Just take this real world tale of two condo listings from Terrylynn Fisher, a REALTOR® with Dudum Real Estate Group in Walnut Creek, Calif., who also stages:
Both units were in the same complex. One hadn’t been staged or updated since it was built; the other was staged and had been slightly refreshed (a little paint here and there and one redone bath). Otherwise, both units were the same size and layout. The staged condo sold for about $30,000 more than the unstaged unit, she says. “People couldn’t believe it was the same model.”
Before your eyes turn into dollar signs, keep in mind staging isn’t guaranteed to get you more money. But it’s an important marketing tool to help you compete at the right price, which means you can sell faster. (A study from the Real Estate Staging Association bears this out.)
Helping buyers fall in love with your property takes more than running the vacuum and fluffing the pillows: It’s all about decluttering, repairing, updating, and depersonalizing, say real estate agents and stagers.
With help from Fisher and other sources, we’ve compiled the ultimate home staging checklist.
Jump to a specific room or area of the house:
Embrace symmetry when staging your living room. Coordinated sets, like these pillows, are pleasing to a buyer's eye. Image: Fluff Designs
When placing anything from accent pillows and table lamps, go for symmetry, which is pleasing to the eye.
Light it up with lamps. Chic lamps provide both added lighting and appealing decor.
Make that fireplace glow. Scrub away soot stains and replace the old screen.
If you’re using staging furniture or buying slip covers, choose light colors for an airy, inviting feel.
Whatever amount of furniture you have in your living room, remove a few pieces to make the room feel spacious.
Use bright, coordinated accessories like accent pillows and throw blankets for a chic splash of color.
Help buyers imagine their life in your home. Set the scene by displaying a board game or tea service on the coffee table, and arrange furniture in conversational groups.
Let a slideshow of beautiful images play on your television like a screensaver.
Have a dark corner or hallway? Brighten it up with a decorative mirror.
Neutralize the walls. If any rooms are painted in dark colors, repaint white or beige.
Paint adjacent rooms the same color to make the whole space feel larger.
Fill nicks and holes in walls, and touch up with paint.
Sorry, wood paneling. It’s time. Paint over paneling with a neutral color. To really cover your tracks, use wood filler between panels and paint over the entire thing.
Make sure every switch plate and outlet cover matches and looks brand new.
Wash the windows, inside and out. Repair any holes or tears in screens.
Replace those family portraits with interesting art placed strategically throughout the house. Avoid leaving dead space on walls.
Throughout the House
Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic
Declutter! Consider it pre-packing for your move. Box up books, clothes, and personal items and place them (neatly!) in the garage or — better yet — a rented storage unit.
Don’t forget to include memorabilia in those decluttering bins. Family photos, diplomas, and the kids’ artwork should all go.
Keep closets, basements, and attics as empty as possible to maximize the appearance of storage space.
Transform underused areas of the house — the alcove under the stairs or the end of a hallway — into functional spots. Add a desk to create a mini office, or a chair and small bookshelf for a reading nook.
Swap dim lights for high-wattage bulbs.
Check every door, drawer, and cabinet to ensure they open and close easily. Swap out any faulty — or dingy — hardware.
Damaged or aging hardwood floors? Replace damaged boards with new wood, sand down the entire floor, and re-stain.
Do a deep (deep, deep) clean. Hire a professional cleaning service to clean your home from top to bottom — including carpets — before viewings.
Add a fresh coat of paint to the front door, preferably red, black, blue, or wood stain, so long as it complements the trim and doesn’t blend, says The Real Estate Staging Association. Steer clear of unconventional colors like purple.
Buy a new doormat to welcome home buyers.
Power-wash the house exterior, walkway, steps, driveway, and porch until everything sparkles.
Make sure the locks and doorbell function.
Make that mailbox look clean and welcoming, or get a new one.
Plant lots of colorful blooms in attractive pots and planter beds.
Trim back trees and shrubs from the approach to the front door.
Whip that yard into shape with fresh sod or new seed
Store yard equipment and children’s toys out of sight.
Repair shaky banisters.
Get a hammock (or bocce ball game or raised fire pit) to show off how fun your yard can be.
Dress up any imperfect planting area with mulch.
Make sure entryway lights function and are free of cobwebs and insects.
Hide trash cans, recycle bins, and garden hoses.
Don’t forget your outdoor living space. Stage your patio like a second living room, with fashionable furniture, accent pillows, an outdoor rug, and other patio-friendly decor.