At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.
An office hardly evokes the prestige of a chef’s kitchen or tranquil master oasis. In fact only 9% of top agents say the office is the most important space in the house to stage when selling your home. However, fail to tidy up your office or leave it as an ambiguous bonus room, and you’ll miss an enormous opportunity.
“With so many people working from home these days, it’s advisable to stage one bedroom as an office,” says Brett Jennings, a top-selling agent in San Jose, CA. According to a study from Flexjobs and Global WorkPlace Analytics, 53% of the U.S. workforce have careers that are compatible with telecommuting, and that number has increased by 140% since 2005.
Whether your office is currently a catch-all for papers, supplies, notebooks, random cords, and junk (because, whose isn’t?) or you’re restaging the kids’ bedroom from scratch, follow this home office staging advice to create a room that inspires productivity and function, not work stress and tax season.
Sort and file any important loose desk paperwork. Toss the rest.
In your typical home office, you’d walk in to see a desk covered in paperwork. But your goal is not to remind buyers of reality. You want to inspire them to imagine a dream world. You need to give them proof that, if only equipped with an amazing home office, they too could be organized! To take back control over this space (the mounting piles of mail, endless documents, and recurring bills would have you think they’ve got all the power), you need two things: a great filing system, and a place to put your files.
Let’s start with the first. How can you decide what to keep and what to toss? While the final call is up to you, follow these general rules for wrangling your office paperwork.
Pick your filing categories.
Home Storage Solutions 101, a blog that’s featured innovative organization tips and ideas since 2011 and has over 100,000 Facebook followers, has a great list of categories for your home filing system (visit the post for more details):
- Medical files
- Home maintenance files
- Real estate documents
- Insurance policies
- Car documents
- Credit card documents
- Investment records
- Vital records
- Personal home inventory
- Tax documents
- Monthly bills and receipts
- Warranties and manuals
Sort according to these buckets and imagine how much easier it’ll be to find that faucet warranty the next time your plumber says you need a new one!
Toss what you don’t need.
Tempted to keep every document, forever? See, there’s your problem. Follow these general document storage rules from Bank of America instead:
- Bank and credit card statements/pay stubs (Store 1 year)
- Utility bills, deposits, and withdrawal records (Store 1 month)
- Supporting tax documents (Store 3-7 years)
- Tax returns, major financial records, and vital records (Store permanently)
HerMoney also has recommendations for how long you need to keep receipts, home improvement records, medical bills, records of paid-off loans, and active contracts. Super useful!
Keeping physical copies of paperwork is overrated — it’s much easier to lose or misfile important paper documents and rarely will you have a backup. Go ahead and pay your bills online, sign up for e-statements, and digitize key documents.
Store documents related to your home sale separately.
Jennings recommends keeping time-sensitive paperwork that you need, during the listing period or until you move and get settled in your next home, in a portable vertical file folder box.
This brings us to part two of your paperwork-related: How to pick a filing system that will keep you organized and also look great for staging purposes. Sound like mission impossible? Hardly. And you can do it on a budget.
Invest in fashionable, functional, and affordable filing cabinet
We recommend the following filing cabinets for under $100 that pair well with various office styles, color schemes, and needs, all from Houzz’s list of Contemporary Filing Cabinets:
- Light, airy, and organic: Lorell Concordia Series Latte Laminate Desk Ensemble ($46.14 )
- Black modern: HomCom 24″ Rolling End Table Mobile Printer Cart Nightstand Organizer ($47.99)
- White modern: HomCom 3-Drawer Modern Rolling Storage Cabinet Office Supply Printer Cart ($68) or Scranton & Co 4 Drawer Steel File Cabinet in Pearl White ($99)
- Sleek brown: Olivia 2 Drawer Lateral File Cabinet by Comfort Products, Espresso ($70)
Organize pens, pencils, and other office supplies in containers.
Your desk surface should look open and inviting, but paperwork isn’t your only form of clutter. All of your office supplies and gadgets should have a place. This extendable bamboo desk organizer is a great staging option. You can neatly tuck pens and pencils and other small office supplies into the drawers, while you can stash binders and books into the expanding holder.
If you already have enough space in a nearby bookshelf for books and binders, you can use something like this simple desk organizer to house your pens, pencils, scissors and other small desktop items.
Limit the number of visible tech devices.
For staging purposes, you can display a desktop computer or laptop, as well as a printer/scanner/fax machine. But if you have a lot of additional tech devices, hide them away in the closet or another storage location in the house.
Remember that you’re doing this all for show. You don’t need to actually accomplish work here to sell your house. Put away your extra desktop screen or video tripod to keep the look clean and to show off how much functional space you have.
Cluster unsightly cords together.
Hanging cords look messy, period. When there are multiple cords trailing from the front of the desk it can be distracting and take away from the overall look and feel of an office. So it’s time to wrangle those loose lines.
