Home staging is meant to help potential buyers better imagine their lives inside a property. The right staging transforms a shell of a house into a warm, welcoming and wonderful environment where people want to live. However, the right staging also can be used to cover up a home’s flaws — but is that legal or ethical?
If you want to stage a home and keep your integrity intact, it’s important to know what you can and should hide behind attractive décor and what you need to keep potential buyers abreast of.
Problems Requiring Disclosure
Realtors and agents need to be aware of state and municipal laws governing what sellers must tell potential buyers about a property. However, even if the regulations are vague, there are a few serious problems that stagers should never try to obscure. Typically, these problems can gravely impact inhabitants’ health or else require significant and costly repair. Examples include:
There are 12 kinds of toxic mold
that can grow in and around a home, and most of it is incredibly bad and thus incredibly important for buyers to know about. Conversely, mildew is non-toxic and non-destructive, but it is often confused with mold. You should learn to compare mildew vs. mold
to identify potential problems on a property.
Humans didn’t begin to ban the use of lead in homes until the 1970s, which means many properties around the U.S. still contain traces of this toxic substance
. While in truth there is little a stager can do to hide lead (which is often well-hidden itself in plumbing or paint) real estate agents should still work to disclose the possibility or knowledge of lead in a home.
Termites aren’t the only pests you should disclose; cockroaches, scorpions, mites and millions of other pests should also be told about to buyers. However, stagers should make an effort not to cover up signs of past or present termite activity
. Even if the pests are gone, the damage remains, and buyers should know about it.
Water where it shouldn’t be is one of the most destructive forces in a home, and it often leaves tell-tale marks like stains and holes. Regardless of whether the underlying issue has been resolved, stagers shouldn’t conceal signs of water damage, which speaks volumes about the home.
The vast majority of cracks in ceilings and walls are completely harmless and can be patched up with impunity. However, some cracks are the result of foundation problems, and those deserve to be seen. Because stagers aren’t equipped to tell the difference, it’s best for you to avoid hiding any cracks behind furniture or artwork.
Problems to Cover up
In truth, stagers aren’t usually hired to cover up major problems in a home, but they can distract buyers from relatively small issues or else help buyers style the space to ensure functionality and attractiveness. One of the biggest problems that a good staging can overcome is an odd floorplan. If the flow of a home isn’t exactly intuitive, a staging professional should be able to show where furniture and décor can go to make the space feel more comfortable. For some stagers, an odd footprint makes for a fun and unique challenge, so you should embrace the opportunity to put your staging skills to the test.
Helping Sellers and Buyers With Staging
Staging isn’t magic. For sellers to see their home’s problems disappear, they need to put in time and effort, not to mention financial investment. Stagers can help sellers identify which visible problems are holding their property back from a big sale and guide them to high-value repairs. For example, all of the disclosures listed above should be fixed before a home enters the market; then, you don’t have to grapple with avoiding concealment while staging the property.
You might also advise sellers to make updates that reduce the conspicuousness of problems stagers can’t address well, like road noise. Planting trees or shrubs, installing sound-proof windows and thicker insulation and adding water features are good ways to cut down on unwanted sound from outside. It might feel like overstepping to request sellers make such permanent and expensive changes, but because staging cannot hide these issues, the sellers and buyers will benefit from your intervention.
Finally, it’s important that your recognize when staging simply won’t do any good. When it is clear that a house will need serious work from any buyer — perhaps it is a fixer-upper or even a tear-down — then your staging efforts will likely be in vain. You shouldn’t be afraid to turn down jobs that will require immense amounts of work for little seller gain; you might even see gratitude from clients who appreciate your candor.
Stagedhomes Blog NOTE: If a professional Home Stager is ever asked to hide a flaw or disclosure item with Staging, you should turn down the request or ask to see the seller disclosures to ensure whatever you may be covering with art or a rug, has been disclosed. Keep the disclosures as part of your client file.
Blog post submitted by:
Tiffani Wroe, Seek Visibility
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