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By Tara-Nicholle Nelson | Broker in San Francisco, CA

Staging Shockers: 9 of the Worst Staging Decisions Ever Made

At the end of every year, my mind naturally drifts to what did and didn’t work this year, in an effort to double down on my successes and avoid repeating my mistakes. Occasionally,I’ll take a look back at my whole lifetime in this same way, reflecting on poor past decisions ranging from old high school sweethearts to bad fashion choices, misguided career moves to things I said and wished, instantly, I could take back.

Rather than letting them fester into regrets, it’s best to look at our mistakes as holding lessons - pitfall avoiding, action-inspiring material we can draw on as we move forward in life. In fact, I actually call my painful past mistakes “tuition”: the price I’ve paid to learn a valuable lesson. The keyword here is valuable. In school, tuition is worth paying because the learning you get in return holds economic value or is otherwise worthwhile.

Tuition is a lot like staging, really: they’re both up-front investments with the potential to make or save you money, in your life, your career, or the sale of your home.

As we grow older and wiser, the goal should be to learn not just from the mistakes we’ve committed - but from those that others have committed, as well. Think of them as tuition-free lessons. I say we should try to do the same with staging - let’s take these
ten shockingly bad staging decisions that other home owners have made and continue to make every single day, and boil them down into lessons every home seller can use to drive their own home staging success.

1.  Bizarre collection overload. Let’s face facts: it is very difficult for almost any collection to look orderly and neutral, two high-level aims of home stagin. Unless you have attractive, high-end built-in cases for your collections and target buyers are share your affinity for the objects, even your cool clock collection or the dolls your grandmother gave you can come off as a pile of space-consuming clutter.

But when it comes to shockingly bad staging decisions, the choice to give your taxidermy collection or your gun collection a starring role in your home’s staging ranks up there in the top few. These collections are highly likely to trigger (pardon the pun) ethical and sanitation concerns in the minds of many home buyers, and are completely distracting from the strengths and features your home has to offer.


Source: Miami.Curbed.com

Lesson Learned:
Pack up your clown collection and put your bowling trophies in storage before you start showing your home. And if it once ran, flew or swam, think twice before putting its body out on display as part of your staging showcase (unless
, of course, your home is a hunting lodge or in an area where hunting is de riguer).

2. Echo chamber staging. In an echo chamber, sounds are amplified because they simply bounce around in that closed space.  The same can happen with your thoughts and ideas about staging, if you don’t open yourself up to outside input.  And unfortunately, it seems to be the bad staging ideas that get amplified, more than the good ones.

For instance, no matter how great your taste is, if your home is heavily customized around your personal preferences, it can be very difficult for buyers-to-be to envision themselves, their families and their belongings in the place. Echo chamber staging happens when the sum total of your staging team is you, yourself and you - so that the only conversations that take place about your home’s staging plan are those that take place in the echo chamber of your mind.

For that reason, I’m a big believer in professional staging (if you have the budget) and in professionally-assisted staging (if you don’)t.  That’s because the sellers who stage with zero external or professional input, are often the sellers who are unable to see:
  • that their homes are still significantly cluttered or over-full,
  • that their furniture is too plentiful and too large to show how spacious the home truly is, or
  • that their sweet feline companions are also rather malodorous to strangers.

The truth can hurt - so many home owners avoid it. Don’t fall into this trap. Bring in some trusted pros who are both invested in your success and willing to tell you the unvarnished truth.

Lesson learned: Get input from the pros - and get out there on the market, to see what your competition is like, from a staging perspective, rather than being your own, sole staging adviser. Read some books on staging. View model homes or professionally staged homes that are on the market. Get input from your real estate agent. If you have a bare bones budget, consider hiring a pro stager for just an hour’s worth of advice - let them come into your home and tell you what they would do, if they were you. (And write it down!)

3.  Failure to edit. You’ve heard thirty-somethings who still live at home diagnosed with failure to launch? Well, failure to edit is a close cousin of this syndrom.  As the New York Times recently put it, “the job of stagers is to reverse the accumulated creep of hundreds of small and misguided design decisions, and to erase any hints of the messiness of daily life.”  You might have a fantastic rug, a beautiful sofa, amazing tchotchkes and the highest-end personal effects are high style. But chances are good that their cumulative first impression to a buyer viewing your home will still fall short of the “one broad stroke of gorgeousness” the Times piece correctly says home sellers should aim for, with their stagin.

The failure to edit is a generalized syndrome which can manifest in all sorts of specific staging woes, from garden variety clutter to disastrous decor style mashups.

Lesson learned: When you think you’ve edited as much as you can edit, edit again. Think of it as pre-packing. The goal should be to remove virtually everything that would allow (or force) a buyer to picture you or your family, or your daily life functions taking place in the home. As well, you want to create as much ‘visual white space’ in your home as possible.  If you’re a do-it-yourself stager, ask your agent and your friends to come in and help you decide what still needs to go, once you think you’re done removing furniture and personal effects.

4. Silly scenarios. The difference between staging and interior design is simple: staging is cost-and-time efficient design undertaken with the specific objective of showing a home off to its best advantage, playing up its features and helping prospective buyers visualize the best lives they could possibly live in the home, should they choose it. Unfortunately, this has led some well-intentioned sellers and stagers to believe they should stage one bedroom as a Parisian boulevard (Eiffel tower mural included), another with a full-blown butterfly theme and the third as the beach - complete with umbrella, towels on the wall and sunscreen bottles on the nightstand.  I saw this house, folks. With my own two eyes.

Lesson learned: Stage your home to show off its space, light and conveniences, and the best, basic purposes that unusally small or large spaces could be used for. If your backyard is a huge selling point, stage it with outdoor dining or living room furnishings. Or, for example, if you have a very large Master bedroom sitting area and your home is in a school district sought after by new parent buyers, talk with your agent about staging your sitting area as a nursery with a compact bassinet and appropriate decor. Similarly, if your home is a 2 bedroom with a bonus room in an area of 4 bedroom homes, staging the bonus room as a bedroom or home office helps buyers understand the solutions that can minimize the brunt of your home’s challenges.

Staging your home to create “cute” scenarios with no relationship to the selling points or solutions buyers care about is of no value and can create a low-budget feel - which is the exact  opposite of your goal.

5.  The ‘lived-in’ look. When your home is being shown for sale, it must be immaculate, every single time it’s being shown. It should actually look like no one lives there: no toothbrushes, curling irons, protein shake mixes or paperwork allowed. No bowls of cereal on the counter - actually, nothing on the top of a counter or a table that is not intended to be a design element.

Is this difficult to keep up?  Absolutely, especially if you have children or animals living in the home while it’s being shown. But you’d be surprised at how bad an impression just a few personal toiletries or dishes can make, distracting prospective buyers and making them wonder why you didn’t care enough to pick up before you let them in.

Lesson learned: Work with your agent to set up ideal showing windows, and to come up with a reasonable advance notice requirement they can communicate to buyers agents. And work with your family to set up a system for putting everything away and wiping down all kitchens, bathrooms and other daily mess hot spots every single time your home is going to be shown.

6. Paraphernalia gone wild.  Similar to collections, any sort of paraphernalia that is allowed to take over a space has the potential to create an instant turnoff for buyers-to-be viewing your home.

This can include:
  • work-at-home electronics, supplies, cords and paper clutter
  • pet supplies like litter boxes, cages and food
  • children’s toys and sporting goods
  • cooking and crafting supplies
  • books, magazines, notebooks, piles of mail and writing implements.

Lesson learned: See #6, above. If you’re going to live in your home while it’s on the market, create a system for putting all your paraphernalia and supplies entirely out of view every single time your home is going to be shown.

7.  Closet cramming.  If you have years worth of personal belongings of multiple family members that need to be out of sight, but not discarded, it can be very tempting to cram everything in a closet, shove the door shut and call it good. Problem is, home buyers today are desperate for storage space, so will undoubtedly open those same, crammed-tight doors in an effort to evaluate how your home ranks for storage.

Beautifully organized closets with ample room create an impression in the buyer’s mind that they, too, can have an orderly life in your home, a life where there is a place for everything - and everything has a place.  And even huge closets, if crammed to the gills, make buyers wonder how they’ll ever get by with so little closet space. (Closet cramming also makes some buyers wonder what else you might be hiding, whether or not that concern is justified.)

Lesson learned: Use the exercise of staging as an opportunity to sell, donate or throw out things you no longer need - then consider moving as much as possible of what remains to storage for a few months, if your closets are too full.  Your agent can help you decide whether your closets show well, vis-a-vis what local buyers are looking for.

8.  Failing to stage for all the senses.  A house that smells like pet mayhem or smoke or has a noisily defective heater is a tough house to sell, no matter how beautifully it is staged. Unfortunately, smells and sounds are very easy to get acclimated to, when you live with them. Buyers, though, will detect them the second they walk in - and the moment they do is the moment we in the business call “turn-off time.”

Lesson learned: Ask your agent to reality-check you on how your home smells and sounds. And don’t get offended if they have bad news - work with them to fix it, for your own good.

9.  Not to. Ultimately, the most shockingly bad of all staging decisions is the surprisingly frequent decision not to bother staging your home at all. This explains homes like the one I once viewed which had residents still sound asleep in their beds, in the dining room, as the listing agent walked myself and my mortified buyer clients through the property. On the less bizarre end of the non-staged spectrum, this is how lovely homes with vast potential - and vast, overstuffed 80’s couches and 60’s decor - end up selling at a discount, as cosmetic fixers at a discount. This is a particular tragedy in cases where the owners could have painted, spruced, moved loads of things out and a few newer things in and made much, much more money on their homes.

Lesson learned: Not staging at all - not even bothering to do DIY staging - happens every day, and it costs more than the costs of putting some time and effort into getting your home ready for the market. If you’re on a budget, talk with your agent, get some books and, again, consider hiring a stager just for a brief advisory session. It will, I assure you, pay off.

ALL:  What are the most shocking staging decisions you’ve ever seen?  Any staging lessons you’ve personally learned?  Please share!

ALL:  You should follow Trulia and Tara on Facebook!     

