Sep 17, 2007

Staging May Fool You!

It's official: Home buyers can be fooled by home staging. Or so says the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (NAEBA), which surveyed brokers and agents, and found that 82% of home buyers are likely to be distracted from important issues when they go through a staged home.

And here's the kicker -- these buyers not only fall for the house, but potentially overpay. Check out the NAEBA's irresistibly titled report, "How to not get tricked by staging, and potentially save $5,645 when you buy your home."

But are we really so gullible that we can be fooled by puffy cushions, potted plants, and neutral paint colors? Especially when we all know what the game is, and that sellers pay thousands of dollars to have their house turned into a fantasy abode? Mary Umberger, of the Chicago Tribune, doesn't necessarily think so. She writes,"But c'mon: Most home buyers aren't helpless mopes who get all weak-kneed because somebody has placed a tray with a champagne bottle and two Baccarat crystal classes on the bed in the master suite."

I'm not so sure. Even without being a helpless mope, I count myself among the many buyers who either have trouble mentally replacing the staging with my "gently worn" furniture or can't imagine the full decorating potential of an unstaged home.

In fact, if it weren't for staging, I might not own my current home--not because it was staged, but because it wasn't. It's a 1917 Arts and Crafts bungalow--the real McCoy, with built in woodwork and leaded glass. But the buyers had moved out and left not much more than a rocking chair and some dark Venetian blinds behind. Meanwhile, a house just a block away, which was not an actual bungalow, had been decorated to look like one--Mission-style furniture, period lighting, linen curtains, the works. I was wowed myself--but backed off when that house got about 12 offers.

Ilona's living room

At least there's a happy ending to this story. My house got only six offers, and I moved in, as you can see from this picture of my living room. And there's a lesson, too: Keep an eye on the overlooked houses that aren't making other buyers all starry-eyed.

And, for more tips on how to really assess your would-be first home beneath all that glitz and never-used furniture, check out Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home (Nolo), by the authors of this blog!

Ilona Bray