10 Home Staging Basics for the Noob

10 home staging basics

Whenever the topic of home staging comes up, I like to tell the story of my mother-in-law. She was trying to sell her house… a beautiful house, full of beautiful antiques and fine furniture. Prospective buyers would walk through, oohing and ahing, but no one put in an offer. Why? Because all the buyers spent all their time in the house entranced by all the nice stuff.

When did the house finally sell? After my mother-in-law put the majority of her nice things into storage.

Home staging, in case you haven’t maxed out on it watching the home and lifestyle channels, is the art of creating neutral, inoffensive environments that appeal to the majority of people (or at least don’t offend anyone) and don’t distract from the space on display. There are plenty of people making a living staging homes, but with a little trial and error, most people are capable of DIYing it.

Here are 10 home staging basics to help the noobs out there who are looking to sell a house or apartment:

1. Clean EVERYTHING. When The Beard and I were looking for homes, it was hard to see the “good bones” in the dirty ones. After viewing one home, all I could remember was the big pot of nasty… something… on the kitchen counter and the gnarly smell. In another house, the grime everywhere distracted from the house itself. When there’s no dirt to look at, people will look at the space for sale.

2. Nix the CLUTTER. Your stuff is almost as distracting as dirt. Not everyone can afford to put their stuff in storage like my mother-in-law, but put away what can be put away, and maybe start packing whatever isn’t necessary for daily living a little early. Boxes in the basement are less distracting than books stacked in corners.


3. Analyze WHAT BUYERS SHOULD SEE. What are your home’s best qualities? Gorgeous hardwood floors? Then roll up the rugs. Amazing antique baseboard molding? Find a way to bring the furniture against the wall into the room. (This will make the room seem bigger, too).

4. Let their be LIGHT! You may love to get the mood lighting going as soon as it’s dusk, but dim corners and hallways don’t do anything to sell your home. Even if it means bringing in a few more lamps, aim for lots of light coming from multiple kinds of light fixtures. After all, you want prospective buyers to see the merchandise and not everyone goes house hunting on the sunniest days.

5. Brush over the bold with NEUTRALS. It’s just a fact: Houses with bright or bold colors on the walls and floors end up with few offers. You may need to tone down that electric green decor scheme in your bedroom. Or even paint your walls a more socially-acceptable color. Even though most new homeowners end up painting eventually, your home will seem more appealing if prospective buyers won’t feel pressured to paint immediately.

6. Let your HOME’S PERSONALITY shine. As proud as you are of the awards you’ve won and as much as you love your family photographs, now is the time to box them up. If too many personal items are sitting out in a home that’s for sale, prospective buys will have trouble imagining themselves living in your home. Which means they aren’t going to make an offer!

7. DEFINE each area of your home. One thing that makes a home more appealing is the usefulness of each space. A lot of people end up with blank areas in their homes – that nook that just isn’t good for anything, or the far side of the finished attic. If that sounds like your home, invent some purpose for those spaces. For example, a tiny writing desk and matching bench in that silly nook can turn it into a mini office.

8. Think MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. Your rooms shouldn’t be too bright, too dark, too homey, too uninviting, too cramped, too sparse, or too anything else. You don’t exactly want to achieve catalog blandness, but you want something close to it that’s still compelling. Problem is, if your accessories or furniture or color choices are too compelling, everyone who tours your home won’t actually look at your home.

9. Grab a vase and fill it with SOMETHING FRESH. You don’t have to spring for expensive cut flowers. A few sprigs of forsythia in the springtime will do just fine. Fresh flowers or leafy arrangements can make a space feel more inviting, even if it has fairly obvious flaws. And fresh flowers make people feel comfortable, and a prospective buyer needs to feel comfortable in your home.

10. Get a SECOND OPINION. When you feel like you’ve taken all of the home staging basics to heart, and you’re feeling pretty good about your handiwork, have a friend with a critical eye come in and rate your work. He or she will have a better chance of picking up on the kinds of distractions that will make it harder to sell a home.

Have you ever staged your home? What tips worked for you?

6 Responses to “10 Home Staging Basics for the Noob”

  1. Michelle @ Dream Home DIY February 2, 2011 at 7:35 am #

    What great tips!! We just purchased a home, so hopefully we wont need to utilize them anytime soon :0)

  2. Christa Terry February 2, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    Ditto that! I feel like it’s good to know, but I don’t want to have to use the tips myself! Moving is such a pain.

  3. Steph February 2, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    I’m getting to thinking about staging since we are possibly moving this summer. I’m excited about the prospect of finally having a reason to make the house look really good all the time…There are several obvious things I need to take care of, but the thorn in my side is our bedroom carpet, which is in this colour famly: http://www.pantone.com/pages/pantone/colorfinder.aspx

    I have no idea what to do to ‘stage’ our bedroom with a floor colour like this. I have not decorated it in the 3 years we’ve lived here because it’s so terrible that I have no clue where to begin. Sigh.

  4. Tiffany February 4, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

    The thing about staging is… you want people to come into your house and project THEIR lives, THEIR stuff, THEIR preferences on to it, and they can’t do it if YOUR life, YOUR stuff, and YOUR preferences are in the way.

  5. Lisa February 5, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    Cool info!I agree this is soething people can do themselves :) Or should try to do themselves first before paying someone. Worst that can happen is having to bring someone in later.

  6. Kai Jones February 7, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    This is excellent advice–and what I did last fall when I wanted to put my house on the market. We put 90% of our stuff in storage (furniture, books, art, extra kitchen stuff), painted, cleaned, moved furniture–and the house sold the day it went on the market, for over our asking price. All the work really paid off!