Comments

By Lori,  Wed Nov 28 2012, 15:50
tara, you just freaking rock! you are seriously my blogging idol. thank you for always having solid content. I find your posts so motivating for coming up with content for my community at www. rethinkhomeinteriors.com, especially when you advocate for staging ; )
By Katie Daire,  Wed Nov 28 2012, 22:32
Think I've seen almost every one of these scenarios while house hunting--the house with a taxidermy-filled room was a personal favorite. And not that bad staging was the only reason we didn't buy any of them, but it definitely didn't help. On the positive side, we really appreciated seeing homes where the owners obviously went to great care to stage. When they put in that much effort, it seems like they must have really loved the house and probably took good care of it.
By Paul Barnes,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 12:37
A Realtor told me the other day she saw a chicken in the kitchen which appeared to be stuffed. As she neared closer to investigate, the chicken flew to the top of the kitchen cabinets. She exclaimed, "It was a live chicken!" Needless to say, she took a photo for her wierd showings file. Never assume your client has the good sense to do the right thing.
By Nancy Holloway,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 12:50
My top nominees are dirty underwear thrown about and gross toilets. Then add an odor, Oh Yeah!!!
By Nantasketjack,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 12:58
One home I looked at in NH actually had an alter in it with idols on it. Not only was it in bad taste but it was actually pretty creepy.
By Carol Gilles,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 12:59
Tara .. well done! I have seen a bunch of "bad" decorating. Keep it simple .. create space and light. Some color and furniture arranging can work. I will share your blog with my sellers!
By mary.c.cardenas,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:01
We went to an open house that had all of the shades closed with light barrier curtains. It took so long for my eyes to get used to the dark, I don't even remember what the living room looked like.
By Ariescc,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:06
Just saw a house listed with handicapped toilet apparatus, hospital bed, toilet lids open. I never cease to be amazed!
By Cultdiva,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:12
When it came to selling my last home I packed up as much as I could and rented a storage locker so my place was clutter free. The place was spotless every showing. I even ran around and cleaned up the common areas such as the roof deck before anyone came by. I started getting offers after the first weekend I put my place on the market and held out for my price which took a few extra weeks but it was all worth the effort.I'll do the same when I sell my current home. I looked at so many places when buying that where just awful. I wanted to take the owner aside and talk to them about how to present their home. I was shocked more often than not how people where showing their homes when they supposedly wanted to sell them. Dirty laundry on top of washing machines, dirty dishes in the sink, unmade beds, cat litter boxes not cleaned etc. I am still amazed by what I saw.
By petra_dougherty,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:13
We decided to hire a stager for a few hours to get advice on paint colors, furniture placement and overall assistance. We hired the stager for just the one visit and her advice was invaluable. We have completed a large portion of the projects for our staging. Friends and family who come to see our progress tell us everything looks awesome. Hopefully, we will list the home after everything is done, but we just may Love It instead of listing it! It was well worth the effort to find a stager, thanks Deb!
By Laura Strebler,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:14
Worst I ever showed was an open house where the owner was passed out drunk on the couch with a bottle of whiskey next to him. It was horrible and I still can't believe his agent did that to him.
By Heidi Moore Reynolds-reeves,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:26
It just blows my mind these days that people do not have a "Vision" and needs to view a home looking "unlived in". I can understand not wanting it dirty, I don't expect anyone too have my taste, and neither should anybody else. Why would an agent show a house with the people there, and in the bed, not a very good agent. Close your eyes and get a Vision of your things in the place. But, I think I know what it is with all of this stagin everybody wants to walk into a "Furniture Store Setting" these days, like IKEA I can see past all of that, if the house has what I am looking for, sq footage, hardwood floors, big kitchen, nice sized bathroom, etc;
By Dragynphyre,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:28
There's a house we still call "curry house" when we drive by because the first thing we noticed when we walked in for the showing was the smell.
By Jrice,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:30
During my last house search my agent took me to a condo which, according to the listing, had a charming first-floor powder room for guests. Well, it may have been charming, but we couldn't get in to see it because the doorway was blocked with SHOES- piles of them, about knee deep. It got worse from there, because the carpet in the living room was so filthy I kept imagining crime scene tape around the area, because surely someone had bled out on their floor. The stairwell had holes punched in the walls, and the upstairs bedrooms were so smelly I had to hold my breath. (Just in case you're wondering, I didn't buy the place!) I've also seen online listings with photos showing ironing boards open, dirty laundry, cluttered kitchens, etc. What are these people thinking?
By Stub1955,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:31
I just did an estate sale at my client's deceased parent's house. He was also showing it to sell, and refused to take out the recliner (complete with pack of cigarettes and eyeglasses) that his father had DIED in, and always told clients to the sale & prospective home buyers about him finding him dead of a heart attack there! The creep factor was off the scale, and the rest of the house was filled with hundreds of dolls, loaded gun racks, and year-round Christmas figurines. I politely turned him down on editing the house after he said at least the recliner & figurines had to stay-WAY too emotionally attached to their stuff to ever agree to removing. Learn to divorce yourself from sentimental items that prospective buyers are turned off by!
By Lisa Flashenburg,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:31
Florescent colored wall to wall carpeting with large floral designs- beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder!
By Mom,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:33
My son and I have house hunted since late August till present and we found a lovely home that is perfect for us. The house we chose was kept so nice, no clutter and you could tell that the owner had a real sense of pride in the house. One house we saw was so cluttered and smelled of cats that the stench over powered the fact that it had a really nice view of the mountains and was actually very spacious under the smell.
By Kevin Mcpheeters,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:34
As a veteran agent, and interior designer and stager, I always insist on preparation prior to presenting any property to the public. Even in a market where things take longer to sell with greater effort, presentation is everything! It has been interesting to me that with the abundance of shows on TV (most of which I do not advocate) that I still have folks say "what's staging?" ANd a staged home is actually easier to keep clean and neat, just one of the bonuses. Keep spreading the word, good work!
By Melanie Peak,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:34
Although I have seen many houses that were obviously not show-worthy, I use them as an opportunity to educate my buyers about staging (and lack of). I have had a relationhip with a colorist/stager who I encourage my clients to talk meet with. She transforms their homes into showcases -- even the lower-end homes. Other agents know they can always show my listings without previewing because they always look great. Putting a house on the market before it's ready to show is burning your audience and a disservice to your client.
By Tamara Schuster Broker, Agent,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:35
These are good points and true for today's market. Staging is a must and if you only do one thing the least you must do is declutter. Yes this is huge. You are moving so pack up and donate anything not coming with you. Less is Best. Plus you need to hide all personal belongs especially toothbrushes, hair accessories, make-up, paperwork and any distraction that takes away from the beauty of your home. While you are decluttering do not forget to get rid of 95% fake plants. Real plants displayed properly are an asset. Fake are dust collectors. Plus make sure that your home shines like a model on the interenet. Pictures matter and decluttered and staged pictures attract more buyers hands down. Better to take the time and get your house perfect than take the financial hit or longer market time. Showing is not convenient and being properly prepared matters.
By Lisa Ledoux,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:44
Good ones! I once looked at a house while hunting for mine that REEKED of urine. The whole house smelled, but as you got closer and closer to the child's bedroom, it got worse and worse until it was unbearable. Obviously, they had a bedwetter on their hands and were NOT very clean about it. Ew. Then, upon going into the basement, a low growl was your welcome upon landing at the bottom of the stairs. We were afraid to walk any further until the listing agent said from above, "Don't worry! He's fine. Just walk in." We reluctantly continued into the space and found a large dog crammed into a crate glaring at us and growling. We had to walk by him and my heart was in my throat. As we walked by, he began snarling, snapping, barking, and growling at us. I turned around and walked right on out of there.
By tdinie,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:45
The sad truth is that people do not have vision to see the potential. All the better for me, since I was able to get the perfect home for myself at a lower price. Not so good for the seller. Simple things like updated light fixtures (the original 1962 torture chamber lights were still in place), a new vanity counter (is that ink splotches all over the counter...uh, no), and not to forget the horrid shag rug (with perfect, gorgeous hardwood beneath).

I look so forward to your articles. They're so helpful and intersting.
By Kate,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:48
Sellers: Please clean and declutter your houses! It's so difficult to "see" a house when it's filled with crap. And agents, please hire a photographer or learn how to take good photos.
By Doljulia,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:51
Wow Tara, as always great article!
Anyone has recommendation on how to hide a cigarette smell other than quitting?
By Polly,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:52
We are currently looking at homes in a highly sought after area - and great houses are selling well at decent prices (for buyers). However, I am totally shocked in the structural design and asthetic design decisions that I have seen people make who obviously have enough money to hire someone to help them! I cannot begin to share all the strange wall decor, use of rocks in very odd ways, "themed" rooms, taxidermy out the ying-yang (I cannot stand the sight of beautiful animals body parts on the walls - makes me ill) and other such craziness. So, unlike what I always thought - having a big glorious mansion does not translate to good taste.
By Kerri Durkee,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:52
Tara, this is a great article! As a stager, I, of course, completely agree with your advice to call a professional. If not for a full staging service, just for a consultation. The eyes of a professional are priceless. We see the house as it is as well as how it should be and our help can be invaluable, as we know what works. I have seen many listing photos that I wish I could un-see! Best, Kerri
By Rendalle,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:56
While it was a major pain, my husband and I took our cats out of our house every time it was shown, and hid the litter boxes and food dishes. I've spoken with some people who wouldn't even consider a house that had pets, worried about stains and odors, so I wanted to prevent potential buyers from ever noticing our pets.
By ssokshoe,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:57
One of the worst "The lived in look" for me is a house that we looked at that did not bother to clean any of the several layers of old dog poop off of their small lawn. I had to clean my 2 year old son's hands off after he picked up a few dried up pieces to show me what he found on the ground. Also, cat urine smell is another big turn off and the area around a litter box should be clean or hidden during showings.
By Steve Earnshaw,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:58
There is a direct relationship between true seller motivation and willingness to take good listing agent advice. A few years ago, a seller approached me to discuss her frustration with her agent. Her house was not getting shown and had received no offers. After listing the house, I recommended she pre-pack,freshen up the landscaping, and have the windows professionally for buyers to fully appreciate the wonderful river and ocean views. She did all I recommended. We raised the price and had an accepted offer in two weeks! This was a great lesson learned.
By One_blonde_val,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 13:58
My memorable home walk through was seeing men's underwear soaking in the kitchen sink. If I would have purchased the home, that's all I would have ever "seen" in that sink. Needless to say, I did not purchase that house and seriously, the underwear was the primary reason.
By Werollalong,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 14:05
I just bought a house that has beautiful flagstone floors that looked dirty. The seller originally had the house on the market for seven figures. I got an estimate to "fix" the floors. It turned out they were dirty and needed the old wax removed and new sealer applied: $250. Of course, the seller also put a zebra design rug on top of the flagstone and put very modern furniture in a 50 year old adobe, southwestern house. By the time I bought it, he sold it on a short sale. for much less than was originally asked.
By Ray Johns,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 14:07
My worst was showing a home that had a coffee table set up as a coffin with the body of a doll inside. Pillows arranged on the couch with "In Memorium". My buyers freaked out....Me, too
By cee.jay1954,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 14:12
What is going on in some sellers minds? Would you invite friends into your home without cleaning it? Who wants to see your filth? No one! You want top $ for your home? Clean It! I sold my home in one week, a few years ago. You have to use all of your senses when selling your home.
By Kz59,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 14:13
last year i viewed a video walk-thru by a real estate agent of an older, neglected house in a good neighborhood - there were animal cages in the kitchen and rabbits running loose in the bedrooms (carpeting was badly soiled - rabbit droppings?) the agent didn't even bother to edit the video!
By Debbie Meiliken,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 14:13
This is an on-target article. We once viewed a home in which one of the beds was pretty lumpy and unattractive. As we walked into the room, we were startled by four eyes peeking over the top of the comforter, shocked to be caught in an embarrassing situation. Yes, they had been notified that we were coming, but didn't think that anyone would walk into the room.
By Patricia M Wysocki,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 14:18
This is a great article to share, as Sellers will be able to appreciate the insight and opinion given. Proper staging will sell the home. Final answer. Thank you.
By Jeffrey Bryan,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 14:26
I love seeing a trashed house. I am an investor and I think "instant discount" and lowball offer. If you are selling, spotless and no! clutter or personal items.
By Judy Stang,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 14:28
i think i got you beat, i showed a house where they actually had two large pigs, yes the actual animal, living in the house, Thanks for you suggestions, i think they will be very helpful to suggest to sellers.
By Lpasopooch,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 14:35
Tara, you hit it out of the ballpark again! You're incredible. Reading your articles helped prepare me to sell. My home sold, in a slow market, within a week. What you write is so accurate, it's like a great family recipe. You know if you follow the directions, everything will turn out great.
By Raymond Zink,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 14:41
Yikes, Love these stories, ya all got me beat but I can say that at times it is downright crazy how people live and then to leave it like that for a Home Inspection. The worst I ever saw was some "Adult Toys" left out! Talk about awakward. Of course most of these situations is rare thaqnk heaven.
By George Grayson,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 14:41
The whole idea of staging is a waste of a seller's time and energy. The job of a seller is to present the property as is and to represent that value in the asking price. Market prices would be much more realistic and easier to understand and there would be a lot less PREDATORY pricing based on staging.

