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Top 15 rules for staging a real estate listing, according to scientific study

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San Francisco bedroom staged by Cindy Lin of Staged4More.com.

Scientifically proving staging principles

In a recent study by Duke University, Andrea Angott, Ph.D. said, “As far as we know, staging principles haven’t yet received empirical testing. Rather, they most likely evolved over years of experience and practice, and very experienced practitioners develop an intuition about staging. But, it is probably the case that some staging “rules” are more effective than others than others [sic] in terms of changing buyer perception and behavior.”

Dr. Angott noted that “some rules likely give you more “bank for your buck” in terms of cost effectiveness. This is what we are trying to determine. As psychologists, we are also interested in the psychology behind effective staging principles, on both emotional and cognitive levels.”

“Staging is no rocket science but it is still a little bit complicated. There are a lot of factors in a home sale that can impact your outcome, and staging will help you minimize a lot of risk,” says Cindy Lin, founder of Staged4More.com.

Top 15 staging rules

According to the scientific study by Duke University, these are the top 15 staging rules listed with the most importantly ranked at the top of this list:

  1. Removal of personal items from bathrooms.
  2. Using rooms for their intended purpose.
  3. Removing evidence of pets.
  4. Turning on every light in the home during showings.
  5. Vacant homes should be furnished.
  6. Removal of garbage cans.
  7. Removal of personal photographs.
  8. Removal attention-grabbing or personal art or accessories.
  9. Neutral paint colors on all walls.
  10. Removal of appliances from kitchen counters.
  11. Never placing the back of furniture facing any room entrance.
  12. “Tell a story” with staging (breakfast tray with mugs on bed).
  13. Sheer or no coverings on all windows.
  14. Use of scented candles, plug-in air fresheners or potpourri.
  15. Chocolate chips baking in oven during showings.

Commonly reported additional rules that didn’t make the top 15 include an extremely clean, decluttered house with good curb appeal.

The artistry of staging

Dr. Angott reported that a few respondents felt the study was “too black-and-white” because “staging is an art that can’t be captured in a handful of rules.” Pertaining to the study, Dr. Angott said, “While we recognize the artistry of staging, scientific testing invariable requires simplification, and we feel that our findings will be useful despite this necessary simplification.”

Renowned real estate photographer Larry Lohrman said that from a real estate photographers perspective, “very few home sellers are good at getting their home in shape for a shoot. It takes a pushy listing agent to be on site while you shoot and help remove garbage cans, pet dishes and the like. If your client, the listing agent is not on site helping with this activity, you need to be pushy with the home owner to make the home looks good. Of course there are limits to what you can do.”

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50 Comments

50 Comments

  1. Cindy*Staged4more

    August 4, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Thanks Lani for the article, you rock! 🙂

  2. Laura

    August 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    As someone who studied psychology & art therapy & is currently a Home Stager I'm happy to see the connection of psychology & Real Estate. The only item I strongly disagree with is #14. This item continues to pop up on staging lists however staging is a marketing tool designed to increase foot traffic to a home. Artificial scents are a huge no-no because many people have allergies and or asthma. If you must use scents makes sure only all natural neutral scents are used. Most recently trays w/ items are now perceived as pretentious. Staging continues to evolve along with the RE industry.

  3. Kathy Strader

    August 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Great article, but I must disagree with #14. Artificial scents can be overpowering to some buyer and have a negative impact. Best to go for clean, fresh scents like grinding a lemon quarter in the disposal. Candles with clean fresh scents are great for open houses, but not safe for showings that occur when the seller is away for the day. No one should ever leave a candle unattended.

  4. hermanchan.com

    August 4, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    good post! but chocolate chips in oven? not in California! i dunno about u, when a buyer wants thru those doors, i want them to think crown moldings…not CARBS!!
    here's a old vlog i did about this habitatforhermanity.com/1/post/2011/05/an-oldie-but-goodie-i-smell-carbs.html
    enjoy!

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Business Marketing

Use the ‘Blemish Effect’ to skyrocket your sales

(MARKETING) The Blemish Effect dictates that small, adjacent flaws in a product can make it that much more interesting—is perfection out?

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blemish effect

Presenting a product or service in its most immaculate, polished state has been the strategy for virtually all organizations, and overselling items with known flaws is a practice as old as time. According to marketing researchers, however, this approach may not be the only way to achieve optimal results due to something known as the “Blemish Effect.”

The Blemish Effect isn’t quite the inverse of the perfectionist product pitch; rather, it builds on the theory that small problems with a product or service can actually throw into relief its good qualities. For example, a small scratch on the back of an otherwise pristine iPhone might draw one’s eye to the glossy finish, while an objectively perfect housing might not be appreciated in the same way.

The same goes for mildly bad press or a customer’s pros and cons list. If someone has absolutely no complaints or desires for whatever you’re marketing, the end result can look flat and lacking in nuance. Having the slightest bit of longing associated with an aspect (or lack thereof) of your business means that you have room to grow, which can be tantalizing for the eager consumer.

A Stanford study indicates that small doses of mildly negative information may actually strengthen a consumer’s positive impression of a product or service. Interesting.

