Home Staging - Setting the Stage

Please welcome guest contributor to, Rachel Vanderveen, a Calgary real estate blogger and home stager who is writing an eight-part series of home staging advice for our blog. This is part seven in that series. Rachel’s previous home staging posts can be found here.

Now that we’re in the final steps of staging our home, we need to get to the heart of un-decorating. Why is it that all of us stagers seem to want to take your house apart and make it so plain? Well, the answer you’re looking for is right there in the name of the job we do: staging. We’re setting a stage for buyers. Think of what you see when you go to the theatre. It’s not often that you see ornate sets and backgrounds. Even shows like the Phantom of the Opera have fairly minimal backgrounds. There’s not a lot to look at. The background just sets the scene; it doesn’t tell the story. The actors tell the story. I happen to have seen Rent on stage a few times, and when I think about the actors in that show, they sparkled. At one point, Mimi—clad in bright blue sparkly tights---actually flips her hair and a poof of sparkles actually releases out into the air. You hardly notice the iron rails she is dancing on when she herself is taking up so much space.

“Ok, Rachel, we get it; you’re a theatre geek, what does this have to do with selling a home in Saskatoon?”  The point is that the actors are the ones who have to fill the stage with whatever story they want to tell, and those who want to buy a home in Saskatoon, are the actors on the stage you’re setting. So what happens when you’ve left your story all over the stage? Well the result is confusion, and unsettledness. It would be like walking onto the set of The Lion King and trying to tell the story of Showboat. It doesn’t work. People need to be able to imagine theirstory unfolding on your stage, so our chief concern today will be making that stage interesting, inviting, and yet neutral and ready for any story that needs to be told. This is done mainly by de-personalizing. It’s hard to imagine raising your kids in a certain real estate listing, where you can see the photos of the children who live there, and the marks of the owners who are raising them. That’s not a blank stage. Saskatoon MLS shoppers will feel more like guests in someone else’s home, rather than being able to enter a residence and truly try it on for size.

So what needs to stay, and what needs to go? Well let’s start with all of the personal photos. Everywhere. Wedding photos, graduation photos, the whole nine yards. Gone.  “But, Rachel, I had my wedding photos professionally shot by an up-and-coming avant garde photographer; they’re really more art than personal!” Nope, sorry, those are personal, and in some ways they may even be worse than wedding photos taken in a studio. The problem we have with personal photos---no matter how well they were photographed---is that now we have someone who is honestly looking to buy Saskatoon real estate in your home, and they’re not looking at your home; they’re looking at your wedding photos! They’re ooohing and they’re ahhhhing, and they’re pulling their husband significant other away from looking at the home, in order to look at your photos. Once you have that happening, in many cases, you’ve lost them. This isn’t a home for them anymore. This is yourhome, and they’re just visiting.  So junior’s baseball championship photos, all of his trophies and ribbons, everything needs to come down to make room for the new junior who happens to be into soccer and math.

Most people who have made achievements in university or higher education like to post their certificates, degrees and diplomas in their study. This is a no-no. Not only is it pulling people out of the blank stage mentality, but it is also giving them cause to give you a stinky low-ball offer on your home. “Ohhhh, so this seller is a doctor? Reeeeaaaally? Well, then I guess he has gobs of money, and he doesn’t need to get his asking price on this property. They can afford to give me a few thousand dollars off.”

Then there is art work that may not have personal photos in it, but it’s pretty loud all the same. Your artwork should not draw attention to itself. Your artwork is in place to compliment the space and to reinforce your focal points. I once staged a home where a bachelor homeowner had a medieval sword hung above his bed. Is the sword cool? Yes. Is it a totally different approach to decorating? Yes. Is a sword appropriate to hang over the master bed for the purposes of staging? NO. That gives the opposite message that we want to give off. The whole scene of a “come-hither” environment is spoiled by such a hard image which calls up thoughts that are the last thing we want Saskatoon homebuyers thinking about when stepping into your master bedroom.

So what’s the main thrust here? You need to set a stage that looks like the “best life.” The kind of life we all hope to live, and isn’t really possible in reality….but darn it, we just keep trying!  Don’t know what that looks like? Pick up an issue of Canadian Home and Garden, that’ll start to give you a good idea! You don’t need to worry about spending the money on all of the expensive furniture and accessories, just take note in those pictures of what you don’t see, rather than what you dosee: no mess. No personal photos. Blank stage.

Good Luck! We’ll see you here next week for my final blog on how to give a five-star showing!

Until Next Time…


Rachel Vanderveen is a Calgary Christian Real Estate Agent specializing in Calgary condos, South Calgary Real Estate, Calgary home staging , McKenzie Towne MLS Listings, and Auburn Bay Real Estate.  But more importantly, she is a mother to four adorable children, a lover of Auburn Bay Realty, and an avid writer of Auburn Bay Community News blogs. For more information on Calgary, or searching, visit her website here.

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