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

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.”

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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.”

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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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