Staging a Home to Sell: Quick, Cheap Tips

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Having bought and sold seven homes in my lifetime, I know that staging a home to sell is everything. That being said you can go all out with staging–and spend big bucks bringing in a professional–or you can find inexpensive ways to stage your home. My husband and I have always gone for the latter option.

Even if we’re going cheap on the staging a home to sell, we understand the importance. Why? Because a staged home sells faster and for more money.

The importance of staging a home to sell

A few years ago the Real Estate Staging Association, an organization of home stagers, did a study of homes for sale. They compared homes that were staged versus those that were not stage.

They looked at nearly 200 homes that had been on the market for six months or more. Each of the homes came off the market and brought in a professional home stager. Once relisted, those homes sold, on average, in about 42 days or a little over a month. This after sitting on the market and not selling for six months. If this doesn’t prove that staging a home to sell makes a difference, I don’t know what does.

Now, granted, this is an association that promotes the home staging industry, so I’m sure they’re looking for results that support home staging. But I do think the findings say something.

My personal experience with staging a home to sell

Don’t believe me? Let me tell you what happened when we tried to sell our 1961 house–the first time and then the second time.

The first time we listed the house, we did what we always did when selling a house. First, we touched up the paint. Then, we gave it a good cleaning. Finally, we made sure all of the rooms were neat and tidy.

However, here’s where we made our mistake. We left the house the way we lived in it. That is, our family of four, including two teenagers and a dog. Sure, we got lots of showings. But after six months, we didn’t get a single offer.

Taking the house off the market and restaging

So, we took the house off the market, and restaged it. We also brought in a different real estate agent who made suggestions on how to reconfigure how we used different rooms to appeal to buyers. This wasn’t how we lived in our house on a day-to-day basis, but it made it more appealing for selling.

For example, this home had a family room, a den and a formal living room but no real dining room. So we staged the formal living room as an oversized dining room, complete with a fully set table.

Additionally, one of the bedrooms was too small to be a bedroom but it’s where we put our guests. Instead, we turned it into a craft room, complete with sewing machine and fabric.

Using rugs as part of our staging a home to sell

Furthermore, the house had hardwood floors throughout. We had area rugs in each of the rooms, but they did nothing to define the space. So we moved the area rugs to be fully under or peeking out from underneath a couch, table or bed. This gave each room definition.

We listed the newly staged house, with the Realtor, had pictures taken of the new setup, and went live on a Thursday. By Saturday we had two over-asking-price offers. We closed on the sale of that house a month later.

Here is my article about how to use rugs under beds to finish a room.

Why staging a home to sell works

According to a Wall Street Journal article on the survey’s results, “The group studied 174 homes that had been on the market for an average of 156 days before homeowners hired a professional home stager. After staging, they sold an average of 42 days after re-listing.”

Again, an association of home stagers would want to share a study that shows how their services can benefit those who are getting ready to sell their home. This study was about selling a home fast. Another study showed that a staged home necessarily sells at a higher price.

Staging a home helps it sell faster

Even so not having a home that sits on the market for a long time should be incentive enough to stage your home on one level or another. Many real estate agents offer home staging as part of their service. That way you don’t have to go broke getting your home staged.

Inexpensive ways to stage your home to sell

Your real estate agent can probably provide tips on how to stage a home for sale on the cheap. I know that the next time we had to sell a house, we asked up front for these home staging tips. And, until we’d staged our home properly, we didn’t list it.

Here are 11 ideas I’ve learned over the years on staging your home to sell. I’ve shared pictures from my actual homes so you can see how I put these tips into practice–and they worked.

Portions of this article originally appeared on

Declutter and depersonalize as part of staging

One of the best ways to stage your home to sell and for someone else to imagine living there is to get rid of your personal stuff. Declutter books, pictures, knickknacks and anything else that is exclusive you.

Before staging your home, paint walls in neutral tones

Real estate experts believe certain paint colors inspire buyers to put in an offer, and often suggest that sellers repaint their home in these hues to create a blank canvas for optimal staging.

One of our Realtors recommended one of these four go-to Benjamin Moore colors to paint a home for the best staging results:

  • Shaker Beige
  • Jackson Tan
  • Linen White
  • Mellow Yellow

Most paint stores can do color matches if you don’t have a Benjamin Moore store near you. I’ll add a fifth color idea for you–greige. It’s a combination of grey and beige, which we used when selling our Jersey Shore home.

Check out my article on colors to paint your home to get it to sell faster.

For open houses and showings, turn on all the lights

If you don’t have enough light, things can look drab and dreary, especially you have showings on a gray day. Try adding floor lamps to rooms that don’t have enough light or even borrowing table lamps from friends and neighbors. You can buy lamps on the cheap from your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore or Goodwill, or on Facebook Marketplace.

Setting the table is one of the easiest ways to stage a home.

A blank dining room table is boring. Instead, set your table for a dinner party so there is a wow factor when buyers walk in and see your beautifully arranged table.

We set the dining room table as part of our staging process.

Add mirrors to rooms as part of your staging

Mirrors make rooms look larger. Again, you can pick up household goods like mirrors on the cheap at ReStore or Goodwill.

Keep furniture proportional to the room when staging a home to sell

Strategically placing a minimal amount of furniture in a small space works better than over crowding it with too much furniture. Try a small desk, chair, and an area rug with one big piece of art in a small room, for example. This can give a small room a purpose without overfilling it.

Or, if you have a smaller owner’s bedroom like we did, put a full-size bed in it instead of king. That way the bed doesn’t overpower the room.

We swapped out our king-sized bed for a full-sized one when staging the owner’s bedroom in our house for sale.

Using art and decorations minimally when staging

Art can be pleasing to the eye or overwhelming in a room. When staging a home to sell, think about using paintings that are landscapes, abstract, or figurative art that brings out the accent color in the room without being too specific. Additionally, go for more traditional or simpler art pieces.

For example, if you’re selling a home that’s near the water, think about nautically inspired art. Listing a house in a city? Go for art that features iconic images from that metropolis. See where I’m going here?

Stage your bathroom like a spa

A good investment for staging a home to sell would be solid white towels, rugs and shower curtains for the bathroom. You want it to look like a spa. Plus, white linens tend not to show dust or lint. So, they’ll keep your bathroom looking cleaner before showings.

Add pops of color to your staging

Now that you’ve painted the walls a pleasure neutral hue, think about adding in pops of color. Some ideas include:

  • colorful pillows on couches and beds
  • a bowl of green granny smith apples on your kitchen counter
  • a bouquet of brightly colored flowers on a table in your entrance hall
Pillows provide a pop of color in this mostly neutral living room.

Speaking of furniture, if your sofa has seen better days but you can’t afford a new one, try one of these tips to fix a sagging couch.

Clean out and organize closets

When it comes to closets, invest in space saving hangers. Then, have them be evenly spaced apart in closets.

Additionally, try to have matching shoes, purses, and accessories to give a color-coordinated, organized appearance inside the closet.

Clear off countertops

Get rid of all clutter in bathrooms and kitchens except for the bare necessities that “read” bathroom (soap dish and a hand towel) or kitchen (coffee machine). Kitchens are often the number one priority on a buyer’s list, so make yours look at clean, open, and spacious as possible.

We cleared the countertops in the kitchen.

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