How to Stage Your Home for Maximum Profit and a Faster Sale

After over a decade and a half of real estate experience, I’ve had the ability to see what works best in selling a home. Home staging may be seen as unnecessary for some, and an absolute must for others. The best success stories result in homes that obtain a lot of showings quickly, with an offer within just a few weeks.


Staging a Home: How to Sell Your Home and Keep Costs Low?

Staging can vary in cost. Some don’t have much of a budget to put into staging, while others can put a little more into expenses. Let’s focus on low cost home staging.

Cost Free, or Low Cost Staging

You can stage your home at no cost by following the DIY Basic Staging guidelines.

  • Declutter, declutter, declutter: Start packing for your move. Remove all family photos, trinkets, knick knacks, collectibles, doileys, and small decorative items.
  • Kitchen Staging: Remove all but 3 or 4 major things from your countertops. Keep only essential things that you use every day, for example, a toaster, coffee pot, and knife rack. Store mixers or other unused kitchen appliances under the cabinets. If you never use them, pack them away for the move. Do this in every room. If you use everything on your countertops, stash them in cabinets before showings.
Bad staging
DON’T add fake food everywhere. Don’t put place settings on tables, and decor everywhere. One bowl of fruit is fine. Some builders stage vacant homes using a bunch of fake items, and it is simply too much. Minimize everything and keep it simple. Pretend the Queen of England is stopping by for tea and neaten up.


Staging kitchen counterscounters
DO minimize large items and needless clutter, which does nothing but confuse the eye in photos. If you have to move a bunch of things to wipe the countertop prior to showings, you have too much. Keep it simple, like this photo, at least for showings. Pick one drawer or cabinet to toss things in for last minute showings. Ask for 24 hours advanced notice for showings if you have a busy family and need time to spruce up. This is perfectly acceptable, unless you have an emergency buyer who cannot wait.


  • Surface Clearing: Clear surfaces to show empty space. For example, dressers, end tables, book case tops, wall shelves, dining tables, etc. Leave minimal decor on the surfaces, allowing for only 2 or 3 pieces of decor.
  • Bathroom Staging, put away all personal belongings such as toothbrush cups, electric toothbrushes, razors, anything with a cord, etc. Leaving one drinking cup, soap dish or dispenser, and one washcloth on your sink is acceptable. Use good sense. Match any decorative items, add a small, simple, wispy vase from the Dollar Store, and scrub your sink to perfection. Make your fixtures shine. Bathrooms are so important.


Bathroom stagingstaging
Minimize clutter. If you don’t have anywhere to put personal items, invest in a very small, simple storage cabinet. Keep colors basic. No busy-pattern shower curtains in small baths, please. Invest in an inexpensive neutral, light or white curtain.
  • Living Room Staging and Family Room Staging: Remember to keep furniture minimal. If you have an unattractive old chair that’s taking up space, and it doesn’t get used, get rid of it. If you have too many small tables, remove them and store them in a dry space until the move. If you have too many decorative items, remove them and pack them up. The best staged rooms allow for easily walking over to windows without interruption or bumping into things. Remove busy multicolored Afghans from couches. Your buyers should not be checking out your stuff, or your family photos. They should be picturing their own family in the room, and their eye should keep moving around the room, absorbing all the space. If you don’t have enough space, try to create some. Have fun with it. See below for an incorrectly staged room, and an example of staging instructions.
  • Bedroom Staging Does your bedroom look horrid with clutter and mismatched items? Modern and sexy wins the bedroom buyers. Reduce as much clutter as possible. Think “hotel”. Look at the carpet. Is it clean, or does it need to be steamed? Keep your furnishings and belongings basic, and don’t go crazy hanging pictures everywhere. No rose petals on the bed, please… This isn’t a romance novel. Modern and sophisticated, sleek and simple makes all the difference in the world. If you have a busy comforter, remove it and replace with a basic, light, simple one. (Go ahead and splurge here if you have the budget for it!)  Add a few splashes of color if your room is boring and lifeless. Remove seasonal clothing from the closet that you don’t wear anymore, to make it look bigger. Donate it or sell it by the lot on eBay to bring in some extra cash. Pack up dress shoes that you don’t wear. Spray some Fabreeze to freshen up any stale or laundry odor.
staging a bedroom
Do keep it simple, elegant, and basic. Don’t over dramatize. Your extreme love for giraffes or the jungle shouldn’t be reflected here. It should not be taste specific, but rather gently decorated with as much light coming in as possible. Pack up grandmas knick knacks and remove anything that doesn’t appear in the average design magazine. Turn end table lights on if it’s an overcast day during showings.

Question to ask yourself: If Elle Decor were coming in to photograph my room for a magazine showcase photo, would they want me to get rid of this small item? If the answer is likely yes, pack it up or sell it. One less thing to pack when you move!