Forget about second-guessing a buyer. If they don't appreciate the property or ask a few relevant questions, move on to someone who does.
By Raymond Zink,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 14:46
Oh, on rare ocasions I come across houses where they have lots of floressent lights in an area out of the way with shelves, aparently growing their own "illgal plants" usually this is a house that was rented.
By Norriekay,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 14:46
The worst house I ever saw when home shopping, was what we affectionally called "The Bird House"
Actually, it was the "Bird, Cat and Dog House!"

Upon entering, there were 3 cages with squawking, noisy, messy birds whose cages hadn't been cleaned in awhile. Going onto the kitchen, there were 2 or 3 cats draped across the counters and kitchen table, and lots of pet bowls, indicating the presence of cats and dogs. Ugh! Just walked out with no comment!
By Msmissy7aa,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 15:03
I am planning on selling within a year or so and I already have more than half the house staged. My biggest problem is getting my husband to pack things away, he's sentimental and I'm not, so living in a staged house feels really good to me. No personal pictures etc. If people would do it before they are even close to selling they too could get used to living in a staged house. I love the non-clutter feel of it. Everything I do these days is part of staging the house completely, anticipating the day I actually list it, I will be done. People should practice this if they're planning on selling and not waiting two years for it to sell. I personally find an empty house the most attractive to look at when I'm looking.
By Anne.flyzik,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 15:06
I'm with Heidi Moore Reynolds-reeves: srsly, a house with a family has to look like no one lives there? That's utterly ridiculous. Smells & filth, I understand, but for crying out loud, you're not buying the dog in the crate as a fixture, or the stuffed deer head on the wall. Have we become than infantile that we'll make fun of a family forever because they had curry for dinner on the one night you happened to be there? If the house is a good property, then it's a good property. Clean, neat, and fresh-smelling, of course, but this is entirely out of hand.
By jaimeebug,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 15:08
Your comments on diligent editing would have been more forceful if you had edited this article for typos!
By Dan Marchiando,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 15:15
Great article.
I feel your pain every day. I'm a lender, and I'm now feeling the need to remind my clients to pick up and clean up their houses before the appraiser comes over to inspect. Appraisals are tough these days, and I think every little bit helps.
By Gina,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 15:18
Renter-occupied homes are staged to give negative impressions intentionally. The litter-filled cat boxes
with raw chicken and liver on the floor (yes, seen that!) as well as dirty underwear on the floor and even the T.V.(!) are not oversights. They (the people, not the cats or chicken parts...) don't want to move.... I am an ex-landlord, and not necessarily a "slum-lord."
Suggestion to sellers of rental housing: BRIBE them: dinner vouchers, movie tickets, free or reduced rent .I've had to do that. And thank them.Know that you may have to do that with each showing, so try to have your agent schedule multiple showings close in time before you go broke. Even when they say they've "cleaned" you may have to rush over 20 minutes before the scheduled showing to clean up after their " clean." At least, to put a lid over their garbage if you can't go empty their trash for them. (Bring your own trash bags as they may not have any, and haul it away in your own vehicle if you have to.) The occupants may snicker, but you'll have the last laugh when that "sold" sign goes up.
By Marsha Straka,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 15:25
As an agent, I highly recommend staging a house. The 2% you spend for a stager will bring you a return of at least 10% of your asking price. Also, it has to not only be the best looking house, it needs to be priced right. Buyers are buying a product, not your home, so they are looking for the best of both worlds..price and condition. I have staged every house I have listed this past year. The one house that didn't want to pay for staging dropped $15,000 and on the market for 5 months. All the other listings that were staged, were sold within 2 to 6 weeks. I know for a fact, STAGING WORKS for me and my clients.
By Debra Lawler,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 15:26
I showed a home that had newspapers shelacked to the bathroom floor. Didn't even seem like it was any kind of "eventful news"!
By kellieetal,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 15:36
I love to see my competition filthy, stinky, or just plain ugly. :D It's often the clincher in the deal. Someone might be looking for a "starter home," which I consider mine, but if other "starter houses" are trashy, tacky, cramped, stinky, filthy, or just plain creepy, it makes my well-staged, spotless, light, fresh house the hands-down winner. People who LIVE in filth become comfortable in it and come to believe that it's not REALLY THAT bad, so they just truly don't SEE the mess. Their denial is my gain. :) So, VIVA LA TRASH HEAPS! Don't bother staging or even cleaning people--makes selling MY houses so much easier!
By Debbie Austin-McDonald,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 15:41
My worst showing was when I opened the door to the master bedroom only to find every wall lined with snakes in containers. Every size and variety of snake...even the giant ones.

I learned to either preview a home or ask if there are any unusual pets or hobbies in the home.
By Sc Bound,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 15:46
OK I can use a few opinions... my house is very clean, tastefully decorated and has the "no one really lives here look" when we sho, we hide anything that could make it look like we have 2 small to mid size dogs. Our house has no funny smells (someone tell people on the market not to burn stinky candles!) we had sold in 2 weeks on the market back in May. Too bad I was in contract with an unqualified buyer who after the entire summer and part of the fall (end of Sept) lost her financing and the deal fell through. We were a couple days from closing and waiting for that big tractor trailer to pull up and take our toys. Now i have one closet stuffed with a wardrobe box and other boxes in it, I have a bedroom that has 3 wardrobe boxes in it, and a twin bed and dresser along with a chair, are these boxes making my rooms look smaller?, can potential buyers see past these items?? My garage still has 100 packed boxes in it. You can barely walk in the garage with the boxes and the Harley in there. I follow all other suggestions. In NYS I hate to put the wardrobe boxes with clothes in the freezing garage.
By Marjorie Nye,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 15:54
I had an small, windowless odd room that was once housed my husband's guitar collection. We heeded our realtor's advice and removed the guitars. In it's place I put a single overstuffed chair and ottoman, a tiny table, and a floor lamp. I "staged" the area with a fluffy throw, a book, a wineglass and an open box of chocolates. What was once an eyesore became a cozy reading nook.
Agents left notes about how they loved showing my home.
By Staceythestager,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 15:55
Excellent! So well done...very valid points that cover the essentials of Professionally Staging!
By jgraves393,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 15:58
I had a great realtor who reminded me that less is more: one large picture in the room, zero clutter and very little furniture. I listened. I also vacuumed the whole house every morning and baked 7 or 8 chocolate chip cookies for the aroma. I put the cookies on a plate with a Help Yourself sign and they always disappeared. Got a good price for my home.
By sandwriter2000,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 15:58
My pet peve... Realtors that take pictures of toilets... WITH THE SEATS UP!!! Why??? we all know that all bathrooms have toilets.
By Janet Butler,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 15:58
I have bought and sold numerous homes in the past 50 years of my adult life and am fascinated by this relatively new phenomenon of "staging" a home to sell. I have traveled though home sales from the time I had small babies to pouty teenagers who couldn't have cared less what their rooms looked like, but it has always gone without saying that hiding the clutter and keeping things clean was important for prospective buyers.

With that said, it's interesting to look back at the times potential buyers arrived at my house on such short notice that I wasn't able to pack all the kids into the car to drive around while the house was shown, or I was in the midst of preparing dinner (that may have smelled like stew or chili) and couldn't leave, yet the buyers saw beyond that and made an offer anyway. On the opposite end, I remember one standout of a house we bought in California that was dirty, cluttered, and downright disgusting in some ways (unflushed toilet, bird poop in one room, etc.) -- but we were able to see past that to the potential of what the place COULD be.

Someone in a previous post here asked the question of why we suddenly have turned into a bunch of idiots (my word) who can't see what a home has to offer unless it is furnished exactly as we would furnish it. I wholeheartedly agree. It's ridiculous to ask sellers to remove everything from the countertop each time someone comes to look. What's wrong with a coffee pot sitting there? I even used to bake cookies and have them sitting out with some tea or coffee. I suppose that would mar the "image" of the kitchen these days. Heaven forbid it should remind a looker that the kitchen is, after all, for cooking! As you can tell, I am not a fan of staging or the expense of it. I believe it is the realtor's job to offer suggestions and sell the house.
By Beverly Carlson,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 16:04
What an attention getting blog. My first thought is oh, NO! could a stager have a really bad day and blow the staging! What a relief, you are talking about the usual stuff, too much clutter, stinky stuff and bizarre collections!!!

The worst staging mistakes have to do with smells and it is the cat's fault. Don't leave the cat in the house, they may decide to leave a fresh present just in time for the showing!
By Garyb,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 16:07
Staging is not something I like or value at all. Selling antics intended to take one's mind off the building which is of course a major investment.
By Home Buyer,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 16:12
Number one rule of staging is that it doesn't make you more money... It does make it a faster sell there by making life Easier on the agent so make damn sure your agent picks up any costs if any. By the way careful with falling into the remodeling of bathrooms and kitchens. I can tell you as a contractor I saw a lot of brand new bathrooms and kitchens replaced.
Just use your judgment. Look at it this way your should be prepared to move out in a moment notice.
But by far the most important thing is clean and odor free.
By Erin.mcneely,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 16:15
Generally speaking, houses that aren't tidy in any way, shape or form are tough to show. When I show something that is currently being RENTED, it's usually a disaster. I once had a naked man come out of a bedroom while the house was being shown. He absolutely didn't care that we were there and proceeding to go to the bathroom with the door open! Just ridiculous.
By butaneggbert,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 16:22
One of the first homes I ever looked at as a prospective buyer - many years ago now, but I've never forgotten it - reeked of cigarette smoke. I mean, lethal to even walk through, and I'm not all that sensitive to the stuff. The "white" ceiling was caramel-colored with accumulated smoke.

To add to the charm, two large, vicious sounding dogs were stashed in the storage space below the main house, and bayed, barked, growled, and banged around the whole time we were there.

