Common Problems You’ll Face When Staging Homes

Common Home Staging Problems

Let’s go over some of the most common issues you will come across when staging occupied homes.

Clutter
Many homes have too much day-to-day stuff in sight, such as mail, coats and hats, items on nightstands, countertop clutter in kitchens and bathrooms, you get the idea. Clutter can also include knick-knacks, pet items, piles of old magazines, collections, toys, and more.

When we stage, we need to find places to put stuff away in cabinets or drawers, and possibly start boxing things up in preparation for moving.

Too Much Furniture
There’s no magic rule that I can give you in order to determine how much furniture should be in a room. It depends too much on the shape of the room, window placement, room function, and other features like stairways, fireplaces, or other built-in features.

You will know when you walk into the room whether it feels a little crowded. You’ll also be able to tell that there’s too much furniture if it forces traffic patterns that are awkward.

It’s better to err on the side of having a little too much space rather than too much furniture. You can have buyers store excess furniture in a basement, attic, or storage unit such as a POD that they may be using for their move anyway.

Outdated Decor
Sometimes you run into very dated décor. Depending on the budget and how extensively you’re staging, you may have to find ways to minimize the problem areas instead of replacing them altogether.

A good example would be kitchen flooring. You may not have the option of getting new flooring (although this is a relatively inexpensive high-impact change you can make) so instead you’ll have to try to take the focus away from it.

You can do this by highlighting the positive features in the kitchen, such as a beautiful view of the garden or spacious counter tops. You can put a pretty throw rug down that works with the existing color of the floor but also gives your eye a more pleasing area to rest.

I’m not saying that we can completely take the attention away from the problems. Problems will get noticed. But we can try to minimize their impact by giving buyers plenty of good stuff to admire in the home.

Sometimes you can spruce up dated drawers and cabinets with some new knobs in a finish like brushed nickel that will work with nearly any décor. Dated furniture can be given a quick makeover with some new pillows and a cozy throw, if you don’t have the budget to swap pieces with rented furniture (or your own items).

Not Enough Light
Look at the window coverings to see what changes can be made in order to get more light. Natural colored linen or linen-like curtains can give a home a quick update, allowing light to filter in while maintaining privacy at night. See if there is excess foliage outside windows. Branches can be trimmed to let in more light. You can also add mirrors to help lighten things up.

Unflattering Paint Colors
Believe it or not, you don’t have to paint every room whit e in order to attract buyers. In fact, white rooms often come across as cold and boring. Color does help sell homes. But if the bedroom is hot pink, that might be a little much. A red lacquered accent wall in the living room may be a little over the top. And the brown walls in the dining room, well, might be a little unappetizing.

Hopefully your sellers will be OK with painting.

When suggesting new colors, try to make choices that will have broad appeal. I would generally avoid stark white but you should definitely think about warm antique white and cream shades. Earthy pale greens like sage or muted minty tones are often very pleasing. We’ll get more into color choices in a bit.

Odors
Last but not least, we have to deal with odors. This can be a problem related to pets, diapers, garbage, or even mold or mildew.
Mold and mildew can be a serious issue that should come up during a home inspection, and it may indicate current or past water leaks that are not something that we’ll be trying to cover up.

I just want to be clear about the fact that we aren’t concealing problems with the home. If you do notice a moldy odor you can just ask the sellers if they’re aware of it. They may not be, since they could have grown accustomed to it. It’s something you should discuss in case they do want to address it in terms of making repairs.

Pet odors could be coming from the litter box or from carpets. You may have to troubleshoot the problem on the fly and then talk to the sellers to arrive at a solution. It could mean that they agree to a carpet cleaning service. Maybe you tell them that one thing you recommend to all cat owners is to make sure the litter box is cleaned at least once per day, or more frequently if there are multiple cats. It might be that you leave them with a new bottle of Febreze. It just depends on the situation.

For garbage odors, you can leave them with some scented bags and an air freshener that can be placed by the trash can.
You’ll have to try to navigate the topic of odors as tactfully as possible, but remember that you’re not doing your job fully as a stager if you avoid these conversations. It’ll make sure a huge difference when you fix it.

Let’s move on to some step-by-step staging instructions. We’ll go over a bit of what we have already discussed but we’ll go into greater detail. If you find that these steps seem like common sense, it’s because you’re already understanding the principles and the psychology behind the changes we’re making. That’s what we want!

Exercise:
Go to a home search site and enter your own zip code. Take a look at what’s on the market and start looking at average-priced homes. It could be $300,000 where you are or it could be $90,000 so just pick a price range that represents nice-looking starter homes. Look at individual homes in detail. Check out the photos and just start making mental notes about what works and doesn’t work. Notice what jumps out at you and what you might do differently. Spend 20 to 30 minutes and try to look at five or more houses.