When a home’s been professionally staged, it means the house has been “dressed” for sale — usually by moving out personal belongings and moving in new furniture, accents, window coverings, and wall hangings or art. The idea behind home staging is to create the feeling of a clean slate so a potential buyer can more easily envision themselves and their belongings in the space. It also provides an opportunity to emphasize certain areas of the home by showing off assets and masking less favorable ones.

When home staging is done right, industry analysts claim homes sell faster and for more money than when they’re not staged. But not all staging efforts are created equal. Let’s take a look at 8 common home staging fails you should avoid.

1. Failure to clean and declutter

One of the first priorities for a home stager is to depersonalize a home, and that means removing evidence of the way people really live. Cleaning and decluttering is at the top of this list. Whether it’s piles of magazines, rooms with too much furniture, closets jam-packed with toys, shoes and clothes, stained carpets, or mildewed shower tiles, a house that hasn’t been properly cleaned and decluttered has also not been properly staged.

2. Poor paint choice

Color is one of the most important tools in the home stager’s toolbox. Avoid dark colors like black, brown and dark grays, which can make rooms appear smaller than they really are. Neon or brash colors (yellows, oranges, and some bright greens) can look garish and turn off potential homebuyers. By contrast, neutral colors are generally a safe choice.

3. Bad lighting

Staged homes should look bright, whether from natural light sources or tastefully chosen light fixtures and floor and table lamps. Harsh halogen bulbs and fluorescent lights should be swapped out for warmer LED options, and old or ugly fixtures (i.e. that wagon wheel chandelier) should also be changed out.

4. Too matchy-matchy

Nothing says old and out of touch like trying too hard to match. A big no-no: using the same patterned fabric for the wallpaper, the curtains, and the bed linens.

5. Too niche

Overly personalized trinkets or decorations that may appeal only to a certain type of person are never a good idea in a staged home. Taxidermy (i.e. animal trophies), displayed collections (i.e. dolls, thimbles, antique rifles), sports team paraphernalia, and/or overtly political messages are generally discouraged.

6. Gendered room décor

Many staging companies will decorate a room as if for a child, but it’s a better idea to keep staged nurseries and children’s rooms gender-neutral, avoiding room décor that caters too closely to traditional gender stereotypes (i.e. pink and frilly for girls or blue and sporty for boys).

7. Fake plants

Only real plants need apply. Sprucing up a room with a little greenery is a great idea, but choose live, healthy plants rather than dusty, plastic ones. Real plants purify the air, add natural color, and help create visual depth to make rooms appear larger.

8. Weird scenes

Avoid staging unusual scenes in rooms — putting mannequins in beds, creating elaborate buffet spreads with plastic food, setting up a beach diorama next to the Jacuzzi. (IT HAPPENS.) These scenes can be distracting and work against the purpose of home staging, which is to create a clean palette for the prospective homebuyer.

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about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.