Recently, my husband and I went through the process of buying a home. Maybe we’re just the type of buyers who are “tricked” by staging, but the homes we liked were ones where the staging was obvious. Even though we could tell the sellers were living in the space, it didn’t feel like we were stepping into someone’s home without permission. With staged homes that were clean, bright, open, and showed the home through furniture, we felt welcome and could look at the space as a prospective buyer. For homes that weren’t staged, not only did we feel as though we were intruding into someone’s space, we didn’t want to stay long because it didn’t seem like it would be “move-in” ready. The home we ended up purchasing was staged well. Bright, open, clean, and with perfectly spaced furniture to show an idea of what each room could offer. It’s not just us though. In 2015, the National Association of Realtors did a survey that found that 52% of realtors believe that staging increased the dollar amount of a home sale! Although I have read and written many an article about staging, I learned a lot about it while touring homes. Here are the main things I noticed as a potential homebuyer when it comes to staging.
Staging Isn’t the Same as Decorating
When you’re listing (or selling) a home, you shouldn’t equate staging to decorating. Although decorating provides some level of staging to a home, there’s more to it then just putting some furniture in a room and calling it good. Some of the homes that my husband and I visited were vacant, and although they didn’t have any furniture in them, we could tell which had been “staged” and which hadn’t. Cleaning, getting rid of smells and getting a place “move-in” ready before you list it can be considered staging when listing a home that’s vacant.
When you buy a home that’s been lived in previously, it’s not always going to be 100% spotless. There might be some stains on the wood, or maybe the kitchen will have a few dings in the fridge. However, small and simple things that should be easy to clean (no crumbs on the counter, no bugs in the bathroom) should be taken care of before you show anyone the home. If you don’t feel comfortable cleaning the home yourself, or having your seller clean the home, hire a maid service. Someone who cleans for a living will have a different standard of clean than someone who lives in the home.
Stage Odd Places Around the Home
Often, homes have a weird room or layout that you might look at and just not know what to do with. “Is it a playroom? A bedroom? An office?” There were a few homes we viewed that had a space that we weren’t sure what should go there, or how it could be used. Some of these spaces were staged, and gave us an idea of how the current resident used the space. However, other sellers removed any personality from the space, which left us scratching our heads as to how the room would be used.
Use staging to highlight odd rooms, show their possibilities and personalities. Buyers love to see what sets homes apart (at least I did) and showcasing that by putting the right kind of furniture in the room can set that home apart from the rest.
Many staging experts warn listing agents about baking cookies or having strong floral scents when staging a home. Strong scented candles are discouraged because they can turn off a buyer, but listing agents and sellers should also consider other “smells” when staging. It’s hard to not cook food in a home while you’re trying to sell – after all, you live there! But cleaning up from dinner, putting food away in containers, and making sure to take out the garbage before prospective buyers come to see the home is always helpful. It might just be me, but having a scented candle going when I toured a home was more pleasant then smelling dinner from the night before. If you’re staging a home that is empty and still has a lingering smell, consider having the carpets cleaned. It’s hard to sell a home that has a permanent smell attached.
Set out Treats and Drinks
Obviously, this won’t be an everyday occurrence, but on Saturdays (the most popular day for viewing homes) set out a plate of mints, candy or other treats and a bottle of water or two. Not only did this encourage us as prospective buyers to take a bit longer walking through the home and taking in the space, but it helped us to feel welcome, without being overbearing.
Another thing many staging experts tell sellers is to paint their homes in a neutral color before putting the home on the market. Although I could see the appeal of this before touring homes, after touring homes I understand it much better.
Not only does the neutral color let the buyer feel like the home is more “move-in” ready, but it makes the rooms feel more open and lighter. Light will reflect better off the neutral colors, and make the rooms feel bigger and brighter.
We ended up buying a place that had been painted with a light white because it reflected the light well and made the space look and feel spacious.
Lights and Mirrors are your Friends!
Open your windows, set up your mirrors, turn on your lamps, get the highest wattage you can because light and mirrors really do make a room feel bigger and brighter. When we walked into homes that had dark walls, closed curtains and low wattage lamps, we immediately felt cramped and confined. It didn’t seem like a place we would want to live.
We were attracted to places that had more light, as it felt more open. Strategically placed mirrors lit up parts of a room that didn’t get natural sunlight. Smaller rooms that had mirrors added an extra dimension, too. Not only did the light “extend” into the mirror, the room felt like it had grown.
Finally, for buyers, remember staging can hide problems!
Although staging can really sell a home, it’s important for buyers to remember that sometimes, well-done staging can hide major problems with a home. Cracks in the walls can be hidden with art and mirrors, well-placed furniture and plants can hide carpet stains and cracked floorboards. Make sure to take a good look at staged homes – they may be beautiful, but they can be hiding something, too!
Home Warranties are Appealing
While looking at these homes, the ones that were advertised as coming with a home warranty were more appealing than others. Knowing that our potential new home could be protected from break downs of our systems and appliances made us feel comfortable and secure. If you are listing a home, or if you're planning on selling your home soon, consider getting listing coverage from a home warranty.
If you’re interested in learning more about the home buying experience (and getting a home warranty along with the sale of a home) check out my company’s website at www.landmarkhw.com. If you’re looking for the perfect home warranty plan for your buyer, you can compare our plans and pricing here. You can read how-to and educational articles at blog.landmarkhw.com as well.