Avoiding potential pitfalls when staging your home

Every home seller should know that there is considerable effort involved in listing a home. In addition to working with your agent on strategies to sell the residence, you'll also need to keep the property clean and make yourself scarce when a potential buyer is visiting.

Sellers may also be advised to stage their home, especially if they are leaving it before a buyer has been found. It can be harder to sell a vacant property, and staging furniture and other décor will help buyers picture what life in the home would be like. Staging strategies can also be a useful way to declutter your home and arrange your belongings in a more appealing way.

If not done correctly, though, staging can do more harm than good. You'll want to make sure you avoid these common issues that can cause frustration for both buyers and sellers.

Before you decide to stage your home, you'll want to consider how much it will cost. You can take a number of steps on your own, ranging from repainting the walls to putting down area rugs. But you likely won't do as good a job at capturing your home's potential as a professional stager.

Of course, hiring a professional has its downside. The home improvement site HomeAdvisor says giving your home a completely new look can cost thousands of dollars. It might also delay the possibility of a sale, since it will take time to set up the various rooms.

Unlike renovations, staging offers less of a return on investment. Eliason Realty, a Wisconsin brokerage, recommends that sellers don't use a professional stager unless they can expect to get two dollars in added value for every one dollar they spend on staging.

Don't overlook certain areas of the home while staging. Mary G. Diaz, writing for Realty Times, says buyers will be interested in storage areas such as closets and cupboards. When decluttering your home, these spaces should be included as well.

Forgetting to stage the outdoor spaces can also be a problem. Tony Sargent, writing for the real estate site Inman News, says you'll want to improve the home's curb appeal as part of the staging efforts. Get rid of dead leaves and plants, clean up the exterior, set up a patio space, and otherwise spruce up your home's exterior and yard.

One common problem in home staging is that the property might seem a little sterile or mundane. Use some colorful touches, such as area rugs and houseplants, to help make your home feel more warm and inviting. Avoid leaving vacant rooms or areas with minimal furniture.

At the same time, over-decorating can overwhelm buyers and make the home feel cramped. Eliason Realty says some buyers may look at an excessive staging effort as a blatant effort to compensate for a home's shortcomings. Angela Colley, writing for the National Association of Realtors, says this sense of artificiality is especially pronounced if you use items such as fake plants or air mattresses.

Be aware of how buyers may view the staging. Sargent says too much in the way of artwork, antique furniture, and other features can make a property feel more like a museum than a place the buyer can call home.

A neutral color scheme is often recommended, since buyers may be caught off guard by garish tones but won't think twice about beige or white walls. However, a few bursts of color can be helpful. Colley says you can keep your home from being too monotone if you mix up the furniture styles a bit, use contrast, and select a room or two to feature some vibrant hues.

Any items used in the staging should be appropriately scaled. Using more diminutive furniture to try to emphasize a room's scale can actually make it feel smaller.

Avoid major upgrades to your home if possible. Diaz says it might not be a good idea to spend a lot of money on such an overhaul, since you won't have much time to enjoy it and likely won't recoup the investment on the sale.

However, you shouldn't try to conceal any obvious flaws that you aren't planning to fix. Doing so could make you liable to a lawsuit from a buyer.

One of the simplest mistakes to make when staging a home is to accidentally close off some areas of the residence. Colley says a buyer may overlook a room, or even an entire floor, if a door is left closed during a showing. When someone is scheduled to visit, make sure they'll have access to the whole property.


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