And the final touch: every wall was dense with tacky "valuables" - Avon beer steins, bottle collections, that sort of thing. The whole place could've been used to re-shoot "Deliverance". Horrible, horrible.
By JoAnn Kane,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 16:29
For all you disbelievers in staging: the fact remains that buyers compare houses, and their ability to visualize the absence of stuff and their things in there instead after viewing several different houses is very difficult if not impossible. The house with the best presentation wins most of the time, unless its price (which means, my friend, you are giving away your money). It's human nature and you are wise to heed it. I stage all my listings myself and my average days on market for all my listings in the past three years of this challenging market is 60 days. Staging works.
By Tzito-smith,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 16:32
There are many subtleties in color, patterns, arrangements and light. A good stager will take all this in consideration and present your home to buyers at it's best. I cringe when a seller has already picked out a "color" for the walls, with no regard to these other tangibles.
By K,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 16:38
I think some commenters on here are confused about what staging really is. Staging is cleaning and editing. It's not rocket science. Why would you want to buy a home that looks like an episode of Hoarders? I sold my first house at 26 by myself (no agent) in 3 days with multiple offers and made a 75,000 dollar profit. I kept my home neat and clean despite having a baby and dogs. People compared my house to others they saw saying that it showed much better. I am putting my second house on the market with 3 kids and a dog and I fully intend to stage. Like another poster said, go ahead and skip the staging and let your house whither on the market in this sad economy. I for one am going to stage it and get it sold.
By carservice3,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 16:47
Writing a professionally published article is a lot like staging. Why is this piece so littered with misspellings? It's beyond annoying and highly unprofessional to let this article get published when it is so clearly lacking in EDITING. Unbelievable. Does not reflect well on the writer OR Trulia. Get up to speed, guys.
By Kammie,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 16:54
Nantasketjack, that altar was probably an important part of daily life for the resident Hindu or Buddhist family. "Creepy" would apply more to your ethnocentrism than to their personal religious practice.
By Judy,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 16:57
I love the way you write.
By Jennifer O'neill,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 17:08
I was moving via corporate relocation and was given three hours to find my new home. The real estate agent chose four homes to show me, and the first three houses each had definable issues (I recall a dirt basement that smelled like a dungeon, and another that was conveniently located immediately adjacent to a 7-11).

The 4th home had adorable curb appeal. It can only be described as a Cape Cod bungalow in the Tudor style, but it worked. The list price was shockingly low for the area, although I noted that the home had been on the market for at least 6 months. When I entered, however, I literally froze in place. The owners had staged their living room by tearing out the two front seats from a pick-up truck and placing them in front of a rabbit-ear TV. The kitchen floor was Astroturf (that is not an exaggeration). The master bedroom had one piece of furniture -- a king-size bed that barely fit the dimensions of the room, with the mattress sunken in about 6 inches on the side where the, er, portly husband clearly slept. The carpeting on the stairs was burgundy; the upstairs carpet was turquoise; and the dining room and living room walls were pink. It was at this moment when I earned my journeyman real estate badge (this was my 3rd home purchase) by imagining how the house -- which really did have a charming layout and was structurally sound - - would look if a giant vacuum sucked all the tackiness out. I bought it, spent $15K on paint, flooring and minor renovations, and flipped the house in a year with a $50K profit. But I will never forget the ripped-out truck seats, which had undoubtedly struck fear in the hearts of many before me, and were emblematic of why I was able to buy the home at such a low price.
By Lynne Thompson,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 17:09
Showing condos in an urban area, oftentimes the seller has moved to a single and rented to tenants. Tenants have no vested interest in the process. Sometimes they have lovely taste and decor; other times more frat house on Sunday morning. And access can be an issue too. Which is why when a seller client suggests "Oh I'll just rent" - NOT a good idea.
By John,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 17:10
I am a buyer. The notion of staging by not having furniture that is "too plentiful and too large to show how spacious a room is", is now just old fashioned nonsense. When I walk into a room I WANT to see it full of stuff. I want to see a full size sofa, loveseat, two recliners, end tables, coffee table, lamps, tv, stereo cabinet. This lets me see first hand if I can fit all my stuff in. With a near empty room I can't tell this and it becomes very frustrating.
By Charlene Kline,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 17:12
I was not old enough for this: a photo array on the bedroom wall of every sexual position possible & some which seemed quite impossible, except for contortionists!
By Trish,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 17:21
Well, we sold our house without an agent. We had it nicely staged and showed it many times. We finally got sick of showing it and quit staging and cleaning it. Someone knocked on our door walked into our un-staged rather lived in, messy house and bought it on the spot for 1.3 million.
By John Duncan,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 17:24
This is an excellent article, I may have to forward it to my sellers :) Great job!
By oldhousenut30,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 17:24
I have bought/sold 26 homes. As a Designer, I read a lot, and look at what is on the internet, for
sale, especially the more expensive homes. Pulling a home together for sale, is totally different
than living in it, every day. I am sensitive to smells, and put 3 cats in their containers, and put
them in the car, hide the food, and litter. I have had many people say, my houses smell good.
I take soft scrub, and smear a little on the sinks, and then rinse....it goes thru the house and clean,
clean.I even stage my closets...Its worth the effort,
By Lorraine Toppi, CBR,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 17:26
Talk about strange!! I was showing a property where they had Nana dying in the back bedroom!! They said "not a problem,we could go in" Evidently they couldn't wait for Nana to die before getting the house on the market!! Really!!!
By Sue Beers,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 17:44
The worst home I ever looked at had a whole room of lizards, snakes and other creepy crawly creatures. Yes, they were in cages, but I wondered if any had gotten out and were hiding, and the odor was awful.
By Gloria Duy,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 17:44
I don't think homes should be bare, but I bought a house for 35K below asking because it was so personalized and crammed full of stuff it felt small and was on the market for 2 years. I could see past their crap. The people kept telling the realtor "It's our home, we like our stuff." The funny thing was as soon as we bought it they threw everything in a dumpster or sent it to auction! Go figure.
By Carol Murray,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 17:51
Exceptional information, as always, Tara!
By Arlene,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 17:53
It's been 20 years, but I still remember vividly the handsomely furnished Pennington, NJ, house which smelled of cigarettes. The scent was in the carpets, the furnishings, draperies. When we walked into the kitchen (light and spacious), there was the owner--- puffing away!

Arlene B. November 29, 2012
By mysolosusan,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 17:59
Here's a suggestion for realtors - never talk about how a house is 'staged' in an ad. Staging is a word that suggests artifice, whether it helps or not. Staging in real estate is an effort to make something for sale look more attractive than it really is - It suggests that the agents personal taste or decorator's taste is on display. It suggests you are there to admire the house and pay dearly for the extra effort. And here's another suggestion - never let staging distract you from the realities of the house. Does the floor slope under that tasteful rug? Is there any way your own rooms will ever be that bare? How big, really are those rooms? Are the flowers and plate of cookies on the kitchen counter a distraction from the lousy view out the kitchen window? I sold a craftsman in '02 and my realtor was a nut and a bore about staging. Meanwhile she told me to rush and sell before the boom ended. If I had waited a year or two I would have gotten around $200,000 more for the house. My advice? Keep the house clean, get rid of completely stupid extra stuff, and trust your own level of education and knowledge about homes and sales. And btw, sometimes a bit of ordinary household belongings can cover up a multitude of sins - it goes both ways.
By J Medici,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 18:02
Sorry, I don't believe someone will not consider my home because they saw a toothbrush in a holder in my bathroom. Better remove the TP as well. I wouldn't want someone to think I was using the toilet for what it was designed for.
By Jerilyn,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 18:06
I TOTALLY agree with Janet Butler---yea for you and the others that homes are not intended to be spotless, but well kept and lived in. Case in point.....I am a single permanently disabled individual living on a VERY limited income with 2 black labradors. Yup my bills are paid and that's why I havn't any money for hiring a 'stager'. My home is well kept and clean, and EVERY dog hair is off of the floor and carpet. The reason why I say this? I have VERY limited mobility with severe arthritis, live alone, and am selling my house to move closer to my family who is 250 miles one way away. Evidently, none of you who have lots of money and possibly unpaid bills have ever been inflicted with this type of thing that makes walking, moving things, vacuuming, etc. hurt so bad it feels like a rod being driven into your joints. Oh, don't feel sorry for me as I don't feel sorry for myself and am under the care of a Rheumatologist. THIS IS JUST THE REAL WORLD PEOPLE.
By Denise,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 18:07
Great article.
I remember a few years back looking at houses. We walked in a very nice home. We got to the kitchen. On the counter in plain view was a bag of weed . The owner was there in his pajamas and smoking it. We looked at our agent and left. What can I say..
By Joanne Bernardini,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 18:10
Mandatory reading for EVERY home seller! I will put it in my buyers information packet! Thanks for yet another MUST READ article. Tara you're the BEST!
By Jesus M. Fernandez,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 18:25
Great article! As a staging specialist, I could not agree with you more. Home sellers are wise to listen to their agent's advise, if they don't, it actually hurts their bottomline. Its no secret that houses, which are properly staged for the sale, net more and seller quicker. A word to the wise, listen to your agent's recommendations. If he or she does not make any staging recommendation, you may not have the right agent.
By Erika Yigzaw,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 18:36
Oh how fun! Love this article! Brings back memories of the hoarder house we went to see at the beach. Piles, with very few paths in between. Not quite as bad as the show but pretty darn close. The master bedroom had NO path just about two feet of stuff, and the gal told us to just go ahead and walk on it if we wanted to see the view... I'll never forget the crunching sound!!! Now I am all about the vision, and the bargain, and it was a screaming deal, so we ended up putting in an offer, which was accepted! Yay! But then our inspector found that there had been a house fire (no wonder really!) that hadn't been correctly dealt with - just drywall put up over the burned joists. Boo hiss! Needless to say we walked away. If the house was decluttered we might have seen the fire damage so it might have worked in their favor if I wasn't a stickler for inspections!!!!
By Ann Cohen,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 18:44
You can do everything right as an agent or owner, yet someone can decide to use the bathroom during an open house or showing. Keep an air freshener or candle going as insurance in the bathrooms.
By Kerri Forrester,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 18:50
we looked at a house where they had scented candles lit all over to hid the cigarette smell, but the owner came to the door smoking a but! And then her husband was in the kitchen eating dinner at the table! But we didn't care, we bought the place anyway and are still here 13 years later, ready to sell....
By Karen Steed,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 18:50
As always....good info for sellers. It is much easier to sell a clean, well staged home.
By Rhonda Petitte-Carsten,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 18:54
Get them at the door , is my slogan! First impressions. If they like it, when they walk in, they will be more forgiving of other things, and remember it was good, and hopefully revisit and buy! Funny stories! good article.
By Cathy Urbanski,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 19:12
We will be relocating, selling our house and buying another. We try to read up and follow advice so this house sells as fast as possible. It's incredibly frustrating that, while we are busting our backs fixing the place up, cleaning, painting, packing everything away we can live without, nobody else seems to be doing the same. The homes we're seeing have not seen a fresh coat of paint since they were built and the owner does not seem to have access to dish soap or a vacuum. Staging would be fine, but cleaning is priority. Oh and worst homes I've seen include one with a hole in the outside wall big enough for a sheepdog to walk through, a house with pots all over to catch the rain coming in through the roof, upper and first floor ceilings, and the one with dead scorpions in piles under black widow webs. Yikes! Oh, and the one with a half eaten raccoon carcass by the front porch. What the hell is mean enough to kill a raccoon? I don't want it living in my yard, whatever it is!
By Voices Member,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 19:35
We have a baby grand Steinway in our small living room when you enter the house. Mind you when you enter the front door you face directly to back of house with large slider doors to the lania and very scenic view of lake. My question is: does the piano detract from the small living room. I do not have a couch in this room as it is too small. I have the piano, grandmother clock, small decorator table and a small chair. Although it make a 'grand entrance' I wonder if I should pay to store piano as not many people can probably PICTURE this room as their own someday??????????????
By Jlcrossley,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 20:18
We were looking for a home a a few years back and we came across 1) a cat litter box that was made from 2 x 4's nailed together. It was like a giant sandbox of cat litter. We couldn't even get down the basement stairs due to the over powering smell of cat urine. Gave me an instant migraine and we had to stop looking at houses for the night. 2) We went to another house that had a golden lab and tile floors. The floors were about a 1/4 inch deep in dog fur. We strolled thru the house (with our shoes on) and as my wife and I were talking in a back bedroom about the state of the house we realized there was someone under the covers in the bed. There were more stories but those were two of the best.
By Angela S Barney,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 20:23
ahhh yes, I have been selling for over 17 years. One of the most memorable showings was a home with slot machines throughout the smallish kitchenette area. The placed reeked of cigarette smoke. It was delightful! The people living there did not bathe...you had that smell mixed with the smoke. Oh ,,,and the home was in Scottsdale, AZ,,,they wanted $300,000! lol
By Gerrry,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 20:29
Question??..when you have your home on the market and you need to look at another home, well what do you look for?? ...leave a mess to buy a new mess?? everybody has things ...its good to keep it uncluttered but I see homes where there are things all over the counter top and where do they have room to put it?? the bathroom and the bedroom are on a personal level...dont go there...to each his own....just clean up get eveybody to pick up ten things and put them BACK,, clutter is items you dont put back where you found them ..clutter is saving ..If your saving it then save it for storage....and get 4 boxes..one for that kitchen/dining room table that is a shelf as you are passing by ..one box full of items to go up// one to go down or out to the garage and one to walk aroung and pick eveything that does not belong in /or that spot you dont want to see it there,,,and have a nightly box party before bed with the kids so they can put stuff away at the end of the day.. everbody needs to pitch in..(keep the pros bill down) ..just like mom does at 10 O'clock at night...so just tidy up and get in the habit and you will be fine...dont worry your going to change everything after they leave anyway ..but I agree some of it very tastless
By David Perdue,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 20:32
Staging is an absolute waste of money for any of my Sellers. Clean out the clutter and clean up the house. Complete any necessary repairs and put the house on the market. If you have collections or taxidermy, so what the Buyers are not buying your stuff. Your house will sell on its own merit. Ifn fact, I will not list a house where the Seller wants to stage. These Sellers are babies, worry about trivial matters, and will wear out your cell phone. My last staged Seller that I turned downed hired three Realtors at extreme high list prices about 1.2 to 1.5 million and staged. I agreed to take the listing at 1 million with no staging and sold the house in a week.
By jlee,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 20:39
Although I agree with sentiments expressing the value of decluttering, and cleanliness when selling a home, the notion that a home should appear uninhabitated, is extreme. If a home is truly a home, seeing a toothbrush or two, a coffee maker, or other acroutrements of normal living, should not dissuade
a mature buyer. Unfortunately, in our overly sanitized society, our ability to visualize past the immediate
has diminished. Consequently, many buyers approach many homes as if they expect the present owners to have prepared the home for their immediate occupancy(with regard to design). Again, cleanliness, clutter control and other necessities to ready a home for market is advisable. However, many buyers and in some cases agents,need to mature in their expectations and presentations of market worthy homes.
By George Grayson,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 21:26
Thanks to David Perdue for getting to the real point of a property's inherent merits. Buyers can see through all of this staging crap. If they can't, then find one who does, and sell with truth and integrity. That has value also.
By Hege Riise,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 21:29
I'd like to add one that made me quickly leave and not look back when I recently was house hunting: Never mind that there was no staging, clutter everywhere, reeked of smoke, generally looked dirty and messy. The locked bedroom door that prevented me from seeing part of the house gave me a really creepy feeling. I could overlook the rest of it, but not knowing what's behind door number 3..... My agent and I left shaking our heads.
By Ranchlady,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 21:54
Cathy Urbanski, I agree. My husband and I are selling and relocating. We have spent the better part of this year cleaning out every nook and cranny of the house, painting, and making sure every detail is taken care of. I too hope others are doing the same so I don't have to repeat what I've just done on a new home with pink walls.

