How Not to Be Fooled by Perfect Staging

How Not to Be Fooled by Perfect Staging

Home staging is a common procedure that helps homeowners sell their homes faster and for a better price. Professional home stagers work with sellers to make their homes as attractive to potential buyers as possible. They know how to highlight the strengths of the home their clients are selling and how to show the property's whole potential to buyers.

Room with the view pan
50 Yorkville Avenue, Suite 5301 | Toronto Central - Annex - Nice View

Home staging goes beyond cleaning, de-cluttering, and decorating. It comprises careful styling and upgrading of a home's visual appeal. A perfectly staged home can have a very strong impact on buyers, impressing them and proving that the home they are looking at is the right one. 

Luanne Kanerva is an experienced home staging professional and the founder of katu design. She told us that staging a home benefits the agent — who has an easier job showing the home, the seller — who is able to sell faster as well as for a better price, and the buyer — who is able to see the potential of the home. She pointed out,

"I have never had a buyer be angry for buying a home I staged because they felt "tricked". I have had a number of buyers call me to have my company help them decorate the home they bought that I had staged because they really liked the way it looked when it was staged. We never hide faults or problems (I don't think a reputable stager would). We recommend fixing them and then we highlight the features.

Real estate agents know what they're doing when they hire stagers.

"I am a huge proponent of staging. A good stager can help to reveal the potential that a room may have. They are there to show the public how space and design can be used to maximize a look. Buyers have very little vision and want to see a finished product",

says Richard Silver.

"The buyer is wrong to think that they can imagine his or her own less than perfect furniture in a property that has been staged to maximize the look. If you like the look, you should hire the stager to help you decorate the new space",

he continues.

Even though home staging is about uncovering the beauty of a home rather than hiding its flaws, homebuyers should be aware of a number of concerns when they are being showcased a nicely staged home.

"When staged, the house can be so decluttered it seems like a nirvana, but remember to ask yourself how would it work in reality of life?"

remarks Julie Kinnear, Leader of the Julie Kinnear Team, Sales Representative at Keller Williams Realty.

Don't Fall in Love with a Nicely Staged Home

Living room warmer
50 Yorkville Avenue, Suite 5301 | Toronto Central - Annex - Living Room

Home staging professionals are well aware that home buyers often don't look for a home but for a home of their dreams. Buyers do not want homes that need even minor improvements. However, if a home seems like it has nothing left to improve, this does not mean everything is in perfect condition. Buyers should be aware that the homes shown to them have been carefully prepared to please their eyes as well as other senses — including the sixth sense. Perfectly staged homes appear bigger, brighter, cleaner, and warmer. Many buyers make a mistake, get carried away, and fall in love with the place. Getting too emotional is one of the basic mistakes buyers should avoid. Feelings can cloud your judgment and you can end up paying an excessive price or purchasing a home that does not exactly suit you.

"At all times however, don't let the beautiful kitchen dissuade you from the goal that you had of having a kitchen and a family room together. What may be good from far could be far from good"

advises Richard Silver.

First impressions are critical when it comes to home buying. However, they should not be the main factor that determines whether you'll purchase a home. Home stagers spend a lot of time maximizing curb appeal of the home they're selling.

We look at the house starting at the curb. Buyers will not go into a house if they don't like the way it looks from the curb. I just heard from a friend who is looking for a home. He said of ten he planned to see he drove past three because he didn't like the way they looked from the outside.

Luanne Kanerva remarked.

Bedroom
50 Yorkville Avenue, Suite 5301 | Toronto Central - Annex - Bedroom

Try not to be too impressed with a well-maintained garden with nice flowers and fresh paint. You should also consider what is behind that paint — which materials are used, their quality, their age, et cetera. Think about the safety of the home and potential issues that might not be visible now but could become a real nuisance in a few years. Also try to imagine the home under different weather conditions and seasons.

When looking at houses, make sure you visit at a time the neighbours would be home and also visit at different times of the day!

advises Julie Kinnear.

Keep in mind that the seller might have updated the home using quick and also cheap fixes that would boost the visual appeal. Even though everything looks great, the materials might be less durable and the overall value of the home might be lower than it seems.

Kitchen50 Yorkville Avenue, Suite 5301 | Toronto Central - Annex - Kitchen

For example, a dated bathroom could have a fresh look with the right lighting and a new shower curtain. A pedestal sink could make the bathroom look bigger than it really is since there will be more floor space visible. Moreover, it is very common for sellers to replace only cabinet doors or handles rather than whole cabinets.

