When my husband and I bought our first home in 2019, we were so excited. We saw past the buckling hardwood floors, the dated kitchen, and the literal piece of paper taped to the wall where a section of crown molding was missing. We saw a home we loved.
Anxious to start moving in (I was pregnant), we looked past things we probably shouldn’t have. We were first-time buyers and there were some red flags that we ignored, many of which should have at least been a discussion with the realtors or sellers.
Buying a home, whether it’s your first home or not, is an overwhelming and exciting time. When you find a home you can envision your family in, it can become all-consuming. And most clever sellers know this and use it to their advantage. Sometimes it’s innocuous things, but other times these staging “tricks” might be covering up something more serious.
Staging a home in and of itself isn’t manipulative. It helps the buyer see the potential of the home and connect with it more than if it were a vacant home. But being aware of common staging techniques can help you become a more savvy shopper and save you from some potential headaches in the future.
Curtains can make a room feel warm and inviting. They provide some privacy, add some insulation, and help tie the room together. But, they are also good at hiding problems. Always make sure to check all the windows in each room to see their condition. Older windows may lead to issues regulating temperatures in the rooms, which affect energy bills.
Additionally, broken, damaged, or cracked windows or walls can be strategically hidden by curtains. Window treatments can also camouflage small windows, making them appear larger. Hanging curtains closer to the ceiling is a trick that most homeowners employ to make their rooms feel taller and airier. This is common, just make sure to open all the curtains while looking at homes.
2. Fresh Paint
In most cases, adding a fresh coat of paint is a positive sign the seller is trying to update the home for a new owner. That said, paint can cover up a lot, like mildew, water spots, and other potential deal breakers. If it looks like the paint job was rushed, ask questions about past issues with mildew.
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3. Overpowering Air Fresheners
If the seller has added overwhelming scents to the home before the showing, they might be trying to cover something up. Pet odors, cigarette smoke, or sewage odor might be present, however temporarily masked by a strong scent.
Sellers still usually use some sort of scent when showing a home, although in recent years sellers are using less offensive air fresheners and going with more subtle essential oils or DIY room sprays.
4. Background Music
As with the above-mentioned, another sense that the seller may try to manipulate is your hearing. If background music is playing during the showing, the seller might be trying to cover up road noise, nearby train tracks, or foot traffic. It’s best to ask them to turn off the music to get a feel of what sounds and noises you’ll be hearing on a daily basis.
5. All The Lights Are On
Sellers typically want the home to look as light and bright as possible, so they may have all the lights on to try to fake it a little. Natural light is a hot commodity, and many older homes won’t have much. So, always turn some lights off to see what the natural light situation would be.
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We love a good rug. They can make the room look more put-together, brighten up a dark room, and bring out the beauty of hardwood floors. But obviously, rugs can also hide imperfections.
Stained, scuffed, and/or damaged floors can easily be covered up by a pretty rug, so make sure you have a good idea about the condition of the floors before you make any big decisions. If rugs are over already carpeted flooring, check to see what condition they’re in too. Always be aware of any potential water damage or foundation issues before buying a home.
7. Mirrors, Artwork, Decor
Mirrors can make a room look larger and brighter, so keep that in mind when envisioning your space. Check the measurements of the room to make sure your furniture will fit well. Strategically placed mirrors, artwork, and decor can also hide cracks, blemishes, and water stains on walls.
8. Furniture Placement
Beyond decor, placing smaller or compact furniture in a small room is another tactic to make it appear larger. Does the dining room have a compact four-top or a table that can seat 10? Is there a full-size mattress in the master bedroom compared to your king-size at home? Always be sure to think about your current furniture and how it may look in the space.