The Neatest Little Guide To Staging a House While Living In It

In an ideal world you’d be selling your house after you’ve moved out. But in the real world? You might still live there. Your situation isn’t uncommon, and staging a house while living in it is completely doable, even with kids and pets.

Here’s our definitive guide to keep your home looking professionally staged, all while still eating, sleeping, and living there (we won’t tell if you don’t).

Move Out (Physically & Mentally)

While it is ok to still live in your house, there’s also still some moving out that needs to happen. The best way to stage your home is to start by changing your mindset. Pretend you’re moving out now, and remove as much stuff as you possibly can.

Declutter surfaces, empty drawers and cabinets, and place at least ⅓ of your things in storage. Laura McHolm from the HuffPost says, “So, here’s the secret to a successful home stage – pretend your home is already sold and you’re moving out.”

Consider the space to be your newest project, not your house. Says McHolm, “Think: It’s not your house anymore. It’s a house that will soon be their house. So get the YOU out of your house.”

What do we mean by that? You should aim to make your space looks like someone lives there— but not necessarily you. Aim for Pottery Barn status decor–don’t leave collections of Christmas cards from the last decade pinned up on the fridge. Your cousin’s kids are adorable, but they won’t win you any buyers.

Clean It and Keep It Clean

By now you’ve probably realized the importance of cleanliness in the successful sale of your home, but unfortunately your kids don’t care. Staging a house while living in it would undoubtedly be easier without family members to undo all of your hard work, but it can still be done.

The best way to start is to set a time for an initial deep-clean of your home, followed by mapping out some smaller cleaning tasks that can be conquered daily thereafter. Figure out which parts of your house are likely to get the dirtiest, and work with family members to make a cleaning schedule that keeps everything in good shape.

Some of our favorite hacks for staging a house with kids from mommy-blogger Kelly Cone include:

  • Cleaning the shower while in you’re in it (seriously, how efficient is this tip?)
  • Cooking only with the oven to avoid a greasy stovetop
  • Ensuring that small kids always have wear catch-all bibs and use placemats during meal times

S.E. Smith of Networx advises, “once you have your home where you want it, stay vigilant about keeping it that way so it’s always ready for a showing.”

Give special attention to bathrooms and bedrooms as these are the spaces that tend to come under scrutiny. Get rid of water stains and shower scum, and invest in new linens for beds. As far as kids’ rooms, Cone recommends switching out cartoon bedspreads for neutral colored blankets that match curtains.

She also advises getting the kids involved with the overall minimization of clutter by putting the bulk of toys in storage. Have them pick a few favorites and keep them on a small shelf where they can find a home quickly before showings.

One last thing: make sure you don’t accidentally pack up all of your cleaning supplies! Keeping a vacuum, duster, and Lysol wipes handy is always a good idea. Get in the habit of opening windows daily, especially after cooking.

Staging a house while living in it: don't go it alone.

Don’t Stage Your Home Alone

While so much of pre-sale prep can be done by you, there’s something to be said for calling in the professionals. A recent survey conducted by Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corp. concluded that staged homes sell for more than 6% above asking price, and often only spend half as much time on the market as non-staged homes. In some cases, buyers don’t even notice major property flaws when a home is well-staged.

When asked her opinion about hiring professional stagers, top real estate agent Maribel Sotuyo of Houston, Texas says, “If there’s something I would personally invest in when selling my house, this would be that thing.” While staging might appear to be an unnecessary extra expense, it’s actually often included in packages offered by realtors.

Staging isn’t just about what your home looks like during open house— it’s also a huge part of the great photos your agent needs to take of the property, which then get posted online to attract buyers.

Some things you can do to prep your home for stagers is to move furniture away from doorways and get rid of bulky furniture. Says Sotuyo, “I’ve seen first-hand how a home markets before and after [staging]— it’s made a significant difference.”

Staging a house while living it: get out of the house

Get Out Of The House

The best way to keep your house looking stage-ready is to avoid spending all of your time in it, especially if you have kids or pets. Try planning activities to do outside the home, and even call on a few friends in advance that you can visit if your realtor needs to do a last-minute showing.

If you’re getting sick of eating casseroles and other oven-baked meals, treat yourself to a few meals out every week. It will eliminate messes from cooking and residual food smell during showings.

Another great idea from Cone is to put together to-go bags for every member of your family. Throw some snacks, water bottles, and extra clothes in bags for kids and adults to grab if the realtor calls. This way you can get out of the house quickly, without having to turn down a potential buyer who’s interested in seeing the property.

Make A Last-Minute List

Moving is a busy time, and no one expects you to remember everything. A final staging tip is to make a last-minute cleaning list for your home. Before you leave the house, pull out your list and double check that these few items are spotless and ready to be seen by buyers. Some things to consider including are: Making sure beds are made, wiping down countertops and bathroom surfaces, and double-checking that spaces used by pets and kids are tidy.

Keeping your home stage-ready will be challenging, but with a little family collaboration and help from professionals you can have your home ready to be seen by buyers at the drop of pin— even if you just woke up from a nap.

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