How to Stage Your Home – Our Ultimate Guide

real estate agent showing buyers around home

Part of getting a good price for your home (or even selling it at all) is making sure your property looks its best. It’s a buyer’s market out there, and most buyers are looking for a property that’s ready for them to move in.

While most people have heard the term “staging”, they often don’t quite get what this really means. Some think the house is ready to sell if they put a few things in the basement and run the vacuum around. Unfortunately, it goes a lot farther than that.

The most important step is your first one: start getting some emotional distance from your home. This can be really difficult because of your personal attachment to your place and all your belongings. But if you’re going to sell it, you need to start looking at it like a property for sale. This will help you get the perspective you need to view your home through the eyes of potential buyers.

Once you’ve decided you’re ready to take a hard look at the condition of your home, here are some essential steps to go through, plus some tips on preparing your home.

Get the Big Problems Fixed

Flaws Cost You Money

You know how people ask for discounts on damaged items in the furniture store? The same kind of thinking applies to homes as well. For every dent and gouge, your potential buyer is reducing the amount they’re going to offer – if they don’t walk away from the deal entirely! This guide shows you how to make sure your home is in good shape to sell, and there are no serious problems with the important parts of the home including the surfacing, foundation, roof, and internal systems.

Once the big things are fixed and you’re sure your house will pass a home inspection, you can start thinking about staging instead of selling your home vacant.

The Goals of Staging

Staging isn’t just about making your home “look nice”. You’re trying to get buyers to picture your house as their new home.

Creating a Blank Slate

No matter what their furniture and tastes are like, you want them to start imagining how they can live in your space. If they start picturing their belongings in place of yours, they begin to get emotionally attached. But if your personal momentoes are everywhere they get distracted by these details and stop thinking about making the space their own. The first goal of staging is to demonstrate what’s possible.

Maximize Space and Flow

To accomplish this main goal, you need to maximize open space and flow from room to room. When buyers tour a house, they’re usually in a group of two or three people. If they’re bumping into things and are in each other’s way because the space is so cluttered, they can’t start dreaming about how perfect their sofa would look in the room. You can do this no matter how small your home is.

Staging Essentials

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to do effective staging, but you will need to spend some time. You may be amazed by how much a thorough tidy and cleaning can transform your home!

1. First Impressions: Curb Appeal

suburban home with curb appeal

You need to prepare your home before showing it to buyers. The last thing you want is for a buyer’s first view of your home to be a disappointment. That negative experience will taint their view of the entire home, even if the interior is spectacular.

There’s no need to hire a landscaping company to do a makeover on your yard, but you do need to do the essential upkeep done so your house doesn’t look scary:

  1. Make sure your lawn is lush (no bald spots), weed free, and mowed.
  2. Clean and reseal your deck.
  3. Shrubs should be trimmed.
  4. Any fencing should be level and in good repair.
  5. Any driveway cracks should be repaired.
  6. Patios and walkways should also be level and free of cracks and weeds.

If your lawn is in really bad shape you may need to start the rehab work a few seasons in advance, or prepare to drop the price.

For the finishing touch, add some planters outside of your front door with a seasonal arrangement.

2. Edit, Edit, Edit

If you’re like most of us you’re probably going to have to put at least half of your belongings in storage, including furniture. Remember, you want to create a blank canvas for your buyers’ imaginations, with just enough furniture to suggest what they could do with the place if it were theirs.

Store away personal items like family photos, mementoes and awards. You should have almost no tchotchkes on tables and shelves. Any artwork that you leave up on the walls should be tasteful and should make the space look more sophisticated. Most of your electronics should go into storage as well, eliminating ugly boxes and messy nests of cables.

3. Gender Neutralize

Homes should appeal to both sexes, especially bedrooms. If rooms are “too girly” men won’t like them. If you love floral patterns, ruffles, and flounces, save these items for your new home and replace bedspreads, curtains and other essentials with inexpensive neutral versions.

The same things goes for “man cave” décor. Even die hard car, music, or sports fans don’t necessarily want to see those themes dominating an entire room or an entire home.

4. A Coat of Paint Works Wonders

We mentioned this item in our guide to getting your home ready to sell, but it’s so important it’s worth repeating. A coat of paint is one of the most important selling tools you have. It’s so cheap that we consider it a “no brainer” fix.

If you haven’t painted in 2 years or more, we strongly recommend this step. Potential buyers really notice those scuff marks, hand prints, and stains even if you’ve been looking past them for years. Go for light and neutral, even if you personally prefer bolder colours. It doesn’t have to be builders’ white – a sophisticated “greige” works for almost every space.

5. Look Down: Flooring Counts

Even good quality flooring gets scratched and scuffed, and on dark woods it’s especially noticeable. Take a good look at the condition of your flooring and have it refinished if the damage is noticeable, and pay particular attention to high traffic areas. If that’s too expensive, at least go for a good cleaning so the hardwood glows.