I had one botched attempt at a sale last summer (2012) and my novice realtor didn't suggest anything. I read all kinds of articles on staging. What I have figured out is this: Just clean and paint. I don't have money or budget to stage professionally. We bought our moving trailer and have emptied the house of everything we didn't need and cleaned and painted rooms. It's clean and neat but still have the cozy look of us living in it with minimal furniture. And in a rural horse setting getting to overly staged could backfire on the country feel of the neighborhood. I don't have a fancy home, I have dirt...aka place to keep your horses.

Staging can be overkill and I believe it's just a way for someone to take more money from the seller. A clean, freshly painted house can sell on its own merits.
By Catherine Stamps,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 22:05
Staging, staging, staging, I agree with most. Clean it up and declutter. So what is suggested for an empty house. I feel paint rooms neutral, clean all windows, floors bathrooms, cosmetics cosmetics cosmetics, etc.I can have rooms painted neutral color via self work, and have access to paint at a decent price, Husband soon to be dis agrees
he thinks give a painting allowance towards sale of house? My opinion if you hire a trade painter, he's gonna have to offer up at least 3000K on selling price vs free to next paint and just self labor? And will help sell faster if a buyer walks in to a clean ready to move in house vs well we need to paint this, fix that etc? So opinions welcomed
By Catherine Stamps,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 22:06
That is soon to be EX husband
By Virginia Clark,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 22:08
What good timing! Although in today's low inventory market, buyers are not as fussy but it is still important to have a house show to its best potential. I just showed a property on the weekend and opened a bedroom door to have a dog start growling and my client say, "there's someone asleep in the bed!" No comment in the agent remarks on MLS about a day sleeper, no note on the bedroom door not to open (much less have the door locked), and yes, we had an appointment to see the property and had been told it would be vacant during our showing.
By Catherine Stamps,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 22:25
One last comment , when I bought my first couple of houses of course younger and later, WHAT WAS staging? I agree with commenter another way to suck money out of seller to benefit the realtor to help them sell. If they want to stage it. Let them decorate it with the commission they will make. How about AS IS? Do your own deals with buyer. Why add more to realtors' commission they can make-- plus staging--Why put more into a house your leaving? Unless your desperate to off load, IN that case sell as is and do your own deal --save time and labor materials. Not knocking realtors
that would be a fun job and have realtors in family. Most do work actually hard to get the most for you and best selling price. Bottom line I can walk into a messy lived in house and know what the potential can be. I just think all this hype to stage is waste of money.

I had enough imagination, with whomever lived there to visiualize what I could or wanted to do to the place. And none had appliances. Why do you leave your appliances, so ? I really don't want to share a washing machine or dryer that has been used by another family. Kinda like using an old mattress.
By Itsnotme1207,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 01:37
i get raves about how clean and nicely staged the home is, but am going on almost a year of being listed. we are priced below the sold comps. we don't have a busy market here, so i think luck of having the right buyer walk though the door has alot to do with it. so it's very agreevating to see people to claim you'll sell in weeks if you do the above. it's not always the case.

what i hate to see most of all is pets, maily dogs. i once walked into a backyard of a home and found to mine and my realtor's surprise a dog that was not happy at all to see me. i thought i wasn't going to make it back in safely in the home in one piece. i could tell my realtor was also scared for me and said that she would inform the owners that they need to do somthing about it as it almost caused a serious issue.

i can look past a lot and visualize, but if i can't see your backyard or a room bc there is a dog in there then you've lost me completely. i need to see the whole property, and if i can't do that bc of your dog then you're just wasting both our time. i don't want to hear, see, or really even smell a dog. i've been attacked before (after the situation above) by a family member's dog and now it's a fear trigger for me. you want someone to look and feel comfortable with your house, not associate fear with it. take your dog with you when you leave for a showing!!

