Real Estate Mistakes: The Over-Staged House

The purpose of staging a home is to make it more attractive to prospective buyers. In theory I believe in staging, but I think that some sellers take it too far. If you’re in the market to sell your house, by all means, spruce it up- but don’t make “over-staging” mistakes. If you’re in the market to buy a house, be forewarned of the following ploys:

Over-staging Mistake Number 1: Scented Candles

The use of scented candles in staging is supposed to create a lovely aroma and a warm ambiance. In truth, there are a lot of reasons to be very careful about scented candles in a staged house.

The only time I ever light a scented candle in my house in when I cook sauerkraut or seafood. My purpose in lighting a candle is to cover up a foul odor, so I can’t help but think, “What kind of odor are the current homeowners trying to cover up?” It must be a pretty bad, and permanent, stench if they had to light candles knowing that they were having an open house. The only person I know who lights multiple scented candles on a regular basis is my cousin, and she has nine cats.

Although candlelight adds a nice ambiance, the little voice inside my head sees it differently. “Why all the candles? What’s up with the natural light in this house?” Are there enough sockets for lights? What about track or recessed lighting? How’s the electrical system in this house?” Overuse of candles really sends up some red flags for me.

If you’re trying to sell your house, don’t go overboard with the candles. If you’re looking to buy a house, beware of the magical allure of too many scented candles.

Over-staging Mistake Number 2: Lack of Furniture

Lack of furniture in staging is supposed to make the house look more spacious. This tactic can actually diminish interest in the house, rather than increase it.

Years ago a friend asked me to house-hunt with him, figuring that I would pick up on things that he wouldn’t. Boy, was he right! He thought that one particular house was impressive because it was so clean. (And it was clean.) But all I kept thinking was, “Where’s all the furniture?” As we were standing in the living room, he finally asked me what I thought . I had to tell him the truth. “Look, this isn’t a sofa, it’s a love seat. That chair is an upholstered dining room chair, and there’s no coffee table. Do you think your living room furniture will fit in this room?” A look of utter shock came over his face as he realized that the house had been staged (over-staged?) to make it appear much roomier than it actually was.

If you’re trying to sell your house, know that most buyers are hip to the lack of furniture trick. If you’re looking to buy a house, make sure that you’re not being duped by this staging technique. For example, it’s okay to ask what size the beds are. It’s even okay to bring a measuring tape and measure couches, tables, and china cabinets.

Over-staging Mistake Number 3: No Personal Touches

The idea of ridding the house of the current owner’s personality is very popular in staging. I will agree that to some extent the house should be “neutral”, but it also needs to have a sense of “home”. Even though buyers are looking at houses, they’re looking for a home.

If you know that this is not a model home, it should look like someone lives in it. If I don’t see a single photo of a loved one, I think that’s odd. It gives me an unsettled feeling. I’m not sure if ‘they’ don’t live here anymore (Why is that? Did something bad happen?) or if they’re extremely desperate to sell (Again, why? Financial hardship caused by the mortgage?).

And anyway, where’s the toaster? Everyone has a toaster. I want to see it. That way I’ll either say, “Oh, that’ a good place for a toaster,” or “The toaster should be over there.” That’s how buyers envision themselves living in that kitchen.

If you’re a seller, do make your home look nice, but don’t get carried away to the point where it looks sterile. If you’re a buyer, look at the practical side of living there- like where everyone will leave their shoes.

The Fine Line Between Staging and Over-staging.

For most people, buying a house is the single largest expenditure of their lives. Consequently, a lot rides on the selling price of a house, as well. It’s a monumental decision in most people’s lives, and certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly. Whether you’re looking to sell or to buy, be aware of the fine line between staging a house and over-staging it.

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