15 Home-Staging Essentials

Highlight your home's strengths, downplay its weaknesses and appeal to the greatest possible pool of prospective buyers with these home-staging tips.

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September 08, 2020
By: Jacquelyn McGilvray and Leah Hennen

Photo By: Laura Armour Good

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Photo By: Dustin O'Neal, Design: Pembrooke & Ives

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Start With Curb Appeal

First impressions matter, so make your home stand out the instant buyers pull up to the curb. Some upgrades can be done in a weekend and will cost more in sweat equity than actual dollars. A few suggestions: rent a pressure washer to remove dirt and grime from your siding, roof, fascia and gutters. Paint the front door and/or shutters a bright color, but make sure it coordinates well with the rest of the home’s colors. Replace old house numbers, lighting, the mailbox and welcome mat. Clean up the edging around flowerbeds and lay down fresh mulch. Fill in empty beds with small shrubs, seasonal flowers and greenery. Even if it’s the dead of winter, get a pair of urns or large planters and fill them with small evergreen shrubs and cold-hardy annuals. If you have window boxes, fill them with fresh greenery too. If your porch or stoop has room for furniture, add a couple of chairs to expand your outdoor living space.

See More Photos: 10 Plants to Add Instant Curb Appeal When Selling Your Home

Give the Kitchen a Facelift

Kitchens sell houses, so any updates you make have the potential to go a long way. And they don’t have to be expensive; some upgrades can be accomplished with mostly elbow grease. Start by showing off your storage. Pack up the seldom-used small appliances and holiday dishware for your next house and use up all the dry goods in the back of the pantry. Clear clutter off the countertops. Consider giving your cabinets a facelift with paint; go for classic white or try a dark neutral like gray or slate blue. At the very least, change the outdated hardware for an easy DIY. A corroded faucet or one caked with hard-water stains can be a big turn-off; swap it out for one with style and added function. Instead of replacing the dishwasher, check with the manufacturer to see if they sell replacement panels for your model. If not, peel-and-stick contact paper can be used to make your dishwasher and your other appliances look like stainless steel. To update a backsplash on the cheap, try peel-and-stick faux tile, tin tile, beadboard paneling or try painting the existing tile.

See More Photos: 30 Budget Kitchen Updates That Make a Big Impact

Pare Down Furniture

The most important thing you can do to prepare your home for sale is to get rid of clutter. One of the major contributors to a cluttered look is having too much furniture. When professional stagers descend on a home being prepped for market, they often whisk away as much as half the owner's furnishings so the house looks bigger. You want potential buyers to be able to move around each room without being blocked by furniture. Make sure they can easily access your home’s best features like the fireplace or built-in bookshelves, and make sure they can look out all the windows. Avoid a cluttered look by minimizing items on the coffee table and not piling so many pillows on the couch that nobody can sit on it.

See More Photos: Minimalist Living Room Designs We Love

Rethink Furniture Placement

There's a common belief that rooms will feel larger if all the furniture is pushed against the walls, but that isn't the case. Instead, furnish your space by floating furniture away from walls. Reposition sofas and chairs into cozy conversational groups, and place pieces so that the traffic flow in a room is obvious. Not only will this make the space more user-friendly, but it will open up the room and make it seem larger.

Learn More: 7 Furniture Arrangement Tips

Add Functional Office Space

These days more people are working from home and homeschooling is becoming commonplace, so a workspace may be essential for your potential buyers. If you don’t have an entire room to dedicate to a home office, carve out a nook in a spare bedroom, a corner of the living room or even a closet.

See More Photos: 20 Small Home Office Ideas


Potential buyers want to be able to picture themselves in your home, and that’s hard to do if all they see are your personal items. Remove family photos, your kids’ artwork, framed diplomas and personal collections. Pack these items up to take to your new home and replace them with generic artwork.

Learn More: Fool-Proof Paint Colors That Will Sell Your Home

Show Off Your Storage

Storage always ranks high on buyers' priority list. Show off yours by decluttering your closets and cabinets. Keep closets neat by stashing items in matching baskets and cloth bins. Implement shoe racks and under-shelf baskets to demonstrate versatility of storage. Straighten out the linen closet and add a couple of satchels of potpourri so when buyers peek inside, they’ll be greeted by fresh-smelling sheets and towels.

