When marketing to families, a staged listing should evoke lived-in feeling

If prospective buyers can't picture living in a particular home, they'll walk away

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Originally published by Debbie Reynolds, broker at Prudential PenFed Realty, on ActiveRain.

While showing homes to a young couple with two small children I discovered a house can look too perfect. Since I just met the buyers as they had arrived in town, I didn’t have much time to schedule appointments and make my showing schedule. Some of the sellers had only a couple hours’ notice to prepare for the showings. Even with the short notice, these sellers have extremely neat homes. There was not one child’s toy left out, or book, dish, wrinkled pillow or toothbrush out of place.

The buyers kept commenting about how neat these homes were and even questioned if these occupied homes had real people living there. The houses looked too perfect. I know for a fact that one of the homes was professionally staged because the listing agent always requires her sellers to stage their homes. Some of the other houses may or may not have been professionally staged.

Staging — when done right — can help a home sell. I have seen some wonderful staging jobs. But a couple of these homes lacked that warm, lived-in feeling. This turned off the young couple with the two small children. I saw them squirm and cross their arms. They made generic statements about how this is nice and that looks pretty, but not buying-sign comments.

We saw some vacant homes and some new construction, too. Seeing these homes empty did not seem to bother the buyers, as they could see the real potential the homes offered — a clean palette, so to speak.

I showed another home that was occupied where the sellers left it neat but with a lived-in feeling. You could feel it the moment you stepped in the door. The buyers responded very favorably and started seeing themselves living there. They wanted to linger and ask questions. Yes, there were some personal family photos around, toys in the corner, things on the kitchen counter. The beds were made and the house was clean, but it felt lived in by a happy family.

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When the house is too perfect, it can work against a seller. I saw it happen with these buyers. The too perfectly staged homes lacked warmth and the feeling of a real home. I saw the buyers wiggle and become uncomfortable. They made comments to the fact that the homes even felt cold and too perfect.

The last occupied home, the one that felt warm and like a happy home, will likely be the one that gets the offer. They have crossed the other occupied homes off their list.

When selling a family a home, most families want to feel like it is a warm and welcoming environment. Yes, they want it neat and in good condition, but still looking like a real home. When the house is too perfect and has too much staging, it can take away the warmth and friendliness of the home and turn the buyers off. I saw this very thing happen with these buyers.

Remember: Don’t remove the warmth from the house when getting it ready to market.

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