Would you buy a house that looks like it needs a lot of work to become homey and comfortable? Probably not, and the same goes for prospective buyers for yours. The National Association of Realtors, or NAR, quotes a significant 47 percent of buyers' agents reporting that staging a home has a favorable impact on their clients. Moreover, it tends to bring in higher offers from those who are home buying.
Staging your home means improving your home value by making your house look as turnkey-livable as possible. It might cost a lot, or nothing more than a little labor on your part. Some inexpensive home staging tips can go a long way.
What’s the Goal?
The goal behind staging is to help potential buyers see themselves living in your home without a lot of work or fuss. It’s all about their first impressions and gut feelings, and it begins before they even set foot in your home. You have to make them want to come inside, either because they’ve driven by and seen the for sale sign in your yard or because they’ve seen photos online.
NAR indicates that buyers are looking for rooms that are at least similar to those they’ve seen on TV design shows. You can watch a few yourself to get an idea of what it is you’re trying to achieve.
Not every room in your home is going to require a lot of work. Experts recommend that homeowners concentrate on three important rooms: the living room, the master bedroom and the kitchen, in that order.
Where to Start?
Decluttering is the key word here. Remove anything that stamps your own personality on your home because not everyone is going to share your taste. Put items that you’re particularly attached to in storage.
Give the place a thorough, deep-down cleaning. Steam-clean the carpets. This is particularly important if you have pets that have used them as toilet facilities. Refinish dingy floors, or at least cover up the most worn-out areas with area rugs if your budget is tight. Throw a coat of paint on the walls if necessary, but not white or anything too glaring or bright. Go for a soothing paint color like eggshell.
And don't forget curb appeal. Make sure the lawn – the place where that for sale sign is beckoning – is freshly and frequently mowed. You might want to place some fresh flowers on the porch as well, or some potted plants. Evergreens work well in the winter if you live in a colder climate. Wash the windows. Power-wash the siding if it looks a little dingy. Throw a welcome mat in front of your door while you’re at it.
Read More: What Is Curb Appeal?
Now walk out to the street. Can you see your house number clearly from there? Invest in new, bigger, brighter numbers if you can’t. You want people to be able to give their agent your house number when they notice your for sale sign and how nice your lawn looks.
The Living Room
You might think that pushing all the furniture back against the walls will make your living room look larger, but that’s not the answer. It can actually make the room appear cold and empty. Arrange a conversation area for pairs or groups so visitors can imagine themselves relaxing there with friends or loved ones. Sofas and chairs should face each other, to the extent possible.
Remove any furniture in glaring colors. This might require purchasing replacements for items that are particularly gaudy. Remember traffic flow. You don’t want anyone trapped behind the loveseat, wondering how to most gracefully exit the room.
Read More: Do Houses Sell Better Empty or With Furniture?
The Master Bedroom
Rule No. 1: This is no longer your room. Experts advise going gender-neutral here. Replace that beloved family photo of your kids with some bland artwork. Throw an enticing comforter over the back of a chair or duvet – neatly, of course. Avoid prints. Stick to solid neutral colors. Declutter and tuck all your personal items out of sight. Nightstands are famous for attracting things like that old smartphone you replaced and haven't used in months.
As for your other bedrooms, give them a perceived purpose if they’re empty. Stick a desk in one of them so it looks like a home office. Put a small bed and a dresser in an empty room so it looks like a guest room. This doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive. Borrow some pieces of furniture if need be, or buy them secondhand. Make sure your kids keep their toys picked up.
The Finishing Touches
Now you’re going to walk through your home and pretend that you’re seeing it for the first time, but keep in mind what made you want to buy the property in the first place. Shine a spotlight on things that set your home apart from others on the market. Keep the drapes open and install glass doors if you have a knockout view of a lake beyond your backyard.
Maybe you have large, ample closets. Ideally, you've already cleaned all or most of the junk out of there. Consider leaving some doors or cabinets open. Open-house visitors are probably going to take a peek inside anyway.
Then there are your bathrooms. Yes, you use them every day, but these are areas where you’ll really want to depersonalize. Have some spare, brand-new toothbrushes on hand that you can use to replace your old standbys when visitors are coming. Keep new, unused towels available for these times as well. And make sure those mirrors and shower doors are shiny, squeaky clean.
The same goes for your kitchen. Countertops should be as clear as possible. It can get prohibitively pricey to replace your appliances, but you can cover them with peel-and-stick stainless steel if they’re showing their age. Check your sink and faucet. These will require replacement, unfortunately, if they’re corroded or stained beyond repair.
As for lighting, HGTV suggests 100 watts for every 50 square feet. Use various types of sources, such as overhead light fixtures and strategically placed lamps. Don’t try to camouflage irreparable flaws with dim light.
Finally, send Fido and Kitty for a walk or to visit family or friends. Get their food bowls and litter boxes out of sight as well.
DIY or Hire a Professional?
A lot of these projects are do-it-yourself, but there are professional home stagers out there who would be more than glad to take matters off your hands. This can get pricey, however. According to Zillow, professional stagers charge anywhere from $250 to $500 per room, or between 1 percent and 3 percent of your home’s sales price. NAR puts the overall cost of home staging at $2,000 to $5,000.
You can compromise if these prices have you cringing. Do the cleaning and get rid of the knick knacks yourself, then hire someone to provide the finishing touches. It’s even possible that your listing agent will help you out. They have a strong interest in getting your home sold as well.
Read More: Cheapest Way to Sell My House
Effect on Sales Price
The idea here is to work with what you have without spending a small – or a significant – fortune. But you'll probably have something to show for any expense you do incur. NAR says that offers are anywhere from 1 percent to 5 percent higher for staged homes, and 31 percent of real estate agents indicate that staged homes sell more quickly.
The bottom line is that if two comparable homes are for sale at the same time, and one has been staged while the other has not, home buyers are probably going to go for the property that was.
- National Association of REALTORS: Profile of Home Staging
- National Association of REALTORS: Home Staging That Looks TV-Ready
- North of NYC: 21 Home Staging Tips and Tricks to Sell Your Home Fast
- HGTV: 15 Home-Staging Essentials
- Zillow: How to Stage a House to Sell
- National Association of REALTORS: Why Staging Matters
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally for over 30 years. She is also a paralegal, specializing in areas of personal finance, bankruptcy and estate law. She writes as the tax expert for The Balance.