"Prepping" rather than staging.

palimpsestDecember 23, 2012

Generally I feel that the need for "staging" is a bit overstated. I think cleaning and decluttering are an important part of preparing a house for sale, but the decorating aspect of staging, when it involves things such as inexpensive impersonal prints for the walls and stuff--I don't go for that so much.

This has been reinforced by a couple post-staging experiences I have been through: a client's new purchase that was riddled with nail holes and had some pretty sloppy painting (try roller marks so heavy they had to be sanded).

Then the house I bought was completely staged by painting it top to bottom a beige color (walls and woodwork) and installing a khaki wall to wall carpet that did not quite go with the wall and trim colors (pinkish vs yellowish undertones). I had to paint a fair amount to rent it out anyway, and the renters also hated the carpet. I could only point out that it was so new that the excess was still stored in the closets and as such it was not being replaced. That house may have needed to be staged to show, but it was not done in a way I would have done it.

So, I may be helping to prep a house for the market. There is old carpet throughout, not in bad shape but in a couple of rather specific colors. There are no hardwood floors.
The walls are in extremely good shape because artwork was never juggled around, but there are some wallpapers that won't show well.

Actually much of the lighting is being updated, but for the opposite reason this is usually done. There is some very good lighting in this house, that is worth taking out and selling separately or that the owners want to take, so inexpensive simple fixtures are being put up (probably what a typical new buyer would put up anyway).

There is also furniture that the owners may auction off or divest themselves of prior to moving, (as in while the house is on the market). I was going to tell them to leave the old mattresses on their frames (covered in clean sheets or spreads)in the rooms where the furniture was to be removed to show that the rooms could carry a queen and paired twins or a king.

So my thought is take out the wallpaper that needs to go, take out the fixtures that are going, take out the carpet that is very specific, and fill nail holes and do a tinted primer and leave the floors completely bare (basically a very solid subfloor) and essentially leave a number of the rooms in stripped, empty, but prepped condition. They would not recoup a nickel by installing hardwoods or things like that, and this is not a "prefinished floor" project. This house deserves laid and finished in place floors, generally.

This seems to make more sense to me than trying to make certain rooms look lived in and throwing down cheap beige carpet throughout the entire house.


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A mortgage may require flooring and not just subfloor.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 10:03PM
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Will the entire place be without flooring, then, or is it just a bedroom or 2?

Seems like it might be loud and echoey in there without carpet or much furniture --that can make a place feel cold. And subfloor can feel dirty -- would somebody be sweeping it? What about the slop that people bring in on their shoes in the winter? With carpet in place, many people would remove shoes at the door. Or at least the carpet and padding absorbs moisture and you don't see puddles. Subfloor with the water stains of previous housetours would feel pretty icky.

Would there be an open gap at the floor/wall juncture? Again, that kind of stuff strikes an emotionally negative cord that goes deeper than "I don't like the carpet color".

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 10:22PM
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I think if I looked at a home with carpet needing replacement (that wasn't in horrible shape, but just didn't suit me), I'd be fine with that. I could decide how/when to replace it. But if I found rooms with just subflooring, I'd be wondering what had happened in there to warrant stripped bare, plus, in my mind, I'd be deducting $$ from the price for no flooring.

If it is really horrible, I think you'd be better off with the best looking inexpensive carpet you can get and let me decide if/when/what regarding replacement. Recoup? Maybe not exactly, but if it makes it sell more quickly, then the cost of carrying it for a few months to find a buyer who sees the potential and not just an immediate project, or a worry as to what kind of disaster caused the flooring to be removed - seems like the $ would be worth it.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 11:01PM
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You are a decorator - 99% of buyers are NOT. They do not see potential, they do not see how it could look with their choices. They just see bare floors or primer-painted walls. Staging works... even if those of us who prefer things "our way" don't like the way it's often done. I would definitely not try to market a home with any subfloor showing or primer on the walls!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 11:08PM
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IMO staging has gotten totally out of hand and I also think prepping should only be a thorough cleaning and decluttering. Arranging furniture to show the room's potential is a given.

I'd never remove old carpet that is "not in bad shape" regardless of the color but I would clean it or have it cleaned thoroughly. I've moved many times and almost always cleaned carpets myself by renting a big rug cleaner as I can do a better job than the professionals I've sometimes hired. We do own a rug cleaner but the big rental ones are more powerful.

Is your market so bad that you feel the wallpaper must be removed, etc. to sell?

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 11:08PM
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Some buyers simply do not have time or money to replace carpet or paint right away. I would leave old carpet in place rather than show with subfloors only. And I would not show with just primer. I would either leave the wallpaper or paint a pale neutral.