Learn More: Closet Organization Ideas: Strategies for Clearing Closet Clutter

Make Bathrooms Shine

Scrub the bathrooms, then scrub them all again. Nothing is going to turn off a potential buyer more than a scuzzy bathroom. Remove hard-water stains from faucets, make sure there is no sign of mold and remove clutter by whittling down your cosmetics and products in the vanity and medicine cabinet. Invest in new shower curtains, rugs and bathmats (you can always take them with you when you move). If the tile is looking old, consider having it repainted. If discolored grout is an issue, you can fix that with a $15 bottle of grout stain. If there's moldy caulk around the tub or shower, remove it using a razor blade then recaulk the entire area. Then when all that cleaning is done, create a spa look with fluffy white towels, candles, a few fancy soaps and a couple of apothecary-style accessories.

See More Photos: 50 (Almost) Free Bathroom Updates

Fill Your Home Pleasant Aromas

A nice smell can have an immediate effect on the way we feel and think. Put your potential buyers in the right mood by making sure your home is filled with pleasant aromas. Let’s face it, we often don’t notice the subtle odors in our home that can come from things like our pets, mustiness that seeps in from the basement or even lingering odors from last night’s dinner. Place a diffuser in the entryway to help make a positive first impression. In the kitchen, place a scented candle on the stove — think yummy smells like vanilla, sugar cookie or strawberry. In living spaces, place a vase full of fragrant flowers like jasmine, lilac or roses. Use plug-in air-fresheners in the bathrooms and bedrooms.

Learn More: Aromatherapy 101: The Essentials of Essential Oils

Amp Up the Lighting

One of the things that make staged homes look so warm and welcoming is great lighting. Increase the wattage in your lamps and fixtures. Aim for a total of 100 watts for every 50 square feet. Don't depend on just one or two light fixtures per room, either. Make sure you have three types of lighting: ambient (general or overhead), task (pendant, under-cabinet or reading) and accent (table and wall).

See More Photos: 75 Dazzling Kitchen Pendant Lights

Erase Signs of Pets

We totally understand how much you love your pets (we do, too), but potential buyers may be turned off by pet odors or be allergic to fur and dander. Thoroughly clean the areas where your pets spend most of their time and add air fresheners. When potential buyers come calling, throw the pet beds, crates, toys, food dishes and litter boxes in your car then take Fido or Fluffy for a walk in the park.

Learn More: 10 Quick Tips for Conquering Pet Odors

Use Color to Highlight

Don't be afraid to use bold color in a small space like a powder room or dining room. Consider painting an accent wall to draw attention to a feature you want to highlight like a fireplace or a set of windows. If you have built-in bookcases or niches, experiment with painting or using wallpaper on the insides to make them pop.

See More Photos: 11 Common Color Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Make the Master Luxe

Create an inviting and serene master bedroom with a well-made bed covered in luxurious linens. Tucking a large comforter into a soft-colored duvet will give your bed that plump and plush look that you see in high-end hotels. Use a solid color duvet and add color with shams, throw pillows and extra blankets. Keep nightstands uncluttered and remove personal items.

See More Photos: 50 Inviting Master Bedroom Color Schemes

Accessorize in Threes

Mixing the right accessories can make a room more inviting. When it comes to eye-pleasing accessorizing, odd numbers are preferable, especially three. Rather than lining up a trio of accessories in a row, imagine a triangle and place one object at each point. Scale is important, too, so in your group of three be sure to vary height and width, with the largest item at the back and the smallest in front. For maximum effect, group accessories by color, shape, texture or some other unifying elements.

Learn More: The Art of Arranging: Design That Doesn't Cost a Thing

Use Curtains to Fool the Eye

Hung the right way, window treatments can help make a room look more spacious. Use drapes that are the same color as your walls so that the continuous hue will make the space look wider. Create the illusion of height by hanging drapes above the window. They should start at the ceiling and just barely brush the floor. Don’t let them gather or puddle on the floor.

Learn More: Do's + Don'ts of Designer-Worthy Window Treatments

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