The Open House – Is It Staged

Home staging is a multi-million dollar business. People who stage homes for a living pull in the big bucks for a reason – their job is to make buyers fall in love with a house so that they’re willing to overlook flaws and pay more for the property. Now, there’s a good reason for this – anyone who is buying a house for their family wants to buy a house they’ve fallen in love with, and people will fork over a lot more dough for a house to which they’ve formed an emotional attachment. The job of the home stager is to pull on your emotional strings and tie you to that house nice and tight so that you’ll be willing to pony up those extra few thousand dollars.

In order to do that, home stagers use a variety of tricks to make the house they’re staging more attractive to the typical buyer. Some of them are truly legit, nothing more than applying the basic principles of interior design to enhance a house’s best points and camouflage its problems. These “tricks” include painting the walls in a light color to make a dark room seem sunnier or painting wall trim and ceilings in similar colors to the wall to make rooms feel taller.

Other home staging tricks are a bit shadier. They’re not unethical, by any means – they just serve no other purpose than to play on your emotions and make you want to own the house. When you’re attending an open house or viewing a property you’re thinking of buying, keep in mind that the home seller has the benefit of professionals – either his own Realtor or a hired gun, or even just lots of reading online – to help him set up the house to make it more appealing. Remember the famous words of Admiral Akbar: “It’s a trap!” and adjust your emotions accordingly.

Now, do keep in mind that some of these home staging “tricks,” like the interior decorating tricks mentioned above, actually make a permanent change to the house from which you will benefit. Others, though, will disappear when the current seller packs up and leaves – unless, of course, you buy the home fully furnished.

Not sure what to look for? Here are some of the emotional and psychological tricks home sellers and home stagers use to make you fall in love with their house.

Wow, these rooms are so big!

If you find yourself marveling at the size of the rooms, remember that size is relative. Take a look at the furnishings in the room. Home stagers are trained to keep the furnishings few and the furniture simple to maximize the space in the room and make it look bigger. Sure, that contemporary sofa looks right at home – but it’s about two feet smaller than standard size sofas. How big will the room look when YOUR furniture is in its place?

Oh, look! A mirror!

Mirrors serve an awful lot of uses in the home staging game, but the biggest one is to help you put yourself in the picture. Real estate agents know that the more you see yourself in the home, the more likely you are to form an emotional attachment to it. One of the most common tips home stagers give to those who seek their advice is to hang a mirror opposite the front door so that the first thing prospective buyers see as they enter is themselves. If you walk into an open house and the first thing you see is a mirror, you can bet that the homeowners have “staged” their property.

Home staging professionals use mirrors for two other main purposes – to make a room feel bigger and to magnify the light in the room. Keep in mind that those mirrors will be gone when the house changes hands – and the rooms are probably smaller and darker than they seem.

Mmmm, something smells delicious!

Long before there were home stagers, real estate agents were advising sellers to pop a tray of cookies or an apple pie into the oven just before showing the house. Aside from the fact that those delicious aromas cover up other odors the homeowner might not want you to notice, they’re practically guaranteed to make someone feel like they’ve come “home” at the end of a long day. It sounds silly, but the aroma of cookies, pie or bread baking makes most people feel cozy and colors their perceptions of a home. As with anything else done for home staging, it will disappear. Unless you have a house elf, you’re not likely to smell cookies every time you walk into your new house.

Such a Lovely Neighborhood!

Home staging can extend beyond the actual physical confines of the house. Most people can’t actually rearrange their neighborhoods, but they can certainly arrange viewing appointments to show the community off at its best. If the only time a seller can show a house is between, say, 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., you’re not likely to get a very realistic view of the neighborhood. The biggest neighborhood nuisances are likely to be at school or at work, and you’ll be seeing a carefully engineered picture of what the neighborhood is like – when you’re at school or at work. If you fall in love with a place on first viewing, make it a point to drop by the neighborhood at different times of the day or night over the course of several days to get a feel for what the neighborhood is really like. You may find that you love it even more – or that there’s no way you could live next door to that racket.

People will throw in everything with the kitchen sink to sell their house. Don’t be fooled by appearances, an open house is the book cover, the pages are the time you spend living there. Sellers will throw every trick they can think of to get you to buy and you can’t fall for them. The quaint furnishings and dressings for the house often won’t be there after you buy it and the cookies are your first warning sign that you’re in enemy territory. Don’t fall for the setup. Actually inspect a house before buying it.

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