Home Staging Tips: How to Know When You Need a Home Stager

Is Febreeze your solution to prepping your home for sale? Then you might need a home stager

Credit: Flickr/Cindy Lin

Home staging will not only sell your home faster, but also get you a better price

In today’s real estate market, if you’re selling your home, you need to be staging your home first. And if you’re asking yourself, “What’s home staging?” then don’t expect to fetch top dollar.

A staged home will generally bring you 4-10% more than an unstaged home. For a $500,000 property, that’s up to an extra $50,000.  

Before you start counting up the cash, get a reality check. Home stagers work hard. It takes strategizing, planning, budgeting, and a whole lot of elbow grease. If you think you can simply Febreeze the second bedroom – the one with all your smelly sports equipment heaped in the back of the closet – think again.

Benefits of Home Staging

A well-staged home will created instant desire.  Image: Flickr / Real Estaging

Besides more money, a staged home will attract more potential buyers, bringing you more offers over a much shorter selling period. Anything that’s on the market for more than a month tends to draw suspicions that it’s overpriced or there’s something wrong with it.

While purchasing a home is far from an impulse buy, it’s still an emotional process, and you want to take advantage of that. You want someone to see your home and think, “I want this now.”

Someone who is becoming emotionally attached to your property is more likely to make compromises or concessions on other details. This is why home staging is so effective in bringing in more buyers and, ultimately, more money.

Home Staging: DIY or Pro?

Get some before and after photos before choosing a home stager. Image: Flickr / Real Estaging

You could attempt to stage your home yourself, especially if you follow the home staging checklist below, but frankly, if you could get your house in tip top shape on your own, it’d probably be show-worthy already.

A professional home stager will tell you things your friends and family won’t: your place smells like garlic and stale beer; you live in a cave with no ambience; and your plants aren’t “wintering,” they’re dying.

Home staging companies offer services ranging from providing a report with home staging ideas you can tackle yourself, to full-service home staging redesign including furniture removal/rental. Interview different companies and inquire about their general philosophy on home decorating. Better yet, ask for home staging before and after photos – proof is in the pudding!

Tips for Home Staging

Remove clutter and add a few accent pieces to your staged home. Image: Flickr / Real Estaging

A staged home should be a harmonious, welcoming environment that’s free of clutter. You should be able to flow easily from room to room without fear of tripping or knocking anything over. Here’s how to get it to a showroom-worthy state.

1. De-clutter Your Home

If you can identify with the folks on Hoarders, you probably need to do a little de-cluttering yourself. Home stagers recommend starting by getting rid of about half of your stuff. At an open house, people want to see the bones of your home, which is impossible under boxes of old tax returns, knick knacks on every surface and home appliances covering the entire length of your kitchen counter.

Keep surfaces clear of anything but the most necessary items and ensure closets reveal a tidy display and reasonable amount of clothes (on matching hangers). Nothing should be spilling out from your cabinets. A de-cluttered home is a more relaxing environment and lets buyers relax while they roam about.

2. Organize Your Stuff

If you’ve got piles of miscellaneous junk and cannot name every item in them, you need to start organizing. Every item in your home should have a place that makes sense. If it takes you more than a minute to put something away, it doesn’t belong in your home – at least not while you’re trying to sell it. An organized home gives buyers the impression that it’s large and spacious enough for all their stuff.

Every room should have a clear purpose and be staged with that single purpose in mind. Now is not the time to insist your storage room can be a hot yoga studio. Show areas for the purpose they were designed – you want this to appeal to as many people as possible, not just those who happen to have the same vision and lifestyle as you do.

3. Clean Away Grime

There are no shades of grey when it comes to clean (that’s grime you’re seeing). It’s either clean or it isn’t. If you’re going through the effort of staging your home, then don’t overlook (or underestimate) the importance of basic cleanliness. Nothing will make buyers flee from your home faster than a whiff of mildew or a sticky doorknob or a swirling eddy of dog hair in a corner.

Clean the mildew from the shower grout, scrub all countertops, clear out the mushrooms growing on your deck. Make sure everything sparkles (windows, faucets, cabinets, appliances, doorknobs – everything). You want buyers to think, “I love it,” not “I’d love to clean it.”

4. De-personalize Your Space

You have far too many personal artefacts in your home if a stranger is able to accurately profile you after five minutes of looking around. And make no mistake, that’s what potential buyers are doing when they wander around your home during an open house.

Personal objects are really distracting. You want to present buyers with a blank slate – a beautifully appointed one – but a clean canvas nonetheless. You goal is to create an environment that is gorgeous, even aspirational. You want buyers to envision themselves in your space, and that’s hard to do with your Country Music Hall of Fame memorabilia, bronzed baby shoes and handmade wedding quilt hanging on the walls. You’ll make buyers feel like they’re intruding.

5. Neutralize Your Decor

If people comment on how “unique” your home décor choices are, you probably need to tone down your style. You want people to feel comfortable in your space and this means neutral. When in doubt, always opt for bland over bold. No one will be able to visualize themselves in a space painted according to your interpretation of a Mediterranean sunset. You may love it, but most buyers will find it atrocious.

Same for scents, including artificial air fresheners; they’ll either set off allergies or make buyers suspicious that you’re covering up something more pernicious. If you have pets, if you smoke, if you keep your hockey equipment in your second bedroom, get an air purifier and turn it on for a week and then keep your windows open during the openings.

6. Freshen Your Possessions

If you have anything other than a framed degree left over from your college days, you’re going to have to invest in some new things to give your property a fresh, new, “buy me now!” vibe. Donate that blanket you got while in Tijuana; pass on that sad, lumpy futon; get rid of those faded Monet prints – time to join the grownups.

To start, you’ll want to display matching towels and fresh new soaps in the bathroom. In the bedrooms, consider buying crisp, new linens and extra pillows. Set your dining table as if the queen were coming for tea. Update your living room with throws, accent pillows and additional lights.

And don’t forget the garden. Even if you consider this space more as outdoor storage than a setting for picnics and croquet, clean it up and plant some flowers. This is especially true if you have a front garden. Buyers make up their minds within seconds of seeing a home and this begins with curb appeal, so make sure your front entrance is clean, inviting and well accessorized.

7. Fix What’s Broken

If duct tape is your typical approach to home repairs, you’re going to need a professional to get your home in show-ready condition. Go through your entire place and examine every light fixture, faucet, window covering, thermostat… anything on a hinge, anything that turns on, anything that’s part of your home that serves a function.

This is the time to upgrade faucets that drip, replace all those burned out light bulbs and restring those broken blinds.