Buyer Beware: Home Staging May Be Hiding Big Problems

Home Buyers: Don't Fall for Home StagingHome Buyers: Don't Fall for Home StagingBy: Kristie Lorette

Selling a home these days is no easy business. Many sellers are learning home staging techniques or enlisting the help of professionals to position their homes in the best light. As a home seller, staging can be a very smart investment, often rewarding you in a faster sale or even a higher selling price.

As a home buyer, however, beware of falling prey to "model home syndrome," which may distract you from the truly important characteristics - or warning signs - of a home, like:

  • The floor plan
  • Condition of the home
  • Quality products, finishes and construction
  • Lighting
  • Problem odors

Floor Plan

Proper home staging can make a house shine and in doing so, draw home buyers' attention away from the home's weaknesses. Don't let the way the furniture is arranged and the fresh flowers aptly placed in each room distract you from one of the most important aspects of any home - the layout or floor plan.

If you prefer an open floor plan rather than a choppy one that closes off one room from another, then make sure the homes you are considering are set up this way - and don't let smart furniture arrangement trick your eyes into thinking the space is more open than it is. If you prefer a separate dining room in your space, make sure the homes you look at have one and not just a nice-looking table in the corner of the kitchen.

Condition of the Home


Often times, home staging is set up to hide problem areas in a home, and instead, turn your attention toward the positives. Look past the pretty decorations and focus on warning signs like:

  • Leaks around plumbing fixtures and below upper floor bathrooms
  • Stains on walls or ceilings
  • Evidence of mold
  • Shoddy workmanship of flooring, molding, windows and doors.
  • Aging and worn seals around windows and doors.

These may indicators that there are problems with the plumbing, roof, or construction of the home - and may cost you dearly down the road.

Quality Products and Construction


Check out the quality of the materials in the home. Is the tile installed straight and correctly? Are the kitchen cabinets real wood? Are the doors solid? Is the flooring even? It can be surprising how small home staging touches and perfectly put-together furniture can make cheap materials in the home look more expensive.

While it's unrealistic to expect every home you look at to be in perfect condition, it is important that you pay attention and tally up the fixes and improvements - both large and small - you'd have to make if you bought the home. Your dollar total for improvements should be factored into the total cost of the home and weighed carefully when making a decision.

Lighting

Visit the home at different times. During the day, you can evaluate how much natural sunlight the home gets and in which areas. At night, you can check on overhead lighting and light fixtures, which will help you determine if you'll need to add more lighting - which should also factor into your total bill for improvements.

While adding lighting may not be a big expense, you may uncover issues that cannot be easily or inexpensively fixed - like not enough natural lighting, too few windows, and ineffective window treatments.

Problem Odors


Use your nose while you are roaming the house as well. It is very common to use air fresheners or freshly baked goods to create an appealing atmosphere. But too many air fresheners may be a home stager's attempt to cover up a bigger problem - such as damp areas in the home, mold from water leaks, black mold in the walls, smoke damage or even urine smells from a house pet run amok.

Some odors are indicators of bigger problems, while others may be easily fixable. Pet odors in a home without any carpets, for example, can be fixed with baking soda or vinegar cleaning solutions. Grease odors in a kitchen are fixable as well with a good scrub-down of appliances, floors, fixtures and cabinets.

The purpose of staging a home for sale is to put the house in its best light and draw attention away from less desirable features and problem areas. Don't fall for it. Always view houses with an open mind and make sure you put laser-like focus on the aspects of the home that are most important.

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