Home staging tips

Top Tips for Staging Your House for a Successful Sale

What’s covered in this article – click on a link to learn more:

  1. No Empty Rooms
  2. Clear The Clutter
  3. Depersonalize
  4. Opt For Neutral Art
  5. Don’t Set The Table
  6. Highlight Unique Features
  7. Create a Model Home Feel
  8. Good Lighting
  9. Only Minor Renovations
  10. No Pets
  11. Beware of Fresh Scents
  12. Curb Appeal
  13. Stay Within Your Budget
  14. Don’t Take It Personal

Picture this: You’ve decided to sell your house, pack up, and move to greener pastures. The catch? You want to sell it fast and at a price that makes your wallet do a happy dance. 

Well, that was me a while back. Now, I’m here with Kasia McDaniel, professional home stager with Blue Diamond Staging & Design, to share some of her top tips for staging a house for sale, and a few quips from my own staging success story.

Kasia McDaniel sitting at a dining room table
Kasia McDaniel of Blue Diamond Staging & Design

Tip #1: No Empty Rooms

Consider this stat that McDaniel threw out at me. Potential buyers only take about five to seven minutes walking through an empty house, versus 30 to 40 minutes in a furnished house! Since you need a buyer to develop an emotional connection to the property that moves them to make an offer, you need to hold their attention.

And, since that’s an in-person stat, just imagine what photos of empty rooms do for online visitors. About as much as what’s in them! McDaniel warns, “Without furniture in at least the main rooms, your visitors just won’t be able to get a sense of scale, and will not be able to see themselves living in the space. Staging furniture will help ignite their enthusiasm and get them imagining their life in your space.” 

Before picture of vacant living room and after picture of same living room with furniture, Images Courtesy of BlueDiamonStagingandDesign.com

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Tip #2: Clear the Clutter

Are you familiar with the ‘Instagram vs. Reality’ meme? Well, I like to think of staging your home to sell as creating an Insta-worthy reality. And, from personal experience, this amounts to lots of deep cleaning and decluttering. Invest time or money into cleaning all those things you typically overlook because buyers will take note.

This is really one of the most basic staging home tips, so take it seriously. It’s time to box up any shelf-top collections and stacks of papers or magazines, and get them into self-storage where they’ll be safe and available to you, and out of sight to potential buyers. Instead, aim for simple decor, like houseplants, flower-filled vases, and candles.

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Tip #3: Depersonalize

Next up, depersonalize and neutralize. This one can sting a bit because we all love our own unique style, but staging isn’t about showing off your personality. You want buyers to envision their own style and personality in the space, not yours. It’s as simple as that.

Before picture of master bathroom with occupants belongings and after picture of same bathroom depersonalized and neutralized, Images Courtesy of BlueDiamonStagingandDesign.com

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Tip #4: Opt For Neutral Art

When you’re decluttering, don’t forget to take a look at your walls. If you have a large art collection or pieces that might be a little outside the bounds when it comes to broad appeal, it’s time to take them down and opt for a few well-placed, non-offensive art pieces that flow with a neutral color scheme or compliment the style of the house.

This was one of many tips on staging a home that came in handy. In my case, we packed up my wife’s extensive collection of black velvet paintings, and opted for neutral abstracts that were well-scaled to each space. While she briefly missed her collection, she acknowledged that sad clowns and howling wolves might pose a distraction to some most buyers.

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Tip #5: Don’t Set the Table

Whether it’s your kitchen or your dining room table, don’t set it as if you’ve got a dinner party happening that evening. When explaining why staging a house is important, (link to new post: why staging a house is important) McDaniel detailed the importance of being realistic, and this follows suit. 

“Leaving a table set just isn’t everyday real life,” she explains. “Staging a table top is pretty straightforward. Maybe a neutral runner with a flower in the middle, but nothing fancy. And, remember, no glassware and no knives. Keep things safe and simple for an open house, because families may have little kids in tow, and it’s just not necessary.”

Before picture of dining room with cluttered table and after picture of same dining room now neutral and decluttered, Images Courtesy of BlueDiamonStagingandDesign.com

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Tip #6: Highlight Unique Features

Every home has unique features that make it stand out. For me, it was a cozy fireplace with built-in bookshelves. I made sure to highlight this gem by arranging some stylish books and adding a couple of comfy chairs nearby. We knew it had been a selling point for us, and likely would be for others. So, take a look around, do a little inventory, and show off your home’s unique, standout features.

Before picture of playroom with built-in cabinets and after picture of same room as a living room – built-in cabinets stand out more, Images Courtesy of BlueDiamonStagingandDesign.com

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Tip #7: Get That Model Home Feel

What makes a model home so warm and inviting? Immaculate cleanliness, neutral color palettes, and well-defined, functional furniture arrangements are among the highlights. You’re going to want your staging efforts to give a similar effect. Help buyers envision your space’s potential by paying attention to the details. 

