All The World’s A Stage


6 minute read

April 16, 2010

And we are merely……stagers?

I’m encouraging my sellers to spend more money on staging these days, and I think the results are apparent.

Here is a transcript of sorts from my Thursday meeting with my stager, and my soon-to-be seller…


As part of my service as a listing agent, I always pay for a staging consultation and bring in Duncan Scott of “The Scott Group.”

Duncan is one of the best stagers in the business, and wrote the book on staging…..literally, as he teaches courses throughout Ontario.

I don’t know what most people think of staging.  Maybe some of you think it’s a waste of money, or you could do better yourselves.

But I can tell you that based on my experience, it’s worth every penny.

I bring Duncan in for an initial consultation, and he goes through the house or condo and points out every single thing he would change.  There are big changes, such as painting an entire room, and little changes, such as how to property tri-fold towels in the bathroom.

It’s up to the seller to decide whether to hire Duncan and pay for his services.

On Thursday, Duncan and I went through a condo in the St. Lawrence Market area that I’ll be bringing to market in two weeks.

In the following re-enactment, I will be playing myself.


We enter through the front door, and Duncan’s eyes immediately focus on the living/dining area.  He turns his head right, towards the kitchen, and then back to the living/dining.

“Too many colors.”

There is a bright pink couch in the living room, and the kitchen is painted a light green.

“You must re-paint the kitchen.”

Buyers respond well to neutral colors.  You don’t want to pick colors that could turn off some buyers, even if they turn on others.  The light green kitchen is just too offensive to the eyes of the average buyer, and even if it costs $200 – $300 to have it re-painted, it’s worth it.  The kitchen is the first thing people will look at, so why turn them off after five seconds?

“The light fixture has got to go.”

The building is ten years old, and so are many aspects of the unit.

“That light fixture screams, ‘I am a ten year old building.’  You want to show people that old is new again.”

For $50, you can pick up a stainless steel light fixture from Home Depot that will make the kitchen a bit fresher.

“Removing the ten-year-old track lighting will likely leave a mark, but that’s okay, since you need to re-paint the kitchen ceiling anyways.”

There are splatter-marks on the ceiling from cooking copious amounts of marinara sauce over the years.

“The kitchen ceiling and front hall ceilings need to be re-painted, white.  Everything else can stay.”

It’s likely going to cost $500 to re-paint the kitchen and the kitchen/hall ceilings.  But it’s worth it.  Just the smell of paint alone makes buyers think “New.”

“Remove everything from the kitchen counters.  This is a HUGE counter for an 831 square foot condo.  Get rid of the toaster oven, dish-rack, and especially the soaps and sponges.  Leave the spices.  Put a planted lilly on the window ledge over the sink.  Organize the cupboards; remove most of the dishes, and make sure all the cans face outwards and are organized.”

“Remove all the magnets and items on the fridge.”

“Remove all the personal photos.  Buyers want to see themselves here, not you.”

Duncan turns his eyes towards the living/dining once again, and then takes out a camera.  He snaps a quick “real estate photo,” and shows it to me and the seller.

“What do you notice?” he asks, as if either of us will know.

“The room is closed.  We need to open it.”

The placement of the furniture is all wrong.  There is a chair in the wrong spot, and it’s “closed” the room.

The television set is an old box-style TV.

“This ten-year-old TV says ‘ten year old condo.’  We need to get rid of the TV, and/or bring in a flat screen.”

Removing the TV would leave a very large TV stand.  We measure it and it’s 31 inches deep.  Consider that most flat-screen TV’s are three inches deep.

We’ll either move the TV stand into the dining area as if it were a buffet, or get rid of it altogether.

“Switch that piece of art in the hallway with those three small pieces over the couch.”

Duncan takes a photo and shows us why.

“In the photo, those three small pieces of art look like specs or polka-dots.  The large piece of art will be noticeable.”

It will also match the color of the couch.

“Get a bistro set for the balcony.  Clean it, obviously, and the windows too.  Use newspaper instead of paper towel so it doesn’t streak.”

According to Duncan, showing the balcony with two seats, potted plants, and a single planted cedar tree will show the buyers the “extra” living space.

“Get rid of the rug.  All it does is make people trip, and it constantly gets in the way.”

“Take the runner off the dining room table.  Set the table for four people.  Find a nice centre-piece, maybe from Pier One or even HomeSense.”

We move to the bathroom, where all three of us notice a stain on the sink.  The seller says that the previous owners must have left a cigarette there and it burned the sink.

“Just put a face towel over it.”

“Put two bath towels on the rack with a tri-fold, and then two hand towels over each of them.”

“Open the shower curtain so we show buyers there is nothing to hide.”

“Remove all the items from the counter, and place an orchid in front of the mirror.”

“This whole room needs to be re-caulked.  Around the base of the tub, the shower, and over the vanity.”

That should impress the fathers of young buyers who want to show their kids just how ‘poorly’ condos are constructed.

The second bedroom is an issue, since it’s being used as an office.

This is where I have my starring role: “We want to market this condo as a 2-bedroom, not a 1-plus-den.  This second bedroom is being used as an office, and we don’t want anybody to think of this as an office; we want them to see the second bedroom.  Investors looking for 2-bedroom condos want to see a bed, not a desk.  Parents looking to buy a condo for their kid who goes to George Brown are going to want that second bedroom to rent out to a friend.”

