Home Staging: How to Tell It’s Just Pretend

Perfect livingroomFirst impressions are everything, especially when buying a house or a condo. It’s fare to say that buying real estate is an emotional process and it’s easy to form an opinion just by walking through the front door. If I took you to look at a place that was a total disaster, disorganized and cluttered but otherwise a good investment, you’d probably lose interest before realizing its potential. But if that same place was cleaned up, de-cluttered and furnished with complementing pieces, you’d probably have a more positive reaction.

Home staging works when selling a property, but as a buyer, it’s important not to fall for the smart design touches and trendy furniture. Keep in mind that although that mid-century designer sofa looks great in the living room, it won’t be there when you move in. As the cost of property in Toronto is increasing, the square footage is getting smaller, especially in condos. So if you see a sofa the size of a waiting-room bench or a bedroom with nothing but a bed and a tiny side table, chances are the owner isn’t a minimalist. He simply doesn’t live there. Here’s how to spot a staged property.

Wall TVWall-mounted TV but where’s the rest? – I’ve seen this in condos with a long or L-shaped living area where the TV is mounted on the wall so it can be identifiable as a living-room. At a first glance it seems normal, but don’t be fooled. Look if there is a power source near by and extra space for the digital box, DVD/BluRay Player, etc.

Don’t sit on the bed – One of the biggest telltale signs of staging is the blow up mattress. This is usually covered with right-out-of-the-package bed sheets, with creases still in them, and a lot of pillows. Very common in new condos or small rooms trying to pass for a bedroom.

BarcelonaWow, that Barcelona chair goes with everything! – Anytime a decor requires an update or an otherwise unusable space needs to be filled with furniture, you can bet that a Barcelona chair will be there. If the seller is trying to appeal to an Urbanite, or if the property is a loft, you’ll find a Barcelona chair. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate great furniture design, but it’s so obvious when it’s just for show.

Perfect accessories and that giant vase in the corner – Shelves or bookcases with nothing but perfect accessories, usually in one colour, grouped in 3s or 5s are a sure sign of a staged space. Also silk flowers that look real, perfectly ripe (read: fake) apples and those oversized IKEA vases with giant twigs are a staging staple.

Dining roomThe table is set but the fridge is empty – I always found this one very amusing. It is supposed to help a potential buyer imagine themselves living in the house and eating their meals at the table whilst engaging in a stimulating conversation with their significant other.  It is also supposed to help the space look inviting, warm and lived-in, even though the fridge and cupboards are empty, as they often are in new condos or newly renovated houses.

Home Stagers do a great job helping the seller sell faster and in many cases for more money. They also help the buyer imagine themselves living in the space, and suggest a furniture layout, especially in small spaces. But remember, when the property sells, the furniture goes, and then it’s all left up to you.

If you liked this post you may also like:

What You Should Know Before Buying Pre-Construction

First-Time Buyers: How to Buy a Home in Toronto

City Living: Live Big in a Small Space

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