Let’s get this out of the way right upfront: staging your home for sale helps it sell faster and for more money. The National Association of Realtors found that 46% of agents agreed staging a home increases its value by at least 1% to 5%. Staging will also decrease the amount of time the home is on the market, according to 53% of agents.
Trust us, you want to put the work in and stage your home.
You don’t even have to be a professional decorator to stage your home and make an impact on potential buyers. You can make some simple changes, work with the furniture you have available, and create a clean and inviting house that shows well.
To help you out, we’ve scoured the internet, talked to a few top real estate agents and professional stagers who do this every single day and boiled everything we learned down to 9 essential home staging ideas that are both easy to do and proven to bring in that cash money.
1. Clean your home inside and out before you stage it
The outside of your home is the first thing potential buyers will see. Unfortunately, people do judge a book by its cover, and you want to get them to read more. If the outside of your home looks shabby, odds are your buyers will think the inside is shabby too. And top agents with HomeLight agree: 76% of surveyed agents say improving curb appeal is the most beneficial project you can do to improve your home’s marketability.
To quickly boost the curb appeal of your home, do these things:
- Power-wash your siding (for $79 at Home Depot, a power washer is a steal!)
- Clear the gutters
- Manicure your lawn
- Wash the windows
- Replace your house numbers so they can identify your home right away.
The goal is to make it as easy as possible for your potential buyers to love your house at first sight.
After you’ve tackled the outside of the house, go and apply the same care and attention to the inside of your home. Nothing will turn a buyer off more than walking into a house with animal hair floating around on the floor, smelly week-old garbage in the kitchen, and hair in the shower drain.
Here’s what we suggest you do to clean the inside of your house:
Hire a cleaning company to do a deep clean to make sure that all of forgotten places are accounted for including the grout, moldings, and the hard-to-reach crevices between appliances. 2019 HomeLight data shows that 91% of agents recommend deep cleaning a home before selling because it is the first step to a positive impression.
Need help finding a good cleaning company in your area? Try one of these sites:
Molly Maid is a national cleaning service you can trust. They clean everything from offices to personal homes and the website offers a plethora of information so you know what to expect from their service before, during and after they clean. They even provide you with a customized cleaning plan based on your space.
Angie’s List is one of the ol’ standbys for finding quality services in your area. The most appealing thing about this website is that it tailors your search for cleaning services to your specifications like urgency, size of home, budget, and location. Angie’s list is a great site to use wherever you are in the U.S. to find the best quality cleaners in your area.
Yelp is a great tool to find out what the customer has to say about the cleaning services in your area. A cleaning service may have great branding and look great from the outside, but only customer testimonials will tell you what actually went down when the cleaning company did their job.
Thumbtack is a bit like the Airbnb but for finding service pros. Like Angie’s list, Thumbtack asks for the size of your home, the dates you need your house cleaned, and your location, but then provides you with a list of quotes for cleaning services based on your criteria. The site even lets you know how many times the person and/or service has been hired so you know if they’re reputable.
2. Declutter, depersonalize, and cut down some furniture to stage your home
“Less is more” is a great Charmin Ultra jingle. It’s also the mantra used for successful home staging. This is a golden rule of home staging. Read through almost any home staging post on the web and you’ll find that real estate agents and professional stagers recommend decluttering and depersonalizing a home. In fact, top agents with HomeLight estimate decluttering can result in an average 432% ROI.
When potential buyers come into your home, they want to feel like they have counter space, storage space, and square footage to work with.
Basically, they want to see a home with potential for their lives and their needs.
If they see lots of knick-knacks on the mantle, a crowded medicine cabinet with every perfume you own, or a wall covered in family portraits, they will envision your life in your house, not their life in their’s.
So, here’s what you need to do:
- Clear out the clutter,
- Take down your personal photos, and
- Remove an accent chair or two to allow the buyer to see the space your home has to offer.
3. Stage your home to show off your closets and storage
People have a lot of stuff—sometimes hoarder-level amounts of stuff, but when you’re staging a home that’s not a good thing. When buyers are interested in a home, one of the top features they look for is storage space. According to a 2018 study from the National Association of Home Builders, 45% of first-time homebuyers considered master walk-in closets as not just a plus, but essential in their new house. The more things you have in your closets, the less likely it will appear that you have storage space for the potential buyer to work with.
