Depersonalizing Your Home to Appeal to the Most Buyers

For a faster, more profitable home sale

This living room in neutral color palette has an almost universal appeal.A neutral color palette has an almost universal appeal. Photo by

Depersonalizing your home is one of the most important steps in the home staging process. But what does it mean?

Basically, it means to neutralize, or remove your personal taste from the home so that more buyers can mentally see themselves moving in. 

Theme rooms like this one may be a deal killer if buyers don't share that love.A theme room may be a deal killer if buyers don't love it. They'll be thinking about all the re-painting they'll have to do. Photo by

Your taste and style are important to you. That look you have cultivated for years... this is who YOU are!

You may feel insulted to learn that the personal stamp you have lovingly placed throughout your home may need to go, but keep in mind that you're selling your house, not your stuff. 

When staging your home to sell, your personality shouldn't dominate. Don't be offended-- not everyone will share your taste, even if it's great.

Look at your home with "buyer's eyes"

A home with lovely curb appeal will make buyers want to see the inside.Lovely curb appeal. Who wouldn't want to see the inside?

Buyers will notice EVERY LITTLE THING that is wrong with your house. Clutter, damage and unfinished projects may scare them off, as most people prefer a move-in-ready home.

Buyers will take note of every negative detail and use them to negotiate the price of your house down.

If you want to make a quick home sale and avoid a long list of home inspection repairs, you need to fix the problems.

Try to see your home with "buyer's eyes." Begin your observation outside at the curb. Try to imagine you're viewing your home for the first time. What jumps out at you? What can you do to make a better first impression? How does it compare with the other houses in the neighborhood?

If you can't be objective, ask a neighbor to help out. Neighbors usually have opinions about their neighbor's houses.

Depersonalizing your home before it goes on the market

How to home stage an empty room

All you need for staging a room are a few pieces of furniture to indicate the purpose of a room.All you need are a few pieces of furniture to indicate the purpose of a room.

Unfurnished homes can feel cold and stark, aside from the wall color, flooring and light fixtures.

A sterile environment is never inviting and buyers may have difficulty seeing the purpose of an empty room. 

In addition, unfurnished rooms can have that unpleasant echo-chamber effect that occurs when sounds are amplified by bouncing around an empty space. 

This is where home staging comes in. A few pieces of furniture are all you need to indicate the purpose of a room.

A desk and chair will do for an office; an attractively made-up bed, bedside table and lamp for a bedroom; and a cozy furniture arrangement placed on an area rug in a living room.

Many furniture stores rent out pieces by the month at an affordable rate. Buyers do judge a home by its contents.

Declutter with zeal!

If your garage is cluttered like this, buyers will think there's no room in your house for their things.Avoid the common mistake of cramming all your clutter in the garage. It tells buyers that there's not enough room in the house.

If you don't do anything else, DO THISDon't make the mistake of thinking buyers will see the beauty under the beast-- they won't.

Plus, they will wonder what's under all that clutter or that the home is dirty and poorly maintained. 

Remove excess furniture

Too much furniture make this room look smaller than it actually is. Edit out about 1/3 of your furniture.An overabundance of dark, bulky furniture makes this room feel small and cramped. There's barely room to maneuver around the bed! Edit out 1/2 of the furniture.

Cramming a room with too much furniture is a common mistake that will "visually" shrink the size any space. Follow the home staging tip of removing all the furniture in a room, then put back only 1/2 to 1/3. 

Be sure to keep traffic areas open so people can easily maneuver through a space.

Your aim is to arrange your furniture so that it complements the architectural features of a room and creates an illusion of spaciousness.

Unify the style of your home

Kitchen with painted blue cabinets and a white farmhouse sink. Decorate in the farmhouse style.This lovely kitchen with pale blue painted cabinets and farmhouse sink simply screams FARMHOUSE! Decorate accordingly.

Be sure to keep the look and feel consistent throughout your home.

How do you choose a particular style? The design and location of your home will give you a clue. Is your home rustic? Mid-century modern? On the seaside? 

Conflicting the style of your home with furniture from the wrong decade of will only confuse buyers, who may wonder why the home feels a bit off. 

Decorating with artwork and accessories

Create attractive vignettes to help sell your home.Create attractive vignettes with neutral-colored accessories.

