When real estate agents talk about staging your home, they're referring to a method of preparing a property for sale on the real estate marketplace. Staging is designed to showcase a home's best assets, impress buyers, and sell it quickly for the highest possible price.
Because not all sellers stage their homes–especially homes in lower price ranges–you'll be at an advantage if you elect to take the extra step of staging your property. Here's how.
- Home staging refers to preparing your home to sell so it appeals to the most potential buyers who will pay the highest possible price.
- Relative to the amount of time and money involved, staging may be one of the most lucrative projects you ever undertake.
- The living room, kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, and outdoor living spaces are all important areas to focus on when staging your home.
- A few recommended home staging tips are to declutter, clean or replace your appliances so they look new, remove any personal items such as photos and monogrammed towels, and get rid of odors.
What Is Staging?
Good staging is “a form of visual merchandising that draws on some of the fundamentals of interior design,” says Gordon Roberts, a broker with Sotheby’s International Realty. “The object of staging is to flatter the property but not be too obvious about it, like being dressed without drawing particular attention to what you’re wearing.”
Home staging is not the same as decorating. Decorating is about personal style, while staging makes your home appealing to the largest pool of buyers.
Melinda Massie, who owns a Fort Worth home organizing firm, says that good staging lets the buyers imagine themselves in the home, shows off its good features and hides its flaws, turns weird spaces into usable spaces, creates a mood (stagers call it “emotional” staging), and makes the home look significantly better in photos.
Why Home Staging Is Important
When dealing with such a significant financial transaction as selling a home, you don't want to settle for a lower selling price or a longer marketing period than you have to.
Relative to the amount of time and money involved, staging may be one of the most lucrative projects you ever undertake. Potential buyers aren't just looking for a structure to inhabit—they're also looking for a way to fulfill their dreams and improve their lifestyle. Staging can create a more emotional purchase for the buyer, which ultimately can generate more money for the seller.
Home staging is also beneficial because potential buyers don't want to see work that needs to be done upon moving into the home. For every problem they see, they'll deduct its cost from their offering price. If they see too many problems, they may pass completely on buying the home.
How Staging Affects Sale Price and Time on Market
According to the 2019 Profile of Home Staging, a report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 25% of buyers' agents and 22% of sellers' agents said that staging a home increases the offer price by between 1% and 5%, compared to other similar homes on the market that aren't staged.
The report also found that 83% of buyers' agents say staging makes it easier for buyers to visualize a property as their future home, which can help the home sell faster. According to the report, more than half of sellers' agents say staging decreases the amount of time a home spends on the market.
The events of the past year have changed the buying and selling process, including the way homes are staged. More homeowners are opting for DIY home staging (as opposed to hiring a professional stager) and limiting the number of buyers who come into the home for in-person showings. Yet staging remains an important tool because a well-staged home looks better in photographs—and most buyers are looking for homes online.
12 Home Staging Tips
According to the NAR report, the most common rooms that are staged are the living room (93%), kitchen (84%), owner's bedroom (78%), and the dining room (72%).
Of course, time and money determine the level of staging that is practical for your home. Try to employ the following techniques in as many rooms of the house as you can afford and have time for.
A clean home shows potential buyers that you've taken good care of the property. Ideally, you should clean every part of the house, from the floors to the ceilings—and everything in between.
If you don't have new appliances in the kitchen, make sure the existing ones are spotless. Likewise, make sure your bathrooms sparkle, from the corners of the tub, to the sink drain, to that spot behind the toilet you don't think anyone can see. Your goal should be to make everything look new.
The median amount spent on home staging, according to NAR's 2019 Profile of Home Staging Report.
There are two major problems with clutter. One is that it distracts buyers from your home's features. The other is that it makes it seem like the home has less space.
Now is the time to box up and put into storage the things you don't need on a day-to-day basis (think: knickknacks, games, papers, seasonal clothes, and messy hobbies). It's also time to get rid of things you no longer need—like the expired food in the back of the cabinets, and the clothes and toys the kids have long since outgrown. The more empty storage space you have, the better.
Buyers need to be able to envision themselves in your home, so remove all the family photos, keepsakes, and refrigerator art. Keep clothes hidden away as much as possible, and make sure the bathroom counters are empty (except for hand soap, of course). Likewise, put away all the toys and anything else that is highly personal or evocative of the home's current inhabitants.
4. Focus on fresh
A few potted plants can do wonders to make your home feel fresh and inviting. If you have a lot of plants, space them out strategically so they don't overwhelm any one area (unless you have a greenhouse). Of course, dead and dying plants don't do much to make your home look well tended.
Another way to make your home seem fresh is to get rid of odors. Pets, kids, last night's dinner, a damp bathroom, and many other conditions can make your home smell. Inexpensive tricks for ridding a home of odors and giving it an inviting aroma include baking cinnamon-coated apples or cookies in the oven (be careful not to burn them), or burning vanilla-scented candles.
