Stage Your Home for Sale: Myth or Miracle for Millennials?

The simple days are gone; we are now entrenched in the new world of “staging” a home for sale. Your home is likely the most valuable asset you own. As such, you are vulnerable to advice from experts...

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by Neale Godfrey

Remember the days when all you had to do was clean up your home before showing it to potential buyers? You yelled at your kids (and mostly at your husband) to collect underwear, toys and tools from the floor. And, with any luck, they put them where they belonged, or at least shoved them into the nearest closet, out of sight. In the olden days, home buyers used to expect sellers to live in their homes. In fact, pictures and memorabilia made the home seem real, lived-in, and loved.

Well, those simple days are gone; we are now entrenched in the new world of “staging” a home for sale. Your home is likely the most valuable asset you own. As such, you are vulnerable to advice from experts.

I have just gone through two such “staging” events; one for an apartment I sold and the other for the home I’m selling. The real estate agents, in both instances, when they saw my look of shock and dismay at the mere utterance of the word, “staging,” explained that this is now part of the sales process.

Yes, I was intimidated by these experts. They waxed poetic about how people want to walk into a house and think that no one has lived there, only to imagine themselves in the living space. The home must look like a stage set; a bland, white, sparsely decorated stage set. All personalization should disappear. I suggested, of course, keeping the pictures of my kids and grandkids. I was immediately met with shrieks of, “Are you kidding? You can’t have any photos around. That will give the impression that people live here.”

“I do live here,” I added. “The prospective buyers can’t figure that out?” I said begrudgingly. I did point out that perhaps it’s creepy to buy a home where people didn’t have loved ones. Again, I was met with incredulous “attitude” and the rolling of eyes, indicating that I clearly had no idea about the “new – new.”

Who Can We Blame For This Lunacy?

It seems to be a popular time to point blame at the media for all our ills, so here I go. I do blame “the media.” Television stations like HGTV and shows like Flip This House are partially at fault. Home buying and selling became reality TV, not reality. Today, flipping a home is considered an art, or a science, depending on how you look at it. It’s big business for many.

I fully understand if you are “flipping” an empty house. Any house looks better with some furniture in it. I also understand if the house is cluttered with “stuff.” A hoarder’s home will not invite the buyers to buy, especially when they must step over piles of unopened QVC packages. What I don’t understand is when your home is in an upper-middle class neighborhood and is decorated with expensive furniture, only to discover that your “stager” feels a need to get rid of your things and have you rent cheap, non-descript furniture all in the name of the new world of staging.

“BuildIt And They Shall Come”

Create a need and companies will spring up to fulfill that need. The world of staging has exploded into big business. There is even a group dedicated to the growing industry, the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) that gives out “awards honoring real estate staging mastery… each year top producing stagers are recognized for their professional excellence and superior skills in the art of home staging and re-design.”

How big has the home staging industry become? See for yourself; there are:

I’m not sure how one gets to be listed as “Certified” as a professional home stager. These “accreditations” seem to have just sprung up. I’m sure I will be educated as to how one gets that delineation, as soon as this is published. For instance, Home Staging Resource claims to have, “The HSR Certification Program [that] is the first and one of the only truly RESA ‘Accredited’ staging training programs available!” Far be it from me to debate this; that is above my pay-grade.

“What DoMillennials Want In A Home?”

With all the hullabaloo about home staging, it may not be impressing our next generation of homebuyers. Northshore Fireplace just conducted a study with the above title, and they “… gave [1,000] millennials the opportunity to spend play money in order to upgrade the ‘average American home’ however they [saw] fit.” Seventy-five percent of the Millennials surveyed valued new appliances, followed by the desire for a large master bedroom. Ranking last at three percent (3%) was an above-ground pool. (I’m thinking that I may have a house for sale for Millennials.)

I spoke with Andy Kerns, Content Strategist at Chicago SEO agency Digital Third Coast, who conducted the above research. He said, “Our research shows what millennials are attuned to when considering a home, it’s definitely not the trappings of staged spaces that lure them. Millennials are savvy about the sales process. Relative to other generations, they have a real knack for cutting through the noise and assessing the fundamentals before making purchases. They care about function and quality. While past generations may have been charmed by bedspreads and vases, millennials cut to the chase. Millennials do their research, they know what they want and they don’t need staged spaces to understand what will or won’t work for them.” Go, Andy!

Why am I so skeptical? Maybe it’s the market and the impossible fantasy of home ownership. As Mortimer (Morty) Zuckerman, media, and real estate maven so clearly put it, “These days the American dream of home ownership has turned into a nightmare for millions of families. They wake every day to the reality of a horrible decline in the value of the home that has meant so much to them.” Unfortunately, Go Morty!

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