Staging a home simply means making the home as attractive as possible to buyers. It's a broad term that includes cleaning, decluttering, depersonalizing and decorating the home.
At its best, staging helps buyers see the possibilities so they are more inclined to visualize themselves owning and living in the home.
At its worst, staging can divert buyers' attention from real problems a home may have that may be expensive for the buyer to address.
There's nothing wrong with a seller presenting their home at its best - sparkling clean and ready for viewing. But before you let yourself be enchanted by the romantic table set for two, or the aroma of cookies coming from the oven, or the spa robe laid out by the bathtub, ask yourself if those are the things that really should be influencing you.
Instead, concentrate on the things that will impact your daily life - how the home flows and functions and if you'll need to make expensive repairs or updates.
When you view homes for sale that are staged, ask yourself the following questions:
Does the staging make sense? Would you really put your own furniture as close to the fireplace or as far from the window? An attractive but odd arrangement is a tipoff that the room is either not well designed or that a problem is being minimized. For example, a heavy chair may be used to discourage buyers from lifting the area rug.
Is the staging hiding a repair that needs to be made? Bathrooms and kitchens are the most expensive rooms to repair and update. Move the bottle of bubble bath and look behind the shower curtain. Is the caulk fresh? Is the porcelain tub or sink stained? Is the finish worn off of the fixtures? Look under the sink for water stains.
Is the staging overdone? Candles burning in every room or tons of air freshener may be masking pet odors. Heavy drapes may cover windows that are too small or with ugly views.
If you like the home well enough for another viewing and to make an offer, ask the seller to leave off the air freshener and to move that heavy chair aside. Take measurements and make sure your things will fit. Get the home inspected, so you know what you're really buying.