http://www.trulia.com/property/3006972280-1802-Twin-Oaks-Dr-Van-Buren-AR-72956
By Shari-lynn Taylor,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 02:24
I had my dining room in an area that I liked. The kitchen and great room were open. I decided to put the dining room on the other end of the great room. It was nice talking to people from the kitchen to the dining room while I cooked. But I had comments. At first I was stubborn. Can't people visualize that it could be made back into a den are? No people cannot. Once I moved it, interest in the home started to come in. Lesson is: Think of the other guy and realize they cannot always visualize what an area can be.
By Ken Henkel,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 02:53
I have seen photos of a house with a wonderful kitchen with zero owner clutter except for the selling agent's coat thrown over a chair, purse on the table, hat on a chair, cell phone, cigarettes and lighter on the kitchen table. Throw in her laptop, clipboard, and a bag of groceries, it looked like the kitchen was her home office. Why bother to de-clutter if the agent is this casual? I'm all for a clean enough is clean enough look.
By Karen Leonardo,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 04:32
LOVE this list and agree with everything on it! I've worked with homeowners who "got it" and sold their homes within days of listing it. And then there are those who could not see the value in staging let alone getting assistance from a professional. The non-believers still have not sold their home! My mantra, less is always more!
By Rick Naples,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 05:27
I host a local TV show on cable. Staging is the wrong word. Unfortunatley that is the common word.
Hiring a professional stager is only neccessary for those who can not clean up and fix things themselves. But 99% of the time, "staging" or what I like to call "preparation" is as simple as cleaning and freshing up. The easiest thing to do is to have a friend or neighbor come into your home and honestly give you first impressions. They will "see" what you have become oblivious too. Realtors all know what to do to sell a home an their advIice is important too, but an opinion from someone not invested in the home is usually the most honest. Sellers just need to keep in mind that their house, when on the market is now a product looking to become someone's home, so make it look as best it can. A few minutes of "Preparation" can make a hugh difference.
By Victor J,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 06:07
I've been in houses that have been "staged" and I usually find them to look as barren and to feel as cold as tombs,. You're almost looking for where the casket is displayed. This staging idea has gone way overboard.
By Obpd529,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 06:27
Help me! Funny you should bring this up this week. Tuesday my realtor brought over a professional stager luckily she picked her and paid her. Get this, she goes "We have had 25 showings and need to remove all the negative energy in my home. The American Indians use White Sage to rid bad energy." She brought a huge wad of this White Sage in her hand. My realtor knew she brought this and did this in another home she listed in another town. My realtor said she doesn't mind sage and this didn't bother her in this other home they did this in. She can't stand cloves. So the woman lights this up in my kitchen and says this is supposed to dissipate 100% wholy crap what a stench. It was burning very very ashy and I saw an ash getting ready to hit the flooor. She has this in her hand. No protection. I kept asking my realtor if this woman was nuts. They are claiming the smell would go away but want to do an American Indian Sage Burning Cleansing of my home. I told them I was more concerned about fire damage are you kidding me. I do not have this stager's name because my realtor hired her. But, I know my realtor and she knew this woman did this stuff and was bringing it. I told me realtor the next day that I did not think that Indian Ceremonies and burning this stuff in your house was on the list of things the interior decator is licensed to do and that I was going to file a complaint against her license. She brings over a stager but we should not be subjected to a exercism or the bad spirits in my home. She didn't say it was haunted. I found an article on line about this. This smells very bad and is supposed to rid the spiriits. http://www.ehow.com/about_5244165_white-sage-used-native-americans_.html
By cathy_sykes,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 06:46
My house is on the market at the moment and I agree, clean is very, very important! Strange and weird things, yes that is important to clear out. I've done my best with staging and decluttering as possible and am still clearing out. The feedback I get that I find frustrating is that my house has too many projects!!!! My house is over 100 years old, on the Historical Register and yes it needs some more cosmetics. I have done the big really expensive stuff, new metal roof, guttering, H&A upstairs and down, new hot water heater. It is priced because appropriately for the extra cosmetics. There are a lot of greedy people out there who want everything done in the house but pay the fixer up price!!!! I can't afford to do the cosmetics that they complain of, that is why I am moving. I have run out of money. I am just going to have to wait for someone to fall in love like I did who has the money and the backbone to finish bringing my house up to it's original glory! I am getting to the point where I would rather sell it to someone with imagination who deserves it no matter how long I have to wait!
By Mary D.,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 07:01
As a buyer, I find the whole "staging" thing a little over the top. I like to see the house uncluttered enough to see the rooms and how my furniture would fit and smell nice. However, stubbornly resisting staging when I was showing my house at the peak of the tax credit two years ago, I was given feedback by prospective first time buyers that a) the interior was painted in all the wrong colors b) the spare bedroom empty of furniture was "creepy" and c) it did not make their "short list". So, I took it off the market for a few weeks, put a bed in the bedroom, fake plant in the corner and painted the downstairs white. Zero cost to me, but when I relisted the house, the first people who saw it bought it. The new breed of buyers have never held a screwdriver in their lives and don't want to deal with sweat equity like their parents had to do. They want it all done for them before they move in. On the flip side, when I myself was looking at homes to buy, I was shown a house that looked fine from the outside but was filthy and cluttered inside (picture the house in Silence of the Lambs). The adult son was "going" in the only bathroom and yelled down the stairs that it was empty now and ok to go in. Phew, get the picture?
By Wipaulmar,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 07:22
After reading the article and all of the previous comments I think the best avenue is somewhere in the middle. I believe getting rid of clutter is extremely important as well as cleaning and repairing the obvious. I would also go so far as to say remove extraneous furniture and clothing in closets. But removing toothbrushes seems way to extreme as well as leaving only one picture on the wall in a room. I would also agree that pet odors should be taken care of. Best to take the pets out of the home when the house is to be shown because it could be a stressful situation for them and the viewers. Going to extremes in either direction seems unwarranted. We have sold four previous homes and never formally staged them. All were sold quickly and for fair prices but that was before the housing crisis. Now things may be different.
By Philippe Heller,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 08:03
Great post! We ran across a coffin at a house we inspected! You can see the pic on our facebook page at http://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/552267_329545023774187_325663961_n.jpg
By Mary D.,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 08:04
I would like to add one more comment - there is mental staging too! Keep the emotions out of the equation. When I was looking for my first home, I saw a beautiful house, one of those classic brick tudors, it was priced way below market value, right within my range. The seller was there, but the dining room had been emptied out except for a hospital bed. A little disarming, but not too unusual in estate sales where the owner has passed after home care and the heirs are listing it while cleaning it out. The clinker was that the seller explained to us that her father had just died and her soon to be ex-husband was forcing her to sell asap so he could get half of the sale money as part of their divorce settlement. She started crying as she spoke to us. I felt bad for her, she was obviously grieving and stressed, her realtor should have gotten her away from the house while showing it. It was too messy a situation but I always regretted walking away from it.
By Mary,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 09:18
Friends of ours, put their house on the market in February 2012. They did de-clutter by getting a POD and putting their stuff into storage. They have been in the house for about 5 years, and the house was built in the late 1990's and has never been updated. They kept having to drop their price and when I commented that they should probably change the carpet in the living room, they were horrified and stated that if they were to change out the carpet (seafoam green and the rest of the carpets in the house are neutral) that they would put in a cheaper carpet - afterall that carpet had been in the house for over 15 years and was still in good shape.
I then looked at their master bath, which is carpeted and has a hunter green tub and sinks to match. I made the comment, that most people are not going to want to buy a house with a green tub and matching sinks and suggested that they have the tub and sinks re-finished.
There response was that they would rather drop the price of the house by $10,000 and not do any updates. I'm thinking to myself - $5,000 of updates and they would not have to drop their price.
Well the house never sold and now they have fired their realtor and are now updating the house, to put it back on the market after the first of the year. They came over the other day to tell me all of this and the first thing they said was "You were right". I wish they would also move their "green fake leather" couches out and rent some decent furniture (but I am going to keep my mouth shut). The lesson is that you really need to update your house at least every 5 years and when you go to sell - STAGE, STAGE, STAGE.
By Cdd,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 09:42
First, I agree with the two people who noted that this article is poorly edited (or perhaps was not edited at all) even though the author suggested 'editing' as one of the ways to prepare a house for sale! The typos, spelling errors, and grammatical mistakes make her writing skills seem 'unprofessional' even if her home-selling ability perhaps is. Not good with the needed writing techniques? That's okay, but hire someone to 'stage' that for you before posting your work!

Then, I also agree with those who say that staging is often an unnecessary step or expense and that it can often be taken to a ridiculous extreme, leaving a house looking more like a whitewashed tomb. Yes, sellers should clean thoroughly, declutter completely, and paint and repair as needed. But a house with no 'lived-in' feel or appeal is unrealistic and 'cold'. I live in a neighborhood where homes sell quickly and for near-million dollar prices because of their quality and the wonderful schools in the district. Yet, one home--a newer one built on an empty lot five years ago and owned by a couple that suddenly had to move due to their new employment--took over a year to sell partly because it was only sparsely staged (three rooms on the first floor with nearly nothing in those rooms) and the rest nothing but empty rooms with the original contractor white paint everywhere else. It had near zero appeal or charm even though the floor plan was quite nice. So, I do agree that staging can back-fire and cost the seller money that will not give a great return--or one at all. Having just the 'right' things on display (yes, a coffee-maker on the kitchen counter! We all use them!), painting and freshening up, and repairing or replacing any and all broken systems and structural damage should give savvy potential buyers all they need to see to envision your house as theirs. And you younger buyers who think everything should be 'perfect' before you move in? Please start using your imaginations to see beyond what others own or have done to the home and be willing to put a little sweat equity into your new house or be willing to hire someone who can do the necessary jobs for you. You are going to want to 'make it yours' anyway, so why insist on buying something that looks great and is perfect, but still isn't painted or done up in the colors or materials that you'd prefer?
By Tina Merritt,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 10:57
Staging doesn't help if you leave your pets in the house for showings. 20-25% of all buyers are either allergic or don't like pets. Putting your dog in a crate or in the backyard doesn't count. Yes, animals are family members, but do you really want to automatically exclude 1/4 of the buyer market? Send Boomer to doggie daycare and the kitties to live with grandma while your house is on the market.
By Sandra Shoulders,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 11:25
My mantra is "shut up and show" . Never assume that the buyer is not astute enough to see beyond what might be a put-off to you as a licensee. Never react to something before your buyer does.
By Vs,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 13:12
I have elderly cats and no place to "move them" to--all my relatives live far away and no one else has a burning desire to host other people's cats in their house if they're not cat people already. So if I was showing my house, they'd have to stay. I value living beings above a hunk of wood covered with ugly aluminum siding in any case.
By Noah Seidenberg,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 14:42
Interesting, funny and great article.
Thanks
By Becky,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 15:14
Great information as always, Tara! Love to read your blogs!
By Pat and Steve Pribisko,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 15:19
Tara, great advice. When we are showing homes to buyers, the worst mistake made by sellers, in general, is odors.
By Candace Taylor,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 15:56
Great article. I laughed out loud at many of the comments. Buyer's really DO have a hard time seeing beyond the drunk passed out in the living room, dirty underwear floating in a sink, nauseating smells, and, of course, the vicious dog in the basement. That beind said, every seller that I've worked with who cleaned, painted and de-cluttered their home got top dollar offer. I use the Nordstrom Concept: The seller's house is now a product to be marketed. If it is presented in a clean, professional manner the results will be worth the effort.
By Karaokekowgirl,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 17:52
Worst house I ever had to buy had new pink carpet throughout, avocado green Spanish style kitchen linoleum, and harvest gold appliances and bathroom fixtures....I spent the next 2 years replacing all that, but HAD to buy that house due the land and barns for my livestock when we moved to another state and there were next to NO properties that met our needs. I then decided to become a realtor after that experience....
By Alma Rose Kee, P.A.,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 20:22
Great article and not sure why "defensive" Sellers don't want to accept an expert's advice--especially when the cost is certainly a lot less than the significantly lower price that will ultimately be received for a distastefully presented house. Also the longer a listing sits on the market it is deemed "unwanted" so it's better to start off in perfect condition rather than wait for the negative feedback from Realtors showing to finally correct the "issues". You only get one chance to make a great impression so why be penny wise and pound foolish.

It's difficult as a Realtor to have to be the bad cop and advise the Seller of the flaws so unless I agreed to a discounted listing fee, I'll offer to pay for a professional stager's advice (to be reimbursed at closing) up to a certain amount. That way the stager can break the bad news to the seller that they need to clean their house and remove their worn furniture and repaint their walls better colors. And... because I don't reimburse the stager's fee until closing, if a Seller insists on overpricing their home and it doesn't sell, I'm not out the cost.

HGTV's "Property Brothers" and "Buy and Sell" shows are fun to watch. I'll hear the Brothers tell the owner something like, "great you can take the Chuckee Doll Collection you love so much to your next house" but we need to pack it up so your house appeals to the most buyers. It's funny watching idiotic sellers try to justify how they like the way it currently looks and to see the spectacular "after" results.

Bottom line is the house is a "product" and the only thing a Seller can control is the "product" or the "price". Buyers often overestimate the cost to paint, replace carpeting, etc. so it is wise for a Seller to hire a stager to help them with their paint color choices, before spending money on the wrong color carpet and painting the walls dark or bold colors.

