Mary Cummins, Real Estate Appraiser, Animal Advocates, Los Angeles, California

Mary Cummins, Real Estate Appraiser, Animal Advocates, Los Angeles, California
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Friday, November 12, 2021

Home Staging is to Increase Sales Price. It's Not About Racism. Mary Cummins Real Estate Appraiser

Recently there have been a few media articles about black people who allegedly white washed their home i.e. removed all traces of blackness and received a higher appraisal value. These misleading articles have spread a false narrative about real estate agents, appraisers, sellers, buyers and the legitimate process of "home staging."

When someone lists their home with a real estate agent for sale the agent will tell them they must prepare and stage their home. Below is a brief summary of how a seller should stage their home in order to get the best price in the least amount of time from Smart Box Moving and Storage. As a real estate broker and appraiser for over 38 years I agree with this list.

"When you are preparing your home to put it on the market, experts suggest that a key part of home staging is removing personal items from the house. A strategically staged home typically sells faster and for more money so it’s important to take the necessary steps to properly stage your home. Removing certain items from the home will make your home feel larger, more organized, and will also help prospective buyers visualize themselves living in the home. Prospective buyers will take notice of every detail in your home so don’t turn them away by having the wrong items in your house. Consider removing the following items to ensure your home appeals to all buyers. 

Family Photos

While you may adore those large portraits of each of your kids, it’s best not to showcase those when you are staging your home. Buyers might be distracted by all of your family photos and it could make it harder for them to envision themselves living in your home. The idea is to help buyers visualize themselves in your home and this can be difficult with a display of family photos. 

Taste Specific Artwork and Accessories

Typically, when you decorate your home, you do so according to your own taste and personality. However, when staging a home, you don’t want your personality to stand out. For instance, you might be an avid hunter but not everyone will appreciate animal heads hanging on the wall. People might also be offended by certain artwork such as nudes, religious art, or political posters. It’s best to remove any taste specific decor and place a few neutral pieces around the home instead. 


Collections have a tendency to take over a space and make it appear cluttered. Buyers might miss the detailed crown molding if they are distracted by an overwhelming collection. A portable storage container is a great solution for storing your valuables and collections while you are selling your home. 

Awards and Certificates

While you might be proud of those diplomas, sports trophies, and school certificates, now is not the time to display them. Much like the family photos, it can be difficult for buyers to envision themselves in your home when they see so many of your personal items. Depersonalizing space is important because it will help buyers psychologically move in. 


If you keep guns in your home, it might be a good idea to place them in storage while selling your home. Not all buyers will be comfortable with the idea of having firearms in the home and this can be a deterrent. 

Personal Items

As tiresome as this might seem, it’s important to erase the evidence that you actually live in your home any time you are showing it to a potential buyer. Remove personal items such as toothbrushes, medications, shampoo, glasses, dirty laundry baskets, dirty dishes and so on. You can hide many of these items in pretty baskets or boxes with lids. You can even hide things in plastic bins that will easily slide under the bed. 


They may be your best buddies but your furry friends don’t appeal to everyone. Pets are messy, dirty and stinky and not all buyers love them. Some people might be turned off by the fact that there are pets in the home so it’s important to find a place for them to go when you are showing your home. You should also remove any evidence of pets living in your home such as food bowls, cages, and toys.

Excess Furniture

Having too much furniture crammed into a room can make the space look smaller and this is definitely something you want to avoid when selling a home. Your goal should be to arrange furniture in a way that compliments the architectural features of the room while giving the illusion of spaciousness. You also want furniture that serves a purpose and showcases how the room could be used. For example, a desk and chair would show that the room could be used as an office while a bed and dresser would show that the room would make a nice bedroom. Avoid excess furniture or furniture that doesn’t belong. For example, you wouldn’t want a treadmill sitting in your bedroom. A portable storage unit is an ideal solution for storing your excess furniture while your home is on the market. "

The most important item to remove is personal items and photos. From blog article "Why You Should Remove Personal Items in Home Staging," "Removing personal items is perhaps the most important thing when it comes to home staging. Potential buyers don’t want to know about the family that lived on the property before. You risk distracting or alienating potential home buyers by leaving personal items on display (family photos, religious texts, favorite movies, even sports memorabilia). Imagine walking into someone else’s home for the first time. You’re likely on your best behavior and very hesitant about breaking something or going into a room you’re not supposed to be in. It’s not as comfortable as your own home because the space simply is not your home. That’s the opposite of what you want your buyers to feel. Ideally, when someone walks into a staged property, they can easily visualize the space as their home. Lining the walls with personal artifacts ruins that illusion. Nobody wants to feel like they’re intruding."

There are a few people with their own agenda who are promoting the false narrative that black people must white wash their home when it's being appraised because real estate appraisers are racists who appraise black people's home lower than market value. That is absolutely false. Real estate appraisal is based on the home characteristics and recent sales only. Appraisers don't care about the race of the owner, tenant or buyer. We generally never even meet them or know what color they are. We only care about the structure and what other similar homes have sold for. We use the same methodology as Automated Valuation Methods which are robots who don't see any people or the home.

Sometimes a homeowner will tell me "I'm sorry my home is messy today." I generally jokingly tell them, "it's fine. The bank wouldn't care if you had dead bodies hanging in here. They only care about the structure and the value." That is the absolute truth. The bank just wants to make money on the loan. They want a full market value appraisal so they can make money. The appraiser wants the same. If we were to come in below market value, we'd never be hired again and lose money. There is absolutely no incentive for an appraiser to come in low.  

A few media articles stated that a black family had their home appraised. The value was lower than they liked. They decided to white wash, stage their home and request a new appraisal. The second later appraisal came in higher. In this quickly appreciating market of course a later appraisal would be higher yet they attributed the rise in appraisal value to their white washing. They could have just changed the door mat and the same thing would have happened. With certain areas appreciating 30% in a year that turns out to 2.5% per month. With a $500,000 home the appreciation could be $25,000 in two months. The appreciation could be even higher if they first had it appraised it during a slower sales time of year then later reappraised during the peak sales times when there were more buyers, sales and higher sale prices. It would be even higher if it's an area that's being revitalized or as some say "gentrified." I've seen increases of 40-50% in a year in some of these gentrifying areas recently.

Racism is a huge problem in the US which we must try to eradicate. Racist things happen to people of color all the time. Since the murder of black George Floyd racism against black people has been a huge issue. That said not everything is due to racism. Many people's appraisals are coming in lower than expected because of the fast appreciation rate in the market. Closed and recorded sales lag 45-60 days behind contracts for sale. During that time home values appreciate. This is not the fault of the appraiser but the nature of the mandatory historical approach to home value. 

Mary Cummins of Cummins Real Estate is a certified residential licensed appraiser in Los Angeles, California. Mary Cummins is licensed by the California Bureau of Real Estate appraisers and has over 35 years of experience.

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