What NOT to Do When Trying to Sell Your Home

I’m a Home Stager, and I’ve staged all kinds of homes over the last 5 years – from small condos to multi-million dollar mansions.  Did you know that staged homes sell for 10-17% more in 1/3 of the time of unstaged homes?  Good staging is a must in today’s difficult real estate market.  You have only one chance and about 15 minutes to make a prospective buyer fall in love with your home.  With fewer eligible buyers, you have to make every showing count – bigtime.

The following photographs are “befores” of some of my client’s homes.  All of my clients are wonderful and talented people – but everyone needs a little help to make the sign in the front yard go from “For Sale” to “Sold.”  Names are withheld to protect the innocent and the unstaged.  

It doesn’t matter how much money your house is “worth” –  it isn’t likely to sell if you do the following things:

1.  Ignore the architecture.   Placing a big screen television and all its components in front of the fireplace is NOT the way to emphasize the positive features your home has to offer.

2.  Turn your living room into a playroom.  If you want buyers to see your house as a place they’d like to entertain adult friends, it’s not a good idea to set up Romper Room in your formal living area.


3.  Hang blankets or sheets over your windows.  Draw attention to the views, not your poor choice of window dressings.   It’s better to have NO window coverings than makeshift, bad ones.


4.  Store extra beds, exercise equipment, or your ping pong table in the master bedroom.   A master bedroom should be a retreat, not an obstacle course.


5.  Hang on to dated furniture and accessories.  Unless you’re trying to sell to the someone who’s obsessed with “That 70’s Show,”  you’re better off than no sofa in your living room than one like this.  And please, no microwaves in the living room.


6.  Embrace bad wood paneling.  Ok, get over it already, guys.  Bad wood paneling is simply bad.  In the name of all things good and holy, paint it already!!!  If you need justification to convince your husband of this, click here.


7.  Overlook your master bath.   A good master bath can sell a home.   Leaving a dated bath in dated condition may make a buyer turn and walk away.  Sorry, but peach paint is dated.  That cactus isn’t helping things, either.

8.  Block windows or doors with furniture.  There is nothing that makes a space look smaller or more cluttered.  If the room is too small for your furniture, a prospective buyer will automatically draw the conclusion that it’s too small for theirs.


9.  Paint your rooms in neon.  Ok, it’s fine when you are living there if that’s what you love – but paint over it before you put it on the market.


10.  Decorate with ducks.   It’s hard to see them on the television in this photo but, believe me, they are the first thing you notice when you walk in this room.  Remove any other overly personal collections, as well.  Keep it neutral, people.


11.  Showcase your gun safe.  This and the boxes of ammo might freak someone out a little.  Doesn’t reflect positively on the the safety of the neighborhood. 

12. Use patio furniture indoors.   Must I explain?

13.  Don’t let clutter ruin the vibe.  Do not allow your personal taste to dominate the property for sale.  You are attempting to sell the house, not the furnishings or your personal style.

Any questions?  If you need help staging your home to sell, contact The Decorologist for a Property Staging Consultation.  Homes don’t always sell themselves, but good staging does.

Photo Credits:  Kristie Barnett .

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22 thoughts on “What NOT to Do When Trying to Sell Your Home

  1. Kelly, Arte Styling says:

    What funny photos!!! I can’t believe half of them….but I can. I’m sure you did an amazing job staging. Do they put up much of a fight?

    • jim says:

      I am sure some of these photos have been played with just a bit so don’t believe everything that you see. I know of stagers in the area where I live and on the before photos they will do a little staging just to make them look worst than what one will have.

      For example the living room with the vaulted ceiling you can see the cable line coming out of the wall on the right and no one would pile that much stuff in front of the fireplace nor would they do a flatscreen tv when you have a big wall and the cable right there.

      For the bedroom where they have plastic patio chairs odd that someone would have 4 chairs in that room just a bit over the top on the fake staging.

      The room that is suppose to be the master bedroom with the ping pong table and the exercise equipment looks more like a spare room than the master

      The rooms with the neon colors looks like some bad photo shop work.

      Just my thoughts, don’t always believe all that you see in photo’s. If someone can stage a home to look pretty they can also stage it to look bad. There are a lot of people out there that may live like this but some of these images are just a bit to fake for me to believe.

      • Kristie Barnett says:

        Thank you for your comments, but I have to rebut. These are all my personal photos that I took of clients’ homes prior to staging. I did not edit or add ONE SINGLE THING in any of these photos. This is EXACTLY the way the rooms looked when I arrived. No joke, honest, cross my heart, and hope to die! Sometimes things really are that bad. As for the comment about the television in front of the fireplace? The client said she did that to keep her young child out of the fireplace. People can do some strange things!

