I’m kind of a freak when it comes to staging a home to sell. In fact, staging the home to sell is on my mind as soon as we buy the house and we know that we don’t plan to spend a long time there before we sell. If we paint, I only choose colors that will appeal to many people so that I don’t have to repaint before we sell. We’ve always done small upgrades here and there to make the home more desirable when we do sell, like a tile back splash in the kitchen, tile in the bathrooms, crown molding, wainscoting, etc. A lot of those projects don’t cost much and greatly add to the appeal of your home.
If you are getting ready to sell a house or have one listed that’s not selling, I’m going to give you some advice. Our last home that we sold last year, our realtor asked if I staged homes for a living and if I’d ever want to help her stage some homes….so there are my credentials, ha ha, take it or leave it. Seriously though, from a buyer’s perspective as well, I can’t tell you how important it is to try to follow most of these rules. We’ve never been able to buy a house that was NOT empty because we could never get past all of the people’s stuff in the home. It made it very difficult to imagine it as our home when we’d go in these houses and see all their pictures and toothbrushes everywhere. In fact, that is why we are going through the headache of building a house because we went through lots of homes and couldn’t get excited about any of them. If you want to sell your house faster and for more money and you don’t live in the most sought after neighborhood in the area; then your home needs to look like a show home to your buyers – well at least more of a show home than the other houses they are touring.
So here it goes, Brenda’s Rules of Staging a Home:
Rule Number 1: Declutter your house
The first thing I do when we decide to sell our house is start decluttering. I go through every room and closet and start packing up tons of stuff. For closets, I take out everything that is more storage than used. I leave only enough towels, sheets and blankets so that there is enough to have one in the wash and one being used per person. Not only does this leave your closets looking bigger but it cuts down on laundry which you really have to keep on top of when selling a house.
If it’s summer we pack up all the winter clothes and vice versa. We pack up a lot of the kids toys and only leave out the most used and only if I have a place for them to be put away during showings.
In the kitchen, I pack up all the dishes/small appliances that don’t get used very often and the stuff that we have a lot of and don’t need. My goal is to only have left 2 loads for the dishwasher, one clean to use and one being washed. Sometimes, to reduce the stress of keeping a house clean, we’d use paper and plastic products and just eliminate a lot of dishes that have to be cleaned.
We’ve always rented a storage unit to put all of this extra stuff. This may sound extreme but it’s important and it greatly helps you when it comes to Rule #4, cleaning. It’s so much easier to keep your house clean when you have less stuff and believe me if a buyer comes in and sees that you are having trouble fitting in the space, they are going see themselves as having the same problem.
Don’t forget to clear off those counters as well. The people coming through your home are definitely going to be looking at how much counter space you have and that can be a huge negative if you make it look like a problem by leaving all your small appliances out.
Rule Number 2: Paint
Yes, painting takes a some time but this is one of the TOP things you can do to make your home sell faster and it’s the best bang for your buck, so to speak. It’s really hard to see past some people’s choice in paint color when decided on what home to buy and you want as few negatives adding up to tip the scale away from your favor.
There is nothing that you can do to make a tired and dated home look and even smell newer than giving it a fresh coat of paint. That includes touching up all your trim paint, too. I notice scuffed up moulding in homes, so if you can’t clean it, paint it.
Oh and if you have dated wallpaper, I’m really, really sorry to tell you, but you need to get it out of there or your buyer will definitely take that off the sales price for having to do it themselves. That is, if they can even see past it to put an offer on the house.
And remember to use lighter colors, please. That dark navy blue is just going to suck out all the light from the room and make it feel like a small, dark cave.
Rule Number 3: Remove personal items and decor
I can’t emphasize this rule enough. You have to remove all your personal items and decor. You don’t want to leave up photos of your family and diplomas hanging on the wall. This is always a huge distraction for buyers looking at pictures and diplomas and talking about the homeowner instead of instead of seeing them self in the space. Besides, do you really want a bunch of strangers looking at pictures of your kids and going through your stuff??
