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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Denver Realtor Victim of Senseless Homicide – Here’s How You Can Help

Pamela Cabriales was a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a real estate agent in the Denver Metro whose life was cut tragically short by an absolutely senseless act of violence.  I did not know her personally.  She truly was just another name and face pictured below the sensational headlines, one of many I see pop up on my newsfeed all too often these days.  (You can read about her story here, which I do not plan to dwell on in this post.)

But this one was different for me.  Beyond the horrific details of the crime that abruptly ended her life, Pamela was part of the industry I have been immersed in for more than two decades.  Our industry.  She undoubtedly had many of the same hopes, and dreams, and aspirations as the rest of us, and chose a career in real estate to fulfill them, just like the rest of us.  Perhaps it is that common thread that helped make the connection for me.  After all, Pamela’s story and her random, fateful ending really could have been the story for any one of us.

We work in a very competitive industry.  Whether you’re a Realtor, Home Staging Expert®, or both…there is definitely a lot of competition.  But I’d like to think there is also a sense of camaraderie.  One where we can all come together and support our own when in need.  Which brings me to Pamela’s son, 6 year old Leo.

Whenever I read a tragic story like this, I am always left wondering, “What can I do to help?”  And then I was made aware of something very personal and particular I could do to show my support that will benefit Pamela’s son directly.  A GoFundMe campaign has been set up for Leo’s college fund, and I can’t think of a better way to honor his mother’s memory than to give her child a better and brighter future…the future she no doubt dreamed of for him herself.

I have never posted anything like this before, and hopefully will never have to post anything like this again, but if I can get just one person to donate, it was well worth posting.  So I implore you all…in fellowship and generousity…to make a donation for Leo and to share, share, share this post within your circle!  Whether you donate $5 or $500 matters not!  It all adds up and it will make a difference in the life of this young man.

If I know anything about Realtors and Home Staging Experts®, it’s that we are an absolutely thoughtful and giving crowd, and I can’t think of a better cause to rally behind than Leo’s future and a donation to that future in his mother’s memory…she was one of our own.

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Before and After: Michigan Realtor® Chere Wiseman Finds Success Offering Complimentary Staging

When Michigan Realtor® Chere Wiseman of Five Star Real Estate Leaders took on this listing, it had already been on the market for months as a For Sale By Owner, was over-priced, had unflattering photos, and the furnishings and decor were really not all that buyer-friendly.

“I knew right away for me to win this listing I would need to offer more than the average agent,” said Chere.  So she took a chance and offered to stage the home complimentary.  “This was my first time going all-in on a vacant listing!”

To stage the living room, Chere went to the local furniture rental store and chose a gray sofa set with green undertones to give it a bit of pop against the neutral background without overwhelming.  She created a more inviting layout that welcomed buyers in and played up the size of the room.  The decorative ladder and blankets were borrowed from her own home and helped add an element of height to draw more attention to the beautiful cathedral ceilings.

In the owner’s suite, Chere opted for a full-size bed instead of king-size, which had previously proven to take up too much space.  The smaller sized bed helped the room feel much larger and the softer shades used in the bedding made the bed feel less bulky by tying it in with the background.

Because of all the extra room she created, she was able to include a nightstand and lamp which made the layout feel more functional.  As a finishing touch, she used an over-sized basket under the window to expand the visual square footage of the space.

Her gamble to stage the listing as a complimentary service paid off when the house sold less than a week later for the exact price she told the homeowners it would sell for!  With her Home Staging Expert® Certification in hand and a major win under her belt, Chere plans to offer more staging as a value-added service for her clients in the future.  Sellers looking for an agent who goes above and beyond in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area should most definitely give Chere Wiseman a call!

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What the Flip? This Las Vegas Home’s Doubled Value is More than Just Luck

It was a pleasure to once again participate in Whitney Coy’s ‘What the Flip?’ series featured in the San Francisco Gate.  This time, a gorgeous renovation in Las Vegas.  To read more about this transformation, including a ‘secret room’, CLICK HERE.

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Home Staging Expert® Upcoming Continuing Ed Workshops for Realtors®

In our latest 1-Day Home Staging Workshop in Mississippi, our students, lead by Home Staging Expert® Certified Trainer Krista Golightly, received hands-on instruction and staged this listing to sell!  As you can see, the before and after photos tell the story.

Showing off the hardwood floors, expanding the visual square footage of the space, and drawing the buyer’s eye beyond are just a few of the many skills you will learn.  Interested in taking a course with Krista and earning 7 CE Credits in Mississippi?  CLICK HERE

As a Realtor®, you already know that wearing many hats seems to be part of the job, these days.  When it comes to home staging, you’re probably trying to do the best you can already.  Let us take you to that next level and make it easier for you.

Our course will teach you a better way to ensure you understand the thought process behind the end results and help you achieve those end results much sooner and without confusion.  We’ll build your confidence so you know the advice you’re giving your client is effective, precise, and will help your listings appeal to the most potential buyers in record time!

Home Staging Expert® offers CE Courses for agents in select areas.  While you don’t have to be a licensed Realtor® to take the course, if you are, enjoy the added benefit of CE Credit.

