Written by Blanche Evans
When sellers stage their homes, they’re simply trying to make their homes as attractive as possible to buyers. Staging can include cleaning, decluttering, depersonalizing and decorating the home. It can be done by the seller, or by a professional who goes so far as to completely overhaul a home with glamorous rented furniture and accessories.
At its best, staging helps buyers see the possibilities so they can easily visualize themselves owning and living in the home. It can also distract buyers’ attention from real problems a home may have or that may be expensive for the buyer to handle.
There’s nothing wrong with a seller presenting a home for sale at its best – sparkling clean and ready for viewing. But before you let yourself be enchanted by the romantic table set for two, the aroma of cookies coming from the oven, and the spa robe and slippers laid out by the bathtub, ask yourself if those are the things that you should be noticing.
Instead, concentrate on the things that will impact your daily life — how the home flows and functions, whether the home needs expensive repairs or updates, or buy all new furniture to make it work.
When you view homes for sale that are staged, ask yourself the following questions:
Does the home look too “decorated?” A sure sign a home has been professionally staged if everything in the home has a generic furniture store look all from the same manufacturer or era. If you see no signs of wear, or stickers under vases and glassware, then the home has been dressed to impress. That kind of perfection isn’t achievable for most people, so don’t look at the décor, look at the bones of the home.
Does the staging make sense? Would you really put your own furniture as close to the fireplace or as far from the window? An attractive but odd arrangement is a tipoff that the room is either not well designed or that a problem is being minimized. For example, a heavy chair may be used to discourage buyers from lifting the area rug.
Is the staging hiding a repair that needs to be made? Bathrooms and kitchens are the most expensive rooms to repair and update. Move the bottle of bubble bath and look behind the shower curtain. Is the caulk fresh? Is the porcelain tub or sink stained? Is the finish worn off of the fixtures? Look under the sink for water stains.
Is the staging overdone? Candles burning in every room or tons of air freshener may be masking pet odors. Heavy drapes may cover ugly views. Go ahead and open them up and look outside.
Is the furniture proportionate to the rooms? Small-scale furnishings can disguise rooms that are too small, so go ahead and sit down. If your knees are under your chin, the room may be too small for your purposes. Furniture that’s massive can mean a room is going to be difficult or very expensive to decorate.
If you like the home well enough for another viewing and to make an offer, ask the seller to leave off the air freshener and to move that heavy chair aside. Take measurements and make sure your things will fit. Get the home inspected, so you know what you’re really buying.