The Importance of Appearance

While first impressions are certainly key (I read some crazy statistic about how people make an impression in the first .9 seconds of meeting someone) I am not talking about dating here (we’ll save that for another post)

What I am referring to is…HOMES ya’ll…selling homes.

303 Gaspar Bend

4708 Pinhurst Drive

“Staged homes sell faster.”

You and I have both heard this on HGTV multiple times and I come across it frequently when I am showing buyers. But fact of the matter is–it does!

It is a statistic and I can attest to this. Many times it is the overall “feel” or look (or appearance of how one looks) that helps sells the home.

Honestly–price is #1. People will jump on something if priced right, because the market–and savvy buyers–know what they are willing to pay for a home–and what the market is willing to endure, but today’s blog isn’t about aggressive pricing strategies, I will save that for another blog too.

Today’s blog is about: STAGING.

“Can the buyer imagine themselves in this home?”

“Does this East side bungalow live “hip” and “minimalist” like?”

“Do I connect with this property? Can I envision myself living here?”

Often times staging “covers up” the fact…”wait a minute..:

“There is no good place for my TV”

“This place has no storage afterall”

Just the other day (if you follow me on my Instagram stories, you probably noticed) I showed TWO condos that were the SAME floorplan at the SAME SAME complex only slightly different in price. Guess which one was HANDS DOWN better? Why, the cute furnished one of course, take a look:


People lack vision. Ok, not all people…but it is hard to imagine the potential of a space–unless you show them. (I will save the value in updating your home for another post) but people also don’t want to do a ton of work!

When I am with buyers and the home is empty, yes that can be a great at times but often a buyer can’t figure out how they’d lay out a space…or it actually seems smaller than when furnished.

And at times when a place is being currently occupied but not “prep’d” for showings–I find myself saying “Ok, just picture none of their furniture in here.” Or you find distracting items taking you away from really looking at the space (this happens a lot with family photos and people trying to decipher what the sellers look like, what they do or how old they are).

If you are selling your home and you plan on living IN the home during the sale, here are some words of wisdom from yours truly:

  1. Move out. (ok, ok I am kidding, but basically you should go visit a few model homes and listed homes, but for most–it is time to start TOSSING stuff.
    • If you haven’t opened that box in years that’s in your garage from the last move–toss it. (totally guilty of this myself)
    • Have a garage sale!
    • Drop at Goodwill, Salvation Army, charities or apps like Facebook marketplace, LetGo, Thred Up (for like new clothing)



“Anything less than the size of a football is clutter.”

-Martha Stewart (just kidding she didn’t say that, but I could see her saying that)

  • The caveat to this tip above is: Do not clear ALL your shelves and countertops, but stick to a few objects per shelf space/counter top depending on the size. An empty-feeling home also does not faire well when trying to sell

(we cleared the shelves in this DT condo I had listed, just added a few magic touches and some greenery for a nice pop)

  • Real plants and small succulents, etc give the home a nice touch. Fake plants don’t have the same effect, but you also don’t want it to die before people come view your home, so keep an eye on it, or just use the fake plants!

(my clients who owned this home above LOVED plants, we had to rearrange them some so it wasn’t too scary, but it showed well in our photos and the green gave the home a nice touch)

(My beautiful listing I have in Hyde Park-more pics: Here)

3. De-Personalize

  • I see this often–people get distracted by family photos “Aww look at that baby” or “Are these the sellers?!” Do yourself a favor and take yourself out of the equation. Let people focus on your clean, welcoming, minimal home. No one wants to see your naked black and white maternity shots.(Though a lovely shot of Naomi, you get my point. Don’t leave this hanging up in the master. Photo compliments: Google/Pinterest)

4. Hide Collectibles

  • Store em. Often times I see a big wall of crosses, a library filled with hunting trophies or grandma’s Precious Moments collectibles in a big china cabinet–>pack it up!
  • The caveat to the above is that if you have a lot of game trophies and we are selling your country Ranch–this could work, but may want to only keep a few up.(Don’t be like Steve Carrell in 40yr Old Virgin)

