14 Cardinal Sins of Staging Your Home to Sell

By now everyone's heard about the importance of staging a home. Real estate agents have made it clear that potential buyers want to see your house looking its best, warmly welcoming a new owner. But staging requires more than just arranging the furniture, setting the dining room table, and putting a vase of fresh flowers on the kitchen island. In fact, what you don't do when you stage your home is as important as what you do. Some staging mistakes will simply make your home forgettable, while others can totally turn buyers off. Click through to see which home staging mistakes could stand between you and a good offer on your house.

  1. Theme Rooms

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    Theme Rooms

    While it’s wise to match your interior decor to the style of your house (for example, classic furniture looks great in a Victorian), get rid of over-the-top theme rooms before you put your house on the market. A flowery bathroom crowded with faux blooms and floral prints, or a bedroom dedicated to deep-sea diving, complete with scuba gear hanging on the wall, will cause buyers to look at your stuff, not at the room.

    Related: 9 Things Not to Say in Your Real Estate Listing

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  2. Over-Personalized Elements

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    Over-Personalized Elements

    We get it—it’s your home and you decorated it to suit your own taste. That's fine, but know that when you renovate your home in a quirky or exotic style, you run the risk of turning off buyers down the road. You may love your shiny orange kitchen cupboards, but most buyers prefer more traditional cabinets. That doesn’t mean you need to invest in expensive remodeling projects just to sell your home. Before you remodel, however, you should consider how long you plan to stay in your house. If you think you might want to sell in the next few years, choose a design that will appeal to a wide range of people.

    Related: 12 Kitchen Trends You Might Regret

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  3. Showing Off Your Family

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    Showing Off Your Family

    One of the biggest mistakes sellers can make is to line the walls and deck the mantel with family photos and trophies. A psychological factor is at work here: When buyers see a home filled with personal items, they can’t envision the home as their own. So, the cardinal rule of home staging is to remove your family from the equation. Put away those photos and mementos—you can bring them all back out when you move into your new home.

    Related: 12 Things Realtors Look For in Homes of Their Own

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  4. Yard Fail

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    Yard Fail

    It’s easy to get so caught up in staging your home’s interior that you neglect the exterior. Keep in mind that prospective buyers will often drive by your house before they make an appointment for a showing. If the view from the curb isn’t enticing, they’ll move on to the next house on their list. First impressions are vital, so while your house is on the market, mow the lawn, trim shrubs, rake leaves, and sweep the sidewalks frequently.

    Related: 11 Things Not to Do If You Ever Want to Sell Your House

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  5. Neglected Repairs

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    Neglected Repairs

    If you’ve been living in the house for years, you may no longer notice little problems—but buyers will spot them right away. A door that squeaks, a broken doorbell, or a little crack in the window will all send up red flags to potential buyers, no matter how nicely you’ve arranged the furniture. Walk through your home and try to view it as though you're seeing it for the first time. That way, you can spot the little problems you’ve let go over the years—and fix them.

    Related: 10 Signs Your House Isn’t Ready to Go on the Market

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  6. Unintended Room Use

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    Unintended Room Use

    The kids have moved out and you've turned that empty bedroom into your hobby room, but don’t leave it that way when you put your house on the market. If your home is advertised as a three-bedroom, make sure buyers see three bedrooms. Similarly, your living room should not look like your personal gym, and your patio should not look like a place to stash toys and bikes. Every room in your house should be decorated according to its intended use.

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  7. Phony Props

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    Phony Props

    When you're staging a home you’ve already moved out of, it's tempting to trot out fake fruit and makeshift furnishings. Avoid the temptation! A bowl of plastic apples on the kitchen island or an inflatable mattress on the bedroom floor are never good substitutes for the real thing. While home stagers will tell you that it’s vital that your home look “lived-in,” fake accessories just give buyers an uneasy feeling. So, if your furniture is long gone, borrow some from a friend, or rent from a furniture store or staging company that specializes in preparing homes for showings.

    Related: 11 Awful Real Estate Photos—And How to Make Yours Great

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  8. Shut Doors

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    Shut  Doors

    Something to add to your pre-showing checklist: Before you leave, open all the doors. Buyers should be able to see into every room without having to open a door. Shy buyers, especially, who may be reluctant to reach for a doorknob, could miss important rooms and features. Keep all your doors open so everyone will see just how wonderful your home is.

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  9. Old Carpeting

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    Old Carpeting

    If possible, replace old carpeting before you put your house on the market. If the carpet shows obvious signs of wear, it will be the first thing buyers notice. As well, though your nose may no longer notice it, your old carpeting can also carry odors that could really turn off buyers. At the very least, have your carpet professionally cleaned before you let prospective buyers inside your house.

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  10. Collections on Display

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    Collections on Display

    A cluttered interior doesn't help your chances of a home sale, and nothing says cluttered quite like a junky collection crowding the shelves. You may think your shadow box full of souvenir spoons is charming, but buyers may not agree. If you want to keep your personality on display while showing your home, choose two or three of your favorite pieces, and put the rest in storage until you accept an offer.

    Related: 17 Things You Won’t Believe People Actually Collect

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  11. Boring Furniture Configurations

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    Boring Furniture Configurations

    Positioning every piece of furniture against the wall says dull, dull, dull. Your home will show better if you move those chairs, sofas, and love seats away from the wall and arrange them more artfully. For example, create a conversation area in your living room by setting a couch and club chairs across from one another. Buyers will probably have a positive response to the cozy seating arrangement, and they'll be able to imagine enjoying the space with family and friends.

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  12. Out-of-Scale Furnishings

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    Out-of-Scale Furnishings

    Be sure to match the size of your furnishings to the scale of your home. A small love seat with tiny end tables will look awkward in a spacious great room with a vaulted ceiling. Likewise, a massive four-poster bed can overwhelm a basement bedroom with a low ceiling. Pay attention to the number, as well as the size, of furniture pieces in a room. Having too many items will visually reduce floor space, and too few will make the room look sparse and uninviting.

    Related: 12 Reasons Why Your House Isn't Selling

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  13. Using the Same Colors Everywhere

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    Using the Same Colors Everywhere

    While the general rule is to stick to neutral colors on walls, don’t use the exact same shade of paint everywhere. If every room seems the same rather than its own special place, your home becomes forgettable. You should still stay away from bold colors, but mix up the neutrals, using different hues in different rooms. That way, each room will offer its own fresh appeal.

    Related: Paint Your Home One of These Colors to Make It Sell for More

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  14. Staging Every Single Room

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    Staging Every Single Room

    There’s no need to stage every room in the house. In fact, a home that looks too perfect can prevent buyers from imagining themselves living there. The most important rooms to stage are the living room, kitchen, and bathrooms—those are the rooms that sell homes. You can leave guest bedrooms and home offices unstaged. In those rooms, focus on decluttering and keeping the rooms spotlessly clean, for a “blank canvas” appeal that allows potential buyers to visualize what they might do with the space.

    Related: 12 Secrets Every Savvy Home Seller Needs to Know

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  15. See the House of the Week

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    Discover and admire beautiful and innovative home architecture, from grand Victorians to quaint cabins and all the styles in between. Take a look at the latest images and inspiration!