The 5 Senses of Staging a House – a Sensible and Sensational Idea!
By Jennie Norris, APS Master®, Owner, Sensational Home Staging
I read something recently that caught my attention as it talked about how our 5 senses – SIGHT, SMELL, TOUCH, HEARING, TASTE – engage as we look at houses, or rather how they don’t engage if the seller has not deliberately put things out to make that happen or has not bothered to prepare their house for sale.
I thought about this – and as a professional Home Stager – I realized this is what I do every time I work with a Seller and on a house to Stage it for sale. But there is an imbalance with some Staging out there – where the focus is really on ONE sense – SIGHT and the others are sort of forgotten. Let’s take a look at what a complete sensory Staging would be like. . .
Before we take a look at what happens with Staging, let’s consider the flip side - when a Seller does NOT prepare their house for sale and what a Buyer might experience within their 5 senses.
SIGHT: Cluttered and dirty houses are a turnoff to Buyers. If the house is not picked up it says, “I don’t care about my house.” If a Buyer sees too many personal things, they feel like they are invading someone’s space and they are uncomfortable and will leave. If they see all the Seller’s things it not only distracts them from just being able to take in each room as a whole, it also could turn them away if the items are too personal, tacky, or just plain odd.
SMELL: Do I really have to mention that ANY unpleasant odor, aroma, or smell in a house is not a good thing for Selling? If a Seller is unsure whether their house has a smell that is unpleasant, tell them to ASK any number of people that do not live there. The most common culprits are cooking odors, pet odors, cigarette smoke odors, and mildew smells but it could even be too much fragrance or plug-ins that cloister the senses. However, most people are afraid to tell them the truth, and that is where the Home Stager can help.
TOUCH: This can go a couple of ways, but let’s first start with the touch that ends up with sticky residue on your hands – that is a house that needs cleaning! Buyers are going to open doors, cupboards, and touch things as they go through the house. Buyers will also consider the furniture in the house, and if touching it gets a reaction like “EWW” – that is not a good thing. Threadbare, torn or tattered is not a good look for any Seller hoping to attract a Buyer and give them the belief that, “Hey I took great care of this house – just look at how well I cared for my furniture!”
HEARING: We cannot always control the noise outside of our houses – traffic, dogs, construction, but we can control the noise inside. A faucet that sounds like a Mack truck engine when you turn it one says, “There is something gravely wrong with the plumbing in this house.” Squeaky hinges, doors that drag on the floor, and in general any noise that advertises the age of the house is not a good thing for Selling.
TASTE: This one really does not pertain to pre-Selling so we’ll just skip this one for now and go right into the recommendations for when the house is Staged.
It’s easy to incorporate all 5 Senses in a positive way when Staging and Selling a House. This can be done with Occupied or Vacant houses for sale and is a key process that ensures a Buyer has a complete experience in the house. . .
SIGHT: Make sure the house is light and bright. Open up windows where there is a view to show off, and minimize any unattractive views with blinds or strategically placed objects. Make sure the house is very CLEAN and also DEPERSONALIZED as far as collections, personal items (bills, medicine), photos, and anything that could be a potential distraction for a Buyer. Any brightly painted walls should be painted a warm neutral color. Walls that are too dark actually make the room feel smaller as it closes the room in . . . And when a Seller does not paint, they are eliminating a large portion of the Buyer pool who don’t like that color, it does not go with their stuff, and they don’t to have to paint when they move in! They’ll just go buy something else that is ready for them and does go with their things, a.k.a. NEUTRAL.
However, we need and want COLOR and NATURE for visual appeal in Staging. Accent décor and greenery, artwork that draws a person closer, and other fun whimsical displays are good for Staging and Selling.
Do not make your house so stark and plain that all the pizzazz is gone. This is taking the “de-cluttering” too far – and now your house is cleared out but it’s Boring.
TIP: Your Home Stager will know what to do in each room to make it visually stimulating and appealing to draw the buyer in and want to see more! They can use your things or enhance what you have with décor, but the plan should be to keep or add pizzazz but allow the Buyer to take each room in its entirety and not be distracted by décor or too much. There is a fine balance your Home Stager can help you achieve.
SMELL: We want houses on the market to smell good – fresh and inviting. For showing houses Realtors often use the baked cookies or bread trick or the cinnamon simmering on the stove trick . . . but Buyers can detect if there are other underlying aromas. This is where a house must be CLEAN – and there is no concession here – we don’t want smells –urine, dirty clothes, smoke smell, cooking odors, mold or mildew smells in the house. Once the smells are eliminated, the house should smell fresh and clean – and be kept that way while the house is on the market. There are products that eliminate odors for good as long as they are not reintroduced.
When others may be afraid to tell the truth about odors in a house that is coming on the market, a professional Home Stager owes it to the Seller to tell them the truth. Those that are trained understand how to couch their message in kindness so they don’t offend – and yet if we don’t tell the truth and the house does not sell because of this issue, we did not do our job.
TIP: Ask your Home Stager what they recommend as a permanent solution for odors. There are inexpensive yet effective products that are odor eliminators, as well as machines that can be used.
TOUCH: The house should look “plush” and inviting. There should be soft surfaces along with the hard – and this relates to the furniture. A bed can havea comforter, but why not add some accent pillows and a throw as well to create layers of softness? If a Seller has a collection of Adirondack furniture throughout the house, they need to possibly minimize the collection, and for sure bring in accent pillows or cushions, and silk trees or plants to help soften all that wood. Not that a Buyer is going to sit in a Seller’s couch, but we want them to feel like each room is inviting them in to experience more. By the same token if the Seller has a bunch of overstuffed couches, bean bags, or large floor pillows, we want to bring in some structured furniture to help add strength and solidness to the room, otherwise we feel like we are sinking. Throughout the house there should be a balance of hard and soft, plush and streamlined.
TIP: An experienced Home Stager will know what to do in each room, how to make the most of what a Seller already has, and bring in any needed décor to complete the look.
HEARING: Showing houses agents will often play music – and I think that is a good thing to create an atmosphere that is pleasant and inviting. There are other audible enhancements that are appealing to buyers as well. A water feature is enticing and relaxing – consider putting one in the Master bath or a larger one in the courtyard or back patio. Sellers need to fix all the squeaks and groans in the house they can before it comes on the market. You cannot “Stage away” traffic or construction noise, but you can minimize it by having another sound override it. This helps a buyer to know, “Even though there is some exterior noise, I could still live here if I had this water feature.” Help them to know how to override what may be a potential detraction to buying the house.
TIP: Your Home Stager can provide a creative solution or idea to help override a potentially negative sound. They cannot “Stage away” the issues, but they can help come up with a plan that will minimize or eliminate the issue.
TASTE: Of the 5 senses this one is probably the least utilized when Staging as most of the time we are not using real food as props that are supposed to be eaten. However, when Showing a house, it’s fun to have cookies or fruit and refreshing drinks for Buyers. Stagers can use faux prop food for a look – such as parfaits or small cakes, faux fruit or even faux champagne in glasses, but these are props. Some Stagers can use real fruit as a prop – but with most it’s not to be eaten. To get this 5th sense involved with Buyers the Seller or Realtor will have to provide the delicious snack that gets that last sense engaged, or a team partner Stager can bring cookies and lemonade for the open house – and get that last sense checked off!
Let’s face it – the market is competitive and to get the Sale you want within the timeframe you need, you owe it to yourself and your house to engage all 5 senses for the Buyer.
The Results? A SENSATIONAL Sale . . . When Buyers make a 5 senses connection to a house it is more likely to become their HOME and the Seller will achieve their goals as well of selling versus sitting on the market.