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Property staging and patent law November 5, 2008

Posted by Brian Schar in Federal Circuit, Television, USPTO.

I end up watching a lot of HGTV, for reasons irrelevant to this blog.  One of my least favorite shows is “The Stagers.”  Property stagers purportedly redecorate the seller’s home to make it appeal to the Average Buyer, theoretically causing the home to sell faster and for a higher price.  However, the end of “The Stagers” puts the lie to its own premise, by showing the list price of the home, the cost of staging, and the final sales price.  I’ve never seen one of the staged homes sell for more than the list price plus the staging cost, so staging was a waste in every case.

I started thinking about the concept of the Average Buyer a few weeks ago.  The reality is there is no such person.  All buyers have different tastes, different needs and different wants.  Being a patent attorney, I also started thinking about the similarity between the mythical Average Buyer and the mythical Person Having Ordinary Skill in the Art (PHOSITA).  The PHOSITA is constructed out of thin air by lawyers and judges.  Projected onto the PHOSITA are the arguments and thoughts of each party – the fictional PHOSITA does not have a mind of his own.  The Average Buyer of real estate is similar – a fictional entity onto which the subjective tastes of the stager and the seller’s agent are projected.

What can you do with this information?  Nothing at all, really – other than think very carefully before you decide to stage your house if you’re a seller, and to remember that you’re not buying the furniture and that paint is cheap, if you’re a buyer.

I’ve been promising it forever, but a blog update regarding MPEP 2143 is on the way.  Maybe next week.


1. Christopher Johnson - November 5, 2008

Its obvious that you “started thinking about the concept of the Average Buyer” ONLY ” a few weeks ago. I watch the show and saw a few property’s sell way over asking price so maybe you haven’t been watching all of it and have summed it up in a few?? As a professional home-stager in the US I have found the property values on the show to be highly skewed which leads me to believe that many of these properties are listed too high.

Stagers don’t set the list price – thats something determined by real estate agents and the client. List price sells property no one is suggesting otherwise. Often I walk into a space and think that a property is listed too high – so who is to blame when they don’t achieve that list price? The stager if you listen to your well thought out “advice”. For all your fancy terms you have failed to factor in these variables and it tells me you don’t know much about real estate – the agent, the seller, the buyer, the stager.

Its more than paint. Its the business of first impressions. The more competitive the market, the more competitive your product needs to be. On the market – your home is a product. Its that simple. It needs to show better than the other homes on the market – especially in THIS market if your want to attract more buyer. I’m also a fisherman and work with lures. I applaud The Stagers for not perpetuating the belief that staging is going to be a magic solution for an over-inflated price and that staging is what sells property. Staging helps to attract buyers and staged homes tend to sell faster and for more money than non-staged homes. One thing is for sure, people don’t know how to make their homes presentable enough for even their guests much less a home buyer.

Do your research – how many shows on The Stagers sold OVER the asking price? This may, next time you sit down to write, to avoid fact errors littered throughout your…blog?

Chris Johnson

2. Brian Schar - November 5, 2008


I appreciate your comments, but I stand by my post. The idea that there is a mythical Average Buyer to whom a house can be made to appeal, magically, is in my view akin to a belief in phrenology. Staging is supposed to somehow mystically attune the home to the Average Buyer, which is destined to be an exercise in futility. I’m also not going to wade through every episode of a TV show that I hate in order to “do research,” when that’s not even germane to my point.

You are of course correct that many homes are simply priced too high, in today’s market – but that is a separate issue from whether or not the house is or should be staged. Too many people, particularly those who attempt to sell on their own, have no idea what economic factors go into home valuation.

Your comment is much angrier than my post, and I don’t know why that is. Presumably you have as much use for a patent attorney as I have for a stager. Perhaps you are suffering through a drop-off in business as sellers and agents decide to retain their cash rather than throw it down the staging rathole. I’d be upset in any situation that impacted my revenue, to be sure.


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