7 Staging Props for $20.00 or (Way) Less

The devil is in the detail, or so they say. And when it comes to preparing your home for market, those details really can have a big impact! Here is a short list of just a few of my favorite Staging Props that are inexpensive and can truly help turn a listing from ho-hum into YUM!

1) NEW FRONT DOOR MAT – Nothing says ‘welcome’ like new front door mat! It can absolutely make your entryway feel finished and well cared for. My favorite (still, after all these years!) is Trampa from Ikea. For $9.99, you can’t find better than this. It’s long lasting, works indoors or out, and as a neutral, it goes with everything!


2) NEW LAMPSHADES – Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but freshening up the lampshades can make a dated lamp look brand new. And if you invest in something a little more opaque rather than dark and heavy, it can literally brighten up the room! Check out Target for some really affordable options. Shown below, Rectangle Linen lampshade from Target, $19.99.

target lampshade

3) THROW PILLOWS – If your sofa is looking tired, or your bedroom needs a boost, a few fun new throw pillows can really add just the right pop of color to brighten the space up. On the other hand, if you’ve got some very dated seating, throw pillows in a neutral color can help tone down loud upholstery and make it look far more current. I’ve found the best deals at Walmart and The Home Store. Checkout the Fretwork Pillow from Walmart for just $9.97.

Walmart Fretwork Pillow

4) RUST-OLEUM PAINT – Yep! That’s right! When it comes to staging to sell, paint is your friend, and Rust-Oleum comes in so many applications and colors, you could literally update any paintable surface in your house for a quick makeover, interior or exterior. From lighting, to mailboxes, to trim work and doors, to cabinets, to furniture, and so much more. I am a huge fan of Rust-Oleum products as they cover very well, are easy to apply, and seem to hold up.


5) WICKER BASKETS & CONTAINERS – Baskets make awesome props when staging your home for market as they are neutral in design, and can keep clutter out of sight when you need to clean up quickly for showings. My favorite finds are from World Market and Pier 1 Imports, as shown below starting at $7.98.


6) FRESH FLOWERS – What could be more cheerful and inviting than a fresh market floral bouquet? Make flowers last longer by snipping off the stems at an angle before placing in vase, changing water daily, and refrigerating them overnight, just like they do at the market. Prices vary, but usually well under $20.00…or save even more and pick them from your own garden!

market bouquet

7) HARD FOILED CANDIES – I call hard foiled candies, ‘the edible prop’. It’s a small bowl full of temptation that can actually make potential buyers take a second look when placed strategically. I set them up in a nice, clear, open candy dish next to your listing information somewhere in the house where you’d like them to linger and take a longer, sweeping view! Who can resist the urge to reach in for a little something sweet as they’re mulling it over? Place the bowl in plain sight, somewhere you would like potential buyers to view a little longer…in a grand entryway, on the island in a beautiful kitchen, on the dining room table overlooking that gorgeous view. I personally use Werther’s Original Hard Candies…$6.99 or less per bag… and make sure to keep that bowl well-stocked!

werthers original

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“Ask the Home Staging Expert®” – How do we fix bare spots around our yard?


Dear Ms. Matzke,

We are planning to sell our house next spring and have already completed a number of interior updates. (It looks amazing!) But we’ve been in panic mode because the exterior curb appeal doesn’t reflect the interior appeal! We have a number of bare spots under our trees and several spots around the shady perimeters that look absolutely desolate. We’ve tried planting grass many times without success. We’ve even tried sod! It still looks awful. Any ideas on what we can do to fix this?

Great House, Horrible Yard in Indiana

Thank you for writing in!

That certainly is a dilemma, but you do have some nice options. There are actually several shade groundcovers available that might work for you. And if you plant them now, they should come up nicely by spring. Be careful though, as some of the groundcovers can be quite invasive.

I’ve personally had very good luck with Spotted Deadnettle. It seems to stay quite contained and is easy to control, low growing, and a lovely bonus is that it flowers and really brightens up a shaded area. Another good one to consider is Barrenroot. Barrenroot also flowers…in variegated reds or whites…and grows 12-18 inches tall, so if you’re looking for something a little more showy, this might do it for you.

