Staging Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home

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With such a competitive housing market, staging is a critical step in the home selling process. Not only does it make your home stand out in listing photos, but it also helps it appeal to a wide range of potential buyers. A well-staged home will mask years of wear and tear, and can help it sell faster and for more money.

However, the simplest mistakes can be deal-breaking. Which is why we asked home staging and design experts to share some of the biggest staging mistakes they’ve encountered that can turn potential buyers off.

1. Starting without a plan

One of the biggest mistakes homeowners can make is not working with a professional stager to create a plan for success when preparing their homes for sale. Stagers look at the home in a holistic way and address potential items that would deter a buyer from moving forward.

– Amy Parker, Parker House Designs

2. Listing a home before it’s ready

Today’s buyers are looking for homes that have been well cared for and are move-in ready.  Listing a home before it is ready is a mistake that will result in low buyer traffic and lower-than-list-price offers.

– Kimberly Bowlin, Southern Allure Staging & Design

Three things sell a home: location, price, and condition. You, as the seller, are in total control of the condition. Therefore, taking the time to do the tasks advised by your real estate agent or home stager will pay off in the end.

– Mikaela Rios, Imagine Gurus

3. Not taking professional photos

As important as it is to show your staged home to visiting prospective buyers, it is equally important that the pictures of your staged home are professionally shot and displayed on listing websites.

– Nidhika Singh, Impressive Staging

4. Neglecting simple home improvements

Areas that require attention and are inexpensive to fix are worth going the extra mile to take care of. It allows for clearer professional images and shows potential buyers that care was given to the home.

– Dominique Calhoun, Remix Living Interior Design Firm

A common and easily-remedied home staging mistake is to not update the wall/trim/cabinet paint colors and light fixtures. Fresh paint and light fixtures take decades off the look of a house and add so much more value than cost.

– Cindy Gasior, Transitions Staging

5. Making major renovations

While making simple home improvements will provide a great return, all-out renovations with floor plan changes and high-end finishes will likely not be a wise investment.

– Catherine Heleniak, Catherine Heleniak Home Staging

6. Not removing or replacing dated décor

Items like wallpaper borders, Corian countertops, sponged painted walls, 1980’s swag draperies, dated light fixtures, and furniture from decades ago won’t do anything to attract buyers. Instead, remove the dated wallpaper and border. Add a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color. Remove dated window treatments and replace them with solid white or gray drapery panels. Update light fixtures. Upgrade countertops to quartz if possible, and if you have to have the dated furniture in the room,  cover it with a neutral slipcover.

– Donna Allen, Dramatix Decor

7. Hanging pictures too high or too low

The ideal height of art is 60 inches from the center of the picture to the floor. If the art is hanging over a furniture piece, like a headboard, the items may hang a few inches higher, but 60 inches is the magic number.

– Jana Uselton, Model My HomeΩ

8. Using non-neutral colors

Not neutralizing the color palette in a home will cause buyers to hesitate to commit to a purchase. Today’s buying demographic does not want to make any changes after moving in.

– Trish Kim, Staged Interior

9. Assuming cleaning is the same as staging

Many sellers think that cleaning and doing a little organizing is the same as staging. It is not. Staging is merchandising a home to appeal to potential buyers. You focus on highlighting the home’s features and deemphasizing the home’s flaws. You create emotional connection points throughout the home to give the buyer a glimpse of what their life could be like if they were to purchase your home.

– Erin Brundage and Allison Sclavakis, Walker Hill Designs

10. Not giving your home a lived-in feel

Having a polished and clean look is important, however, giving a space that lived-in look is critical as well. Karate chop the throw pillows, toss the throw, and hang a brimmed hat on the entry hooks to give that desired organic feel buyers crave.

– Jenny Ruhland, HomeSpun Staging and Design

11. Not knowing your target audience

One of the biggest mistakes is not editing, preparing, or staging their homes properly to attract the target buyer in their area. Dated furnishings, wallpaper, dark paint colors, and older wall-to-wall carpets and cabinetry will not entice a buyer to come visit the home.

– Linda Leyble, A Beautiful Staged Home

12. Pushing furniture against the walls

Many people push their furniture against the walls to make the room look bigger. However, this backfires and actually makes rooms look smaller. One of the first things we do at every stage is push the living room seating arrangement inward to the center of the living room, and we love to float desks in the center of rooms to make them spacious.

