How to stage your home for a sale

Are you considering selling your home? Then you may have heard about having your home “staged” for the sale. What does that mean exactly and what does it entail? You may be wondering how involved a process it is. Most importantly, what actual benefit might you actually see by staging your home?

How to stage your home

To debunk home staging and find out exactly what it is, how to do it, and what the benefits are, we turned to a real expert, Cindy Lin, founder and lead instructor of Staged4more School of Home Staging, which offering courses in how to stage homes yourself as well as business courses for home stagers, and free resources. Cindy is also the host of The Home Staging Show podcast on iTunes, interviewing top real estate and design experts.

First of all, what exactly is home staging?

Home staging is the act of preparing a home for sale to appeal to the widest range of buyers. It is part of the marketing process to package and present a home for sale.

What’s the overall goal for a homeowner when thinking about staging their home for a sale? What should they be shooting for?

Every decision you make in staging a home is done to increase the return on investment. Return on investment informs every home staging decision, from design to updates.

Your ultimate goal for home staging is to sell the house quickly and ideally for more money. In order to do that, you need to first understand the buyers: who they are and what they are looking for. Then, you stage your home accordingly to that, not based on your own design preferences.

The key thing is to appeal to the buyers. Once you understand what pushes buyers to make their buying decision, it will help you make decisions on what to do when it comes to prepare your home for sale.

This is under the assumption that your home is priced appropriately for the market. If the home is not priced correctly and is overpriced, it will be very difficult to sell no matter what you do to prepare the home.

What are some examples of different ways to stage homes, based on particular market attributes?

Depending on the buyer demographics you are targeting, you will make styling and design decisions based on those lifestyles that appeal to these buyers. In general, choose neutral color palettes in the home and use home accessories to add in pops of colors, patterns and textures to create visual interests. You will also arrange the furniture to maximize the traffic flow and highlight the focal points of the rooms.

How feasible is it for a homeowner to stage their home without expert help?

It is completely feasible. The most successful stagings by homeowners are done by sellers who do a lot of research on their local real estate market and learn how homes are best presented in their particular markets.

Preparation is key. And often, these particular sellers started the process very early so they have plenty of time to execute the staging. Even with months to prepare the homes for sale, these sellers still feel that they didn’t have enough time to do everything they want. After they had staged the homes themselves, they (or the realtors) also brought in professional home stagers to give final feedback. So, if you do decide to stage the homes yourself, it is still possible to get professional help by hiring a home stager for a consultation to give you a final walk through.

When you are staging the home yourself, it’s crucial to do your homework, make sure that you understand who is coming into your neighborhood to buy, what are they looking for and prepare your homes accordingly.

What are the key components of a successful home staging?

Ultimately, a successful home staging creates the look and feel of the ideal lifestyle that appeals to a broad range of targeted buyers. A successful home staging showcases the advantages and appealing features of the home. Successful staging also helps to educate buyers on how to use the home, especially when it comes to tricky or unusual floor plans.

What should someone expect in terms of effort and cost to stage their home?

This can have a very wide price range because it depends on how much work is needed for the home and how motivated the sellers are.

In general, you should do any major repairs that can detract from the sale, like cracks in the foundations, visible mold growth, etc. Major cosmetic changes, like remodeling, are not necessary, unless:

  • You are a seasoned investor or contractor or home design professionals who is experienced in changing the floor plan, etc.
  • You are not planning to sell for another few years. This way, you can enjoy the benefits of remodeling and get a return on your investment through enjoyment. Be aware that you may not be able to recoup the financial return on your remodeling. Any type of highly personal design choices, like custom tile work, murals, swimming pools, etc. often yields no financial return in most cases, unfortunately. This is because tastes can be very individual and may not translate to a wide market.

In terms of actual aesthetics, such as decorations, decluttering and furniture arrangements, this is very subjective based on market and buyer demographics, so it is hard to generalize. Here is a case study blog post that can be helpful to illustrate.

staged4more before and after

What are some of the mistakes that homeowners make when staging their homes?

The most common mistake I’ve seen is that homeowners impose their own design choices and preferences in the staging, instead of what appeals to the potential buyers. Remember, your goal is to appeal to the most people possible in your target market. Who is buying in your neighborhood? What age range are they? What are their preferences?

The other common mistakes that I see homeowners make is that they remove too much everything off their tabletop surfaces and countertops and it looks too bare. In staging, you want to strive to create a warm and welcoming ambiance that invites the home buyers in. Through styling, you might for example layer colors and textures into the home and create visual interests. You can see in this blog post some of my favorite styling props, as an example.

What kind of home value boost can a homeowner expect from staging their home?

While it is not guaranteed that your home will sell for more money and in less time, most of the time, staged homes do sell quicker and often for more money comparing to comparable homes in the neighborhoods that are not staged. There are a lot of statistics online that can back this up, including a report published by National Association of Realtors.

How much time does a homeowner need to stage their home?

It really varies depending on the amount of updates the home may require. For example, if a home is structurally in good shape with no repair issues, then the seller can focus just on aesthetics, compared with someone who needs to fix a roof or a crooked foundation.

Packing, reorganizing and transforming your home through staging often takes longer than you might think. If you are thinking about putting your home on the market, you should start by researching information about what you will need to do to get your home ready for sale and really planning it out on a timeline. You can also speak with your real estate agent or hire a local stager to do a consultation to get an idea what needs to be done, or to get a second opinion.

Staged4more details

For people who aren’t interested in selling yet, what are some home staging tips that could benefit them anyway?

Personally, I am a huge fan of capsule wardrobes and living minimally, focusing on only having items my home that add to your quality and enjoyment of living. One thing you can implement in your daily life, even if you aren’t selling your home, is to periodically remove things that clog your home, like paperwork that can be filed or recycled, clothing or items that you no longer need, instead of stuffing everything in the closet or attic where they collect dust. Turn your home into a financial powerhouse

I am often asked by our seller clients how to maintain the staged look after they’ve moved into their new home. My top advices would be edit, edit and edit the stuff you own in the house, and don’t be afraid to play and experiment! One of the reasons why staged homes look so refreshing and inviting is largely because we remove visual clutter in the home and make the home feel more streamlined by leaving only the essential furniture to create the traffic flow. In daily living, it’s a bit more difficult but it is still doable. Feel free to edit and try out different things and bring items that create joy for you into your home.

Also, periodically set aside time to review your home for potential maintenance issues. Take care of small problems early on will prevent them from becoming larger issues down the line.