You might also consider planting some nice shade hostas. You don’t have to plant them directly under the trees, but a few feet away as many of them do get quite large and will fill in the bare spots easily. They also have miniature hostas now and with so many varieties to choose from, I encourage you to check out your local gardening center to decide.

Last but certainly not least…you can always just cover the bare spots with mulch! A natural mulch not only covers up the bare spots, but can give your landscape a finished look. If you want to add some color, consider digging a few clay pots into the ground just to the rim and planting some lovely shade flowers, like Begonias or Impatiens. You can also invest in ‘no dig’ edging to help contain the mulch and make the process faster and easier to complete.

Hope these suggestions help and wishing you success on your home sale this spring!

If you have a question for “ASK THE HOME STAGING EXPERT®”, please contact lori@homestagingexpert.com.

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7 Things Home Owners Need to Know BEFORE Staging Their House to Sell


1) You only have one chance to make a positive first impression. And that cliché is true for a reason. Don’t take a ‘wait and see’ attitude when it comes to selling your home or you will surely be disappointed. Instead, be proactive and make sure everything is in tip-top shape and your house is staged-to-sell BEFORE it goes on the market.

2) Staging is not about hiding and/or masking flaws. It’s about playing up the positive features of your home and making them so desirable, the negatives no longer stand out! If you start the process with that in mind, the negatives will become far less noticeable and/or disappear altogether.

3) Potential buyers can’t see a buyer’s allowance. They can only see what’s there right now. So if you’re trying to convince yourself that a buyer would rather pick out their own new carpeting and can look past the dated shag your living room’s been sporting since 1973, think again! Most buyers these days prefer move-in ready and have a hard time seeing past what’s there right now.

4) Keeping up with the Jones’ isn’t a bad thing. When it comes to selling your house, making sure your home is competitive with comparable listings on the market in your neighborhood is a must if you want top dollar! In other words…don’t expect to list at the same price point as your neighbor down the street with a totally remodeled kitchen and bath if you haven’t even freshened up the paint in 20-plus years.

5) It’s not about how YOU use the space, but how potential buyers will be using it. For example, if you’ve been using your formal dining room as a home office, you need to transform it back into a formal dining room, because that’s what potential buyers will be expecting. Anything short of that will leave buyers feeling like you’ve run out of room and they won’t have any space to eat a sit down meal or entertain.

6) No one wants to buy a broken down house. Except for the bargain hunters, of course. But they’ll be looking for a basement bargain price to match. If you’ve been neglecting repairs, the time is now to fix everything in disrepair. Potential buyers typically want move-in ready, or a low-ball price if they’re willing to tackle it themselves.

7) Don’t take it personally. Not everyone is going to fall in love with your house, just like you likely didn’t fall in love with every single house you looked at before buying yours. But find out why they aren’t lovin’ it! Ask your Real Estate Agent to follow up with feedback after every showing. If you’re hearing the same issue over and over and over again and it’s something you can fix, then fix it!

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“Ask the Home Staging Expert®” – Should we leave furniture in our vacant home?

vacant listing minnetonka lr
“This vacant listing was staged with a sofa from www.homereserve.com, an area rug, a sofa table and dining room table from www.craigslist.com, and indoor/outdoor chairs purchased on clearance!”

Dear Home Staging Expert® – My wife has accepted a job offer across the country. We need to get there fast and will be renting an apartment while our house is on the market 1200 miles away. I have always heard that leaving some furniture behind is a good idea, but if we do that, it will cost us twice as much to move once our home sells. Thoughts?

Josh and Jen – Seattle or Bust

Dear Josh and Jen,

Thank you for the question and congrats to your wife on her new gig! I do think that vacant listings are a little tougher to sell. Whether a fair assessment or not, vacant rooms do tend to look smaller and people often think something must be wrong with a house that’s sitting empty. But simply leaving a few key pieces behind…a sofa, dining set, and bed….along with some artwork to warm up the walls, a few lamps, and a rug or two, would be just enough to give potential buyer’s some perspective on how their furnishings might fit in the space.

