Staging a House on a Budget to Wow Buyers

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Staging is an important part in any home selling strategy. Great staging helps to depersonalize your home, helping potential buyers see themselves living there instead of feeling like they’re someone else’s house. While professional staging can start at $1,500 for smaller homes, it can reach $10,000 for larger or luxury homes. That can be a lot of money if you’re saving up for a move. Since staging should never be neglected if you want to help make your home sale go as smoothly as possible, here are our tips for staging a house on a budget.

Deep clean everything

The first tip we recommend to sellers who want to stage a house on a budget is deep cleaning. If you choose to do it yourself, you’re looking at the cost of cleaning materials. You can find cleaners at the dollar store (actually, it’s $1.25 now) that work just as well as any name-brand cleaners. For room-by-room advice, check out our guide on deep cleaning a house.

However, if you don’t have time to clean your house, hiring a professional cleaning service may be a service you don’t mind spending money on. Typically, it costs between $25 to $80 an hour (or $600+ for a home over 3,000 square feet). Be aware that not all cleaning services will have the same packages.

  • Merry Maids has a few different cleaning packages that focus on different specialties like enhanced disinfection services, holiday cleaning, green cleaning, and move-in/out cleaning.
  • ServPro also offers cleaning services for homes. Under the general cleaning, they’ll clean drapes, window treatments, carpet, ceiling, floors, and walls. If your home has an off-putting odor emanating throughout the house, they can also eliminate those foul smells.
  • The Maids offer a one-time deep cleaning service where they will go through each room to get it sparkling clean, but they also clean with health in mind, meaning they disinfect the home while they clean.

Note: Cleaning services rarely have a flat fee because every project is different. Therefore, you’ll have to contact the company directly for a free quote. 

Decluttering and depersonalizing

Decluttering is right up there with deep cleaning and goes hand-in-hand. However, it gets tricky because you need to know what you’re going to sell, donate, toss, or keep. We like the idea of only keeping things that bring you joy (a la Marie Kondo), but when it comes to decluttering to sell your house, you need to go beyond that.

A few “rules” or tips that can help make the hard decisions about what to keep or toss include:

  • 20/20 rule: Let go of stuff you can replace in less than 20 minutes or for less than $20.
  • Get rid of unnecessary duplicates like dish sets, glassware, books, clothing, etc.
  • Keep items often used together in the same place.

Also, as you declutter, you should be removing anything personal. This means personal photographs, unique art pieces, trophies, awards, etc. You want potential buyers to envision themselves living there!

bright pillows can help staging a house on a budget
Source: (SHOP SLO® / Unsplash)

Neutral paint with a pop of color

We already know that a neutral color palette is the way to go when selling your house, but you pair neutral walls with decorative pops of color, that’s where the magic truly happens.

Martha Stewart, the queen of domesticity, suggests leaning toward warm neutrals like Sherwin-Williams’ Accessible Beige or Shoji White, but she also recommends colors with a hint of gray… Or neutrals or grays with a stronger undertone. Examples of these include Martha Stewart’s Morning Dew and October Mist.

As for adding pops of color, you can do this with accessories like throw pillows, an area rug, a throw blanket, or vases (among other things).

Rearrange the furniture

“You want to make sure that the paths to walk through the house are free and clear of any furniture when you come through your front door,” says Tabitha Kontur, a top-selling real estate agent in Huntsville, Alabama.

Elle Decor suggests homeowners keep 30 to 48 inches of space for high-traffic walkways and 24 inches for lower-traffic areas (make sure you measure from the backs of chairs that are pulled out; not pushed in.). Next, you may need to remove a leaf from the dining room table. Finally, leave 14 to 18 inches of space between the couch and coffee table.

Don’t forget to buy furniture sliders (they have hard flooring and carpet options) to protect your floors from damage. For $10 (or less) per day, you can rent hand trucks and dollies to help move heavier pieces of furniture as well.

A vignette in a kitchen that can help stage on a budget.
Source: (Becca Tapert / Unsplash)

Create vignettes

A well-placed vignette can make a regular space lived in without looking too distracting. For example, a bowl of bright-colored fruit on a kitchen counter with an open cookbook helps the buyer feel like this is home. Likewise, an open book on the chair near the window helps the buyer envision themselves doing the same on a rainy day.

