Do you think furniture style affects buyer's decisions?

jenswrensMarch 20, 2009

Not necessarily the decision to ultimately buy or not, because I think in the final stages most buyers know how to look beyond furnishings and staging to the real bones of the house (layout, woodwork, utilities, location, etc).

I'm talking about their initial decision to even go look at a home based on photos, or their initial reaction to stepping inside a house. That decision to keep it on their list or immediately strike it off. Whether weÂre conscious of it or not, we know that, no matter how seasoned we are, we all (or most anyway) have an initial visceral reaction to a homeÂs general character  that "homey" feeling that agents and stagers try to generate. How much of that is a reaction to furnishing style as opposed to home style? Or is it a reaction to whether or not the furnishings match the style of the house? Does the décor highlight the houseÂs features or detract from them?

I know we should strive for neutral decor, but what if furnishings are overtly masculine or feminine or Victorian in a contemporary-style house or vice-versa? Does that play a part, even subconsciously, in your decision to keep looking?

I have an ulterior motive in asking this question. But IÂd like to get some general thoughts on the idea as a whole.

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Stagers, and people who advocate staging, would definitely agree that furniture has a positive and/or a negative effect on a buyer's reaction to a house. The same can be said for an empty house having a positive/negative reaction for some due to lack of distractions.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 11:19AM
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I think everyone reacts favorably to a well decorated or well staged home -- you can't help it. But only a subset of people can see thru' the mess to the potential in a poorly decorated house, or an empty house.

As for the neutral, staged home look -- it probably makes sense. But my personal experience in selling my own homes leads me to believe otherwise. My buyers seemed to make offers because they liked the books on my bookshelves, or the china in the cabinets, etc. Go figure.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 11:27AM
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I've purchased and sold a number of homes. I've never let decor influence me. I have the vision to look at the bones of the home and actually prefer to view an empty home. I also ignore paint color and other items that are easily changed. When I look at photos online, I want to see the kitchen and the baths. The style and size of those will influence whether or not I'll go see a home. Whether the home is decorated like a catalog page from Pottery Barn or decorated with left overs from grandma's attic has absolutely no influence on whether I go to view a home. I may be the exception rather then the rule however.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 11:37AM
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I think the kind of vision Cordovamom speaks of would help a lot of homebuyers-unfortunately, I don't think many of them have it. Otherwise, why would a homebuilder build furnished model homes the way they do?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 11:44AM
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I think it definitely affects buyers. When I look at houses, if the furniture looks old or very dated, my first thought is "grandma house" (sorry, but that is what I think), and since I am not a grandma, it's hard for me to picture myself living there. There's also a part of me that says to myself, if they furniture from the 70's, then what else haven't they updated??

Having said that, though, I actually did buy a "grandma house", so it is possible to look past all of that, at least for some buyers.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 12:07PM
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Another here who doesn't care about paint or furnishings. I can tell by the 'bones' of the property whether it will work for our needs.

Also, I think those stagers are just plain wrong sometimes. Take family pictures, for instance. Our home's walls are filled with 8 generations of photos all professionally framed (about 125 of them). In 3 of our past 4 sales our exuberant English gardens & those darn photos have sold the house. People wander around looking at the pictures which keeps them in the house longer. The pictures also give the house an immediate sense of this is "home". We would never dream of removing them to please some stager. Practical experience has taught us they are wrong.

We have been fortunate to always have the flexibility of selling our homes during peak garden season. So, I do always a bit of 'staging' outside. For instance, on a bench, I'll casually place a clean pair of gardening gloves (not used ones because then somebody will think gardening is WORK!), a pair of pruners, a wonderful antique vase filled with a few I'd just left in a hurry from picking a bouquet for the house. Twice I've had buyers comment that my little staging of the gardens had made them dreamy visualizing themselves sipping a drink on a hot afternoon in the moss gardens. rofl No need to tell them I'm a master gardener with the cooperative extension & I spent hundreds of hours creating that 'casual' oasis. :)