  • Paint: Keep paint colors neutral, or modern. Bold colors are ok if the design of the room suits modern style. However, small rooms should not have dark paint. If you have to paint, remember that you’re staging for dollars. This may make all the difference in the world. If one wall is painted a bold, modern  color while the others are light & neutral, that’s perfectly acceptable, as long as the paint isn’t totally unsuitable for the room.
  • Curtains and Window Coverings This is extremely important. Never close curtains or blinds during showings. In fact, remove heavy draperies all together, or move your rod up higher than the window (to show height) and extend the rod out so you’re able to push the curtains all the way open. Don’t pin them top center, because this blocks a ton of light and can make rooms appear dark, small, or depressing. Please open curtains all the way prior to showings. Your buyers will appreciate the bright, sunny cheer.

Bad Staging Example 

Living room staging
Above: an incorrectly staged room. To stage this living room, remove large center table, black chair with pillow, and move both trees away from windows. Move or reposition the chair at the bottom front of the photo, as it blocks entry into the room. The black squares on the TV cabinet also draw the eye downward, and should be changed to white. Allow full light into the room by opening blinds completely, which now cover the windows. Move chair away from window to allow a buyer to see the outdoors. The exception to the rule is if there is some sort of unsightly eye sore outside the window, such as an unkept yard or property next door.

  • Basement & Garage Staging If you’re storing belongings in the basement, stack boxes neatly in one area up against walls. Tidy up any messy areas, but don’t worry if you have a lot of stuff. Basements and garages are known for storage. If you have so much stuff that a buyer can’t get through, it’s time for a garage sale, or a trip to the local dump, if you plan on downsizing your belongings. Make extra money by placing vintage items up for sale on eBay. Tools are a big seller, as are vintage Christmas decorations! Handy Tip: You can relocate couches that you’ve moved from upstairs, or even nice pictures or exercise equipment in the basement, to show a potentially finishable room, or full functionality as a home gym or play area. Run a dehumidifier if you have dampness, so as not to destroy your items, and keep the basement humidity free. Empty it before any showings.
Basement staging
Basement idea: Clear out at least one area to show a use for the space. Store boxes neatly in another area, on a different wall. In your staged area, don’t be afraid to take an unsightly rug from upstairs and lay it right here! 

Small Repairs Notice broken pieces of trim? Small leaks?  Unsightly bathroom grout? Missing switch plate covers? A dirty window sill? A broken knob? Scuffs on walls? Don’t go nuts! Address these small things using quick fixes and touchups when possible, and ask a cleaning person or contractor friend for a couple hours of help, in exchange for a hundred bucks for a couple hours of work. Extra hands are priceless. Ask kids to help with small stuff so they can feel part of the project. The faster you sell and the more money you make on selling your home, the faster you can move to your new home.

Repair Tip: Remember that if your buyer is obtaining a mortgage such as an FHA, the appraiser may note some repairs needed prior to closing. Some can be small, such as screwing in a switch plate and making it tighter. Others may note a missing banister but some appraisers may ignore these things. Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t panic. If your buyer’s bank has an appraisal performed that reveals several required repairs (which is not common) speak to you attorney about your options if you don’t have the money. If you know you have major repairs needed in the home, you may want to consider asking your agent if it is best to forego tough mortgages such as FHA, and allow only Conventional financing buyers. Renovation mortgages may also be the best case for you. Speak to your agent about which is in your best interests.

Cross Checking: Final Steps

After you’ve staged your house, get your camera out. Stand at various angles of the room with all curtains and blinds completely open, drenching the room with light. Snap at least two full photos of each room, from opposite angles. Don’t take photos of your furniture; step back and take photos of the entire room. Now, go sit down with a drink and focus on your work. Look at your photos. Are there things in the finished product transformation that need to be removed? Do you see something in the photo, that isn’t quite identifiable in a simple picture? In other words, if you have to squint and move your eye closer to the photo to see “that thing” on the table in the living room, and the average eye cannot identify what it is, then consider removing it and retake your photo. Your room should look like a showroom, not a museum of collectibles and artifacts. When you’re pleased with your work, send photos to your broker for review and see if additional suggestions are needed.

New Photos on Listed Homes

If your agent already took photos months ago when you listed your house, ask them to come back and take new ones. This is their job, and they’ll likely enjoy seeing the new look. You may also take them yourself and send them to your agent, if you have a high quality camera. (Do not take vertical photos). If your home has been on the market more than 6 months, remove the listing all together, ask for a new MLS listing, and your agent will put it on as a “new listing” which will attract more attention. Be sure your agent changes the photos on all sites such as Zillow, and removes the old photos. Your new home should be listed on the local MLS to obtain maximum exposure.

Be sure your price is fair for the market. If within 2 or 3 weeks you still don’t have a buyer at your asking price, and you haven’t had showings, it may be time to reduce the price again. Discuss this with your agent. Remember: reducing your home by $5000 likely won’t help. If you start on the higher side, be prepared to reduce it down within 30 days, so you don’t begin to look “stale” on the market.

Congratulations and good luck in the sale of your newly staged home. Have patience and remember that seasons can even effect buyer activity, as can local market activity.


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