Practical Staging Tips for Home Sellers

The buzzword today with residential real estate agents is staging. Staging a home can change the atmosphere of a home that attracts home buyers and can bring in a higher price and speed up time to market. By adding small accent keys, rearranging or removing furniture, or creating vignettes, a home can look like a professional set designer was hired.

Mark Nash, author of 1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home, has seen the best and the worst in housing staging as a Chicago real estate broker and shares some of the dos and don’ts. for home sellers who want to try showing their home.


-Collect recent home decor magazines. If you are not aware of current decorating trends, it will help you become familiar with the way interior design is marketed. Tabbed pages with inexpensive ideas that will make your home say today.

-Invite a friend or real estate agent. A second or third set of eyes will help you accentuate the best and edit the worst in your home. Be prepared for some constructive criticism. You want to hear it before you put your home on the market, not as feedback from potential buyers. Go room by room with a worksheet so you can take notes. Depending on how much time you have available for an update or a makeover, you will need to prioritize and figure out what will give you the best performance. Do this at least two months before putting your home on the market.

– Set up a home office if you don’t have one. They are not a trend; they are mandatory for home buyers in 2006. Many home buyers today work from home full or part time or want a space where they can organize their lives and park a computer. Find a spare bedroom, walk-in closet, or unused corner and turn it into a home office. Make sure there is a convenient power, phone, and cable supply.

-Focus on living spaces. These areas are where most home buyers will spend their time. Place a side table and floor lamp next to a comfortable chair as a reading nook. Float couches and coffee tables away from walls for a designer look. Use mats to anchor clusters of furniture to hardwood floors and bare tile. Living spaces should have matching table lamps. Optimize family photos and put green plants in the room. Fireplaces should always be in operation and in season. Place groups of candles and clear glass bowls filled with natural potpourri on the coffee and side tables. Large wicker baskets can organize magazines, remote controls, and toys. Limit knickknacks to make room for staging materials.

-Give attention to Kitchens. Store all rags and tea towels in a drawer by hand. Cut recipe boxes, cookware barrels, overcooking machines, and cookbooks by two-thirds to open up counter space. For a quick upgrade, put new hardware in the cabinets. Find a secluded spot for a portable dishwasher. Clean everything on the refrigerator door. Skip the rugs scattered around the kitchen. Clean window sills to open up exterior views. Organize cabinets with clear containers. If you can’t see the back wall of a cabinet, buyers will think you don’t have enough storage space. The same goes for cabinets. Budget to keep a variety of fresh fruits in a glass bowl on the counter. Edit family bulletin boards. Remove old curtains and install new wooden blinds on windows.

– Make time for sleeping and bathing spaces. Often overlooked in the frenzy to get a home on the market, these spaces can make or break a home. Purchase a set consisting of a matching bed skirt, bed cover, pillowcases, and matching blinds. Buy a new shower curtain and a separate liner. Wash siding frequently if mold develops. Add complete towel sets to match your new shower curtain. Clean all cosmetics from the dresser. If you have a cabinet over the toilet, consider removing it and putting a piece of art in its place. Remember to keep items in the “too much information” category out of sight. If you have a king size bed in a small room, it will pay for buyers to overcome this negative, so get rid of it now. Clean excesses from the dresser and nightstands. Make sure the bedroom receives maximum natural light. Install closet organizers in closets. Eliminate wall hooks and doors for clothes. People can look under your bed, no surprises please.

-Remember the first impressions on the tickets. A simple console table with a mirror on top makes a pleasant entrance. Make sure this space is well lit day or night. Put adhesive under rugs so shoppers don’t trip or slip.

Not to do

-Use inexpensive silk flowers. Nothing distracts shoppers more than silk flowers that are out of time, inappropriate for the season, or put together. Throw them, now.

-Forget about upgrading Fido’s bowl. I have experienced more unhealthy pet feeders, water stations, and litter boxes than I can remember. We know you love your pet, but show it to home buyers.

-Window covers with panoramic views. Today’s shoppers think less is more fashionable for windows. They want the most light and the least amount of window trim. And no layered treatments with clear panels, please.

-Use low voltage bulbs. Dark and dark rooms are not attractive to home buyers. They want to see what they can buy. Replace the bulbs with wattages recommended by the manufacturer and especially those burned out. The newer energy efficient light bulbs do not cast a flattering light on the home or on people.

-I think everyone loves wallpaper. No two people have the same taste in this instant decorator finish. If it is more than three years old, remove it and paint it a neutral color. And the wallpaper borders are out.

-Paint with engagement colors. If you’ve determined that you need to paint, stay away from flashy colors or, as I call them, compromise. Engagement colors are what buyers love or hate. It can be difficult for buyers to superimpose their style on them. As one client told me: “I don’t live in a magazine.”

-He thinks that cleaning is part of the staging. Cleaning is what you do before staging. Everything should shine and shine. Don’t forget the windows.

Use these practical tips to set your home on the stage of your local home theater.

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