Do-It-Yourself Staging Tips for Home Sellers

The buzzword today among residential real estate agents is staging. Home staging can change the atmosphere of a home which attracts homebuyers which can bring a higher price and speed up time to market. By adding small decorative touches, rearranging or removing furniture, or creating vignettes, a home can look like a professional set designer was hired.

Mark Nash, author of 1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home, has seen the best and worst of home staging as a real estate broker in Chicago and shares some do’s and don’ts of home sellers who want to try your house.


-Collect recent home decor magazines. If you’re not up to speed on current decorating trends, it will help you become familiar with the way interior design is marketed. Tab pages with low cost ideas that will make your home say today.

– Invite a friend or real estate agent. A second or third pair of eyes will help you bring out the best and edit out the worst in your home. Be prepared for some constructive criticism. You want to hear it before you put your house on the market, not as feedback from potential buyers. Go room by room with a worksheet so you can take notes. Depending on how much time you have available for an upgrade or makeover, you’ll need to prioritize and figure out what will give you the most performance. Do this at least two months before you put your house on the market.

-Organize a home office if you don’t have one. They are not a trend; are required for homebuyers in 2006. Many homebuyers today work from home full or part-time or want a space where they can organize their lives and park a computer. Find an extra bedroom, closet, or unused nook and turn it into a home office. Make sure there is a suitable electrical, telephone and cable supply.

-Focus on living spaces. These areas are where most home buyers will spend their time. Place a side table and floor lamp next to a comfortable chair for a reading nook. Float sofas and coffee tables away from the walls for a designer look. Use mats to anchor groups of furniture on bare wood and tile floors. Living spaces should have matching table lamps. Optimize family photos and place green plants in the room. Fireplaces should always be operable and lit in season. Place clusters of candles and clear glass bowls filled with natural potpourri on coffee and end tables. Substantial wicker baskets can organize magazines, remote controls, and toys. Limit the knick-knacks to make room for the staging materials.

-Give attention to the Kitchens. Store all kitchen towels and rags in a practical drawer. Cut recipe boxes, cookware barrels, excess kitchen machines, and cookbooks by two-thirds to open up counter space. For a quick upgrade, add new hardware to the cabinets. Find a secluded spot for a portable dishwasher. Clean everything on the refrigerator door. Skip the rugs scattered around the kitchen. Clean window frames to open up outside views. Organize cabinets with clear bins. If you can’t see the back wall of a cabinet, buyers will think you don’t have enough storage space. Ditto cabinets. Budget to keep a variety of fruits fresh in a glass container on the counter. Edit family bulletin boards. Remove the old curtains and install new wooden blinds on the windows.

-Spend time in the sleeping and bathing spaces. Often overlooked in the frenzy of getting a home on the market, these spaces can make or break a home. Purchase a set consisting of a matching bed skirt, bedspread, pillow shams, and matching blinds. Buy a new shower curtain and a separate liner. Wash the liner frequently if mold develops. Add full sets of towels to match your new shower curtain. Clean all cosmetics from the vanity. If you have a cabinet over the toilet, consider removing it and putting a piece of art in its place. Remember to keep items in the “too much information” category, out of sight. If you have a king-size bed in a small room, it will pay for buyers to outweigh this negative, so get rid of it now. Clean the chest of drawers and nightstands from excess. Make sure the bedroom receives maximum natural light. Install closet organizers in closets. Eliminate wall and door hooks for clothes. People can look under your bed, no surprises please.

-Remember the first impressions at the entrances. A simple console table with a mirror above it makes a nice entry. Make sure this space is well lit day or night. Put adhesive under rugs so shoppers won’t trip or slide.

not to do

-Use cheap silk flowers. Nothing is more distracting to shoppers than old-fashioned, inappropriate for the season, or mix-and-match silk flowers. Throw them away, now.

-Forget about upgrading Fido’s bowl. I have experienced more unhealthy pet food bowls, water stations, and litter boxes than I care to remember. We know you love your pet, but show your homebuyers.

-Ignore window coverings. Today’s shoppers think less is more when it comes to window fashion. They want the most light and the least window decorations. And no layered treatments with sheer panels, please.

-Use low voltage bulbs. Dark and dim rooms are not attractive to homebuyers. They want to see what they could buy. Replace bulbs with manufacturer’s recommended wattages and especially those that are burnt out. Newer energy saving light bulbs do not cast a flattering light on the home or on people.

-Think everyone loves wallpaper. No two people have the same taste in this instant finishing decorator. If it’s over three years old, take it apart and paint it a neutral color. And the wallpapers are out.

-Painted with commitment colors. If you’ve determined that you need to paint, stay away from flashy colors, or as I call them, compromise colors. Compromise colors are those that shoppers love or hate. It can be difficult for buyers to layer their style on them. As one client told me “I don’t live in a magazine”.

-Think that cleaning is part of the staging. Cleaning is what you do before staging. Everything must sparkle and shine. Don’t forget the windows.

Use these DIY tips to get your house on the set at your local house-selling theater.