One of the great pleasures of house hunting is visiting homes on the market and dreaming about living in them. Many realtors today will hire a professional home stager to make their listings as attractive as possible to the widest range of buyers. Sellers are taught to present their home as if it’s a hotel room or a model home rather than showing it to buyers the way they actually live.
While buyers can enjoy the view at a staged home, they need to be careful to live in reality rather than falling into Psychology 101.
Staging techniques are used to help buyers visualize what will fit in a room or the function of the room, but they can also mask a too-small or a too-large space. Before you go house shopping take a few measurements of your furniture and the rooms you live in now. Home stagers often remove extra furniture and sometimes take off interior doors to make rooms seem more spacious, so make sure you’ve checked that your king-size bed or your king-size sectional sofa will fit.
One of the costliest things to change in a home is structure, so instead of admiring the shiny granite kitchen counter, check to see if the kitchen is located where you want it and whether the bathroom will need a major remodel. Stagers often have sellers empty their closets so that the home seems to have an abundance of storage space, but you should think about what you own and where you’ll put it, rather than assume all those closets will stay empty.
A home that smells like cinnamon or citrus appeals to your nose, but if the sellers are using air fresheners in every room, they could be masking a musty smell from a damp basement or pet odors that are permanently part of the carpet.
Use your eyes to check out the lighting. Home stagers sometimes bring in extra lamps, add brighter bulbs and strip away all the window treatments; but since you may want a little privacy and don’t want your home to look like a lighting store you should look for overhead light fixtures and how much natural light the home receives. If you love a particular light fixture, find out if it stays or if it’s part of the staging package.
Freshly painted walls are nice to look at, and so are fresh flowers, but you should dig deeper if you’re serious about a home. Look beyond the staging, and check in areas such as under sinks for leaks and look for damp spots in the basement. Test the windows to make sure they work, look at the foundation, and see if you can evaluate the quality of the cabinets and flooring.
Make a checklist of places that you want a home inspector to evaluate carefully. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying an attractively staged home and even picking up ideas for rearranging or redecorating with your own furniture, but taking your time to thoroughly check out a home before making an offer will increase the chances that you’ll buy a home you love.