Hey, as far as the typos, get over it...I see someone nitpicking on that as someone who probably is also a hoarder and is looking for a reason not to heed a "professional's" advice because they're either too lazy to clean and declutter their house and weed and edge their lawn or are deluded into thinking their absurd color choices and worn furniture will help to get top dollar for their house. You don't drill your own teeth or represent yourself in court so why be so foolish to think you are qualified to even select paint colors for your house!
By Missa_butterfly,  Sat Dec 1 2012, 06:20
I agree with Vs regarding her two elderly cats. In this world most rental properities say "no pets, " so when deciding to purchase a home, a buyer might want to imagine their own pets in a home. I rent and have cats but I make sure my home is as clean as possible. If I ever buy this home or another I want to make sure Ican keep my pets. If someone is looking at property and doesn't ever want animals I'm sure there are many "immaculate" homes that would be animal free. But for those wanting to move their pets in the knowledge that the home was pet friendly might be a large draw. Stains and odors should be kept in check because often they never come out. Someone already owning a pet probably would understand that.
By Kiki,  Sat Dec 1 2012, 08:16
In San Francisco Bay Area, Martinez and Pleasant Hill to be precise, the above article does not apply. I have seen houses with dirty carpets, ovens, old wall paper, dirty door, etc and they still cell way above the asking price. Here both buyers and sellers and many of agents do not care about cleanliness, staging etc.
By Juliet Jimenez,  Sat Dec 1 2012, 22:11
No doubt it was that nice home with the young man in pajamas lying on the sofa watching TV and eating popcorn, and the cat box in the laundry room with kitty litter and cat poop strewn across the floor.
No thanks!
By Jacobo Van,  Sun Dec 2 2012, 15:15
Tara, some really good responses here and I just wanted to pose a question on how best to get the owners to hide or dismantle an area for Santerias (voodoo), which I get from time to time here in Puerto Rico?Thanx, j.v.
By Tricia Vasko "handywoman",  Sun Dec 2 2012, 18:49
As a real estate investor, those are the houses I LOOK FOR ... and ultimately buy. The worse it looks and smells, the lower the price I offer. I can look past all that, but most people cannot. I've been in the "cat" house, the "dog" house, the "pink" house, the "shag carpet" house and the "overgrown" house ... as well as the truly disasterous houses that seemed like mazes with overly furnished rooms and stuffed closets that looked like it would take the sellers a month to pack if they only took 10% of their stuff. However, I must say that the one vision that I can't get out of my mind, is the one where the white sheets were BLACK where the homeowner slept and the refrig and freezer were alive with cockroaches and rotting food !!!!! I never saw so many nasty things in one home as I did there. (yes, we bought it) I have gotten great deals and turned them into gems that have increased the values of their neighborhoods.
By Tricia Vasko "handywoman",  Sun Dec 2 2012, 19:03
Note to listing agents; Please put a notation in your listing that there are/were animals that lived in the home, and what kind. I have a severe allergy to cats and have opened the door to homes and been instantly overcome by the smell, setting my allergies off for the rest of the day. If I had been made aware, I would have sent my agent in to preview on my behalf while I remained safely outside.
By Georgibush,  Sun Dec 2 2012, 19:11
How do you go about finding someone to stage your home?
By Lee Ann Boyd-mckenna,  Sun Dec 2 2012, 21:52
Finian123 - Dec 2, 2012
I have been a real estate broker for 28 years and bought, lived in and renovated 6 houses. It is what I love to do. I personally could care less about the work it needs, or the clutter. I look beyond to the "bones" of the house, the possibilities, and most importantly the location, and the price.

I would love to be a stager, but in this area, there is still rejection of this idea. After reading all these messages, I totally understand why.

Per Alma Rose, Your home to you is not a product, and you have the right to be defensive sellers, when some one comes into your home and tells you to change your home to their idea. quote "idiotic sellers trying to justify how they live."

CDD - Nov 30, 2012 has the right input.

Its very emotional and stressful when you buy a home (in the top 4 of stressful situations), and its usually very stressful and emotional when you sell your home, especially if you have a lot of positive history.

"Staging" I now hate that word, because it has so many connotations. As we know the market is not great right now. But if your house is priced properly, you do not have to remove your beloved recliner. But if you want it to be more comfortable and sellable for a buyer, there are a few ideas, I can give you.

I think I will start with my house. I think this is the last house for me, unless I buy another for investment. This house is perfect for my husband and I. We bought right before the market fell and there was so much work to do, that we didn't move in for 6 months. But if I decided to sell this house, what would I do to make it buyer ready for not too much expense.

My husband is a paper hoarder and a clutterer, so he would have to get neater and get rid and clean out all his boxes of "paper" in the garage,

I do renovations, so I would have to organize all my doors, lumber, tools etc. Garage is unusable for cars right now,
Keep house generally clean and clutter away the whole time you are selling always, and remove day to day clutter when show is coming. In fairness to you, and the buyer, ask for 24 hr notice from your realtor. If you trust your broker , they will never ask to show your property at a moments notice, unless they feel it is important. In which case you will run around like crazy and try and get it together. Again, if your house is on the market, try to keep it as clean as possible all the time, and then you can just run around and put toys away, put the dishes in the Dw, make the beds , And all the normal things that people do, but not for a timed showing.

The best reason to have your house priced properly and as buyer friendly as possible, is because it is totally a pain in the neck and extremely stressful to have your house on the market, so do what you can to get the process over as soon as possible .if you trust your realtor ask her if she has any suggestions,

Clean windows. I have them cleaned once a year. It is one of my maintenance luxuries.

Do trim repainting interior, where necessary. If you have blk or purple walls etc; it might be a good idea to repaint with Linen White, or other neutral white color.

One exception to expense;if you have any wall to wall carpetng, especially if it is old; replace it with flooring or faux flooring, depending on the asking price of your house. You will be paid back.

Pets - Have carpets professionally cleaned if necessary. In my last house I had an old sick dog, and kept her in my den and had wall to wall carpet replaced when she passed. I knew it was a problem for some people. My daushund now is a yapper. She would go in my car during a show. I have no problem with my dog and cat bowls out. All is clean. My pets are a part of my life. I am not hiding them. I just want it to be comfortable for potential buyers. If they are totally allergic and don't want to do what ever people do to totally fumigate a home, they shouldn't buy my home.

This removing everything personal, idea from stagers is ridiculous. What is more personal then your home? My bookcase has books, art, and personal pictures. That quietly only shows buyers what they also can do when they buy my home. They are not going until I go.

YES, remove some furniture if rooms are crowded. And, yes get help if you do not know how to rearrange.

Put all toys away or in childs room before showing. Really important. A living room should look only like a living room. Etc for all other rooms.

No glade or air freshener. Its gross!

Do small maintenance you can afford; like a leaking faucet. If you need a new roof and can't afford to replace it, reflect that in your asking price.

Think about how you would feel if you were going to look at a house for sale. What would affect you in a positive or a negative way?





Staging should not be about destroying the character of your home.It should be about enchancing it. And making it the best it can be.
By Greg,  Sun Dec 2 2012, 22:33
yea it hard
By Bjones7717,  Mon Dec 3 2012, 05:57
Thanks to TV shows, people cannot even look at a house for it's good qualities! When shopping for a home, please remember that people actually live there with kids and pets....it's not a MODEL HOME. People also complain if the house is empty...let's get real...this is great 'cause you can see everything! Don't be so critical of other people's homes. After all, you can make it your own!!!
By Jamie Knuth,  Mon Dec 3 2012, 08:34
I always thought it would be best to have the lived in look, but my agent asked me to remove everything.
By Reinmuth,  Mon Dec 3 2012, 10:20
This had nothing to do with staging, but nevertheless is worth the post. We were shown a house by our realtor and when we reached the basement, we found a man with a prostitute!!! Guess someone forgot to tell the owners about the showing! Unfortunately, I will NEVER get that image out of my mind!
By Franklin Einstein,  Mon Dec 3 2012, 20:34
Tara you rock keep it up and have a big 2013!
By Brian Spear,  Tue Dec 4 2012, 16:10
Thank you for the help advice Tara! Happy 2013
By Joyce Drew,  Wed Dec 5 2012, 04:36
interesting to me is the responses to comments of other agents experiences and impressions. While there may be a reason for any of the unwelcome sights when showing a property the facts remain the same. A neat clean property presents a better impression and has a better chance of selling for a decent price. IF the sellers are not motivated to sell (ie: have other plans) then our input regarding neat and clean is a waste of time. Better they move out and take their whatever with them. Keeping in mind as Listing Agents representing the Sellers..our job is to sell the property..if we have to educate the owners to perceptions of others..so be it.
By Itsnotme1207,  Wed Dec 5 2012, 10:36
what i want to know is how to stage a backyard. my backyard is of average size for this neighborhood, but of course smaller than a home built 10-20 years or more ago. it is privacy fenced. i also have a covered back patio with a fan. under it i have an iron patio set out there with a small grill. on the lawn i have a small slide and outside rocking horse both for a toddler. everything thing out there is in good to great condition. is there anything i can do to make it feel bigger?
By Mark Acantilado,  Thu Dec 6 2012, 03:11
There are a handful of ways for home staging. The question is - what exactly do home buyers look for? By knowing this, it might lead an agent to realize or a seller to realize what exactly is needed to be done in terms of home staging.


AgentCampus.com | http://www.agentcampus.com/washington-real-estate-license/
By Barb Mihalik,  Wed Dec 12 2012, 04:38
I am an agent and I also own a professional staging company. So many sellers don't want to invest in a property they will no long be living in. That sounds logical until the lowball offers come in. Hiring a professional stager is a small price to pay. So many buyers will turn tail because the home is dirty, cluttered and full of personal items, making it difficult for most buyers to see themselves living there. If nothing else and without getting too complicated, most sellers should remove 50% of their furnishings and personal belongings prior to listing and store them away. They'll be getting a leg up on the move and they will most likely sell the home more quickly and often for a much higher price than the cost of the staging consultation. What do buyers want?
1. CLEAN
2. UNCLUTTERED
3. SPACE
4. LIGHT
5. STORAGE
By Lynn Tardibuono,  Thu Dec 13 2012, 15:43
Gosh how true! After almost 25 years as a Real Estate Agent I have seen almost everything. Had some good chuckles while reading this blog. Now I stage my listings, using such tips as these (some based on trial & error). Good blog, thanks!
By Kenneth Sturmer,  Thu Dec 27 2012, 14:12
I don't know what la la land the writer lives in. I have yet to see a "staged" house for sale. Everyone I have ever seen is empty, or still occupied by the current owners. In which case it is usually packed with furniture and boxes of personal posessions. I guess if your'e looking in the half million category that is not the case. Unfortunately, that is not the real world for most people!

By the way, it's so called real estate investors, the leeches who buy only to make a profit. Who destroyed the market and finally burst the bubble. We have them to thank!
By Diane Concialdi,  Mon Jan 7 2013, 09:24
Great article with lots of info from all. Being a home stager, I just don't get it either. Reading the comments does confirm that a lot of homeowners and realtors know about staging. It's just hard to convince the buyer to stage and that it's really worth the small amount of money.
Thanks Tara!
By Ron & Diana Dahlberg,  Fri Mar 22 2013, 14:48
Thanks for sharing! Great Information ... a Good Read!
By Dale Swanson,  Thu Mar 28 2013, 12:25
The best, most sure-fire staging advice, in my experience? Clean it up! I don't just mean stuffing your bills and junk mail into drawers. I mean take down grandma and grandpa's anniversary picture, put the doll collections into storage, invest in some Swiffer products, and please take a grease-cutting cleaner with a mop and a sponge to all hard surfaces. Oh, and by the way: your cat would really appreciate it if you were far more diligent about its litter box.
By Sj4xrich@gmail.com,  Sun Mar 31 2013, 09:10
We are putting our home on the market in June. Our taste is best described as dorm-room-travelers. I had a realtor come over a couple months ago and he literally looked like he had swallowed a pickle! THAT sour look was my wake up call! I chucked my feelings and found a stager. She was very happy that I know that my decorating is not for "showing"! We went through our home and I took lots of notes. Having watched HGTV for several months to get ideas I know that Robin was worth four times what we paid her!

