7 Home Staging Mistakes Experts See Again and Again

published Aug 29, 2019
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There are a few situations when first impressions are everything: Dates, job interviews, and, of course, selling a home. While you may think your home can pretty much speak for itself, how do you know it’s not saying something potentially polarizing? Though your primping and preening may be in good faith and good taste, real estate agents warn that it could have a less than desired effect on visitors: It could be coming off needy, totally aloof, or completely incompatible with the hopes and dreams of a potential buyer. In real estate, the best home is usually a lawfully good one that allows people to project their own domestic fantasies on it.

So how do you effectively do that? I asked home staging specialists for the most common mistakes homeowners make when DIY-staging their own place. Here are the seven things they said:

Forgetting to have your rooms serve a function

“While a homeowner may need to use the dining room for a home office or a playroom, most buyers will want to see themselves having dinner in the space. So the furnishings should not only be tidy and clean, but should also reflect the function of the room.” —Kati Baker, a luxury home staging specialist at Downtown Realty Company in Chicago. 

Neglecting to put away personal items

“Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes of DIY home staging is leaving too many personal items out. This is the hardest part of staging for a homeowner because many of those items, such as photographs and knick-knacks, have meaning and provide comfort. However, the goal of staging is to make the home a blank canvas for the buyer to design, so all of those things that make the home ‘yours’ should be removed. For example, we advise replacing walls of photographs with a mirror, which will reflect light and make the room appear bigger.” —Baker 

Packing in your closets 

“People often leave closets stuffed to the gills with clothing and other items and that isn’t smart. Storage is a top priority for potential buyers, so to not highlight all of the storage spaces and closets in your home to their best advantage is a mistake. Even if your home has plenty of storage, overstuffed closets will make it seem like storage is limited.” —Annie Draddy, a professional organizer and co-founder of Henry & Higby in New York City

Keeping your surfaces cluttered

“Clear surfaces are important because potential homebuyers want to picture themselves living in the space and too much clutter will distract them from that vision and may even dissuade them from really considering your home for their future.” —Draddy  

Refusing to freshen the air

“Often, the first thing potential buyers will notice about a home is the way it smells when they walk in the door. And the most common (and sometimes even more off-putting) response from the homeowner is to rely on an equally strong-smelling candle or air freshener to cover up an unwanted odor. The reality is that the buyer can often smell both the unwanted odor and the over-powering candle, and may not even give the home a first-look because of it. We recommend focusing on removing odiferous items from the kitchen and bath (strong spices, foods, toiletries) and replacing them with warm and inviting alternatives.” —Baker

Overfilling with oversized furniture

“The biggest mistake we see executed by the nonprofessional stager, do-it-yourself home owner or real estate agent is the use of furniture that is too large or the wrong scale for the space. Furniture should never cannibalize a room. The golden rule of staging is to present a space in its best light in accordance to its layout and square footage.” —Brian Garcia, a designer at D&G Interiors and Design in Hoboken, New Jersey

Opting for a wacky wall color

“Bold colors, especially on walls or ceilings, can be off-putting and clash with a potential buyer’s furnishings. I’ve had homeowners tell me that they didn’t feel it was necessary to paint the walls upfront because the buyer should choose what color to paint the walls after the purchase. The problem with that rationale is that buyers will walk away because they either do not want to spend the time and money to paint or cannot envision the space with a pleasing palette. So we advise adding a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color before listing the home on the market.” —Baker

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