National Real Estate Review Board

Staging Your Home to Sale

Minimal Effort for Maximum Value. Dress for success. A top selling Real Estate Agent knows the importance of staging. Your chosen real estate agent will be able to determine any necessary staging elements that will help you receive the highest dollar for your property. Some homes require minimal staging while others may require a bit more.

First impressions are everything in real estate. Potential buyers make their decision quickly, often in the first 30 seconds upon entering a house. What you want is for a buyer to walk into your home and say “I want to live here, I understand this house, I get it.”

Staging can be done with a hired professional or as a do it yourself project. You can spend top dollar or maximize your benefits with a limited budget. It is truly amazing the improvement that can be made with a limited budget and some TLC!

Think about buying pre-owned car. The dealer doesn’t show you a dirty, worn out used car. He has the car detailed, puts on some new tires, maybe even brings in a professional to do tuneup or put on a new paint job. When you, the buyer, go to the showroom, the dealer doesn’t highlight all the work that went into making the car look as good as it does. Rather, he shows you a road ready vehicle, one you can see yourself behind the wheel. He doesn’t ask you to imagine anything, the car speaks for itself. He has provided you with the best possible first impression of the car.

You should be doing the same with your house. Set the stage so your buyers do not have to imagine what could be, they can see what is and know they want it. Let your house tell it’s story, its far more powerful than anything a salesperson can describe. The story of a great home welcoming a new owner. Faded paint, dim lighting or old fashioned furniture tell a different story. They say this house needs work. They say I will have to put money and time into this property. Show your house in the best light. Don’t ask a buyer to imagine what the house could be, get top dollar by sharing with them what it is now. Remember that first impression is the key to selling your home fast and for top dollar.

Staging can be done with a hired professional or as a do it yourself project. You can spend top dollar or maximize your benefits with a limited budget. It is truly amazing the improvement that can be made with a limited budget and some TLC!

Do it yourself staging on a limited budget

Homeowners can do many things to stage their home at little or no cost. Don’t worry about staging every room. Do whatever you can yourself spending as little money as possible. Concentrate on the staging points that don’t require money such as cleaning, de-cluttering and rearranging furniture etc. Focus on the areas that will make the biggest difference in your home’s selling price. These might include the exterior and entryway because they are the first impression for the buyer. They will remember what it felt like entering your home for the first time. Stage the main living areas such as the family room, kitchen and master bedroom. You should also stage any room that may be confusing to a buyer. If there is an awkward room, show how it can be used. For example if there is an unusual shaped bedroom show that it will fit a bed and dresser comfortably. You can leave several rooms empty such as the basement. This can be a big saver. The most important thing to keep in mind is that buyers must be able to envision themselves living in the key rooms of your home. Your home staging efforts should be designed to appeal to the widest possible range of buyers. The more people willing to submit purchase offers for your home, the higher the selling price will be.

Hiring a professional

Talk to your real estate agent about hiring a professional stager for your home. An experienced stager will help maximize the appeal of your house to the broadest range of buyers. They will bring out the strengths of your house with the minimal investment of your time and money. Professional stagers have an arsenal of furnishings and accessories on hand ready to stage your home. The cost to the homeowner is limited because you are not buying furniture and decor, you are only “renting” these items for a short period of time. Your stager will emphasize the home’s best features, broaden the appeal of your home without putting too much money into the process.

Exterior staging

Your home’s exterior may determine a potential buyers willingness to view the interior. What do they see when they first pull up? Your lawn should be mowed and hedges neatly trimmed. Wash your windows and exterior light fixtures. Remove those pesky cobwebs from corners. Plants and flowers should be well maintained free from weeds. Cut back any overgrowth on plants and shrubs presenting a neat and tidy well kept yard. Make sure the sidewalk leading up to the house is clear and clean. Purchase new doormats and add flower pots for a welcoming touch. Create outdoor living space in the backyard on your deck or patio with outdoor furniture. If you have a pool, make sure it is sparkling clean.

Furniture staging

You want a buyer to picture themselves sitting in their new room with family and friends. Too much or too little furniture? Is the furniture the right size for the room? Do NOT clutter a room with too much furniture. Too much or too big of furniture will make a room look small. Too little or too small furniture can make a space feel cold. Arrange the furniture in a way that makes each room feel spacious and comfortable.

Defining rooms

Make sure each room has a clear purpose, tells it’s story. Can your storage room become a workout room? Lay down a mat with a few weights, barbells and exercise ball. Do you see your finished attic as an office? Put in a desk, chair and a couple pictures. Is your finished basement an entertainment room? Can you fit a small table with a chess set or game board? Do you have a junk room that can be transformed into a cute little guest bedroom? When possible, you want to show the buyer every room has a purpose and every inch of the home is usable space. Buyers are terrible at imagining what a room could be so be sure to tell them visually what each room has to offer.


Let there be light. People want to purchase a bright, cheery, happy space that consists of light. Take advantage of your home’s natural light. Open all curtains and blinds when showing your home and add supplemental lighting where necessary. Don’t forget to dust your light fixtures, clean off any grime and empty out the dead bugs. If you have a room without natural light then add flowers and things that suggest sunlight.

