Home Staging Mistakes Sellers Should Avoid

In a competitive buyer's market like the one we're in today, home staging is more important than ever. A successful staging can make the difference between a house that moves fast for the right price and one that languishes on the market unsold.

But a handful of common mistakes can hamper the best home staging efforts. If you want to create a positive first impression and highlight your home's assets, steer clear of these common home staging pitfalls.

Misunderstanding what staging can do. Home staging techniques should never be thought of as clever coverups 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 it's important to make the repairs before a professional home stager arrives.

"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 with staging. 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.

Forgetting to stage storage. Kohler-Saperstein also reminds sellers that potential buyers will open every cupboard and inspect each floorboard when they tour a property. 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.

Being clear with buyers about what's staging and what isn't. 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 in place once they have the key in hand.

To avoid headaches at closing, make sure you're clear up front about what, if any, furnishings and accessories will be remaining in the house. Typically all permanently installed fixtures and features are part of the deal when a buyer purchases a property, but unless exceptions are spelled out 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.

Tom Kraeutler is a home improvement expert for AOL Real Estate and host of "The Money Pit,"a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program offering tips for home buyers and sellers.

Did home staging help you sell your house? Got tips and advice to share? We want to hear from you! Add your comments in the box below.

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