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Ready to sell your home? By following these home staging rules and tips, you’ll be in the best position to sell your home for top dollar!

how to stage your home to sell fast with text overlay

After our first house was sold and no longer our home, I knew I had to share my secrets for staging and selling. If you’re considering selling or already in the process, I’m sure you’re frantically cleaning, finishing up projects, and staging every room to get ready to sell.

It’s exhausting to say the least! Luckily, you too can be extremely happy with how your house is shown to potential buyers.

Staging a home to sell

We actually decided to sell our house, then rent an apartment and save for our dream future home (which we’re currently in!). We didn’t want to rush into anything, and wanted to take our time and find a home that we could love for a really long time. I’m so glad we opted for that route.

Today, I thought it would be fun to share our MLS listing pictures with you from that home, along with my best home staging tips that many professional stagers use, too!

We had our first offer within 24 hours of this listing going live and multiple offers within 48 hours. We ended up accepting the very first offer, for ABOVE the asking price!

I hope these tips will help you to sell your house, too!

Research and Make an Action Plan

Several months before you would ideally like to list your house, research prospective Listing Agents. Set up a meeting with a few. They will come with a proposal to try and sell themselves to you – pay attention to this.

You want to look for real estate agents that have a good track record, realistic expectations, and that use a GOOD photographer! My major stickling point was the photographer. I know from checking listings every day that the houses with poor photography don’t get a second glance. Sometimes, they don’t even get a first glance! After all, a good first impression is everything!

A good photographer will highlight the best features of your home and well taken photos are what will get potential buyers in the door. They’ll know what focal point to emphasize and how to incorporate natural light to make the room look bigger.

Second, ask the listing agent(s) what they think you need to do to your home in order to secure top dollar. They should be able to help you rank these items in order of most importance.

For instance, our agent told us we needed to paint the house because our curb appeal was pretty awful. We also refinished our old, stained floors and added fresh paint to all the ceilings.  Decide what items you will tackle and make an action plan to get this accomplished within your time-frame.

A good agent understands the market and will help set realistic expectations for pricing your house.

If you’ve put $400k worth of renovations into a house that you previously purchased for $200k in a town of $300k houses, you’re probably not going to get your money back. The market decides your listing price.

With that being said, strategically pricing your house is important. Let’s say that your dream “selling price” is $405,000. Do you list for $410,000 to give some wiggle room for negotiating? You could but you’re missing out on a huge chunk of the market that are looking for houses $400 and under…i.e. your house would need to be listed for $399,000 in order to even SHOW UP on their search results.

This is the strategy WE used to sell our house and we sold for over listing price within 24 hours. In fact, we sold so quickly that we cancelled our open house!

Home staging ideas and pictures

Home Staging Rules

  • Up your curb appeal
  • Declutter and depersonalize (remove overly personal items)
  • Make quick fixes
  • Paint the walls a neutral color
  • Fix big ticket items if budget allows
  • Clean, scrub and clean some more
  • Designate a purpose for each room

By following these tips and advice, your home will looks its best and sell for the most amount of money in the current market. Putting your best foot forward may mean some work in the short term, but it will mean more money in your pocket in the long term!

Ready to dive in? Let me explain each of these “rules” in more detail so you understand what you need to do.

Curb Appeal is Everything

The first things to consider are on the outside of your home. First impressions are everything. Your home needs to have great curb appeal or it will immediately turn away prospective home buyers. Our exterior was looking a bit sad before we gave it some TLC.

We didn’t have the money to redo the siding (and we probably wouldn’t get our money back on that investment) so we opted for a fresh coat of paint instead.

We chose Steely Gray by Sherwin Williams for the siding, added shiny new hardware to the front door and made sure the shrubs and grass were cut.

We added mulch to the beds and edged. We also tore up the old walkway and replaced it with new pavers and painted the railing on the stairs.

Did this cost us a ton of money? No. It wasn’t CHEAP but we did everything for less than $2500. We hired painters for the house, hired landscapers but redid the path ourselves. To us, trying to DIY everything wasn’t worth the stress.