You can show off the amount of closet and storage space you have in your home by doing the following:
- Taking most of your linens out of the linen and towel closets.
- Remove all of your clothing from your bedroom closet and do a deep clean.
- Purge clothing to create breathing room in your closet. Hanging clothes should have a good 1/2 inch (at least) between hangers, and folded items should not be stacked more than 3 high. If you choose to keep what you’ve purged, store it at a friend’s house, or put it all in a low-cost storage facility.
- Replace clear clothing bins with opaque or solid-colored ones to make the closet look more streamlined. You want to see what your clothing and accessories look like, but potential buyers do not. We recommend these country style woven bins.
- Put away all of the miscellany. Take out your belts, odd pieces of jewellery, suspenders, etc. and put them away in drawers. If you do not have enough room in your chest of drawers, try this easy-to-use closet organizer.
- Let the light in.You want the potential buyer to see all that your closet has to offer. So, change faulty light bulbs and replace ugly or damaged fixtures.
4. Balance the ‘clean’ and ‘lived-in’ look with everyday items
Image 3: Sterile, “cold” kitchen
Image 4: Warm, inviting, “lived in” kitchen
We’ve just talked a lot about the magic of cleaning up, decluttering and editing your home. But there comes a point when a house can look too sterile and barren. Potential buyers will find it difficult to visualize where to put their own furniture and personal things if the house is empty. In fact, only 5% of 2019 buyers reported that staging the living room (the most common room to stage) was not important during the home search. 47% of buyers, on the other hand, felt it was ‘very important’ to stage the living room.
We don’t want your home to look like a doctor’s office, we want it to look like a home that’s “homey” and lived in. So, still hire that cleaning company to make everything spotless, but leave a few organized, everyday home items.
We recommend home items like:
Nothing says “home” like cookies, especially if they’re kept fresh in a cookie jar.
We recommend a nice, aromatic lavender bar soap for your bathroom sink counter. The soap is mild in fragrance and the purple color of the soap will give a nice accent “pop” to your bathroom.
This item could be a conversation starter about the location of your home, and it’s close proximity to a local farmer’s market. Fill your organizer with fresh produce, and it will bring a pop of color to your kitchen.
This simple item will allow potential views to envision the joy of cooking that takes place in your kitchen. Try this one to organize your spices and herbs.
5. Choose a neutral paint color when staging your home
This is less of a home staging idea then it is a home staging rule. Put a fresh coat of paint on your walls, but not just any old paint or color. The wrong color on your walls can give off bad vibes. Potential buyers do not want to come into a house that is painted an alarming red or an uncommon blue. They want the color of the walls in their home to be neutral and easy to match when they decorate.
To narrow down your options, here are a few of the most popular paint colors for selling your home, according to real estate agents:
- Agreeable Gray by Sherwin-Williams
- Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore
- Accessible Beige by Sherwin-Williams
- Repose Gray by Sherwin-Williams
- Kilim Beige by Sherwin-Williams
- Off White by Behr
6. Stage your home accessories for pops of color
Almost all home staging posts on the internet will tell you to paint your walls a neutral color. The next thing they will tell you is that once you’ve painted your walls, you’ve got to subtly brighten the place up a bit. Think of your new neutral walls as the first background layer on a canvas. The neutral environment you’ve provided for the potential buyer gives them the ability to visualize their dream home, but adding a splash of bright color wows them.
Accent colors have a positive effect on our emotions. Small, bright amounts of color keep people engaged, enthusiastic, and happy — everything you want in a potential buyer. Use small home accessories like pillows and pottery to serve as a contrast to your neutral wall color. Contrasting colors like reds, greens, and blues work well with a neutral backdrop.
Here are some of the colorful items you’ll want to pick up:
- Throw pillows
- Area rugs
- Green plants like ferns and ficuses
- Colorful flowers in vibrant vases
- Bowls of fruit
7. Stage your home by letting in natural light
You want to make sure that all of the work you put into cleaning, editing and rearranging is fully noticeable. You want to make the rooms in your house feel spacious and breathable, and this will not happen if your buyers walk into a poorly lit room. When you’re staging your home, make sure to let natural light in to allow your potential buyers to feel good emotionally, and make the space feel larger.
