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How to Stage a House: A Room by Room Guide

By Ryan Castillo

Posted Nov 10th, 2021 in hints-and-tips

If you’re planning to put your house on the market, you’re probably wondering how to get the most money for your home.

master bedroom

That’s where staging comes in. Home staging is a proven way to get more buyers interested and help you meet or exceed your asking price. So what exactly is home staging, what’s the return on investment, and how effective can it be? This article will answer those questions plus more and explain everything you need to know about how to stage a house.

How to stage a house: A room by room breakdown 

Staging with curb appeal

Because the outside of your home makes the first impression on buyers, curb appeal is important. Small tweaks can make a big impact. Some examples include:

  • Removing dead plants or foliage
  • Renovating your landscape  
  • Adding complementary plants or planters
  • Replacing your doormat
  • Painting your front door
  • Updating outdoor living spaces 
  • Power washing concrete and siding
  • Installing a new mailbox and house numbers

Pro Tip: Curb appeal is like gift wrapping. It creates the first impression and  “wow” factor to get potential buyers excited about opening the front door for the ultimate reveal of living spaces. Some other upgrades to consider for stunning curb appeal include illuminating your space as buyers drive by at night, adding solar lighting along a pathway and entrance for a touch of elegance, and adding an interesting welcome mat. If there is a front porch, you can also add a porch swing, loveseat, or bistro set for a welcoming look. – Heart & Home Staging 

Staging an entryway

It is important that your entryway is inviting as it’s one of the first places potential homebuyers will see. Adding a potted plant or vase of flowers can make the transition from outside to inside feel cohesive. Entryway furniture should be proportional to the space. Make sure to avoid overcrowding. If your home doesn’t have a designated entry, use a rug to define the space. 

Pro Tip: You wouldn’t show up on a first date wearing your crusty-looking overalls, so why would you put your house on the market without looking its best? Similar to dating, making a good first impression starts with the house’s curb appeal and entryway. The goal is to create an emotional connection (dating), that leads to buyers putting in an offer (engagement), and then officially signing on the dotted line (marriage). – Bella Staging

entry

Staging a kitchen

A freshly remodeled kitchen is a great way to attract buyers, but small changes make a difference as well. Start by clearing your countertops and appliances. Store kitchen gadgets in cabinets or storage. Freshen up your cabinet paint and update the hardware to make an outdated kitchen look new again. When it comes to styling, less is more. A vase of fresh flowers or a small stack of cookbooks is enough to make the kitchen feel lived in, but clean. 

Pro Tip: Everyone knows kitchens sell houses. Cost-effective updates like new cabinet hardware, painting walls, trim, and cabinets can breathe new life into a dated space without breaking the bank. Cleaning and decluttering the space are also high on the list of easy DIY staging tips that help sell the space. Placing a few key accessories on the counters is a great way to set the scene for a buyer to imagine themselves using their new kitchen. – Home Star Staging

dining room

Staging a dining room

If you have a dining room, you don’t need to set your table with your finest dishes, but you should make your formal dining room feel like one. Be sure your table is free of dust and use a neutral table runner to bring everything together. 

Remove anything that doesn’t belong in a dining room. Many homeowners use their dining table for more than eating, but you want your buyer to envision entertaining in this space.

If you don’t have a dining room, be sure to create a dining area in your home. A well-proportioned table in the kitchen or modern stools at a breakfast bar will do in smaller spaces.

Pro Tip: Dining spaces can help elevate a home from alright to luxurious. Make sure your tables and chairs fit the scale of the space, then accessorize. Mirrors, art, and buffet tables can all complete the space with light and luxury. – Adorn Home Staging

Staging a living room

You want to show your buyers a living room space that feels open, clean, and comfortable. That may mean removing oversized furniture. But you don’t need to strip your room bare. You can use throw pillows to introduce pops of color and draw your buyers’ eyes around the room. Adding healthy houseplants (not too many) will make the room feel nurturing and alive. You should also have warm, fashionable lighting to brighten the room. 

Pro Tip: The flow pattern needs to move through the living/bedroom to the focal point. You do not want buyers to stand at the door; your work needs to entice them on a journey into the room. Therefore, studying floor shape, flow, and focal point will help you place furniture in the right fashion for your living room. – Spangle Staging

Staging a bedroom

If you can’t stage every bedroom in your house, be sure to stage the master bedroom. Your color palette should feature neutral colors and feel calming. Soft blues, whites, and taupes tend to do best in sleeping spaces. Accessories should be kept to a minimum, but warm lighting and a throw blanket will pull the room together. 

Pro Tip: Buyers love to see a large room with plenty of space, so it’s best to use a queen-size bed if possible. The position of the bed is also important as it is usually the focal point of the room. Try not to put the bed in front of a window unless you absolutely have to. The best place to put the bed is on the wall opposite the door. Layer the bed with gorgeous bedding and decorative throw pillows and a bed skirt, so we don’t see the mattress. Add two nightstands with current lamps and lampshades, and a chair in a corner with a small table staged as a reading nook or bench at the foot of the bed. Add a beautiful focal point such as artwork over the bed but make sure the artwork is the correct scale for the bed – at least 2/3 the width of the bed. – Donna Allen, Dramatix Decor

Staging a bathroom

Your bathroom should be clean, but it doesn’t need to feel sterile. For inspiration, consider the bathroom at a spa — clean, calm, and inviting. Amenities like fresh, fluffy towels, a textured shower curtain, and a new bar of soap in a spotless dish can make a big impact.