    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 12:15PM
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It depends on the buyer. Buyers that have purchased many homes, (transferees, investors, etc) can look "beyond" the furniture and clutter. First time buyers, people that may purchase 2 or 3 homes in their lifetime, generally, have very little vision.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 1:34PM
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As long as the furniture is clean and not too shabby, I look beyond it.....but that house had better be CLEAN and no pet or smoke odor....that is what I look for more.....and of course the bones and stucture...along with the kitchen, bathrooms, the size of the rooms and closet space....and of course curb appeal, siding, roof etc.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 4:05PM
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I've been looking at a lot of photos online as I'm considering a relocation. I don't care at all about the furniture. If there's too much of it and too much crap and clutter that is distracting but that wouldn't deter me if everything else was right.

I look more at whether the house has the features I want including the kind of lot I'm looking for. House itself I look at the things that would be expensive and/or time consuming to change. Kitchens, bathrooms, woodwork, floors (I personally don't like carpet). I also look for architectural style/plan/details as I don't want a house that needs a major remodel to make it the way I want.

The one thing that does really turn me off is a lot of dated wallpaper. I don't have time to strip it myself and it's expensive to have done.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 8:24PM
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I get very turned off by many photos of homes and don't look further. Old looking furniture, dark rooms - suggest dirt, mold and a general creepy feeling. I would not look at that house. I spent a year looking at houses with my daughter who was house shopping and we were both turned off by houses over decorated. Many with heavy drapes, gold chandeliers hanging from every ceiling, etc. We couldn't see past that.

Wallpaper and paint color was another turn-off. My daughter wanted a house she could move into without doing tons of work to get all the 'stuff' out. We did find staged homes very appealing because you weren't distracted by the furnishings. You could visualize how you would decorate the room.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 1:36AM
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We have purchased 3 homes over the years and I admit in the looking process of getting distracted by some some really nice antiques that were my taste. Otherwise no I always put location first and can we make the house work for us.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 10:39AM
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collins design

Our experience is very limited, having bought 2 homes and only sold one. My husband and I are in what i think is the fairly small minority of buyers who can look past furniture, clutter, cosmatic disrepair, and see what a house "could" be.

In our experience selling our house, it was evident that 99% of the people who looked at it were VERY influenced by the first-impression, surface stuff they saw. I carefully de-cluttered, spiffed up, a "styled" the house, and people responded overwhelmingly to that. I was really surprised at all the positive comments, "Oh I LOVE your furniture" "This is exactly what i want our house to be like!" In fact, the couple who bought the house asked where we got our bedroom furniture and went out and bought the same set!

So, I think it does matter. You should think about your target market and style your house (within the constrains of what you already have, hopefully) to match expectations. Of course the furnishings should also complement, not clash with, the house's architectural style, too.

Just my 2 cents !

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 7:51AM
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According to all the shows on HGTV, what you need to do to sell your house is buy new bedding for the master bedroom. Every Single Show--"Oh, look at the lovely bedding!" I go nuts, because you are not buying what is in the house, let alone someone's comforter, you are buying the *house*.

Some people will be influenced by the furnishings and decoration. But I don't think it makes sense to buy new furniture or drapes just to sell the house.

Decluttering, scaling back on the amount of furniture so that the rooms seem larger, opening or removing drapes that block daylight from entering and cleaning the heck out of the place can do wonders for most houses.

A fresh coat of paint is another quick fix. I spent the past weekend helping a friend remove wallpaper and paint the entire downstairs of her house, to help get it ready for sale. It does not look like the same place. Her furniture is old and mis-matched, but it looks better now that the 30 year old wallpaper is gone and a neutral coat of paint is up.

Me, I'm more interested in how old the roof and furnace are than what color paint is in the living room. I can change the paint color by myself and for not much money. A new roof is another matter entirely. And as long as the owners take all their furniture with them, I don't care what they have.