  2. Phil Barnett says:

    Kristie – you do a great job staging! The clients we have that will actually APPLY the advice of the experts on staging, pricing, marketing are the ones that WILL sell the house! The rest are living in Egypt next to

      da NILE


  3. Amy says:

    It is a relief that none of my photos made this post! HA! We did everything possible that you told us to do and our house sold to the first person who saw it. We have been looking and looking ever since and believe you me we have seen all of these don’ts and MORE. UGH! It is so hard to see past someone’s personal taste, clutter, collections, dirty laundry, and yes shower scum. Oh and mouse traps. 🙂

  4. Lee says:

    I wish I knew about staging when we sold our first house. All the articles said things like “bake bread so your house will smell homey” or “keep the mirrors clean” but even with all of that -helpful- advice it took nearly 8 months to sell.
    You might want to mention pets and pet paraphernalia (sp?) as another no-no. 😉

  5. kristiebarnett says:

    Lee – you are SO right about pets and pet paraphenalia – definitely a no-no. if you have a pet, you better act like you don’t!!!! anyone with animal allergies will cross a house with pets off their lists immediately.

  6. LiveLikeYou says:

    Oh boy I’m sad to say I’ve seen all that way too many times. You start feeling like you want to just go nuts in there changing things around. I see people living in giant mansion and with design like that-what the point of the big house? GREAT post!!!

  7. SeaGlassLvr says:

    Is there a way I can ask a private question? is there an email address on here for you? Thanks! Annette

  8. jim says:

    sorry to say this but I do not agree with all this staging thoughts that so many people seem to think works. I am a professional photography stylist for 20 + years and I also have had my home on the market for over a year. My home is staged as you may say (yes I did put some of my personal things away) and I have had many people look at the house and many agents and all say the house is beautiful decorated but to me when I walk into a home the last thing I want to look at is a beautiful home staged out. I want to see the bones of the house and not all the pretty stuff setting around. What are we selling the look of the furniture or the house. Now I know that most of the time a home may have the home owners still living in the home. For me they just need to clean up their act and put things away. Same goes for wall colors my gosh a gallon of paint will fix just about anything. I am tired of hearing people on the tv shows oh its not my color. GET OUT. No kidding I didn’t paint it for you. I have been told by many that not everyone has the eye to look beyond but get real people. No you can not walk into any house and find everything to your liking and it is going to take some time to get it where you want it to be. If you want the perfect home that you can walk into and it is all yours, then BUILD ONE and you have what you want. I do have a personal close friend of mine that has and is trying to do the staging and she even told me that they make the before images look there worst even if they have to stage it before. Sorry.

    Just my thoughts,

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Wow Jim, what you say is very interesting and it’s obvious you are quite frustrated with having your house on the market and it not selling. Here’s the deal – once you put your home on the market, it’s not about you and what you like anymore. If you really want to sell, you have to disconnect emotionally from the home and market it to the largest audience possible. Not by decorating it, but by un-decorating (staging) it so that they do notice the architecture, the spaces, the potential. 90% of people cannot do that when someone else’s personal style gets in the way – they get distracted by the homeowner’s “story” and can’t invision themselves living there. Since you are a photo stylist, I’m sure you are one of those 10% that can – but most people just can’t. Unfortunately, in this market buyers are looking for something perfect, move-in ready, because they have $0 to fix it up once they move in. The days of selling “as-is” just isn’t working anymore. I see proper staging sell houses quickly over and over again – but only if the house is priced appropriately. Maybe you should consider a radical price reduction, or find out what is holding back buyers from scooping up your home. Good luck!

  9. jim says:

    point well taken. The house is decorated to the point of having only the necessary items in the house just as you and all staggers say is the way to go. I still don’t think that staging is a big selling point in a home. The only reason mine has things in it is cause I still live there other wise she would be empty. I want to see the bones of the house not the stuff setting around in a home. This is just my point of view. As far as reducing the price we have done that and even the realtor says that we are below the square footage price on the homes in our area. So I really don’t think that is the problem. I am not going to give the house away just to move to something else. Like I said before the friend of mine that is doing some staging says the same thing about if a stagger comes in and does it correctly then the house is going to sell within a few months ( I believe she says around 3 months.) Funny the one and only one that she was speaking of that did sell and my realtor knows of this house and she said it was priced really really low below market value. So I do not believe that the staging really had that much to do with it. I do think that the tv shows have put all of this into everyone’s head that if the house is staged it is going to help you sell the home. Maybe in some cases it might but I still remember the days when they said it was better when empty and the houses sold then. Now we live in another world and the market for the homes is not there now. That is the problem with selling today. It was always important to have the major things done like the heating and air, roof, plumbing, etc updated and all of ours has. Maybe I should have just left that all go to heck and worry about the “staging” and then it would sell. It is messed up because of all the things that the tv shows say to do. Most of which those shows are a joke.

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