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Staging An Appraisal

Image by Gibsonff
Image by Gibsonff

Not so long ago, there were some local mortgage brokers out there that thought it was a great idea to stage homes for the purpose of appraisals. I know because some of them contacted me and asked for staging proposals. Although they may not have identified the purpose of their call up front, it was pretty easy to discover they were not looking for a normal home staging project after just a few routine questions. It was even easier to eliminate them as potential clients. There is a big difference between making a house look its best for market and trying to pretend a vacant home is occupied.

It is not uncommon for an agent to call to gather staging information for a property. Some lenders act as the agent and of course they could be the homeowner as well, so there are times when a mortgage broker might call for information. But when the conversation turns to “the staging only needs to be there for a couple days; just long enough for photos to be taken” and “it needs to look like somebody lives there, the appraiser will be coming by” that the red flags come up and the question begs to be asked, “is this vacant property being staged for sale or staged for an appraisal on a refinance?”

Is that a can or worms or what? Worse? I think so.

Staging should not be about pretending a vacant property is occupied. Staging is and always should be about showcasing the best features in a home while demonstrating to buyers the home’s highest and best use of the property and the quality of life living in the home offers. With all the problems resulting from the current mortgage crisis, I have to wonder; how widespread was this practice and how much impact could these refinance scams have contributed to the current problem?

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Written By

Nickie is the founder of and She is a certified IBE Healthy Home Practitioner, Certified Usui Reiki Practitioner and Feng Shui Consultant. She has lived on both coasts (as well as in the gorgeous Rocky Mountains of Colorado) of the US and currently calls Los Angeles home. You can find her in plenty of spots in the online world and should you happen to catch her at home, she will probably make you something yummy!



  1. Jay Thompson

    August 10, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Why does whether the home is occupied or not influence an appraiser?

    Or are these refi’s for “owner-occupied” loans? If that’s the case, it would seem to me that staging a home to appear occupied would be tantamount to fraud.

    Do I get extra credit for using “tantamount” in a sentence? 😉

  2. Nickie Rothwell

    August 10, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Hi Jay,

    Yes, precisely.

    I’m wondering if anyone else has heard of people attempting to use home stagers for the purpose of making vacant properties appear to be “owner-occupied” for the purpose of refi opposed to the purpose of selling of the home and how widespread this practice may have been.

    You get Bonus extra credit!

    Thanks for clarifying the point. 🙂

  3. Mike Lefebvre

    August 10, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Wow. And I thought I’ve seen all the fraud there was out there. Never came across this one (yet).

    I am also a licensed appraiser and there is most certainly a specific question on the standard Federal Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac appraisal form stating whether the property is vacant, occupied by a tenant or owner occupied.

    There are also certainly different mortgage programs available to borrowers for owner-occupied, primary residence properties as opposed to investment properties.

    Stagers, do yourself a favor and steer clear of any of this kind of shenanigans, because as Jay suggested it is most certainly “tantamount to fraud”. (Nice word, bro…)

  4. Eric Blackwell

    August 10, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    I am with Jay on this…if they are doing this to appear to be occupied then I’d think it would be fraud ( you betcha get bonus points for tantamount, bro..).

    @Nickie–I have not heard of that happening in our area. Thank you for the heads up though. I will keep my eyes open for it.



  5. Jennifer in Louisville

    August 11, 2008 at 6:40 am

    First time that I’ve heard of staging for an appraiser. Its certainly not common in my area. And if you are trying to “fake out” the mortgage process to get a deal through – it definitely smacks of wrong doing.

  6. Holly White

    August 11, 2008 at 10:40 am

    What will they think of next? Asking for humans ands pets as staging props? “We’ll take the number 4 package with 2 couches, 1 TV, 2 beds, 1 table, 2 middle aged people (1 male, 1 female) and 1 Golden Retriever please… and can you supersize the TV?”

  7. Jay Thompson

    August 11, 2008 at 10:58 am

    “What will they think of next? Asking for humans ands pets as staging props?”

    Already been done Holly!

  8. Eric Blackwell

    August 11, 2008 at 11:08 am

    To quote a good friend of mine…

    “I’ll be dipped in sour owl crap and rolled in coconut!”…(grin)

    I had not seen your post on that…and I am speechless…

    Methinks that redefines “Over the top.”



  9. Holly White

    August 11, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Not EXACTLY what I had in mind Jay, but leave it to you to have already uncovered something on the subject! I’ll bet you were really good at “Where’s Waldo”. 🙂 By the way, how creepy to walk into a home where someone was singing happy birthday and drawing pictures? Eww!

  10. Paula Henry

    August 11, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    I would say, I have heard it all, but nothing really surprises me in this industry. Unfortunately, the few who would think of something like this are those who give the whole industry a bad name

  11. Bob

    August 11, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    My listings are predominately short sales. I want the lender’s appraisal to be as low as possible. I’ll need to stage it a bit differently…

  12. Bob

    August 11, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    “Unfortunately, the few who would think of something like this are those who give the whole industry a bad name”


  13. Nickie Rothwell

    August 11, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    I’m glad to hear no one has heard of anyone trying this in their markets. Let’s trust that anyone would know that staging is designed for selling homes, not trickery.

    And I’m with the rest of you, how weird would it be to look at a home with actors in it? Too bizarre!

    Just show the house please.

  14. Paula Henry

    August 11, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    Bob – because these are the ones which make the local news. We have great successes everyday – great agents who always do the right thing – we just don’t hear about it.

    Something like this would make it to 60 minutes. They could make it an attention grabbing headline.

  15. Nickie Rothwell

    August 11, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    I agree with you Paula!

    I’d like to think these folks never found anyone to do their project, but who knows what happened.

    Hopefully they contacted enough stagers who gave them the same answer as I did, “no”.

    And if there were any others in different markets trying the same thing, let’s trust they all got the same answer as well.

  16. Bob

    August 11, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Is it not the job to get the highest price possible for your seller?

  17. Nickie Rothwell

    August 11, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Hi Bob,

    In this particular case, we’re referring to someone that might be looking to hire a stager for a home for the purpose of making a home appear to be occupied for a refi opposed to staging a home for sale.

    Sadly, there have been a few instances where inquiries have been made to do projects like this.

  18. Ben Goheen

    August 18, 2008 at 6:39 am

    I can say that I haven’t heard or seen this practice either. Hopefully this incident was isolated in your market Nickie. Thanks for giving us all a heads-up though!

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