Pro-Tip: Look Past the Charms of a Cleverly Staged Condo

If you’ve ever been a part of selling a condo, you’ll know that it’s a complex business, and those who are successful have it down to a fine art. On the buying side, and especially if it’s your first condo, you need to know sellers and their agents will do just about whatever they can to try to sell it, and it’s important to remember this when you’re shopping around. Always keep in mind that sometimes things are not as good as they seem. It is not that sellers are out there on a mission to be deceptive – though such folks exist – it is that the seller and agent’s interest aligns solely with selling the place and they will have worked hard so it will be looking as good as it possibly can. This is called “home staging”, and is a common real estate marketing tactic and thus is important that you’re aware of it.

staged roomIn particular, if you are viewing an older condo, contractors may have spent the last two or three weeks performing paint jobs, replacing the carpets, and thoroughly cleaning every room. This is all good and fine, but it’s easy to forget the actual age of the building when you see it, and be taken in by how perfect everything looks. When a seller hires an agent or professional home stager, there are a number of paths they may go down to ensure the house looks as good as it can. Some of the more common tricks of the trade include:

  • Everything will be cleaned, clutter will be removed from the house entirely, and even furniture may be placed into storage to make rooms appear more spacious or less cluttered.
  • Closets will be emptied — leaving in only a few items — so they look extra large.
  • A large dining table or a standard-sized sofa may be replaced by a smaller version to make living spaces appear larger.
  • Strategically placed mirrors and high-wattage lights are used to make small, dark spaces seem brighter and larger.
  • Bread or cookies may be baked beforehand so that the house is full of delicious scents that make potential buyers feel like they are at home.
  • Fresh flower and artwork may be used to add a touch of luxury to a plain-vanilla unit.

Luckily, by being aware of staging, you are heading in the right direction to ensuring that you’re not taken along by it and forget all about your needs. When it comes to viewing a condo, you need to take a step back and remember what is important. Follow this advice when viewing a condo for sale:

  • Ask questions – Make sure you have the facts straight regarding how old the property is, why it is being sold, whether any major repairs are needed as well as anything else you think of. What age are the appliances – furnace, central air, refrigerator, and so on? When was the last routine maintenance performed on each of them (get a copy of records)? Were the last occupants the owners or were they renting? Renters will typically be harder on the place. Knowing the history may score you bargaining chips should you decide to place an offer.
  • Examine the floor plan – Although rooms may appear bigger than they actually are due to cleverly placed furniture, the floor plan cannot lie about the size of any room in the house. Bring a tape measuring and notepad and double-check any measurements that seem off.  Examine the unit carefully and compare it to your current living space. You know your existing furniture best and consider how yours would fit instead of focusing on theirs.
  • Visit on multiple occasions – Visit the place at various times of the day. This will give you an idea of which rooms receive light at different times, and how much light the home receives over all. If you view the condo just once, and at a time arranged by the seller, it will likely be when it’s receiving maximal natural light.
  • Look carefully – Take your time to open cupboards and drawers, turn appliances on and off, examine windows for mold or mildew, and check for cracks in the plaster or drywall. This is your new home after and you need it to be perfect!

Also check out these tips on how to size up the condo building  and the unit during your first visit.

Our contributing blogger, Kurt Jacobson, has moved 10 times in the past 7 years, and he thrives on helping others learn from his experiences. When he’s not out surfing he writes about rental homes for

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