After getting inspiration from other model homes and designers, two things I incorporated were showcasing our most pleasant outdoor view that looked back on a small patch of pine forest, and focusing on furniture placement that created a good flow.

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Tip #8: The Right Lighting

Good lighting is essential. Maximize natural light by keeping curtains or blinds open, and position furniture and accessories to take advantage of the incoming light. Replace old, dim bulbs with brighter, energy-efficient ones. Bright, well-lit rooms feel more inviting and spacious, which is a big win in the staging game.

Tip #9: Only Minor Renovations

Many homeowners believe that they will be able to recoup the cost of doing a full renovation on an outdated kitchen or bathroom and command a higher asking price, but there’s no guarantee on that. 

McDaniel cautions, “Doing a full renovation can often cause that one remodeled room to ‘outshine’ the others, and can lead to a domino effect of making big, big changes. Instead, make smaller cosmetic updates, like replacing countertops, sinks, and faucets. The room will get an update, and you’re much more likely to recover those costs.”

Before picture of kitchen painted red and after picture of same kitchen with neutral colored paint, making the kitchen feel bigger and brighter, Images Courtesy of BlueDiamonStagingandDesign.com

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Tip #10: No Pets Allowed

If you’re a pet owner like me, you’ll understand the challenges of selling a house with furry friends. McDaniel offers some sound advice when it comes to special pet considerations. “You definitely don’t want to have any signs of pets in the photos of your house. You need to remove those. No doggie cage or kitty litter box,” she instructs.

“People are sensitive to smells. If they see any signs of pets, they automatically think the house smells. It may or it may not, but we don’t want them going there in their minds from the first series of photos. I’ve actually seen some sellers include a photo with the dog on the bed, and even if their dog’s a cutie, you’ve just eliminated all those potential buyers who have dog allergies. Always remember that the goal is to sell your home!” Whether we like it or not, some buyers might not be as pet-friendly as you and me.

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Tip #11: Beware of Fresh Scents 

I’ll be honest here. After investigating tips for staging a house for sale, I was sold on making my house smell like my Nana’s house: the cinnamony goodness of a fresh-baked apple pie. And, even though I don’t think popping a frozen pie into the oven prior to our open houses necessarily hurt us in the long run, McDaniel has some great advice on fresh scents. 

“You definitely want to go for neutral, like not having a smell of any kind,” she said. “No baked goods, incense, or floral scents for the masses. Not only are many people highly sensitive to fragrances, but the use of scents almost acts as a red flag to potential buyers. They walk around going, what are they trying to cover up? Is it so perfumey to hide the smell of mold? Definitely, the less fragrance, the better,” she explains. Lesson learned for next time!

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Tip #12: Curb Appeal

It is so important to make a good first impression, so don’t underestimate home staging for curb appeal! “If you’ve got a for sale sign in the front yard, and someone pulls up to an unmowed lawn, untrimmed shrubs, and a messy front porch, they will imagine that the inside is in an equally unkempt state. If a potential buyer is out front, you want to wow them, so your exterior space should be one of your first priorities!” she exclaims.

Grey house exterior with entrance porch and red door.
Photo taken by Artazum, image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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Tip #13: Mind Your Budget

As soon as you know you’re going to be moving, McDaniel says that you should talk to a professional real estate agent and home stager so that they can help you with an outline of what needs to be done and what to prioritize. “Use this as a starting point, and work from there,” she suggests.

“After you have an idea of what needs to be done, you can create a timeline, and then based on your available budget, you can choose what to outsource and what to DIY. If you need to hire a painter or a landscaper, you’re going to need some lead time to get the work done on time. You can also factor in plenty of time to deep clean and declutter step-by-step,” she added.

Staging a house on a budget is possible. McDaniel recommends focusing first on the exterior, and then the living room. “That first impression is so important, so spend a little on getting your curb appeal working for you, and if you can only do a single room, opt for the living room. One of the most important rooms in the house, the living room needs to be decluttered, neutral and set up to optimize flow,” she advises.

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Tip #14: Don’t Take It Personal

Moving can stir up a lot of emotions, but McDaniel explains that it’s best for sellers to change their mentality and buy into the idea that this house is no longer your home. “Selling a home is a business transaction. You have put the house on the market to sell it and move out,” she says as a heartfelt reminder. “It’s time for the house to be lived in and loved by another family that’s going to put their own spin on things. The truth is, you’re moving, you’re taking all your personal stuff with you, and all your emotional attachments, too.”

It’s important to remember that staging isn’t just about making your home look pretty; it’s about creating an irresistible package that buyers want. So, roll up your sleeves, get creative, and turn your house into a showstopper. The faster sale and higher price tag will be worth every effort.

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Categories Real Estate