They may love you, but they’re all liars. Your spouse, your mother, your best friend from college… Liars.
Sure, they have a good reason to lie, but they’re still lying. After all, they know you worked HARD and spent a ton of money staging your listing.
The last thing they want to do is crush your spirits by telling you just how hideous it looks…
You know who’s not lying? Your lead scrolling through Zillow in bed with a cup of tea.
“Ugh! What on earth was that Realtor THINKING?”
Don’t believe the liars. Instead, read our list of home staging tips and 17 deal-killing mistakes even experienced Realtors make:
1. Forgetting to Shoot & Share Before & After Videos
Let’s face it, people are in love with Cinderella stories. That’s why flipping and interior design makeover shows are so popular. Everyone is cheering for the ugly duckling to turn into a swan.
The only problem is that your clients might not even realize how much time you spent staging your listing. They might just think that’s the way the home looked before you even pitched the owner!
If you REALLY want to impress buyers AND show off your home staging chops to potential sellers, why not send them a sexy before and after video? Even better, hire a professional and affordable photo editor from a online marketplace like Fiverr. Fiverr’s photo editors can handle everything from basic touch ups to virtual staging.
2. Not Taking Pictures of the Listing Pre-Staging
After the frenzy and stress of hiring a stager, coordinating with your owner, and lugging plants, pillows, and art, all over the house, it can be easy to forget why you’re doing this.
For most listings, you’re staging for the photos you’re going to post on Zillow.
However, once you stage, it becomes very difficult and expensive to correct or restage a room virtually. For example, let’s say you staged a room as a home office, and a buyer kept wondering what it would look like as a bedroom.
In order to stay flexible and become a hero to buyer’s agents, always have your photographer take pictures of the listing empty before you stage. If you don’t, your virtual stager will charge you an arm and a leg to digitally remove the furniture.
This way you can virtually stage the same room in multiple different styles, or for different uses. You could even try A/B testing the images on Facebook ads to see which one more buyers click on…
Here’s an example of how an empty room can be staged to look radically different from our friends over at Spotless Agency:
If they had to remove the furniture before staging, virtual staging would be far more expensive.
3. Not Including a Pet in at Least One of Your Staged Photos
If you or your sellers are dog or cat lovers lovers, then keeping your furry little friends out of your staged listing pictures can be a huge mistake. First of all, cute pet pictures are what the internet was designed for. Second, and more importantly, if you rope your seller’s pooch into the listing pictures you can rest assured this photo will get shared on Facebook and Instagram.
You can then (tactfully) chime in and say how much fun you had shooting their little rascal when you were slaving away trying to make their home look awesome.
Shooting animals, especially restless dogs (is there any other kind?) can be a challenge without a high quality DSLR camera and “fast” lens. All the more reason to hire a pro photographer for your listing photos!
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4. Not Using Accent Walls
Considering how easy and affordable accent walls can be, it’s surprising how many stagers and Realtors shy away from them. A well thought out accent wall can add some depth and drama to even the most boring room.
If you want to try your hand at accent walls, think contrast. Dark greys, bright, energizing colors like Pantone’s Color of the Year Ultraviolet, or even removable wallpaper or graphics can go a long way to adding personality to your listing.
Need some accent wall inspiration? Check out the top ideas on Pinterest here.
5. Outdated Window Treatments
After paint and lighting fixtures, nothing can kill a room’s vibe faster than ugly, outdated window treatments. While those vertical blinds may have cost your homeowner a pretty penny back in the 90’s, today they just look sad and dated.
The good news is that like lighting fixtures, good looking window treatments are affordable, and you only need a few styles on hand to match any decor. In fact, a set of sheer white curtains, and a set of heavy dark, velour panels should match pretty much anything.
Patterns should probably be avoided though. There is no faster way to pick out a cheap window treatment than from a poorly designed pattern.
Pro tip: Forget West Elm or Pottery Barn. You can get almost identical looking drapes and curtain panels on Amazon for a fraction of the price. If you line the back with velcro, you can use one 108 inch panel to fit any size window.
6. Using Too Many Bold or Statement Pillows
Like the gallery wall, having an an assortment of boldly colored or patterned pillows is very on trend. There’s only one problem… Well, okay, three problems.
- Nice pillows are $50 each and up.
- If they’re too bold they will become a focal point
- They’re very personal. Not everyone will respond to your taste
While you may be tempted to splash out on a dozen high end pillows for your home staging, this could be a mistake. After all, nice pillows are very expensive, and bold pillows might not work well with other bold pillows.
Since the idea here is to buy versatile decor, I would avoid boldly colored or patterned pillows. Instead, stick to complementary patterns and colors, or at most, buy a few bold pillows.
Pro tip: Love mid century modern but can’t justify West Elm or CB2? Target’s Project 62 has passable mid century looking pillows for less than $20.
If you’re looking for more home staging tips on a budget, check out this handy guide over on the Homelight Blog.
7. Empty Bed Frames or Cheap Linens
Even in some seven figure plus listings here in Manhattan, the word “bedroom” is often literal. It’s a room that can fit a bed and that’s about it.
Heck, even in a palatial 1,000 square foot master suite, a king sized bed will still take up space and there is no way to NOT have it as the focal point of the room.
That means cheap linens, pillows, or even worse, empty bed frames are a mortal sin against the gods of good taste.
Pro tip: Air mattresses are incredibly inexpensive these days so there is simply no excuse for an empty bed frame. While quality linens can be expensive, they might be a worthwhile investment.
8. Not knowing Your Audience
If you want to write a blockbuster movie, a grammy winning album, or killer marketing campaign, there is one rule above all others that determines success:
Know Your Audience!