As Luanne Kanerva suggested,

Current buyers are looking for modern features even in older homes so we always recommend making rooms look as spacious as possible, updating kitchens and baths when possible and make the home look as current as possible. Changing things like paint colours, cupboard knobs, light switches and light fixtures can quickly improve and update the appearance of a home.

So a luxurious new kitchen could just be a regular older space with a new face. This also works for appliances like dishwashers. Rather than buying a new appliance, sellers prefer to resurface the old fixture with a stainless steel stick-on covering. Keep in mind that sellers want their homes to appear new, but this newness is often just an illusion.

Is Everything Working?

The actual size of the home is another important factor you should consider. A decently staged home will be cleared of any excessive pieces of furniture and clutter. There are several interior design tricks — like using the right colour for walls or grouping furniture — that make everything look bigger. But you have to realize that all spaces will be smaller once you move in and bring your own possessions. Plus, the mess that comes with everyday life will also take its toll on the amount of space you'll have in the new home.

Living room50 Yorkville Avenue, Suite 5301 | Toronto Central - Annex - Living Room

It's no surprise that everything looks — or at least should look — in a staged home. However, you should also try to make sure everything functions, as it should. Don't forget to consider all the important functional concerns of the home you're about to buy. These include heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing, and simpler things like smoothly opening windows and doors or a well-working shower.

Buyers are often more focused on an attractively decorated/furnished home than one than that has a new furnace or new roof even though those will be big ticket items. We focus on make the most of all available rooms and creating the most living space,

Luanne Kanerva notes.

Pay special attention to attics and basements. These are where you can spot important flaws that will bother you. Watch out for traces of bad work and deferred maintenance, as they might indicate that something isn't right. Watch out for signs of drainage or moisture issues. Try to hear if the heating system is making any weird noises.

There are ways to see past a home stager's tricks. According to Julie Kinnear, these are the most common tricks stagers use to improve the appearance of the property:

  • putting up blinds to block neighbours' unkept yards or the home's proximity to a next-door brick wall — or to block the view of apartment buildings or a major road nearby
  • putting up beautiful art to divert the eye from issues with the walls or trim or old leaks in the ceiling
  • using small, apartment-sized furniture in rooms to make them seem bigger
  • putting beds in very small rooms
  • putting up mirrors everywhere to create an illusion of space

Purchasing a home is one of the biggest financial decisions of your life. You should consider all of the aspects of the home. Try to be rational. Go beyond the looks of the home when considering a purchase. Of course, it's important to feel comfortable in you own home. But you should also keep in mind that the home you're looking for should be able to meet your family's requirements. Also, don't be fooled by clean and polished finishes. Take a good look at what's behind the veneer. Remember Richard Silver's advice:

Staging is a part of good marketing and is becoming the norm. Make sure that on your side you are having a good home inspection as well.

4 Responses

  1. Sally

    Simply adding colour, creating a grounded space with the area rug and making sense of the space has transformed it dramatically. No trickery here – just well thought out design. 

  2. Megan

    Great article! The key to staging is accentuating positives, not hiding flaws. It should always include making repairs. :)

  3. Deidra

    Hey Richard,
    Wonderful article! It clearly answers the question of where a real estate agent’s marketing dollar should be invested. I really appreciate how the article highlighted the real estate agent’s, the professional home stager’s and the buyer’s opinions of staging a home/condo.

    Still focusing on the topic of marketing, what if, as a seller, you’re challenged with a valuable, but dated home? I have seen a trend of creating a” theme driven” open house/event to attract buyers without changing much of the furniture. For example, a house with vintage 1970’s furniture and character is marketed to a specific clientele as a fun stylish home. Would you recommend a “theme driven” open house marketing strategy to sell a home?

    Thanks

  4. Richard Silver Post author

    That is a very interesting idea. The only theme driven Open Houses I have done have had more to do with Open Houses at the time of some holidays like Thanksgiving, Valentines Day or Halloween…

    I would do my best to make sure that the house was staged in keeping with what it was, but at the same time update the look. I sell a lot of Victorian Homes but would keep them as light and airy as possible and try to stay away from dark colors and heavy drapes….true Victorian homes would be to dark for Today’s buyers.

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