group

Oct 05, 2008 06:13 PM
Tori Lynn Wallitsch
Prudential Ambassador / Ross Designs, LLC - Omaha, NE

I had a similar situation a few months ago; the agent was a friend of mine and I very tactfully mentioned that I hoped the sellers weren't done cleaning their home before showings began.  I still don't think they have done anything about it.

Oct 06, 2008 02:04 PM
Teri L'Hirondelle
1st Impression Homestaging - Coeur d'Alene, ID

85% of buyers see a home on the internet before visiting in person. Why would you go look in person if this is what they're showing on the internet? Amazing!

Oct 07, 2008 04:23 PM
Emma Vargas
Simply Staging - Cameron Park, CA
Simply Staging

Pat-  Thanks for the great compliment!  Larry's picture is just a tiny sample of what's out there.

Teresa-  Yes, the agent would get a bigger commission if they educated their sellers.  Maybe some don't feel it's worth the extra work.  Beats me why the don't do it?

Laurie-  I never thought that a photographer would get stuck having to be the bad guy and having to do some of the staging.  Wow!  That's just not right.  I bet you didn't think you'd have to be a part-time stager also.  You know, you might as well start charging for the extra service that you're providing.  Why not?  It sounds like you're doing it already anyways.

Virginia-  I wish they would listen too!

Tori Lynn- What are we to do?  Months later when the house is still on the market, they might reconsider cleaning it.

Teri-  Exactly!  Why would a potential buyer bother seeing a house like that in person.  And then they wonder why no ones coming.

Oct 07, 2008 06:46 PM
B Lucas-Thrower
Staging - Interior Redesign & Home Staging - Franklin, TN
Interior Redesign and Home Staging

I cannot tell you how many time I have been here. I am working on an agents home now....and guess what? This is the way it looks......

Oct 20, 2008 01:06 AM
Michelle Pimentel
Empire Home Staging Solutions - Upland, CA
ASP, IAHSP Empire Home Staging


What a great post!  It's probably a fact that the realtor couldn't educate his sellers on how to prepare their home because the agent isn't educated on how to prepare a home!  A seasoned agent knows how to work with their clients and tells them what to do to prepare their home for sale.  The agent may also suggest working closely with a professional home stager to give the listing advantages over the competition.

Oct 31, 2008 04:44 PM
Robyn Guinn
StageAZ - Phoenix, AZ
Home staging, Arizona

These are photos I've run across, listed for sale.  Yep I want to run right over and see this house!

Uhmmm, aren't pools supposed to be blue, not green or having a hard time with photoshop?

The house is what it is and there is no sense in not showing it's true colors. (no pun intended)  Even if the pictures were great........ if the people were basically slobs or lazy it wouldn't matter by the time a potential buyer got there, it would be a mess.  Some people just can't be helped.  There is no reason for filth..... soap and water are pretty cheap.



Oct 31, 2008 05:45 PM
Suzanne Metz
Design to Appeal (Homestaging and Interior Redesign) - Medicine Hat, AB

If realtors refused to list homes that weren't presentable, I'll bet alot more homeowners would make sure that their homes did look good!

Nov 01, 2008 02:22 PM
David Peterson
Synergy Staging ~ specializing in vacant home staging - Portland, OR
Home Stager Portland OR-Synergy Staging-Portland Oregon

And the few buyers who can see through the terrible property condition for the potential of the home will negotiate the price so much lower than the seller could have gotten had they prepared the home properly.  Amazing!

Nov 02, 2008 01:16 PM
Emma Vargas
Simply Staging - Cameron Park, CA
Simply Staging

Michele- You're so right!  I find though that some of the seasaoned agents, especially in certain areas, still don't see the problem with a cluttered or dirty house.

Robyn-  It's crazy what you see on-line.  You wonder if that's really the best they can do?

Suzanne-  That will be the day!  When all Realtors refuse to list a home that's not presentable.

David-  Exactly!  The seller will get a lower price by not taking the time to make the home presentable.  It's just sad, really.

Nov 02, 2008 03:13 PM

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