Getting Ready to Sell Your House? Avoid These Common Staging Mistakes

When it comes to selling your house, it’s crucial to stop thinking of it as your home and start staging it so potential buyers can envision their lives there. Angel Booth, owner of Vignettes Home Staging in Richmond, Virginia, emphasizes, “The whole concept is marketing. We’re trying to tell that story of how the potential buyer could live in that space.”

Staging can range from affordable DIY decluttering and deep cleaning to hiring a professional like Booth, who can provide redecorating tips and arrange for rented furniture and accessories worthy of HGTV. According to a 2023 report by the National Association of Realtors, 44% of seller’s agents say staging had some effect on increasing a house’s sales price.

“Staging is really [like] getting dressed up for family pictures,” says Livi Folk, owner of Honey Bee Staging and Design in Ogden, Utah. “We don’t live that way every day. It’s a once-a-year-maybe thing. You just want it to look its absolute best.”

Of course, it can be challenging to view your home with a neutral eye and market knowledge of a real estate expert. Here are 10 mistakes to avoid based on advice from professional stagers and real estate agents around the country:

1. Don’t Ignore Buyer Demographics

It’s important to think about how buyers will want to use the space. For example, while you might use the dining room table as a home office, young families might envision it as a place to enjoy meals together. “They visualize the space as dining space where they can enjoy a meal with each other,” Booth says.

2. Avoid Stepping Outside the Local Aesthetic

Different regions call for different staging styles, says Danielle Hayward, a former stager now selling real estate on Cape Cod. Buyers on Cape Cod, for example, embrace a coastal lifestyle, with marine or nautical themes, not a log cabin look. “Our staging on Cape Cod is going to look different than staging out west in the mountains,” she says. Hayward suggests scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest for trend ideas.

3. Don’t Leave Big Projects to the Last Minute

Give yourself a few months to finish any long-standing DIY projects or bigger makeovers that could impact the sales price. Matt Winzenried, a broker and co-owner of Realty Executives in Madison, Wisconsin, advises, “Maybe there’s a half bath in the basement that just isn’t finished. Let’s finish that project or finish a basement as a whole.”

4. Stop Using the Garage as a Dump Zone

Hayward likes to quote Jerry Seinfeld: nothing ever comes back into the house from the garage. Take action on items you’ve been meaning to get rid of but moved to the garage instead. “A clean garage will tell you a lot about how the home has been maintained,” she says.

5. Forgo the Family Photos

Most experts recommend removing family photos to create a neutral space. “We don’t want to profile religiously, politically, or personally,” Folk says. “If you’ve got a cute gallery wall, maybe just take the photos out and replace them with some cool nature prints or abstract designs. We’ve even used wallpaper samples in frames.”

6. Don’t Be Cheap with the Thermostat

Ensure that would-be homebuyers are comfortable. If the temperature is low and buyers are shivering, it takes the enjoyment out of showings. Winzenried notes, “In Wisconsin, if it’s 5 degrees outside and 55 degrees inside, it’s not a welcoming environment.”

By avoiding these common mistakes and focusing on staging your home effectively, you can create an inviting atmosphere that allows potential buyers to see themselves living there, ultimately helping to sell your house faster and possibly at a higher price.

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