But don’t start panicking that you are going to have to take a bunch of pictures down and start filling holes and touch-up painting. There is a simple solution. Go on the internet and find some nice landscape pictures or flowers or something that would make some neutral art (in colors that will match your room) and send it to the photo place in the size you need for your frame. Then you just put that picture in the frame, leaving your family photo behind it so you don’t lose it and hang it back on the wall. Easy Peasy, as my son likes to say.
Also, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not leave your personal grooming products out – on your counter and even in your shower. Do I even need to explain why?? If you don’t know why, then read Rule # 4.
What do you see in this room? The nice expansive foyer?? No, I’m guessing you’re probably saying “Geez, that is a big flower pot.” When trying to decide what stays and what goes, error on the side of taking too much out because you want your rooms to feel spacious not crowded.
Don’t cover up your assets with your own personal decor style:
This is a room begging be staged. It’s such a cute and charming house. I see some really beautiful architectural details but the utility rug, dated table, huge picture, and cluttered shelves take away from it all. You can see that if they removed everything but the couch, chest and pillows there would be a cute and charming room underneath with amazing molding, cool light, and much sought after antique wood floors.
Rule Number 4: Clean
I thought Rule #4 was a given, but apparently it’s not. I still remember when we went house hunting 6 or so years ago and the exact house we went in and I opened the door to the shower and it looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in MONTHS. It just grosses me out to see any indications of other people’s germs when I’m trying to picture myself there. You might not have the money to completely remodel your home and that’s okay, but you can have a perfectly clean house. I’m talking cabinets, baseboards, lights, cobwebs, all the little corners and edges of a room, bathtubs, toilets, sinks….everything needs to be clean. When we had a showing we would even vacuum our way out the door so we didn’t have footprints in the carpet. Why the obsession? Well, we had replaced the carpet for $5000 and we wanted to make sure people saw it as new and not used. Can you imagine if we had left the carpet dirty with footprints everywhere? That would have been $5000 less down the toilet.
Rule Number 5: Neat
Make your home neat. This goes a little beyond cleaning. Why go to all the trouble to get your house cleaned for a showing and not straighten blankets on the bed , pictures on the wall or pillows on the couch? It’s so easy to do.
The eye is drawn to that sloppy bed which means it taking it away from those nice hardwood floors. Don’t distract the buyer with sloppy.
In fact, unless you are selling your house a deep discount as a fixer upper, don’t even put your house on the market if you haven’t Decluttered, Removed Personal items and Decor, Cleaned, and made it Neat for showings. This is the bare minimum you have to do. It really will end up costing you more money the longer it sits on the market….and do I even need to mention the stress it causes by not being able to move on with your life?
Take a look at these perfectly made beds. These beds make me feel like I’m in a luxury hotel and not being reminded that someone sleeps there:
Let the light in! Unless you are trying to cover up an ugly view open up all those curtains and blinds for showings. Light is your friend when selling a house. If you don’t have a lot of natural light in a room or you are showing your house at night you need to add lots of lamps and turn them all on for a showing. Even during the day we had every single light on in our house for showings.
See even with lots of natural light, they still turn on the lights.
I’d also highly recommend replacing or painting old, dated light fixtures. We had an ugly brass chandelier and I took it down, spray painted it and put a large shade over it and it made it look brand new with character. If you keep checking the clearance at your big hardware stores, you can get some great deals on light fixtures. I was so happy the day I found 2 really nice outdoor lanterns for $10 each on clearance. They were originally $60 or $70 each.
It’s amazing how a light fixture with some character can freshen up a space. Take a look at these spaces and how a new light can add so much character to the space even though some of the other elements in the room need to be updated:
Rule Number 7: Don’t leave indications of past problems
If you’d had leaks or problems with your chimney, get it fixed and then erase any indication that you had a problem. If buyers think there is a problem that will be reflected in the price they offer or scare them away entirely.