However, I grew up in a military family and we moved a lot. I've lived in quonset huts, cinderblock buildings, brick duplexes that were identical to 40 other brick duplexes on the same street and old houses with skylights, parquet floors, a butler's pantry and french doors opening onto verandas. That kind of background does give you the ability to "picture" oneself living in just about anything.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 1:13PM
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It's not the furniture itself that influence me but it's condition. Old, wore out furniture with holes or dirt on it says the owner didn't keep up on things.
Chewed up table legs or sofa legs says the animals had more control in the house than the owner.
When one is showing a house to sell the idea is to show it in the best shape possible. If one can not or will not put forth effort to have the furniture look good one then wonders what else they were to lazy or careless about.
I've bought and sold many homes over the years and I'm very good at looking beyond the clutter and junk BUT some things like it or not do influence us.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 3:02PM
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I think furniture can affect a buyer even if that buyer has the ability to look beyond the furniture. I remember looking at one house that appeared to be owned by an older couple. The house was clean, it even had vacuum tracks in the carpet. The furniture and decorations were simple looked like something retired people would own. They had a in good condition, but plain recliner with a blanket over the back. It looked at least 20 years old. I kept wondering what else had been maintained, but not updated around there.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 3:45PM
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I think everyone reacts favorably to a well decorated or well staged home -- you can't help it. But only a subset of people can see thru' the mess to the potential in a poorly decorated house, or an empty house.

I tend to agree, as much as I hesitate to lend too much credence to what the HGTV stagers have to say. I think that by and large, the "masses" view homes through a rather narrow lens and are either unable or unwilling to see the potential that lurks in the bones of a house. Those who have an appreciation and affinity for art and decor are the ones who are the visionaries.

And now it's going to sound like I'm calling myself one of these "visionaries", and while I think I lack quite a bit in that department, I know that I did manage to see past the ornate, gilded Asian antiques that were positively overflowing in the 1940 Tudor-style cottage that I bought, to the sweet little place that it was without the rather odd bling that was filling it wall-to-wall.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 4:23PM
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So only one person here, out of the whole group, responded that they personally are influenced by furniture and paint? Everyone else has said that "other people are", but not they themselves. Am I reading this right?

I've watched a lot of HGTV and tend to disagree somewhat with this modern staging business. I think in many cases it simply means cleaning and decluttering (as others have noted). Not sure anyone really needs to rent furniture the way they do on the show!?

I'm on my 6th house, and have seen all sorts of homes over the years. It was always about the neighborhood, style of the house (architecture), room size, location of laundry room (I can't stand them in basements). It's NEVER about the furniture, everything else being equal. I don't even mind wallpaper (paneling, now that's another story).

Anyway, we may be selling [if my husband gets a job offer he wants] so I've been checking the local comps [and this forum]. There is no way my house could be "neutraled up" like that. I collect antiques. My whole place is stuff from estate sales and auctions. It's old because it was OLD WHEN I BOUGHT IT. :D LOL!

For instance, in one corner of my den is a steamer trunk on it's side (lamp table #1) that probably went around the horn of Africa. Diagonal from that is my other "lamp table", a burled walnut victorian washstand with towel bars. Yes, it has two elegant towel bars, one on each side, and it's in the den as a table. It has the most amazing swirled grain on top that's a delight to polish too.

So how would you all react to a house like mine? Try older home, moderate size, great woodwork around all the doors and windows, wood floors, with a mixed collection of antique (mostly Victorian and Empire) furniture? I'm curious. :)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 9:22PM
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biochem -- as long as your home had a nice size kitchen, adequate closet space and sufficient bathroom space for my needs, I'd certainly arrange to see your home.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 10:15PM
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adell~~~ Now I am one of those "old retired people" you are talking about......maybe those folks had memories attached to that "simple" furniture that they had....some of us certainly are not attracted to the "extremely modern" things that we see "you youngans'" have either........and maybe DH has that recliner broke in "just to fit him"....and no way is he parting with it....and we are colder blooded, so we might need that blanket to cover ourselves with....don't be too critical, you'll be there someday also~~~~ If it was clean and not in poor repair, the furniture is just their style and maybe they like it like that~~~~

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 10:16PM
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phoggie - I'm sorry you were offended. That wasn't my intent. I was trying to respond to the OP's question. I was trying to describe, not criticize.

