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Put the Life in Living Room With DIY, Budget-Friendly Staging That Sells

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.

“I love how big this space feels.”

“I could totally see us having family movie night in this room.”

“Oh! We could put our Christmas tree right there.”

If you were a fly on the wall while buyers toured your home, you’d hope to hear comments like the ones above, especially when it comes to the living room—the space where families gather. The space where life happens.

It’s no surprise real estate agents representing buyers and sellers agree that living room staging is a top priority when selling your home, according to the National Association of Realtors. If buyers don’t adore this room, that’s a deal breaker.

Even if your living room is run-of-the-mill, you can turn it into a head-turning showroom using affordable living room staging touches that sell.

With this advice from top-performing real estate professionals and expert stagers, you’ll have buyers thinking about cuddling up on the couch with a good book, hosting a game night with friends—and ready to make an offer.

Declutter Your Living Room To Make Space for Buyers’ Imaginations

Professional home stagers and top real estate agents shared that the number one tip for staging your home is to declutter it.

While you may be used to seeing piles of magazines, dozens of family photos, and your home office in your living room, the person who will buy your home is unlikely to appreciate them.

“Some people are comfortable in their home so they think other people are going to be,” says Stephanie Woods-Lembac, who ranks among the top 2% of real estate agents in Prescott Valley, Arizona.

Woods-Lembach said getting rid of years of stuff should be the first step for DIY staging.

If you aren’t ready to part with certain items, you can pack them up and store them. But the key here is to narrow down the items in your living room to make it feel fresh, clean, and open.

To get that extra edge on decluttering, you may want to consider the KonMari Method, which follows the Japanese principle that you should only keep items that bring you joy.

To follow the method:

    1. Pick up and hold each item (we literally mean every single item) in your living room, and take note of your gut reaction.
    2. If an object does not create feelings of joy—and you don’t have an absolute need for it— then say goodbye.

If you aren’t ready to give it up yet, but it doesn’t make sense to have in your living room, put it in a box in the garage and at least get it out of sight.

Decluttering means everything.

Decluttering isn’t only for books, magazines, family photos, and office accessories. Furniture, rugs, lamps, and curtains may also be adding to that cramped feeling in your living room.

If your living room is crowded with furniture, you can consider moving a chair or side table to another room. Worn rugs should be cleaned, or can be removed for more floor space. Curtains that are dirty, or that have been hanging for years, should be cleaned, or discarded to add more light.

Finally, use our checklist for the messy to make sure your decluttering is up to snuff.

Once you have pared down the items in your living or family room, you can put what’s left on display and allow it to shine.

Deep Clean, Because No One Wants to Buy Years Worth of Dirt

After decluttering, it’s time to face the dirty business of deep-cleaning.

You could hire a professional cleaning service to make your life easier, but with a few dedicated hours, you can get the job done without spending a fortune.

Dusting: Every surface that can be dusted, should be. That goes for lamp shades, blinds, window sills, ceiling fans, baseboards, and every possible corner. We recommend the best-selling Swiffer Duster, available on Amazon. Don’t forget to clean under your furniture, and you can even try this inventive trick using a hairdryer to combat dust bunnies.

Wood Surfaces: You’ll want to make sure wood surfaces are unscuffed and polished. Color match polish to the stain on your furniture, and for that extra shine for coffee and dining tables, entertainment centers, and chairs, you can’t go wrong with Pledge Lemon Clean Furniture Spray.

Floors: Floors in the living room, like every other room in your home, should be spotless during a showing. How you clean them will depend on the surface. For carpet, you’ll need to vacuum and rent or borrow a steam cleaner to lift away as much dirt as possible. For everything else, check out these tips for the best way to clean every type of floor.

For more guidance on how to deep clean like you mean it, check out our exhaustive house cleaning checklist.

Use Colors That Evoke Simplicity and Coziness When Staging Your Living Room

Ramnathkar says to stay away from what she calls “danger colors” in bulk—oranges, pinks, reds, and any fluorescents—as these may annoy potential home buyers. Neutrals like greys and beiges are always in style and will appeal to the masses.

For color help, consult Sherwin-Williams’ annual Colormix forecast to see what’s on trend for the year.

One Colormix neutral palette that’s both en vogue and low-key is “Sincerity”, which takes cues from minimalism and Hygge, the Danish word for coziness.

A DIY living room paint job will probably require at least two gallons of paint, which even on the high-end will only cost $30 to $60 per can, according to Home Advisor. You’ll also want to account for the costs of primer ($7 to $15 per can), plus brushes, tape, a paint tray, drop cloth, and paint rollers. You can expect to spend between $200-300 on painting a 10×12’ room.

If repainting your living room before showing your home isn’t in your budget, touching up the walls can make them look almost as fresh.

If you don’t have extra paint in your garage, you can use a razor blade to take a small swatch from the wall (to be touched up later), and color match it at a paint store. A quick tip for holes in the wall is to fill a Q-Tip with paint and then place it over the spot you need to fill. Or, try this touch-up paint pen available on Amazon, that you can fill with any color.

