Use staging to make your offbeat home seem COMPLETELY NORMAL AND PURCHASABLE

Guest post by Betsy
drug induced?
I loved Ariel’s post on staging and photographing her home, but I need MOAR; any more tidbits possible along those lines?

While I know to take down the scary clown bank, deranged elf cookie jar, and other creepy kitsch, my tastes in general aren’t really in keeping with the small-town sensibilities in our area, and I just can’t seem to make myself see things from that viewpoint. I’ve refrained from fun paint and other permanent oddities; now how do I expand my house appeal to the general public? -Betsy

What have you got, guys? I know the HGTV call of “depersonalize, depersonalize, depersonalize,” but personal items can be hard to identify. Share your experiences in the comments.

Comments on Use staging to make your offbeat home seem COMPLETELY NORMAL AND PURCHASABLE

  1. Get rid off all knicknacks. Also get rid of any art work that would offend a conservative granny. Less is more, have just enough in each room to establish the room’s function. It’s a lousy way to live while your house is on the market, but will definitely help it sell faster. Also, make sure that all your bedrooms are staged as bedrooms…it helps families see your house as a place to raise their kids. Good luck!

  2. Pack up and put away (and purge) as much stuff as you can live without while your house is for sale. The less stuff you have in view, the easier it is for potential buyers to imagine their stuff in the house. (Bonus: the more stuff you have packed prior to moving, the less you have to pack at the last minute. I start packing at least 2 months before any move.)

    Also: clean every single thing (including windows, air vents, grout, screens, etc.) until it sparkles. The cleaner a house is, the more well-maintained buyers will think it is. Fussier buyers WILL open drawers and check your oven for baked-on food spills, so be prepared.

    • Absolutely agree. We scoffed at our realtor’s suggestion that we give the place a super deep clean (we’re not messy people) or hire some pro cleaners, but when we accepted an offer five days after putting the place on the market, we decided she was right.

      Same thing goes for the yard, if there is one. Make sure the lawn is clipped, flower beds are weeded, trees are pruned.

    • Yep true about the cleanin! this is how we were tricked into thinking our home was in good repair, it wasn’t til we moved in that we discovered the leaking roof, the damaged plumbing and the rotting deck and staircase!

  3. Clean your house more than you think you need to. When we were looking at houses, we saw one that was pretty nice, but in the master closet was a pile of sweaty workout clothes. CLEAN ALL THE THINGS! Take down personal pictures of you and any co-dwellers and put up a couple mirrors. They help potential buyers picture themselves in the home. Remember curb appeal as well. Basic mowing and trimming of grass and plants goes a long way to making a house look homey. Repair any holes in walls or scrapes. We also looked at some other homes that were essentially fine, but there were holes in walls and black scuff marks, especially in kid’s rooms. Fix any broken things, like cabinet doors and such. If you get notice from a realtor that they’re bringing people by to look at the home, put away all personal items, wash any dishes, remove water stains from coffee tables, etc. We bought the house we did because the owners were so attentive to detail that I really had no idea people lived here, save for the half empty liquor bottles in the closet (that kind of endeared them to me more :)).

    • Scrapes and scuffs on walls were a problem for us, too, and we used a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser on a lot of them. It made our laundry room look like it had been freshly painted but was way easier!

      • Also: you can clean anything (ANYTHING) with windex and a toothbrush. Whoever invented windex deserves a hug & a high five.

        • Windex, and Spot Shot (the aerosol, not the spray bottle). The Spot Shot will literally get anything (including a 6-month old full glass of red wine, and I know that from experience) out of the carpet. Might not be great for the environment, but if you’re trying to sell a house, going through old stains with a can of this stuff might help.

  4. We packed up a lot of our stuff and rented a storage unit (that way it didn’t look like we had a storage problem). We cleared off the counters (bathroom and kitchen). Neutral bedding. Keep the house clean for as long as it takes. Vacuum every day. Make sure your house doesn’t smell! We sold our house in a bad market, for a great price, even with having 3 dogs in two months! (dogs resided in garage during the day)

    Most importantly – we did all of this before our house ever went on the market. I didn’t want the right person to see the house and get a bad feeling and decide to walk away.

  5. Flowers and fruits! Put a vase with flowers in every room(remember to change them more often than you normally would, no buyers want to look at half-dead tulips). A bowl with colorful apples and oranges also looks nice and gives a “homey” touch.