That house affected me because a house that was 'maintained' wasn't something that I wanted to buy into. Maintained was the feeling I was getting from looking at the decorations and the furniture.

I admire that people buy something and take care of it for a long time. These people may have handyman type skills where they could patch a few shingles on a roof or take care of an air conditioner when it freezes up. My dh and I don't have those skills. In this case, when I saw the older furniture and decorations, it made me think that I might be buying into a place where I'd be stuck with several major, expensive replacements within a short time period because my dh and I didn't have the time or skills to continue maintaining the place. This particular house didn't appear to be discounted relative to its competition.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 11:00PM
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I am remodeling a house that is being rented. The previous tenant lived there for over 6 years and left it extremely dirty. Still, you can tell that it is a very nice house; great area, nice light, good surfaces, layout ... just very dirty and requiring repair, which I explained exactly what was to be done. I advertised it right away but definitely felt that people couldn't look past its condition to its potential. I think many people are lacking in that ability.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 11:52PM
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biochem, I love old homes that are clean and everything shines. The woodwork should shine as well as each piece of copper and brass. That feels clean and lovely when you walk in. The floors and windows should shine.

I have friends who are older and lived in their homes forever. Beautiful antiques, rugs and lamps. Some shine, some feel dusty. One friend wants to sell her home and will not put a dime into it. The house and grounds are gorgeous! The inside is old and feels to me to be dusty and 'old.' Fresh paint, polished floors, shampooed rugs would help.

I know the bathrooms and kitchen are over 40 years and have never had anything done to them. They feel creepy to me.

The roof is slate, the house stucco and flagstone. Beautiful and huge. But inside it feels cold, damp and dark. The windows are covered with old window treatments.

I would consider buying this house for the structure and land, but I would have to gut the inside. I would not be comfortable living there without tearing everything out.

As a result, I would never consider buying it.

There is old and there is 'old.'

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 12:59AM
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Jane, Half of what you are addressing is cleaning: dust, shampoo rugs, paint, polish. Totally agree. Personally I couldn't ever 'show' my house (invite in the public?!) without it being totally clean! I clean constantly but would probably hire a service to cover everything for the duration. Not everyone can afford that, of course.

The other half isn't about furnishings either: updated kitchen, baths, maybe take down dark window treatments. I just did my kitchen, as a matter of fact. The bathrooms are next, but only if we stay.

That's why I was looking at the comps. Two open houses last weekend, both looked similar [to mine] but turned out to have smaller rooms, kitchens were NO comparison, one still had the old baths (like mine), the other had updated by installing those plastic one-piece tub-wall units (not my taste..but they are 'new' and shiny). Both houses were BIEGE to a fault, every room, with unremarkable (?) furniture.

My reaction was this: I'd win on the kitchen, we're even on the baths, my furniture will probably distract people to no end, but my room size is the biggest plus. If someone can't SEE that you can barely turn your head when you sneeze in that BIEGE house, but it would echo in mine, they'd have to be a bit blind? Obviously I'm thinking of competing price-wise with these two.

So to answer the OP again, I can't believe "furniture style" would influence a sale?

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 7:53AM
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A comment about houses with old furniture. My father saw his house as an investment. He took good care of his 1880's Victorian house. We moved into the house in the 1970's. Over the years he owned it, Dad had the place completely rewired, added heat to the unheated 3rd floor, redid most of the plumbing, put down a new kitchen floor, painted the trim and shutters a few times (the house had vinyl siding when he bought it). He added more insulation and changed out some of the windows to be more energy efficient. The slate roof wasn't an issue.

He did not update the kitchen or baths, which had been redone in the 50s. He saw no need, because everything in them worked. He didn't update his furniture, most of which was hand me downs from his family, because it was still good. And when we sold the house last year, there was wallpaper still hanging that had been there when we bought the house. (And we sold the house for nearly $70,000 more than we thought we'd get, because a small bidding war erupted.)

