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I’ve been an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent (EBA) since 1996. During this time, I’ve evaluated thousands of homes with my Buyer clients. I’m constantly amazed at some of the stupid staging techniques that I’ve seen. When done correctly, I think there is place for subtle home staging techniques. But, I think 90% of home staging techniques creates a fake, phony home and is more of a distraction. As an EBA that just represents home buyers, I’m constantly focused on home staging tricks that might be trying to hide a problem with a home such as, fresh-baked cookies or popcorn to hide mildew or moisture smells.
Here is the Top 10 list of “Stupid Home Staging Tricks”:
10. Playing mood music. Playing music to set the atmosphere in a home is not that ridiculous. This is why mood music comes in at #10. It is a little distracting when you are viewing a “blue-collar” home with “Mozart’s Symphony No. 16 in C Major” playing in every room. Many Sellers think playing music will create a relaxing and peaceful environment in their home. But, many times the music is just distracting the potential buyer from the home.
9. Too many lit candles. A few candles are nice but don’t overdo it. I’ve evaluated many homes where the Seller will have 5-6 lit candles in almost every room. Fire Marshall Bill would say, “Let me show you something!” This many lit candles are ridiculous, if not to say a fire hazard.
8. Plastic anything! Plastic anything is a big “no-no”. You don’t want to stage your home with plastic cookies, cake, flowers, beverage, fruit, etc. Using plastic props to stage your home is probably the most overused staging techniques. New build model homes are the worst offenders of plastic prop staging. Even Pamela Anderson would be embarrassed by the amount of plastic used in some model homes.
7. What’s up with this diagonal crap? A Professional stager will state that placing furniture on a diagonal, especially beds and couches is supposed to make a room seem bigger. I think the theory of “diagonal staging” is debatable. Even when it is done correctly, I really don’t think it makes the room bigger. The first thing that I notice when I see a diagonal bed is how odd and fake this looks. No one lives with their bed or couch on a diagonal. I’ve had numerous Buyer clients ask me “What’s up with this diagonal furniture stuff?”
6. Where Art Thou? Hanging artwork on walls pose many different problems. A big, fancy piece of artwork in a room will distract buyers from everything else in the room. This is especially a problem if there are no other pictures, family photos or other artwork on the walls. Incorrect artwork placement just screams fake and phony. Another artwork problem is “theming” (I thought I was making up a new word but this word actually does exist) of the rooms. Every room in the house has one single recurrent artwork/picture theme (ocean, barn, flowers, forest/landscaping, etc.)
5. Full blown table place settings! Dining room tables or island counters set up to look like a 5 star Michelin restaurant. Silk table mats, fancy silverware, napkins stuffed into glasses or napkins with rings, etc. is too over the top! If your dining room table would make the Queen of England proud then it is probably not appropriate and looks fake.
4. Ribbon Envy! Avoid decorating your home with any ribbons or cords. Tying ribbons around your towels on towel racks, decorative robes on curtain rods/drapes and shower curtains with big, huge ropes are all laughable. No one wants to spend extra 10 minutes to take a shower by untying and tying shower curtain cords or tie backs. You don’t live in King Henry’s castle.
3. Cookbook. The open cookbook staged on a stand in the kitchen. This is not your mother’s Home Journal magazine from the 50’s. Just as hilarious is the copies of wine or cigar connoisseur magazines right beside the cookbook on a stand.
2. Breakfast tray. The breakfast tray on the bed with tumbled wine glasses. Is the Seller thinking, “I had caviar and crumpets for breakfast this morning and I didn’t have time to put my breakfast tray away before showing my home.” I’ve also never understood the staging of turned over glasses. Some houses would even have plastic liquid coming out of the glass to resemble spilled milk or wine. Why are these items in a stage home? What’s next a whoopee cushion in a chair?
1. Rose petals. The #1 most stupid and outrageous staging technique that I’ve ever seen is rose petals everywhere in the filled bathroom tub along candles, wine bottles and glasses. Luckily, we’ve only seen this staging technique once, but it was enough to easily make it number one on the list. The house we viewed was actually a nice home with a great, updated kitchen and big back yard. The house had everything my Buyer was looking for in a new home. But, the only thing the Buyer ended up remembering was the crazy use of rose petals in the bathtub.
