Wallpaper Wars: Staging and Hurt Feelings

Foil bamboo wallpaper sample found in a bathroomFew things evoke so emotional a response as the suggestion that wallpaper ought to be removed when staging a home to sell for top dollar.

Early in my career, I worked with a nice older couple where this became a huge fight (very uncomfortable to witness).  In that case, the wife had wanted the big brown floral kitchen wallpaper gone for years, but the husband refused to pay to have it done. When I suggested that it would boost their sales price, he was willing to commit to the work, and she was furious and hurt that he would do it at my suggestion – but not her ardent wish.

Most of the time, though, it’s almost the opposite.  One or both sellers desperately love their chosen wallpaper (at the risk of sounding sexist, it’s almost always a female with the wallpaper attachment).  The wall covering, be it grasscloth, baby roses or bunches of flowers, seems to be a particular thumbprint on the the house – to the point where it’s almost a hallmark of what makes the house, condo or townhouse “home”.  When I or other real estate licensees suggest that the best practice is to remove it, the sellers are very often defensive, angry and hurt at there mere idea of taking it down.  It is very difficult for a professional real estate salesperson to tell you what  you need to hear if you don’t want to hear it and staging recommendations become a battleground of wills.   Of course, it is your house and your money – but if you hire a Realtor to give professional guidance it’s good to take it seriously.

One of the key ideas with staging is to depersonalize the home, that is, to make it more neutral – less your taste and more generic.  We do this for many reasons, one of them so that buyers can “see themselves” there and mentally move in.  A vegetarian who looks at wallpaper full of hunting scenes will have trouble with that.  A professional ball player may have just as much difficulty with wallpaper full of rainbows and unicorns.  An article in the New York Times puts it bluntly:  “If the color scheme in the house isn’t neutral — blue walls in the boy’s room, pink walls for the girls and foil and bamboo wallpaper in the bathroom — it may be necessary to repaint with neutral colors.” (more…)