—Buying & Selling

10 Time-Tested Tips for Staging a House

There’s a lot of work involved with staging a home for sale, but it’s well worth it. For many reasons, staging helps potential homebuyers connect with a specific property better. More than 80 percent of buyer’s agents agree that staging a home can make it easier for buyers to visualize the property as theirs. Staging can also bring in a higher sale price and lessen the time a home stays on the market.

With all the benefits to staging, it’s worth the effort. But make sure you prioritize what’s going to have the biggest impact. These 10 staging tips will help you successfully prep a home for sale.

1. Maintain curb appeal

The front yard sets the tone for how people will see a home. It’s the first area you should stage. Make sure the lawn is neat and any clutter gets removed from outside. This can include empty flower pots, lawn ornaments, or last year’s holiday lights. Plants should look well-cared for and pruned. If you have a large driveway or sidewalk, consider getting it pressure washed. For the final, outdoor touch, add a new door mat that boldly welcomes people into the house.

2. Clear out the clutter

As you begin staging the inside of a home, the first thing to tackle is all the stuff. Clutter and personal items of the current homeowner can quickly turn off a potential buyer. They’re distracting and create a sense of disarray that buyers can worry about filtering into other parts of the home. They also make it harder for people to see themselves in the house, since pieces of the current owner are everywhere they turn. Asking the homeowner to pack up all their personal items, as well as advising them on how to declutter, will make a big difference. 

If this process leaves gaps in the decor, suggest the homeowners fill those spaces with generic pictures and accessories. Decorative items like candle holders, vases, or framed, scenic pictures maintain a generic feel.

3. Let in the natural light

A dark room never sold a house. Brightness, whether from natural or artificial light, can. Make sure all the curtains and blinds are open so the sun can shine into every room of the house. In spaces where the sun isn’t as vivid, use lamps and overhead lighting to enhance the beauty of a room. Remember, there’s no such thing as too much light when you stage a home.

4. Give each room a purpose

While it’s obvious that a bedroom is for sleeping and a living room is for lounging, some homes have multi-purpose rooms that end up being a little muddled. Before you begin showing a home, it’s best for each room to have an obvious purpose. If there’s a small room that serves as both an office and a guest room, opt to take out the daybed and stage the room as a cozy work space instead. If there’s a den that serves as a library and a playroom, pack up the books and stage it as a great place to keep all the kids’ stuff together.

5. Open up a room

As you’re organizing rooms, make sure they all look as big as possible. There are a few ways to accomplish this. One is in how you arrange the furniture. Keep it down to as few pieces as possible. If you have large furniture in a room, like a bed, make sure it’s flush against a wall. You can also angle furniture to create more dynamic sight lines.

Another trick is adding mirrors to a room. They’re decorative, but also reflective, bringing more light into a room to open it up. A well-placed mirror can make a room feel less cramped and brighter.

6. Keep it clean

As you arrange everything in the home to look perfect, don’t forget about keeping it all clean. Attack areas that a regular cleaner may miss. Make sure bathroom walls sparkle, wipe down kitchen cabinet fronts, and give tile grout a once-over to make sure it doesn’t look grimy. You’ll also want to check glass shower doors for build-up. This is often a challenging thing to clean, but with a mixture of a little white vinegar and water, it will shine like new.

As you tackle hard-to-clean areas of your home, don’t forget about unwanted odors. Pet smells especially can be a turnoff. Consider deep cleaning carpet, swapping out old rugs, and using room deodorizers for a more pleasant smelling home.

7. Freshen things up

Especially when having the home photographed, go for a few colorful bouquets of fresh flowers over silk plants. You may have to replace the flowers over time, but they look and smell better than using fake plants. The trick is to keep it simple in color as well as arrangement. You don’t want giant floral bouquets in huge vases in every room. Small pops of color in a few key spots are enough.

8. Set the scene

Think of staging a house almost like turning it into a hotel. When you go into a hotel room you expect to see pristine sheets and towels. Anything looking dingy, even if it’s clean, sends the wrong message. The same is true when staging a home. Consider buying a new set of bath towels and bath mat for each bathroom. Neatly fold and arrange them like they’re ready for anyone to use. 

You can take this same approach to your dining room table, setting it like it’s a major holiday and you have family coming over. Pull out the hardly-used plates and good silverware. Invest in some cloth napkins and napkin rings. Potential homebuyers will feel like you’re inviting them over for dinner in addition to visualizing their own family around the table.

9. Take gender out of the bedroom

The master bedroom should appeal to whoever buys your home, and you don’t know in advance if that is going to be a man or woman. Keeping the bedroom neutral with the proper paint colors and bedding allows anyone looking at the home to see the master bedroom as their own. Add gender-neutral accessories that match to complete the look.

Some of the best colors to keep your bedroom nice and neutral include:

  • Gray
  • Black and white
  • Beige
  • Taupe
  • Cream

If you want to add a small pop of color, look to paler shades of green or orange.

10. Work with the current homeowner

Many of these staging tips mean you’re working with the homeowner, asking them to invest their time and energy into preparing the home. While it pays off for everyone involved, use your expertise as a realtor combined with a little patience and understanding for the homeowner’s benefit. They’ll need your feedback to get the house just right, so don’t forget to check in a few times before staging is complete.

Further reading: Hosting a Successful Open House