Sell you home quickly and for more money by following these house staging tips from a former pro home stager.
I was so gung ho about kicking off this new blog series about the home selling process. Then, immediately after I hit “publish” on the first post (the one about completing all of those pre-market cosmetic improvements), everything in the world went haywire with the pandemic.
Given the context, I decided to pivot during the last few weeks and focus instead on content that could be helpful to y’all while we started to deal with our new normal (e.g., tips for working at home, some new meal planning printables, round ups of organizing projects and DIY home improvement projects you can tackle while sheltering in place.
Phew! Now that the shock of this major life event is behind us, and we’ve settled into our new routines, I’m excited to pick up where we left off on the home selling blog series.
In the first post, we covered Phase 1 of the home sale prep process, which includes:
- cosmetic improvements (e.g., painting)
- fixing items in need of repair
- completing unfinished projects
- deep cleaning
- low-cost/high ROI home upgrades
IMHO, Phase 2 — house staging — is so much more fun!
So What is House Staging Anyways?
Have you ever toured a model home?
Staging makes your house look and feel like a model home. It’s the process of simplifying, rearranging furniture, adding decorative elements, and depersonalizing a home to maximize its appeal to buyers.
The whole point of staging your house is to make it easy for prospective home buyers to envision themselves living in your home. To be successful, there are a few things you need to understand about what characteristics of a house are universally appealing to homebuyers.
What Do Home Buyers Want?
The vast majority of home buyers aren’t interested in a fixer upper. They want a house that’s turn-key, where the previous owner has already done all of the heavy lifting for them.
Beyond this basic requirement, there are additional home features that buyers LOVE. The greater the number of these features in a home, the quicker that home will sell.
Homes that make it to the top of the Showings List have these features:
- prime location
- a layout that functions well
- rooms that are spacious & uncluttered
- ample storage space
- light and airy
- neutral, on-trend color scheme
- meticulously clean
While there’s not a lot you can do to tweak your location or your home’s layout, you do have a great deal of control when it comes to making sure that your home shows well.
Let’s use my house staging process as an example of how you can prepare to wow home buyers when your home hits the real estate market.
My Best House Staging Tips
Declutter to Sell
SO much of the home staging process involves deleting items from your home. Be sure to allow lots of time (i.e., several months) for decluttering prior to putting your house on the market.
The awesome thing about decluttering before you list is that it makes the moving process a heck of a lot easier. You’re either getting rid of things so you won’t have to move them, OR you’re packing things early (which means less to pack when the moving process kicks into high gear).
1. General Decluttering
We began the decluttering process when we first starting entertaining the idea of a move. Since we knew we’d be DIYing our local move, the last thing we wanted to do was to move clutter from the old house to the new house. The first areas we tackled were the basement storage area and the garage.
Hauling a van load of old grad school text books and notebooks from basement storage off to be recycled
We had the luxury of moving a lot of our belongings to our new home (we owned both houses for 3 months) prior to listing our house for sale. I lovingly called our new home the most expensive storage unit in America during those three months!
2. Closet Decluttering
Make no mistake about it — buyers will be paying close attention to your closets. They want to make sure that your house has adequate storage space for their needs. So it’s absolutely crucial to ruthlessly declutter the contents of all of your closets to make them look as spacious as possible.
Purge unwanted items from your:
- bedrooms closets
- coat closets
- hall closets
- linen closets
My home staging rule of thumb when it comes to closets — they should be no more than 50% full.
Remove your out-of-season clothes and coats and pack up them now (you’ll need to pack them soon anyway). We moved our decluttered items to our new home before we put our house on the market. But you could store your stuff at a friend’s or relative’s home or even in a self-storage unit.
3. Items That Are Not Part of the Sale
Once we made the decision to move and set a date to start selling our house, we made a plan to remove items that we wanted to take with us to the new home. If those items were not removed before the house went on the market, it could potentially pose a problem, since buyers would likely expect those items to be included in the sale.
These items included:
- a light fixture in the homework/craft room
- Elfa shelving and desks from the homework/craft room
- ceiling-mounted storage racks from the garage.
Here’s what the craft room looked like at the time of the listing with items removed:
4. Large, Bulky Furniture
Remember how home buyers are looking for large and spacious rooms?
One way to make rooms appear more spacious is to remove large, bulky pieces of furniture. For example, we removed my husband’s humongous L-shaped desk from his home office and replaced it with one of the tables from our craft room.
This simple furniture swap opened up this space and made it feel significantly larger.
5. Flat Surfaces
You’ll notice a theme when you view the photos of our staged home throughout this post — uncluttered flat surfaces. In keeping with the idea that buyers love homes that have a spacious feel, keeping those surfaces free from clutter creates more visual space, which equals more happy buyers.
Simply put — your house will show better without knick knacks. Declutter those countertops, night stands, tabletops, desk tops and shelves.
BONUS: no knick knacks makes cleaning a whole lot easier!
Grab your Declutter Tool Kit here to help you crush your pre-sale decluttering!
Organize to Sell
When buyers make the decision to purchase a house, they are also purchasing a lifestyle.
Popular brands like Martha Stewart Living and The Home Edit make it clear that an organized lifestyle is something that we all aspire to. If home buyers are greeted by color-coded wardrobes and pantries organized by food categories, your home will score instant points.
