In a competitive buyer’s real estate market, presentation means a lot to the successful sale of a home -- as in a sale that’s a lot faster and a final price that’s a lot higher than it would be otherwise. Styling a home for sale through the art of home staging helps to create a positive first impression and highlight a home’s assets, but uneducated sellers and buyers can hamper the best staging efforts and reduce the chances of a sale.

To avoid the most common home staging pitfalls, consider the following:

Misunderstanding staging: Home staging techniques are never meant to be clever cover for poor maintenance, structural problems or mechanical issues. For a successful sale, you’ll first need to tackle any repairs and improvements recommended after a thorough review of your home by a certified home inspector. A well-maintained property will have less to address, but any work must be done before a professional home stager arrives to apply neutral finishes, position furnishings and accessorize rooms for visual appeal.Alt=home staging ideashome staging mistakes

“As far as getting the place prepped before the staging happens, it’s the obvious,” says Fredericka Kohler-Saperstein, a home staging and relocation professional based in New York City. “Make sure all the lights work, the plumbing is not leaking, that there aren’t holes in the walls, that the house has curb appeal -- all of that is really important. Those are the things that should be taken care of before someone comes into the home and stages.”

Getting too personal: Another mistake a seller can make is to expect that any home staging strategies will adhere to their own personal decorating style. The reason for staging a home in the first place is to create a neutral canvas on which a wide range of buyers can visualize themselves and their lives, and they can’t do that if the seller’s personality confronts them at every turn. Over-dramatic faux finishes, outlandish fixtures and unusual color schemes all have to go, as do family photo collections and other personal mementos.

Unstaged storage: Kohler-Saperstein also reminds sellers that potential buyers will open every cupboard and inspect each floorboard when they tour a property, and they should. So thoroughly cleaning and decluttering every corner of your home -- from the loaded garage to that hall closet you’ve been ignoring for years -- is critical to buyer impressions. “Nobody wants to move into someone else’s mess,” she says. 

Not ready to make a move: Deeper issues surrounding a sale can complicate and even block home staging. Sellers who don’t really want to sell or move tend to sabotage efforts toward those ends, and sellers with disorders related to collecting and hoarding will have difficulty allowing others to handle or move any belongings -- let alone remove them from living areas in a timely manner.

Falling in love with what you can’t have: Most home shoppers are savvy enough to know that staging is simply window dressing for their benefit, but there will always be those who fall in love with the furniture and expect it to be there once they have the key and a mortgage. All permanently installed fixtures and features are part of the deal when you purchase a property, but unless you’ve made other arrangements and included them in the purchase contract, all portable furnishings and accessories will be moving out with the seller or heading back to the stager’s prop warehouse after you sign on the dotted line.

Design desertion: It doesn’t happen often, but there are those occasions when an unscrupulous seller will make off with lighting fixtures, cabinetry and other favorite things that were supposed to stay in the home. To prevent hang-ups at the closing table -- make sure any special fixture situations are spelled out in the contract (as in an heirloom lighting fixture the buyer will take with them but replace with another model, bookshelves to be removed, etc.). Not-so-benign neglect, like a suddenly dried-up lawn, is also cause for closing crashes so home buyers should be sure to do a thorough inspection as close to the home closing date to make sure they’re getting everything they expected.

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