What does the real estate agent advise? Both times we sold we followed our agents' advice (no "staging" but moved furniture around and pulled out some accessories--actually left walls painted colors including a study painted navy) and both times we sold within the first week on the market.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 11:22PM
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I guess it's not really subflooring but the house was clearly meant to be carpeted as were many houses of the era. It has no finished hardwood. A house doesn't need carpet to get a mortgage--that doesn't make sense--carpet is not structural.

It's a very well constructed custom built midcentury house, simply of the era when people laid carpet--we are talking about the bedroom level,primarily. The millwork is applied right against this flooring, and there will be no sense of damage There will be nothing missing structurally. But I guess $1.00 a yard carpet it is then if we replace, seems a waste

But what about prepped, plain, walls--no pretense at decorating with pictures, etc.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 11:25PM
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If the architecture is impressive enough so that you only incidentally notice the carpet or paint on the walls, then just ding a basic prep would be fine. But THE reason that staging has become so popular is that most generic homes do NOT have impressive and memorable architecture. They need "disguises" in some cases to minimize their poor architecture or poor decorating choices inflicted upon them.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 11:32PM
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I guess just based upon a couple of experiences I have had I was thinking it might be practical to leave it physically ready to be painted and recarpeted by the new owners.

I repainted for tenants (they supplied the new paint) when the old paint was barely dry, and they wanted the carpet to be replaced. (It was brand new so I wouldn't). I have also known people who would NOT move into a house until all the carpeting left by the previous owner was removed. Some of this carpet I *know* was installed as staging the house for sale.

So I was thinking practically, why not leave it ready for what a new owner is likely to do anyway in an older house?

But ultimately I guess a lot of people aren't practical in that particular way.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 11:34PM
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We have bought three times and I prefer that sellers not remodel or repaint or any of that as I would rather pay a thousand or more less for the house and have that money to do what I want.

But I would still be taken aback by primer and flooring needing to laid immediately. We haven't always had the money to do those projects right on move in for one thing. (First house we had to save to be able to afford having the hardwoods refinished so we lived with the ugly stained carpet that had been installed on top years before for a while, for example.). So while it may seem practical in some ways, it imposes work on any potential buyers just to be able to move in. And that may eliminate some buyers.

And it would make me wonder why and whether it was an unfinished remodel job that might have had some issues.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 11:50PM
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I totally get what you're saying. I would prefer what your contemplating about walls to, for instance, the ridiculous white ubergloss oil based paint that the prior owners of my house put literally everywhere (trim, walls, and ceilings). It was a nightmare covering up (BM Aura did best because it's so thick everything else you had to be super careful because of drip formation even with low nap rollers). I would have preferred just leaving it as it was because I had to pay painters anyhow. But as to the carpet, I'd leave it. If it is carpet-less, I think people will just be thinking about how much it will cost (an absolute, immediate cost, as opposed to down the road) to put in other flooring.

If I had to sell my house, my realtor would definitely recommend painting the rooms something less personal/specific, but I'd tell him to back off and that people can paint it what they want and that it's better to keep it how I wanted it. Maybe I'd change my mind if it didn't sell for a while, but I wouldn't go slapping beige on everything just because it's "neutral."

This post was edited by KevinMP on Mon, Dec 24, 12 at 0:16

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 11:58PM
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"But ultimately I guess a lot of people aren't practical in that particular way."

No - they are not, LOL!

We recently went through a home selling and buying process in a very seller-oriented market, and the fact that the market in the area is red hot drove sales, yet the prices were clearly reflected in the "move-in" readiness of the home. Investors were snapping up the places with potential - for cash offers but lower prices. They renovate and flip. They make a ton of money on these places by slapping in some new carpet or laminate, painting and - of course- putting in some discount granite. We saw dozens of these places often the cabinets didn't match flooring, everything was done with no taste... but those places sold for $50-$100k more than the non-"renovated" homes.

We bought ours off market 6 months ago, no renovations were done by the seller. We put a couple thousand into it - I did the flooring and painting myself before moving in, then did the landscaping and a powder-room facelift. It's quite nice now, though we still have a few more project planned.

Another unit with the same floor plan in our complex just sold as "renovated" with yucky-undertones beige paint, new carpet and laminate floors - and ancient mismatched 1980's appliances. No granite (the big eye catcher), no quality upgrades - for $80k more than we paid for ours.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 12:00AM
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Some people are on a tight time budget, or want to live in a house for awhile before deciding on colors. Many people have to be out of their previous home just after they close on the new one. For them, it would be a problem to not have something on the floor and a finish on the wall.

I have only once had the luxury of having a home's floors refinished and some walls repainted before I moved in, and in that case we were carrying two mortgages for a month, which is not the ideal way to go!

