What does a home stager REALLY do?

With the recent proliferation of TV reality shows about home staging,  I suspect that many sellers and also many Realtors believe that these shows portray what home stagers do….which is not always the case.  So, what does a home stager REALLY do?

A well trained home stager does NOT go into a client’s home and exclaim, “What a horrible decor!  What WERE you thinking?’  (As in many of the TV shows).  Instead, they first find something (there’s always something) positive to say about their house and then say something like, ‘With a few changes your home will be even more attractive to buyers’.

Yes, de-cluttering is suggested, but calling their things ‘clutter’ can offend some clients…they think that the STAGER thinks all their things are clutter (‘junk’ in their minds).  Instead, a stager will often say, ‘You have lovely things here, but our aim is to make this house seem as spacious as possible to buyers.  Do you think you could pack up a lot of your things and maybe some of your furniture?’ Or/and ‘It will make your move so much easier if you pack up a lot of your collections, dishes, personal items now and put them in storage’.  Or for clients that vast amounts of ‘stuff’…often very nice and expensive things…’It would be a good idea to pack up as much of your things as possible.  With all the potential buyers coming through your house it would be terrible if something got broken/damaged or even stolen’.

The paint colour in a house is sooo important.  If the colour is too bright, too dark, or not neutral enough a stager will say something like, ‘I personally love this colour in your living room, but to appeal to the most buyers we should try to neutralize it.  I can give you some paint colour suggestions and the name of a good painter who has done work for another one of my clients.’

If a house is in need of a good cleaning a stager will say something like ‘I have worked with (Merry Maids or similar) before…they can help you keep your home in pristine condition.  Would you like their number?’  If the house is already clean, they will say something like, ‘Wow, your home is so clean….I’m sure it will be in pristine condition for the potential buyers.’

One of the more difficult problems to address is that of pet/smoking odours. Statistics show that bad odours are the BIGGEST turn-off for buyers…even more than uncleanliness or outdated decor.  It has to be done tactfully, but it has to be discussed with the sellers.  It is a good idea to address this point last, after there is a rapport/trust built up with the seller (hopefully).  Stagers sometimes say something like, ‘I am a pet lover/owner myself, but I think you will agree that pets (esp dogs) have an inherant smell’.  Then they will explain how that is the biggest turn-off for buyers…etc.  As for cigarette smoking odours, a stager will say, ‘Non-smokers can pick up the smell of cigarette smoke very quickly.  A large part of the market now is non-smoking, so it would be a good idea not to smoke in the house until it is sold.’  For both pet and smoking odours, they will explain that in order to remove the smell, the upholstery, soft window treatments, bedding, and carpets will have to be cleaned or replaced.

Often stagers have to explain to their clients that they need to de-personalize the house, often by removing personal items, pictures, collections, diplomas, etc.  They say, ‘Buyers can become distracted looking at your photos/diplomas, etc. and not see the house for what it is.’  And/or ‘Personal items make it more difficult for the buyer to imagine themselves living in your home’.  Neutralizing the paint colours is also a part of de-personalizing.

Any obvious repairs (leaking faucets, squeaky doors, a cracked window pane, etc) need to be fixed.  Home stagers can say, ‘Buyers are looking for ANYTHING wrong with the house so that they can make a lowball offer.  If you fix those things upfront you will easily recoup the cost in your selling price.’….and ‘Simple updates will also increase your selling price…replacing outdated light fixtures and faucets, repairing or replacing flooring, a new counter top and new hardware for your cabinets can instantly upgrade your kitchen’.

Curb appeal is extremely important.  Stagers say ‘Most potential buyers will do a drive-by of your house to see if they want to pursue it further before they even contact the Realtor. So a fresh coat of paint on the front door/shutters can really boost your curb appeal.’  (They will suggest colour options).  Mowing the grass, trimming the hedge/shrubs, planting some flowers, replacing hardware on the door if needed, and storing away children’s toys, bikes, garbage containers, etc. are all addressed.

A consultation, addressing all the above points can take up to two hours on site to complete, and, depending on the stager, another couple of hours preparing a written report.

AFTER all these things are completed a stager will come in and ‘showcase’ (stage) the home using proven techniques.  This may include removing, repurposing, re-arranging furniture and accessories.  In some cases furniture and accessories will have to be rented or purchased…..(which the stager sources and arranges for delivery).  Stagers will address the traffic flow, find a focal point in each room, hang appropriate art in the right places and the correct height, and hang window treatments.  The home will be in “Open House” condition when finished.  This can take a whole day and often more, depending on the size and condition of the house.

So this is what home stagers REALLY do.  Here are a couple of ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of my work.






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