For upcoming 2-Day Workshops (14 CE Credits) taught by Home Staging Expert® Certified Trainer Joanna Gyrath in Colorado, CLICK HERE

For upcoming 1-Day Workshops (7 CE Credits) taught by Home Staging Expert® Certified Trainer Rachel  in Georgia, CLICK HERE


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In October of  2020, we published Home Staging Expert® Answers Your Most Frequently Asked Questions – Part 1.  In that post, we answered questions pertaining to the business of staging homes.  But with the spring market so close behind, and with so many homeowners getting ready to sell, we thought this was the perfect time to post Part 2 and discuss our most frequently asked questions about actually staging your home for market.

What do you think is the single most important piece of advice you would give to a homeowner preparing to sell?

The  one thing I always try to make sure my clients understand is they have to stop looking at their house as a home and start looking at it as a product.  I think once they start seeing it from that perspective, they are typically much more objective about the entire process.

What do you think are the main problems homeowners need to tackle to successfully stage and sell their home?

  1. Repair/Replace!   No one wants to buy a house that needs work unless they’re looking for a bargain, so make sure your home is in good repair.  Most buyers today look for move-in ready.  So if your roof is leaking, or your sidewalks are crumbling, address those issues first and foremost.  Now is the time to repair and/or replace if you want top dollar for your home.
  2. Declutter!  Not just that pile of shoes next to the front door or that stack of newspapers and magazines on the coffee table.  But the closets, the cabinets, all those family photos on the wall, that big collection of knick-knacks…they should all be boxed up and removed.  Not only do they look messy and create a distraction, but space is a big consideration for most buyers.  And the more space you can show them, the more impressed they’ll be.  For more info, check out our previous post The Expert Guide to Decluttering Your Home Before You List It To Sell.
  3. Update!  Fresh paint and new flooring are two positive selling points for potential buyers.  But don’t stop there!  Change out those dated lighting fixtures, enamel dated cabinetry and woodwork, and replace worn or just plain ugly countertops.  These are all fairly inexpensive updates that will make your home look more in style.
  4. Continuity!  Too much going on is distracting.  Completely different flooring from room-to-room, different paint colors, different themes.  The goal should always be to try and streamline the elements and make the entire space feels seamless…one room should easily flow right into the next.  It makes a home feel bigger, brighter, more open and spacious.
  5. Clean!  Inside and out.  Like your favorite celebrity is coming to visit.  Or your mother-in-law.  Whichever would be more apt to get you motivated.  And then ensure your house is spotless!  The corners, the ceilings, the walls, the windows, the floors, the bathrooms, the kitchen, the grout, the doors.  Make sure everything sparkles!  And if cleaning isn’t your thing, hire a professional and give them a list.  Professional cleaners who specialize in ‘move-outs’ are the best.

Do you think there’s an advantage to having professional photos taken for the MLS?

I absolutely do!  And if you don’t believe me, just cruise the MLS sometime.  That’s your competition!  Most potential buyers get a sneak-peak into your home long before ever setting foot in the door.  And if they don’t like what they see on-line, there’s a very good chance they’re never going to come knocking.  Investing in professional photos is a small investment that will garner a very big payback in the grand scheme of things.

How far do you think a homeowner needs to go with updates? 

Enough to be competitive.  If you have two neighbors in the identical house plan, both listed at $399,000.00…I guarantee the neighbor with the freshly painted walls, updated kitchen, and new carpeting will always beat out the neighbor who hasn’t touched their house since moving in.  It’s important to stay competitive or at the very least, be realistic and price your house accordingly.

Do you think all vacant homes need to be staged?

I absolutely do.  Vacant rooms tend to feel much smaller, a little cold, and buyers typically have no frame of reference as to how their furnishings might fit.  Staging can definitely help with that and make the space more inviting.  But if a vacant house is dated and needs repairs, that’s where I’d spend my money if it’s a choice between one or the other.  Staging can’t mask a dated home in need of repair, and that’s never the point of staging, anyway.  You stage to enhance the positives, not to hide the negatives.

Is hiring a professional stager really that important?

I think hiring THE RIGHT stager is really important.  Whether you just want a consultation so you can do it yourself, or someone to come in and take care of the whole thing, from start to finish!  It’s not every day a person sells their home.  So it’s likely not something most people specialize in.  An experienced stager with an excellent reputation is totally worth the price!  I can’t tell you how many homes I’ve staged that had been sitting on the market forever.  Some had already paid for a stager to come in and assist, some had been staged by a homeowner who watches a lot of HGTV.  All ended up selling quickly for list price or more after I got done with them.  That’s not me trying to brag.  That’s me trying to show you what a difference it makes when you hire the right stager.

So how does one go about finding ‘the right stager’?

Finding a stager who knows what they’re doing is like finding any professional tradesman.  Ask around.  Get references.  In this case, you can even see the before and after photos of their work, which should make the decision much easier.  And may I recommend checking out our list of professionals trained by Home Staging Expert®?  It’s a great place to start!


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