Essential oils (mix one cup of water with eight to 10 drops of oil in a spray bottle, and spray toward the center of each room), herbs and flowers, beeswax candles, and air purifiers are chemical-free ways to freshen the air in your home.
It's also a good idea to wipe down the kitchen sink with half a lemon, then grind it in the garbage disposal to remove sink odors. While you could use an air freshener to deodorize your home, it's best to avoid these since they can trigger allergic reactions and asthma in sensitive people. If you're a smoker and you normally smoke indoors, start limiting your smoking to outside the home and take extra steps to deodorize indoors. Finally, don't forget to take out the trash.
5. Define rooms
Make sure that each room has a single, defined purpose. And make sure that every space within each room has a purpose. This will help buyers see how to maximize the home's square footage. If you have a finished attic, make it into an office. A finished basement can become an entertainment room, and a junk room can be transformed into a guest bedroom.
Even if the buyer doesn't want to use the room for the same purpose, the important thing is for them to see that every inch of the home is usable space. This includes alcoves, window seats, corners, breakfast nooks, and other areas.
6. Wallpaper and paint
It is unlikely that a potential buyer will like your wallpaper. Your best bet is to tear it down and paint the walls with a neutral color instead. It's best not to paint over the wallpaper because it may look shabby and send a signal to the buyer about work they may have to do later.
Potential buyers will likely feel the same way about custom paint colors. You may love your orange bathroom, but people's tastes in colors are very specific and highly personal. You might think white walls are ideal because they create a blank slate that allows buyers to envision their own décor and gives them an easy starting point. However, it's actually better to paint your home with warm, neutral colors.
No one wants to live in a home with dirty, stained carpet, especially when someone else was the one who dirtied it. And linoleum is outdated and looks cheap. Although pricey, hardwood floors add value and elegance to a home. They are also low maintenance, provide great long-term value, and are perfect for buyers with allergies. In other words, they appeal to almost everyone, and if not, they're easily carpeted over by the buyer and preserved for the next owner.
Common areas like the living room, dining room, and kitchen should be your main focus if you are going to add hardwood floors. Ideally, you should upgrade the bathrooms, too. They have relatively little floor area and therefore won't be too expensive. In kitchens and bathrooms, go with ceramic tile or stone if you can afford it. If not, use high-quality vinyl tiles that mimic these more expensive materials.
Take advantage of your home's natural light. Open all curtains and blinds when showing your home. Add fixtures where necessary, and turn on all the lights for showings (including those in the closets). This makes your home appear brighter and more inviting, and it saves buyers from having to hunt for light switches. If you think your existing fixtures are fine, be sure to dust them and clean off any grime. Otherwise, outdated and broken light fixtures are easy and cheap to replace.
Make sure furniture is the right size for the room, and don't clutter a room with too much of it. Furniture that's too big will make a room look small, while too little or too small furniture can make a space feel cold.
Don't use cheap furniture, either. You don't have to pay a lot of money to switch out your existing furniture—and you may even be able to rent furniture to stage your home. Either way, make sure the furniture looks nice, tidy, and inviting. You can use throw pillows to add contrast and a pop of color.
You'll also want to arrange the furniture in a way that makes each room feel spacious, homey, and easy to navigate. In the living room, for example, seating should be set up in a way that creates a comfortable conversation area.
10. Walls and ceilings
Cracks in the walls or ceiling are red flags to buyers because they may indicate foundation problems. If your home does have foundation problems, you will need to either fix them or alert potential buyers to them; fixing any foundation problems would be better in terms of getting the home sold. If the foundation only looks bad but has been deemed sound by an inspector, repair the cracks so you don't scare off buyers for no good reason.
The exterior and the entryway—which factor into the home's "curb appeal"—are important points of focus because they can heavily impact a buyer's first impression. They may even determine someone's interest in viewing the inside of the house.
Make sure your lawn, hedges, trees, and other plants are neatly pruned, and be sure to get rid of any weeds. Wash windows well, and consider adding flower boxes to brighten them up even more. If you can, power wash your home's exterior—this can make it look almost freshly painted but with less effort and expense.
Make sure the sidewalk leading up to the house is clear and clean, and buy new doormats for the front and back doors. If you have a pool, showcase it by making sure it's crystal clear. Creating some sort of outdoor living space in the backyard, such as a deck or patio with outdoor furniture, is another way to use the exterior of your home to its greatest advantage.
12. Final touches
Just before any open house or showing, make sure that your staging efforts have the maximum impact with a few last-minute touches that will make the home seem warm and inviting. Put fresh flowers in vases, let fresh air into the house for at least ten minutes beforehand so it isn't stuffy, light a few candles (soft and subtle fragrances only), and put new, plush towels in the bathrooms.
The Bottom Line
Even if you have plenty of cash, don't put too much money into the staging process. You want to emphasize the home's best features, but keep in mind that what sells the home and what makes the home usable for the buyer are not necessarily the same thing. Overall, to get the most bang for your buck, your home staging efforts should be designed to appeal to the widest possible range of buyers. The more people willing to submit purchase offers for your home, the higher the selling price will be.