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All You Need to Know about How to Stage Your House for Sale

How to stage your house

There is a real strategy behind how to stage your house for sale. The idea is to get your house in picture-perfect condition, both inside and out. Ideally, you want buyers to walk in and imagine themselves living there.

It’s natural to get emotional about our homes, especially if we’ve lived there for many years. I recall, once, a homeowner telling his wife, “You wanted a ‘different’ house. You got a ‘different’ house, now try and sell your ‘different’ house.” If you want to sell, your home has to appeal to as many people as possible. This guide will show you how to get started. When real-estate agents hear buyers talk about how their furniture could be arranged in a room, they know they are serious prospects who will likely put in an offer. 

So, what are the most important things to do to attain picture-perfection in your home? It definitely does not mean that you need to spend tons of money on new furniture, appliances, or decorating. But what it does mean is that it’s time to get clean, organized, and learn how to stage your house properly.

Recommended Reading: How to Organize Your Home the Easy Way

Disclaimer: This blog post may contain affiliate links. Keep in mind that I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you when you click my links and make a purchase. However, this does not impact my opinion in any way. I only promote brands I believe in and products that I use and love myself. I try my best to keep things fair and balanced to help you make the best choice for you.

How to Stage Your House

If you’re preparing to sell your house, follow this guide for getting it ready and staging it in a way that makes buyers imagine their life in your home:

De-clutter

Now is the perfect time to get rid of your clutter! By de-cluttering your home to get it ready for sale, things are going to be so much easier to pack when you move. Pack away items that you want to keep, but don’t want out on display while the house is being shown. Put them in boxes, so they’re ready for moving day.

Then, number, label and stack them neatly in a garage or basement space. Remember that buyers will view the garage and basement, too, so neatness counts. Also, remember that buyers look in closets and open cabinets and drawers to check out these spaces, so quickly shoving things in a closet to get them out of sight will backfire on you.

Credit Piccolo Pictures featuring All Hung Up Hangers

Recommended Reading: How to Quickly Clear That Clutter from Your Life

Less is More

Pare down your furniture, decorations, and knick-knacks. When staging your house, less is more. You want to strike a good balance between comfort and letting the buyer see the bones of the space. If you have a lot of furniture, select a few good pieces to arrange in a way that leaves walking space around the room. That means you should move the furniture towards the middle of the room, away from the walls. Arrange them in a conversational grouping, anchored by an area rug, if you have one.

Find a place to store the rest of your furniture until you move. Pack away your family photos and other personal items. You want the buyers to visualize their possessions in the space, not yours. If your personal photos are staring at them, it won’t happen. If you have artwork hung on the walls, that’s fine, but limit it to a few well-placed items; you don’t want it to look like a museum. Keep the surfaces of furniture clear of decorative items except for a vase of fresh flowers which is always a welcoming look.

How to Stage Your House
Credit: Piccolo Pictures

Recommended Reading: A Quick & Easy Guide to Simple Living

Repair

Repair or replace any small items that may be broken. Make sure the doorbell works and that drawers or doors can be opened easily without a struggle or having a doorknob come off in someone’s hand. Ensure that there’s plenty of light, both natural and electric so that buyers can see everything. Plus, things always look better when they are well-lit.

Clean

Clean, clean, and clean again until the house is sparkling from top to bottom. That means windows, sinks, toilets (and behind toilets, too), light switches, chandeliers, door knobs and pulls, floors, moldings, and baseboards. Focus on every single surface.

Credit: Piccolo Pictures featuring Real Home Innovations

Recommended Reading: 25 Whip-Smart Cleaning Hacks from the Best Organizing Experts

Mind the Mess

Take stock of your home before a showing. Always make sure there are no dirty dishes in the sink or on your kitchen counters. Keep your counters clear of everything except for small appliances or a bowl of fruit. Make sure the trash is emptied, that there are fresh, clean towels in the bathrooms, that all beds are made, and clothing is hung neatly in closets. Also, put away all children’s toys and games neatly on shelves or in baskets.

How to Stage Your House
Credit: Piccolo Pictures featuring Real Home Innovations

It’s not easy trying to sell your house when you’re living in it, especially with children. There’s always a mad dash before a showing to get last-minute things in order, run the vacuum, plump the pillows, pick-up after the kids, and get everyone out the door on time. That’s another reason why the more you de-clutter at the beginning of the process, the easier it will be. That way, you have a place for everything and a system that will help you save time, energy and hopefully, avoid major meltdowns. Choose a good realtor who can help schedule showings at more convenient times for you, and help out in other ways, too.

Recommended Reading: What You Need to Know about the Best Toy Storage for Kids (Part 1)

Make it Welcoming

You may want to leave a dining table or kitchen island set for meals. This is a nice way to create a welcoming mood. You can also light a fire in a fireplace, (only if someone is there; never leave a fire brewing without supervision) or use potpourri that smells like there’s an apple pie baking in the oven. If you use any type of room spray, deodorizer or scented diffuser make sure it’s a fresh, clean scent. You don’t want anything that’s overly sweet or powerful as this will send a buyer running for the door. 

Credit: Piccolo Pictures featuring Real Home Innovations
Don’t Forget the Outside

Enhancing curb appeal is another aspect to keep in mind when you’re wondering how to stage your house for sale.

If you’re in a condo complex where every unit looks the same, you may want to have a couple of planters arranged by the front door, if there’s space. Otherwise, hang an appropriately sized, seasonal wreath on the door. These are all welcoming and homey touches that will make your unit look less generic. It’s likely that the condo association takes care of things like lawn mowing and edging. So, finally something you don’t have to do!

