One Dozen Home Staging Tips for Homeowners Trying to Sell

By Kim Franke-Folstad · January 31, 2022 · 8 minute read

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One Dozen Home Staging Tips for Homeowners Trying to Sell

If you want to sell your home faster and for the highest possible price, you may find that it helps to thoughtfully stage it with potential buyers in mind.

Even in a hot real estate market, staging can be a useful tool. First impressions can be critical as buyers must decide quickly how much to offer or whether to make an offer at all.

A 2021 survey from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) found that 82% of buyers’ agents said staging made it easier for their buyers to visualize a property as their future home.

What Is Home Staging?

Staging your home to sell typically involves cleaning, decluttering, and rearranging furniture — or even replacing your current decor with borrowed pieces that can better showcase the home.

It’s all about making your home as appealing as possible to attract buyers, minimize the amount of time it takes to sell, and maximize your return, goals that can be especially important if you’re trying to buy and sell simultaneously.

How Home Staging Can Affect Time and Price

It’s hard to predict exactly how staging will affect any particular home sale, but here are some factors to consider.

Research Shows Benefits for Sellers

Twenty-three percent of the buyers’ and sellers’ agents who responded to the NAR survey said staging increased the dollar value offered between 1% and 5% compared with similar nonstaged homes on the market. And 31% reported that staging a home for sale greatly decreased the amount of time the home was on the market.

A 2020 Real Estate Staging Association review of 13,000 staged homes found that 85% of those homes sold for 5% to 23% over list price, and they spent an average of 23 days on the market.

You Have Competition

As soon as you list your home for sale — whether you’re selling traditionally or with owner financing — you start competing with every other house in the neighborhood and the surrounding area. Depending on that competition, as well as your goals for getting the house sold and buying a new one, staging could be a worthwhile strategy for making your home stand out.

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Expectations Can Be High

Buyers who watch home renovation shows may have high expectations for what your house should look like. Sixty-eight percent of the NAR 2021 Profile of Home Staging respondents said buyers were disappointed by how homes they looked at compared with homes they saw on TV.

Should You Hire a Professional Stager?

While some parts of the home staging process may be easy to DIY (paring down the number of personal photos and knickknacks, for example), it may help to hire a professional.

An experienced home stager will likely have more insight into what buyers in your area are looking for and what the current home trends are. A professional also may have access to furniture, art, and other décor items that could transform your home for a quick and/or more lucrative sale. And the amount you get for your current home could directly affect how much you can spend on your next one.

Here are some things to consider when deciding whether or not to hire a home stager.

Cost

Professional home staging can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on how much work the stager does, how big your house is, whether you decide to rent staging furniture, and how long the house is on the market. There are ways you might be able to cut the expense, however, including:

•  Meeting with the pro to do a walk-through and consultation on how to stage your home to sell, but then doing the work yourself.

•  Asking the stager to work with your furniture instead of using rented items. (This could also save on storage costs.)

•  Focusing on a few important spaces, such as the entryway, the living room, and the master bedroom, instead of reworking your entire home.

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Fresh Eyes and Objectivity

Of course, you love your family photos, the tchotchkes you’ve collected through the years, and the paint colors you’ve chosen for every room. Buyers, however, might not.

An experienced stager can walk through and objectively point to the things that might need to be put away, cleaned, moved around, or refreshed before the house is photographed for the listing or has its first showing. A professional also may have home-staging tips to help you market to the types of buyers most often found in your area, whether that’s growing families who are upsizing or baby boomers who are downsizing their home.

Living With Someone Else’s ‘Look’

Stagers are trained to give the homes they work on the kind of polished, cohesive look buyers are used to seeing on HGTV. But living in a home that’s been styled for others may be a bit nerve-wracking. And if the furniture is not your own, you may have to keep kids, pets, and glasses of red wine away to avoid any damage.

Exposing Bigger Problems

Moving furniture around to create a more open look could also create some problems, if, for example, those changes expose a crack in the wall or a stain on the carpet. Making those fixes may delay getting your home on the market.

Pros and Cons of Hiring a Professional Home Stager

Pros

Cons

Marketing focus, objectivity Cost
Eye for detail Reworking décor could expose bigger issues
HGTV-worthy polish Feeling displaced

12 Tips for Home Staging Success

Whether you decide to hire a helper or do the work yourself, here’s a list of home staging ideas to keep in mind.

1. Clear the Clutter

Clutter is distracting and it takes up space. As soon as you hire a real estate agent, they’ll likely nudge you to sell, donate, or throw away anything you no longer use. Things you want to keep but won’t need for a while (seasonal clothing and sports equipment, photo albums and keepsakes, or books you hope to read someday), can be boxed up and stored until you move. But remember: Buyers will want to assess your closet space, so you may want to move those boxes to the basement or rent a storage space.

2. Depersonalize

Framed family photos, souvenirs, your kids’ artwork, and other personal items can get in the way when buyers try to envision themselves living in your home. Even the day-to-day stuff can divert attention from the illusion you’re trying to create. That means no shoes by the front door, no wet towels in the hamper, and trying to keep bathroom counters clear of everything but hand soap and guest towels.