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 12:02AM
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I know it is crazy but I am pretty sure FHA mortages require more than a subfloor. These are government regulations, so no logic is necessary. Perhaps someone on "buying or selling forum" or a realtor could help. i think something like 40% of mortgages are FHA.

Most people will not notice the undertones in griege paint but WILL notice blue paint, carpet that is not beige, or worn or stained, etc., and it will be a negative. Leaving rooms stripped without flooring and only priming might make buyers think the seller is desperate, or in bad financial shape. I'd slap down the cheap beige carpet. Again, buying a house is mostly an emotional decision. I agree if I were buying I'd prefer everything left as is and a discount but most buyers overestimate how much carpet or flooring will cost and will realize it is money they have to spend right away.

My current home was on the market 18 months mainly because it was painted ugly colors, had stained blue carpet and some wallpaper. We purchased for $80K under the original asking price.

Think about the house your other friend/client purchased with the mustardy kitchen...did they get a good deal? I'm guessing they would have paid more if the whole house was neutral. We sold a home last summer within a month. We neutralized the public rooms, and did quite a bit of prepping/packing up. When the realor saw the house prepped she bumped the asking price up 15K. Our lot had a busy street on one side. Three neighbors on the same street, with view lots and no busy street near them, who did not stage, prep or update have been on the market without selling since we moved, they are priced similarly, but have larger square footage. Two gave up.

My realtor commented that one home we viewed would increase listing price by 10K by removing some expensive floral custom drapes.

Someone like you is not buying the house. Removing wallpaper is very smart, but go ahead and paint, even if it is with paint like Ultra Behr you'll only need one coat, it will be no more work than priming, and won't harm the property. it may not be as perfect as you'd like, but buyers won't notice, but they will think "work" and "money" when they see walls that are only primed. The new owner can always repaint. The owner's realtor should have some suggestions or could bring you to some listings he or she consider well prepped for selling.

Garden web people are not typical buyers.

Above all, the house needs to be perfectly, sparkling clean. Just my two cents.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 1:37AM
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This house has been very well maintained. Apparently for many years there was a 6 x per month housecleaner, snd a professional painter comes every year for maintenance and touch up. I think there is still a weekly cleaner.

I can't post pictures but I will try to explain the issue with some of the rooms.

Did you ever have something that caught your eye at a thrift store or hospital charity shop that seemed very out of place or even ugly at first? But when you pull it out it is something beautifully made like a couture dress or suit that won't even hang correctly because it's not on a contoured hanger, or, furniture-wise, it's a custom upholstered piece in fabric so specific that it sticks out like a sore thumb and looks forlorn and bedraggled on the sidewalk next to the cheap but plain sofas.

This house has several rooms that are done in high seventies full-on custom "allover" decor. A couple of the rooms were probably Architectural Digest or House Beautiful-worthy in their day:

One of the bedrooms is done in an allover of wallpaper, window treatments and custom bedding of all matching or companion fabric. The artwork is prints that pick up a thematic pattern from the paper, custom matted and framed to pick up a color from the bedding and the furniture finish. The desk chair was custom painted to coordinate with the paper.

One of the rooms that still has the custom bedding and window treatments had carpet from a mill that did small custom runs and the needlepoint pattern (most similar to Karastan wool tattersall or tweed) had threads picked out in the fabric colors.

One of the rooms has wool tartan carpeting and the furniture is custom upholstered in colors of the tartan--and there is a large kelly green lacquer piece (nine feet long).

One of the rooms has an upholstered mirror. One of the rooms has a tole fixture hand painted and pinstriped to match the colors of the wallpaper. The lighting is actually worth taking out and replacing. The furniture is almost all worth taking, even though it is so specific. Some of the cabinet hardware is even worth taking and replacing.

Nothing anybody else puts in these rooms is going to "make do" until they redecorate. What off the rack sofa is going to work in a room designed for kelly green lacquer? (actually black leather sofas could work in there I guess) It's all in decent condition for being so old--a couple of the rooms have only had periodic use for decades. But it is all super specific, and as the furniture goes off to other uses each element left behind looks more and more forlorn and displaced.

If the house were being sold semifurnished it would make sense to leave these rooms all in place, but as it is the highly designed rooms are going to look depressing with many of their important elements missing.

However it may be better to leave the tartan carpet and the chinoiserie paper and matching drapes in place in their respective rooms and let someone else deal with the decorating rather than semi-neutralizing these rooms at all. It should all clean up very well.

The area where the house is located has not been hit with the staging bug, if my scanning of the MLS is accurate --most things appear to be where is/as is, if this makes any difference in your thought process.