Another beneficial aspect of the Blemish Effect is that it helps consumers focus their negativity. “Too good to be true” often means exactly that, and we’re eager to criticize where possible. If your product or service has a noticeable flaw which doesn’t harm the item’s use, your audience might settle for lamenting the minor flaw and favoring the rest of the product rather than looking for problems which don’t exist.

This concept also applies to expectation management. Absent an obvious blemish, it can be all to easy for consumers to envision your product or service on an unattainable level.

When they’re invariably disappointed that their unrealistic expectations weren’t fulfilled, your reputation might take a hit, or consumers might lose interest after the initial wave.

The takeaway is that consumers trust transparency, so in describing your offering, tossing in a negative boosts the perception that you’re being honest and transparent, so a graphic artist could note that while their skills are superior and their pricing reasonable, they take their time with intricate projects. The time expectation is a potentially negative aspect of their service, but expressing anything negative improves sales as it builds trust.

It should be noted that the Blemish Effect applies to minor impairments in cosmetic or adjacent qualities, not in the product or service itself. Delivering an item which is inherently flawed won’t make anyone happy.

In an age where less truly is more, the Blemish Effect stands to dictate a new wave of honesty in marketing.

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Business Marketing

Google Chrome will no longer allow premium extensions

(MARKETING) In banning extension payments through their own platform, Google addresses a compelling, if self-created, issue on Chrome.

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Google Chrome open on a laptop on a organized desk.

Google has cracked down on various practices over the past couple of years, but their most recent target—the Google Chrome extensions store—has a few folks scratching their heads.
Over the span of the next few months, Google will phase out paid extensions completely, thus ending a bizarre and relatively negligible corner of internet economy.

This decision comes on the heels of a “temporary” ban on the publication of new premium extensions back in March. According to Engadget, all aspects of paid extension use—including free trials and in-app purchases—will be gone come February 2021.

To be clear, Google’s decision won’t prohibit extension developers from charging customers to use their products; instead, extension developers will be required to find alternative methods of requesting payment. We’ve seen this model work on a donation basis with extensions like AdBlock. But shifting to something similar on a comprehensive scale will be something else entirely.

Interestingly, Google’s angle appears to be in increasing user safety. The Verge reports that their initial suspension of paid extensions was put into place as a response to products that included “fraudulent transactions”, and Google’s subsequent responses since then have comprised more user-facing actions such as removing extensions published by different parties that accomplish replica tasks.

Review manipulation, use of hefty notifications as a part of an extension’s operation, and generally spammy techniques were also eyeballed by Google as problem points in their ongoing suspension leading up to the ban.

In banning extension payments through their own platform, Google addresses a compelling, if self-created, issue. The extension store was a relatively free market in a sense—something that, given the number of parameters being enforced as of now, is less true for the time being.

Similarly, one can only wonder about which avenues vendors will choose when seeking payment for their services in the future. It’s entirely possible that, after Google Chrome shuts down payments in February, the paid section of the extension market will crumble into oblivion, the side effects of which we can’t necessarily picture.

For now, it’s probably best to hold off on buying any premium extensions; after all, there’s at least a fighting chance that they’ll all be free come February—if we make it that far.

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Business Marketing

Bite-sized retail: Macy’s plans to move out of malls

(BUSINESS MARKETING) While Macy’s shares have recently climbed, the department store chain is making a change in regards to big retail shopping malls.

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Macy's retail storefront, which may look different as they scale to smaller stores.

I was recently listening to a podcast on Barstool Sports, and was surprised to hear that their presenting sponsor was Macy’s. This struck me as odd considering the demographic for the show is women in their twenties to thirties, and Macy’s typically doesn’t cater to that crowd. Furthermore, department retail stores are becoming a bit antiquated as is.

The sponsorship made more sense once I learned that Macy’s is restructuring their operation, and now allowing their brand to go the way of the ghost. They feel that while malls will remain in operation, only the best (AKA the malls with the most foot traffic) will stand the test of changes in the shopping experience.

As we’ve seen a gigantic rise this year in online shopping, stores like Macy’s and JC Penney are working hard to keep themselves afloat. There is so much changing in brick and mortar retail that major shifts need to be made.

So, what is Macy’s proposing to do?

The upscale department store chain is going to be testing smaller stores in locations outside of major shopping malls. Bloomingdale’s stores will be doing the same. “We continue to believe that the best malls in the country will thrive,” CEO Jeff Gennette told CNBC analysts. “However, we also know that Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have high potential [off]-mall and in smaller formats.”

While the pandemic assuredly plays a role in this, the need for change came even before the hit in March. Macy’s had announced in February their plans to close 125 stores in the next three years. This is in conjunction with Macy’s expansion of Macy’s Backstage, which offers more affordable options.

Gennette also stated that while those original plans are still in place, Macy’s has been closely monitoring the competition in the event that they need to adjust the store closure timeline. At the end of the second quarter, Macy’s had 771 stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury.

Last week, Macy’s shares climbed 3 percent, after the retailer reported a more narrow loss than originally expected, along with stronger sales due to an uptick in their online business. So they’re already doing well in that regard. But will smaller stores be the change they need to survive?

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