You can purchase black zip ties to solve the problem. Zip ties come in a host of flashy colors but black is the best way to go because most cords will match and the goal is to make these unsightly lines less eye-catching. You can also search around your home and find something you can repurpose for this task:
- Use a few rubber bands from your kitchen stash
- Borrow a hair tie, cut it in half and tie a knot around your cord cluster
- In a pinch you can even steal a twist tie from a loaf of bread
Remove personal items
Pack away any sports memorabilia, bobbleheads, family photos, cards or notes. Anything that shows a personal hobby or specific point of view should also be stored. Do you have degrees or awards hanging on your walls? Take those down also. If there’s a bulletin board on your wall, make a call: is it neutral enough to be decorative (such as images of nature or a calendar) or is it chock full of your passions and interests?
Whittle down your books
Go through all of the books on your shelves and pack up any that indicate your profession, politics, or hobbies. “The books are there to define the space, keep neutral books only. You don’t want to turn anybody off,” says Jennings. “There should be no more than 25%-35% of the space covered with books; the balance should be left open to create the perception of space.”
Remove bulky furniture
You only need a few pieces of furniture (namely a desk and chair) to show a room as a home office, especially if you’re dealing with a small space. The office might look bigger without that bookshelf in the corner or the sofa across from the desk. When in doubt, a desk with a glass top makes the room look bigger while a stylish chair — rather than a standard rolling office chair or ergonomic monstrosity — creates a more inviting space for staging purposes.
After you’ve removed anything that is taking up extra room, if you have the floor space available, pull the desk away from the wall. It almost always looks better with some space around it.
Separate a large space into functional areas
If you have a large room to play with, perhaps it’s time to divide the space. To separate the work area (desk, office chair, and bookshelves) from your sitting area, use area rugs to delineate the two distinct spaces. Perhaps add a low console table to divide the space that can double as storage for the work area and a sofa table for the sitting area.
Strike a style balance
Look at the mix of colors, the weight of the furniture, and ask yourself where the office looks unbalanced. If it feels too masculine and heavy, add some softer touches like a fuzzy blanket on a chair in a neutral color. If things feel too light and feminine, then add a chrome desk lamp or hints of darker colors.
Add a few houseplants to brighten up the space
You’ll be amazed what a floor plant such as a fern in the corner, a cute succulent on the desk, or a bright flowering indoor plant can do to liven up an office for staging purposes. If you have a black thumb or little time to think about caring for and watering houseplants, check out Wayfair’s collection of artificial and fake plants that look just like the real thing. For more inspiration, visit HomeLight’s guide to easy plants for home staging.
Place an accent rug or two
The perfect rug can be the missing ingredient to whatever your office is lacking.
For warmth and texture: Try the Starr Hill Handmade Shag Ivory Area Rug (comes in 17 sizes).
To keep it neutral while adding workspace definition: Try the Hanna Charcoal Area Rug.
Create light and space with mirrors
Mirrors give the illusion of open space. Adding a mirror can make a small room look bigger and add a dimensional element to an otherwise flat wall. In general round mirrors with metallic framing tend to be popular for home offices. Browse Houzz’s collection of Home Office Mirror Ideas and Photos including their Transitional Home Office and Studio Office design examples for mirror inspiration.
Don’t have an existing office? Create one out of unused space
If you don’t have an office in your home and don’t want to lose a bedroom to create one, there is another option. There are nooks and crannies throughout most homes that you can transform into an office or small workspace. Many people that work from home on occasion only need a small surface for a laptop. So, time to get creative. Take a look around your home and see if there’s an unused space to transform such as:
Your extra closet
To create an office space in a closet, you’ll want to clear the closet out completely. Next, measure the depth and width of the space. Head over to Home Depot or any other home improvement store and grab a piece of wood to use as your new desktop. Most of these stores have a saw on hand and will cut a sheet of wood to the measurements you need.
You will also need shelf supports and some additional shelving above the desk area to store office items. To highlight the office space for walk-throughs, open the closet doors and slide an office chair into place. To get more inspiration check out what the crazy craft lady did in her bedroom closet to create a wonderful office nook.
Your space under the stairs
If you have an unused space under a staircase you can stage it as an office simply by adding a small desk, some shelves, and a desk lamp. When people tour the house be sure to slide a chair under the desk to complete the feel of the space.
Your landing at the top of the stairs
Landings can be underused real estate in many homes. To convert this space into a small home office, use the same principles as the under-the-stairs example. In this case a secretary desk is a good idea, as you may not have the option of adding shelves depending on your particular setup. Make sure you add very minimal office supplies and tech to keep this area clean and clear as it is in wide open view.
Staging your home office to impress today’s homebuyers
Our homes are where we sleep, relax, enjoy time with family, and entertain friends. But more and more, the line between work and home is blurring, making a functional and inspiring home office space a must-have for many people. If you can show buyers that you’ve got a room where they could successfully perform a full-time job or at least handle everyday tasks like bills and paperwork, your house will no doubt be more marketable to the masses.
Header Image Source: (Gabriel Beaudry / Unsplash)