6 home staging mistakes that could sink your selling price

Home Staging
Photo credit George Rex

“Everybody thinks they have good taste…but they couldn’t possibly all have good taste.”

-When Harry Met Sally

You think you did a good job. You tidied, you cleaned, you put the excess in storage, and now you feel ready for the most observant and exacting of all guests: homebuyers.

Truthfully, in the GTA market, buyers are coming in through the windows and you’ll sell in three days. But your home staging skills are going to be the determining factor in how high that bidding war goes—buyers who appreciate “good bones” and “potential” don’t offer as much as buyers who are seduced.

Your blind spot here is your own sense of style—your lifestyle quirks, your taste, your collection of vintage dairy jugs. You don’t necessarily need to hire a professional stager to avoid these home staging mistakes, so long as you follow these tips:

1. No decades

That shag rug and burnt-orange Kitchenaid blender says 70s. That 1983 Scarface poster in your son’s bedroom needs to go. Frankly, your wall art is a bit psychedelic.

Sure, it’s vintage and tongue-in-cheek; it’s “retro” or “authentic.” But these visual references to past decades also make your home look dated, and people want to buy something fresh and new.

Very few tastemakers can make the retro look truly work—and the rest of us are just distracted from the actual item for sale here, a shiny new home.

2. Your pets, and your weird pets

Your cat is very lucky—that cat tower taking up most of your condo’s floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city is truly the best sightline in town. But your realtor is mortified and your prospects are distracted.

Worse than cat furniture or dog beds is the paraphernalia associated with more exotic pets—your hamster’s elaborate multilevel universe, a six-foot tall chinchilla cage, a snake terrarium. These things cannot be unseen. You or your children’s eclectic interest in animals needs to be toned down or, more likely, babysat by a friend.

3. Sentimental junk

Sentimental trinkets can be lovely, or they can be kitsch. Grandma’s handmade afghan throw, that lumpy bowl made by your niece while she was still mastering motor control, the wedding gift from your boss—a silver dolphin figurine. Homebuyers don’t know “the story behind it” and therefore they only see the camp factor. Sorry grandma, but off to storage for now.

4. Sensory overload

Realtors tell horror stories of sellers who plug air fresheners into every outlet in the house—each room and hall is a fragrant tour through Peach Blossom or Honolulu Honey. Some homeowners fully set and dress the dining room table with 12 candles. Some think classical music tinkling in the background is the height of sophistication or, worse, turn on their meditative water fountain.

But you’re overdoing it—in fact you’re staging a sensory assault on someone who is considering giving you almost all of their money. If your home environment is too intense, their visit will be brief and their impressions will be negative. Clean and quiet wins.

5. Gender identity

If you’re a singleton, there’s a chance your home might be overtly gendered. Not every man is obsessed with sports and not every woman is a slave to fashion but, let’s be honest, some people display traditional gender stereotypes more than others.

The floral bedspread, the Toronto Maple Leafs tribute wall, the second bedroom devoted only to shoes, the “tasteful” bikini calendar—you are potentially turning off 50 per cent of your market. Your bachelor/bachelorette pad needs to be mellowed out so every prospect can visualize themselves living there.

6. The painfully obvious

Wood-panelled bathroom? Faux leather recliner with rips covered with duct tape? Backyard pile of broken concrete blocks? A large red fire extinguisher hanging on the living room wall? All true stories. Seriously—what were you thinking?

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