If your vanity is out of style or damaged, consider replacing it. A simple mirror can make things feel higher-end and doesn’t need to cost much. If your bathroom is dated consider doing a simple shower remodel by replacing tiles or changing out the showerhead. 

Pro Tip: Bathrooms can place a “timestamp” on a house for sale. Renovating only one of your bathrooms can further highlight the need to update the other baths. The solution? Elevate all three with a well thought out staging plan. Start with a deep cleaning providing special attention to caulking, grouting, and molding. Then, select fresh paint for walls and cabinets. Update the light fixtures with a bit more bling given to the master bath. Finally, add a fresh spray of an odor neutralizer that leaves behind no scent whatsoever. The end result?  “Crisp” and “clean” being the two words that come to mind when entering the bathrooms. – Successful Staging 

Learn more about staging a bathroom by checking out our guide: Staging a Bathroom to Sell: A Complete Guide. 

bathroom

The basics of staging a house

Staging a house is about creating a neutral space for potential buyers to imagine themselves living in. Think of it as offering a blank canvas for prospective buyers to paint their future lives on. 

Staging also helps buyers visualize where their stuff will go. Empty rooms or rooms filled with too much furniture make it difficult to understand if there’s room for a king size bed or a home office. 

Home staging comes down to a few basic principles. Most homebuyers will be able to follow the general rules, but some may opt for professional help. When you’re selling your home, it’s important to show it off in the most appealing way possible.

Staging begins with a few key tasks:

  • Decluttering
  • Cleaning
  • Depersonalizing
  • Highlighting 
  • Decluttering 

Clutter is a fact of life, but potential buyers don’t want to see yours while touring a home. Clutter makes your home seem smaller and may lead buyers to believe there isn’t enough space for their family.

Decluttering is more than removing the mail pile. You should declutter junk drawers, cabinets, closets, and your crawl space or basement. Buyers can and should inspect those areas during the viewing. 

Decluttering is a great task to undertake as you prepare to move. First, decluttering means there will be less for you to pack up. Second, you can make some extra cash when you get rid of your no-longer-needed items through a garage sale or tax-deductible donation. 

Some easy ways to declutter your home include:

  • Removing kitchen appliances from countertops 
  • Donating unused items 
  • Editing your pantry
  • Cleaning out your closet 
  • Creating zones for specific items

Pro Tips: Address visual clutter. The biggest reason people give for moving is a lack of space in their current home, so selectively prune anything that distracts buyers from seeing the great features of your home. Stacks, even if neat and straight, add weight and visual clutter to rooms. The Dezign Zoo motto is “when in doubt, take it out.” – Dezign Zoo

Spend at least a few weekends to completely declutter closets (we want to see baseboards!), pantries, cabinets, and bookshelves. Take closets down by 50 percent, remove magnets from the fridge, etc. If you aren’t convinced if something is de-cluttered enough, take a photo and see if it still looks cluttered through a camera lens – Curly Willow Design Studio

Remove all small appliances, toys, magazines, and pet items. – Utah Elite Staging

living room

Cleaning

Cleaning your home keeps your potential buyers focused on the details of your space, not dirt and grime. It has the added benefit of making your home smell great. If you deal with pet odors, be sure to use a deodorizer — baking soda is cheap and effective. You can also freshen the smell of your home with scented essential oils such as lavender.

Don’t forget your walls, doors, and cabinetry. Pay attention to places where hands tend to fall — such as doorknobs, locks, corners, and door frames. Over time, the grime from our hands builds up on these surfaces. 

Cleaning these areas with warm soapy water made of gentle dish soap with degreaser usually gets the job done. If stains are stubborn, vinegar or a degreaser solution like Simple Green can often get these stains out. But if you’ve got years of grime to remove, you may need more action. Don’t be afraid to invest in a fresh coat of neutral paint or hire a cleaning service as it can make a huge difference. 

Pro Tip: Before you even begin to put a staging plan together, a home needs to look, feel and smell clean. Any staging on top of that will make a home sparkle. – Leah Jones, LJ Interiors

Depersonalizing

Your personal objects make it more difficult for buyers to connect with your home and imagine themselves living there. Depersonalize by removing family photographs, memorabilia, and collectibles. You should also store items like toothbrushes and deodorant in a cabinet or storage bin and your clothes neatly in closets and drawers. Finally, remove anything that aligns you with a specific viewpoint. That means religious objects, political items, signs, and posters. 

Pro Tip: When you decide to sell your home, it is no longer yours and should be staged to attract as many potential buyers as possible. Paint your purple walls a nice neutral, remove your taxidermy animals, and hide your personal items somewhere that no one can find them. – Katherine Maund, Copeland + Co

Highlighting your home’s best features

Each room has a unique selling point. This could be a fireplace, a bay window, crown molding, high ceilings, or hardwood floor inlays. These selling points should become the focal point of a room when buyers first walk into your home.