Plus, if you’ve gone to these lengths to maintain your pantry categories, surely you’ve maintained other aspects of this home just as well, right? That’s the subconscious message that a meticulously organized home conveys to your potential buyer.
Need help with this part of the home sale prep process? See this post on how to organize any space in your home.
Neutralize & Depersonalize
Remember when I said the whole point of home staging is to make it easy for the buyer to envision themselves living in the house? They really can’t do that easily if they’re surrounded by your personal items and taste-specific decor.
Buyers oftentimes lack the ability to see beyond what’s right in front of them. Believe it or not, home sales have been lost because a buyer can’t look past a crazy wall color.
We already covered the task of pre-sale painting to cover up wear and tear on your walls. Another great reason to paint is if you have a really strong wall color in your home. Make every effort to “neutralize” it with a buyer-friendly color.
For example, our kids’ bathroom was transformed from a bright green color to this more soothing neutral color before our home went on the market:
While I don’t believe it’s necessary to move all traces of you family from the home, it’s a good idea to pack away the majority of family photos, memorabilia and personal knick knacks. I swapped out a family portrait on this wall of my home office for this neutral winter art print:
Get more winter home selling tips here.
But the spaces that needed the most attention when it came to depersonalization in my house were the kids’ bedrooms.
Take a peek at what my son’s room looked like prior to our pre-listing preparation blitz. And here’s what it looked like after we packed away five boxes of his stuff (including a bazillion swim medals and ribbons):
We rinsed and repeated the same process for my daughter’s room. Here’s what hers looked like after packing away seven boxes of personal items and replaced her bright and bold duvet cover with a more subdued one:
Lighten and Brighten
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Buyers love natural light. You can maximize the natural light that enters your home by:
- cleaning your windows (seriously, you wouldn’t believe how much this helps)
- removing heavy drapery/window treatments that block light
- opening all blinds
The abundance of natural light in our 2-story great room was definitely a big selling feature:
After you take steps to maximize natural light, turn your attention to artificial lighting and make sure all of your lightbulbs are in working order. You’ll likely have house showings during the evening hours. During these times, you’ll want to turn on all the lights in every room.
Buyers want to be able to clearly see every detail of your home, and dim lighting makes that hard. I love these Color Choice LED bulbs that allow you to choose between light color choices (my favorite is the cool white option).
Define Each Space
While house hunting in our soon-to-be new town, we toured several homes that were really beautiful, but had a fatal flaw…a weird space with an unclear function. A vital part of house staging is to clearly define how each space in your home can be used.
In our home, potential buyers are greeted by this lovely space as soon as they enter through the front door. It just so happens that I use this flex space as my home office so it already had a clear identity. But had we left it unfurnished, buyers might be confused as to how they’d use this space.
Be sure to give each space a clear purpose in your home to make it easy for buyers to see value in that space.
Accessorize to Sell
I know I sound like I’m contradicting myself a bit, since earlier I recommended nixing the knick knacks, but there is a definitely time and a place for strategic use of neutral home decor and accessories when staging your home.
1. Highlight Selling Features
Another key house staging tip is to highlight your home’s main selling features so that buyers don’t miss them as they tour each room.
One major feature of our home that I didn’t want buyers to look past was this gorgeous wall of built-in shelving. I used winter accessories that “popped” against the blue background color in order to draw the eye to the shelving (since we were selling our house in winter).
2. Incorporate Live Plants & Fresh Flowers
There’s no denying that live plants and fresh flowers bring life to a space and make your home feel more inviting. In addition to the regular houseplants, I accessorized many of the rooms with live plants and flowers while our home was on the market.
A grouping of mini lemon cypress bushes was used as a simple centerpiece on the dining room table:
I picked up this flowering plant at the local grocery store for around $10 and used it as a simple centerpiece on the kitchen table:
A vase full of blooms from Trader Joes can go a long way in making your home feel special.
3. Create Emotional Connection Points
Use home accessories in a strategic way to help home buyers to imagine themselves living in your home. In the home staging biz, we refer to this technique as creating emotional connection points.
Got a butler’s pantry like this one? Stage an “entertaining vignette” with wine glasses and bottles.
Some other easy ways to create these emotional connection points in your home include:
- creating a coffee and tea bar in your kitchen
- setting up a reading nook in the family room
- evoking a spa-like atmosphere in the master bath (think white towels, candles, and bath salts)
3. Accessorize Your Exterior Too
When it comes to accessories, don’t neglect your exterior. It was always such a turn off to me when we’d arrive at a showing only to be greeted by a bare front door area. Womp womp.
Even in the dead of winter, you should harness the power of porch pots and greenery to add color and interest.
And don’t forget a wreath!
Wow. I didn’t realize I had this many house staging tips to share — over 2000 words, yikes!
Hopefully, it’s worth the time it took you to read this crazy long post. Put these tips into action and you’ll be staged to sell my friend.
Do me a favor…once you sell your house, circle back to this post and leave a comment to let us know how quickly you sold and which home staging tips were most helpful. Good luck!
Do you have any staging tips of your own? Or have you seen some great staging ideas from visiting house showings? I’d love to hear them.