How To Stage A House

A neat room is pictured; a gray couch with a cactus print pillow in the background, and a cactus and succulents on the table in the foreground

Home Staging: How to Stage a House for Sale

To sell a home in a competitive housing market, it is important to seize any edge you can get, and it is no secret that when it comes to sales, presentation matters. Grocery store employees don’t build castles of soda during the week of the Super Bowl just for fun. For the same reason, Realtors and homeowners tend to put a lot of work into making a house on the market look pleasant and neat. This process is called “staging,” and it certainly seems to work.

According to the National Association of Realtors, 83% of agents say staging makes a home more appealing to buyers, possibly because the ambiance encourages them to envision living in the house. Additionally, staged homes sell 73% faster than unstaged homes, reports the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA). Not every home staged for a showing will look the same, but there are some basic rules that tend to result in successful staging.

Focus on the Most Important Rooms

There are some rooms home buyers tend to be more concerned about than others. Focus most of your efforts on the living room, master bedroom, kitchen, and dining room. These are also often the largest rooms, and therefore the most likely to impress.

Declutter and Do a Deep Clean

The first step to making an area presentable is, of course, to clean up. Nothing puts off prospective buyers like obvious dirt or disorder in a home for sale. Even if you are comfortable with the level of tidiness, remember that you are trying to help reduce your personal footprint, so prospective buyers can see themselves in the space. They don’t want reminders of the previous occupants in corners or visible stains — they want a clean, empty canvas to fill.

The deep clean to-do list is actually quite simple:

  • Do general tidying;
  • Wash walls;
  • Shampoo carpets;
  • Use a lint-roller on the curtains;
  • Sweep, mop, and wax floors;
  • Thoroughly dust;
  • Wash all dishes and the sink;
  • Remove any rust, limescale, etc.
  • Remove any unpleasant odors;
  • Keep pet items out of sight.

Remember, the important thing is to create a blank slate for visitors to fill with their own imaginations.

Remove Your Intimate Belongings

Family photos, memorabilia, or other items indicative of the current owner’s life or interests should not be visible during walk-throughs and open houses. Such reminders can make it more difficult for a prospective buyer to envision themselves in the home, or even worse, make them feel like an invader. They may not be as offensive as dirt, stains, or debris, but can have a similar effect on a tour or even in photos.

Furniture and other generic objects can add shape and texture to a space, or color to an otherwise bare room (like a bathroom — color can help break up all the porcelain), but the trick is to avoid making it look personalized or lived-in.


Fix Problems

Prospective homebuyers are, of course, not likely going to be thrilled at the idea of purchasing a home that already has issues to be dealt with, on top of the usual work that goes into moving and/or remodeling. Any problems with the bare bones of the home, such as structural issues, plumbing malfunctions, or even light wear and tear should be tended to. There are also many simple projects one can undertake to significantly improve the value of a home

However, it’s also important to improve the quality and appearance of visible items that won’t stay in the home. Despite the fact that it would not be a problem for them, potential buyers likely do not want to see an unmade bed, a stained sofa, or ratty old towels.


Neutralize and Light It

It is usually best to lean towards a more neutral color palette for the decor. Not only will it appeal more widely to a variety of interested parties, but it may also have a calming effect. 

Additionally, there should be substantial lighting; although it is possible to overdo it, especially with fluorescents. Lighting can also improve mood, as well as create the appearance of more space, and highlight specific areas of the room. The last of those functions are especially useful when a room has a particularly appealing feature, such as a beautiful mantelpiece. Light sources can be arranged to showcase the feature more prominently.


Add Special Touches

Small additions can go a long way in terms of improving the appearance of a space. Books on a coffee table, flowers on a kitchen counter, or a throw pillow on a couch can be the touch that completely brings the look together. Bright, primary colors like (clean!) towels hanging in bathrooms or fruit baskets in the kitchen add interest without reminding visitors of the previous occupants.

Stage Furniture

Furniture takes up a lot of space, and therefore it is vital that it looks great. There are many options for ensuring that the furniture in any space looks appealing, but generally, a layout that allows for a lot of open space is ideal. This will make the house appear more neat and roomy. Utilizing interior decorating techniques such as “floating furniture” or feng shui can be very helpful in achieving an open, aesthetically pleasing floor space.

Hire a Professional for Best Results

Although it is certainly possible to stage a house for sale yourself, you will almost certainly get better quality by hiring a professional. A professional will notice small things that will only register subconsciously to most people, and make changes that are subtle but have a significant impact on the ambiance of a room. 

While you may save money staging the home yourself, you may also lose more than you save due to the home appearing less appealing, staying on the market longer, or ultimately drawing lower offers than it could have been with the help of someone who stages houses professionally. However, all real estate agents are not equal, so it is important to shop around and ask potential agents interview questions to find the best Realtor for you.

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