However, with a move as far away as yours, I would instead suggest you consider renting a few major furnishings for this purpose, or even investing in them yourself, as it would be far less expensive than paying for two moves. Another option might be to leave some things you might want to replace anyway behind…make sure they are in very good condition…and buy new once you get to Seattle.

On the upside, if you decide to rent from a rental outlet or hire a stager who can stage your property for you while renting you the furniture, you will not have to deal with any of the details yourself. Or if you do buy, you can always donate the furniture to a charitable organization once the house sells and receive a tax credit, or gift it to a friend or family member in need in exchange for keeping an eye on your house while it’s on the market.

Do keep in mind that while vacant furnishings should definitely look the part, they don’t need to be high-end purchases like the kind of furniture you might make a long-term investment in for yourself, so you really can find some great buys out there for much less. For the record, I have purchased enough beautiful furnishings to stage an entire home for less than $1000.00 several times, which is certainly far cheaper than hauling it across the country!

Whatever you decide to do, remember that the house itself should be in great condition, first and foremost. Fresh paint, new/clean carpeting/flooring, great curb appeal, are always a good investment. There is no point in renting and/or buying new furnishings to be plopped down in an all too lived-in setting. Furniture won’t enhance a home that is in desperate need of updates and might even make it look more dated. But when the backdrop is right, a few key pieces can create just the right amount of warmth and perspective to give potential buyers a better sense of the space while keeping the house from feeling abandoned.

Thank you again for the question, hope this helps, and wishing you and yours a wonderful new life in Seattle!

If you have a question for “ASK THE HOME STAGING EXPERT®”, please contact lori@homestagingexpert.com.

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The 5 Biggest Misconceptions About Home Staging

A home staged with the buyer in mind!

“A home staged with the buyer in mind!”

Home Staging has been around for years now, and though almost considered a standard practice when it comes time to sell your home, there is still a lot of misinformation floating around out there. Here are a few of the most common misconceptions about Home Staging and the Home Staging Industry, and the facts that debunk them.

1) Home Staging is a Regulated Industry, like Real Estate

Actually, no it isn’t. While it’s important to verify any stager you hire has a portfolio of their own and can provide references upon request, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will have any professional credentials. Unlike Real Estate or Interior Design for that matter, because the Home Staging Industry isn’t regulated by a formal governing body, literally anyone can call themselves a staging pro. While there are many courses and certifications available from many different sources, including our own, none of these certifications/designations/accreditations are offered through a state or federally regulated governing board. They are awarded by the company offering the course.

2) Home Staging is the same as Interior Design

While these two professions are often thought to be one in the same, they should actually be considered polar opposites. Though both have to do with the styling of a home, that’s where the similarities end. Interior Design is the process of enhancing a home to appeal to the owner’s aesthetics and how they use their space. Home Staging focuses on playing up the space itself by directing attention to the positive features of the actual structure and presenting them with many potential buyers in mind. Interior Design specializes in individuality, while Home Staging tends to de-personalize a space maintaining visual appeal so the home will attract a larger audience.

3) Home Staging is only for Vacant Houses

In my own business, I actually stage more occupied homes than vacant listings. Because most people don’t live in their house the same way it should be presented to sell, staging an occupied home is just as beneficial and just as necessary. The ultimate goal for both is always the same…to sell the home quickly for the highest possible profit.

4) Home Staging is for Frumpy Houses, not Mine

Well, I don’t live in a ‘frumpy house’, but I would still need to stage it to sell! Staging is all about presenting a home to highlight the best features of the space, not the owner’s stuff! And since most homes have been decorated to appease the owner’s style, creating a more universal appeal is really the key. In other words, a ‘frumpy house’ shouldn’t be the only consideration. The fact is, most houses could definitely benefit from a few updates, editing, and rearranging to make a positive first impression on potential buyers.

