How to Stage and Sell Your Home

How to Stage and Sell Your Home: 10 Simple Tips
As many of you know, our family recently went through the process of selling our home and purchasing another. I knew it was going to be involved and that there would be lots to do, but I wasn’t quite prepared for showing our home and making it appealing to potential buyers. I definitely learned some things as we went along, and they must have worked because our house sold to the fourth person who came to see it. Since then, I’ve had several people ask me for tips on getting their own homes sale-ready, so I thought I’d put together a list of my Top 10 Tips for Staging & Selling Your Home. Of  course, none of these are fool proof or a guarantee that your house will sell, but they can’t hurt, right?

1. Declutter!
When you decide to put your home on the market, the first step to getting it showing-ready is to go through one room at a time and get rid of excess clutter. It’s a big job; my toughest room was the kitchen because it’s the closest to the door, so we tend to drop everything on the counter when we come in the house.  Also, the fridge was covered with Little Crafter’s art and schoolwork, which I loved…but a buyer wouldn’t. As hard as it was to take those things down, I knew that the goal was to show off the nice refrigerator and make things look neat and clean. Since you’re planning to move anyway, it’s a great time to sort through things and decide what you can throw away, what you are willing to donate and what you want to keep. Once you have a “keep” pile, put those things in a box and store them until it’s time to move.


2. Make every space look as open and large as possible.
Once the clutter is gone, you’re still not finished! Potential buyers like to see large, open rooms, so it’s time to do everything you can to make that happen. You may even want to temporarily store some furniture to help achieve a spacious look. Notice that the coffee table is gone in the photo below! I put away the stools we had in the bathrooms and kitchen for Little Crafter {they’re easily accessible when he needs them}, and even stashed some décor items I love to make things look more empty. People in general have a hard time mentally determining how much space there is and how their own furniture will fit in another place…so if the room looks and feels small because of the way you have it arranged, they may just assume it’s too little when the reality is that they could fit their own things with plenty of space to spare. On the contrary, if a room feels very spacious, they will assume there’s no problem fitting their belongings there.


3. Remove some personal photos and items.
This doesn’t mean you have to put away every family picture or the photo calendar you got for Christmas; as you can see, I flat out refused to take down the giant canvas photo in our living room. Because, really. Look at that thing. I love, love, love it. But you want to keep your personal items to a minimum, and there’s a good reason for it. When a buyer comes to look at the home, they’re going to be trying to envision their own things and their own family in that space. The more super-personal things you have everywhere, the less they’re going to be able to feel at home themselves and imagine living there. A friend of mine who used to stage homes professionally told me to think of it as if your home were a rental condo; people want it to feel homey but also somewhat neutral at the same time. The other reason is for safety; there may be a number of folks coming in and out of your house for showings, not to mention that anyone who wants to can see your home online. If you have, like we did, your child’s name spelled out in wooden letters on their wall, you may want to take that down just to limit the ability of any random person on the internet accessing your address and your children’s names.


4. Take amazing pictures for the internet.
The first impression most people will have of your home is what they see online. More often than not, potential buyers find homes they want to see from a website, not driving by the outside. Or, if they do happen to drive by, they go home and search for that home to see what the inside looks like. In our own search, we never visited a home we hadn’t “seen” the inside of already and determined it might be a good fit for us. So, the burden falls on you or your realtor to take great photos. Use natural light, make them bright, and be sure that as stated above, the rooms look large, open, and inviting. Smaller rooms like bathrooms are the trickiest, but do the best you can to find an angle that shows as much of the room as possible and makes it look great. Then, look at your photos and see what you’d notice as a potential buyer. Is there anything distracting? A second look at the photo below shows me that I should remove LC’s toothbrush cup and the soap and take another shot.


5. Display a sign near the entrance informing potential buyers of selling points.
As soon as they enter, you want buyers to be aware of some of the great things your home has to offer. We had a printed sign telling the dates of some of the major updates we had done regarding appliances and other important things in the home, for example: New windows – 2015, Water heater – 2015, Refrigerator – 2014, Roof – 2007, etc. We put the sign in one of those little plastic stands and sat it next to the sink in the kitchen. We also included simple instructions for the Touch2O faucet so they could try it out for themselves. You can even make little flyers with this information and a few photos for buyers to take with them and help them remember your home. After looking at several, they do tend to run together, so having the information written down in hand is helpful!

