8 Common Home Staging Mistakes to Avoid, According to the Pros

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8 Common Home Staging Mistakes to Avoid, According to the Pros

When it comes to prepping your home for potential buyers, you probably already know the basics: Declutter, depersonalize, and deep clean. Add to that home staging tips gleaned from real estate shows and social media, and you may feel like you know all you need to about getting your home ready to hit the market. Still, there are some missteps that staging pros see well-meaning homeowners make time and again that can keep listings from selling quickly and for top dollar. Avoid these pitfalls and you can have buyers vying to make your home sweet home their own. Not planning to sell anytime soon? Then steal some of these strategies to help you enjoy your space even more.

Mistake #1: Not Thinking About How Your Home Will Photograph

It’s pretty much a given that house hunters start their search by looking at homes online, and amazing pics can determine whether they scroll past your listing or add it to their must-see list. It might be tempting to only focus on how your home presents in person, but you should also consider how it comes across in photos.

“Photographers typically look to a window or fireplace as a focal point, so stage furniture around that,” suggests Fernanda Bertrand, co-owner and founder of Upstaging Seattle, which has staged more than 700 homes. “If you block the view of a window, for example, potential buyers can’t get the right idea of scale from the listing photos.”

Mistake #2: Arranging Furniture on an Angle

Resist the urge to situate that sofa or desk on the diagonal when prepping your home for sale. “Angling furniture is one of the worst things you can do because it skews the perspective of a space,” explains Bertrand. “People do it because they think it will make the space look bigger, but it really just makes the room feel off.” Her only exception: If the room itself features some odd angles you may have no choice but to position your furniture accordingly.

Mistake #3: Skipping Area Rugs in Open Concept Layouts

Open floor plans can be tricky to decorate, and a bare expanse of floor with nothing to warm it up or delineate specific spaces is a common blunder that home stagers see. “It’s really important to have area rugs to define different areas,” says Bertrand. “Without them, furniture looks like it’s floating.”

Whether your house is for sale or not, consider adding area rugs if you don’t have them, or swapping out your current rugs if you’ve lived with them for a while. Area rugs—particularly those in high-traffic locations—take a lot of abuse, especially if kids and pets are part of your household. Bertrand’s advice: “Don’t invest a lot in area rugs. Choose rugs that are super affordable—I use ones from Rugs USA a lot—and replace them every couple of years for an easy way to get a major update.”

Mistake #4: Hanging Out-of-Scale Art

In the right proportion, a fabulous piece of art can make a stylish statement and help a buyer connect with your home. Unfortunately, when the scale isn’t right, even the prettiest piece can throw off the feel of a room and hurt a buyer’s impression of the space.

“A huge wall with art that’s not large enough makes the wall look smaller,” notes Bertrand. Aim for artwork—either a single piece or a grouping—that takes up two-thirds to three-quarters of the wall space. In a living room, a 50-by-40-inch rectangular canvas is a great way to ground a sofa, says Bertrand. Hang it four to six inches from the top of the couch.

Mistake #5: Using Too Many Little Things

A mistake homeowners often make, both when decorating for themselves and staging their home for sale, is erring on the side of too much small stuff. Common culprits include large sofas with an array of too-petite throw pillows, bookshelves or built-ins with a lot of frames and tchotchkes, and coffee tables crowded with small-scale objects. “It always looks better to use fewer big things than a bunch of small ones,” says Bertrand. On a coffee table, for example, two large vases and some greenery creates a more sophisticated look than an array of small items.

Mistake #6: Skimping on Lighting

Buyers love “bright and airy,” so having lots of lighting in a home is key. “Thinking about lighting is especially important in older homes that don’t have canned lighting,” says Bertrand. She recommends incorporating floor and table lamps to create different layers of lighting.

Maximize a room’s natural light with window treatments that let in plenty of it. A simple way to boost brightness is to pay attention to curtain placement. “People typically hang their curtains just above the window trim,” says Bertrand, “but you should hang them two inches from the ceiling instead.” This makes the windows seem bigger and the room taller—both big positives when selling a home.

Mistake #7: Not Thinking About Who Your Potential Buyer Is

Is your buyer most likely to be a young family? A single professional? Empty nesters? You want buyers to see your place as somewhere that fits their lifestyle, so give some thought to who might be most interested in your location and type of dwelling. “If I’m staging a condo in downtown Seattle, for example, I’ll stage a second bedroom as a guest room or home office rather than as a nursery or a kid’s room,” explains Bertrand. Also, resist the urge to go overboard with super-specific decor. You want your home to appeal to as many people as possible.

Mistake #8: Going Too Bland

While trying to appeal to a wide variety of tastes, it’s easy to go too far and end up with a boring space. “The goal is to make the design neutral but with personality,” says Bertrand. She likes to keep things like wall color and couches low-key but add interest through art and textiles like colorful throw pillows.

Try her no-fail pillow formula for a stylish sofa: On one side, layer a 24-by-24-inch pillow, a 20-by-20-inch pillow and a lumbar; on the other do just a 24-by-24-inch and a 20-by-20-inch pillow. Invest in quality pillow inserts and switch the covers seasonally or whenever your space needs a boost. Knit and faux fur options create a cozy winter vibe and crisp, light materials are perfect for spring and summer.

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