But if you don’t live in a complex, then it’s important to do regular landscaping so that your home looks well taken care of and inviting from the outside too.

In Summary

Being organized, de-cluttering, and preparation will serve you well when it’s time to figure out how to stage your house for sale. Use your diary or a notebook to keep track of showing dates so that you always know when your home needs to be picture-perfect ready.

Are you planning to stage your home for sale soon?

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How to stage your house

Comments 18

    1. Hazel, thank you! I’ve had to do this for myself and for clients. It is a strategy, and a lot of work, that makes a big difference.

  1. Ronni- These are excellent staging strategies. I love the idea of setting the table! Before I sold my parents’ house, I hired a stager to do a walk through and give me suggestions for what to do in each room. I ended up with a detailed list that I implemented including the exact color of white to use for the walls. What I liked, and you stressed this too, was not to spend more money than needed. Decluttering and depersonalizing the spaces were key. In addition, painting certain rooms (but not all,) pulling up wall-to-wall carpeting, and refinishing some floors were on the definitely do list. I also had the realtor see the house before and after the changes. She couldn’t believe the difference and we ended up selling it for way more than the realtor had originally estimated because of the changes I made. Staging matters. I used the same stager to help one of my clients with her move. I worked on the decluttering/packing part, while the stager handled the design/reno aspect. The client sold her house for more than originally estimated by the realtor because the staging made such a difference.

    1. You are so right on every point here. I admire your agent because she didn’t over price her properties. She was smart to price them to sell and keep happy clients who would continue to refer her. When an agent overprices a property, they create so many problems all around. I’ve seen this over and over again.
      Your hard work to get your parent’s home “show worthy” made a huge difference.

    1. Lol- You see, that would not have been motivation for me. I love dogs but tend to sneeze a lot around cats.

  2. This has become an art form! I think it is worth the investment to do what you can to make your home look its best. We get used to seeing our home through a particular lens, and that isn’t always putting its best foot forward. When I sold my old home years ago, I know I had way too much clutter in it. Now my issue would be having some decor that is dated. I think a realtor can be very helpful (if you are willing to listen!) regarding what to do as well. They know their market, and often recommend all of these things!

    1. You hit it on the nail. We see our homes through a familiar and comfortable lens. So, we may not see everything that stands out as an issue to a potential buyer. Like wires all over the floor. The refrigerator covered with a 1 1/2 worth of memories.
      Listening to your agent is so key because they’re out there and they know what the buyers want and they know what sells.

  3. Great tips, Ronni! I found that repairing small projects was a big part of selling my parents’ homes quickly. People appreciated the details being done.

    A room must be decluttered because it allows the buyer to envision what their stuff will look like in the space. It is important to repair what you find was damaged because of the clutter.

    And, cleaning the electrical plates in homes makes the home appear clean. I received several positive comments about this task we did when selling my parents’ homes. Who would have thought? I sure did not. =)

    1. It sure is all in the details. When I was preparing a client’s home for sale, I had the longest list of repairs to take care of. It included everything from the backsplash that didn’t fit to patching up the holes in the walls from picture hooks.
      Making sure the home is sparkling clean leaves a great impression as well.

  4. I knew that it’s important to de-clutter and purge before staging, but I never thought about making it look and feel ‘welcoming’ as an added step to staging a home for sale. What a smart idea! Who wouldn’t want to live in a house that smells like apple pie? I like how you included ‘Recommended Reading’ resources for those who want more information on the topic–helpful ways for your reader to have an easier time staging their home for sale.

    1. Making your home feel “welcoming” is saying I want you to love this house as much as I do. The buyers have to walk in, feel at home and say to themselves, “I can live here.”
      When I was looking for a home, I knew immediately if it was for me or not. It didn’t take long to know if I felt comfortable; if it was the kind of place I wanted to call home.

  5. Good suggestions. I also suggest sellers pack up valuables like jewelry and sports memorabilia. Anything that would be easy to pocket and walk away with at an open house.

    1. You are spot on Janet. I remember my first open house, when I was selling my home. I reminded one of the agents to make sure that he kept his eyes on whomever he was showing the house to and not take his eyes off the buyers for a moment. I later noticed that medications (prescriptions) were gone. In a situation like that, you feel violated.

  6. Of course I love this post. It’s so similar to my own post this week. We are clearly on the same wavelength! I loved your points about minding the mess. Showing a home is a good way to get into the habit of noticing and attending to the little things. So often people let these things pile up and soon they are overwhelming. Staying on top of them makes housekeeping way less stressful.

    1. I remember when I sold my home, with three children in tow, it was painful to keep the house in tiptop shape at all times. It’s a stressful time but it passes and it pays off in the end.
      Now, I’m very happy living in a building where I have a superintendent and workmen who take care of everything!!

  7. Staging is awesome and your post provided many clear actionable strategies, thank you! I would caution against a reliance on potpourri or other synthetic smell givers since quite a few buyers will be sensitive to these chemicals, and the more cynical among them will wonder what other odor the seller is trying to cover up…

    1. Hi Lucy,

      Every person responds differently to scents and there are so many to choose from. I recall walking into a home and being taken by the beautiful fresh linen scent. My response was, I’d love to live here too.
      On the other hand, a friend of mine cannot be around flowers as she’ll have an allergic reaction.
      It’s just a strategy that many homeowners have found helpful.

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