So the house itself was in very good shape. The furniture and kitchen and baths were old-looking. Knowing how my father felt, "if the chair is comfortable, there's no reasons to replace it for one that just looks different," I wouldn't rule out a house just because there was older, not updated furniture. I wouldn't immediately assume that the house was in perfect shape, either. That's why you get the home inspected. It's the old, "don't judge a book by its cover" deal. I wouldn't immediately assume that a house in the latest Pottery Barn style was also up to date with all the mechanicals. I'd be wondering if the owners put all their time and money into the decor and not enough into the structure of the house.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 8:02AM
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Hmmm, here in New England many of our houses definitely meet the definition of "old". From mid-eighteenth century on...yep, that's "old". Creepy? Some of the basements in these homes have to be seen to be believed. I'm just the opposite of you. I'm strongly attracted to the "old". They talk to me. I love running my hands over the old timbers.

I'm also quite sure you'd find our furnishings "old" since they are mostly from that eighteenth century time-frame. We have a few "newer" in c. 1800-1835. Even our dishes can be dated to c. 1848-1850. Every time I reach for a plate I think about all of the historical conversations they've witnessed over their lives. When I clean the pre-Revolution corner cupboard that stores those dishes I think about women washing dishes together and, in hushed voices so as not to be overheard by the men, talking about whether war will come soon. Every morning as I'm rummaging for a pair of clean socks in my c. 1825 New York City dresser I think about the woman who was fortunate enough to have such a lovely piece & wonder what she thought about as she looked in the dresser's mirror by the candlelight coming from the attached candle arms. Was she happy? Did she love the beautiful mahagony dresser as much as I? Did her husband commission it or was it a dowery gift from her father? It's no ordinary dresser so I know there's a story being hidden in one of the secret drawers. My DH loves his collection of 17th & 18th century wine glasses & flips & I know he frequently wonders about their previous owners & ponders what history they have been privvy to overhear. The very fact that a fragile glass with its 7" air-twist stem is still here after 300 years says that we are not the only people who have treasured its beauty & grace.

I've got one shelf in an old bookcase that's known as my "archaeology" museum. Here in New England, it's common to find pits & pieces of other people's lives buried in your gardens. I've got the handle to a redware pitcher, several keys of varying designs/sizes, half a dozen intact bottles, many pottery shards (a couple large enough I've been able to identify their patterns), & lots of other fun stuff.

My dream home would be a 17th century cape anywhere along coastal New long as nobody had "gutted" it's interior and history. So, there's somebody for most all types of houses. Some like only new...never used by anybody but them. Others, like me, seek out the old. If I purchased a home that had been furnished with "old" stuff...I'd be very anxious to see what they'd missed & left behind for me when moving out! (grin)


    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 8:08AM
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Different strokes for different folks -- I would revel in a home like Tricia describes, but I'm a history buff. My dream home would be an antebellum mansion overlooking the Mississippi river, to my husband that would be a nightmare because of maintenance issues.

My favorite home that we owned was a 50's ranch rambler. We purchased it back in 1985 from the original owners. They were a lovely couple who lived in the home for 30+ years and raised their family there. When we viewed the home, it had dated wallpaper, linoleum and dated carpeting, birch cabinets that had this hideous orangey stain on them, laminate countertops, again orange. The owners probably had not bought new furniture since they bought the home, it was pretty bad. I walked into that home and turned to my hubby and said, I love this place!! He looked at me like he wanted to commit me to the psych ward. But I saw the beautiful coved ceilings, all natural woodwork, hardwoods, huge picture windows etc. and fell in love. Taking down several layers of wallpaper wasn't fun, but in the end we ended up with an amazing well built spacious home because of the ability to see past the previous owner's decor.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 8:43AM
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I'd love to go through a house like Trica describes. That house sounds lovely.

