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How TV Influences Buyers… And My Fake HGTV TV Pilot

According to the 2023 Profile of Home Staging by the National Association of REALTORS® Research Group, 55% of buyers felt homes should look like they were staged on TV shows, 64% of buyers were disappointed by the way homes looked compared to TV shows and 73% of agents said TV shows that display the buying process impacted their business by setting unrealistic or increased expectations.

I’m here to tell you that TV shows absolutely influence buyers and their expectations.

I’m also here to tell you that once upon a time, I shot a TV pilot all about home staging for HGTV and it was FAKE, FAKE, FAKE!

Here’s how it went:

  • It took an entire week to shoot the pilot which featured just ONE stage. It typically takes me 3 hours to stage one property. I can usually accommodate 14 installs and/or pick-ups in one week. I said “no” to a lot of business that week. Didn’t love that!

  • I had actually already staged and destaged this particular property. It was actually scheduled to close… But I had to return, “meet” the developers for the “first time” and act like I had never seen the property before.

  • The producers wanted me to do more than “just stage” the property. They wanted me to help with paint and backsplash selections. This is actually a service I already offer, it’s called the “Design to Sell” package. However, this house had essentially already sold, so we had to get permission from the new buyers to install a backsplash and paint a feature wall in their primary bedroom. We, of course, allowed thr buyers to pick so I had no say in the actual selections… I just acted. I walked into a paint store and acted like the paint color was entirely my idea. I acted like I chose the green backsplash tile. I ignored the fact that the backsplash was installed sideways, but on in the inside, I was mortified.

  • On staging day, I had to back the moving van in and out of the driveway like 100 times so they could get the right shot. (That's when the sweating really began for me.)

  • The producers needed drama. We needed a problem. They wanted a sofa not to fit through the door or a leg on an accent chair to break. This is the only time I pushed back… I’m not going to allow them to portray me as a rookie who makes these kinds of mistakes. Or damage my inventory, even if it’s somehow faked. Not to say mistakes don’t happen, but not to those extremes. I’ve never been unable to clear a doorway with a sofa... Of course, I measure at property views in advance! We settled on removing a vase of long stems on the kitchen island that “I felt” was blocking the beauty of the kitchen. I also had to act shocked and appalled when I arrived at the property to find it wasn’t stage ready (i.e. still dirty as it was a flip/new construction). Unfortunately this part of the staging process is typically an annoying truth. However, in this case, it wasn’t dirty… Remember, it had already been staged and destaged. Can you believe they emptied a shop vac to dirty the property just for that scene?

  • There were so many times something happened or occurred naturally that was “good” for TV, but the cameras weren’t rolling. I was also told to stop doing that. (Doing what? Living?) I had to stop and reenact those moments.

  • The numbers weren’t accurate. The cost to stage and final sale of the property were made up. In reality, the buyers got a way better deal on the property because sometimes that’s how things work in the real world.

  • To wrap the week of filming, an agent and I sat down to to discuss these fake numbers. But she wasn’t the actual selling agent… She was a paid actress. Also, in reality, I would never sit down with the selling agent to discuss numbers! I’m not the seller!

I’m not going to knock the entire experience. It was fun. I laughed a lot. Actually, I remember sweating a lot. Like more than I typically do when I’m actually staging. So much so that the boom operator (person who assists the production sound mixer on set by operating boom microphones, selecting and placing radio microphones, and maintaining the audio equipment) had to keep yelling “Cut!” because my mic would completely slip away somewhere down my shirt and no one could hear me.

But, I wouldn’t do it again. I prefer the real thing and I especially prefer doing more business than one install a week.

But unfortunately, TV shows will continue to impact both my business as a stager and your business as the agent.

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