    Clear away ALL clutter.If you can’t afford external storage space, at least put your stuff in neat boxes and hide them.

    Pay extra attention to places like front/back yard, kitchen, garage and bathroom.These are places that take long time and are expensive to repair/upgrade, and no buyers want to buy a home that includes a lot of work.

    If you are as rude as I am, ask your neighbours to maybe maw their lawn or not have a 100 kids outside on show-day.
    Remember, you don’t only sell your house, but the envirement around it.

    Inspire buyers by converting extra-junk-rooms to bedrooms, make a corner into a office/computer space etc. This is especialy important if you sell a small apartement.

    And last of all, clean, clean CLEAN and put a nice plant by your front door.

  6. We just went through this. And I KNOW staging helped. We got so many compliments on our decor from the buyer! (Ha! It’s not MY taste you like, lady. It’s all generic!)

    Besides the obvious decluttering and removing personal photos, obnoxious paint colors, etc. Some advice we were given is that each closet, cabinet and drawer should be 1/3 full. Overstuffed closets look too cramped. Hide all “personal” items. (Like your toothbrush, shampoo, towels, etc. I bought some nice baskets and pretty boxes with lids to stash keys, mail and other misc. clutter.

    Cleverly place items where you want people to look – got a nice tub? Put a decorative soap and towel on the edge and leave the curtain open. Nice counter tops? Set out a bottle of wine or bowl of fruit. Draw their eyes to the selling features. You want decorative items to be nice-looking but not so interesting that people spend more time looking at them than the house itself. Take out some furniture. You’re selling square footage, so let them see it. Buy new decorative towels and do NOT use them. (You can use them in your new house!)

    Buyers may ride by at night, so install a dusk-to-dawn bulb in your porch light. It makes things more inviting. New welcome mat helps, too. Buyers spend time standing there waiting for the lockbox and door to be unlocked, so little touches like that at the entrance help.

    It is a HUGE pain to do this. But when the time comes to move, you will LOVE that you did because half your work is already done!

  7. Think about temperature as well. I’m a huge fan of saving energy (for both environmental and cost reasons), but even knowing I prefer to keep my home a little cooler in winter if I walk into a potential new house and it feels cold my first thought will be that maybe theres a problem with the heating and/or insulation and it will always be cold.

    It makes a place feel more inviting too. That’s why shops blast you with hot or cold air (depending on outside temperature) as you walk in; you instantly feel better and it makes you like being in there.

    Also be careful about going overboard with removing clutter. I’ve looked around houses where each bare white room had one or two major pieces of furniture and nothing else and it ends up looking cold and empty rather than light and spacious. It makes it harder to imagine the room being lived in too.

    • The temp thing is so true. The sellers of our home had the temp set at 70F, and since we were house-hunting when it was starting to get pretty warm out, it was nice to walk in, feel refreshed, and think, HOME!

  8. If your house has hardwood floors, make the best of them. Hardwood is really IN these days. It was a big deal for us when we bought The Turret. Make sure they’re clean and shiny. If you have area rugs, make sure they’re not so big that they cover all of your hardwood. The proper size area rug (say, at least a few feet smaller on each side than the overall size of the room/area) can make the space look cozy and inviting while still showing off the lovely wood underneath.

  9. When I went looking for a house, I’ll tell you the things that “did it” for me:

    1.) ONE room in a bold colour–everything else, as beige as you can make it. If your home is mutlicoloured (even if not “fun”), consider spending a little money to paint over a few rooms. I say ONE room in a bold colour because I always remembered “the house with the yellow great room” or “that one with the bright red dining room”. It sets you apart from the millions of other listings. But a green bedroom beside a yellow bedroom down the red hallway leading to the purple kitchen… it makes your house seem confused. The exception to this is sometimes soft, muted colours. If the paint is fairly muted, it’s close enough to white that it barely registers as a colour.

    2.) All those boldly patterned blankets and comforters? Flip them to the solid-colour side for photos. If all you have is a plush Three Wolf Moon throw, cover the bed with a sheet, fold it down hotel-style and tuck it really nicely. It will probably be hard to notice in the photos. But the wolves? The wolves will stand out, man.

    3.) And about that art… take down ANY unframed posters. If you have huge art on a wall that is questionable or strange to everyone but you, take it down. If there’s still a hook there, replace it with a mirror.