Any wall to wall carpeting should be shampooed at the very least. If it’s in bad repair it will need to be replaced.

6. A Thorough and Professional Cleaning is a Must

No buyer wants to move into somebody else’s mess unless they’ve received a corresponding discount on the purchase price (which is, by the way, usually many times the cost of just hiring cleaning professionals).

In the minds of potential buyers, clean = peace of mind, and that means perceived higher value for your house.

Buyers will always snoop, and if they don’t like what they see you’re not getting an offer. Clean the inside of your fridge, the oven, under sinks, and in garages and basements. Have the windows washed inside and out, and ensure there’s no dirt anywhere in the window frame.

Details matter. Don’t forget:

  1. Grout should be so clean it sparkles.
  2. Remove hard water stains from taps and shower heads.
  3. Pull out stoves and fridges and ensure spaces around appliances are clean as well.
  4. Clean light fixtures – especially ceiling fixtures where bugs accumulate.
  5. Baseboards should look their best too.

7. Furniture Placement

staged living room furniture

While many of us tend to shove furniture up against the walls, professional stagers recommend centred groupings. Having just a few items of furniture that you can place in the centre of the room suggests lots of space. While people sometimes think their rooms are just too small to pull this off, often there’s a fix: use smaller pieces of furniture. It also helps make the space look larger.

In the living room, group furniture together to create a conversation area. The traffic path through the room should be very clear. This will make the room seem open and inviting at the same time.

If you have some items that are really too large for the space, store them and if possible replace them with smaller versions. Your king size bed may be fantastic to sleep in, but if it fills your entire bedroom it will just make the room look small. There are lots of places to get furniture items cheaply, including consignment stores and even rental companies. You can also borrow items from family and friends in a pinch.

8. Open the Closets – Your Buyers Will

Yes, you will be staging your closets too. Only keep the bare essentials, and make sure anything you keep is arranged neatly. It goes without saying that shelves are wiped down and any scratched hanger bars replaced.

Aim for 20 – 30% open space at least – buyers love lots of storage space and may pass on your home if “there’s no storage”.

9. Bathrooms

If you’re showing your home, the bathroom will have to be kept ruthlessly clean. Keep personal items like toothbrushes, razors, and old bathmats and bathrobes out of sight.

For showings, have a set of small guest soaps ready to go, and clean hand towels. Empty the garbage as well.

10. Tidy Kids’ Rooms

While parents know kids are messy in reality, your task with your kids’ rooms is to present an idealized version. Store all belongings except what your kids need for the near future, and make sure everything is put away daily.

11. Find a Purpose for “Junk Rooms”

In some homes, spare bedrooms or basements that ended up a junk storage or as multi-purpose rooms need clearing out and assigned a purpose. Buyers can be confused and put off by “random” rooms, so turn them into a guest bedroom, a home office, a yoga room, or a crafting room. Then remove anything that doesn’t line up with the room’s purpose. Anything that you leave in the room should be neat, clean and attractive.

12. Light and Bright

Dark and dingy won’t sell your home. Ensure there is plenty of lighting in every room, and light fixtures look reasonably new. A few extra floor or table lamps will help if it doesn’t make sense to upgrade the built-in lighting.

Turn all the lights on and open curtains for showings.

13. Have a Plan for Pets

Even animal lovers don’t want to see hair or slobbery chew toys everywhere when they tour a home. Try to have your pet boarded for open house afternoons, and keep them confined in a cage or carrier for smaller tours. Some key points:

  • Cat boxes should be kept clean and ideally covered.
  • Dogs should be kept washed and groomed to control the doggy smell. You may still need to use air freshener before showings.
  • You’ll need to do some extra quick cleanings before showings to remove the day’s hair sheddings.
  • Hide toys whenever someone’s coming to view the home.

14. Say “Welcome Home” With Flowers and Finishing Touches

kitchen with flowers

While you’ve been removing your personal items and tchotchkes to depersonalize the space, you do need to provide a few touches that are welcoming. A vase of flowers here and there and a bowl of fruit in the kitchen or dining room says “welcome home”.

On large sofas and at the foot of beds, a neatly folded blanket suggests coziness. A few brightly coloured throw pillows will add a splash of colour as well.

Selling a Dream

Throughout this whole process keep in mind that you are showcasing your house, not your personality or sense of style. You’re not going for compliments on your stuff; your goal is to sell a product that looks as new as possible and appeals to as many people as possible.

We know that staging can be hard and not everyone has an eye for what buyers want. That’s why the Paul Rushforth team has professional stagers, photographers, and a full marketing team that will help you showcase your home.

To get started with our team, ask for a free market evaluation of your home. A professional realtor will do an assessment based on the location and style of your house, and compare it to the actual selling prices of similar homes in your area. You’ll learn how much your home is worth, how it compares to the others on the market, and what you need to do to get the best possible price when you sell.

Ask Four Your Free Home Evaluation

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