When you accessorize your home to sell, note that there are certain kinds of artwork or signs that can be offensive to others.

Remember, you're trying to make your home appeal to the most people possible! Some sensitive items are:

  • Nudes
  • Religious icons
  • Stuffed animals, (real ones) sports team logos
  • Anything with a political message, especially these days!

To be safe, just pack up any taste specific items for your new home. This will help you avoid turning away any touchy buyers.

Artwork and decorative objects for the home should enhance the furniture and architecture of your house, tie a room together and enliven the space.

Avoid the mistake of hanging pictures on every single wall, as this can create a closed in feeling.

Instead, hang any artwork on just one to two walls to create some "breathing space."

This tacky squirrel and antler coffee table is way too taste specific.You can't get much more "taste specific" then this. Buyers won't forget this house!

What does "taste specific" mean? Take a look at the unusual and obviously custom made coffee table above-- it's definitely not to everyone's taste and may appeal only to a small number of people. On the bright side, buyers will remember this home!

Depersonalizing your home of things of this nature is a wise choice when you have a house for sale.

Overly formal rooms are another example of being too "taste specific." They reflect a stiff, ornate decorating style that won't appeal to the average home buyer. A home shouldn't feel like a museum. 

What about collections?

Living room with a crowded, overdone underwater theme.Well, obviously there's an underwater theme going on here. Man cave? Buyers will be distracted by all the clutter and may miss the positive features of this room.

Collections have a tendency to get out of control and overwhelm a room. Plus, a collection with many small pieces will look cluttered, which can be a distraction for buyers.

Don't let buyers miss the beautiful crown molding or fireplace because they are fixated on an overwhelming beer stein collection!

Pack up any valuables. With so many people going through your home, you'll feel more comfortable doing so. For instance, don't stage your dining table with your heirloom silver, or display a valuable coin collection for all to see.

Instead, select just a few favorite pieces for displaying later on in the home staging process.

Personal photos, certificates and awards

Buyers will only be distracted by family photos, making it harder to envision themselves in your home. They WILL look at your photos!

Home buyers are curious and wonder about the people living there. When I was a Realtor showing houses, buyers ALWAYS stopped to examine family portraits-- it never failed. 

Take prized certificates and diplomas off the wall and pack up trophies for your new home. Depersonalizing your home of these items will help buyers to psychologically move in. 

Hide personal use items!

Personal items that should be hidden!Ugh! No words are necessary...

Hiding any personal use items will greatly aid in the sale of your home.

A recent real estate survey revealed that melting soap bars, wet towels, hair in the drain and dirty laundry were the biggest of all buyer turn offs. The survey indicated that these conditions caused most buyers to leave a showing. 

Be sure to pick up after yourself; hide melting soap bars, makeup, toothbrushes, medications, the moist bathrobe hanging on the bathroom door, kid's toys, dirty dishes, soiled laundry, etc. 

Stash personal items in baskets and decorative boxes with lids.

I like shallow plastic bins with lids for under-the-bed storage. They come in handy during that frantic moment when buyers are on the way and you need to quickly tidy up.

Clean up after your pet

Cute Corgie and English Springer Spaniel. Keep floors and furniture free of animal hair.Bess and Lucy

Meet Bess and Lucy my Corgi and English Springer Spaniel. Sadly, Bess has crossed the "Rainbow Bridge," but Lucy is still with us.

Let's face it, pets are messy. They shed, roll in stinky stuff, throw-up and track in mud.

They barf at the most inconvenient times and 99% of the time will do it on the carpet rather than that easy to clean kitchen floor mere inches away.

Ideally, pets should be out of the house when buyers come over. We love our pets, but home buyers won't. Plus, you run the risk of people letting your pet out.

I did that once while showing a house. The cat darted out the back door and up a tree!

Make arrangements with a neighbor or friend to watch Scruffy during viewings and open houses.

Removing pet food and water bowls and beds will keep home buyers from wondering about the cleanliness of your home.

Find a discrete location for the litter box. (Out of the house, if possible.) Check the litter daily and keep the room deodorized.

Many people are allergic to pets, so keep floors and furniture spotless, or cover with a blanket that can be removed right before showings.

Buyers often sit on furniture to get a feel for the home, (that's a good sign!) so, keep a pet hair roller handy.