This post was edited by palimpsest on Mon, Dec 24, 12 at 6:05

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 5:51AM
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The EXTREME staging one hears about on HGTV is to "get top dollar". I do think if there are unfinished projects, worn out finishes that need IMMEDIATE replacement it will come into play when the buyers put in their offer. I think all the "depersonalization" is just plain crazy. Anyone who would take down family pictures to replace them with purchased what knots has too much money. Over all paint colors and new finishes are things buyers are going to do--weather you do them or not. They want THEIR mark on their homes. I think much of what is suggested is a total waste of time,effort and money. Much will be redone the minute you move out even if it is brand new!! Clean and well maintained is the look you need--the rest is frosting and buyers look at your rooms are are planning THEIR frosting.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 6:20AM
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When did you move to Maryland? You are describing my late mother's last house! You're right that the decor is furniture specific (or vice-versa) and no one is going to buy furniture to go with the decor. However, if that house is as clean and well maintained as my mother's was, I would still rather have the carpeting and painted walls than stripped down subfloor and primer. Wallpaper, however, I would want removed! I would be ever grateful for that. Like others said, not everyone can time their move to allow painting and carpet installation prior to the move. I'm also not the type that can do an all over re-decoration in one fell swoop. Room-by-room works better for me and I'd want to live in it awhile. Again, if it;'s clean!

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 6:45AM
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if your home design and look is well then you do not need to add flooring.. it is better to leave it for new owner so that it may add it according to his own choice.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 6:53AM
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I've never understood why people go to great lengths to stage a house. I would much rather pick out the paint and new carpet than what the stager chooses.

I wouldn't replace the carpet. If it's in good condition then leave it be. Buyers know before looking at a home that there's a good chance they'll have to change some things. If they refuse to buy a house because of the carpet, then they're idiots. lol.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 7:30AM
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I would leave the carpets and let the buyers imagine replacing it with flooring to their taste and on their schedule. The stripped down subfloor would demand immediate action, which may not be in everyone's budget. The wallpaper should come down if possible and the walls should be painted. We made an offer on a house that was head-to-toe wallpaper. Some rooms had wallpapered ceilings as well. Our offer reflected the monumental stripping task, and it was not what the owner had in mind (it sold over a year later for a price below our offer).

I also agree that staging is way over-rated. It does not hide the fact that a house is a dog if it is a dog. On the other hand, in the house that we bought, every room was painted the same depressing band aid shade, and the finishes were about as taste-specific as you could get. It was an estate sale and the heirs had already claimed the desirable furniture, so each room had maybe one or two random ugly pieces in it that clearly no one wanted. But the house was clean and well-maintained and had great bones and we didn't hesitate to make an offer on the spot four days after it came on the market. As did several other people.

There are some buyers who will only consider a house that is totally ready to move into, but it doesn't seem like this house will appeal to those buyers in any event. So I would just do the minimum and price the house right.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 7:45AM
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My take on this is that uncarpeted subfloors and walls with just primer, tinted or not, will look unfinished. To the average buyer, that means a lot of work and time and money before the house can be lived in.

What's your target market for the house? For some buyers, like flippers, that might be okay. But to get the largest number of potential buyers interested in the house, I think the walls and floors need to be finished off.

Yes, remove the wallpaper. But then paint, however boring and neutral the color. Clean the carpets as best you can and call it a day.

My parents moved us into a great many homes during my childhood. We lived with weird paint and carpet colors for months or years until they got around to changing them. Not everyone goes in and completely re-decorates a house. There are a lot of people like my dad, who will look a carpet and think, Hey, years of wear left in this, no matter if the color works with their furniture or not.

But a bare subfloor makes your buyer ask questions. Why is there subfloor and no carpet? What happened? Is there a mold problem that made them take the carpet up? Where there pets and they peed on the carpet? Did the urine get into the subfloor? Am I going to have an odor problem here?

You don't want your buyer asking questions like that.

And if the pictures on the MLS have splochy primed walls and bare subfloors, a lot of potential buyers aren't even going to come and look at the house.

I agree with Pal that the staging you see on TV is over the top. But a house should look finished and complete when it is for sale, not as if it is a DIY project that never got finished.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 7:50AM
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People stage homes because buyers can be very unimaginative and most are operating on how a house "feels."
You know how folks say "I'll know the right house the minute we walk in the door?"
They are looking for a feeling, not a structure.

They are also very easily distracted by new and shiney things. So they may never even notice the shelving over there in the corner unless it contains something bright and new, and have ZERO idea what to do with a room unless given copious clues via furnishings.

I know that when I am selling I will leave no stone unturned as far as things I can do to ensure that the thing sells quickly. If it doesn't sell it will NOT be because of something I neglected to do or decided was overkill.

I would try to the very best of my ability to not have any areas a young yuppie woman would turn her nose up over.
Unfinished just screams "work to do" and if given the choice most folks would avoid work.

That doesn't mean they wouldn't rip it out asap and do the work anyway- it just means it lends the home a different feel to those looking at it.

