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The Complete Guide to Home Staging

Staging a home to sell is a great way to sell for more money, and fast! If you want to know how to stage your home then you need to read my Complete Guide to Home Staging.

A photo of a home with text that this is a complete guide to home staging.

Home Staging vs. Home Decorating

There is a difference between staging your home to sell and decorating your home.

When you decorate you bring in decor and memorabilia from your family and use it to make your home beautiful, and yours. You can use whatever makes you happy. You can decorate in any decor style, it’s all about what you want and how you live.

When you are staging your home to sell you are decorating for the masses, not for you. You need to use decor that is neutral in tone and try to stay away from anything that relates directly to your family. You want home buyers to imagine themselves living in your home, not you. So try to make sure it looks like you don’t live there….even though we all know you do.

It’s a psychological thing. Buyers need to be able to visualize themselves in your home and it’s hard to do that if they see you all over the place.

*This post may contain affiliate links. For full details see my disclosure.

Why should you stage your home?

The whole idea of staging your home is to make sure your home looks the very best it can so you can sell faster and for more money! So why wouldn’t you want to stage your home?

I did some research and according to the National Association of Realtors , the Realtors who were polled about staging homes, none of them said that staging had a negative impact on the selling price of their homes. In fact, 22% said that offers came in 1-5% higher and 17% of Realtors said that offers came in 6-10% higher than non-staged homes.

A graph on home staging.

Twenty five percent of Realtors also stated that staging a home greatly decreased the time the home spent on the market.

From the buyer’s agent perspective, 25% of them said that the staged homes increased the offer value between 1-5% compared to similar homes that were not staged.

A graph on home staging.

Decluttering Basics

One of the easiest ways to declutter is to remove everything then slowly add items until it looks well designed but not cluttered.

I also suggest renting a POD or other container where they deliver it to your home, you fill it and then they take it away. When you move they will deliver it right to your new home.

I did this when I moved out of my first home. I was inexperienced and bought furniture that was too big for the room so it was very cramped. When we put the house on the market I moved a large chair out and several boxes of toys. It was amazing how much better the house felt to be in. And you never know, you might decide in the end you don’t need that stuff anyway!

Create vignettes on coffee tables, kitchen counters, and bedside tables to create a feeling of home. For example, next to the coffee maker has a couple nice mugs for coffee and spoons (maybe even a cute cup for sugar). On the bedside table a book, candle, and flowers in a vase. Makes you want to dive in for a cup of coffee or read a book. All the things you would like to do while relaxing at home.

I think one of the most important things to think about when de-cluttering is to make sure there is nothing in the way that someone will trip on, like a stool or plant. Make sure the tops of kitchen cabinets are clear, refrigerators are empty of magnets and cute kids pictures and all personal items are hidden away.

When I mention personal items I mean toothbrushes, hairbrushes, trash cans that hold personal items, etc.

De-Personalizing Basics

Some people say you need to remove all the pictures of you and your family in the home. In fact, a lot of people say that. I think this needs to be done moderately.

If you have a shelf that has tons of photos of you and your family, yes they need to get packed away. Instead opt for a couple of books, a candle, and a decorative picture.

If you have a canvas hanging above a fireplace that was professionally done by a professional photographer and is very well done, I don’t think that needs to be removed. I actually enjoy looking at those pictures.

Once I looked at a home that had professional photos of the homeowner’s daughter’s wedding. They were beautiful and I imagined that these people raised their kids in this house and were selling it because the kids had grown. Now it’s my turn to raise my kids there.

So I think the depersonalizing of photos need to be done to a point, but not everything must go.

Home Staging Paint Colors

Greige paint colors are by far the most popular right now. People like light and bright. If you have a red dining room (and I am not making fun of you because I had one too in one of my last houses) it needs to be painted. Dark colors are not popular at all anymore and when buyers see that dark color all they see is work, work, work.

An entryway with the greige paint color pale oak.
This photo is of Benjamin Moore’s Pale Oak which is a beautiful greige that really lightens and brightens a home. Photo credit A Thoughtful Place Blog

Kids’ bedrooms would be an exception. If you have themed bedrooms for your kids, buyers tend to be more forgiving in those rooms. I would say you can leave those rooms as they are.

As far as the first floor goes I would definitely make sure it is light and bright. I have a few posts that you can refer to that are very popular paint colors. Any of them would work wonderfully in your home.

The Best Warm Gray or Greige Paint Colors for your Home

The Best Cool-Toned or Blue Gray Paint Colors

6 Of The Best White Trim Paint Colors

Repairs

First of all, if something is broken, like an air conditioner you need to get it fixed. It’s going to show up on an inspection report and the buyers will want you to fix it anyway so if you know something is broken just fix it now to save time and aggravation later.

There are things in all of our homes that we know don’t work properly. Or maybe there is a hole in the wall that you haven’t fixed yet from when your kid ran his car into it. These are all things that need to be fixed before putting your house on the market.

Doing all those little things really make a difference in selling your home for more money. When a buyer sees repairs that they are going to have to immediately take care of they see $$$. So the more you can do ahead of time the less $$$ they will see in repair work and the more $$$ they will put in the offer!