Remove the clutter

You will be surprised what a difference de-cluttering can make. The major problem with clutter is that it distracts buyers from your homes features and suggests their is not enough storage space. By clearing off all your counter tops in kitchens and bathrooms you make these rooms feel cleaner, bigger and brighter. Those old kitchen counter canisters can go or at least be tucked away neatly in a cabinet. Hide your salt and pepper shakers, cook books and dirty toaster oven. Old magazines? Toss them. Knick-knacks? Pack them. Toys? Put them away. Clean your closet and store the clothes your not wearing. Leaving some unused space in your closet will make it look roomy and more appealing. Spacious closets are an important feature to buyers. Do the same thing with kitchen cabinets. It may feel bare to you but will clean, open spaces be a welcoming sight for a buyer.

Clean clean clean

If you are hesitant to crawl on your kitchen floor or eat a dropped potato chip then you have some cleaning to do. Check your light switches for grimy fingerprints and your baseboards for dust. Kitchen appliances should sparkle on the outside and be spotless on the inside. Clean your stove top and inside your oven. Don’t forget to clean your microwave inside and out. Buyers check what you don’t expect. No one wants to see someone else’s crumbs, bacon grease or splattered spaghetti sauce in their potential new kitchen. Bathrooms should look like they have never been used. The corners of the tub, shower and sink should be scrubbed clean. You may need to re-calk or call in a professional to remove any mold or mildew. Consider replacing the toilet seat if it looks too worn. Your goal is to WOW a buyer by how clean your homes intimate features are, not scare them away in dismay.


This is a hard one for some homeowners. Remember you are selling a product not a reality show. You should remove all the family photos and personalized items throughout the home. Buyers need to be able to envision themselves in your home creating their own memories not looking at yours.

Remove Odors

A homes smell is another very important first impression. Do not hesitate to invest in air fresheners and deodorizers but don’t over do it. You want the most natural pleasant smell possible. Getting rid of a bad smell at the source is a must. Having your carpet and air vents cleaned is a great start. Dirty ovens, pets and mildewed bathrooms can make a home smell. Try some inexpensive tricks for ridding a home of odors by baking cinnamon-coated apples in the oven, burning vanilla-scented candles, or throwing some slice-and-bake cookies in the oven. Grind half a lemon in the garbage disposal to remove sink odors and remember to take out the trash. Go outside for 10 minutes and re-enter your home, how does it smell?


Paint is a wonderfully inexpensive way to make a house look clean and fresh. Are your rooms too colorful? Color is a personal preference and a buyer might not like the same colors you do. You may love your pink bathroom but a buyer may not share your passion. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to see their things in every space. You may want to consider painting some rooms a more neutral color. White reflects the light best and makes smaller rooms look their largest. Warm, neutral colors for larger rooms appeal to the majority of buyers. If you have dated or worn wallpaper consider replacing it with a fresh coat of paint. You don’t want the buyer to mentally red flag any rooms for work he or she will have to do later.


Hire a professional carpet cleaner to clean your carpets. This is a fairly inexpensive way to make your home feel new, clean and fresh. No one wants to live with a dirty stained carpet, especially when someone else made it that way. If some rooms cannot be cleaned because the carpet is too soiled and stained, you will want to consider making the necessary changes. New carpet or wood floors can provide a significant selling point for a buyer. They will appreciate a clean floor and be willing to pay a little extra for it.

Same goes for the kitchen and bathroom. If needed you will want to replace any flooring that may have a negative impact on a buyer. You will be able to negotiate a higher asking price with new flooring verses negotiating a lower purchase price because the flooring has to be replaced, or worse, losing a buyer all together.

Walls and Ceilings

Cracks in the walls or ceiling are most likely due to normal house settling. A buyer will want to know if any cracks are due to foundation problems. If your home does have foundation problems, you will need to either fix them or alert potential buyers to the problem. If the foundation has been deemed sound by an inspector, repair the cracks so you don’t scare off buyers for a reason that does not exist.

Last Touches

Make your house stand apart from the four or five other houses buyers will be touring today. Add flowers. Fresh flowers in the entry, dining room, even the master suite will make your house stand out. The house looks, feels, even smells fresh. Buyers will take away a sense that the house with flowers is beautiful, inviting and well cared for.

“You need to give the home a hook,” he says. “Something that makes it different in a positive way from the other houses.” Just before any open house or showing, make sure that your staging efforts go the full mile with a few last-minute touches that will make the home seem warm and inviting. Harness flower power. Lee and his wife used this technique and sold their own home in two weeks, he says. “We spent a fortune on flowers, but I really do think it helped,” he says. Their favorite — wild flowers. “It gave the home a nice, softer feel,” says Lee. Set your house apart. Phipps recalls one real estate study in which potential buyers were shown many different houses in similar neighborhoods, all with similar features and amenities. The one that stood out? A home that had yellow roses on the dining room table. People not only remembered the detail, but they rated the home higher as a result, says Phipps.

Bottom Line

Even if you have plenty of cash, don’t put too much money into the staging process. You want to emphasize the home’s best features, but keep in mind that what sells the home and what will make the home usable for the buyer are not necessarily the same thing. Overall, to get the most bang for your buck, your home staging efforts should be designed to appeal to the widest possible range of buyers. The more people willing to submit purchase offers for your home, the higher the selling price will be.

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