5 Home Staging Mistakes That Could Cost You The Sale

Chris Heller HeadshotChris Heller, Licensed AgentApril 7, 2022

bedroom of homeHome staging makes it easier for buyers to picture themselves living in a home and using the space efficiently to suit their lifestyle and taste. 

One study revealed that homes staged before listing sold 79% faster than those staged after being listed. However, it’s very easy to overdo it and sometimes those home staging mistakes are enough to cost agents the sale. Luckily, most of those mistakes can be avoided.

So, to help out new realtors and those still getting their real estate license avoid such pitfalls, we asked experts in the industry what big things to avoid. 

Here’s what they had to say:  

Improving the smell of a home the wrong wayJohn-Castle Headshot

Real estate agents and homeowners are almost always interested in improving a home’s scent before listing or showing. Since every home has a unique smell, it can be easy for agents to over-correct and they may end up making it worse.

“Some home staging guides advise sellers to bake cookies or boil cinnamon before a show in order to improve the smell of their home. This can backfire,” according to John Castle, a leading real estate agent with Keller Williams.

“The scent always seems affected, which in itself can harm the buyer’s sentiments about the house. Worse, it can cause the buyer to wonder whether the seller is trying to hide the smell of something serious like mold or mildew,” he explained.

Some better ways to improve a home’s scent include cleaning the garbage disposal, refreshing carpets and rugs, sprucing up the trash can, freshening up your air vent, and deodorizing with dryer sheets.


Limiting potential buyers’ imagination around the spaceLisa-Dooley Headshot

While trying to show buyers how to utilize the various spaces in a home, you may end up limiting their imagination– making the home less appealing.

According to Lisa Dooley, an organizing coach with Your Organized Life, “With home staging, the “rule” is to help the buyers envision themselves living in the space. So de-personalizing and “neutralizing” the space is important. When I work with my staging clients, we also want to make the space seem intentional and multi-purposed.”

However, “When you limit the buyers’ imagination around how the space can be utilized, it can seem less desirable,” she warned.

She then shared an expert home staging tip about how to avoid making such a mistake.

“One way around this is to create intentional settings within larger spaces, i.e. a reading area in the living room, a craft area in the family room, a workstation in the kitchen, etc. This broadens the opportunities for the space and heightens the appeal,” she said.


Over staging with a DIY approachChuck-Vander-Stelt Headshot

Homeowners can stage their own homes and get it right, or enlist the help of a real estate agent.

“The costs associated with home staging often keeps using a professional out of reach for sellers of lower-priced homes,” says Chuck Vander Stelt, a real estate agent and founder of Quadwalls. “Often, an agent working with the seller can use what is there along with some small additions to make a truly trendsetting look which will show well in online images and in person.”  

However, you’ll have to be careful not to overlook the details. 

“Nothing shatters the images of a sophisticated home like purple or green walls in a kid’s room or that Ashley-Baskin HeadshotThomas The Tank Engine shower curtain in the kid’s bathroom. It is great for buyers to perceive kids’ rooms because lots of buyers have children. I just encourage my clients to tone these things down,” said Stelt. 

Ashley Baskin, a licensed real estate agent with Home Life Digest suggests that you “Avoid bright and bold colors, and if you have a theme (say, a bunch of wine accents in the home), remove those items for the showings. Also, be sure that the entryway is exceptionally clean with no random items in plain sight.”


Complicated home stagingMichael-Shapot Headshot

During home staging, you may be tempted to assume that an intricate design for every space in the home can do the trick, but experts suggest otherwise.

According to Michael Shapot, a licensed associate real estate broker, “Less is more. Staging a home is not decorating. A buyer needs to be able to envision the property as his or her home, not someone else’s.”

Shapot suggests striking a balance when it comes to the amount of personal items left behind to avoid making the home feel cold. 

“A home without art and adequate furnishings lacks character and life and makes it hard for a buyer to connect with it emotionally. It is imperative that there be “life” and emotion in a house or an apartment – plants, pets, some photos. We are selling a home, not a hotel room or a furniture warehouse,” he said.  


Using the wrong lightingHelen-White Headshot

Using the wrong lighting can make spaces in the home less appealing. Buyers are always more interested in homes they are more comfortable in, and since lighting appeals more to sight, you’ll have to get it right.

Helen White, an interior designer and home staging lead with Houseof, shares some pro tips to help you with lighting.

“Using diffuser wall lighting as opposed to spotlights can give off a warm, calm ambiance as opposed to stark, glaring lighting and can also open up the space to seem wider than it actually is,” she said.

“Using lights that are extremely low profile in terms of the depth from wall to edge is also a great way to create width in your hallway,” explained Helen.

Chris Heller Headshot

About the Author

Chris Heller brings 27 years of experience in real estate. Chris serves on the AgentAdvice Editorial Board and is the Chief Real Estate Officer at OJO Labs. Chris brings deep expertise having held influential industry positions including CEO of mellohome and former CEO of Keller Williams Realty International.

Last Updated: 4/7/2022



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