Easter eggs in open houses
October 13, 2015 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Is it common to include "easter eggs" when staging for open houses?

I've been to several open houses over the past couple months, and every so often I'll see a detail that I find amusing and weirdly appropriate. A few weeks ago, we saw a small condo with a coffee-table book on tiny houses resting on one of the side tables - not in a central location, but definitely in plain sight. Last weekend, I saw an enormous (and waaaaay out of my price range) luxury townhome, and the home office had a whiteboard with A - Always B - Be C - Closing written on it. (I know, right?)

I assume they were just what the homeowners had in their homes, but they felt so on-the-nose that I wouldn't be at all surprised if they'd been deliberately thrown in as conversation starters. It seems like a clever idea: at best, you'd have something that sticks in the mind of eagle-eyed visitors (i.e. serious home buyers); at worst, the stager's just having some fun.

Obviously no one here knows if the examples I saw were deliberately staged. But is it the sort of thing stagers do? I know there are all sorts of staging tips like "arrange decorative items in odd numbers" or "put a basket of rolled-up towels in the bathroom," but I'm wondering about things that are more clever, less generic, and meant to be noticed.
posted by Metroid Baby to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I think this is very common, and you've just seen some particularly interesting examples.

My last house had a fire pit in the backyard, and when I walked in the first time, the owner had a fire going, chairs pulled up, a pitcher and glasses ... so of course, I sat down and relaxed for a minute. :-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:03 AM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Honestly, I think it's a distraction technique. Here, look at the shiny object and not the poorly constructed cabinets, the cheap-as-possible flooring, the not-up-to-code railing, etc. It's something that "eagle-eyed visitors (i.e. serious home buyers)" should be ignoring and not focusing on, but then again, I seem to have different views about these sorts of things.
posted by sardonyx at 10:07 AM on October 13, 2015 [9 favorites]

Not exactly about real estate, but I think a similar psychology: PUT A BOWL OF FRUIT ON IT.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:12 AM on October 13, 2015 [13 favorites]

Sounds like every model home I've ever been in. Staging for private home sales is a phenomenon of the last 10 years I think, so it seems the model home mentality now extends to private homes.
posted by cecic at 10:14 AM on October 13, 2015

Every house I ever looked at had a picture of the family mid-rapids on a white water rafting trip. I can only assume they give you a free trip when you sign on to sell your house.

Also, planting an Easter egg is something I would totally do, even though they generally tell you to de-personalize the house as much as possible.
posted by bondcliff at 10:17 AM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I once toured an open house that had this prom queen photo on their mantelpiece. I was thrilled! I wonder how many people were in the know.
posted by Elly Vortex at 10:19 AM on October 13, 2015 [46 favorites]

Best answer: I did this. I have a life sized cardboard David Tennant, and rather than removing him like the rest of my "messy" stuff, we hid him in the built in closet (which of course everyone inspects). I was actually a bit worried someone would have a heart attack, but no one did, and the estate agents thought it was hilarious and left him in there even after the first viewers had discovered him.

So I reckon that
1. this is quite a common impulse when you spend ages prettying up your house and
2. not all estate agents are as boring & stuffy as you may think.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 11:21 AM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is akin to baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies the morning of (or even during) the open house to give the house that welcoming, "mom just bakes some cookies!!1!" smell.

Some years ago I worked in the office at a condo development, and I saw my share of staging tricks. If the people doing the staging are good, NOTHING is left to chance. Nothing.
posted by mosk at 2:34 PM on October 13, 2015

A friend of mine recently bought a place in Arlington that had been freshened up to include a wall of blackboard paint in the kitchen. At her house warming, I remarked on the lovely tree and owl and grass she'd drawn on it for the party - nope. Turns out the previous owners or agent or whoever had drawn that for people looking at the place. My friend just liked enough to leave up for the party. (It makes me wonder if they will ever use that wall as a blackboard.)
posted by maryr at 3:14 PM on October 13, 2015

Elly Vortex, what's the story with that prom queen photo? I guess I am not in the know ...
posted by mccxxiii at 3:46 PM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My mom swears she sold two houses to the first people who came to view them, because she actually had just put an apple pie in the oven, like not as a gimmick, but as a real eatin' pie, when the realtor who was listing the first house called and said "I have some people who'd like to see your house right now." Those people bought that house; when my parents sold the next house mom baked a pie right before the first open house and, again, she claims the first people who saw the house bought it.

And yes, this sort of easter egg thing seems to be common, at least around DC. We went to one open house where the bedroom had, among other magazines, a copy of the annual "great houses" issue of Washingtonian. I think some realtors actually carry a bag full of these things for last minute staging.
posted by fedward at 5:25 PM on October 13, 2015

mccxxiii, the prom queen photo is Laura Palmer from the 1990 TV series Twin Peaks.
posted by Sweet Dee Kat at 6:54 PM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Hahaha, yes, the Laura Palmer photo is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about! I've been poking around the internet hoping to find buzzfeedy listicles of "wacky things hidden in open houses," but no dice. At any rate, I'm going to assume anything I find amusing in future showings is probably deliberate.

sardonyx, I do agree that it's a gimmick and absolutely not what people should be evaluating houses on, and believe me, I've been paying attention to the shit that actually matters (what genius put these cabinet doors on backwards?? hardwood floors aren't supposed to feel sproingy!) but, hey, that's the nature of advertising. I'd rather be aware of and amused by such tricks than fooled by them.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:14 AM on October 14, 2015

I used to show my landlord's other apartment and I definitely sprinkled things around to pique prospective tenants' interest- I'd leave strategically-chosen books they might like, musical instruments and artwork in unexpected places, interesting shoes, plants, words spelled with fridge magnets in places other than the fridge (like AWESOME spelled out on the coffee table in bright little letters), cute little toys, flowers, and various similarly quirky details all over the place to catch their eye and make them smile. Worked every time- I was always able to generate demand and rent the unit above market value, even though it was a pretty nondescript apartment under all the cute stuff.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:22 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

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