Staging a home isn’t an exact science — it’s more of an art, one that covers several rooms and flows throughout a home. Your goal is to create a warm, welcoming space that resonates with buyers and encourages them to picture themselves living inside your home, not to show off your personal decorating taste. You can go a long way toward showcasing your house for potential buyers if you avoid the following pitfalls.
Neglecting To Stage At All
The biggest mistake most sellers make is deciding they don’t need to stage their home at all. They think their house is perfectly fine as it is, but the point of staging is to give your house a very specific ambiance. You want it to feel like home… but not especially your home. It shouldn’t feel as generic as a hotel room, but it should be depersonalized and decluttered enough that buyers feel comfortable and inspired — ideally, inspired enough to make a good offer.
Keeping All Your Furniture And Things In The Home
Nobody expects you to have a listing-perfect house that you also live in every day. But the truth is that most of our homes contain too much to look beautifully staged, between kids’ toys, garages full of tools, and kitchens with appliances stacked on the countertops.
Before you get to the fun part of staging, the first step is always to remove whatever you can. That might mean end tables and a chair in the living room, a dresser or chest in the bedroom, family photos or unusual wall art, and all kinds of odds and ends.
Using Too Little Furniture
It’s common knowledge that too much furniture is not appropriate for a staged home. In most cases, you want to remove one or two pieces of furniture from each room. Too much furniture makes your rooms look smaller and provide barriers for buyers who want to walk through easily. But another big mistake sellers make is removing too much furniture, or using too few pieces for each room. A nearly empty room will look strange to buyers, so getting that “just right” balance between furniture and spacing is really important for any seller.
Hiding Stuff Instead of Eliminating It
Most sellers know clutter needs to go; you need to clear off surfaces and provide clean lines for the buyers who will walk through your house. That said, don’t transfer clutter into drawers, closets, or other spaces where buyers might take a peek — if a buyer can open it, then it isn’t a safe space for stashing extra things. Either hold a garage sale, donate some items, or rent a storage unit and park extra books, clothes, etc. that you want to keep but don’t want cluttering your home while listing it.
Ignoring Critical Improvements
It’s just as important to pay attention to the big issues with your home as it is to tweak the finishing details on your staging work. Maybe this means replacing the roof, sanding and staining the deck, addressing your problem water heater — whatever it is, these usually non-cosmetic changes aren’t very glamorous, but they will help your house feel safer and more secure, which is an integral part getting ready to sell.
Not Upgrading The Paint
When you’ve removed a significant amount of decoration from your walls, you may notice the paint could use sprucing up. Instead of hiding that with more art (which is a normal impulse), do yourself a favor and upgrade the paint wherever you can. Consider the exterior, too — does the front of your house look a bit shabby once you get close enough? If you notice it, prospective buyers will, so give your house a new coat or three of quality paint.
Yes, fake flowers and houseplants are easier to keep “alive,” but if everything you put in your house is fake, it could unsettle buyers — and they might not even know why your house didn’t feel quite right to them. It’s fine to make life easier by faking some of new decor, but consider buying hardy apples for that bowl on your kitchen counter (and replace them when they start to wrinkle) instead of fake fruit.
Keeping Too Many Personal Items
That photo of your children with their first puppy couldn’t be more adorable, but is it going to help you sell your house? Unfortunately, most buyers tend to feel put off by personal items in a house. The same goes for religious iconography, clear evidence of a favorite hobby, and the many other bits and pieces that together add up to a house that’s clearly yours … and nobody else’s. If you’re not sure whether something counts as “too personal,” ask a real estate agent; they are used to seeing perfectly staged homes and can give you advice.
Ignoring The Home’s Scale
A tiny bedroom isn’t going to accommodate a king-sized bed; likewise, a delicate loveseat will look a bit ridiculous in a grand, vaulted living room. You don’t have to fit the home’s scale exactly, but trying to squeeze too-big or too-small items into a floor plan that doesn’t accommodate them looks a bit silly at best, so try to avoid that — even if you absolutely love the piece of furniture or artwork in question.
Leaving all the doors open can feel strange, but when buyers are walking through your house, they are going to open every door anyway. Closing the doors to bedrooms, bathrooms, and even closets can be counterproductive and gives buyers a feeling that you’re hiding something. Of course, don’t open all of the kitchen cabinets and utility closets — but leaving bedroom doors wide open and bathroom and closet doors slightly ajar can help buyers feel welcome in an understated way.