6. If possible, remove your pets/evidence of pets.
It goes without saying that you want your home to be appealing, so you need to be sure to vacuum up loose pet hair and take care of anything stinky! But if you have pets other than fish, you’re also going to want to carefully consider how you want to handle them during showings. There are a number of things to consider.

– Will having your pet there frighten/stress/traumatize the animal?
– Could a buyer be allergic to your pet? {It would be awful if someone had to walk out due to allergies and not even see the home.}
– Could a buyer or a buyer’s child be frightened by the pet? 
– Would the pet ever harm a stranger?

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, you may want to consider taking the pet out of the house during a showing. Since Fuzzy is hypoallergenic, declawed, and has never even tried to bite/scratch/hiss at anyone, we decided it would be less stressful to her to leave her in the home. However, there was an enormous crated dog in the basement of one of the homes we looked at and Little Crafter was so terrified of it that he refused to even go in the basement at all. Pets are a very personal thing, so this is a very personal decision, but it’s definitely something to think about as you open your home for showings. Also, keep in mind that some people are not “pet people” and will be turned off just by the appearance of an animal. They may even imagine there to be an odor or consider a minor odor a major problem.


7. Don’t run appliances right before a showing.
The main reason for this is that they’re noisy! You don’t want the potential buyer to remember your house as being the noisy one. You can lock the dishwasher but wait to turn it on until after the showing is over.

8. Bake something yummy before the showing.
My friend Vanessa {who contributes her yummy and gorgeous cakes/cupcakes here from time to time} suggested making banana bread an hour before a showing and leaving it on the stove to cool. Baked goods provide a delicious and home-y smell that will immediately make people feel welcome and give them a positive feeling about the house. Sneaky, huh? This is way better than burning a candle, which you probably don’t want to do when you’re not home anyway, and which could bother someone’s allergies. And the best part is that when the stress of the showing is over, you have a yummy treat to enjoy! If you’re feeling generous, you can even leave some out with a note saying, “help yourself.”


9. Open the blinds and turn on all the lights!
This is another way to make things look light and bright, which is very visually appealing. If it’s daytime, open all the blinds and let that natural light stream in! Also, leave the lights on to make buyers feel welcome…especially if the showing is at night! We went to one showing at night time where the house was empty and everything was so dark that it was a huge turnoff. There was no overhead lighting in several of the rooms so we actually had to try and use our phones as flashlights to see things.

10. Keep a bag or basket handy that you can throw clutter in on short notice.
One of the hardest parts for me about the whole process was that I’d get the house “showing ready,” but it never stayed that way for long…because we actually live in it! It doesn’t take long with a six year old and a hubby for things to start getting cluttered again, and sometimes we’d have a showing on pretty short notice. Once we got a call that someone was coming within the half hour!! I tried my best to keep things nice in the in-between times, but the reality is that life happens and there are just going to be dirty clothes, toys, papers, and more. I would just take a trash bag, throw everything in it that was out of place, and toss it in my car during the showing just to get it out of the house. This was actually a tip from a reader on my Facebook page, and I was really grateful for it and used it every time!

What do you think? Is there anything I missed? What things helped you to choose the home you’re living in?

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  1. This tips are absolutely some of the best I’ve seen! We’re anticipating selling our house within the next 18-24 months, so I pinned this to refer back to. I’ve always been confused about what to do about pictures, but thinking about the property as a rental condo is brilliant.

  2. These are really great tips! We want to sell our house in the near future, and the one I’m most scared about is decluttering because I just don’t have enough space for everything.

  3. We sold our last two houses in three days to the first people who looked at them. The agents were blown away, they warned us the houses might not sell. I knew they were wrong, we staged them to sell. It’s funny, because most folks will say make it neutral and bland, but we did not do that. We made both homes colorful and vibrant, but uncluttered. The biggest tip I have is to make it warm, friendly and easy for people to visualize themselves living there and being happy. These are all good tips! The online photos are very important, we had to re-shoot the ones our agents took to make them better.

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