I know it makes no sense.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 8:02AM
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Have you considered doing as you propose. But being prepared at negotiation time to offer a Decorating Allowance of $10,000 to the buyer. Even then, you will have some buyers that want a turnkey residence.

The downside of that is a flipper will just put that in their pocket.

A lot depends on the expected buyer of the home, both in regard to taste/quality levels, and amount of work vs price that your market will bear.

Long story short, in my opinion, the seller is better off having that home as neutralized as possible. Many buyers simply cannot see past "outdated" "taste-specific (but not their taste)" decor into the structure and layout of a space. Just as I cannot look at a page of differential calculus and see what they are getting at. You have the skill and aptitude to see the space for the pattern that it is and see how it can be manipulated. Most people just cannot.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 8:14AM
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rethinking subfloor and wondering what your floor actually is.....
The house we purchased last year was built in 1938 and carpeted from day 1. The floors were smooth and tight and darkened but they are not what people today routinely label hardwood floors, and clearly the previous owners did not want them exposed, although a realtor probably would have checked the hardwood flooring box on the MLS if no carpeting had been down and they had been exposed.

They are now exposed and everybody says they look nice.

The subfloor underneat is rougher, unstained, and the boards are not tightly fitted side-by-side

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 8:58AM
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I really have to take a close look at things by taking down pictures and moving furniture.

The chinoiserie room never had a picture hung in it: the wallpaper was the ornament. One of the other rooms has four nail holes that I can find for a picture over each bed and two others.

I was concerned that things might be faded around things that never moved, but the condition may actually be good for all of it.

Of the local real estate in the area, fully half of the listings have photos that I would submit to MLS disasters. I don't really see more than a couple comps in the entire zipcode. But then, the sellers have no illusions of making a profit on the sale, no need for X amount to apply to the next purchase--they are moving into something else they already have.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 9:39AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

If the rooms are well decorated then I wouldn't change anything...by which I mean that the colors all go together, even if it's not to current or neutral tastes. If you have to put say a sofa in there that doesn't go, just get a white or black slip cover...just to illustrate the space. I don't like showing rooms that are empty as they really feel small. I think it's essential to have some furniture in a room so people get a sense of space. When we staged our old house, we bought 2 twin beds, one for each bedroom which have now made their way to our guest room....I didn't bother with a headboard...just put them under a window so the windows became the headboard....just to illustrate the size of the room. I staged up the basement with some outdoor furniture I had and a card table and chairs to represent a games table...nothing that wasn't easily moved out upon sale of the home. But enough to be a sketch if you will of how furniture might go or how much space is available.

Also, as our house was empty for quite awhile before we put it on the market, a plug in scent in cinnamon just made the house seem warmer and more welcome and lived in than no scent.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 9:49AM
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Really, it just needs to be clean. You could end up with someone who is not handy and just needs a home in movable, live-in condition.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 10:14AM
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It's hard to give an opinion not knowing the market of which you speak. In the historic area's south of me one would be better off just getting things clean and in working order. Most all of these homes will have someone coming in putting their own mark on it.

In the area's west of me the ole cream and beige and move in ready is the way.

In my immediate area staging really helps. For some reason people do not have much imagination around here. I have seen perfectly lovely homes not sell due outdated interiors or old interiors but not old enough to be cool. There is one house in particular that was really beautiful but had 1980's and 90's badly done decor, it sat there unsold for well over a year until they greatly reduced the price. The slow sale had everything to do with people not being able to see past the mauve and seafoam green. At the same time similar homes with nice staging sold faster.

How far to go with staging depends on the area and who your market people are and what the resale market is in your particular area at this time. Staging or not staging is not a one size fit all like some assume.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 11:02AM
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Is there any way you can post pictures of a bit of the wallpaper, a bit of carpet, etc. so that we can see what you're talking about? (Without showing anything too personal, since that seems to be a concern.)

With every response I read here, I find myself agreeing: Yes, you must definitely take up the carpet and take off the wallpaper. No, you must most certainly leave everything as it is.

In the end, I'm voting for leaving the wallpaper and carpets. But that's based on what I'm visualizing from what you've described.

I must have misunderstood your original comments, but I thought you'd intended to paint only the filled-in nail holes. I would not put primer on walls and not paint. If you have to do entire walls or rooms, I would do it right, with a decent-quality, warm, neutral color.

I do agree with everyone who thinks the concept of staging has gone too far. IMO the staging shows one sees on HGTV and the like are not intended to show sellers improving their chances of selling their houses; they are intended to sell more appliances, granite, flooring, and paint.

About neutralizing rooms and staging, two more random thoughts. First, a house in our town sold quite quickly. It had a purple and lavender exterior, a DR or LR or other major first floor room painted orange, and another first fl. room done in a bright green. Granted, the kitchen was beautiful and the market was healthy, but still.