This rule applies to staging your listings as well. As a rule, you should be staging with your audience in mind. Think about what kind of leads might be attracted to the home, the area, or the price point you’re working with.
For example, if your listing is in a conservative community with a ton of senior citizens, a more traditional staging will get a much better response than a slick, modern one.
Young hip area with lots of college students and young professionals? Minimal graphic art and mid century furniture is a must.
If you’re not sure about your audience, do some research on your farm area. Who lives there? What do they value?
9. “Gendered” Bedrooms or Playrooms
If you decide to stage smaller bedrooms as children’s rooms, you need to be careful about “gendering’ the rooms. Remember, the idea here is to create rooms that allow your buyers to dream about living in the home.
A lead with three young boys might have a hard time dreaming about putting them in rooms with pink walls and pom poms.
Instead, try and create inclusive children’s bedrooms that reflect the style of the rest of the home. If you’re staging a modern home, a minimal rocking horse, some stuffed animals and a bunkbed will work.
10. Not Having a Theme for Each Room
Be careful about staging “multi purpose” rooms. While you do want to be able to show buyers how versatile the space is, sticking to one theme will work much better.
After all, a home office with workout equipment and a hobby space doesn’t help someone who just wants an office imagine themselves in the space. Likewise if they may want to use that space as a gym or children’s bedroom.
If you truly want to help your buyers imagine themselves in the space, then you can stage rooms for one purpose, then have them virtually staged for another.
This way you can show a fully realized image of the room serving a single purpose.
11. Using Fake Plants
Okay, fake plants aren’t the end of the world, but whenever possible try to use live plants in your home staging.
Believe it or not, you’ll actually save some money in the process. Fake plants that look even halfway realistic are surprisingly expensive.
By growing live plants you get the added benefit of having lush, beautiful plants in your home or office when they’re not being used for staging.
12. Cheesy “Wall Art”
I like to call this one the Holiday Inn deal killer. You know those bland, hideous fake paintings that are nailed to the wall of that cheap hotel room you rented back in college? Everyone else has the same visceral reaction to them that you do. Yuck.
Instead, scour ebay, garage sales, Etsy, or Amazon for a nice set of prints or paintings that can fit multiple styles.
Remember to make sure to match whatever you buy to your other accessories as well. Check out Pinterest or Houzz for inspiration!
Need some more home staging mistakes to avoid? Check out this great write up over on the Virtuance Blog.
13. Not Staging With Table and Floor Lamps
The next time you watch a movie or TV show, notice the lamps. There will generally be a (gorgeous) table lamp in every interior shot. There are two excellent reasons for this. 1. Table lamps give off warm light exactly where you want it. and 2. Both table lamps and floor lamps can make a boring room look dramatic in the evening. Not only that, lamps are usually one of the primary focal points of a room when they’re lit.
So if you want to make your listing look like a home instead of a house, invest in some nice table and floor lamps in a few different styles. I would go with say, two matching bedside lamps, and two different table lamps and floor lamps.
Pro tip: You can make a cheap lamp look glamorous by using the right lampshade and right bulb. You can also just swap lampshades to make the same lamp look wildly different if you’re on a budget.
14. Staging Obviously Fake Wine or Dinner Settings
Your whole job as a stager is to draw your guests into the home and imagine themselves actually living there. Even if they know it’s fake, they subconsciously still want to play along because it’s fun.
Setting up fake fruit displays, rubber cakes, wine and cheese plates that are inedible, or (god forbid) fake food, will pull them right out of the fantasy and remind them they’re kinda sorta being tricked into loving the house.
Pro tip: Keep your table and countertops minimal and decorative. Unless maybe you want a guest mistaking that wax apple for the snacks you laid out for your guests?
15. Boldly Patterned or Colored Area Rugs
Just because you love that crazy patterned rug you bought a few years ago certainly doesn’t mean other people will. In fact, the odds are better than even that some of your open house guests will probably HATE the rug. It will also overwhelm a small space the second you unroll it and place it on the floor.
Pro tip: Instead of going for the bold and the beautiful, stick to the subdued and understated. A nice neutral Sisal or even a grey or white shag will do the trick.
16. Pushing ALL the Furniture Right Up Against the Wall
Nothing can make a living room look dull and boxy faster than pushing all the furniture up against the walls. Yes, it’s easy, but it almost always looks terrible. It’s boxy looking, and will make a large room look empty and a smaller room look cluttered. It’s the worst of both worlds.
Pro tip: If you’re trying to stage a small room and your only option is to line the furniture up against the walls, then the furniture you’re trying to stuff in that room is just too big to work. Instead, pull out a piece or pull it all out and replace with furniture that actually fits.
17. Not Shopping Online for Original Art or Knockoff Designer Furniture
Have you ever wondered how home stagers can afford such expensive art and furniture? The quick answer is that virtually all of them DON’T. Instead they get super expensive looking goodies for a song for one very simple reason. They know where to look.
While figuring out the secret shopping spots in a big city can take decades, you can cheat and spend a few hours scouring the internet for that perfect “replica” painting or “homage” to that $5,000 Eames chair you want to feature in ALL your listings.
You can start on Amazon, Etsy, and Ebay, then move on to Saatchi Art (check out the under $500 section), and finally the holy grail of expensive looking cheap stuff from China, Aliexpress and DHgate.
A word of warning though, this is NOT an option for the faint of heart. It can take a long time to figure out which “replicas” look great and which look like they were designed in a dark room by an old man with glaucoma. Caveat emptor, but just know that this is the El Dorado of cheap stuff you’ve been searching for.
Share Your Best Home Staging Tips
Know some common home staging mistakes that you see Realtors making? Have some insider home staging tips? Let us know in the comments.