Staging Primer: Eliminate Buyers’ Top 5 Turn-Offs

The sign that every REALTOR, seller and even buyer wants to see is a SOLD sign in the front yard. In addition to the overall strategy for listing a property for the most expedient sale at the highest price, staging should be a tactic that is part of the sales formula at the beginning of the process, even before photography. Here are some statistics to substantiate the business case for staging:

  • 77% of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.
  • One-third of buyer’s agents said that staging a home increased the dollar value offered between one and five percent compared to other similar homes on the market that are not staged.
  • Shorter time on the market (and most often without price adjustments).
  • Twenty-one percent of respondents stated that staging a home increased the dollar value of the home between six and 10 percent.

What is Staging?

Staging is visual communication. It uses design as an element in the business strategy to showcase a property’s best features and appeal to the largest audience within its target buyer profile. Since most real estate searches begin online, people will dedicate a mere five to seven seconds to make the decision to invest their time looking at a listing. If your listing is unpolished then they will search for one that is more visually gratifying.

Staging applies to inhabited homes, model homes/condos, uninhabited homes, vacation rentals and new builds. If you want it sold or rented consistently, invest the time to make it as commanding and competitive as possible.

Here are the top five common distractions to avoid as you professionally prepare your listings to garner greater yields:

1.Undefined/Disorganized/Cluttered

Most people claim to lack imagination and desire direction. When homes have undefined, disorganized and cluttered spaces, people become confused and overwhelmed. They walk out as soon as they walk in. It behooves you to guide people through the process of envisioning themselves in the home that you are selling by following this and the subsequent four tips. Define each room for function and bring in style through furniture and decor.  This is critical when a listing has odd shaped rooms such as a large rectangular great rooms. Remove clutter so people can see the size and configurations of room. Keep in mind that what looks good to the human eye can look like clutter through a camera lens.

Editing disorganized or cluttered spaces is probably the most overlooked and simplistic way to prepare a listing of any price for sale prior to the photography session.

2.Outdated Space

Time waits for no one and today’s discerning buyers will resist paying market rates for a home that has not had its essential, aesthetic features updated. These include kitchens, cabinets, flooring, lighting, paint and tile.

Cabinets and walls can easily be painted to bring them in line with today’s preferred neutral color palette. My suggestion is to have cabinets painted by a professional. Walls, especially small areas, can easily be updated by the homeowner. Home improvement stores sell rejected paints for a fraction of the regular price. You might find the ideal color to update a room on a paint return rack.

Tile and lighting are fairly easy to update and have stylish options and broad ranges of pricing. Flooring changes such as tile to wood (the new porcelain and laminate options are great) tend to yield a high ROI. If rooms with carpet are in worn shape, replace the carpet to achieve a sufficient ROI. If the flooring updating is too expansive, consider offering an allowance.

Since most people watch home design networks (which do not always offer accurate updating costs and time frames), they typically have a larger financial number and longer timeline looming in their minds than actual figures and schedules. Miseducation or the absence of education in these areas does not bode well for the seller. If the seller completes some of the easier and inexpensive updates in the right color, style, shape and quality, they tend to recoup the investment. If the seller has costly updates, some agents choose to provide provide potential buyers with examples and quotes of key updates along with an allowance. This approach usually works well for both parties since most buyers prefer to personalize larger areas that need revamping. In most markets, unless the property is a mid-century modern marvel, expect any offers to reflect a lack of updating.

3. Extreme Design

You never know what is behind closed doors. Extreme design includes highly personalized or odd paint colors and patterns, wallpaper, carpet, ornate or bizarre décor and highly customized furniture. If you have any of these situations, it is in everyone’s best interest to neutralize a space that appeals to the widest range of potential buyers.

4. Too Personalized

The goal of staging is to prepare the house for sale so that the new owner can envision themselves living in the property with their furniture, décor, lighting, art, etc. This means that all personal photographs, hobby trinkets, trophies, religious symbols of any faith and collectibles need to be removed prior to the listing photography. If your client still inhabits the space with all of their possessions, very few people will have the imagination to mentally remove their items to visualize their own. This basic rule is constantly overlooked by even veteran professionals. When you depersonalize a property, you allow the buyer to create an emotional connection with the property. People buy from emotion and logically legitimize their choices later. In today’s society, removing personal photographs is a smart way to offer the seller’s family added protection.

5. Odors

Are you familiar with the Febreze commercial where odors are exaggerated through oversized props or animals? Here is an example of their nose-blind campaign:

We are all nose blind to our personal body, pet, smoke or food odors. It is important to alert clients to existing odor issues in order to create a positive first impression for all showings and open houses. Some remedies include hiring a professional firm to remove smoke or some strong pet odors.  Other scents can be eliminated through airing out a home, spraying fresheners, adding plug ins and even burning candles. Surveys show that vanilla is the most neutral and attractive scent for the vast majority of people. I have recommended clients add soft scents to the home during showings and open houses. The power of appealing to people’s emotions through smell is overlooked 99 percent of the time. Of course, my instruction is for gentle scents, not overwhelming perfumes or heavily fragranced fresheners that can trigger people’s allergies and cause negative responses.

Staging can directly influence pricing and time on the market. If a property sits too long, it might be a matter of editing its contents and reconfiguring the space to make it appear larger. If the property is empty, incorporating furniture, decor and art to add style and ignite people’s imaginations provides big rewards. In most cases where a home is in great condition, a price drop is unnecessary when a few key rooms are staged or revamped. Follow these tips mixed with a strong marketing plan and your next move is to add the sold sign to the top of your post in your seller’s yard.

~Yvette Craddock

Yvette Craddock is the founder of Yvette Craddock Designs a creative firm that specializes in distinctive interior design, immersive, luxury lifestyle experiences and cultured culinary affairs. Sign up for her newsletter and follow her design tips and inspiration posts on social media.

Statistics cited from National Association of REALTORS (2017).

NOTE: Yvette Craddock is not a licensed real estate agent. Real estate laws can change. Any suggestions that conflict with any current local laws should be avoided.

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