“Good staging doesn’t look like the place is staged,” says Debra Gould, an internationally recognized home staging expert and creator of the Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program. “It just looks like a warm, inviting home.” Some people, she says, will set the table with dishes, teacups, and a rolled-up newspaper – a few details too many. “If it looks too contrived, it starts to feel manipulated.”

These little touches might seem like a waste of time and effort, but the small things count! If you need inspiration, Houzz has an excellent guide for creating vignettes.

Let the natural light flood rooms where possible

Natural light is one of nature’s gifts to which homeowners don’t give enough credit! You’d be amazed by how differently a house feels when the curtains are open, and the light floods the room. If you’re worried about privacy, you can still let the sunlight in using sheer white curtains instead of heavy drapes.

If some of your rooms don’t have many windows or there isn’t enough sunlight shining, don’t be afraid to use mirrors (either a large floor mirror or a DIY design made with smaller mirrors) to create the illusion of a flood of sunshine.

Of course, you can’t forget the lights. If you need to illuminate a dark, windowless room (like a utility room), replace the bulb with a bright LED. It won’t be the same as natural sunlight, but it’ll still be an improvement.

Accessorize with cheap finds

When you’re staging a house on a budget, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with keeping an eye out for small decor pieces at flea markets, thrift shops, or even discount stores! If you find something that you like but doesn’t match your decor, break out the craft paint (or spray paint) and paint it.

Just remember that when you’re choosing accessories, don’t go overboard! You didn’t declutter your home just to replace the clutter with new odds and ends.

Quick staging tips for each room in the house

If you’re selling a house that’s already been cleaned and decluttered but want a quick rundown on how to stage a house on a budget, here are some quick tips to help.

Living room

  • Make sure the coffee table is free of clutter; use a tray for remotes and small items.
  • Open up the curtains and let the light in!
  • Add some house plants to give your living room a bit of color and “life.”


  • Update cabinets with new paint or just new hardware.
  • Organize all cabinets, the pantry, and shelves.
  • Take out the trash and clean sources of odors (garbage cans, disposal, etc.)

Dining room

  • Set the table, complete with cutlery, glassware, placemats, and a centerpiece.
  • Add an area rug under the dining table to add some warmth.
  • Decorate the room with one or two timeless art pieces.


  • Buy a gender-neutral “bed-in-a-bag” so the room looks cohesive and welcoming.
  • Build a headboard if you don’t have one. Check out HGTV’s DIY headboard ideas.
  • Keep the bedroom clutter-free and tidy.


  • Remove stains and freshen up the caulk and grout where needed.
  • Declutter cabinets, closets, drawers, and medicine cabinets.
  • Add inviting touches like fancy hand soaps, a basket filled with white towels, etc.

Patio/Outdoor area

  • Spruce up the yard with fresh landscaping, mulch, and potted plants.
  • Pressure wash the exterior of the home, patio/deck/porch, and walkways.
  • Add seating to create a welcoming place someone can sit and relax for a spell.

Learning how to stage a house on a budget is just the beginning

Staging your house can be costly but it doesn’t have to be. With a little bit of creativity and ingenuity, you might be surprised by how easy it is. As you learn how to stage a house on a budget, you’ll see that a lot of these tips can work in your everyday life.

For additional advice, tap into your agent’s years of experience selling homes. Even if you’re staking a house on a budget, you still want to make as much money on your home sale as you can and working with a top real estate agent is a great way to do that.

Looking to Get Top Dollar? Connect With a Top Agent

It takes just two minutes to match clients with the best real estate agents, who will contact you and guide you through the process. Our data shows the top 5% of agents across the U.S. help clients sell their home for as much as 10% more than the average real estate agent.

Or, if you’re looking to skip the staging, painting, and deep cleaning altogether, consider requesting a competitive cash offer for your home using HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform. Clients maximize the value of their quick home sale with a competitive top market offer and no additional fees, commission or upfront costs.

Header Image Source: (Dan Gold / Unsplash)