Natural light is a tangible, feel-good elixir. The light your house gets from the sun makes any room brighter, more spacious, and makes the potential buyer happier—literally. Natural light has been proven to increase serotonin levels in the brain, so allowing that sunshine in will make your buyers happy campers.
The image on the left shows that blinds seriously hinder the amount of light coming into your home. They also look bulky and cumbersome on the window itself–yuck! The image on the right shows the same bathroom with upgrades and bare windows. You can see how much natural, diffused light bare windows let in. What a difference!
So, how can you let the light in? You can start by uncovering your windows. Refrain from using thick, dark drapes or cumbersome blinds. Instead, highlight large windows and windows with views as focal points by installing see-through curtains or taking the curtains off the windows completely.
If you have a large window, center furniture around it so that it becomes the conversation piece, or point of interest. If your house does not have many windows, or the windows are small, hang a mirror directly across from your largest window. This will allow for the light to reflect off of the mirror giving the illusion that the room is brighter and more open than it is.
8. Use focal points to draw attention to the unique aspects of your home
Wanna know how home decorators make a fireplace look dramatic? The answer is focal points. A focal point is a piece of furniture, a part of the house, or a painting that catches your attention when you first walk into a room. It’s the thing you can’t take your eye off of or the reason the room is used in the first place (i.e. a television in the den, a fireplace in the living room, a window with a great view, etc.). Focal points are important because they allow you to show off the most attractive and unique aspects of your home. A focal point tells the buyer where to look. This way, they don’t have to ask or go looking for them.
Once you’ve identified your focal points in each room, place your furniture symmetrically around the area to draw your potential buyers attention. For example, if your focal point is a fireplace, place your couch directly in front of it and have chairs on its flanks pointing at fire as well. This brings your buyers attention to the fireplace and signals to them that this house is special because of its fireplace area. Emphasizing focal points draws attention to the best parts of your home, and draws attention away from other parts of your home you may not want buyers to notice.
9. Stage a master bedroom in your home thats appealing to everyone
Try to avoid floral patterned bedspreads like the one above. The design is not gender neutral, and frankly a bit outdated.
Below, this bedroom is perfectly staged. Notice the crisp, white bedspread and the matching wall. This definitely screams gender neutral.
A master bedroom is one of the “make or break” rooms in a house. The National Association of Realtors found that 83% of buyers consider the master bedroom an important room to have staged. Next to the living room, the bedroom is one of most used rooms for rest and relaxation. So, you want to make it as welcoming and gender neutral as possible to appeal to all potential buyers.
To make the master bedroom as gender neutral, try this:
- Strip the bed sheets and duvets that are in any way more feminine or masculine in nature (black, floral, pink, dark blue, pleated, etc.).
- Replace the bedspread with a neutral beige or white duvet and matching sheets, blankets, and throw pillows. Ikea is a great resource for economical, neutral bed accessories.
- Apply a fresh coat of neutral colored paint to the walls, and remove any furniture that is not your bed and bedside tables/lamps to make the room look more spacious.
You know the BEST home staging ideas, now what?
Staging a home is not about complicated feng shui, or spending thousands of dollars on new hardwood flooring. It’s about making common sense decisions based on the type of home and furniture that you have. Now that you have the best home staging ideas to work with, go out there and stage! Begin thinking about the best marketing strategy for your home, and prepare mentally for the selling process.
To plan effectively, you’ll want to:
- Do research about your neighborhood and the market you’re selling in. Once you know what kind of buyer you are catering to, you can refurbish your home accordingly.
- Get a professional inspection, especially if your house has not been updated within the last 5 to 10 years. Confer with your real estate agent about the best (and most affordable) home inspectors in your area.
- Adopt the notion that your house is no longer your home. It’s a commodity, and you need to be able to detach yourself from it and be open to change. Begin to think of yourself as the home seller, not the homeowner.
If you’re still skeptical about staging your home, put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. Wouldn’t you want to be able to envision what your life could look like in your potential new home? Why would you want to try and imagine what your home would look like when the sellers could just show you?
83% of buyer’s agents said that home staging made it a lot easier for their buyer to visualize the property as their future home. Not only that, 44% of buyers were so happy with the aesthetics home staging provided them that they were willing to offer more money for the home (at least 1% to 5% above asking price). When you stage a home, you’re not just helping the buyers, you’re helping yourself.
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