    4.) Oh God, the yard. I remembered the yard as much as anything in the house. If you have a yard and you’re taking pictures in the dead of winter or with a lawn that’s dead, do whatever you can to bring it to colourful life. Borrow some friends’ potted plants and set out. Clean shit up out there. Set out your patio furniture, even though it’s freezing outside. If you have pictures of your yard from summer, use those and update the listing later when things get more green.

    5.) Finally, look at listings online. Look at them and think critically about how they look as opposed to how YOUR photos look. If you can find pictures of a recently sold house, check those out. What’s working for them that you don’t have? The unique features of your house are what gives it character, but ultimately, almost no one out there wants to live in YOUR house. They want to buy the house so that it is THEIR’S. So look through the pictures and consider that every house listing is SOMEBODY’S house… they’ve just worked to make it photograph as something of a clean slate. How did they do that? What’s not shown in their pictures that you have on display? What DO they have out to give the home character?

  10. Can we get some in-progress photos for a direct critique? Would be interesting to see what you are working with.

        • Okay, some general stuff. I can’t tell how many of these photos are current, but if you have any unfinished home projects or rooms, make the space look as nice as possible. For instance, if the boxes around the windows are still unfinished, paint them white or to match the walls if you can.
          For the photos, empty out every closet completely. You can haul stuff back in later, but for the pictures, it’s essential that everything be out and tidied.
          I think the amount of colour you have is fine. If painting over a room or two is possible, I’d paint over the deep red/orange. I know you love the bathroom, but the wall looks like it has a bit of texture and it’s a really offputting color for a lot of home buyers. For whatever reason, their first thought is always WE’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO PAINT OVER THAT–which is pure BS, because a couple coats of primer will take care of that. Leave the future homeowners to decide what to do about colour there.
          If the circles in the organ room are still up, take them down.
          The bay window is LOVELY. Bring some attention to that mofo! Slap a couple little pillows down, call it a sitting area. Maybe stick a plant and a book in there.
          I like the “looks good from this angle” picture of your kitchen. I think you should get that room as close to empty as possible, leaving behind a thing of flowers and a couple minimal accessories. Protip: hide ANY appliances you’re not leaving in the house.
          For the fireplace, remove all your personal items. Since the fireplace is non-working, I like the idea of leaving the candles inside. It might be nice to fill that larger picture frame with some generic artwork.

          • I would say that it could be helpful to leave a FEW items in the closet when you take a picture, just for the sake of showing the scale of the closet. I think a *completely* empty closet would look odd.

            I agree with your other points, except about the fireplace. I say DON’T remind potential buyers of the flaws of your home! Sure, they’ll find out about the flaws eventually, but you need to highlight the strengths and the pretty parts. Don’t put the fact that the fireplace doesn’t work at the forefront of their minds. You want them to be thinking about how nice the layout of the kitchen is, or noting the fact that you have wood floors!

  11. Take obnoxious amounts of photos of your home, one room at a time. Stand at each wall and take a photo there, then stand in each corner and do the same, and additionally take photos standing in each doorway. Anything you have the urge to fix while taking the photo, do it πŸ˜‰ I find it’s much easier to look at photos as a stranger than a room.. Additionally, have a trusted friend AND someone of your parents generation look at the photos and encourage them to nitpick πŸ˜‰ What they’ll say a stranger will look at and think loudly, heh!

  12. One: I’m awful at checking email and had no idea this would be up, so this mostly-lurker longtime whole-Empire reader ’bout near had a squeeattack when I saw it. For the next couple of hours, it was like 17 shots of Jolt cola had been injected into my eyeballs.

    Two: Someone asked for photos of our place, which is probably second on my list of things that make me yell “SRSLYOMGFERSHERLUKKITALLTHETHINGS” (right below someone asking to see photos of my cat), but I don’t have any accessible just now.

    If anyone really is at all interested in some specific tips (and there may be some of you – sound fun to me, decorative constructive criticism plus house voyeurism), I can certainly post some in a few weeks. This was a first home and was very, very affordable in its original “half-completed renovations” state, but it’s hard to reconcile the “modern” updates that the former owners did; the eccentricities that come with a nearly 100-year-old home; and, of course, a preference for quirky decor.

