A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

The Dishonesty of Homestaging

Homestaging has been receiving more attention in the past year. With newspaper articles and radio reports, this new profession has had a spot light focused on it. An article directed towards Realtors addresses the concern of ethics of having a home staged for buyers.

In our society, any one can bring a suit against any one else for any reason. If the suit is reasonable, the prosecutor may have a chance. Part of the implication of the article on homestaging was that Realtors could be held liable for the disappointment of the buyer, once they have moved into their new home. Could the buyer be disappointed? Of course they could, but does this mean that a Realtor should be held liable? I have done some work in preparing homes for sale, and I did not feel that I was being dishonest in my actions. I was simply trying to show the home to its best advantage. If a Realtor (wether representing the seller or buyer) fails to point out to a buyer the effects of the staged home, I cannot accept that they have failed in their duty to the buyer. A buyer is attempting to picture what their life could be like in this home, and preparing a home for sale accomplishes this task. Has the buyer lost value by not having the home look exactly like it did during the sales process? I think the buyer is intelligent enough to realize that this is not my furniture, and this is not my life. During inspections, my clients ask many questions which having nothing to do with my inspection, but their queries do involve decorating, which is the basis for a staged home. These questions come even in homes which have been staged.

Maybe we should step away of the idea of a home, and look at the next major purchase made by a consumer. Buying a car has similar aspects to purchasing a home. We have to obtain a loan; we buy on emotion, more than on reason; and they both can be prepared for sale. Specifically looking at used cars, I know some will be lemons, while others will be peaches. As a buyer, there comes a point in the sale, where I examine the car to see if I want it. My initial emotional reaction is set aside temporarily for logic. This is usually occurring during the test drive. Does this moment happen when buying a home? Well yes, it occurs during the inspection phase. At that point, a buyer is forced to consider the reality of the home.

Another aspect of the article dealt with the furnishings being used by the stagers. This is a trend that I am aware of, but I feel is not always proper for the client. To make your home project the possible life, homestagers will bring in their own furnishings. This means that the seller needs to remove their own. If they do not have a storage facility, they have to rent one, on top of renting the furnishings from the stager. I know that several people have come to this blog, because they have been seeking home staging advice, and my method of preparing a home has been using what is there, or remove everything entirely. Sometimes there is value in bringing furniture into a home for staging, but that should be a last resort. If you hire a professional stager, ask them about how they plan to prepare your home. A person who immediately suggests bringing in furniture may not be the best choice.

Buyers do have to face a certain amount of reality when buying a home, and a Realtor should be a good counselor to their client. Pointing out that they may desire a home due to staging seems to be going in the wrong direction though. We are talking about a product on the market, so it needs to be presented well, and discouraging this idea would also be similar to telling a can goods manufacturer that their product labeling will only cause disappointment, so remove it. Informing Realtors that they face an ethical dilemma when presenting a staged home is an improper tact for the industry.

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