5. Good Furniture is Key (less is more)

  • A home definitely shows better with furniture in the home. Maybe not how you have it currently set up–but furniture is good, nonetheless. If your furniture is old and tattered or stained, or bulky or smelly or way out of style that it isn’t even considered vintage, then that may need to leave for showings and photos… but bottom line-you need something in there. What I have noticed is I have a home on the market currently and they minimized it so well for pictures that it almost doesn’t seem “homey” enough. So I had to go pick up some things to “liven it up”

(looks cute right? But also a little vacant)

(I added some more pillows, a throw, some books, dish towels, a few plants to make it seem more “lived in”)

Items that freshen up a space:

  • Plants
  • Books
  • Candles
  • Trays with decorative pieces
  • Throws
  • PILLOWS! (karate chopped of course)

  • Bowls of inanimate objects (or fake lemons)
  • Canisters/dish towels in the kitchen
  • Prints
  • NATURAL light
  • Less is more–Keep patterns to pillows and rugs and solids to bedding–white photographs nicely in most homes, making a space look cleaner and larger…see below

(My Seaholm condo listing above-before staging)

It’s a great space and cute, but we needed to jazz it up a bit, considering the DT lifestyle…soooo…

(My Seaholm condo listing above-after staging)

See more pics of this beautiful condo: here!

A few other tips when preparing your home for photography & before showings:

  • Take off all your screens, get windows washed (store screens in garage)
  • Take down curtains, or choose lighter ones, open up blinds (unless there is an eye sore in the window)
  • Remove everything from bathroom countertops, toilet seat down
  • Carpets professionally cleaned
  • Touch up paint and drywall cracks or holes (I recommend this AFTER moving items from home)
  • Lawn mowed, edged, fresh mulch and plants
  • Professionally clean (nice to do before new buyers take over or if you moved out while home on market-do before stager comes)

These are all the pretty obvious items, above, but I think where the real value comes in–is hiring a Realtor who uses a professional stager. (Unless said Realtor does own staging…that may work too, but definitely check out their previous listings). Home stagers typically have a design eye, not too mention the inventory of items to decorate with. They also have a keen eye how to make a space appear bigger or detract from negatives and adding a few elements can go a long way.

Q: Who pays for the stager, Ashley?

A: Every agent is going to operate differently. When it comes to my sellers, I pay for the staging consult. This is their time with the professional stager to take a look at their home and make recommendations. A stager has different methods depending on your home to charging the Seller for time or items or making recommendations. The more furniture and time required, the more expensive, obviously.

When your home finally hits the market, do not short yourself by not having it ready. As a professional (now it certainly depends on timing of the market) I would rather a client delay a week to get the house in order, vs not having it perfect for photos and going “live” on the market.

I remember one of my first listings. I showed up before the photographer only to find my clients frantically cleaning and moving stuff around. I threw on an apron and started cleaning, dusting and loading their dishwasher. What. A. Nightmare. We also did the work around of “let’s move this stack while he photographs this room from this angle” then moved said stack back and move chair to photograph the next room. No. No. No. Have your place spic-n-span for photos, so it will be spic-n-span for showings. Not to mention, less stuff in your home=less stuff to worry about keeping tidy for showings.

Work backward from your timeline. Set realistic expectations (price it right!!). Hire people to help you. Make money on your home. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

I am not going to tell you that adding furniture to your home when you are overpriced is going to get you sold. But if you are priced right, and so is the other similar home in your neighborhood that is also on the market, yours will stand out against the competition–and most likely sell faster if priced accordingly.

For further questions or conversations, feel free to reach out, always happy to assess, chat or offer my opinions/professional advice.

For more homes I have for sale or have sold, you can always visit my Facebook business page (check out the albums) and see my testimonials from previous clients here.