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7 Essential Home Staging Tricks the Pros Use

When selling, make spaces more appealing to buyers

spinner image a staged home at four zero eight tenth street showing a kitchen and dining area
Courtesy Jason Saft

Maybe your living room features a worn sofa and mismatched end tables, and the focal point is an eclectic collection of vintage teacups.

If you’re trying to sell your home, it might be worth it to consider staging that room — and others.

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Staging a space — replacing, adding or removing furniture and decor to make it most appealing to buyers — gives a good return on investment. Professional stagers often have their own collection of furniture and accessories that they think will draw buyers in and, for a fee, will swap them with your own possessions; they take the items back after the house is sold.

Most stagers are hired by the home’s seller, although real estate agents often make introductions and, in the hottest markets, sometimes pay part or all of the fee to win a listing.

The cost for a stager “varies dramatically based on geography, scope of work and price point,” from $1,000 for “light help and sprucing up soft goods,” to many thousands of dollars, according to Jason Saft, founder of Staged To Sell Home, a leading home boutique staging firm in New York City. HomeAdvisor gives a typical range of $800 to $3,000 for the initial cost but monthly furniture rental fees and extra projects will drive that up.

But you can also do a lot of home staging on your own, by decluttering, depersonalizing and deep cleaning.

Stage a home to make more money

An investment in staging can have a big payoff.

The National Association of Realtors Research Group reports that 23 percent of buyers are more willing to overlook property faults if viewing a staged home. Additionally, 81 percent of buyers’ agents reported that staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize a property as a future home.

Just because you love your teacup collection doesn’t mean others will find it appealing, or that it will help potential buyers envision themselves in your space. Simply put, presentation and great marketing photos sell homes, says certified stager and designer Laurie Mattson, owner of Laurie Mattson Interiors in Minneapolis.

After painting rooms in neutral colors, updating furniture and replacing carpeting, Mattson helped sell a $2.4 million home after 14 days on the market — and got three full-price offers. Another home that was on the market for more than 400 days sold in just 28 days after Mattson updated furniture and decor.

“Your home becomes a product,” she says. “Buyers are looking at everything with very critical eyes at each and every step.”

Want to be able to stage your home like the pros? Here are some tips and tricks for spaces throughout the house.

spinner image a staged home at thirty four gramercy park showing a living area
Courtesy Jason Saft

1. Make a good first impression

If the entrance to your home looks unkempt or dated, a potential buyer will be set up for disappointment from the get-go, according to Saft.

“It’s similar to meeting someone online and the door opens and it’s not quite what you expected,” he says. “You want to make sure that the minute someone opens the door, they’re immediately captivated and want to see more.”

Saft’s ideas for an ideal entry include good art and a console table or bench to showcase functionality.

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2. Declutter the living room

While you’ve likely spent years collecting family photos and memorabilia to display, it’s time to depersonalize and edit the living room — especially anything religious or political.

Shelves typically are “overpacked” and can lose 50 percent to 60 percent of their items, according to Kim Magnuson, president and owner of Tampa Bay Home Staging & Design in Florida.

Instead of a line of books, she suggests placing three good-sized ones on their side in the middle of a shelf and topping with a candle.

Aside from decluttering, remove superfluous furniture that may block walking paths, says Saft, who has been featured on HGTV’s Buying & Selling: 20 Best-Kept Secrets and was named the 2022 professional home stager of the year, luxury vacant staging in the U.S. b s by the Real Estate Staging Association.

“You can quickly have 10 or 15 people in one space at one time, which means there’s an opportunity for it to feel small and cramped,” Saft says.

If your living room is on the smaller side, add a mirror, which will make the space feel larger and brighter.

3. Spruce up your kitchen

Minimize and organize what’s stored in kitchen cabinets (as well as closets and linen cabinets), recommends Mattson.

“If it looks like you’re busting out of your home, a potential buyer — especially one with a family of three or four — is going to be wondering how they’re all going to fit,” she says.

Make counters look as large as possible by packing up all appliances except for a coffee station or a “beautiful KitchenAid mixer,” says Magnuson, whose rates usually start around $2,800 for 30 days.

Auditing what likely are years of accumulated containers and equipment will bring you closer to being prepared for moving day anyway, she adds.

Also remove photographs, magnets and children’s artwork from refrigerator doors and side panels.

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spinner image a staged home at two zero eight west eleventh street showing a master bedroom
Courtesy Jason Saft

4. Create inviting bedrooms

New white bedding offers a lot of bang for the buck and can make a buyer feel as if they’re walking into a five-star hotel, Magnuson says.

“White photographs beautifully,” she says. “It says ‘luxury, cleanliness, resort.’ You want people to think, ‘Wow, I want to sleep here.’ ”

Dressers should be lean on accessories. Remove family photos and, unless you have a jewelry box, be sure to tuck away individual pieces in a drawer so they’re out of sight.

The master closet, meanwhile, should hold only current seasonal clothing. Magnuson suggests color-coordinating pieces on felt-covered hangers.

5. Clean up outside

“Curb appeal is everything,” says Mattson. “As soon as somebody gets out of their car, they’re critiquing your home.”

Saft says to set the tone with plantings. Spruce up the mulch and add flats of annuals for seasonal colors that pop.

And don’t forget about the backyard. Make sure beds are weeded and appear neat and tidy.

The combination of COVID-19 and HGTV have made outdoor rooms more important than ever, says Magnuson. Freshen up a patio set with new pillows and rugs, and add flowerpots.

6. Deep clean your home

It goes without saying that your home should be as clean as it can be when selling. But the devil is in the details — and one of those details is to pay attention to the shower liner.

“I’ve seen shower liners where you could clone a human embryo — just vile,” Saft says.

Make sure to mitigate smells that may be coming from old bedding or rooms that haven’t been aired out for a while. If a potential buyer believes there may be mildew, thoughts of water damage follow and there likely won’t be an offer coming.

7. Showcase great lighting

“Check all lights” to make sure the house is bright, says Magnuson. “People do not like dark houses.”

Fresh paint and linens, new lamps, accent pillows and area rugs can also bump up a home’s appearance, notes Mattson. She adds that since online photos are the buyer’s first impression of your home, you should have it professionally photographed with proper lighting.

Says Saft: “There are a lot of very small things you can do that are inexpensive but incredibly impactful when trying to get the maximum value for your home.”.

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