When you sell a condo, it can be hard to stir up that American dream, white-picket-fence emotional connection in buyers. Your living space lacks the space, privacy, and curb appeal single-family homes offer. While real estate experts recommend staging across property types, the right furniture, accents, and arrangements can help a buyer get past these common condo qualms.
According to Lex Lianos, who’s sold 73 more condos than the average agent in his area in Northern Virginia: “If you spend $3,000 on staging a condo, you’re easily going to get a 10% to 15% return on investment in the final sale price.”
But the devil’s in the execution. Staging a condo calls for a focus on two key areas: space and lighting. Follow these techniques, and watch your condo bring in the same wide appeal as the storybook homes you see on the Hallmark channel.
1. Clear out all clutter
Follow these steps to stage your condo to look bigger:
Declutter to create the illusion of more space
Go room by room to remove knickknacks, junk, and miscellaneous items from your surfaces and countertops. If you’re one of those people who stores their bike in the living room, time to get a storage unit for the duration that your condo is on the market. HomeLight’s guide to selling a house jam-packed with junk has the advice you need on how to find the right storage unit and compare pricing, amenities, and accessibility.
Clean even the smallest spaces
Grab a caddy of cleaning supplies and go through the condo to vacuum, dust, and wipe down each area in the unit. Buzzfeed has a great list of hacks for cleaning small spaces, such as:
- Use a cordless stick vacuum for easy maneuvering
- Clean your stovetop with vinegar and a toothbrush
- Scrub your cabinets and baseboards with a dish cleaner
Depersonalize for mass appeal
Take down the macaroni art project from the fridge and reduce the scattering of family photos around your condo.
After you remove everything but the furniture, you’ll need to bring back in a few key decorative items so the place doesn’t look blank and sterile.
2. Use statement pieces to change the vibe of small spaces
Shift the focus away from the size of any small rooms using statement pieces that play up the lifestyle that a condo offers.
“When you’re selling a condo, you’re marketing a lifestyle of convenience and low maintenance. Full-service condos are almost a hotel experience,” says Lianos.
Whether you go for themed statement pieces or a simple, beautifully potted plant, just make sure you keep things your décor clean and uncluttered.
“A new shower curtain, three rolled towels on the bathroom counter, a couple of fancy soaps in a decorative tray, and even a dated, 1960’s green bathroom can look like a relaxing spa,” suggests Lianos. “It’s basic and easy staging, but it makes such a huge difference, especially in the listing photography.”
3. Simplify your window treatments
Space isn’t the only thing that’s limited in a condo—most are short on windows, too.
A condo or condominium is basically an apartment you own instead of rent, which means you’ll have shared walls on one or two sides, rather than windows in all four walls like a freestanding house.
To maximize your limited natural light during daylight hours showings, get rid of any window treatments that block your outdoor light source.
“Heavy draperies have got to go. You’re better off having just a miniblind pulled all the way up or nothing at all,” says Lianos.
“My stager typically recommends soft, whispery sheers that swag away from the windows, never over them.”
Don’t go completely curtainless, though, or your rooms will wind up looking naked and abandoned. Hanging window sheers dresses up your windows by softening the window frames, while still allowing the maximum amount of light into your condo.
4. Buy more lamps and get brighter bulbs
Speaking of lighting, you can’t rely solely on natural light in a condo, even for daytime showings. You need plenty of electrical light sources, too.
Then turn your focus to the bulbs.
“I always recommend that my sellers, replace all the light bulbs with really bright LEDs that turn on instantly,” says Lianos.
“The last thing you want are bulbs that take five minutes to heat up to full brightness in a condo, or the space will look dark and dingy no matter what you do.”
Light bulbs that give off a soft or cool light are your best bet but don’t just pick a bulb and go with it. The one you pick won’t just be illuminating your home, it can also change the look of your wall color. To find the best LED light bulb for your condo, you may need to test a few brands, wattages, and color temperatures.
Just make sure that if you install a higher-watt bulb, that your fixture can handle the extra heat. Otherwise, you’ll create a fire risk!
5. Create a blank canvas with neutral paint on your walls
Statement pieces only stand out and draw the eye when they’re up against a blank canvas. In order to create that kind of impact, you’ll need a neutral color on your walls.
While there are a lot of hues that masquerade as neutrals these days, when you paint the interior of a condo, stick within the white color palette.
Avoid sterile, hospital white and instead go for a cool, blue-tinted hue like Glidden’s Silver Birch, a toasty cream like Sherwin-Williams’ Alabaster, or the popular off-white hue White Dove by Benjamin Moore.
6. Replace bulky furniture with sleeker pieces
Your wall color can only do so much to make your condo feel light and bright if you’ve got heavy, bulky furniture weighing your rooms down.
“The scale of furniture is really important. I consider my stager the best in the area because she knows the right scale of furniture to make condos feel bigger,” says Lianos.
“For example, a 98-inch sofa will overwhelm a 700-square-foot condo.”
Flank your sleek sofa with a pair of armless accent chairs and buyers will love that your small condo living room appears spacious while offering plenty of seating.
Trim down your furniture’s footprint for your master bedroom, too. California kings may be great to sleep in, but they can overwhelm a small condo bedroom. So think about bringing in a queen or a double bed instead to maximize the amount of visible floor space—while still providing a bed for two.
You need correctly-proportioned furniture to show off your condo’s open flow, but what do you do if you only own bulky furnishings?
Either sell or store your overstuffed stuff and rent a few pieces of furniture. It may cost you, but you’ll reap the benefits by selling your condo faster and for more money.
7. Remove all the rugs
Furniture isn’t the only thing making your condo look smaller.
“With a condo, I want to maximize that visible floor space,” explains Lianos. “Rugs in a condo define the space too much and in the wrong way. We have no rugs in any of our condo listings whatsoever.”
Rugs may add warmth to hard flooring surfaces, but the rugs in your condo also create lines that divide up your rooms into smaller chunks. Take them all out. This includes the ones by the sinks in the kitchen and bathrooms.
If you must have a rug or bath mat anywhere for everyday use, remember to tuck it away before any buyers come by to check out your condo.
8. Stage exterior spaces for outdoor living
Don’t forget to stage your outside spaces as well, even if all you’ve got is a little outdoor patio or a tiny balcony.
9. Go with a wide-angle lens for photos (within reason)
Professional photographers know how to use a wide-angle lens to make your condo look roomy in the listing photos. But don’t go overboard with this trick.
“I’ve seen some condos photographed where the living room looks like a football field, then you walk in and it’s like a hundred square feet,” explains Lianos. “That’s not good, because buyers who thought the space was much bigger are turned off instantly as soon as they walk in.”
Stage your condo for a successful sale
Despite their drawbacks, condos have a lot going for them. For one, they’re cheaper. In June 2019, the median existing condo price was $260,100 compared to $288,900 for a single-family. When first-time buyers make up 35% of the buyer pool, an affordable condo makes for a hot commodity. In addition, condo associations handle snow removal and lawn care so you don’t have to spend your weekends with a rake or shovel in hand—that’s a huge selling point.
Condos can be a tough sell, though, and staging may be your only lifeline to help yours sell fast and for the most money.
“Staging is critical. I highly recommend that condos be professionally staged, or at the very least, get a consultation and do everything the professional stager says,” advises Lianos.
Whether you hire a professional stager or take on your condo’s design makeover yourself, rest assured that your hard work will pay off with a successful condo sale.