Second, here's what I did to prep our former house for sale:

major, and I do mean major, decluttering; careful depersonalizing that (IMO) did not strip away character but did remove a few things that might have caused buyers to look long & hard but not at the house itself, e.g., books on religion and politics and a few paintings from our collection of naked women paintings;) ; sparkling clean, including to the extent possible, the attic and the basement, and everything from the tops of doors, the interiors of cabinets, to the underside of the dishwasher frame and so on, even including removing the grunge from between wide floorboards and taking a razorblade to paint specks on floors left by the POs years before; every nick and ding filled in or sanded and touched up. Every bathroom or powder room, the laundry room, and the kitchen had color coordinated accessories, including soap and shampoo containers to go with the room's color scheme; also, new potholders and dish towels, new toothbrushes, bathmats, and bath towels, etc. None of those things were ever used; they were put away to be taken out only for showings.

The amount of time I spent - enormous, really, especially if you count the time trying to find color-coordinated carp for the bathrooms and kitchen. The amount of money - trivial, maybe $60 to $100.

At the outset, we'd asked our real estate agent whether we should replace all the bathroom fixtures, switchplate covers (cheap, shiny, 80s-era brass), the bathroom vanities (cheap oak front with those fake marble tops) and so on. She said no: new owners would want to do their own thing anyway.

In the end, before any showings and when she saw what I'd done, I asked what other thing we should do to stage. She said, raise the blinds a little more. That was it.

I realize our situations are not the same, but my point is: do you need to stage beyond the basics? We sold our house at full price, in a market already going down, at the second showing. The buyers thought the house was perfect for their particular needs. What kinds of buyers might you expect for the house you're staging? Do you have a grasp on what's happening to the neighborhood and on the types of people moving in?

Do the owners have to remove furniture before the house is sold? Is there any reason why they can't leave it, or leave most of it? From what you say, it sounds like the furnishings help make the house look special.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 11:37AM
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I know it sounds odd about the floors and the mortgage...but we wanted our bathroom floors to be just left as subfloor so we could tile when we got in and not have to deal with ripping up the vinyl. We tossed around different ideas because the house would not appraise correctly if we left the floors bare. We even thought about carpeting (without tacking it down) because that would be easier to remove than the vinyl.

In the end I just threw my hands up in the air and went with the vinyl.

I agree with the others, leave the carpet, just clean it and the rest of the house so it may be ugly, but clean.

I think that a lot of staging, or prepping, should be done with the potential buyer in mind. In our last house we knew that the ideal buyer would be a young family with maybe one child or none. The house was decorated with a somewhat young flavor. The buyer that did finally buy the house was not the family with 5 kids (why they even looked is beyond us) but a single guy and his fiancee. People need to see themselves in the house. I guess if you can determine who is buying in that neighborhood, try to gear it for their taste. Are there a lot of hipsters who are coming in and doing renovations? Or is it a neighborhood that people don't want to to do any work and just move in? I'm sure the realtor can help you.

But back to the carpet...I'd leave it. We had carpet that really needed to be replaced, our agent said, just leave it and clean it. And you know what? Not a peep was made about the carpet.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 12:43PM
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Furniture is going to various places: grandchildren buying houses and wanting "real" furniture; to children who want special pieces that won't go in the owners' other house, maybe a couple things to auction. The house could take years to sell: it's hard to even figure out "market value" in the area other than I know that the replacement value of the structure is much higher than the market value.

The owners are ready to move on, and can without selling the house, but they like their stuff and don't want to be without certain things or have things 'held hostage' in an empty house on the market just to make it look better.

I remember when one of my parents' much older friends sold a house that was very well but specifically decorated. There was a breakfast room that was done in treillage: vine and trellis paper with actual trellis columns and "bamboo" style furniture and an octagonal rug customized for the space. It was very intense, but well-done for what it was--and not even that "dated" when they sold the house, but without the whole room intact, the remainders just looked depressing.

This post was edited by palimpsest on Mon, Dec 24, 12 at 13:26

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 12:52PM
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What you don't want is for buyers to think the owners are desperate, so uncovered floors and primed walls should be avoided.

II'd talk to the realtor.

This sound like a very upscale home, and at a certain price point many buyers plan to redo everything anyway, and money is no object. However, you need to let them see past decor, the decor you describe I would consider dated but very upsale and tasteful, but could be too specific to allow buyers to see the home as their own.

I think staging (not to the extent you see on tv) is most important in typical family homes where the buyers are not walking in with 10-20K to paint and redo everything. I think multi-,illion dollar cash purchases are a whole different ball game.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 2:14PM
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It's early days yet, there is no Realtor, this is just initial discussion about divestment and dispersal and how much and when. Some of the furniture is going forthwith: into a new house one of the grandchildren is building that will be move in ready after the New Year.