We are so glad we spent the money though – the updated curb appeal really transformed the house for the maximum impact our budget allowed. Which meant it got the higher price when it came to getting offers.

Staging a home for quick sale

This entire walkway cost less than $150 and while it was difficult work, my husband was able to knock it out in a couple of hours. It’s the little things like this that make a home feel more high end.

Home staging tips for curb appeal
Choose your season carefully when picking the right time to sell
We wanted to wait until June or July before listing our house so that all the trees were grown in. I do miss all those lush trees!

Declutter and Depersonalize

The decluttering part is straight forward. Remove something from EVERY room. A clean home is an appealing home!

Most people have too much furniture that makes rooms look smaller. Get rid of knick-knacks and shelves full of items. Put toys away. Clean everything off your kitchen counters. Buy storage bins and fill them! You’ll be amazed at how much STUFF you own when you see it all boxed away!

We had an entire corner of our garage full of storage bins, but if you have it in your budget it might be a good idea to rent a storage unit – especially if you have a lot of furniture that needs to be removed for staging.

For home staging, it is said you should depersonalize your home as much as possible. This means that generally you don’t want to have too many family portraits of yourself on the walls. Why? You want buyers to be able to picture THEMSELVES in the home instead of picturing YOU.

In the living room, I replaced the family photos over the couch with some scrap book paper that tied in with the colors in the room. However, there were still a couple of pictures on our gallery wall. But that’s OK – just do what you can without driving yourself crazy in the process!

Add a few decorative objects and fresh flowers to make your space feel welcoming. You want your home to feel like a home and to still be inviting. But don’t remove so much that it feels cold and sterile.

Declutter and depersonalize a home when staging
Master Bedroom
Make bedrooms feel cozy and welcoming when staging for sale

For the master bedroom I tried to create a retreat-like space. Light, bright and relaxing was the look I was going for. I switched out our dark gray drapes and added a pair of white sheers that I picked up at Home Goods for the clearance price of $10.  I also purchased some new throw pillows for the bed to add a pop of color.

How to stage a house on a budget
Staging a living room for sale
DIY home staging

When it comes to decluttering, do it RIGHT. Rent a dumpster and clean out the house. Anything that you must keep should be packed away in storage bins or organized in a closet, out of the way.  You know what they say, “a place for everything and everything in its place”.  Moreover, DO NOT overfill your closets. This shows buyers that you do not have enough closet space! I had my husband move some of his clothes down to our guest room for this exact reason! 

When we were moving, we were SO thankful that we had already thrown out anything we didn’t want and that everything else was already packed up. One less thing to do, right?!

Make Quick Fixes

Minor repairs won’t necessarily add a ton of value to your home, but they will make it more appealing to buyers – which may add perceived value. For instance, painting ceilings and scuffed walls, updating the kitchen with a few low budget items, freshening up the bathroom grout or even just replacing a cracked bathroom medicine cabinet.  

These are small changes but easy fixes to help make your home look its best. In the eyes of a buyer, it’s also one less thing for them to fix.

Paint The Walls

Our wall colors are all neutrals: grays, whites, beiges and light blues.

Neutral paint colors are the best for staging a house to sell quickly
Nursery Reveal

If you have any crazy paint colors I highly recommend painting over them. Staged homes are painted in neutral colors.

Everyone can appreciate neutral, not everyone loves brightly colored or in-your-face walls. Paint is relatively cheap. You can pick up a gallon for $30 bucks and some change. Grab a roller and a tray and you’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll.

Home staging tips for homeowners and realtors
The deck is old and bit splintery, so an outdoor rug was used to stage a more inviting space. Planters in the corner add a pop of color.
Every space gets staged to sell, including the patio and deck
Make quick and budget friendly fixes to help sell your house

Some of quick fixes in the dining room included organizing the pantry, spray painting the handles on the back door so that they matched the new hardware in the hallway.

We touched up the paint anywhere that was necessary – that meant on the stairs, doors, trim or baseboards. Put your best foot forward!

Home staging tips 2020

If you have a good realtor, they should be able to help you prioritize what items to fix. You don’t need to fix everything but do what you can realistically achieve within your time-frame and budget.

