by Rik Goodell
I have little talent for design. Actually I’m still fond of the cable-spool, coffee table I had in college. So it goes without saying that I believe staging, done right, unquestionably helps present a property in its best light. It makes small spaces look more useful and large spaces look more functional; even if it simultaneously makes me whisper, “Does anyone actually live like this?”. But, done carelessly or misleadingly (I guess that’s a word since spell-check didn’t bounce it) what’s with staging closets and storerooms to look like a quaint second or third bedroom? When the greed factor pushes to that level of cunning, it can create problems that I suspect non-inspectors aren’t aware of.
Last week I inspected a lower unit in a two-unit, TIC building. At the back of this small apartment, there was a room with a 6’ 8” ceiling, no compliant means of emergency egress, no installed heating system, a gas-fired water heater (not approved for bedroom installation) no smoke alarm and only one small window (less than required to meet standard natural lighting and ventilation requirements). We’re talking a store-room! But it had cutesy curtains, beautiful new hardwood flooring, draperies across the water heater closet and a BED with a very pretty coverlet! Finding fanciful, deceptive staging is not a unique experience for me.
When I mentioned this misrepresentation to the seller and the buyer during my wrap-up, and told the buyer he should not plan to use this room as a habitable space, let alone a bedroom, both acknowledged that they were aware that this was not a bedroom. Huh? Someone enlighten me please. If we are all saying it is not a bedroom and we don’t want anyone to think it as a bedroom, why are we making it look like a bedroom?
I grew up in the biz. I not only think staging (it used to be just a matter of rearranging the occupants furnishings and trinkets for best advantage) is smart but I think it is a valuable service as it can truly help a prospective buyer see the potential of a home. Staging like this, however, is not only disingenuous but it creates a tremendous increase of negativity in the Contractor’s Report because we inspectors are required to report on and describe what is there. The above-described stuff (dare I call it deception?) added several negative paragraphs to my report; more than a page-worth of making it sound like this is a “bad” house. On the bottom line, I don’t think that adds value for anybody. Maybe Stagers and Realtors and Home Inspectors ought to get together and strategize so that the best outcome is met for all.
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