Whether you are just beginning to prepare your home for the real estate market, or the photographer is scheduled to show up tomorrow morning, there are some simple ways to judge how successful your staging will be. 

Will it intrigue people who see your video tour enough to request a walk-through? Or will online house-hunters left-swipe you? By reviewing these common mistakes, you can determine how your staging project rates if it's finished, or how on-target your planning is going so far. 

Generic accent pieces 

Your home should present itself as a quality package from a luxury boutique. To that end, you want to avoid cheap and generic decor. I'm all for using dollar store items for the sake of budget staging, but they have to be tweaked to make them not your ordinary, off-the-shelf junk.

Generic items do, however, have their place in staging and that place is in closets and home offices, where you are aiming for a cohesive, uncluttered appearance. I'd rather see a closet shelf lined with matching plastic baskets from the dollar store than a shelf lined with an assortment of mismatched wicker baskets. But those baskets will look interesting hung as decoration on a hallway wall.   

Visit second-hand stores. Shop garage sales. Use one-of-a-kind pieces you already own. When you add dollar store items, give them some personality. Decoupage glass vases. Wrap twine around picture frames. Spray paint ceramic animals gold. Do whatever it takes to make them your own. I've blogged about how to rescue cheap props for staging

Poor furniture arrangement

Make it comfortable for potential buyers to navigate your home. Consider the path these strangers will choose to move through your rooms. Consider the first view they have of each room as they enter it. 

My furniture arranging book, eBook, How to Arrange Furniture -- A Guide to Arranging Furniture Using What You Have, will take the guesswork and mistakes out of this common problem. Most of us arrange our furniture to make ourselves comfortable, but it may not be the best layout to impress people viewing your home for the first time. 

The best rooms are the ones that invite people to
walk into them unencumbered, and where they
feel at home. Photo: Studio McGee

Excess Personalization

Put away your collections, religious pieces, awards, and family photos. I know that some DIY stagers say that family photos make a happy connection with people looking at their home, but I disagree. Potential buyers should be able to easily envision themselves and their belongings in your rooms. Personal stuff is just a distraction. 

The less a buyer knows about you, the seller, the better your position in the negotiations that are part of every home purchase. 

Small area rugs

There are a number of reasons you should avoid staging with small rugs. One reason is that they tend to make an area look chopped up, and we all know that people prefer rooms to feel spacious and uncluttered. A second reason is that these scatter rugs can be a tripping hazard. About 25% of all reported injury claims during the year are from slip, trip, and fall injuries. 

Another reason is that small rugs look cheap, as though the owner could not afford something more luxurious. You never want to look like you are hurting for money when you are selling a home. Additionally, small rugs look like they might be hiding something or solving a problem. Is that scatter rug in front of the kitchen sink hiding a wear pattern in the flooring? Is that rug near the toilet base meant to catch drips and overspray? Ugh!  

The guidelines for using rugs are that they ought to be sizeable and anchored by furniture. Placed that way, they keep the furniture from looking like it is floating in the room and are less likely to shift location or cause tripping. Larger rugs placed under the edge of chairs or a sofa will unite a seating group. The right area rug will also add an interesting layer of color or texture to the room. Well-anchored hallway runners are the exception to the no-small-rug rule.  

Inadequate lighting

Lighting can show off your home's best assets. Consider adding extra lighting in areas that look gloomy. Photographers are not magicians. Bright illumination in the kitchen and bathroom areas is especially important because it makes these areas look cleaner.

Use maximum wattage in all lighting fixtures and lamps. Use window treatments that let in as much natural lighting as possible. Don't place furniture in front of windows. Make sure your windows are super clean. Some sellers even remove and store window screens to make rooms look brighter.  

Read on to learn the best kinds of interior lights to make a success of your staging.

Window treatments that offer privacy without
blocking natural light, like these "Serenity Sheer Shades,"
offer the best of both worlds. Photo: Blinds to Go 

Old light fixtures

The right ceiling light can be the focal point of a room. Do you have a room that begs for something striking and instantly noticeable? For what they deliver in impact, fixtures that are not your usual boob ceiling lights are worth the purchase price. Make sure yours have some personality, whether they are classic or the latest trend.  

To save money, try to purchase your new lights on sale or at discount stores. My local Habitat for Humanity ReStore is a great source for almost-new ceiling fixtures. (When wealthy people get tired of their decor, they donate what their decorators decide to replace --  things like chandeliers and other overhead fixtures.) Often an outdated brass chandelier can be upcycled with new globes or shades or bulbs, and a coat of black paint.  

Floor lamps and table lamps should be serious, not rinky-dink. I recently saw an MLS photo of an average size bedroom with four small lamps, one on each side of the bed, and two on a dresser just across the room. And none of them matched. Don't make that mistake. 

Modern or vintage lamps will add some flair to your rooms. Look for timeless ginger jar shapes for table lamps, and mid-century modern for floor lamps.

This tripod-style floor lamp would look terrific in almost
any setting. The price? Just $89 for an investment piece
you can take with you when you move. Photo: Overstock

Colorful Walls

Accent walls might be trendy in high-end, customized homes, but home staging and interior decorating are different animals. Instead of highly saturated, unusual, or dark colors, keep your wall color on the  pale side. A neutral color won't be a red flag. It makes it easy for the next owner to feel comfortable with your choices. Not many people want to paint walls when they move to their new home. 

The vivid colors in your home can come from accessories like artwork, throws, pillows, lamps, vases, and even larger items like upholstered pieces and window treatments. But your background -- the walls -- are your grounding element. 

Here is a perfect example of a room
that gets its dose of bright color from one item --
the pillow on the daybed. Photo: One Kings Lane

Stained carpeting

Don't neglect cleaning the carpets in your home. Flooring is one of the first things buyers notice when they enter a home, and dirty or stained carpets bother buyers. Odors, dirt, allergens, and stains build up in the carpet over time, and you may have become accustomed to how they look or smell.  

A professional carpet cleaning is the way to go, since there is only so much you can accomplish with equipment that's not professional grade.   

Nothing memorable

Home staging is often accused of turning homes into sterile places. There is some validity to that attack. But it doesn't have to happen to you.

Decide what your home wants to be. What is unique about it? What do you love about it? What does it offer that other houses in your neighborhood and price range lack? Those are the features you want your home staging to put the spotlight on!

If you have a fireplace, make it a focal point and stage the mantel. If the outdoor view from inside is striking, or just plain pleasant, keep furniture away from those windows. Make sure that landscaping outside doesn't block a good view. 

Be sure that buyers can appreciate special architectural elements that might not be obvious on a quick tour, by having your Realtor mention these features in the MLS writeup.   

Be true to the character of your home. Even if your home is a replica of every other home the builder constructed in your subdivision, you can still add quality touches that make it memorable, like distinctive, oversized art on your walls, unusual window treatments, one-of-a-kind antiques, and decor props like colorful tabletop settings and interesting bookshelf arrangements.

Will your house be the one real estate clients remember
as the one with the light-filled bay window alcove staged with
 a keyboard and guitar? Photo: Design Sponge

Get the look, get the book

The average American moves 11.7 times during his lifetime. These buyers can be demanding, especially in a buyers' market. Homes that are staged are the homes that sell 73% faster than non-staged homes. But it is critical to get it right. My homestaging eBooks show you how. Download now to see how you can "smart stage" your home. 

Top Photo: Tracy Lynn Studio via HGTV