Home staging encompasses the whole process of fixing, upgrading, cleaning and decluttering to prepare homes for selling. But, it also includes styling or showcasing the home to have the greatest possible appeal for the most possible potential buyers. It seems common sense that fixing, updating, cleaning and brightening will help sell a home. But, what does the styling or showcasing part of professional home staging actually add to the sales results?
Can professional colour selections, tweaking furniture arrangements, styling with artwork, mirrors, flowers, scents and music truly make any difference? Can the right staging really have buyers so smitten they will ditch their ‘must-have’ criteria and dig deeper into their bank accounts to purchase a particular house? Aren’t large purchases with such major impact decided logically?
Here are three scientific findings from studies of human behaviour which show that humans are not such logical decision makers after all. Because of these facts, it seems the styling part of home staging could actually have even more impact than the initial prepping.
Scientific Fact Number One:
“Psychologists and neuroscientists have discovered that it is the connection of emotions (feelings) to reasons (thoughts) that causes behaviour.”
Emotions form part of every buyer’s decison making process.
Before a viewer becomes a buyer, he needs to go through a process that includes both logical thought (reasons) and emotions (feelings). Knowing this, stagers can help sell houses by emphasizing not only logical reasons to buy, but also, emotional cues.
Home shoppers start with a list of must-have features, the logical things. Staging tactics like staging bedrooms with beds and furnishing eat-in kitchens with tables help buyers remember the logical reasons they requested a viewing. Dressing the beds with attractive bedding and plenty of pillows will appeal to the viewers desire for comfort, luxury and relaxation – the emotional selling part.
Its emotional impact makes a good first impression hard to get over.
First impressions are made in seconds in the primitive part of the brain before the area that handles logical thought has even activated. Potential buyers will continue to review the home, all the while, seeking to validate their first impression. Making the impression positive is like getting buyers to look at your house through the proverbial ‘rose coloured glasses’. That’s powerful.
Recently we worked on a staging project where the purchasers came from another city. After they moved in, they were asked about their buying decision. They mentioned that when they saw the pictures on the internet they immediately fell in love with the house. When they visited, they found it was exactly as they expected. They bought the house for full price three days after it was staged and listed. The online pictures of warm and welcoming staged rooms instead of cold, bare ones had initiated the emotional connection that made this sale.
Scientific Fact Number Two:
“Our olfactory (smell) receptors are directly connected to the most ancient and primitive part of the brain, which is thought to be the seat of emotion.”
Smells arouses emotions in the primitive part of the brain and are associated with early experiences.
Our senses present stimuli which call up memories and emotions in our brains. Smells act a little differently than other sensory input because smells are often associated with childhood memories and strong basic emotions. Whether a smell brings on a good feeling or bad depends upon the prior associated experience.
Stagers stick with very light and fresh smells that have been proven positive for the majority of people, for example, smells of lemons, vanilla, or baking cookies. They try to eradicate strong smells, heavy perfume, artificial and chemical smells, urine, smoke and mustiness.
We staged a home for a client who had two large, very smelly dogs. The house had been on the market all the previous summer without selling. The staging process included replacing some carpets, and shampooing the rest with special solutions. The owner also began to confine the dogs to one area of the house instead of letting them sleep on the living room sofa. Before each showing or open house, the owner did a careful cleanup and loaded the pets into the car for a long ride. The home sold within a month of staging and re-listing.
Later, we spoke with someone who had viewed the home the previous year, and all they could remember about it was the strong animal odour. The smell was triggering such a negative emotional response in viewers that it over-rode any of the numerous logical reasons for buying the home.
Scientific Fact Number Three:
“Optical illusions are adaptations of our visual system to standard viewing situations ‘hardwired’ into our brains, which can cause inaccurate interpretations of the visual scene.”
The human mind takes a few shortcuts in processing input and optical illusions are one.
Humans take in so much information through sight that our minds use a few shortcuts in processing it all. Optical illusions are one such processing shortcut. Actually, the mind interprets and filters the input from all of our senses. You can use the interpretation and filtration process to aid in selling. For example, since 80% of buyers value space, stagers employ optical illusions to make rooms look larger.
Subliminal messages can be provided to viewers with staging.
The mind can also bypass conscious thought and absorb powerful subliminal suggestions. For example, if you place a mirror on the side wall of an entrance, it does more than decorate or reflect light. When a buyer’s peripheral vision catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he will literally see himself in the house. The subliminal suggestion will tell him he has a connection with this house. On the other hand, if homeowners don’t remove personal items like toiletries from view in bathrooms and bedrooms, they will give the buyer a subliminal message that he is intruding in private space. The buyer will feel uneasy instead of connecting.
Colour is a powerful tool because it calls up an emotional response.
The most powerful tool to manage a buyer’s connection to space is colour. It can be used to call up emotional response or to create optical illusions. Colour can draw the eye to features or make flaws disappear. It can alter our perception of the size of a room or even its temperature. Colour has associated meanings, different for different cultures. These can be used to suggest things like playfulness, purity or richness. Colour shades have trends, so the wrong shade can make a space seem dated.
Colours are seen differently by older eyes, and there is even a co-relation between affluence and preference for complex colours. Humans distinguish very subtle differences in colour, so even small changes have big impact.
We worked for a client who had an expensive home with a large kitchen dinette. Since the colour on the cabinets was a little passé we wanted to play them down. Changing the apple green wall colour to a more complex neutral shade with only an undertone of green gave the space an upscale, modern elegance and a warmer feeling.
While part of the staging process supports the buyer’s logical decision to buy the house, we should not underestimate the styling or showcasing aspect. This is the part of professional staging which can be purposefully used to produce positive emotional responses. It makes viewers into buyers by facilitating an emotional connection. It figuratively sets the emotional stage for decision making in the buyers minds. In light of what we now know, home styling or showcasing could actually be the most effective part of home staging after all.
Author, Martha Stanton-Smith, owner of Rearrangements, is a Certified Canadian Staging Professional who helps serious home sellers in Kingston, Ontario get full worth for their homes. She completed her staging training in 2006. Visit her profile here: