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  • Writer's pictureAlex DeLia

How to Stage a House to Sell

If the word “staging” conjures up the idea that you’re putting on a show for prospective buyers, you’re on the right track. In a well-staged home, you’re putting the home in the spotlight and inviting buyers to imagine themselves taking a starring role. To do that, you need to step behind the scenes and give buyers room to imagine themselves taking the lead as homeowner.

Why stage a home before selling?

Whether you’re going DIY in staging your house to sell or calling in a professional, taking the time to stage your home for potential buyers can be an effective way to make your house stand out against other listings in your area. Staging your home can help potential buyers picture themselves in the space — a crucial first step in getting them to consider making an offer. And, you’ll be in good company among other sellers.

Staging tips for selling your home: Where to start

Declutter: Go room by room, removing the items you won’t need between now and moving day. Pay extra attention to cabinets, closets, and pantries — you want to give potential buyers the impression that your home has ample storage. Not sure where to put all your extra stuff? Consider getting a temporary storage unit.

Depersonalize: Remember, potential buyers want to be able to picture themselves calling your house home, and that’s hard to do if all they see are family photos, personal items, and keepsakes. While it might be a bit emotional, take a run through your home and remove the decor items that make your house feel personally yours.

Erase signs of pets: You may love your cat, but potential buyers may not (or they may have an allergy). Make sure to clean thoroughly and remove toys, food dishes, and water bowls.

Deep clean: As your mother would say, “Clean like company is coming.” In fact, you may want to go one step further. Aim to clean to a point where it looks like nobody actually lives in the home: no smudges on the windows, no dust bunnies on the floor, no water marks on the counters. A clean home tells potential buyers that you’ve taken great care of the property.

How to stage your house to sell: 11 best staging ideas

Once you’ve decluttered, depersonalized, hidden all traces of pets, and done a better-than-spring cleaning, you can tackle the actual staging of your home. Read on for the best staging tips.

1. Increase lighting everywhere

Staging a home is no time for mood lighting. One of the first things many potential buyers comment on is the amount of light in a home. Replace any burned-out lightbulbs, swap out for higher wattage bulbs, clean your windows, open the blinds, and don’t forget to turn on the lights before any showing.

2. Create conversational furniture arrangements

Take a look at each room and play around with the arrangement of your furniture to create more conversational spaces. Point loveseats and couches toward each other, which will actually increase the amount of space in rooms. Don’t be afraid to mix things completely up. In real life, you’d probably point the couch toward the television. But staging your home for sale isn’t about living in it. It’s about selling it.

3. Stay neutral for broad appeal

Yes, that bright red accent wall really shows off your personality. But there’s only one you, and you’ve already bought this home once. You need to tone down the colors. Neutrals are your friends. You’ll also want to make sure to keep spaces gender-neutral. Your home’s new owners won’t necessarily use the rooms (or decorate them) the same way you do.

4. Update the finishes

Walk through your home with a critical eye, noticing little maintenance issues like a serious buyer would. It’s likely worth a Saturday of work to repaint a room, re-caulk or re-grout, strip wallpaper, or change out dated or worn hardware.

5. Take a look at the exterior

Your home’s curb appeal is the ultimate first impression. Mow your lawn, pressure wash any dingy areas, repair chipping paint, plant some flowers, and tidy up any patio furniture.

6. Arrange in odd numbers

From throw pillows to accessories and chairs to artwork, professional stagers and designers swear by decorating in threes, fives, and sevens, which gives some visual interest to otherwise symmetrical spaces.

7. Set the table

It’s a nice finishing touch that, again, can help the buyer visualize living there. Holiday dinner party, anyone?

8. Only style with polished accents

For example, only stage your master bath with new bath towels, or none at all. Just say no to your still-drying bath towels from this morning’s shower.

9. Make the space appear larger

Add mirrors to reflect light, swap a heavy powder room cabinet for a pedestal sink, or remove a leaf from your huge dining room table.

10. Show value in unusual floor plans

Highlight what makes your home unique and special. Add a reading nook, show the benefit of an extra storage area, or tuck a desk in an unused corner.

11. Use extra rooms deliberately

Never leave a room empty. Instead, make that unused guest room feel usable, staging it as an office, craft room, or guest bedroom — but never all of those things at once!

Investing in real estate staging

DIY home staging: Following the tips above, staging on your own is definitely an option, and it’s an affordable one. Just make sure to leave yourself enough time to finish your to-do list before your listing goes live.

Partial home staging: An affordable middle-of-the-road option, partial home staging is when you do the decluttering and cleaning yourself, before bringing in a professional stager to apply the finishing touches. They’ll rearrange and reimagine your current furniture and decor in a way that’s buyer friendly. You can also hire a stager to simply do a walkthrough of your house and consult on what you should do to prepare your home for sale, and the actual staging tasks will be up to you.

Full-service professional home staging: If you’re in a really competitive real estate market or don’t have the time to stage or interest in doing it on your own, you may want to consider hiring a full-service home stager. Services of a professional stager may include the rental of furniture and accessories they bring with them, for a predetermined period of time.

Live-in stagers: An emerging trend in high-end homes, a live-in stager is a person who, usually as part of your staging team, temporarily moves into your home after you’ve vacated. They’re tasked with making sure the home is always showing-ready, warm, and welcoming. It can be especially beneficial if you’re trying to sell a home that’s in another city.

Staging maintenance: If all goes as planned, the offers should come rolling in, and the limbo of living in a staged home won’t last too long. But consider this home staging advice to help sell your house fast:

Hire a weekly cleaner or give yourself a daily routine: You worked hard to get your house in pristine condition, so don’t let things slide over time. Either hire someone to come clean every week, or give yourself a few manageable daily tasks to keep everything in tip-top shape while you wait for that perfect offer.

Invest in a robotic vacuum: Make technology do the work of daily vacuuming. That way, there’ll never be even a single dust bunny on the floor during a showing.

Allow extra time if you have kids: We all know that kids can destroy a perfectly clean room in a matter of minutes. So, if you have small children at home, make sure your real estate agent knows to give you at least two hours’ notice before a showing so you can tidy up and get out the door.

Get someone to watch your pets: Of course Buddy would give potential buyers a warm welcome, but not everyone wants to be greeted by your pet when touring your home. Plan for someone to watch your pets before every showing.

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