How to Stage an Apartment in New York City

A veteran broker shares her tips for making your apartment seem larger, brighter and irresistible to buyers.
New York City Manhattan Times Square night

Skyline and Skyscrapers of Manhattan, New York

New York City Manhattan Times Square night

By: Mina Hochberg

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Staging New York City apartments could be an Olympic sport. Small, easily cluttered and sometimes short on natural lighting, our urban abodes are not always easy to package to prospective buyers. For tips on how to stage your apartment, we turned to Anna Shagalov, Executive Vice President at Halstead Property. Here are some of her insights on getting your home market-ready.

New York City apartments often suffer from clutter. How can sellers get rid of clutter without having to throw away all their stuff?
It’s so hard to get rid of stuff and I truly empathize with sellers when giving them the recommendation to get rid of clutter. The key is that potential buyers need to see a clean home and need to see as much of the home as possible. A great solution is nicely labeled storage bins. Buy ones that stack neatly and with so many different color and fabric options, it is possible to find some that match your size needs. No one has to know what clutter lives inside that bin or box.

What are some ways to make a small room seem bigger? 
The trick with making a small room seem bigger is to provide more light. An easy way to do this is to bring in a nice, big mirror. It reflects light and makes it feel like there is a lot more in the room. The right type of furniture makes all the difference as well. Bigger furniture can make the room seem smaller than it really is. Be sure to buy furniture that is to the right scale of the room.

Do you have any tips for staging a room without windows, or with minimal natural light?
There are great lighting solutions available such as “natural light” bulbs. Another alternative is to [call] the room a “media room,” which works better without the glare of sunlight. Tall lamps can help project more light in a room and also add a nice design element as well.

Are there any other common staging tricks that you've used in New York City homes?  
Clear surfaces. Place framed photos, flowers, plants and small items in very specific places. Everything needs to have a proper place. More is not better. My main rule is have we created an apartment where a buyer could imagine living their lives there?

What do you tell buyers who balk at the idea of spending money on staging?  
Staging is crucial for setting the stage and appealing to a wider demographic. The more interest you have in your home, the more money you stand to make on it. That resonates with sellers a lot – they do not want to have their home on the market any longer than they have to.
What is the most money you've seen a client spend on staging? What did they spend the money on? Did it pay off?
The most I have ever seen a client pay is about $20,000 and that included new paint, new lighting and we refurnished it with more modern furniture that really complemented the space and the layout. It paid off a great deal and sold very quickly as a result.

Can you recommend any stores where people can buy affordable but stylish furniture and accents for staging?  
West Elm, Home Goods and Century 21. Be sure to do a few laps of the store and look at as much as you can. Some things are misplaced or tucked away on the wrong shelves and it pays to look around multiple times.

Are there any trends in staging that have emerged in the last few years?  
People are gravitating more and more towards the minimal approach with lots of white that has splashes of color. Modern is not for everyone but it really allows someone to see a home with all of its potential. They really focus on the size and layout of the space.

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