• The house has to look like the pictures.
  • Buyers look through a homesellers' closets, drawers and cabinets.
  • Limit showing hours when people have children and pets.

Now it begins — the landscapers, contractors, the multiple cleaning crews, the trips to the consignment store, the Salvation Army truck and garages packed with so much stuff that you can’t park your car — and the bills.

Why? Staging.

In an Inman column, Joseph Rand waxed on about the horrors of moving. Personally, I would love a huge pile of boxes in my new place. Why? I would be free from having to live in the state of perpetual perfection required for living in a staged house.

Rand was right when he recommended that agents should move every five years just as a form of continuing education. I’m thinking that before you wax on about the necessity of staging, try living in a staged house and keeping it that way for two weeks.

What’s amazing is how many sellers endure this torture. I can see doing this if you have a full-time housekeeper; however, when you’re the maid between cleaning crew visits, you get to experience an anal-retentive lifestyle firsthand. Here are the seven dirty staging secrets no one will tell you.

1. The house has to look like the pictures.

You can’t be there when the brokers show your property, but it’s your responsibility to turn on all 52 light switches before you leave and to turn them off when you get home.

In the pictures, we have lit candles throughout the house. No way am I leaving my house with lit candles and no one there. Also, make sure that your knife block with all your chef’s knives is hidden well. You never know when a homicidal pyromaniac might be looking at your house.

Then there is our wonderful plush carpet that shows every single footstep and is especially good at showing your toes if you’re barefoot. The vacuum cleaner has replaced our cellphones as the most used technology in our home.

2. Violate those drought restrictions.

You can’t possibly have your front yard looking brown from the drought — no, you must figure out how to keep it nice and green for the photos.

Moreover, those plants the landscapers brought in will all wither and die in 24 hours if they’re not watered. This translates into violating drought watering restrictions or hand watering every day.

I hope that you don’t get fined. Be prepared to double your water bill.

Alternatively, you could spray paint all the dead grass green or replace it with AstroTurf.

3. No one ever uses your bathrooms.

Maintaining perfect bathrooms is probably the most miserable part of living in a staged house. We bought lovely decorative towels that looked great in the pictures.

They’re not worth two cents regarding doing a good job of drying off after a shower, but they look pretty. By the way, exactly where do you hang your favorite wet towels to dry?

Two choices here — hide them somewhere or do laundry every day.

And speaking of showers, that gorgeous bathroom floor tile morphs into an ice rink if you have wet feet and no shower mats or rugs on your bathroom floors.

Also, you’re not supposed to have any shower gel, soap, shampoo, razors or any other type of personal care items visible.

That means taking everything out of the cabinet each day, putting down the shower mats, putting down the rugs, so you don’t fall, getting fresh towels, cleaning the shower or tub after every use and then putting it all back in its hiding place.

4. You can’t squirrel it away somewhere.

People look in your closets, drawers, cabinets and under your sinks. If your house looks pristine, and they see a mess in any of those areas, they will conclude that you don’t take care of your property.

When there are snoopy buyers, trying to hide the dirt doesn’t work. They can have messy homes, but your home must be spotless.

5. Your closet must be perfectly organized.

If your closets are too full, the buyer will conclude there’s not enough closet space. Also, there can be no hanging hand-washed articles there anymore, no lingerie or socks on the floor and no dirty clothes visible anywhere.

If you don’t heed this warning, you might share Janet Choynowsk’s fate — her Realtor sent her panties into cyberspace and syndicated them internationally.

6. Don’t stink it up.

Many people are sensitive to various types of cooking smells. How I long for my husband’s garlicky shrimp scampi, a wonderful slow-cooked beef stew or those perfectly caramelized onions that he uses when he makes French onion soup.

Thank heaven for Febreze. At least you don’t have to empty the trash after every meal.

7. You have no children and no pets.

I can’t even imagine trying to live in a staged house with pets and children. Our broker says that she limits showing hours when people have children and pets, normally to when the kids are in school.

If Fluffy is prone to accidents, biting or scratching strangers, she needs to be crated or off the property. After all, you don’t want any allergic buyers going into anaphylactic shock. By the way — you better hide the peanut butter as well.

What happens if you don’t do all of this? Most brokers agree that you will have a much harder time selling, especially if you are competing against those sellers who are enduring the short-term pain of living in a staged house for the long-term gain of getting their house sold.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Learn about her training programs at www.RealEstateCoach.com/AgentTraining and www.RealEstateCoach.com/newagent

Email Bernice Ross.

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