What should you never do when staging a house?

A professional home stager names the things you must not do when staging a home

living space decorated for fall
(Image credit: Neptune)

What should you not do when staging a house? Everyone who's ever sold a home knows about the importance of home staging – make the house that little bit more appealing to buyers with clever decorating and visual tricks. But what are some of the biggest faux pas in home staging?

We've asked Kasia McDaniel, a home stager since 2013, about the don'ts of home staging. Here's what she told us.

1. Do not leave the house empty

Simple living room with blue sofa and yellow cushions

(Image credit: Future)

This is the first and most important staging faux pas Kasia, of Blue Diamond Home Staging, names. 'Empty houses actually take longer to sell than those that have furniture', she explains, 'mainly because only 10 per cent of buyers can imagine the home for themselves.' 

Much of this has to do with imagining the dimensions of the furniture that needs to go in – buyers 'need to be shown that a large couch can fit in the living room or a queen bed fits in a bedroom. Once you put in furniture, you realize that you can fit a couch and loveseat whereas before it looked like it could only fit a couch.' 

Moreover, buyers spend longer in homes that are staged, by an impressive 20 minutes. Cleverly staging a home with the right furniture takes the guesswork out of the process for buyers, helping them visualize living room ideas: 'Online photos also don't tell you what kind of room it is unless you put in a bed, couch or desk. Don't make buyers guess how to use the room and get it staged with the right pieces.'

2. Leaving personal photos on walls

Gallery wall ideas with colorful artwork

(Image credit: Future)

This is another huge no-no. There are several reasons for this, the biggest one is that buyers 'feel awkward anyway walking through someone else's house, they don't have to be reminded that this is still your home.' 

Also, although sellers tend not to think about this, 'for security reasons, you don't want complete strangers seeing all your family photos of your loved ones.' It's really not that difficult to take the photos down – 'you are moving anyway, so start packing up your home.'

Tasteful gallery wall ideas are just fine – minus the family pictures. 

3. Not making an effort with tidying

Simple cream living room with wood furniture, leather armchairs and rug

(Image credit: Future)

Kasia puts it bluntly: 'Take some pride and clean up your home. Just because this is a seller's market doesn't mean you shouldn't lift a finger to make it presentable.' 

She presents a brilliant analogy for staging your home: 'think of your home as going out on a date. Clean it up, put on some makeup, get a new dress and show off your place!' 

You won't be sorry for your effort. Kasia tells us that a realtor friend of hers 'helped her clients stage their townhome while a similar one five doors down was not staged. The realtor sold her client's beautiful home in three days while the other townhome sat on the market for 35 days.'

4. Don't go overboard on holiday decor

Christmas tree topper trend

(Image credit: Future / Sussie Bell)

'If you are selling your home during the fall or Christmas time we tend to want to celebrate it one more time before moving out', Kasia acknowledges. However, 'that is something that will date your photos if you don't sell your home quickly. There is nothing worse than looking at online photos of a house decorated for Halloween when your house is still on the market during December.' 

By photographing a home that's decorating for a particular holiday, you are showing  'the home buyers that your house has been sitting for a long time, that the sellers will probably be desperate and will take a low-ball offer. If you have holiday décor, be minimal about it or don't put it up until after pictures are taken.'

Anna K. Cottrell is now a freelance writer, having previously been a Content Editor for Future's homes titles. She writes about interior design, property, and gardening. On H&G, she specialized in writing about property – buying, selling, renting – sustainability and eco issues.