Duncan suggests we bring in a bed for staging purposes.

“We need to take out everything in this room.  This is a complete re-write.  We’ll bring in a queen sized bed just to show how large this room is.  Get an end table and a light, and call it a day.”

The room has a large closet and a window – it must be shown as a second bedroom.

The master bedroom shows beautifully.  It is large enough for a king sized bed and two dressers, and there is a walk-in closet.

The only issue is the color: lavender.

Duncan strongly suggests re-painting the entire room to a neutral color, but we’re looking at serious money here.

Will the lavender scare off all the male buyers?

I bought my condo with a lime green bedroom, but I was more focused on the large terrace and the upgraded kitchen.  I was impressed with the size of the bedroom (16-feet long), so I could care less about a color that could be re-painted.

But many buyers don’t think like that.

The jury is still out on whether we will re-paint the master bedroom.  We’ll have to see how the budget turns out.

“Buy two lamps for the two end tables.  Lighting will be a serious concern during evening showings since there is no ceiling light in this room.”

“Take out the tall dresser, but keep this short one with the mirror.  A mirror makes a room look larger.  Keep your perfumes, but remove everything else.  See if you can get a small wicker basket to place the perfumes in.”

The exterior windows of the building were incredibly dirty, and we have no timeline on when the property manager is going to bring in window-cleaners.  So do we raise all the blinds and show the natural light pouring through, but risk turning people off with the dirty windows?

The three of us stood still, and quiet.  We all starred straight ahead.  The two of them were mulling over the pros and cons of the proposition, while I was watching a monkey climb to the top of a building in my head…

I think I was all staged-out.

We spent a good hour going over the condo, and the preceding description of events is far from complete.

The money I spent on the consultation or “walk-through” alone is worth every penny, and I’d probably pay more, if asked.

Now my seller will likely end up hiring Duncan to come “stage” the condo by bringing in furniture, removing other pieces, organizing the entire condo, re-working the layout, and purchasing character items such as throw pillows, flowers, and artwork.

In order to get top-dollar for your property, it has to show like a top property.

I laugh when I go into a house or a condo and it’s cluttered with the accumulation of twenty years worth of possessions.  How does that seller expect to attract buyers?

Duncan always tells my sellers, “A picture says ‘a thousand buyers.'”

That’s true.

So step one is making sure your pictures don’t show like crap…


Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. Geoff

    at 8:10 am

    I think the best ‘staging’ advice has to be: get rid of 30% – 50% of your stuff; donate it, junk it, put it in storage at your mom’s, etc. And just make sure each room has a defined purpose. We saw a lot of ‘home offices’ with beds in them, which is just weird.

    Personally though if I see one more freshly painted ‘neutral’ coloured house I’m gonna hurl. How about some well thought out but nice and colourful choices, peeps? How much beige and brown can the world take?

  2. Duncan

    at 3:39 pm

    Wow… thanks David. Couple of comments though… the Dinning Room table should have the min of 4 Chairs around it (depending on size of prop of coarse)… but def DON’T Set it… not done anymore… Fresh Flowers work wonders! As for the bathroom counter… condition should be brought up to par whenever possible if the “Window of Value” on the ROI makes sense.

    Geoff, you are right about the personal belongings, just make sure the property still has warmth and life to it… as for the defined purpose BANG ON! Each room should be returned to it’s intended use… many people out there can’t visualize. As for colour… best to neutralize it and accent with colour… though the paint I reccommend isn’t your run of the mill beige… but you have to have a consultation to get that! LOL

  3. Tanya

    at 3:47 pm

    Geoff – one would think too much neutral would be a bad thing but I like it. I recently sold my house and was initially resistant to repainting the whole thing neutral. I ended up picking Sico’s Dried Mushroom – a light gray beige and wow, it really made the whole place look a lot bigger and more unified. (pics may still be up @ Did pick a soft blue for the bathroom though. Bedding, throws, pillows and accent pieces are great ways to bring in splashes of color.

    We did most of the staging ourselves with some advice from the realtor, ended up buying used but still great condition furniture off craigslist (cheaper than renting staging furniture) and borrowed a few nice pieces from others. So I agree staging is important but its not rocket science either. Helpful to hire a stager though if your idea of spending your free time wandering ikea, homesense and the like to find accessories is nauseating.

  4. earth mother

    at 7:06 pm

    I watch The Stagers on HGTV regularly…. and they really do show you what a difference staging can make to a property… lots of good tips if you pay attention, most are common-sense and you can learn alot!

  5. Mila

    at 11:52 am

    Although staging is important, I can’t believe there is actually a job as “Staging professional”. (Well, I guesss I do – I’d put it in same category as “professional organizer”. As long as people go for it, more and more ridiculous “professions” will appear) To me staging is just common sense. Remove all your junk, even better – remove 50% of your possessions and store it somewhere else. Remove all the photos and personal items. Repaint ridiculous wall colors with neutrals. That’s pretty much it. And if you are still unsure, there are tons of decorating magazines and tv shows these days where you can learn exactly how. Or just google. So unless you have completely no clue how your condo should look if you are trying to sell – then, yes you need a staging processional. But at this point – I don’t know how you got this far in your life to begin with… But kudos to all the staging professionals out there for identifying the money making opportunity and making a profession out of common sense!

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