So you’re selling your home, but don’t have the budget to spend money on staging your house. You may know all about your options for hiring professional stagers, or key strategies for throwing a great open house, but you really can’t spend a dime. Fortunately, staging a house on a budget is a totally viable option.
In fact, if you were getting discouraged and thinking about sacking the whole idea, don’t. Here’s why. Real estate writer Tyler Zey says, “Research has shown the average sale price of a property can be increased by 1-5% simply because home staging tips were implemented before the house hit the market.” Those tips don’t have to be set in motion by a pro–they’re simple changes any homeowner can make.
Staging your home isn’t only important for the open house, it’s also a vital part of marketing it online— which is how buyers are likely to find your house anyway. “If you can’t afford the price of a professional home stager,” says real estate agent Justin Pierce, “I don’t recommend that you leave a home completely void. You need to try to make your home sparkle a little, especially for the photos.”
Ready to get started staging your home on a budget? Read on— we’ve got some quick and easy ideas that will make your house look great (and more importantly won’t cost a dime).
Neutralize and Deep Clean Your Home’s Interior and Exterior
The first step in staging your home is, you guessed it, to clean like mad.
1. Straighten up your home’s exterior.
That may mean pulling a few weeds and even giving some much-needed TLC to the garden. “Make sure you have some curb appeal,” advises top real estate agent Maribel Sotuyo of Texas. “Plant some flowers or throw some mulch.” Whatever your buyer will see on their way into your home should look flawless.
2. Pack up the majority of your things.
Then get ready to get packing. “Try to pack up each room by 30%,” says Zey. “This will create a bigger feeling to every room in the house.” After you’ve packed up and cleaned (with special attention to bathrooms and kitchens), it’s time to do a de-clutter walk through. Says Sotuyo, “Declutter- don’t stash it anywhere else. Just get rid of it.”
Clutter doesn’t just mean loose papers and dog toys on the floor— it also applies to your countertop. Zey advises, “Remove items from the kitchen counters such as coffee makers, toasters, microwaves, etc. These items take up space and crowd the view.” Make countertops sparse except for a vase or two, and homey items like a clean wooden cutting board.
And don’t forget about the closets. Your buyers will open them, and it’s best they look minimal and organized. Some professional stagers use tricks like stuffing tissue paper in designer bags to line closet shelves. Well-organized closets (whether with paper bags or bins) help a buyer identify the space they will have better than an empty ones. So don’t worry about getting rid of everything in your closet just yet— just make sure that what you leave looks good.
From there, work to make your home seem as neutral as possible— meaning that someone (with exceptional taste of course) lives there, but it’s not necessarily you. Take down personal family photos and try to think like a buyer: What would you want to see? Assess your best decorative pieces throughout the home; these will be useful to keep in mind as you stage.
3. Deep clean every room in the house.
Open all windows for fresh air regularly and scrub smelly sinks and toilets. Use Zey’s trick for keeping kitchens smelling fresh: “Get rid of kitchen odors by pouring hot salt water down the drain twice a week. Also, grind some lemon rind into the disposal.”
To keep the house clean, consider wiping down all spaces and doing a quick mop (Swiffer WetJet works great in this situation) and vacuum every morning before you go to work.
Maximize Your Space
The best way to stage your home with your existing furniture is to rearrange items according to a new set of priorities: instead of being a home that serves your needs, think of it now as a show-home. Sotuyo advises her clients to focus on the living room, the bedroom, and the kitchen when it comes to staging. “Bathrooms are so small,” she says. “It’s the bigger rooms that [buyers] will be spending time in.”
Rearrange your living room furniture to create a social space but make sure you still have adequate room for foot traffic. “Be sure that the living room furniture is positioned for conversation as well as entertainment,” advise real estate agents Rana Lindhorst and Troy Schmidt of Illinois. “Potential buyers should be able to easily envision sitting in a space where they can easily talk without having to move a chair or turn completely around.”
Experts also tell sellers to focus on developing areas that need staging the most. “You can take your staging up a half a notch by targeting specific rooms rather than the entire home,” explains Pierce. “A small bedroom might call for staging because a buyer might not think the room is big enough for bedroom furniture.”
At the same time, don’t stress out about creating perfect spaces where they don’t exist. “If [buyers] have a great outdoor space yes [stage it], but if not, don’t go out of the way staging it, just make sure it’s clean,” says Sotuyo. “Don’t go out of your way to build one. Buyers are willing to go into a home and invest money to create a backyard area.”
Decorate Like A Pro
The key to staging your home on a budget is to use what you already have to re-invent the spaces in your home, making them feel cozy and stylish. Use furniture, plants, and accent pieces to highlight desirable home features. “Place an accent by a home’s feature,” advises real estate agent Susan Cramer of California, “such as an attractive plant near a fireplace to draw the eye to it.” Conversely, don’t place these things somewhere that draws attention to damaged areas or less-desirable features.
Spend extra time making your entryway perfect. Like all aspects of your home, the entrance should be bright, warm, neutral, clean, and inviting. Nip out any pesky residual smells (like those from pets or food) and make a clear path towards other parts of the home. “The moment the potential buyer walks into the front door they should be ‘wowed’ by the rooms on either side of the entry,” says real estate agent Julie C. Preston of Indiana.
Be sure to decorate your home with the curtains open and all lights on–that’s how prospective buyers will view it.
Some other free ways to decorate your home like a pro:
- Place mirrors strategically to make rooms look larger
- Dig out unused vases and accent items for a pop of color in otherwise neutral rooms
- Use your existing inventory of decor to ensure rooms don’t appear sterile. Remember to only decorate using items everyone will like— nothing religious, political, risqué, or too gender-specific (please- no pink color schemes).
Finally, add a few personal touches to make the home feel fresh and well-loved. Remember, buying a home is an emotional decision, and buyers are more likely to be interested if a place feels “homey” and not too sterile. To do this, real estate agent Lauren Scurlock of Virginia advises you to “Use a little nature in each room.” She “create[s] a flow throughout the home using cuttings, flowers, dried flowers, whatever will work.”
You can also make visiting your home a more catered experience by leaving certain neighborhood details with your agent. “Walk Score: You can make a list all the restaurants, attractions, and coffee shops within walking distance to the property,” advises Zey. Knowing these little details are often what make buyers fall in love with a property and better able to envision themselves in it.
“Your mission when selling the home is to try to give prospective buyers good feelings,” says Pierce. “Most home-buying decisions are made on emotion. Make your home inviting.”
We couldn’t have said it any better.