Home buyers need to be careful in our market. When evaluating homes don’t be too distracted by tacky home staging techniques. Obviously, I’m not a big fan of overblown home staging of homes. My definition of home staging is fairly basic. I think every Seller should remove clutter, clean their home, make all beds and pick up dirty underwear. A Seller that tries to hide problems or defects in their home via home staging is a serious problem. I addressed this issue in a previous blog post: Problems With Staging Homes!
Good luck out there! I hope this information is helpful.
Please feel free to contact me if you need help or have questions
Representing People, NOT Property!
Staging homes is really “storming” the real estate industry. In the past few years, staging homes has become an increasingly growing “cottage” industry within the real estate market. In 2007, The National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (NAEBA) surveyed their brokers & agents and found that 82% of the respondents stated that buyers were likely to get distracted from important issues when viewing a staged home. In addition, 51% of the respondents noted that staged homes often cover up major defects and structural damage. NAEBA is a small, international, professional trade organization that works to represent the best interests of the real estate buyer. A recent article by columnist Blanche Evans with Realty Times ATTACKED NAEBA’s position on home staging. Blanche’s article is one of the most biased pieces of journalism that I’ve ever read! In Blanche’s article she states that “NAEBA is a spoilsport when it comes to staging homes” and NAEBA’s position on staging is SILLY and can possibly do serious damage” Blanche’s article continues the trend of “old school”, traditional real estate brokers, insiders, agents, etc. that just don’t get it. Blanche’s article is just preposterous!!!
OK, let’s try and help all the “confused” Blanche’s in the world. First of all, Blanche is correct that a home-buyer’s decision (right or wrong) to purchase a home is always going to be based on three factors: emotional, practical and financial. A buyer agent’s responsibility is to properly advise their clients not to rely too heavily on the emotional aspect of buying a home. As buyer agent’s, we believe our home-buyers decision process should be ranked: financial, practical and then emotional. The sole intention of staging a home is to get the buyer emotionally attached to a home. So, why attack the “spoilsports” at NAEBA?
There is nothing wrong with staging homes. Right now, staging homes is “red hot”. In the past, staging homes was limited more to higher end properties. Not anymore, sellers can spend a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars to stage their homes. Done the right way, staging a home is another excellent way for the seller to market their home. But, I have no doubt, that the increased emphasis and “frenzy” on more elaborate ways to stage homes will definitely increase abuse and deception by the sellers. Sellers will be more likely to try to hide defects in their home through staging options. For example:
It is OK to add small furniture to make rooms appear bigger, but NOT OK to position furniture to hide holes in the walls or termite damage.
It is OK to play soothing, pleasant music as long as you are not trying to hide, “clangy” plumbing pipes.
It is OK to have cookies baking and pleasant smells as long as you are not trying to hide dingy mildew/mold smells.
It is OK to add a nice, expensive rug as long as you are not hiding a stain in the carpet or damaged wood flooring.
All the examples above are based on a seller NOT disclosing these issues or problems in a state required disclosure form (if applicable). Most states require sellers to provide a disclosure form to potential buyers.
It is a buyer’s agent responsibility to protect their clients by uncovering issues or problems that are listed above in the examples. I do not want to diminish the responsibilities and duties of the buyer’s agent. But as staging becomes more prevalent then deception by sellers is going to occur no matter who the buyers have protecting them.
I can GUARANTEE you that the increased emphasis on more complex and elaborate home staging will increase the number of sellers trying to hide major issues that they should have disclosed (ethically and legally).
”So, be careful out there” – Sgt. Phil Esterhaus, Hill Street Blues
Now let’s end this post on a lighter note. The all time FUNNIEST home staging mistake that our office has seen was when a seller left a ”porn” tape on a bookshelf right below their framed picture of the Ten Commandments. No joke, this funny staging “faux pas” did actually occur with one of our agents and their buyer client. Post a comment to this blog post, if you have a funny or deceptive staging story that you would like to share.