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How to stage a house for sale

Think about staging your house for sale as if you’re throwing a fancy dinner party. Buyers will be judging every detail, making assessments, fair or not, based on how well-kept the place is. A dirty, cluttered home that’s decorated to your tastes, not theirs, only gives them an excuse to lower their offer or walk away entirely.

Start with a thorough deep clean

  • Declutter and purge. Start with closets, removing half the stuff and neatly organizing what’s left. Donate, sell, or throw away unwanted items like furniture, old appliances, and electronics. Dispose of hazardous materials like paint. Clean out the pantry, tossing expired food and donating non-perishables. Rent a temporary storage unit for all the things you won’t need during the selling process.1 
  • Depersonalize your home. Remove as much as a third of your personal things, such as family photos, bulletin boards, memorabilia, and personal keepsakes. Let go of emotional attachments. The less personal things around, the more buyers can imagine themselves living there. Keep a few nice, framed photos around the house to make the home appear inviting and lived in.1
  • Sanitize everything. Clean toilets, wipe down surfaces, mop floors, clean rugs, scrub bathrooms—do whatever it takes to make your place sparkle. If cleaning isn’t your thing, consider calling in professionals. A clean home generally indicates it has been well maintained.1 

Home improvement tips to add house and curb appeal

Although these home improvements don’t generally affect a home inspection, these small updates can help make your home more attractive to a buyer without breaking the bank. Here are some projects to consider to make your property more attractive to potential buyers.  
 
Kitchens and bathrooms  
 
While kitchen and bathrooms may be the most important part of a house, you’ll often only break even with a major renovation. Instead, consider smaller updates, such as replacing countertops or appliances, painting or refacing cabinets, or upgrading fixtures and hardware. 
 
Painting  
 
Fresh paint works wonders in bringing life to a house—both inside and outside. Be sure to use neutral colors that make the house more attractive to buyers, as opposed to your own tastes. Earth tones and nature-inspired colors have long-term appeal for the exterior. For interior, neutral and lighter shades are colors with the widest buyer appeal and most recommended by real estate agents.2 
 
Landscaping  
 
While a major landscaping project can be expensive, smaller curb-appeal upgrades can also pay off. These include cutting and edging your grass, applying fresh mulch, and adding flowers and other plants to create or enhance your garden. 

Tips for staging your home to sell

Staging is a way of showcasing your home’s best assets by decorating, rearranging furniture, and making other subtle changes to help buyers imagine themselves living there. Consider these tips when staging your home.3,4
 
Pay attention to the front entrance 
 
Remove any seasonal decorations that can date a house. Power wash or scrub away dirt from the front porch. Add a simple doormat and potted plant or 2 for a touch of hominess. 
 
Light it up 
 
Brighten the place by letting in as much natural light as possible. Keep shades up, and open or remove curtains. Increase the wattage in lamps and fixtures for a total of 100 watts per 50 square feet. 
 
Rearrange the furniture 
 
Create open, walkable space to help buyers easily navigate and visualize their own furniture in each room. Position sofas and chairs into cozy conversational groups. 
 
Define rooms 
 
Make sure that each room and area of the house has a single, defined purpose to highlight the home’s usable space. A desk can turn a finished attic into an office. A small table and chair in a corner can create a breakfast nook. 
 
Clear the air 
 
Rid the house of smells and odors you may not even be aware of. You can also bake cookies or cinnamon-coated apples, burn vanilla-scented candles, grind half a lemon in the garbage disposal, and take out the trash. 
 
Freshen it up 
 
Add life to the space with a few healthy, well-placed plants and flowers. Let some fresh air in for at least 10 minutes prior to showing. Put new, plush, nicely folded towels in the bathrooms. 
 
Don’t forget your digital appeal and virtual staging 
 
Overall, 97% used the internet during their home search5—so be sure your staging efforts translate well to digital photography. Some sellers have even begun to create virtual staging, using simple design tools to decorate and furnish an empty home digitally for online users. 
 
A good real estate agent can offer more tips on how to best stage your home. Or you can work with staging professionals who specialize in making your home more appealing to potential buyers. 

The open house: steps for success

Your preparation is done, the house is clean and staged, and the listing is posted. Now it’s time for buyers to see it. Often, the first step to show your home is an open house, a scheduled event when buyers can tour your home. A well-executed open house can generate excitement about the property and, ideally, could lead to one or more offers. 
 
Your real estate agent (if you’re working with one) will schedule, organize, and run the open house, which is typically held on a weekend. Sellers should not be present during the event. 
 
Some tips to help you and your agent prepare include: 
 
Tell your neighbors 
 
Make sure they know when open houses are happening and what to expect. Apologize for extra cars parked on the street and ask them to consider avoiding noisy projects that day. Neighbors can also be potential buyers or can refer your home to friends in the market. 
 
Make plans for pets 
 
Dogs, cats, or other pets should not be present during the open house.6 If you can’t take pets with you while keeping your own distance from the open house, try to find a friend or relative who can take them for a few hours. 
 
Protect your belongings 
 
Remove or lock up any valuables and medication. Your agent probably can’t keep an eye on every prospective buyer at once, so be smart about what you leave out. Your agent can also offer guidance on whether to use or disable security cameras. 
 
After the open house, serious buyers will generally contact your agent to schedule private showings. Talk to your agent about the best way to coordinate these showings. While a good agent will never show up unannounced, try to always keep your home clean, and be ready to vacate the premises on short notice, so you don’t miss an opportunity. 

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1. Nick Gerhardt, "34 Important Things to do When Planning to Sell Your Home," The Family Handyman, February 3, 2023, https://www.familyhandyman.com/list/34-important-things-to-do-when-planning-to-sell-your-home/. 2. Dwayne Vega, “21 of the Best Paint Colors for Selling a House (Interior and Exterior),” HomeLight, March 31, 2022, https://www.homelight.com/blog/best-paint-colors-for-selling-a-house/. 3. Tatyana Meshcheryakova, “The Ultimate Guide to Home Staging,” Moving, May 6, 2022, https://www.moving.com/tips/home-staging/. 4. Amy Fontinelle, "12 Tips on How to Stage Your Home for a Quick Sale," Investopedia, April 30,2023, https://www.investopedia.com/articles/mortgages-real-estate/08/staging-home.asp. 5. “2021 NAR Leadership Team," National Association of REALTORS®, October 5, 2021, https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2021-real-estate-in-a-digital-age-10-05-2021.pdf. 6. “Here’s What To Do With Pets During Showings," Realty Collective, April 5, 2021, https://realtycollective.com/heres-what-to-do-with-pets-during-showings/.

This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.

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