Forget Home Staging! Get Back to Basics First!

"I tried to explain to him that you can hang tinsel on a pile of feces, but it still is not pretty."

I have written many posts regarding the importance of Home Staging in ANY market.

And, yes, presentation is still paramount! It always will be.

But, this post is solely focused on the fact that cleanliness of a listing property is MANDATORY!

I received a call from a Realtor® asking me to meet him at a listing of his that has been sitting on the market for 90 days.

Now, bear with me. I know in the U.S., 90 days is nothing. But, up here, in Edmonton, AB, this is almost double the average DOM.

He contacted me due to his confusion as to why there have been no bites on this listing. He was completely baffled as to why it is not selling.

My first reaction? Excitement! Eagerness! Anticipation! I LOVE these calls. I LOVE the challenge.

I meet Mr. Realtor® at the property yesterday for our appointment. I pull up to the curb and my heart sinks as I lay eyes on the lovely Christmas lights still all over the front of the house. Bad sign. Does the seller maintain this property at all?

The front porch on this property has been painted royal blue. Okay, sort of cute. But, large chunks of paint have chipped off all over the place. Yikes.

Then, I approach the front door, and notice that there are flyers, mail, and newspapers scattered all over the porch outside the door. I wonder why. Oh! There is no mailbox installed anywhere. Great! As I reach out to ring the door-bell, there is a large, messy, hand-written note on the door that reads, "No Flyers Please". This is already tacky enough, but it is also taped to the door haphazardly with clear, but dirty, packing tape.

Mr. Realtor® opens the door, welcomes me, and invites me inside.

As soon as I step inside, I am smacked in the face with many more glaring issues.

First, and most importantly, I am bombarded with the pungent smell of many different chemical air freshener smells all at once. The home is very open concept, and right from the front entrance I can see that every single exposed electrical outlet has a Glade Plug-in hanging out of it. If that wasn't enough, every surface I could see had a scented reed diffuser sitting on it. So, my first question is, what underlying unpleasant odour are they trying to hide?

Second issue I am smacked in the face with was the fact that the home appeared to be decently furnished, but all walls were painted stark, cold, white, and there is not one accessory or piece of wall art up anywhere. Great big expansive, cold, white walls....completely bare. Homey? Not in the least.

As you can see, we are already blessed with the gift of a horrible first impression right from the curb. And, it continues on through the front entrance. But, the series of horrible impressions have only begun.

I have commenced my consultation with Mr. Realtor®, and have relayed all of the above to him thus far. He tells me that he was the one who laid out all of the air fresheners. He tells me that his client is a heavy smoker, works out of town, and is never home. I explain to him the effects that all of the above has on a potential buyer. He acts offended and confused.

I walk through to the dining area and immediately comment on the lovely glass sliding doors that lead to nowhere, except to a 12 foot drop to the side yard.

I really could write all day about the million small details in this property that pop out as negatives to buyers.

Example of what your carpets shouldn't look like when selling your property

But, the main obvious issue in this property was how utterly grungy, sticky, dirty, dusty, and yucky it was.

As if it weren't bad enough that the walls were stark white. Every single wall was filthy and covered with black smudges.

Free-standing dust and dirt EVERYWHERE you looked. And, yes, even free-standing dust on the hardwood floors. The cream-coloured carpets were dark grey in most spots. However, you could immediately see where the seller had taken a vacuum and made one or two passes in every single space in the home.

Every single fixture, tub, sink, toilet, counter, and surface appeared as they had never been touched by a cleaning rag or even water.

This seller also has some sort of fetish for Q-tips. This sounds crazy, but it is true. Every room had an open box of them sitting, readily available on the counter. And, every single room, nook, and cranny was absolutely filled with loose Q-tips. They were even littering all of the floors and have started embedding themselves into the carpets.

At this point, even though I have not physically touched anything, I feel filthy just for being in this house.

I go up to the bonus room that looks out overtop the lower great room and kitchen. From there, the tops of the kitchen cabinets are visible. I can actually physically reach out and touch the top of the cabinets from there. It appears as if the seller realized that there was 1 ½" of dust up there, thought she should remedy that, and took a cloth and wiped as far as she could reach from the bonus room landing. Now, the thick dust layer is blatantly obvious.

Again, I could keep writing about all of the disgusting details. But, you get the picture.

Mr. Realtor® was completely baffled by my suggestion that the property be thoroughly and professionally cleaned from top to bottom. He tells me that he hadn't really noticed the lack of cleanliness, and, again, seems a little offended. Then, his concerns were focused on the fact that the seller wouldn't be willing to spend any time or money on cleaning.

I then promptly informed him that the property would simply not sell in this market.

Yes, the property is fairly priced for what it is. But, it is not at all fairly priced for the amount of work a buyer would have to do to move in.

The most amusing part of my visit with Mr. Realtor® yesterday was the fact that he truly thinks that the issues in this property lie solely on the fact that it was not homey enough and needed more accessories. He even asked me more than once if I thought laying area rugs down would detract from the filthiness of the carpet. (This is a very common idea out there)

Professional Home Stagers do not hide, mask, or cover anything up.

I tried to explain to him that you can hang tinsel on a pile of feces, but it still is not pretty. He did not find that to be very humorous, nor did I intend it to be so. It is simply the plain truth.

I am brutally honest because that is my business. It is what I do. I HAVE to point out the obvious through the buyers' eyes, or properties will not sell. I refuse to put my stamp on a consultation regarding Home Staging unless I am completely upfront and honest. This is how I am successful in my business.

Long post to illustrate a fairly simple message, but I felt it was necessary as I run across this situation all too often in my line of work.

Cleanliness is truly next to Godliness when selling a property.



You need a buyer to be impressed by how well maintained and loved the property is.

When I say that every listed property needs a thorough cleaning, I firmly suggest a serious detailing. What do we do when we prepare our used vehicle for sale? Out come the toothbrushes, and, heck we could even make use of some of those extra Q-tips.


Rhonda Wilson - CCSPTM
Owner/Operator of
Revealing Assets
Home Staging and Decluttering Services
We transform properties into highly
sought-after products that sell in half
the time and for 7-10% more money.
Through personal experience, extensive
research and training, and a compassionate
approach, we De-clutter living/work spaces for
up-lifting and positive life changes.

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


Comment balloon 8 commentsRhonda Wilson • October 01 2010 12:49AM
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