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Here’s a description of a room in New York’s fictional Hotel Stentorian, from Edith Wharton’s novel Custom of the Country:
“The…drawing room walls, above their wainscoting of highly varnished mahogany, were hung with salmon-pink damask and adorned with oval portraits of Marie Antoinette and the Princess de Lamballe. In the center of the florid carpet a gilt table with a top of Mexican onyx sustained a palm in a gilt basket tied with a pink bow. But for this ornament, and a copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles which lay beside it, the room showed no traces of human use…”
Showing “no traces of human use” is key in marketing a house effectively.
Think about what happens when you stay at an AirBnB rental or in a hotel. You don’t want to open your host’s kitchen drawer and see an old prescription bottle, a jumble of promo pens, a assorted rubber bands, dried glue, old pizza flyers and wine corks. Nor do you want to hang out on a stained sofa strewn with suspicious pillows, or on the Barcalounger recliner parked next to it. And you don’t appreciate the wall full of family photos, or the cute bear-motif decorations around the mantelpiece. You want something more neutral and pristine.
Same thing with a hotel. When you open the door to your room, you don’t want to smell anything besides a faint whiff of cleaning product. You do a survey to search for hairs or unsmooth covers or debris in the tub. Only when you’re satisfied that everything is clean and tidy – devoid of all human traces – do you open your duffle and throw your stuff all over the desk and the bathroom countertops.
It’s the same when you go shopping for real estate. You want an immaculate presentation. Because, without it, you can’t fully imagine yourself into a space.
Vacating a property was once enough to achieve this. Deep cleaning, painting the front door, and planting some impatiens on the shady side of the house constituted a good appearance. But staging took it a step further. By staging a home you aren’t just presenting a fresh, virginal property, you’re offering one that’s blushing and all gussied up in an exquisite wedding gown.
You ask, “why should that matter?” And I answer, “I don’t know exactly. But it really makes a difference.” You might say, “But people can see through staging! They know it’s not real!” Or you may say, “The new owners are going to change everything anyway, so I don’t want to put in new carpet only to have them rip it up again!”
I get it. I understand your resistance to this illogical notion. It’s true that buyers DO “see through it” and, often, the new owner will eventually (or immediately) rip out the new carpet, repaint the entire house, remodel kitchen and baths, and totally change the landscaping. What the new homeowner decides to do with your old house doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you presented a fantasy version of the property that showed “no traces of human use” and carried some emotional appeal. That theatrical bait is what hooked your buyers and prompted one of them to pay top dollar – whether they comprehended it or not.
Call me crazy. It works everytime.
Photo Credit: Flaunter
Author and RealEstateTherapy curator Cynthia Cummins has been devoted to homeowners and homebuyers for three decades and counting. Visit KindredSFhomes.com for more information on San Francisco real estate.