Learn how to help your home look its best with these staging tips from real estate pros.
If you’re selling your home, you’ve likely heard all the typical advice around applying some home staging techniques to help earn you top dollar on the sale in the shortest amount of time. The concepts of making your home clear, open, inviting, and neutral for potential buyers are all pretty familiar. Still, knowing exactly what to do—and what not to do—isn’t always obvious: It’s easy to go overboard on staging.
“Keep it real: Staging is the intersection of dreaming and livability,” says Misty Soldwisch, broker and owner at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Innovations in Indianola, Iowa. “The goal is to be aspirational, but in a way where potential buyers feel comfortable.”
Take it from the experts—follow these top tips for successful home staging to help your home shine to potential buyers.
1. Start with Curb Appeal
Selling your home begins with listing photos, but once a potential buyer arrives, you want the entrance and exterior of your home to invite them in. To do this, take time to spruce up the outside of your home.
“Cohesive landscaping with fresh plants and gleaming new paint will not only look great in the listing photos, but it will contribute to the first impression when buyers arrive,” says Andrew Pasquella, a Realtor with Sotheby's International Realty.
Revathi Raja Kumar, a Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Reliance Partners in Northern California, suggests mulching, removing cobwebs, and hiding trash cans, too. You can go a step further and even stage an area with a fire pit or barbecue station so buyers can envision spending time outside in the yard.
Neymar Lopez, a Denver Metro Association of Realtors board member, suggests pressure washing, slapping a new coat of paint on your front door if possible, and making sure features such as your mailbox and house number look sharp.
You’ve likely heard this one before, but it can’t be overstated: Staging a home means making it appear neutral and inviting to any buyer. That means removing those items that make it obvious that it currently belongs to a specific family.
With that in mind, be sure to remove family photos, wedding invites from the fridge, children’s artwork, evidence of pets, and the like.
3. Remove Rugs
Rugs can unify a space and add pops of color, but they can also make a room feel cramped and small. They can also be a trip hazard for some. If you can remove a rug, do so.
“That opens up the space more than you think,” says Brandi Taylor, a broker and advisor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Paracle in the Carolinas.
4. Add Mirrors
Got a cramped room? Move a mirror, or add one. They work in most spaces and can create the illusion of more space.
“Adding a large mirror may make the living room look brighter and larger,” Kumar says.
5. Remove Clutter
As you clean and depersonalize your home, you’ll want to also remove clutter. That includes mail on the kitchen counter, forgotten projects on bookshelves, and boxes and tools in the garage. It can also include unnecessary furniture.
To spot clutter, try a different point of view. Michelle Dahl, a partner associate and Realtor at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Synergy based in Flagler Beach, Florida, suggests grabbing a camera.
“Take a picture of each room with your camera and look at what stands out,” she says.
Don’t stay indoors: Clutter can be a deterrent outside the home, too.
“Too many gnomes, bird feeders, wind chimes, and children's toys give buyers a sense of busyness instead of welcome and refreshment,” says Patricia Martin, a Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Native American Group in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
6. Add Accents
Once you’ve decluttered and removed personal items and decor that may not appeal to buyers, your home may feel pretty sparse. To remedy that, repurpose items you already have as accents. Move around art and color-coordinated throw pillows or blankets to bring new color to the various rooms of your home.
“Using white with black accents allows for a fresh clean look,” says Sandra Mac Adam, a Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Registry in Temecula, California.
7. Add Fresh Fruit or Flowers
Fresh flowers smell good and look even better. Add some in a vase in the kitchen and bathroom to bring life into the home, suggests Angela DeMarta, a Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Paracle in the Carolinas.
Try fresh fruit in the kitchen, too.
“You may clear out the countertop and accessorize with matching cookware or a bowl of fresh fruit, such as lemon, which adds a beautiful pop of color,” Kumar says.
8. Replace Air Filters
If you’ve lived in your home for years, you probably can’t smell that unique scent the place has taken on as you’ve lived there. Perfumes, cooking fumes, and pet odors might not matter to an owner, but a buyer will notice.
To mitigate this, be sure to replace the air filters in your home.
“Air filters should be replaced every one to three months, and especially before you list a home to ensure clean air,” DeMarta says.
9. Hire a Professional Cleaner
A clean home is key. Keeping your space virtually spotless can make a difference in how much time your home spends on the market and even what offers come in. Presenting a thoroughly clean space can do a lot for your selling prospects, even if you don’t have the means to implement other home staging tips. If you’re able to, get professional cleaners to do the dirty work.
“Dust all ceiling fans, clean inside the refrigerator and oven, clean glass and windows,” DeMarta says.
You can hire a professional cleaner for a couple hundred dollars, and the result will be much more impressive than what you’re able to do on your own.
10. Think Holistically
As you stage your home, try to make the overall aesthetic cohesive.
“Too many sellers want to only focus on specific pieces of furniture in a specific room, but the home will likely sell faster when there is a unified aesthetic throughout the entire home,” Pasquella says.
He suggests taking cues from the design and location of the home.
“Buyers will be consciously and unconsciously layering input from their senses to create one impression,” he says. “These cues will conflict and leave a bad impression if an extremely modern home is loaded with Victorian furniture or if a mountain lodge is decorated as a beach house, for example.”
11. Be Careful with Artwork
Artwork can add needed accent color and draw you through a home. Dahl suggests using it sparingly and only in places that tie spaces together.
Be sure to hang art properly, too, Pasquella says.
“Art gives a focal point to the room, can make a room feel larger, and can make ceilings feel higher when hung at the right height,” he says. “Art also gives a finished look that says the home is ready to move-in.”
12. Consider All Five Senses
When the times comes for a showing, be sure your home not only looks and feels good but smells and sounds good, too.
“I love to bring in fresh greenery and flowers to a staged home. I also love to add oil plug-ins in every room with a subtle, clean smell,” says Jennifer Frankford, a broker with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Southern Branch in Huntsville, Alabama. “Both give a fresh and inviting feeling when buyers are walking through.”
You can also put on some music, but try sticking to something instrumental to avoid offensive lyrics or a particular genre.
“Just like when stores play music while you shop, music is a great touch to get buyers in the mood to buy a house,” DeMarta says.
13. Think Light and Bright
Make sure all the spaces in your home are well-lit and that the windows are open and inviting, allowing in natural light. Bring in accents that channel bright energy.
“Flowers, fruit—even plastic—go a long way to brighten a home,” says Bret Weinstein, CEO of Guide Real Estate. “Make sure that all lights work, that all windows can be opened. The goal is a light and bright house.”
14. Disconnect from the Process
Selling your home can be a difficult process emotionally, especially as you drastically overhaul the look and feel of your home to impress strangers. The more you can detach yourself from that process, the easier it will be to apply the advice of your real estate agent and others who are trying to help you get top dollar for your property.
“No matter how well you know your house, an outside perspective who can come in and look at your house with fresh eyes is invaluable,” Pasquella says. “Chances are likely that the stager will want to put pieces in your home that you would never want. Let them.”