A signed piece of Curtis Jere-Artisan House was unbolted from the brick wall it sat on. The market is decent for this stuff right now but may not be for long. The sellers want some of the fixtures removed and replaced before a potential buyer even sees them (or maybe even the Realtor) to avoid any confusion regarding pricing or conveyance.

The problem is going to be identifying who the potential buyer is for this house. It is large enough by midcentury standards, but has smallish bedrooms and baths. The typical buyer even ten years ago would have been an executive in the local industry or a physician. That local industry has moved elsewhere and the typical physician now seems to want something flashier and larger with space for a pool.

So I don't know what the prevailing taste is of the target demographic. New and updated (but of lesser quality than the original) may be preferable to existing. In some markets I think buyers might embrace the chinoiserie paper and matching drapes...I am not sure about this market.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 2:50PM
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After rereading your posts I think I would be inclined to somewhat neutralize and minor stage two rooms or so that had the most to offer in architectural or other nice details and leave the rest as is. I would then have control over what pictures were shown on MLS. Regardless of the fact the owners seem well set financially it's still an inconvenient noose having a house just sit there. I would concentrate on making sure the MLS listing had limited but nice photo previews to get people in the door. From what you have written so far it seems that would be enough as I get the impression that most people in that market expect to remodel or update.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 3:10PM
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Pal, is there a particular reason we can't see pictures? These rooms sound really interesting to me as is!

    Bookmark   December 25, 2012 at 9:49PM
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Before you do anything, the client needs a realtor. All these questions you have about the market and potential purchasers, the realtor can answer for you. You don't want to be responsible for barging ahead before you have all the information you need to do your job correctly and efficiently. JMTC.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 11:09AM
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Two things occur to me.

As to the light fixtures, you should definitely change them out - otherwise, the seller must be specific about everything that doesn't convey or risk negating an offer or generating legal action after the sale when the things aren't there.

Second, it's reasonable to think about who the potential buyer might be, within a range, but it's also possible to go overboard trying to nail down exactly what the future owner will want. The same house, unchanged beyond cleaning, might be exactly what an unimaginative or hurried and stressed buyer wants; or too complete to be worth the money to someone who does want to renovate extensively. With clearing of everything, that house could seem too stripped to feel possible as a home without big work in advance of moving, or could raise those suspicions about "what the heck happened in here?"

Any specific limitations or offers that complicate the sale are hard to justify, in my view.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 11:48AM
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I'm wondering if you could (along with editing the house) display a picture of a room done with current trends in the same style and/or palette. Enlarge the pic and discretely prop on an easel in the room. Help the buyer imagine the possibilities without tearing up carpeting and stripping wallpaper.

For example the room with the tartan carpeting

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 12:37PM
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I suppose stripping of carpet and such out of a couple rooms could seem bit like post crime-scene cleanup or something.

I will get a closer look this week and see what I think. I have a feeling that removing the specific things the client would like removed, replacing things as necessary (fixtures) and making sure the carpets are deep cleaned and window treatments are cleaned may be the way to go in terms of the physical house itself.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 2:38PM
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I agree with angiedfw - we've told you what would fly in our markets, but you need information specific to the area and the value of the home. Assuming the house will take years to sell is not a good start - in my area taking more than a month to sell means there is something wrong with the house and/or listing! Markets in other areas are slower, but an empty house loses value fast as it starts to require maintenance and show signs of neglect. Once utilities are turned off or running at a minimum, is someone going to flush the toilets periodically and turn on various utilities and appliances to keep them in running order? Or would the house be stripped and utilities shut off - in which case plumbing and HVAC can quickly deteriorate? These are all questions that need to be answered before considering what to do with flooring and paint.

But I will reiterate that as far as I know in no market would it be a good idea to show a house with stripped floors and walls. It would be better to leave the ugly current stuff OR replace it with neutrals, but never to leave it stripped.

And as someone else mentioned it actually *IS* required for many mortgages for there to be floor coverings and finished interiors. That has to do with protecting the bank re resale value, it is actually quite logical.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 4:01PM
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By stripped I meant only of furniture or wallpaper, not anything else. (Except carpet mostly in two specific rooms). Not stripped of anything attached to the house. Many new builds are basically painted with tinted primer.

I am surprised at the vigilance of the mortgage inspections (or whatever they are called) in some areas: I've looked at houses that had broken or switchplate covers and receptacle covers and broken or missing doorknobs and broken light fixtures or non working fixtures all over the place (and even bought one like this, and the on-the-market place I am renting has all of these conditions.) and although these things showed up on the inspection I did at the offer, in my case, never has there been a peep regarding not getting a mortgage because of any of it. They must be lazy around here or something.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 4:25PM
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Oooh, now I'm wanting you to strip one room of carpet and put a chalk outline on the floor and a bullet hole in the wall!