Narrow, Neutral Color Palettes
It’s easy to think the best way to create an atmosphere where a buyer feels at home is to be as neutral as possible — but this can actually be a big mistake. In a living room where everything is beige or gray, nothing stands out and the whole room feels boring. Instead, consider a complimentary color palette that includes neutrals (but doesn’t rely solely on them), and use pillows, accent walls, blankets, and other items that pop with color to bring brightness and life into rooms.
Tired carpeting and peeling linoleum aren’t a good look in any home, especially one that’s listed for sale. A hardwood floor might just need a polish and wax, and maybe cleaning the grout on your tiles (or replacing it with new grout) is enough to give your flooring a lift, but if the flooring really does need to be replaced, don’t neglect it. You don’t need the top-of-the-line option, but some new carpet can go a long way toward enticing a buyer to make an offer.
Too Much Fine Art Or Collectibles
If your house is a showpiece worthy of a museum, a lot of fine art or clearly expensive collectibles don’t usually make buyers feel comfortable — instead, they’re likely to feel like they’re in an actual museum. If your personal aesthetic includes a lot of high-end items, consider storing them in a climate-controlled, secured location where they’ll be safe, and replacing them with something less elevated. It might seem counterintuitive, and a luxury real estate agent might say some of your pieces are perfect for staging (listen to them if that’s their advice), but in general, you don’t want to intimidate your buyers, which fine art or expensive collectibles can do.
Most of our coffee tables have stacks of reading material; dining rooms are full of paperwork; kitchen counters are full of appliances; office desks might not have a visible surface at all. To give your home the best chance of hooking a buyer, be ruthless about clearing the surfaces everywhere, then adding just one or two items back (a vase of flowers and a tablecloth on the dining room table, perhaps).
The clutter rule especially applies to toys and books, so when you think you’re finished streamlining… do it again, and again, and even once more until you’re really at a minimum of accessories. You don’t have to give them up entirely; they can go into storage until your sale is complete. You just have to make sure they’re not cluttering up your possibility of a high offer from every buyer who walks through your house.
Not Investing In Carpets Or Rugs
Like any expanse of space, your floors can usually stand for a visual break, like runners in the hallway or a rug under your coffee table. A creatively placed rug can really tie a room together, and the right number of rugs throughout the home can tie the whole house together, so make sure you pay attention to the floor space and treat it with treatments before you open your doors to buyers.
Ignoring Curb Appeal
Depending on the time of year, buyers might not spend much time outside — but you still need to pay attention to how your home’s exterior so you can ensure the best first impression possible. At the least, de-cobweb and sweep your front porch, add some flowers, and freshen your outdoor furniture. If possible, add more plants and keep your lawn neatly mowed and weeded. (And if you didn’t follow the advice above about painting the exterior, do it now!)
Neglecting To Add Plants
Plants aren’t only great for the outdoors. A well-placed houseplant can make any room feel vibrant and alive, and when you place them strategically throughout the house, the overall effect is welcoming and fresh. You don’t need a plant in every room, but if there are spaces that feel empty after the furniture-purging and item-stashing, consider filling them with a cute potted plant.
Focusing Only On Sight
Although humans rely on sight more than any other sense, there are many other ways you can help buyers feel at home when they walk through the door. A scented candle here or there is welcoming, but don’t go overboard with artificial scents. Similarly, opening your windows to capture the sounds of nature or a nearby body of water can be lucrative in terms of generating offers, or simply playing music softly throughout the house. Also, if there are any odors or sounds that make your home less attractive, eliminate or mask them before buyers start walking through.
Blocking Views Or Architectural Elements
Buyers don’t need to see all of the crown molding in the house, but placing a couch or television in front of an interesting architectural feature — or, worse, a window with a gorgeous view — is one mistake you don’t want to make when selling. Help your house sell itself by highlighting its best features so buyers can appreciate them.
When it comes to staging, there is definitely a possibility that you can go overboard, or too generic. If you think you’ve wandered too far into “neutral” territory, spice things up with an interesting flower arrangement, an eye-catching piece of art, or something else that’s not super-personalized but has a spark of personality. It’s a fine balancing act, but once you achieve it, your listing photos will look amazing, and you’ll have time to relax and enjoy your handiwork before those offers to start coming in!