    Edit: Homework can wait. Now I really want to take photos of a messy house. They’ll be forthcoming.

    • Thanks for sharing your home! Whatever you do in presenting your home, don’t make MAJOR changes/decisions based on “normal” home buyer expectations. Your house has a unique story and offers a point of view. IT’S NOT NORMAL. Enhance the characteristics of the home that make it awesome. It’s one hundred years old and fully customizable. I really like that weird shed thing. Someone handy could make gold out of those bones. Some staging “tricks” are too obvious. And when they are obvious, it undermines the intelligence of your potential home buyer. If you don’t have the time and funds to properly complete any of the projects, I am sure your home buyer will be more happy to make those investments themselves. Your house shouldn’t look “modern” or “contemporary”. Make it feel like a confident spot for someone to build their own empire (or american dream). I AM NOT AN EXPERT so I could be totally wrong. Good Luck! And post pictures of your final solutions. Would love to see the transformation of all the hard work you are doing to get it ready for market.

      • Totally! Maybe it’s different in the UK, but while you want things clean and tidy, I think most buyers can look beyond most things to see what’ll be there for them when they move in. I think it’s sensible to be prepared to repaint but I think give the market a go first. I had a yellow/orange bedroom in my parents’ last house which I adored – they said it would go magnolia (cream basically) if the house didn’t sell, but fortunately it did so I got to enjoy my room in all its glowing glory.

        Maybe it depends on the area and what you think buyers are like round you, but I wouldn’t rush to make things too generic in case the buyers feel like they’ll have to do loads of stuff to give it some character when they get it!

  13. speaking to the whole storage/turn extra rooms into bedrooms thing, i saw something once (for the life of me i cannot remember where or i would post a link)- if you don’t just happen to have an extra bed or two lying about, take some of the boxes that you’ve “hidden” your personal life in, stack them up & add some bedding- instant bed for a “bedroom”!

  14. Currently going through this with my other half’s mother selling her house. She’s terrified that the presence of a magazine will put people off buying the house but not the beige bathroom suite which clearly does not provide a waterproof seal with the wall. I digress…

    Try to get someone close to you but nasty enough/straight talking enough to walk through your house as a prospective buyer. Ask them to write down what they liked and didn’t like both at the time of viewing and maybe the next day (it helps if this person is massively close to you to know your house very well). That way you can see what put them off straight away and what lingered into doubts the next day, because these might be separate things entirely and you can then work on them.

    If possible I’d also help to tidy up your neighbours gardens. We’ve found that we can be put off by the glimpses of the surrounding houses of the place if they appear unkempt.Although its a judgemental thing to do, it kinda implies that the area is a little rough round the edges. If you can eliminate these things from your photos you can encourage people in.

    Equally regarding photos, more is better. The absence of key photos eg bathroom implies you dont want to show it because its bad, even though it could be palacial. And either take them during the day with no lights on or at night with the lights and the flash. Taking them during the day with camera set ups that require the lights to be on implies the room is always dark, otherwise why would you have the lights on during the day?

    Seriously considering a career dressing homes now!

  15. My mom swears she sold her house for full asking price cause she always had a batch of cookies or bread baking while showings were happening. It made it smell like home=). Also, don’t neglect the basement. A tidy basement to me says, I take care of my home entirely.

    • My dad was a realtor (until he refused to sell on sub-prime loans). He would always go to showings ahead of time and bake a batch of cookies to have them fresh out at appointment times. Failing that, 5 minutes and a walk-through with a vanilla candle can spruce a place right up and smell yummy.

  16. I want to point out that sometimes making things too bland can backfire. It really depends on the style of the house the best thing is to work with it. The house we bought is urban and I fell in love the instant I walked in. Cute little stucco 40s house with a red front door, big tree, wood floors and red and white kitchen with original cabinets. A bland kitchen color definately wouldn’t make me want to house so bad.

  17. I must be the only one around who loves color so much, that I’d be put off by bland beige walls everywhere. They always say to depersonalize and use “neutral tones” but I see neutral tones and think “UGH I’m back in an apartment again and now I have to paint every single surface so I don’t go crazy!” Seriously, I hate bland neutrality. I love color. If I walked into a house with all the rooms different colors I’d think “ahhh, I’m right at home”. πŸ™‚ But that’s just me. Maybe y’all just need to sell ME your house!

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