If you’ve previously thought of home staging as something only for those fancy houses on HGTV, think again.
Selling a house is all about getting buyers to picture themselves in your home. And more than 80% of buyers’ agents say staging a home makes it easier for their clients to see themselves living there, according to a 2019 Profile of Home Staging study conducted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
But even though home staging can make it easier to sell a home, for many sellers, professional staging (which can run up to $3,000) is simply out of their budget.
Fortunately, you don’t have to drop the big bucks to stage your home and get it buyer-ready. Real estate professionals share several key tips with us on how you can stage your own home without spending a ton of money.
Staging isn’t just about pretty furniture and decor; it’s also about having a clean and decluttered home. This means organizing your stuff and storing it out of sight before your buyer arrives.
“It’s important to clear off countertops and other surfaces,” says real estate broker Ashley Kendrick. “Most buyers like a clear view without too many personal items. This helps minimize distractions.”
This includes things like small appliances in the kitchen, cosmetics in the bathroom and even the knick-knacks adorning your dresser and desktop.
You’ll also want to remove anything that might make your buyer uncomfortable, including religious or political decor, and even family photos. Since the goal is to get your home ready for new owners, focus on making your home feel as neutral as possible.
2. Deep Clean
Now that you’ve decluttered your house, it’s time to deep clean.
Don’t take any shortcuts here. Remember, buyers love to search out all the nooks and crannies. They’ll be opening closets and cabinets, and maybe even peering under the bed.
That being said, now’s also a great time to safely store away your valuables somewhere locked and out of sight.
Plan on spending a few days vacuuming and dusting everything, then finish off your cleaned rooms with a fresh scent.
“Smell is always something that’s forgotten,” says designer Michelle Harrison. “Spray a clean lavender mist, or add a room diffuser. This little detail will enhance the buyer’s experience.”
Depending on how long you’ve lived in the home, it’s possible the walls have seen better days. Or maybe you once repainted your rooms in millennial mustard.
Regardless, everything in your home — especially the walls — should look fresh and neutral. This not only helps your buyer envision themselves living there, but it also makes staging a whole lot easier.
“Avoid clashing colors,” says Michelle Mumoli, CEO and Realtor of The Mumoli Group at Triplemint. “There’s a taste for every flavor, but buyers want to see a clear and minimal color palette when they enter a home.”
Find a warm, neutral tone that works well in your home, then get to work going over everything (even the cabinets) with a fresh coat of paint.
How to Stage Each Room in Your House
When it comes to DIY staging, not all rooms are equally important.
In fact, according to that same home staging study by NAR, the most important room for buyers to see staged is the living room, followed closely by the master bedroom and the kitchen.
Here’s how to stage these spaces, according to the experts.
The key thing to remember when staging your living room is to avoid what designer Justin Riordan of Spade and Archer Design Agency calls “perimeter layout.”
“A perimeter layout is one in which all the furniture is pushed up against walls,” he says. “This makes living rooms feel smaller.”
Instead, use your furniture to set up one or more clustered seating areas. Think of the way people naturally position furniture for a conversation, and mimic that.
If your living room is small, use a large mirror to make it feel more spacious. You might also pick one key feature, like a fireplace or large window and decorate around that.
Finally, don’t forget to throw in a few colorful accents, like throw pillows or large vases, to complete the look.
When it comes to decorating the master bedroom, Riordan recommends keeping it simple.
“If the room only has one bed and two night stands, that’s perfectly OK,” he says. “If the space still feels empty, add a dresser or a desk.”
Things not to add? Anything personal like exercise, work or hobby equipment.
Bedrooms should be tidy, spare, and elegant. Consider adding in a few houseplants and purchasing some new white bedding to tie it all together.
Since the kitchen is another space people tend to spend a lot of time in, it’s an important one to get right.
“Less is more,” says Riordan. “One or two kitchen items per counter is enough, and stay away from fake food. It’s a distraction.”
Conversely, real food can make a gorgeous staging piece in your kitchen, given that it’s fresh, seasonal and not prone to attracting bugs. A large display of squash or pumpkins in a bowl is the perfect way to make an otherwise pristine kitchen feel like home for your buyers.
Finally, don’t forget to incorporate something that smells sweet in the kitchen— like a cookie or vanilla-scented plug-in.
When All Else Fails, Ask Your Real Estate Agent
There’s a reason staging is a profession, and that’s because it can get complicated, fast. The best way to ensure your home looks buyer-ready? Just ask your real estate agent.
“You can stage on your own, but if you’re not familiar with what buyers are looking for in your neighborhood, it’s hard to know what to keep and what to get rid of,” says Mumoli. “Your real estate agent will go through every room with you to ensure all of that.”
Spend the time decluttering, cleaning, and stage on your own, then be ready to make the changes your agent recommends.
“My best advice is to listen to your Realtor,” says Harrison-McAllister. “They know how to sell your home at top dollar.”
Larissa Runkle is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.