A dirty aquarium will detract from your home's appeal.A good cleaning is needed here. In buyer's minds; "dirty aquarium, dirty house." Sparkling clean aquarium...SOLD!

Find a pet sitter for insects, reptiles and rodents, as many people are deathly afraid them.

I had a buyer leap up on the kitchen table when a mouse streaked across the floor! No need to inform you that she didn't buy the house.

Fish tanks are fun to look at and most people will enjoy taking a peek. Keep your fish tank sparkling clean and check for "floaters" before each showing.

Remove any bad odors and mold

Don't underestimate the power of a bad smell when you have a house for sale. A home may have everything on a buyer's wish list, but if it smells awful they will walk away.

The smell of mold will send home buyers bolting out the door!

I showed a fixer-upper once to buyers who didn't blink an eye at the multitude of problems, but ended the viewing after spotting a small patch of mold in the master bedroom closet.

Another property I showed numerous times suffered a similar fate. At each showing, the house reeked of fried fish. Unfortunately, the tenants were renters who weren't motivated to clean the house because that meant they would have to move. Each time I showed the house, buyers commented on the awful fishy smell. I suspected the renters of purposely sabotaging any sale.

Best paint colors to sell your house

The neutral colors in this remodeled basement appeal to more people than any other color group.The neutral color scheme in this remodeled basement living room and craft area will appeal to most home buyers.

Color is very taste specific. Color has the power to evoke strong emotions, some that may affect people negatively.

Strong, bold colors like red, orange and purple are stimulating hues and may cause some buyers to feel tense, uncomfortable or depressed.

If a good potion of your home is painted in gloomy or shockingly bright colors, it may turn those home buyers away who consider repainting too much work.

Many sellers think that painting all the walls in the house white is a good choice--after all, who can be offended by white? Although white is a great choice for small spaces, it can often feel cold and impersonal. If you do choose to paint your walls white, select a warm shade.

The reason that most home stagers use neutral paint colors is because they appeal to a greater mass of people. Neutral colors also go well with most people's furniture.

Sponge-painted kitchen cabinets that look like blood are not a selling feature.Blood colored sponge-painted kitchen cabinets are NOT a selling feature!

Sponge painting, heavily textured walls and popcorn ceilings are very taste specific and outdated, and could cause your home to linger on the market for months.

If you want to add bright colors, do so in your window treatments, bedding and accessories.

Remove outdated wallpaper

Kitchen with way too much wall paper design.When you love your wallpaper so much that you carry the theme down onto the cabinets and tile backsplash.

Wallpaper is very taste specific and it's highly unlikely that very many buyers are going to love yours. If you want to sell your home fast and for more money, you should remove the wallpaper.

Painting over wallpaper is NOT the solution. Wallpaper seams and texture will show through the paint-- it will simply look like painted over wallpaper.

Paint over outdated wood paneling

A successful painted wood paneling living room.Photo by

Wood paneling is often another deal-breaker for home buyers, especially the faux sheet panels from the 1970's. Wood paneling was often put up to cover damaged walls, so consider this before you attempt to remove it. 

You can paint over wood paneling with beautiful results, resulting in a farmhouse or cozy beachy cottage style.

Paint over an outdated brick fireplace

Old brick can be beautiful or hideous. If you have an ugly brick fireplace or wall, you can often improve the appearance with a coat of paint.

Painting a massive, ugly brick fireplace white or another neutral color can downplay its size and prominence. 

Better yet, painting it in the same neutral paint colors as the adjoining walls will magically make the fireplace appear to recede in importance.

Curb appeal is crucial!

House for sale...not. Really bad curb appeal.Just do the opposite of this. This doesn't bode well for the interior.

Curb appeal is that first impression you get as you approach a house from the street.

It includes the home exterior and all of its elements, the landscape, the front, side and back yards, the driveway, the walkway leading up to the front door and even the street in front of the house.

Your curb appeal must be so good that buyers can't wait to get inside!

An attractive home design and landscaped yard can add thousands to the value of your house and help it sell faster and for more money.

How does your home compare with the other houses in the neighborhood? How about in Facebook Marketplace?

Look at the houses in your neighborhood and choose paint colors that fit in. In Real Estate terms, this is called the "principle of conformity", which means that the highest value is created when a property is in harmony with its surroundings.

This page was updated 7-19-2022

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Updated 07-19-2023