Achieve the  “Wow Factor” with a Few Statement Pieces

When people view your living room during a showing, you want them to fall in love with it.

“A potential buyer probably makes a decision in the first 30 to 60 seconds about how emotionally connected they are to your home,” said Ramnathkar. “You want to make sure that it is showcased at its best.”

Creating an emotional connection is about displaying an open and inviting space, by adding what Ramnathkar and other stagers call a “wow factor”—a single item or a few key pieces that draw people in.

In the living room, it could be:

      • A statement piece of art on the wall
      • A sculpture on an end table
      • A bold rug

Even placing a few accent pillows in varied textures on a couch can add to a living room’s atmosphere.

Ramnathkar said whatever you choose for the “wow factor,” keep it restrained to appeal to a wide audience.

Adding a “focal point in the room that isn’t too feminine or too masculine that most people would enjoy,” is what Woods-Lembach recommends.

The key here is to draw people into the room, by giving them something beautiful to look at, like this three-piece wall art from Wayfair for less than $60.

You also will want your statement art to tie together the colors in a room, like this group of pillows from Crate & Barrel. Or start with these solid-colored throw pillows from World Market for only $9.99, then throw in one or two with different patterns or materials.

You may want to pick the color palette first, or you can find a piece that you like and fit everything else in the room around it.

How To Bargain Shop for Budget-Friendly, Jaw-Dropping Living Room Accents

If you’re not confident in the statement pieces you already have, finding affordable gems for your living room can be a fun bargain shopping adventure. Here are a few ways to find under-budget decorative items to amp up your living room staging:

1. Consider visiting your local discount homewares store. Try Marshalls, Tuesday Morning, or Ross.

2. Got $20 in your pocket? Go to the thrift shop. Look for items like vases, lamps, sculptures, and pots for plants, that are new or gently worn and have a classic, undated style.

3. Search Craigslist’s “for sale” section for furniture using the keywords of items you might want like artwork, chairs, or sofas. You can even try the “free” section under the “For Sale” heading, to turn one man’s trash into a potential treasure.

hunt craigslist for bargains on art for living room staging.png
Hunt your local Craiglist “For Sale” section for great bargains on art. Source: (Craigslist)

4. Borrow items from friends while you are staging your home, and return them once your home sells. Start by talking to them about your desire to add some new life to your home while it’s on the market, and see if they wouldn’t mind letting your borrow pieces that they may have in storage or in a guest bedroom that is rarely used.

5. Invest in pieces that you’d be happy to keep and also work well for staging. If you know you want to buy furniture for your new home, purchase it to stage in your current home while it’s on the market, and then move it later.

Details Matter: Help Buyers Feel at Home in the Living Room

Staging invokes a feeling of home for potential buyers. In the living room, you’ll want comfortable couches, and a sitting area where people can talk, watch television, and relax. You can achieve this vibe with little touches here and there.

Remove anything that doesn’t feel like it belongs in the living room.

“Make it look like what the room was intended for, not the kid’s playroom, not your work desk in your corner, truly a living room,” said Woods-Lembach. That means the Barbie dream house and your double-screen work setup must go.

Breathe life into the space with greenery.

To make the space even more homey on a budget, add fresh flowers, plants, or a bowl of lemons or other fruit. Good Housekeeping (a trusted brand since 1885!) offers some great tips for adding some green in ways that can fill awkward spaces, add vintage flair or make a room feel more calm.

Add texture with creative use of rugs.

A throw rug can refresh a worn couch and add to the sense of comfort. Loud, geometric shapes and chevron throw rugs are trending, as are any classic vintage patterns. Here are a few cheap options for under $50:

The more light, the better.

Be sure windows are clear, or curtains are freshly pressed to make the room bright and inviting.

Another way to brighten a room is with lighting. Side and floor lamps can instantly add some glow, or even try changing the brightness of light bulbs for the lamps you already have. Every light source in your living room should be on during a showing, to give off a positive vibe.

Getting all of the key elements in place is important to create a welcoming environment. But paying attention to details is another tip that can help take your living room up a notch.

Lampshades should also be cleaned or replaced with modern shapes for an updated look, like a Classic Burlap Drum or Rectangular Paper Shade.

Living Room Staging in Action

Before Staging: The Problems

staging living room before
Source: (HomeLight)

Now that we know what to look for, it’s easy to see why this living room needed staging to help it shine.

  • The room is dark with closed curtains and lights off.
  • There are too many art pieces on the wall instead of a curated statement piece or pieces.
  • Unnecessary items in the room—like a fan and extra side table—create a cluttered atmosphere.
  • Colors are drab and there is no cohesive color palette.

After Staging: The Solutions

staging living room after
Source: (HomeLight)

With a few changes, the room is now looking its best.

  • Natural light from the open curtains, and lamps turned on brighten up the room.
  • A sea-green and white color palette for the pillows, art, and throw blanket give a modern touch and add that “wow factor.”
  • A small plant by the window is replaced with a large fern to add more greenery and liveliness.
  • Modern side tables bring the room up-to-date.
  • Wooden furniture is polished and shiny.

Article Image Source: (khiemtran87/ Pixabay)