Sorry...foolishness crept in...

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 8:48PM
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That's why most of us are suggesting you consult a realtor - to get information specific to the market for this house. We can only tell you how things would go in our own areas/markets.

However I think it's a pretty universal concept that staging DOES sell homes faster and for higher prices, in general. If you choose to forgo that, many people do and that's fine. But to get a faster sale and better price in any market, staging is a good idea.

Deciding how to stage for very little outlay and maximum benefit is the key. I assume that you are being hired as a professional to prepare this house for sale, if I were the homeowner I would be expecting some kind of "staging" if I hired a decorator to prepare a home for sale. It doesn't have to be expensive, but walls should be painted and some furniture present to provide the buyer with a sense of scale.

Here is a link that might be useful: staging

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 1:51PM
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Given my experiences with houses that looked good (2 out of 3 had a lot more problems than I would have imagined), I'd be leary of something that looked raw or unfinished. I'd put it in the same category as a foreclosure or a building where someone ran out of money and you would have to check everything and assume some things may not be what they should be. If you knew it was just ready for new flooring and properly prepped for new paint, that would be great -- for me (maybe not for those who don't want to have to do much of anything to a house), but having been tricked by paint over problems, how does a buyer know that corners weren't cut under the unfinished surfaces? It's just a different practicality.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 6:30PM
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It might be a good time for the owner to start to talk to realtors to get a sense of what they expect, and what they can expect. Most realtors will meet with prospective clients to make suggestions about making the property ready to sell. Spending a few dollars now may save paying a few years taxes, and utilities on an empty house.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 7:25PM
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I'm a lurker and by no means a competent decorator. I'm also having a hard time articulating what I want to say - but I hope I have something to add to this discussion.

Back in the early 80's, when my husband and I were young and newly married, I knew even less about decor. We went house hunting anyway.

The home we chose was a bungalow that hadn't been updated in a half century. The living room featured that pink/gray color scheme from the 30's, with rose colored low nap wool carpeting. The kitchen had blue linoleum and mustard colored oil based paint that also covered the ceiling. The bedrooms and bath were papered in outdated prints. Miscellaneous furniture was left behind, some art left on the walls too.

But the thing was -- it worked. The design may have been 50 years old but it was GOOD design. The materials used in the house and the orphaned furniture weren't to my taste but they were of a far superior quality to anything we'd seen in any of the other houses we could afford.

We knew we'd have to change things but we also knew that the house had been lovingly and carefully designed. We could recognize that even though we were clueless 20 somethings.

Your sellers aren't distressed. They have time to wait for someone who will respect their choices (even if they may want to change them). I vote for leaving everything as it is

    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 9:43AM
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"We knew we'd have to change things but we also knew that the house had been lovingly and carefully designed. We could recognize that even though we were clueless 20 somethings.

Your sellers aren't distressed. They have time to wait for someone who will respect their choices (even if they may want to change them). I vote for leaving everything as it is"

You could be right, edeevee, and there are many people here who would know more about that than I do. However, IMO there is at least one thing that's changed since the 1980s - the advent (onslaught?) of HGTV shows in which rooms filled with perfectly good furniture are redone with new furniture as a means of so-called staging and where buyers, sellers, and real estate agents intone key words over and over, repeated as mantras, that include "stainless steel," "needs updating," "accessories," "granite," "open concept," and the like! On these shows, the latest crop of clueless 20 somethings walk into a nice house, take one look at the "dated" carpet or last year's paint color on the walls of one room out of seven or eight and reject the place out of hand because of all the work the house would entail.

I realize I'm exaggerating quite a lot, but it's possible these shows, and probably many magazines, have cued people into expecting certain elements as part of a ready to sell house.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 11:48AM
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True dat, lynxe, true dat ;^\

    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 12:52PM
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edevee, I think that may be the case here.

I don't think the 25-40 year old d�cor indicates any form of neglect in this house. There is a relatively new HVAC system, newer efficient toilets, and appliances have been replaced as needed. I took down some pictures to see if the wallpaper had faded or was dirty around the edges--nothing. The bathrooms are all white, only the actual countertops, which are "marble" formica, look particularly dated.

I do know someone who looked for a house to buy in this area and he said he was surprised at the number of houses that had one outlet in each bedroom and bedrooms without heat that were supplied either by open floor vents to the lower floor or radiators out in the hallway. So, I am not sure that up to the minute d�cor is high on the priority list in this area. This house at least, is in a more well maintained state.

Without talking to a Realtor, which I know is important, I think the first step is to clean things like the carpets and see how things look.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 10:13AM
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