Back in the Mesozoic Era when I was a teenager, I took a little thing called a driving test. Well, that's not entirely true. I took my driving test three times before hitting paydirt, but that is SO not the point. The point is that the second time I flunked, the nice DMV man told me that it was because I was "easily attracted and distracted" (although I suspect it had more to do with my brief time spent piloting my '67 Belvedere down the sidewalk).
Easily attracted and distracted. Little did I know then that this would make me both a very bad homebuyer.
We tend to toss the word "custom" around in real estate advertising like custom means better, but “custom” is limiting. It limits the buyer’s choices and it limits the seller’s opportunities. “Custom cabinets,” “custom window coverings,” “custom fresco depicting interpretative dance moves performed by small woodland creatures and mystical garden gnomes” – these are all beautiful things. They are beautiful, that is, to the person who ordered them.
Custom just means that is was made to order – for one person’s own liking. And that’s why we stage homes.
The idea behind staging is to neutralize. Everyone likes a family room. Not everyone digs a family room with an Elvis motif (and I’m talking about the old Elvis in the jumpsuit, not the young one – he’s OK).
Everyone loves his or her children (well, most everyone, and only when they aren’t dropping their cell phones in the toilet, but I digress). The point is that not everyone loves your children – at least not enough to appreciate their likenesses displayed on every square inch of drywall. While you are thinking “Aw!” your buyer is thinking Spackle. And they get distracted, now having been reminded that they need to order a new computer to replace the one into which their own daughter poured a Venti peppermint mocha. Sorry. I digress again.
Some things can’t be staged away, of course. You loved the builder-option maple cabinets but your buyer fancies the Euro white. Your buyer dreams of a walk-in pantry, and your garage looks like a Costco distribution center because you don’t have one of those guys. In these cases, you have two choices. You can be patient or you can set your price accordingly.
As for the other stuff, the “fixable” stuff, just remember that every personalization, whether it is a religious artifact, personal photos, a bold paint scheme, or a bookcase filled with all back issues of Kitten Taxidermy Weekly, speaks to your buyer. It says, “Not my house.” Neutrality, on the other hand, will appeal to the greatest number of buyers – buyers who will be able to imagine themselves making your home theirs. And that, after all, it the whole idea.