5) Home Staging is too Expensive

Selling your home is usually the single, largest financial transaction most individuals will ever experience. This isn’t like selling your old sofa on craigslist, this is a major deal worth thousands…or even millions…of dollars! When you consider that the longer a home sits on the market, the more price reductions it will undertake…why on earth would anyone leave something like that to chance? It’s far better to spend a little money upfront to ensure the house shows well than allow that house to linger and lose perceived value. In the grand scheme of things, staging fees are a drop in the bucket. So shop around and find a stager with experience, references, and an impressive portfolio, and you are sure to find a staging pro that fits your needs and your budget.

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Matisse 1

Hi, Lori – Quick question for you! We are not sure what to do with our cat, Tuna Fish, during showings. We both work all day and don’t know if it’s acceptable to leave him home alone or not. He usually just hides around strangers and will probably just hide during showings. Is that ok? What do you think we should do?

Tuna Fish and Family in Cherry Hill, NJ

Hello there, Tuna Fish and Family!

Clients ask me this all the time, though the animal species in question may vary. But there are several things to consider in this scenario.

First and foremost in my animal-loving opinion, is the safety of your beloved pet! While your kitty might run and hide around strangers when you are on the premises, that might not be the case if strangers enter when he’s all alone. He might panic and run out the door, scratch or bite the intruders to guard his home territory, or just freak out in general. Because you are not there to see for yourself, you really can’t be certain exactly how he will react. So always better to be safe than sorry.

Secondly, you also don’t know how potential buyers might feel about your pet. Even the most passionate animal lovers often second guess the condition of a home with pets of any kind due to possible damage and/or lingering odors left behind. There too, some people might not care for animals in general, are allergic, or fear them. And you really don’t want your pet to be an automatic turn-off to potential buyers.

Last but not least, animals hanging around the house during showings can actually be quite a distraction. Most buyers walk through a home in 15-20 minutes or so, give or take. What you want them to notice and remember is the house itself and all the positive selling points, not your cat streaking through the living room at top speed and scrambling up the curtains!

The truth is, no animals, or even any trace of animals, should be left behind for showings. That means, removing eating dishes, bedding, treats and toys, and hiding the litter box. If you have a dog, don’t leave any ‘presents’ on the lawn and replace grass in spots that might be worn down/destroyed. And make sure your house doesn’t have any funky pet odors or window markings. Carpeting should be steam cleaned…and maybe the upholstery, too.

Ideally, if you can’t sweep your furry family member up at a moments notice to leave for showings yourself, consider farming them out while your house is on the market. Maybe a friend, family member, or even a friendly neighbor could keep them safe during the day while you are away. There is also kitty/doggie daycare to consider, or talk to your local boarding facility and see if they might have some options for you.

Another idea that Realtors are not too crazy about because it does tend to limit showing opportunities a bit but would ensure your pet is secure, is to pre-set certain days and/or hours for showings. If you can assure your animal won’t be at home during specific time frames, that would be best. Perhaps scheduling your work days to start a little later or end a little sooner would suffice. You might also consider working a few longer hours, for example Monday thru Thursday, so you can take Friday off specifically for showings. And of course, make sure the same applies to weekends.

If your pet absolutely must stay at home, make sure they are crated and/or kenneled. That does not mean locking them in a room and making that room unavailable to potential buyers. Potential buyers want to see every room of the house! What it does mean is providing a comfortable crate or kennel with enough ample room to move around and access to food or water, and for cats, a litter box. Tuck the crate/kennel in an out-of-the-way corner so they will not be disturbed or the center of attention. And make sure to have someone come in and check on them during the day for potty breaks and the like.

While it is true that selling a home with pets might take a bit of extra work, in the end, it is very doable and your pet can still feel secure during the process.

Thank you for writing in and wishing you and Tuna Fish all the best!

If you have a question for “ASK THE HOME STAGING EXPERT®”, please contact lori@homestagingexpert.com.

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