– Suzette Gebhardt, Colorado Staging + Design

Pull the furniture off the walls to create a conversation area.  It is important for the space you are selling to be understood.  Confusing furniture placement is a turn-off to buyers.

– Jill Sykes, Go Room by Room

13. Forgetting about storage spaces

Often homeowners only straighten out closets and cabinets, when they should remove half of the stuff/clutter and then organize. Buyers will absolutely check these storage spaces.

– Barbara Quitoni, Creatively Transformed

14. Going too “textbook”

Often we find stagers using indistinguishable furniture and accessories on every listing; a practice we know to be ineffective. The “cookie-cutter” approach does not attract potential buyers and is a big mistake if you want to add value to your property or sell it quickly.

– Marta Burlinska, Polka Dot Interiors

One of the biggest mistakes we see people make is staging their space too plainly. You want your home clean and simple, but not boring. There’s a balance.

– Christy McCarthy, Interiors Revitalized

15. Not creating a space buyers can visualize themselves in

When staging a home you have to make sure that you create a space potential homebuyers can visualize themselves in. Don’t leave too many personal photographs or specific items that are religious, or age-specific. This can alienate potential buyers.

– Lucila Diaz, Harmony Sense Interiors

16. Decorating with bold statements

A major mistake we’ve seen is someone showing a bright red bedroom with built-in black Formica furniture, and believing that everyone will love it as much as they do.

– Michelle Moss, Florida Coast Staging Company

17. Underestimating the importance of curb appeal

The interior staging work is critical, but nothing on the inside matters if you can’t you grab their attention at the curb. Don’t overlook creating an attractive, exterior vignette setting as part of the overall staging process to entice potential buyers inside.

– Julie Brown, Flair Style Co.

18. Using furniture that isn’t the right size

You need to factor in scale and proportion of furniture when selling your home.

– Nicole Schenk, Simple Elements

If the furniture is too big, a space will feel cramped and small. Alternatively if it’s too small, you may leave more questions for buyers than answers on how to properly live in the space.

– Kimberly Hackett, KLH Home Staging

If the furniture is too small or too large, it will actually highlight the odd features of the home – such as a narrow room or a not ideal layout.

– Magda Grandin, Tactic Staging

19. Forgetting to check under the bed

There was this time I had given a great consultation and the sellers had a laundry list of items to take care of in a weeks’ time. They listed their home and were able to do everything I recommended. I was super excited, but when I looked at the MLS photos, I noticed they had stuffed everything under the bed and it was visible! Not checking under the bed can really affect how strong your home presents for its best-intended buyer.

– Martha Moore, Impeccable Details Staging & Redesign

20. Displaying polarizing items

When you decide to sell your home, it is no longer yours and should be staged to attract as many potential buyers as possible. Paint your purple walls a nice neutral, remove your taxidermy animals, and hide your grandmother’s ashes somewhere that no one can find them.

– Katherine Maund, Copeland + Co

21. Using air fresheners or candles

Some sellers think that placing air fresheners throughout their home will make it more desirable.  That is far from the truth. It makes potential buyers think that you are masking a bigger problem. The best scent is simply fresh air. Instead, open windows and doors before any showings.

– Ashley Schiff, AJ Designs Staging

Using scented plug-ins or candles can be a big mistake. Using chemical fragrances to mask smells will turn buyers off and trigger reactions for those who are perfume/fragrance sensitive.

– Rosalind Tantalo, Simply Home Downsizing

22. Thinking staging isn’t worth it

Staging is actually one of the best short-term investments a seller can make. Statistics show that an investment of 1-3% of the listing price can increase the final price by up to 8-10% – usually in just a few months. Not staging is leaving money on the table.

– Lisa Vasey, Staged Today, SOLD Tomorrow!

23. Not cleaning and decluttering

Before you even begin to put a staging plan together, a home needs to look, feel and smell clean. Any staging on top of that will make a home sparkle.

– Leah Jones, LJ Interiors

24. Ignoring the competition

Ask your realtors to show you competitive listings in your local areas and see which are staged and show exceptionally well so that that you know what you’re up against.  Even in a hot market, staging your home properly to accentuate the positives and minimize its imperfections is key to helping you achieve top dollar for what is likely your greatest financial investment.

