What Is Home Staging?

With home sellers competing at unprecedented levels, boosting the chances of getting a home sold quickly can be crucial. Many home sellers turn to home staging to gain an edge on the competition.

If you’d like to try your hand at home staging, here’s a guide to help you stage your home like the pros and save yourself a bit of money in the process.

Home staging is more than just preparing a home for sale; it’s about marketing your home to the masses. According to the National Association of Realtors, staged homes sell for about six percent more, on average, than those not staged. When a home stays on the market, the price goes down. Staged homes sell faster, which means they’re less likely to be subjected to a reduction in price.

The concept of home staging will be a hard pill to swallow for many homeowners who have put heart and soul into their home. But the key to staging properly is to remove the personal association with your house. You need to see your home as a commodity and let the emotional attachment go. For proper staging, the picture in the mind of potential buyers must be that it could be their home.

Part of the staging process is removing the clutter that makes your home “cozy,” but might turn a prospective buyer off. Personal items like pictures, family heirlooms and other trinkets reflect your own personal style. Potential buyers may have the same taste—or they may not. Your home must appeal to as many people as possible.

To get an idea of how you can stage your home, go to a model home or apartment. Look hard at what items are there, but most importantly, what items are not there: photographs, collectibles, items that reflect one’s political or religious views—all are missing. If you can fill in the blanks and imagine yourself in the model home, then the staging has done its job.

dining room, dining table, staged home

A table staged for a meal can help prospective buyers imagine Sunday breakfast or dinner parties. (Photo by Frank Espich)

How to Stage Each Room of Your House

If you haven't yet moved to a new home, you’ll likely need to rent a storage unit for to properly perform a home staging. You will be moving the majority of your furniture, décor and closet contents into it. You have to capture the imaginations of your potential home buyers before they even walk in the house, so start with making the right first impressions.

Entryway

When a potential buyer sees the inside of your home, first impressions can set an opinion in stone. Open the shades and turn on the lights to convey a spirit of liveliness in the home. Even in daylight, the extra illumination gives natural lighting a boost.

In addition to what people will see when they walk in, be mindful of what they could smell, too. Be careful with cooking before a showing to ensure that unpleasant odors don’t hang around.

If you smoke, start smoking outside and well away from entrances and open windows. Even pleasant smells, like cinnamon, fresh bread or chocolate chip cookies can backfire. A potential homebuyer might be allergic to cinnamon or absolutely hate chocolate, so neutral odors are best.

Kitchen

Clear countertops of everything: coffee pot, microwave, spice rack—even that cute little ceramic chef that holds your cooking utensils. The latest and greatest kitchen gadget may have the entire neighborhood green with envy, but you’re better off without it. Clear counters increase space, making the kitchen appear larger. Replace the old, dated knobs and hardware on cabinets and drawers with new ones.

Closets

Follow the “50 percent rule” when dealing with closets for staging. Clear out half of everything in your closets to provide the illusion of spaciousness.

Living Room

Remove area rugs and any items that might make rooms look smaller. That includes extra furniture. Make the areas within the home as open as possible. Turn off the television and stereo or remove them from the house entirely. Turn chairs, loveseats and sofas toward each other slightly, offering the subtle suggestion that visitors can imagine themselves sitting down for a friendly conversation.

Bedrooms

Beds should be made neatly using sheets and covers in neutral colors. Depending on the size of the bedroom, only one or two dressers or side tables are called for. Don’t feel as though you need to make the bed look like it’s waiting for a hotel guest to arrive, complete with chocolate on the pillow. Put the bedroom television in storage.

Bathrooms

Scrub that grout. Get rid of mildew and soap scum on surfaces. Remove all personal toiletries: cologne, toothbrushes, toothpaste and antiperspirant have no place in a show home. Fix, replace or spruce up faucets and fixtures. Replace old cabinet knobs and drawer pulls.

Good curb appeal can help draw in potential buyers. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Marvin B.)

Good curb appeal can help draw in potential buyers. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Marvin B.)

Enhancing Curb Appeal

The importance of a property's first impressions, called curb appeal, cannot be overstated. The outside will set the perception for the whole house and could swing the decision to buy. Curb appeal scrutiny starts immediately when the house is listed online. Real estate agents judge the look and quality of the exterior photos before deciding to show the house to clients. Driving by, prospective buyers must be compelled by curb appeal to make an inquiry call.

Sellers that take a serious approach to managing outside appeal often sell their property quicker and closer to the price they are looking for.

Mow the lawn, weed the flowerbeds, trim and prune bushes and trees, replace old, worn or broken address numbers and mailbox. Paint the front door and put a new a doormat of neutral color down. If your car is more than a few years old or has some damage, park it down the street. If you have a patio or gazebo, bright and clean lawn furniture is okay, but stow away any toys or cute outdoor decor.

Home Staging on a Budget

If you hire a professional stager, the cost can equal up to three percent of your home’s listing price. Doing it yourself, you can expect to spend between one-half and one percent. The good news is that in some cases you can deduct the staging expenses on your tax return.

There are furniture rental places that will deliver to your home and take it back when you no longer need it. As for décor, you may already have clever items that you can put together in interesting ways. If not, visit garage sales and second hand shops for unique items that you can repurpose. The rules here are: avoid what looks cheap, be clever and don’t go overboard. Small accents in strategic places will complete a room without going over the top.

Staging your home by doing it yourself can be a difficult at first, as you divorce yourself from your home. But, the benefits can be rewarding. Not just from a financial standpoint. You might find the activity offers an emotional cleansing, enabling you to move forward.

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