Saturday, November 14, 2015

Seven Mistakes to Avoid When Staging Your Home

My husband and I visited over thirty homes in the western suburbs of Chicago this spring in our search for the perfect house. Our realtor said she had not seen such a competitive housing market in many years. If the house was in great condition and priced right, it sold with multiple offers. If the house was in poor condition or overpriced, it sat on the market for quite a while. In the end, we settled for a not-so-perfect house at the lower end of our budget, knowing we could improve upon it and hopefully sell it at a profit when the time comes.

We've learned a lot about staging homes, both on the buying and the selling end of real estate. Here are a few things we've learned to avoid:

1.) Do not over-decorate your home in one style

This is where the Property Brothers really do get it wrong most of the time. While it makes good television to show a home in one thematic style, it makes for a terribly narrowed field of potential buyers. Maybe you love Rustic Modern decor, or perhaps you lean to Farmhouse Chic or Industrial Urban. But the chances of you finding that one person who also appreciates that style are pretty slim.

We walked into quite a few houses that were staged in one particular style. And don't get me wrong, it looked great in that house. I just could not picture my own furnishings in the house because of it. I recall one house that was totally decorated in Rustic Modern. My realtor thought that house would sell quickly because it was so "staged". But guess what? Last time I checked, that house was still on the market.

What are buyers looking for? They want it light and bright. They want to picture their family living in those spaces.

Keep it clean, keep it updated, and keep it pleasing to the eye. A few new throw pillows, a matching blanket, a new comforter. Little additions can go a long way. Make it warm and welcoming. Add in the cozy. Give it character.

2.) Do not become nose blind!

Have you seen the funny Febreeze commercials telling you that you've become nose blind? It's true, we may be accustomed to the smell of our five cats and three dogs, but we guarantee that a guest in your home will smell it right away. Get that house cleaned and aired out, professionally if necessary. Use room deodorizers and candles. Try to keep the fragrance smelling clean and not too overpowering or perfumey. I remember one house that we walked into, and immediately walked right back out of because of the overpowering smell of nursing home.

3.) Do not leave them guessing

Every room in your home should have a clear purpose. If a room is empty, stage it with furnishings to show what it can be used for.

In one of our homes, we had an empty bedroom adjacent to our master. With sons away to college, this room didn't have a purpose. We got the crib out of storage, added a hutch with a few baby items, and voila...instant nursery. And guess what? The new owners had a baby, and they recognized this small room as the perfect spot for their nursery, too.

Total cost= $0

4.) Do not overlook storage

Buyers have stuff to store, just like you. They want a house that looks as if it has ample room for their belongings, too. Do not forget to thin out your cupboards and closets and organize them with nice baskets and accessories. Keep your storage rooms neat and clean.

We passed up one house because there were no coat closets. Hello? This is the Midwest, not California! It gets cold here, and people need a lot of coats.

We passed up another house that had recently been renovated for flip because the flipper did not leave a single place in the basement for storage. He also forgot to add coat closets and linen closets. I really wanted to contact him and tell him that he needed to hire some women to help him design houses, but I refrained.

5.) Do not de-personalize to the extreme

If you have a huge wall mural of family photos and Glamour Shots (remember those? LOL), you probably want to take those down and swap it out with some nice artwork. But don't remove every piece of art, every book, or every knick knack. Thin them down, yes. But don't over clean. If it looks too impersonal, it will leave your house feeling cold and a little like a hotel, and who wants to live in a hotel?

6.) Do not highlight what your house does not have. Instead, show off what it does have!

 Our last house in Pittsburgh did not have a basement. Truly, it did not need one. We had a huge family room with real wood paneling, a fireplace, closets and bookcases for storage, and doors to close off the room from the rest of the house.

But a few realtors told us we'd have a hard time re-selling the home when the time came because we did not have a basement, only a basement garage.

They were wrong.

The basement garage was huge. It even had a separate room with HVAC and electric. We had used the room to store our garden tools and off season items. But when the time came to sell, I staged that room as a basement "Man Cave".

I purchased the colored totes, the blue indoor/outdoor rug, and the orange stool from Target. We used our wire shelves to store sports equipment, and set up the table as a work space, complete with mini fridge.

For less than $100, we transformed a storage room into a bright and colorful basement man cave!

7. Know when to stop staging and start living

This last one can be the hardest. If you are like me, and you've been dealing with home relocation for a few years, you can find yourself in a full-time staging mode. You've been living in showroom ready houses for so long that you forget what it's like to just relax your standards and rest. At some point, you have to unwind and do a little living in your house. Bring out the comfy quilts, hang the photos, pile up the books and magazines on the coffee table. You are home now, and it's probably safe to say that the editors of Better Homes and Gardens are not going to ring your doorbell tomorrow and ask to come in for a photo shoot.

Let the food pile up on the kitchen island. It's okay. That's not mess.

Understand that every house has a To Do List. They will get done...eventually. Thankfully, you do not live in a museum. Make the rooms work for your family. Eat popcorn on the couch. Put your feet up on the coffee table. Turn on the Hallmark holiday movie and relax. There will be plenty of time for painting rooms this winter.

There you have mistakes to avoid when staging your home. Tell me, have you encountered any of these? Any new ones to add to the list?


  1. Thanks for the inspiration! We will be selling the house we built five years ago almost to the date. We will be putting it on the market in 2-4 years. I'll remember this post of yours! Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the inspiration! We will be selling the house we built five years ago almost to the date. We will be putting it on the market in 2-4 years. I'll remember this post of yours! Thanks!