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How to Stage Your Home for a Sale


The most important step to selling your home is to create an atmosphere that will attract buyers. This is called “staging,” because you are decorating the home like a stage of a play, where the props and sets combine to make a specific atmosphere.

Pause for a moment and imagine a room in a five-star hotel; that is the atmosphere that you are creating. The house should be warm and welcoming so that prospective buyers want to stay there, but at the same time, it should be free of any indications that someone else has been there before them.

Work From The Outside In.
The first thing that any buyer will see is the exterior of your home, so make it look its best. Mow your lawn, trim the hedges and clean up the sidewalks. Add a few flowers for sparkle and color. Wash the exterior walls and paint them if needed.

Even if you live in a condominium, the exterior counts. Clean up your exterior door, and make sure that the lobby is clean and well-lit.

A Blank Canvas.
Your next step is to make a tour of the house and begin removing all evidence that a real person lives there. This means removing family photos, trophies, figurine collections, used bars of soap, pet dishes...

Now make a second sweep and remove all of the “clutter.” For example, if your bookshelves are overflowing, pack some of your books away. De-cluttering is often the hardest step for homeowners. It helps to remember that every item you give to charity is one less item that you’ll have to unpack in your new home.

Next, give your house a thorough scrubbing. This goes beyond ordinary cleaning; instead of vacuuming rugs, shampoo them. Instead of sweeping your wood floors, polish them. Clean your chandeliers, your fan blades and the baseboards around your floor. While you’re at it, organize all of your kitchen cabinets, your closets and your medicine cabinet.

When you’re finished cleaning, examine all of the surfaces in your house. If any of them still look worn or dirty, go one step further and repaint or replace them. Repainting your walls can make a big difference in the sales price of your home; a warm beige tone is best. Clean floors and kitchen counters are also important.

A Purpose in Life.
As you review each room, make sure that its purpose is obvious. Unless your house has a lot of rooms, it is generally a good idea to make each potential bedroom look like it is actually used as a bedroom, even if you have to borrow or rent furniture.

Fresh and Comfortable.
After you have established each room’s purpose, consider the atmosphere. Is everything fresh and comfortable?

The living room is a good place to start, because it’s often the first thing that your buyers will see. Does the design of the room tie together? If not, try adding new throw pillows and inexpensive poster art that picks up colors from the major pieces in the room. As you decorate, stick to neutrals for the most part, but add a few small pops of bright color for interest.

Carry these same concepts into the bedrooms. Also make sure that the furniture is easy to navigate around and doesn’t make the room look small. Replace the bed linens if you can afford to.

The same is true for the bathroom: add pristine white towels, fresh soap, a new shower curtain and a new bath mat. Next, add small amenities, such as pretty jars of cotton balls or bath salts.

Get Cooking in the Kitchen.
The kitchen is the most important room to stage well, but it can often seem like the hardest room to stage cheaply, because upgrades to the kitchen can cost so much.

Old, scratched appliances and worn cabinets can be expensive to replace. Consider repainting them instead. (Look for special appliance paint at your local hardware store.) If the cabinets are simply awful, try replacing the upper cabinets with a few simple shelves. Take the doors off of the lower cabinets and cover them with attractive curtains.

De-cluttering is important, too. Remove countertop appliances, and never leave out a dirty dish. Decorate to make the kitchen look like a pleasant living space. Add books, art and plants. Set out jars of olive oil and pesto, or bottles of wine, or bowls of fruit.

As you prepare your home for sale, remember that you are “setting the stage” for someone else to live here. Create a place that your buyers could imagine as their home, without the distractions of your possessions.

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