3. Deep Clean

Neat and tidy is good, but crisp and gleaming is better. A clean house sends a message to buyers that you take good care of your home. If your place isn’t new, you still can try to make it look as new as possible. Shine up all the appliances. Scrub the sinks, tubs, floors, and toilets. Check the corners for cobwebs and the baseboards for dog hair. And don’t forget to dust the ceiling fans and bathroom exhaust fans. If you don’t have the time or energy to do it yourself, you may want to hire a cleaning service — or double up on the service you already have.

Recommended: The Ultimate House Maintenance Checklist

4. Repair All Damage

You know all those little dings, stains, and scuff marks you’ve become blind to? They can be a big turnoff for buyers — and they will see them. Why not do a thorough walk-through and make a list of required touch-ups and repairs? Then you can head to the home improvement store, get what you need to make the fixes, and get to work. And if something is beyond your skillset (a running toilet, broken appliance, or finicky fireplace), you can address it before buyers come through.

Recommended: What are the Most Common Home Repair Costs?

5. Focus on Essential Rooms

If you have a limited staging budget, you may want to focus on the rooms buyers tend to prioritize. Respondents to the NAR 2021 survey said staging the living room was most important to homebuyers, followed by the master bedroom and kitchen. And home offices may be gaining importance as more people are working from home: 39% of the survey’s respondents said they had staged a home office.

6. Neutralize the Décor

Decorating with neutrals — think 50 shades of gray — can be another big step toward depersonalizing your home. Your favorite colors may be bright and bold, but that might be a bit much for some buyers. (Their agent probably will tell them it’s an “easy fix.” But if they can’t get past the chartreuse kitchen or the green-striped wallpaper in the dining room, buyers may not be able to see their family using those spaces.)

To break up all the beige, gray, or white, touches that evoke a feeling of comfort can be used sparingly. For example, you can give your bathroom that spa vibe simply by adding a basket filled with crisp white towels. A bowl of lemons, potted orchids, or vases filled with fresh flowers can add a pop of cheer and color in the foyer or kitchen.

7. Let There Be Light

Put your home in the best light by letting in as much sunshine as possible during the day and turning on all the lights for night showings. (No need to make buyers fumble for switches.) Open the curtains and blinds (unless the view is a drawback). Keep pathways and porches well lit when the sun goes down. Replace burned-out bulbs. And think about bouncing a little light around rooms with well-placed mirrors, which can make a room appear larger.

8. Curb Appeal Matters

Why do all that work to fix up your home’s interior if there is a chance buyers won’t even get out of the car? First impressions are lasting, so put out the welcome mat (literally, make sure a clean doormat is outside the door) and freshen up your curb appeal.

Consider power-washing the walkway, and updating (or at least clean) outdoor light fixtures. In the winter, clear the snow. If you need a pop of color, you can do it with plants. And if the front door is dated or just dingy, think about fixing it up. If buyers have to wait a minute for you or an agent to let them in, they’re likely to notice if the door looks great … or doesn’t.

Recommended: Five Curb Appeal Ideas For Your House

9. Look Beyond the Porch

Depending on the weather, buyers may spend time outside checking the exterior of the house — front and back. If weather permits, you may want to sweep the leaves off the roof, try to get rid of any mold or mildew on the house or fences, clean the pool and deck, and wash the windows inside and out. The goal here is to make your home more appealing but also to help buyers focus on the fabulous features of your home instead of potential maintenance.

10. Create Space

To get a more open look, consider removing any oversized or extra pieces of furniture. A small bedroom may look bigger, for example, with just a dresser instead of a dresser and chest, or if you remove a bed’s oversized headboard or footboard. In the living room, smaller pieces may be preferable to an overstuffed sectional that seats 10. Remember, the living room is a key room for buyers, so it may be worth renting furniture that shows off its size and other details, such as built-in bookshelves or a fireplace.

11. Clear the Air

If you have pets, or if there’s a smoker in your home, it may require some extra steps to keep buyers from sniffing them out. You may want to have the rugs cleaned, and if you haven’t done it in a while, it may help to have the ductwork cleaned as well. Mildew may be another odor issue. If odors linger, open the windows if possible, but be sparing with sprays and plug-in air fresheners — some buyers may be sensitive to certain smells. If a quick cover-up is necessary, consider baking some cookies.

12. Define Rooms

Give each room a purpose, even if you don’t use the space that way yourself. Could a spare bedroom be turned into a craft room or office? Would your attic be a great space for a teen hangout room? Could your basement be transformed into a home theater by moving a TV downstairs and adding a popcorn machine? Get buyers excited about the possibilities.

The Takeaway

Any competitive edge a home seller can find is worth considering. Home staging could boost the timeline and bottom line of the deal.

For more tips and homeowner resources, check out SoFi’s 2022 Guide to All Things Home.

Ready to move on to a new home? Look into SoFi’s mortgage loans today.

Photo credit: iStock/FollowTheFlow


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