– Nina Doiron, iStage & Organize

25. Forgetting that less is more

Less is more, always! We recommend keeping it simple and clean, allowing potential buyers to envision themselves in the space. The furniture and decor should never compete with the room, and its features, for attention.

– Victoria Moronta, Adorn Home Staging

Staging with too many decorations is one of the biggest mistakes a stager could make. We aim to show and enhance the space, not distract buyers with too much stuff.

– Parichehr Kimiaee, Belle Home Staging

26. Not staging the master bedroom

One of the most important spaces to a buyer is the master bedroom and even more so if it is small. They want to see how the room will function and this room can make or break an offer. We recommend staging any master to showcase a sleeping and a sitting area (even if just one small chair) as buyers want to feel they have a “retreat” space.

– Kim Kapellusch, The Academy of Home Staging & Design

27. Staging with random furniture

When it comes to choosing the right furniture for each space, it is important to be selective to create a consistent look. While it may be tempting to borrow a coffee table from your mom, and a set of side tables from a friend, these items can appear out of place and will often create a distracting and disconnected look and feel.

– Shauna Lynn Simon, Beyond The Stage Homes

The number one mistake made in an empty home is filling the space with items the seller thinks it needs vs. designing the space to showcase its optimal potential.

– Molly Hilton, Design To Impress

 28. Forgetting about lighting

Even if replacing outdated light fixtures is not in the budget, make sure to replace your old light bulbs with clean bright bulbs. We recommend LED bulbs with the color temperature 3000K as it is a bit less yellow and appears crisp and clean. Stay away from anything marked “daylight” or higher than 3500K as the light will appear too blue and remind buyers of sitting in a dentist chair.

– Ines Cortes, Envision Redesign

29. Overdoing it

Staging a house is a psychological game and you want to elicit buyers’ positive emotions. Putting too much color, drama, and decoration elements might actually create undesired emotions – buyers might think you are trying to show off and pushing too hard for the cash. Keep it tasteful, yet simple, because true elegance is understated.

– Ola Mochol, Scena Staging

The trick is making a home feel lived in without actually being lived in. Staging should boost your home, not overload buyers with design, decor, and color right when they walk in the door. Staging a home to sell is the art of designing a “model home” where most people can see their family grow.

– Tiffany White, MidCity Decor

30. Not painting

People often overlook the importance of adding a fresh coat of paint when selling their homes. Neutral colors can help in making smaller spaces appear larger.

– Donna Ragona, Suite Design Staging & Decor

If you have to leave dated features in the home, be sure to paint them. Not wanting to paint old-fashioned wood paneling, window frames, and oak kitchen cabinets is a big mistake. These immediately reveal the age of the property.

– Birgit Anich, BA Staging & Interiors

31. Only staging or updating a few areas of the home

Buyers will mentally compare newly refreshed areas to untouched, dated spaces if you only stage a few rooms. This could potentially open the door for doubt and negotiations, as minds start to ponder the age/wear and tear of the home’s mechanicals.

– Stephanie Katz, NJ Home Decorating & Staging

32. Too little or too much color

Too much color can distract buyers from seeing themselves in the space, while too little color can cause a home to lose its character.  Neutral wall tones with eye-catching accent pieces (artwork, furniture, accessories) photograph and present much better than heavily saturated colors everywhere the eye goes.

– Mitchell Bage, Maison de Campagne

33. Cheapening with décor

It’s vital to avoid using furniture and decorations that cheapen the setting. The wrong style of furniture or adding too much décor can often devalue the features you want to highlight, while also making the staging area too cluttered.

– Viveka and Johanna, The Nordic Design Co.

34. Using props that say “this house is staged”

Trays on beds, place settings on tables, and decor in closets – people don’t live like this. In my humble opinion, this over-the-top staging does more harm than good because it is distracting and can leave the buyer with a bad taste of fakeness.

– Jennifer Wenndt, Creatively Staged

 35. Area rugs that are too small

Using a larger rug makes a room look larger. Use an 8×10 for a family room to anchor a sofa, 2 chairs and cocktail table, not a 5×7.

– Sandra Hambley, Signature Design Interiors

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