Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Deadly Home Staging Sins of the Stage It Yourself-er

After spending yet another couple of weeks worth of wasted hours going back and forth on the staging of a "luxury" (this one was in the $4Ms) VACANT home, I finally received the call that the homeowner has decided to stage the home himself (with assistant). This is a song I hear too often. Although I do always reflect on the value of each and every job lost in my work, and the ways in which I can improve my delivery and sales skills, I also feel compelled to share my opinion on the "SiY" (Stage It Yourself-er) in the luxury market place. I mention staging the luxury market because we tend to get the most reluctance here. The wealthy homeowner is highly confident that their home is FABULOUS and in most cases it is, but the key is...it is for them. The fact is that in this market, there is a level of eccentricity and personalization throughout the home that is greatly exaggerated and usually exceeds the tipping point in appealing home decor. (Yes the goal in staging is to appeal to a wide audience, therefore getting more offers) For example, in most homes, you might find too many family photos, yet in a multi-million dollar home you will likely find full size oil paintings of the family prominently displayed above a focal point.

I found a perfect example to showcase the pitfalls of staging (or non-staging) a luxury home. (By the way, this house is not in New England.) This house is a wonderful specimen for us to observe because it reflects every single pitfall I come across as I traipse around New England staging every imaginable scenario. 
This home is gorgeous on the outside. It's priced at $6.1M 

May I present....The Luxury Stage It Yourself-er
 DEADLY SIN #1: Not pricing according to 
a current appraised home value. 
This home started on the market in Oct 2011 at $6.495M and Trulia has the assessed value at $4.1M
I know Trulia is completely inaccurate as far as value but the fact is that buyers are looking at this information and feel free to show us the compelling $2M difference through photo evidence...

HOMEOWNER REBUTTAL: " If we find the right buyer, they'll pay cash or they'll see the value..."
THE REALITY: No buyer is going to pay cash for greater than a professional appraiser recommends the house is worth (unless it's a home new on the market and they're in a bidding war) and no bank is going to finance it. Wealthy buyers will be even more likely to use the appraised value as a strong hold to negotiate price. This over pricing tactic does not work and is a complete waste of everyone's time.

DEADLY SIN #2: Covering the floors with giant rugs.

Look at the stunning floors that are covered up here. This room would be gorgeous if the random chairs were removed and they complimented the console with a large orchid floral. Missed opportunity right away not showcasing these floors!

DEADLY SIN #3: Dated, over the top furnishings.

HOMEOWNER REBUTTAL: The furnishings in this room cost a fortune and this room is gorgeous.  
THE REALITY: There is clearly a huge age gap between the likely potential buyer of this home and its current owner. A house this size will attract a younger (35-45yr old Buyer) and the style trends of that buyer right now could not be further from this. Aside from this room being a dizzying mess of poorly arranged, dated furniture, the pathetic photo doesn't even show the fireplace detail which is the focal point of the room! And again- show the floors!!

DEADLY SIN #4:The small and dated kitchen.
HOMEOWNER REBUTTAL: "The buyer can decide what they want to do with the kitchen, I don't want to put money into a kitchen that the buyer will not like."
THE REALITY: Let me say this as simply put as possible....Deal Breaker! For $6M dollars you better have a great kitchen because guess what, the next house on their list does. Any good kitchen designer will be able to update your kitchen in a way that appeals to a wide audience.
Wallpaper and painted tile is a personal preference and no matter how fabulous you think it is...it's a "no".

DEADLY SIN #5: Floral wallpaper & stencil designs
Here's the thing, no one loves your wallpaper like you do.
HOMEOWNER REBUTTAL: "We got a quote to take it down and it's too expensive."
THE REALITY:  Your buyers feel the same way. On to the next house!

DEADLY SIN#6:  Formal, out dated drapery.
First, If it's over 10 years old it probably needs updating- sorry. And secondly, ballooning and swags are also a preference. Stick with elegant simple panels with a tieback.

DEADLY SIN #7: Old sofas trying to look fresh and new.
Okay, this room actually has potential to be fabulous however, the plan immediately unravels with the sofa and chairs.( I see that recliner over by the door).  
And...this just in- side tables that also double as lamps are not a good idea.  
(Especially if they are from the 80-90's.)
IF, and that is a big "if", the sofas were large, white slip covered with a great Ralph Lauren looking side table, remove the deer and add some great art, like a series of maps or such- this room could be great.

DEADLY SIN #8: Animal collections.
This goes for animals dead and alive. This is a huge distraction for buyers. Too many live animals means wear and tear on the home, allergens left behind and smells that you may not notice. Too many dead animals is a distraction and can leave an undesirable impression for animal lovers. 
And in this photo:
What do you plan on doing to repair the holes and damage to the wood paneling when those come down? What if there are sun shade spots on the wood?

DEADLY SIN #9: Granny style master bedrooms.
No offense to my Granny of course but seriously, staging is about understanding the lifestyle desires of your buyer. If your buyer is likely under the age of 60, this room is too mature. It also looks like a guest room at some period hotel on the Cape. The master bedroom is a HUGE priority room when selling. A buyer spending $6M dollars wants to come home at the end of the day and feel like they have conquered the world and won, not like they've retired to a nursing home. This is so common- It kills me! 
(Yes I'm talking to you-$14M house in Wellesley that is 100x worse than this 
and the homeowner thinks it's marvelous.)

DEADLY SIN #10Tired Outdoor Spaces
This is such a huge missed opportunity. Restoration Hardware sells some ah-mazing outdoor planters and no they aren't inexpensive but for over a million- you should invest in your outdoor space. Huge yards and porches without grand planters and "worthy" outdoor furniture are such a dissappointment. 
Your buyers are currently sipping cocktails poolside, admiring the decor at The Four Seasons, 
or at a minimum looking at the Frontgate catalog- get a clue.

And lastly, I absolutely love that my example house did not disappoint in that they also included photos of what I will call the..

DEADLY BONUS SIN:  Holiday Decorating!
I just about fell over when I saw these photos on their MLS listing because, without fail, I always hear about how the house should be shown when decorated during the holidays! 
(ahem-Wellesley house).
News flash- No one wants to see your holiday decor! 
You are selling a house- we want to see the house!

Perhaps some will find this post to be a slam but frankly, I'm telling the elite truth. Friends, family and Realtors of the wealthy are reluctant to offer the truth for fear of losing something, but me? I lose these jobs all of the time. And then...3 years and million dollar reductions later, they tend to come back around. 
Staging is not a solution for over pricing of course, but as with merchandising any product, packaging sells!
This house has reduced their price $300k. 
Staging is almost always less than your first price reduction.

If you'd like to see a wonderfully staged luxury home, visit this house for sale in Brookline, MA.
Or this one in Greenwich, Connecticut.


  1. Boy, You are good. I know there was a reason you are on my FB. Great comments Stayci!

  2. Thank you for linking to our website. We appreciate it!

  3. I found a perfect example to showcase the pitfalls of staging (or non-staging) a luxury home. (By the way, this house is not in New England.) This house is a wonderful specimen for us to observe because it reflects every single pitfall I come across as I traipse around New England staging every imaginable scenario. home staging