The Trouble with Staging

We field many questions from Sellers about the value of staging, and also collect many comments from Buyers about their opinions of staged properties… The insight is worth passing along and ought to be heeded when it comes to preparing your property for the market.

Here’s the bottom line: Although staging can be a powerful tool to market and present a home for public viewing, it must be employed with care.  Staging can certainly impact a Buyer’s impression of your property…. But not always in a positive way.

There is a time and a place for professional staging.  It can be an excellent way to add some appeal to a property and help a prospective Buyer visualize how a space can be used.  However, it is vital to consider each unique circumstance to determine the extent of staging required, and how it may impact a desired outcome (usually achieving a successful sale!).  YES: decluttering space, removing excessive furniture, tidying every nook and cranny, considering placement and flow within a room – these are always important tasks to do prior to listing, without exception.  Calling in a professional to place designer furniture and décor throughout?  This is a whole other story.  Though valuable depending on price point and the audience or demographic considering a property, staging can be detrimental if executed poorly…. Here’s why:

Staging can be perceived as unrealistic:  an immaculate place setting for eight, a perfectly presented coffee table delightfully filled with precious and interesting items, or a master bedroom dressed with linens fit for a queen may not help a Buyer feel like your space can be used for ‘real life’.  Dressing a home too glamorously might prevent a Buyer from imagining their everyday chores and lifestyle from fitting into the same decked out property. A buyer should be able to relate to the home, understand its function, feel comfortable and easily able to envision themselves living in it.  If it’s too perfect, too ornate, or too overdone, a Buyer might feel like it is impossible to achieve ‘real life’ while living there and could disconnect emotionally from the prospect of making it their own.

Staging can be perceived as deceptive: Buyers are skeptical about what glitz and glitter a staged property might be trying to cover up.  What might be hidden by strategically placed furniture?  What might be used to distract a Buyer from noticing important details of the structure or finishes that would otherwise be more obvious? How has a stager established a space that is impossible to replicate in real life?  While touring a staged property with a Buyer a few seasons ago, we both commented on a cute bistro table set in a small but recently remodeled kitchen.  We quickly realized that this staged set-up was placed in the only corner remaining for a fridge.  Cold milk or a cute place to eat warm cereal?  You choose.  The staging implemented was not presenting the space as it would be required to be used, and was a major turn-off to my Buyer.  When utilizing staging, it should always follow the proper function of a property.

Staging may prevent a Buyer from relating to your space:  Completing depersonalizing your home could create a cold environment, without the warmth that our personal stories and memories can add.  Buyers are often interested in who makes a house a home.  It’s not uncommon for a family to be curious about what life happened between the four walls they might one day occupy.  If a family looks happy and comfortable in a home, a Buyer may envision themselves in the space more easily.  For this reason, clearing every family photo and completely neutralizing a space may not be necessary.  Doing so creates a sterile space that lacks familiarity.  A buyer isn’t touring a museum – and relatable life in the form of a few family photos could be a heart-warming addition to a prospective Buyer.  Of course, excessive photo walls, cluttered and frame-filled coffee tables, and racy boudoir photos should be removed… use common sense and moderation when choosing what might be appropriate and well-received by a discerning Buyer.  But don’t strip your home of all its personality – a ‘warm fuzzy’ family photo or two could help evoke a connection for a Buyer to your space.

The psychology of real estate is a consideration that has a huge impact on both Buyers and Sellers.  Perceptions, imaginations, impressions, and emotions should not be underestimated as you consider how to present your property for the market.  Of course, every circumstance is unique… and staging can be a highly effective tool to market a property well and optimize its presentation.  But be careful how you implement this strategy, and remain mindful of how your efforts will influence a Buyer’s attachment to your home.  Not sure where to begin?  Give us a call – we’d be honoured to walk you through the process of preparing your home to list.  A well-presented product will pay dividends.