10 Cheap, Easy Ways to Stage Your Home For Sale by Teresa Mears

We participated in an article on home staging posted by Living On The Cheap.  Writer Teresa Mears did a great job offering 10 simple and affordable tips on staging.  Please check out their awesome website that includes advice on everything from Money & Budgeting, to Travel & Exploring, to Family & Parenting, and everything in between…including this awesome post on home staging!  Thanks for including us, Teresa!  

You’ve decided to sell your home, and you want to get top dollar for it. That means you need to stage your home for sale — in other words, prep your house so it looks more appealing to potential buyers. You’ve seen the TV shows where homeowners spend thousands of dollars to bring in new furniture and have a designer arrange everything, but there’s an important detail to consider: You don’t have thousands to spend.

The good news is there are many things you can do to spruce up the look of your home without shelling out a lot of money. “Updating isn’t as expensive as it used to be,” says Lori Matzke, author of “Home Staging: Creating Buyer-Friendly Rooms to Sell Your House” and a Home Staging Expert® in Minneapolis who teaches workshops nationwide. “There’s a lot of DIY information out there.”

There’s no rule of thumb about how much you should expect to spend getting your home ready to sell because every house is different. But investing a few thousand dollars can potentially increase your sale price by much more than that, in addition to making your house sell more quickly. “Anything that you can do is only going to benefit you,” Matzke says.

Here are 10 economical ways to stage your home for sale.

  1. Remove all clutter.  Prospective buyers, particularly young ones, often can’t see past the homeowners’ decor to what’s most important about a house – the floor plan and the space. That’s why it’s important to make the home look as neutral and appealing as possible, so buyers will focus on the property itself.  Remove all personal photos, knickknacks and other junk that’s visible when you walk into a room. “Cleaning out the clutter just creates so much space, and that’s what people are looking for – space,” Matzke says. “It just really makes your home look bigger and younger.”  You don’t want empty shelves, but edit the décor to a few attractive pieces that pair well together and are not a mish-mosh of crazy colors.
  2. Edit your furniture.  If your rooms are crowded, consider putting bigger and less attractive pieces of furniture in storage. This will open up space and make your home look larger. Make sure there is nothing obscuring buyers’ eyes from focal points, such as fireplaces and views.  If your upholstered furniture is mismatched or patterned, consider draping them with matching slipcovers in a neutral color, if that helps pull the room together and make the furnishing appear stylish.
  3. Do a thorough cleaning.  Wash the windows, clean the cobwebs out of the corner and scrub the grout in the tile floors. Even though you’re not selling the furniture, clean that as well because it adds to the overall impression you’re trying to give. If your house has great bones, but feels old or dirty, buyers will be less enthusiastic and devalue the property in their minds.
  4. Spruce up the outside.  First impressions matter, so make sure your home exudes curb appeal. Go all out with small do-it-yourself projects. Replacing the mailbox and house numbers, adding a doormat and painting the front door can make your home more appealing to a prospective buyer driving by. If the house looks dirty, wash the siding or stucco.  “I’ve seen houses that look really frumpy on the outside and great on the inside,” Matzke says, “but you can’t get [potential buyers] in the door.”
  5. Refresh your landscape.  In the same vein, you’ll want your landscaping to be clean and attractive. Cut the grass, trim the bushes and get rid of dead branches. Clean up flower beds, add fresh mulch and plant flowers. Make sure your deck is swept and the pool skimmed of leaves. Tuck your kids’ stray toys and bikes in a shed.
  6. Paint.  While painting is fairly simple and inexpensive compared with other improvements, a new coat makes a significant impact. In some cases, you’d be wise to paint the entire house inside and out. In other cases, touching up and painting the trim might be enough. If you’ve got a crazy color or garish wallpaper in one room, tone it down with a neutral coat of paint.  “Fresh paint is a really good seller,” Matzke says. “Do it in trendy neutral colors.” Painting dated kitchen cabinets can also make the kitchen look fresh and new.
  7. Don’t forget the small stuff.  Pay attention to details, says Sherry Chris, CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. “New, matching towel sets in the bathroom, accent pillows on the couch and fresh flowers can be welcoming elements to a homebuyer,” she says. If you don’t want to spend money on items you won’t use again, see if you can borrow them from a friend.  You will also want to clean or replace light fixtures, and replace old cabinet hardware. “It’s not a really expensive undertaking, but it really makes a difference in how the home is presented,” Matzke says.
  8. Replace old carpeting.  If you can afford it, pull up the old carpeting and replace with new to give your house a fresh look. If your home has hardwood floors underneath, that’s even better. Ideally, you should refinish wood floors but even just exposing them is good, Matzke says. Hardwood floors are desirable, and potential buyers will be pleased to see them.
  9. Make sure each room has a defined purpose.  Don’t make prospective buyers work to figure out how to use a space or what it’s original purpose was. If you’ve turned your dining room into an office, return it to dining room status, Matzke says. If a room could serve multiple functions, Chris suggests putting up tent cards that say “Dining Room or Office” to point out alternative uses for the space. That would also work in a bedroom you’re using as an office.
  10. Make your house picture-perfect.  You want to make sure your home photographs well. Most buyers start their home search online, and they may quickly reject a home if the listing photos aren’t appealing. Don’t photograph your home before you’re finished staging it, and when you’re ready, pick a time of day with the best natural light to do the photo shoot. If you’re not confident with a camera, hire someone who is to photograph your house. If you want to save money, find a friend who’s handy with a DSLR.
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