Fix Big Ticket Items If Your Budget Allows

Nothing turns a buyer off more than a laundry list of big ticket items to fix.

If you know you’re going to be selling your house in 6 months/1 year/2 years from now then consider putting some money into fixing or replacing a couple of these items.

Items that are usually considered “big ticket” are a new roof, new hot water tank and new floors.

No one wants to remodel a kitchen or bathroom when they’re selling their home. It’s depressing to think you won’t even get to enjoy it! If your cabinets are in good shape but look outdated, paint them or add new hardware. Upgrade your appliances to stainless steel if you can afford it.

My parents recently listed their home for sale. One of the bathrooms had old-fashioned pink and blue tile. Instead of replacing it all (who has the time or money to do that!) they painted over it with a white epoxy. Now it looks fresh and clean…and NEW! It cost them about $200 and a few hours of work but completely transformed their bathroom.

Shop around and be crafty – we were able to get our hardwood floors refinished for $800. They look amazing and added some nice value once the house was appraised. Our hot water tank is old but we get it serviced every year. We made sure that it was serviced and had a visible service tag before potential buyers came through. This offers some peace of mind at least.

Clean, Scrub and Clean Some More

If you take one bit of advice from this post – clean your house. I mean a DEEP CLEAN not just a surface clean.

Make sure the insides of cabinets and drawers are spotless, all your appliances and faucets are shiny and baseboards and floors are dust-free.

Remove scuffs on walls with a magic eraser. They really are magic!

Kitchens sell houses! Put your best foot forward when staging a kitchen
New Barstools
A kitchen with a stainless steel stove and microwave, a white fridge and hardwood floors with a grey and white tiled backsplash
Home staging ideas before and after

The bathroom needs to be absolutely spotless. You saw how I deep-cleaned in my last post. The final step was to remove all the products from the shower and sink and add an orchid to brighten up the space. Again, don’t forget to shine the faucets and shower heads and of course make sure the mirror is spotless!

Small staged bathroom
Every staged bathroom should have fresh white towels! 
Keep counters clean when staging

Designate a Purpose For Each Room

Make sure that every room has a clear purpose.

Not all buyers have great imaginations. Sometimes they need help seeing how a space can be used.

For example, we have a bonus room upstairs that you have to walk through to get to our master bedroom. It’s not a bedroom because you have to walk through it and we’ve only ever used it as a “getting dressed” space for my husband, as he uses the closets in there.

In order for this room to have a clear purpose, we staged it as a sitting room with an office nook. This way our upstairs could then be marketed as a “Master Suite”.

Master Suite Sitting Room Staging

We already had the couch and ottoman, and had moved the desk up here when we converted our office to the guest-room. I just added an old laptop to the desk, a TV to the chest of drawers and a lamp next to the couch. Voila – a sitting room!

A desk top in the corner of a room, with a note pad, pencil, silver pencil holder with green pencils and framed art

Final Thoughts

You don’t need to be a professional home stager to make major improvements on the appearance of your home prior to selling. By decluttering, arranging furniture for flow, and adding touches that make the space welcoming, you can showcase your home’s best features.

Remember, a well-staged home not only looks appealing in listings but also helps buyers envision themselves living there, potentially making your sale both quicker and more profitable.

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  1. Thank you for the tips!
    By the way, energy-efficient homes are in demand these days – keep this in mind. Replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs, installing a smart thermostat, installing proper insulation and performing HVAC maintenance – this a wonderful set of relatively cheap things you can do to make your home “greener”.

  2. Lise Benoit says:

    Thank you so much Jenna for sharing all your tips with us. By the way, your previous house looked so great!
    Next spring, I’ll put my house on the market after I follow your advices.
    Thanks again,

  3. Thanks Sue!! We are hoping to close first week of September… fingers crossed!!

  4. I am so excited for you and you’re so smart to sell and live in an apartment until you find the just right forever home to buy. All your staging looks Perfect Jenna and I am imaging potential buyers oohing and awing as they walk-through. I bet you sell fast.