The house I went through just screamed 'extra work' and 'extra money' to me at a time when I didn't have the time or money. This particular house was probably 70's-early 80's. I was a kid then. I fully remember avocado green and wearing bell bottoms so I don't romanticize about that time period. My comments probably make me seem like someone who wants all new stuff. I don't actually. I am pretty conservative and like familiar things. That particular house just gave me the wrong feeling. Maybe there was more to it than the furniture.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 10:43AM
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There's a HUGE difference in selling a old home with antiques that has been careful restored and cared for as opposed to a house who is simply old and dated in it's look and has not been cared for.
They are two entirely different things. One has buyers who are themselves into old homes and antiques and are appreciative of that type of home and would continue the tradition of caring for it as a historic home. For them the antiques are what they would envision should they buy the home too. It's a particular subset of buyers.
The other type of house is simply let to stand as is. It hasn't been changed in ages. NOT because of any historic love of old houses but because the owner simply refused to change with the times or to spend the money on fixing up the house.Decay, and lack of care on the over all appearance of a house aren't appealing no matter how long one has lived there.
You can have old without having the decayed feeling but you can not have the unkept feeling without it damaging the overall feel the buyers have for the house.
Any house that is put up for sale regardless of the current owners feelings about the house should be clean and as flawless as possible to the new comers eye. It's the only way to make a fast sale. Otherwise you risk turning off your buyer pool and the house will sit.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 12:00PM
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So the consensious is either:
1) if affects everyone else, but I'm above that...
2) I can't believe people hate my old stuff.

my opinion is, YES! of course! everyone is influenced from everything from when it was last painted, the color on the walls, the style and coloring of the furnature in the rooms. Can some people see past it? yes, but they can see it a whole lot more clearly if it were layed out for them the way they want it.

The vast majority of home buyers can't see past other people's clutter, housekeeping skills, or dated furnature. They need to picture themselves living there.

Sorry if the stupid bedspread is an issue, but to a young buyer, you have a couple of simple dressers and the right bedspread and they think... hey I'm livin the pottery barn life here vs, I'm staying in the guestroom of my grandma's house, I bet everything about it is old....

is it correct? probably not, both houses are probably old, with outdated wiring, a bad spackle job and sagging floors. But the one with the pottery barn decor will definately get more visits and possibly more offers.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 12:04PM
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"So the consensious is either:

1) if affects everyone else, but I'm above that...
2) I can't believe people hate my old stuff. "

Love it - succinct and to the point!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 2:10PM
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This is a great thread.
I prefer to see empty houses and I absolutely believe that most people are influenced by colors and furnishings.

I have seen people get absolutely distracted by a nonconveying item in the house or be really put off by a wall color, even if they know it can be painted.

The bottom line is what you already know: make the house appealing to the broadest base of buyers or leave it as is and wait for the right buyer who "gets it" or who is totally uninfluenced by color and furnishings.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 2:20PM
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For me, it's not so much the furniture style as its condition. As several people upthread have mentioned, I see beat-up, dirty furnishings and assume that there's deferred maintenance elsewhere in the house. If you've overlooked the big awful stain on your carpet or the spring poking out the back of your couch, what other things have you decided to overlook? Will I need to pick up the slack for years of neglect?

If the house and its contents are well-maintained but not to my taste, I'm fine and can envision my own things in there. I'm one of those people who stripped a ton of ghastly wallpaper in our current house, because the bones of the place are great.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 3:50PM
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I think the majority of shoppers are influenced by how the house is decorated. Even if the house seems clean, if it is cluttered and crowded with furniture, it is hard to see the house. At least for me.

A Realtor told me most people get a first impression walking through the door. They leave a house with something which will stick in their head - the 'piano house,' the house with the funny bathroom, the house with the scarey stairs, the house with all the windows...

I remember looking at a house where the owner collected dolls. There were dolls everywhere. Even the banister going down to the basement was lined with dolls. We called it the 'weird doll-house.' Could not see past the dolls and couldn't wait to leave. I really don't remember anything else about the house except the dolls.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 12:28AM
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