Cleaning

This is one of the most important things you need to do.

I was watching a show on HGTV today where they showed a listing picture and I was appalled! It showed the family room with kids sitting around on the floor playing and toys everywhere. WHY???

First, you need to pick up and organize. Everything needs a place and everything needs to be in its place. The less clutter you have in a room the bigger the room looks. And the better the listing photos will look. And please, no people in the pictures!

Buyers need to like your house when they are looking online. If it looks messy that’s all they are going to see. They won’t see the beautiful crown molding or the amazing built in bookcases. And they will never come through your home in person if they don’t like what they see online.

After you are done picking up and organizing it’s cleaning time. This is like the deepest clean you ever do.

Before every showing you need to do these things:

  • Vacuum and sweep the floors
  • Wipe down all countertops
  • Put all dishes away
  • Wipe out the sink so there is no leftover food laying in it
  • Put away all personal items in the bathroom
  • Put away all trash cans that aren’t decorative
  • Clean all trash out of trash cans that don’t have lids (if they are decorative)
  • Make sure there is no hair anywhere in the bathroom (like on the floor, counter or in the shower/tub)
  • Open all blinds and curtains and turn on all the lights.

So that’s the quick list. Before you get to that point you might want to consider having your carpet shampooed. This will really help with the smell in your home, especially if you have pets.

You also should have your oven cleaned properly. Also, those windows need to be sparkling.

The best you can make your home look the more money someone will spend on it.

Pets

Pets either need to be removed from the home during showings or put in a crate.

Do not put your cats into a room and close that room off to potential buyers. They want to see every room. This is a major turnoff.

Smell

This is so important.

We go to a home as a potential buyer to see the home. You will look at it with your eyes. But you will also smell the home and how that home smells will give a lasting impression on your brain.

Once I looked at a home where the unfinished basement smelled of cat urine. I am not lying, it was rank! How do you get that smell out of concrete?

Many times in the past Realtors will have you bake some cookies right before a showing, which is great because who doesn’t love the smell of freshly baked cookies! Now we usually use a candle.

My favorite candles are Yankee Candle, I really think they permeate the whole floor when burning. My second choice would be candles from Bath and Body Works.

But there are some smells that cannot be hidden by a candle (like cat urine) and you really need to have something done before putting the house on the market. Whether it’s a good carpet shampooing or something else, take care of it before you turn away those people who could potentially by your house.

Props to set the stage

Books are great when staging because you can set them up on a nightstand as if you put it down while reading, or you can use them on shelves to elevate a smaller decor item. A great place to buy books to use as props is a thrift store. They are inexpensive and often have a great look that is very popular right now.

A silver arabesque shaped chandelier with four lights.

Bowls of fruit, especially lemons or limes, are perfect to use in kitchens and dining rooms. They give a nice pop of color and make the space feel fresh.

A kitchen with two white pendant lights over the island and a gorgeous french blue oven hood.

Nothing is better than plush towels in a bathroom. I highly advise you to pick up some new towels and designate them as showing towels only. After you sell the house then you can use them. I like to style them on a towel bar and leave them there for showings. After showings, I like to remove them and place them in an out of the way space where they won’t get messed with. Keeps them looking nice.

A basement bathroom with dark tile and a reclaimed wood look tile on the floor.
A copper free standing bathtub in a gorgeous bathroom.

For your bedroom or family room, nice plump pillows are great for making the space look cozy and welcoming.

Here are some great options.

A bath towel set for home staging.
A beautiful bath towel for home staging.

Last Minute Quick Tips

Keep a laundry basket or box handy to throw things in and take with you when you leave the house. This is especially good for dirty blankets or a few pairs of shoes that you are short on time for totally putting away. Just throw in the basket and in your trunk it goes.

Keep decorative towels in an out of the way place all ready to hang on towel bars for a showing. Just throw any used ones in a hamper and hang the nice ones.

Keep a rag and cleaner in every bathroom so you can do a quick wipe down right before showings. Saves you time running all over the house.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to have the whole house picked up and show ready before you go to bed. That way if you get a call mid-morning while you are at work that someone wants to see the house it’s ready. You won’t have to run home at lunch and do a crazy quick clean up. It sucks to do it but it will be so worth it.

Staging an empty house

Going back to the data from the National Association of Realtors, 93% of Living rooms were staged. After that, the most important rooms to stage, in this order are Kitchen, Master Bedroom, Dining Room, Bathroom, Outdoor/yard space, Children’s bedroom and then the guest bedroom.

Personally I think the Living room, Kitchen, Master Bedroom and Dining Room are the only rooms I would stage if I had an empty house. I personally think those are the hardest rooms to visualize where furniture would go.

A graph on home staging.
A graph on home staging.

Home Staging Companies

You can find a home staging company near you by simply googling it. Or you can go to the Real Estate Staging Association to find one near you. You can find that search engine here.

You can also go to Home Advisor or Angie’s List to find one near you. As you can see there are a ton of options.

I hope you have learned something about home staging and how it’s different from decorating your home. many of these things are integral to selling your home quickly, and for top dollar. And that is the end goal, right?

A vignette in the kitchen with a post on home staging.

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