If you’re like many people getting ready to sell their home, you’ve heard the phrase “house staging” kicked around without ever really getting all the details. In that context, it can seem like simply neatening things up and maybe shuffling around some furniture.
But in reality, home staging has less to do with cleaning or decorating and more to do with getting into the mind of a potential buyer.
For a fee (anywhere from $500 to $6,000, depending on the home), professional staging companies will do all the work for you, often bringing in their own furniture for the job. That may seem pricey, but staging typically adds thousands to the value of a home—and sells it weeks (or even months) faster.
If you’re interested, but not $6,000 interested, try a hand at staging on your own with these basics.
Start your packing early
Before you even start thinking about rearranging the furniture, get as much of your stuff out of your house as possible. Declutter, and then declutter again. The goal is not to make your house looked lived in, but to turn it into one of those pristine fantasies you see in furniture magazines.
This also applies to personal items. Family photos, stuffed bookshelves, and can all make a potential buyer feel like they’re snooping through a stranger’s house, which is the exact opposite of what you want.
The buyer should be able to picture themselves in your home—or at least a fantasy version of your home. Again, this is why it’s so important to clean out closets and cabinets and keep counters clear in the kitchen and bathrooms. Buyers will be checking out the house’s storage space, and they don’t need reminders of what they’ll have to clean, or of how little space they’ll have.
All this? It doesn’t just apply to stuff. Take a good hard look at your furniture. Do you really need that ottoman in the living room, or that second dresser in the master bedroom?
Once all your unnecessary items are out of the house, it’s time to give the whole place a good scrub. And I do mean the whole place—the inside of the fridge, the tops of door frames, switch plates, etc., etc. The key is to make the house look move-in ready, as if the buyer will have nothing to do but plop down their furniture and fill up the fridge.
If your house is on the market for more than a few days (as most are) you may have to repeat this process a couple times. But the effort is well worth a good first impression.
You’ve probably got the gist of this whole staging business by now, but this is worth spelling out for you: if your personal style tends to stand out, you will likely need to leave it behind in order to sell your house.
Staging is all about appealing to the most potential buyers possible. That tends to mean sticking to the basics, like white, grey, and various earth tones, and staying away from outdated wallpaper, overwhelming colors, and busy patterns.
If this involves throwing up a new coat of paint, then so be it. Fresh paint is fairly cheap, and is a great selling point in and of itself.
Find the light
You know how we’ve already talked about decluttering your rooms and removing extra furniture? The point of all that is to draw as much attention as possible to the space you have.
Another way to help a space feel light and airy is to actually, you know, pay attention to the light. No buyer wants a cave of a house. So try swapping out heavy curtains with transparent ones and pull them open, or adding a few extra table and floor lamps to turn on during a showing.
Don’t forget the outside
The same rules we’ve covered for the inside the house apply to the outside as well. Keep things clean and basic—leaves picked up, grass cut, hedges and plants trimmed, garden gnomes out of sight. New paint in a neutral color is always a plus, but if you don’t have the time or money, a good pressure wash can help give a house that sparkle.
As you get ready to put your home one the market, keep in mind that staging is not a quick fix for major structural problems. It won’t distract from your cracked ceiling or outdated appliances. It will, however, help buyers see the true value of a home that’s in good shape.