Staging Choices to Avoid at your Open House

Open houses are one of any agent’s most effective tools when it comes to selling houses. The 2011 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found that 45% of buyers use open houses as a research tool when they are serious about buying a home. With the advent of Listing Book, (get your free account here alan.listingbook.com ) agents can now directly invite buyers based upon the needs THEY have specified on this site rather than relying on “whoever followed the signs”.


Our Westport and Fairfield open houses undoubtedly draw potential buyers, and then effectively demonstrate not only an attractive physical living space – but a canvas that invites them to project their own ideal living situation onto it.


Nevertheless…be warned! Obvious, clichéd staging can have exactly the opposite effect -- even for properties that are standouts in every other way. The danger arises when staging becomes upstaging: when décor rather than the house itself becomes the star. Additionally, there are a couple of common traps it would probably be better to avoid: 


1. Fake scents. The aromas of baking cookies or brewing coffee have become such clichés that area open houses are better off without them (exception: coffee that’s actually brewing before about 10 a.m.).  Homebuyers are simply wise to these overused scents…they are more likely to arouse suspicion than the warm and cozy feeling they are meant to inspire. Their very presence may raise a buyer’s defenses and plant the suspicion that something is being covered up. Instead, simply make sure the house is clean and smells fresh. Don't use any cloying artificial scents. When a home is well cared-for, opening windows to circulate fresh air half an hour before a showing or open house is usually all that is needed. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, find one of the new, nearly scentless fresheners (one you test in advance) -- and use sparingly! I keep a can of Lemon Pledge and a cloth duster in my car…a light wipe of some of the wood surfaces in a home gives that "just cleaned" ambience!



2. Fresh paint. Of course, you should perform repairs and refresh paintwork – just don't do it immediately before the house is going to be shown. Local open houses that smell like fresh paint can set off the same kind of alarm bells we are trying to avoid. Too strong a fresh paint aroma can carry the subtle message that the home has been through a quick cover-up of what might be a worrisome defect (damp walls, cracks in the ceiling – whatever a potential buyer fears most!)  It’s just safer to complete all paintwork a couple of weeks in advance.


3. Staging to a niche market. Don't get carried away by creating a fantasy lifestyle through your staging choices. The goal of effective open houses is to illustrate a home's potential to all buyers, helping them envision themselves in the space. Focusing your décor elements to create an extreme fashion statement may please those who appreciate it, but you can bet it will alienate many more who do not.


Open houses staged properly don’t depend on tricks or deception. Good staging is about showing a house to its best advantage while making it easy for all potential local homebuyers to put themselves into the picture. It should be just one part of a well thought-out marketing effort. Call me if you’d like to discuss selling your area home so we can build a results-oriented plan for you!

Alan & Melissa Hamilton

Chairman's Elite, William Raveis Real Estate Office: 203-502-1111 Mobile: 203-952-8880

William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage and Insurance

47 Riverside Ave
Westport, CT 06880