The Place in a House You Never Thought to Stage

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine

No detail is too small for a home buyer. And while you’re making sure the kitchen counters are decluttered and sparkling clean, you might want to take a closer look in the refrigerator too, particularly if it’s staying with the house. The buyer likely will be. And what will they see when they open the doors?

Over-stuffed, sticky shelves? Expired veggies that are growing a friend? Vile smells?

The contents of a seller’s fridge may say a lot about a home owner. It may even have the potential to leave a potential buyer with a negative impression.

The New York Times recently devoted an entire article to a place often overlooked in real estate showings: The refrigerator.

When writer Richard Samson with The New York Times was getting ready to sell his apartment, he suddenly became alarmed at the contents of his refrigerator. “From the perspective of the nervous buyer, I realized that my freezer contents alone had the potential to terrify and repel: vodka; century-old, virtually empty ice cream containers; more vodka, and then those mysterious foil-wrapped parcels of who-knows-what.”

Samson realized he needed to clean up his ways. When prospective buyers opened his refrigerator, he wanted to send a sophisticated vibe: He filled his refrigerator with freshly squeezed orange juice; 9-ounce glass bottles of Ronnybrook milk; bright red watermelon chunks; black olive Tapenade; and two bottles of champagne strategically placed on the bottom shelf.

OK, but there’s limit to just how far he would go. He realized that when contemplating buying burrata for $8 for a small container. “There’s a fine line between appearing cosmopolitan and actually looking like a fool,” Samson wrote. “Besides, I can’t risk buyers’ thinking I have money to burn on mozzarella, unless I’m prepared to attract an array of low-ball bids.”

What’s inside your sellers’ refrigerator? Do your sellers need a fridge intervention? Ask them for a drink and then sneak a peek!

It may be a good time to remind your sellers that if the refrigerator is staying with the house, buyers often will take a look inside, and impressions count. Encourage them to clean out their refrigerator. Toss out the expireds and those items that may have been hiding in the back. Clean off the shelves so they sparkle. And possibly even add a few touches, like a bowl filled with colorful fruit or gourmet mustards and condiments. After all, presentation is everything, even inside the refrigerator.

Would you consider staging a seller’s fridge?

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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  2. Great post — I was just with a client the other day who was looking in a refrigerator and said that she knew she could trust that the home was clean because the refrigerator was!

  3. makes perfect sense!

  4. I have seen many buyers look inside fridges, microwaves, stoves, dishwashers etc. when they are staying. When they are dirty inside I think the assumption then turns to the whole house is dirty but sugar coated. I think many homes sellers hide the mornings dishes in these as well!

  5. pamela

    Make sure the homeowners don’t peel hard boiled eggs just before a showing. That is definately a deal breaker.

  6. I love this idea! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Debby

    Buyers frequently open the refrigerator door(s), if included, to see if shelves are missing or broken and of course general cleanliness.. As a listing Broker I do whatever it takes from cleaning bathrooms , kitchens to clearing countertop clutter. As a buyer broker I don’t wish to buy a refrigerator because of one with in poor condition. Remember, we don’t get paid and our client is not happy until that home sells and closes.

  8. Michele Allison Elwell

    I have had clients look in all sorts of places and I encourage it, but never a refrigerator.All other appliances yes. I have seen the dirty dishes in the dish washer, in the sink and yes, even in the oven – yuck.
    Now ovens are always looked at and looked in. Many will check the vent and turn on the burners to make sure each one gets hot.
    Last week I sold a house in Rockport. This owner had owned and rented it out for a few year since purchase. They never did anything while they owned it. It was old as see as seen. Selling for less than they owed. However, You usually expect a working stove even if the damn thing is 50 years old.
    Well when the buyers looked inside the stove- there was a plug. Weird. We assumed it was the one for the stove . The stove was not plugged in. Upon inspection , we realisted that the plug was not the proper one for this stove. Needless to say , the buyers wanted the house. They spent all their money to buy in the zipcode.
    Now they have to either find a proper plug or buy a new stove. I say – Really? Why do people have to be sneaky liars. If the stove isnt working or broken and you don’t want to replace it- then just remove the trash when you list it so the buyers know right up front .Being sneaky like that is just wrong.The refrigerator was almost empty. At closing it had a melted bag of ice and a case of water in there. I called the list agent and told him to get over there and clean it out and freshen it up.

  9. I had a home tending client who staged the pantries in the properties where she was placed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the fridge was staged, since I found out later she never cooked. I mean never as in she was there for two months before she realized she had to have the gas connected.

  10. I always look inside refrigerators for my buyer clients. This gives more insight than one can imagine. Between an empty closet ( lack of male or female clothing in a house listed by two male & female owners) and a refrigerator that is quite sparse except for beer, liquor and popcorn in the pantry-one can deduce the potential for a divorce situation. Although there are exceptions with the same circumstances; as a buyers agent, one can get a sense of urgency on the sellers part. Also, a well cleaned and maintained refrigerator can be indicative of an overall attitude of care for other systems in the home. I’m all for staging the refrigerator for sellers as that can reinforce the lifestyle you are selling to prospective buyers.

  11. Every little detail of the house can be a great selling point. That is, if you know how you can make full use of it properly. Thanks for the tip!

  12. With enough creativity, you can transform any area in the home to a great selling point.