Rule Number 8: Do add in neutral decor
Do add in some neutral decor. You want to add just enough things on the wall to make it feel homey but not too much that it feels cluttered.
This room has all the elements to look like a nice dining room, but all the empty walls make it look uninviting.
I’ve always had a hard time figuring out what to hang on the walls. Here are some ideas:
These little canvases would be easy to make. Just go to your craft store and get some canvases, Mod Podge and pick some cool-patterned scrapbook paper and matching paint. Paint the edges of the canvas, glue on the paper with the modge podge and then go over the top with the mod podge and let dry.
If you go to a big decor store, like Hobby Lobby, you will be able to find TONS of inexpensive decor. These metal wall hangings are great neutral decor to add to your walls.
This one has to be my favorite. The empty picture frame. Find a cool old picture frame at a yard store or second hand shop and spray paint it a color to match your room.
You could also group a few smaller mirrors, sometimes that is cheaper than buying one huge mirror.
Also keep in mind when staging your home. don’t use tired, old bedspreads on your beds. This will make the whole room look old. If you can’t afford a new comforter, you can find a blanket, sheet or even just sew together some fabric to throw over your bed. Just make sure the fabric has a nice pattern like the one pictured above, it adds so much to the room.
Oh, this section could get long….maybe this is whole other article but here are some things to think about…
- Set the table with a runner or place mats and napkins to add some colors. I always got the fabric I liked and made them. If you don’t sew you can use the No-Sew seams to iron the seams. This is really the best way to get some color in your dining room and if you make your own, you’ll have a lot more options in fabric choices. (I personally would NOT use a table cloth unless you are covering up an ugly table. Most of the time, table clothes look old-fashioned and that isn’t the look we are going for.) Also add a nice vase or candles in the middle of your table.
- In your bathrooms, add lots of towels, make your bathroom look like a luxurious hotel bathroom ready for its guests.
Here is a great example how to make a bathroom look luxurious.
- Add color and freshness to your living room with nice pillows on your couch.
- If you have really old couches or ones with crazy patterns, a slip cover will change the way the whole room looks.
- Keep your mantel decor simple and elegant.
Rule Number 9: Stage all the square footage in your home
Don’t forget to stage all the square footage in your home. When we first put our home on the market, I was debating on whether to do more to our basement room (I was tired). It was freshly painted with new carpet but my husband had his desk down there and it couldn’t be taken out. One of our comments from a showing was that the basement was kind of dreary and I knew I had made a mistake. We were asking more for our house than other comparable houses because we had that extra square footage but buyers weren’t seeing it as adding value.
I changed that immediately by moving the desk so it wasn’t the first thing that was seen as they came down the stairs…you know first impressions. I bought a lot of lamps and a table to put them on and added some sparkly candle holders and vases. I added some pictures to the walls. I also added a basket in front of the fireplace with a blanket rolled up in it. I didn’t want to spend tons of money so I focused on what would be their first impression. It really transformed the space.
This laundry room is a great example of staging all your spaces.
Okay, so you might be saying to yourself some of these things I’ve listed aren’t that big of deal, but imagine there is a scale in the buyer’s head as they walk through your house. Lots of small negatives can start out weighing your positives and leave them with a bad feeling. Most buyers do look at layout and room sizes, etc but when it comes to choosing between several houses that would fit, they are going to go with the house that “feels” nice and that is why staging is so important.
Whew, I’m done, I think….
Just as a side note, I looked through TONS of listings and pictures to find some good pictures and examples to write this article and I have to mention my FAVORITE house as far as staging goes. I found this house for sale on Comfree. I had to look through the pictures several times because I was so impressed. I’ve never had the budget to go this crazy but it gives me lots of good ideas. I’ve already showed you some of the pictures above but here they are:
Here’s the listing in Port Stanley, Canada.