Imagination is the Enemy

Photo by John Joumaa on Unsplash

Because imagining is often fun, we like to think that it doesn’t require work. However, imagination involves a lot of effort. Use your imagination right now to see yourself looking through listings on a real estate app; imagine going through each listing and figuring out the exact layout of the floor plan, what each room could be converted to, which walls could be knocked down, and the basic style of the house underneath all the furniture and renovations. Doing this for every single listing is exhausting. If you’re excited and motivated, this might also be fun, but it is important to understand how much work this is.

The lesson here is that you should not expect potential buyers to have any time or imagination to put into viewing your house. Sure, you may stumble across some imaginative buyer with time and money to blow who may see immense potential in your listing, but it is important not to count on this when listing your home.

Before you list, make sure each room in your home is converted back to its original purpose, if possible. For example, if you changed the family room upstairs to be a storage area, remove your stored belongings and make it look like a family room. You don’t want the casual viewer to wonder if they’re looking at a massive closet, a basement, or a garage, and then hope they’re able to imagine what it might look like if it were not that.

This is where staging can be helpful; remove all your belongings, and have some basic, clean and mildly attractive furniture that is appropriate for each room’s original purpose spread throughout the house. Make each room look like it’s always clean, and has just the amount of furniture to barely qualify as a room. That is, make it look like no real people live there; like it’s a room from a TV ad.

The furniture doesn’t necessarily have to be nice, just clean and sparse. This is where you can finally trust the imagination of potential buyers, only after you have removed the personal clutter that serves as a barrier to seeing what the house is and can be.

Another essential part of staging your home is lighting. Bright, warm lighting in every room helps leave less to the imagination of each buyer.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. For example, if you have a beautifully restored Victorian home, and you have many carefully selected antiques that make it look like a movie set, then you may want to leave the house as-is. Or, you may in fact live like you’re not a real person, and your house may be spotless with barely any furniture. If this is the case, congratulations–you’re ready to sell without staging!

Another essential rule to follow is to allow buyers to see your home without you there. This will make them feel less uncomfortable, and will allow them to more easily picture themselves owning the home rather than seeing you as the owner. Again, the less there is to distract from the potential buyer’s imagination, the better.

Listing your house can be an understandably challenging process, especially because it’s difficult to have perspective on your personal space. This is why it’s helpful to have a broker or other real estate professional come look at your house and advise you on what might be good to change before listing. You can also look at houses that have sold quickly for high prices in your neighborhood, and take notes on how they look.

Remember; the average house will sell faster and for more money if each room is converted back to its original purpose; if the furniture and decor is more generic and is sparse; and if the house is brightly lit. When in doubt, assume that your buyer has no imagination, and stage your home like people who are not in any way real live there. Good luck!