I Asked ChatGPT to Stage My Home and a Real Stager Weighed In

published Oct 11, 2023
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Interior photography of a fresh white Hamptons style kitchen with a marble bench top, large window looking out onto a back garden
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I’ve been mildly fascinated with how I can use ChatGPT in my regular life, and I’ve been pretty impressed with some of the answers it’s given me. This summer, I asked for a week’s worth of kid-friendly lunches, a list of kid-friendly shows about Alaska and how to watch them (to prepare for our cruise), and a list of kid-friendly waterfall hikes where we could swim. In all three cases, ChatGPT pulled information together and presented it to me in a way that saved me so much time, energy, and decision fatigue. 

Since these helpful “encounters,” I’ve looked for other opportunities to use ChatGPT. Recently, I asked home stager Monica Collins for help rearranging my office, and the difference it made in the room has had such an impact on my use of the room. I began wondering what ChatGPT’s advice would be about home staging. So I asked. 

What I got back was objectively good advice. It was a blueprint for how to prepare any room or house for putting it on the market. The answer was broken down into different categories, with a small blurb about each category. To quickly summarize it all, the categories instructed me to: 

  1. Declutter
  2. Clean thoroughly
  3. Neutralize colors
  4. Perform repair and maintenance tasks
  5. Depersonalize the space
  6. Maximize natural light
  7. Arrange furniture to maximize flow
  8. Set the dining table
  9. Accessorize
  10. Organize closets and other storage spaces
  11. Add “small touches” like flowers 

I thought this advice was good, yes, but pretty basic. The list is a great starting point for someone who has no idea what’s involved in staging their home. But this isn’t where most people get stuck. The tricky part of home staging — and where most people find themselves at a loss — isn’t knowing what needs to be done, but having the expertise to know how to do it. What would a living, breathing home stager have to say about what ChatGPT missed? I decided to find out. 

I asked Seattle-based home stager and designer Shirin Sarikhani of Seattle Staged to Sell & Design to see what the robot missed. Here’s what she had to say:

In keeping with my own reaction that ChatGPT’s response was generic, Sarikhani bluntly pointed out that AI was missing all the emotional components of staging a home. Along these lines, she offers what she believes is the most important thing when it comes to home staging: “Get detached from your home,” she says. “I don’t care how beautiful that art is or how amazing your collection is. Get detached from your home.” According to Sarikhani, the homeowners detaching themselves from their space and their belongings is the first step of any effective home staging endeavor. 

Detachment is the prerequisite to other crucial aspects of home staging, including decluttering and defining spaces. Without some emotional distance, it’s nearly impossible to be objective and do the things you need to do to showcase your home to potential sellers. For instance, to display storage spaces like closets to maximum effect, Sarikhani has her clients remove at least 60 percent of their clothing. Likewise, she makes it a point to furnish and arrange rooms in the way that they would most likely be useful to potential buyers. For example, rather than keeping your spare bedroom furnished as a home office, it’s usually smarter to stage it as a bedroom. 

Unless the home has been staged to suggest a new setting for potential owners’ lives, the “emotional attachment is not made because they couldn’t see themselves in the home,” Sarikhani says. Detachment at the home staging phase of the selling process is what makes these kinds of changes possible. These staging techniques allow potential buyers to imagine themselves in the home and therefore — and this is key — form an emotional attachment to it. Creating this emotional attachment makes a significant difference in how quickly the home will sell and, often, for how much. 

I have to say, as much as I appreciate the help I’ve gotten from ChatGPT in other areas, I’m kind of glad (and even relieved) that AI missed getting to the heart of the matter in this case. The contrast between the heartfelt and tough-love advice from Sarikhani and the technically correct but merely surface-level tips from ChatGPT demonstrate that human beings are sometimes still the best option for getting the job done right.