I have already started packing our precious stuff, planning a community yard sale for the middle of May, finding homes for the family heirlooms, donating things to local charities, getting a storage unit, finding cleaners and fix-it folks, and, best of all, knowing that I am not depending on my taste to sell the house.

The only thing that is irritating is that we are getting all the projects that have been sitting around for years--finally FINISHED.
By Voices Member,  Thu May 16 2013, 14:30
The 'lived-in' look always bothers me when I am looking at a house. I like to see a fresh, clean and new interior when I walk in. I don't want to just feel like the "next tenant", ya know?

David | http://www.rdselectric.com
By Kate,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 13:08
This is obviously such an emotional issue for people and why not? Our homes are the stage where our lives play out. They are comfort and shelter and totally ours. The point of preparing your home for selling is to make a blank slate so the potential new owners can envision themselves living there. People get so stubborn about their things being just fine. Of course they are, but they are your fine things and people feel uncomfortable with you being too firmly entrenched there. As a buyer, I feel like I am invading someone's privacy- after all, I am a total stranger and here I am wandering through their house opening closets and looking in every nook and cranny.

The key to successfully selling your house is to remove as much of yourself as possible. People hate to hear this, but its just true, your stuff is distracting. I would rather look at an empty house than one piled to the rafters with offensive or even very nice things. Some people have said the buyer should have "vision", but why make them work so hard to see past what is there to what it could look like with their own possessions? Someone also pointed out here that usually the buyers have seen many houses and they are mentally exhausted. The house that makes it easy to see the potential is the one people will choose.

I think the hardest thing for sellers is to let go of the house before they sell it. They have to emotionally and as much as possible, physically remove themselves from it. Here is a great story to illustrate this concept: my husband and I were looking at houses with our realtor and we drove up to an adorable house in a great neighborhood with a front porch complete with rockers. Nice! We walked inside and it was neat, clean and uncluttered except for dozens of photographs of people on the walls and on every surface. They were tasteful and professionally done, but there was a problem. I was fascinated! I asked the realtor and she said the family had 10 children, now grown. The photos were so interesting; seeing the family grow through the years. All along walls, up and down the staircase and in all of the bedrooms were these photos of this nice looking family. When we left I felt like I had had a nice visit with this family. Unfortunately, I had to ask if there was a family room, I never really saw the house and what's more I could not imagine living in a house that is still so occupied by all those people. When selling, we have to remember that the product is not us, our wonderful family or our belongings, but simply the house. That should be the only focus for the buyer, not once should the current owners even cross his or her mind while he is looking at the house. When the prospective buyer walks through the front door, you want them to feel that they have come home. Their home.
By lkj336,  Sun Jun 16 2013, 01:32
When my husband's dad passed away 20 yrs ago in another state, the house reeked of cigarette smoke and cat urine. After scrubbing the cigarette smoke off the walls, we put an air cleaner in the house to run for two weeks. Then we returned to the house to have an estate sale, hauled off the leftovers, paid a lawn company to mow and trim trees. When our real estate agent returned to the house, she could not believe the difference. The agents walked thru the house that week and one of the agent's brothers made an offer just a little less that the price we had listed. We had a contract that week and the deal was complete in less than a month. We cleaned but did not paint or replace the carpet, since the realtor said that a buyer would probably want a different color than what we would pick.

Then I inherited a mobile home and lot 5 yrs ago from an aunt. I spent a year driving 40 miles one way almost every weekend, packing, cleaning and having repairs done. When I contacted several realtors, I was told that since it was located in an old mobile home park in an unincorporated area that the property would only be worth 10k and they wanted a guarantee of 3k to list it. This was without the real estate agents even seeing the property. So, I decided to sell it myself. I found the lot to be valued at 16k by the tax records. My aunt had left a list of upgrades that she had done to the property including special rubber roof, a huge addon room with a separate porch and entrance and a large wooden shed. Her improvements thru the years added up to over 20k and she had paid 25k for the property 15 yrs prior.

I had several slum lords that owned rentals in the mobile home lot, contacting me, wanting to see the property to add to their collection of rentals. I researched and found they were charging $700 to $1,000 a month for places half the size of my aunt's property. I sold the furniture thru Craig's List. The only items left inside were the washer and dryer and one nice couch.

I had every repair made including rebuilding two porches and a large portion of the wooden shed. I replaced the mini blinds and the bathroom flooring. And cleaned, cleaned, cleaned. I also hired a neighbor to trim the trees and mow the yard every week. It took a year since I could only go there 2-3 days a month. I spent about 5k on everything. On Memorial weekend 2007, I hung a flyer box on the fence and described the property (measurements and amenities) including the bay window in the kitchen and a price of 30k. Within 5 days, I had a cash buyer. He asked how much the my lawyer would charge for the paperwork and when I told him $1,500.00, he offered $28,500 and he would pay the attorney. Within two weeks I had the money in my hand.

Never listen to someone tell you that your property is undesirable due to location or age. I decided to treat my aunt's mobile home the same as my other homes, when I started to sell them. A little money and a lot of elbow grease and I made a profit of 20k instead of the 7k that the realtors predicted. I did not want the property to go to the slum lords that would not improve it, yet make a profit from it. I lived too far to keep it as a rental. Timing was everything. The gentleman that bought it had just sold his home. He had to split the money from his home sell with ex-wife in their divorce settlement. He had custody of their 2 boys and she had custody of their 2 girls. They bought two mobile homes in the park a block from each other, so the kids could see each other often. He was a very motivated buyer, since there were only 4 properties for sale in the park. He was impressed that all the repairs had been made to my property, so he did not haggle with the price. Nuff said !!!!
By Nancya518,  Mon Jun 17 2013, 05:53
When I read some of the horror stories here about the negative experiences buyers and realtors have had when looking at a home, I am amazed at the stupidity of some of the selling realtors. I mean really , if you were a realtor trying to sell a home and your sellers were having sex in a bedroom while a house was being shown or had a home that was so filthy & disgusting that potential buyers could not even get in the door, how to you expect to sell under those conditions? It's as if many realtors have no common sense whatsoever (to say nothing about their sellers). If I were a realtor I would not agree to represent a seller who refused to clean up their home or insisted on leaving a scary dog or scenario in the home while it was being shown, to say nothing of staying in the home and doing things that put off buyers while it was being shown.

Having bought and sold several homes I agree that it is critical for the home to be de-cluttered and clean and in reasonable condition. But also agree that too often buyers nit pick about small things that can be easily changed like paint colors, and lack imagination to see beyond what is in front of them. Because of this I have sold my homes empty the last two times and found they sell faster that way.
By Nancya518,  Mon Jun 17 2013, 06:02
When I read some of the horror stories here about the negative experiences buyers and realtors have had when looking at a home, I am amazed at the stupidity of some of the selling realtors. I mean really , if you were a realtor trying to sell a home and your sellers were having sex in a bedroom while a house was being shown or had a home that was so filthy & disgusting that potential buyers could not even get in the door, how to you expect to sell under those conditions? It's as if many realtors have no common sense whatsoever (to say nothing about their sellers). If I were a realtor I would not agree to represent a seller who refused to clean up their home or insisted on leaving a scary dog or scenario in the home while it was being shown, to say nothing of staying in the home and doing things that put off buyers while it was being shown.

Having bought and sold several homes I agree that it is critical for the home to be de-cluttered and clean and in reasonable condition. But also agree that too often buyers nit pick about small things that can be easily changed like paint colors, and lack imagination to see beyond what is in front of them. Because of this I have sold my homes empty the last two times and found they sell faster that way.
By Justanoldsaddlebag,  Tue Jun 18 2013, 06:08
I would rather spend the 'staging' money on fixing repairs or fresh paint.
By Molly,  Thu Jun 20 2013, 11:38
When we sold our house several years ago, we were told by our realtor to take down all personal pictures because a prospective buyer wanted to be able to feel it could be their home. My husband's comment: "Why don't we find out who's coming and put up pictures of THEIR family?"
By chris.dornburg,  Fri Jun 21 2013, 06:49
After raising our kids and living in our home for 16 years we listened to our realtor (the same one we had used twice in the past) and we had a dumpster delivered to our driveway and decluttered! Although we were building anew home twice the size of the one we were selling, we didn't want to move the unnecessary items we had inherited through the years. Thanks to listening to the majority of his advice, our house sold in 16 days in a neighborhood where houses have been listed for 6 months to a few years. We also took his advice on listing for a realistic price for our market. Although it was disappointing to hear his suggested listing price, we didn't have to play the pricing game. We received 2 offers on the same day and sold it for $2,000 over asking price. Staging is everything! I loved my wallpaper in the kitchen but he told us to remove it and paint and we did. It was a clean slate for the new owner.
By laurajean1963,  Fri Jun 28 2013, 10:28
I have owned 6 homes in my 25 years of marriage and have a pretty good idea of how to stage a home for sale. Most of my homes have sold quickly and I have received compliments from real estate agents and buyers on how nice and presentable my home is. I have seen some doozies over the years though. One house was all black and white, including the woman's closet...no color anywhere in the house...turned me off. Another one had a 7 foot bear at the edge of the dining room table in the large great room. I loved the house otherwise, but couldn't get that bear out of my head!!! As #1 says, no hunting trophies, please!!
By Mama T,  Fri Jun 28 2013, 11:28
I am a former agent. Five years ago I purchased a short-sale home which had been on the market for months. It was a 'mess.' Dirty carpeting, furniture and mirrors placed in 'odd' places, purple walls overpainted with silver sponge, burgundy and green striped paint in the living room, the stove top had two inches of decaying food in it, and the kitchen flooring, originally white - was black. Also the windows were equipped with dark blue levelor blinds... closed escrow at a bargain price, rented a huge dumpster, hired painters, cleaning people, a plumber and a month later it was 'staged' with berber carpeting, toned neutral walls, up-graded light fixtures, etc. Many prospective buyers don't see the 'possibilities' in a less than perfect house, and will overlook a great buy...
By Cindy Dawson,  Fri Jun 28 2013, 14:12
For those who believe that staging is artifice and not necessary -- It is artifice but absolutely works to sell the home in the shortest amount of time for the highest price, which of course is our job. I assist my sellers with the preparation of their homes and have nothing but great success when using staging techniques. I am always amazed at how effective it isl
By Donnaw5289,  Sat Jun 29 2013, 06:45
Great article! I have a rental house I will be selling next summer when the tenants move out. I plan on starting the outside work this fall for curb appeal but was wondering if its wrong to show a house completely empty as opposed to renting furniture to stage it? It's only a 2 bedroom 1 bath but has a nice sun porch and great back yard. What do you think? I do want to sell as soon as possible. Oh, I'm also thinking of FSBO. Thanks for your input!
By Voices Member,  Thu Sep 5 2013, 16:05
I am going to make sure that I never do any of these! That would be so embarrassing and I would hate it! :(

David | http://www.abes.ca/the_government_of_alberta_health_care_aide_program.html
By Voices Member,  Thu Sep 5 2013, 16:20
This is one of my favorite articles by you, Tara! Please keep writing like this! :)

David | http://www.eyewearplace.com/fort_mcmurray.html
By Aaron601400,  Tue Sep 24 2013, 04:13
Growth only comes when you realize it can happen. You will not grow if you are content or can't see the future possibilities for growth.
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