5 Home Staging No-Nos to Avoid At All Costs

published Dec 16, 2020
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living room decorated with grey sofa, armchair, retro commode and posters on the wall
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When you’re putting your home on the market, you want it to sell as quickly as possible for as much as possible, right? One of the easiest ways to accomplish that goal is to stage your home, making it so inviting that it’s irresistible to buyers. 

“You want potential buyers to be able to envision themselves living in the home, so make it easier by giving them a beautiful canvas,” advises David Charette, principal and interior designer at Britto Charette in Miami.

However, some home staging ideas can actually turn off buyers, and should be avoided. Here are some pitfalls to watch out for.

Disregarding scale

Disregarding scale can ruin the best home staging efforts. “Rugs that are too small for the room and for the furnishings look cheap in my opinion,” says Anne Carr, interior designer and stager at Anne Carr Design in Los Angeles. “The same goes for sofas that are too small for the space—it sometimes looks as if the stager only had one size sofa to use.”

On the other hand, some home staging mistakes go in the opposite direction. “Don’t confuse or obscure the purpose or use of a room,” warms Bill Golden, an independent real estate agent with Re/Max Around Atlanta Realty. “Potential buyers need to be able to walk away with a clear impression of the size of rooms, the possible uses of the room, and an idea of the flow of rooms.” Overcrowding the rooms, he explains, makes it hard to see these things.

Skimping on heat and lights

I get it. You don’t want to turn on every light in the house and leave the HVAC blasting when no one is there. But it’s a mistake to skimp on lighting and heat when staging your home.

“When it is more likely to be dark and cold, it’s essential that lights are turned on, window blinds and curtains are open, and the temperature is at a comfortable level,” advises Golden. 

He says buyers don’t like walking into dark spaces, and will react much more positively when the home is light and bright. “And if the home is too hot or too cold, buyers will tend to run through it quickly and not want to stay, which is not what you want from a showing,” Golden explains.

Speaking of lights, Justin Riordan, interior designer, architect and founder of home staging company Spade and Archer Design Agency, recommends 3000K warm white light bulbs. “It is so tempting to buy the ‘daylight’ bulbs at 5000K, but they’re too blue for interior spaces,” he says.

Credit: emmaduckworth/Getty Images

Failing to sniff out strong smells

A sense of smell varies from person to person, but when a buyer picks up a bad odor, they won’t want to stay in your perfectly staged home. “Give your home the sniff test,” recommends Charette. In fact, he says you should ask a trusted friend or loved one to visit the home and tell you how it really smells. “Sometimes we become immune to the smell of pets, smoke, etc.” He recommends using a floral fragrance if you want to opt for candles—his team uses Diptyque in their studio and their own homes.

Forgetting to organize closets

Most people hide all of their junk in their closets. But when staging your home, you need to find new hiding spots. “The first thing buyers will open when they walk in your home is the foyer closet, so don’t use it for your vacuum or other storage,” warns Jena Tack, a professional home stager at Kris Lindahl Real Estate in Blaine, Minn. Instead, she says you need to neatly store jackets and shoes in it.

Your bedroom closets are even more important. “Master bedroom walk-in closets are photographed, and one easy way to make the closet look orderly is to have matching hangers to eliminate the chaos,” she says.

Using too much color

If purples and oranges are your favorite colors, it’s important to remember that you’re not selling the home to yourself. “These colors should be replaced with neutral colors,” according to M​inol Shamreen, certified home stager and interior stylist at Studio M Designs in Austin, Texas. “It doesn’t always have to be a white, tan or beige; light grays, muted greens and blues are great.”

These calming colors are especially important in your bedroom since you’re trying to create a tranquil environment. “For the bedrooms, make sure you have season-appropriate bedding in white or a neutral color, and then add throw pillows to your bed for pops of color,” Charette says.