You should arrange your furniture and decor in such a way that makes these unique details immediately obvious to the buyer. Flanking your fireplace with chairs, hanging neutral and airy curtains to frame your window, and using lighting to your advantage will draw attention to what’s amazing about your home. 

Low on focal points? There are many ways to add unique architectural details, and most of them won’t break the bank. Just remember that staying neutral is key. You want something that lends itself to many styles and sensibilities. 

Pro Tip: Showcase what made you fall in love with the house. If you’re ready to sell, ask yourself: what made you fall in love with your house? Most likely those things will be the ones that attract buyers. Make sure those areas are cleaned up, de-cluttered, and emphasized so they shine and wow buyers. – Style Fusion Home Staging

office

When and why should you stage your house? 

Home staging isn’t just for walk-throughs. Your home should be staged when you get listing photography and videography done. It’s important to pay attention to this as 7 out of 10 agents have found photos, videos, and virtual walkthroughs to be more important due to COVID. More so, a Redfin study found that homes listed with professional photos sold quicker and for more money compared to those listed with amateur photos. Work with a professional photographer to ensure you get high-quality photos of your staging. 

Pro Tips: As important as it is to show your staged home to visiting prospective buyers, it is equally important that the pictures of your staged home are professionally shot and displayed on listing websites. – Nidhika Singh, Impressive Staging

90 percent of homebuyers start their search online. To make sure your photos look great, take a picture of your exterior and every room – this is what potential buyers will see. Add and edit your belongings until the photos look worthy of a compelling listing photo. – House Candy Home Staging

How much does it cost to stage your house?

The cost for staging your home depends on the methods you use, the size of your home, and the buyer you’re trying to attract. Below are the common ranges depending on your circumstances. 

Professional staging for the luxury home seller

If you’re selling a luxury home or trying to appeal to a high-end buyer, you should stage your home with high-end design. That means pristine floors and walls, top-of-the-line finishings, and upscale furnishings. 

When appealing to this crowd, it’s best to work with a professional. The cost will depend on your home size and ideal sales price. But, staging at this level should give you a sizable return on your investment. 

Professional staging for the average home seller

The average seller isn’t selling luxury. But that doesn’t mean your home isn’t quality. For the average home seller, professional staging takes all the guesswork out of the process. 

While the average cost to stage a house is  $1,500 according to NAR, there are many factors that can affect the price of staging such as geographic location, size of the house, how much inventory a space requires, the living spaces you plan to furnish, and whether a home is vacant. A seller can expect to pay up to .4%-1% of the list price for staging services in the United States. Consulting with a staging professional in your area will provide you with a more exact estimate.

DIY home staging

If you’ve got an eye for detail, basic design sense, and like taking on projects, DIY home staging may be a great fit. Depending on the work that needs to be done, DIY home staging can cost less than $1,000 if done effectively.

However, be ready to invest some time and elbow grease. But, don’t be afraid to hire out. Bringing in professional cleaners, for example, can lighten your burden for a small fee.

living room

How staging a house affects sale price 

Home staging has been around for decades, but the rise of home decorating television has increased the need for showing a staged home.

The good news is that it pays off. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2021 Profile of Home Staging, 47% of buyers agents indicated that staged homes had an effect on most buyer’s views of a home. And 38% said that home staging increased the offer amount by 1 to 10%. 

With the median home sales price currently at $375,639, that can mean a few thousand to tens of thousands more in net proceeds from your home sale. 

Pro Tip: Staging is actually one of the best short-term investments a seller can make. Statistics show that an investment of 1-3% of the listing price can increase the final price by up to 8-10% – usually in just a few months. Not staging is leaving money on the table. – Lisa Vasey, Staged Today, SOLD Tomorrow!

How to save money on home staging costs

Whether you’re hiring a professional or going full DIY, there are some tips and tricks you can use to lower your costs. 

When hiring a professional:

  • Speak with your real estate agent first about how much work should be done
  • Compare costs from several services in your area and be sure to read reviews 
  • Look for a referral discount through your realtor, friends, or coworkers
  • Take on some (manageable) projects yourself, like minor landscaping and paint touch-ups
  • Stage key rooms — living room, kitchen, and master suite are a must. 

When DIY home staging:

  • If you’re painting, purchase several gallons of premixed paint in the same neutral color family  
  • If your furnishings need an upgrade, shop thrift stores, Facebook marketplace, and garage sales— you can get higher quality items for major discounts
  • Consider getting a consultation from a professional. For $100 to $600, you can get the right guidance on how to maximize your staging investment

Pro Tip: Only stage the key rooms. The key to saving money with staging is to only stage the key rooms. If it’s an occupied home try to use as much of what you already have, then throw in what’s needed to complete the job. – Lancaster Home Staging And Design

When it comes to staging your house, it is important to create a space that potential buyers can envision themselves living in. By following these simple steps, you can create a great first impression and get one step closer to selling your home. 

*Median Sale Price as of November 8, 2021

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