Home Staging Tips

Home Staging Tips to Seller for Top Dollar

Jeff Haring CRB, GRI

In comparison to the 76-day average market time for non-staged homes, statistics show that 94% of homes staged by an Accredited Staging Professional (ASP) sell on average in 29 days or less.

You don’t need to hire a professional stager to do anything on my list below but you do have to consider that it can sometimes be an uncomfortable process to face your home with a different set of eyes – the eyes of your buyer.

And with that in mind, here are the top home improvements for sellers with the highest returns on investment:

1. Clean and De-Clutter the Home

  • Start with a thorough cleaning of the entire house from top to bottom including walls, baseboards, window frames, etc.
  • Depersonalize as much as possible and clear out your personal items. You are showcasing the home for sale, thus it is essential for the buyer to imagine themselves, and their personal “stuff” in the home they are buying.  Remember.. It’s not about you!
  • Too many books on the shelf highlights a lack of space – remove enough to have empty space on each shelf.

Some examples include having too many personal photos of the family hanging on the walls (a few are fine) or pin-up posters or pictures/slogans with offensive themes. If you are a hunting enthusiast – it’s important to remove the dead animal trophies off the walls.  I have had buyers exit a home quickly because they were offended by these types of items.  You’ve made the decision to move anyway – start packing these things first.

Bottom line about clutter – people often move because they want more room, so make sure the house feels as spacious as possible.  Clutter robs a home of valuable space.

2. Accentuate the Positive

  • Showcase features that add value to a home such as the fireplace, upgraded kitchen countertops and built-in shelving units.
  • Make a list of the upgrades you have done and what you like about the home that maybe isn’t so obvious.  Let your agent know these things.

3. Excessive Furniture

Remove excess furniture and appliances that may make the space appear smaller.

  • Furniture, art and accessories that are not scaled correctly for a room are a big mistake. Giant sized couches, beds or chairs may be comfortable but they might also hurt your chances of a sale.
  • Closets should be half full, and buyers should be able to see the bottom of the closet.  If they see a jam-packed closet, they will think it’s too small for them.
  • Bedrooms should contain only a bed, nightstand and dresser.
  • Examples of removable extras are corner tables, excess chairs, portable water coolers, too many bookshelves, unused fitness equipment (the exercise bike that you use as a clothes hanger needs to go).

4. Lighting and Electrical

  • General lighting accented with mood lamps or spotlights dramatically improve the ambiance of the home.
  • Replace any burnt out bulbs in hallways, bathrooms and the kitchen
  • Clear cobwebs and debris off of outdoor light fixtures and sconces
  • Beware the extension cords!  Many people use extension cords in their homes but these are not legal for permanent lighting such as in the garage or outside.  Have an electrician upgrade if possible

5. Household Smells

  • The only thing as important as decluttering is having an immaculate and pleasant smelling house.  A house that smells odd to a prospective buyer, whether because of a cat litter box, dogs, smokers, or exotic food can easily be a deal breaker.  Don’t try to mask anything with potpourri, or by baking cookies.  Just open windows a few minutes before a showing to let in fresh air.
  • Consider a professional cleaning service to scrub walls, floors, carpets and windows as this can make a huge difference.  If smells linger even after a thorough cleaning then replace the carpets and/or drapes that may be causing the odor.

6. Repair plumbing

Check under sinks for signs of water or mold. Remove any damaged liners, old cleaners or supplies that aren’t needed.  Clean up any stains after you’ve repaired the leaks.

Slow drips on any faucets may just need a new washer for a tight seal

Clean any corrosion on faucets or shower heads – CLR works great on these parts

7. Carpets and Windows

  • Cleaning windows and glass sliding doors is very important!  Make them sparkle!
  • Shampoo carpets whenever possible
  • Placing area rugs can highlight and add warmth to a space
  • Dirty throw rugs are a negative in kitchens & the entry – remove/replace

8. Paint Interior Walls

Use neutral colors whenever possible, create soft tones

Avoid drastic color shifts from one room to the next.  Maintain a continuous feel of neutrality throughout the home.

Light colors will make a room appear larger, dark colors create a smaller space.

Neutral doesn’t have to be boring.  Everything doesn’t have to be tan or beige – certain shades of grey, green and even purple can be neutral in the right setting.

Cleanup any drips, drops or signs of recent paint jobs

9. Repair & Replace

Make sure all doors, cabinets and drawers open and shut properly

If there’s a door that needs fixing or wall that needs painting, now’s the time to do it

Don’t neglect the sliding glass door(s) – do they open & close with an easy motion.  Are the tracks clean.  New slider wheels can make them feel new again!

Fact of Selling: Buyers tend to speculate about the overall condition of your home based on a few repairs that need to be done. I’ve seen them overestimate the costs involved thus reducing the value of your home in their own minds.

Hire a professional if necessary

10. Kitchen

Remove any items from the counter tops that you don’t use on a regular basis, i.e. cookbooks, mixers/blenders, various nik-nak items

Clean everything – including the microwave and oven insides

Don’t leave any dishes, pots or cleaning products in the sink or on counters

Setting the dining table adds a nice touch!  Go with a festive theme

11. Update the Bathroom if Needed

This cannot be overemphasized. A super clean, pleasant-smelling, well-lit bathroom is always a great selling point. Do not let this space be the last on your priority list.

Get a professional cleaner to rid the bathroom of molds and age-old grime.

Replace broken fixtures.

  • A neutral master bathroom that appeals to both sexes is recommended.  Place all non-essentials away.
  • Hide all prescription medications out of reach
  • Replace bathmat or rug with a new one – light colors work well

12. Garage

  • De-clutter and empty out the garage if possible.  Although removing items from the house and placing them in the garage prior to moving is sometimes necessary.  Arrange them in an orderly fashion.  A garage used as a dumping place is never enticing to your buyer.
  • Rent a storage space off-site for a short term.  DO NOT place a “POD” on the driveway.  I’ve witnessed first-hand that this turns off buyers.

13. Paint the Outside of the Home

Don’t feel the need to paint the entire house unless it really detracts from the overall look of the property – work within a budget

Do paint the wood trim if there are any signs of pealing

A freshly painted entry door is the first thing your buyer will see up close – set the tone!

You never get a second chance to make a first impression!

14. Landscaping

Address both the front and back yard, making sure that they set a great backdrop for the home.

Check, unclog and clean your gutters, downspouts, drainage and rainwater pipes to remove debris that can provide shelter for termites.

  • Prune bushes and trim the trees, remove dead plants, and keep the lawn mowed.
  • Consider “color pots” – those small ceramic pots of flowers that you can buy at any home improvement store for a few dollars – they can make a front walkway look terrific
  • Remove garbage cans immediately from the front yard on trash days.  Keep a watchful eye for debris, old newspapers, etc in your yard.  Buyers notice everything.

Check the wooden structures outside the house for signs of termite activity or damage. Run checks on the wooden fences, garden furniture, the patio, deck or veranda.

Reduce sources of shelter that store excess moisture and makes the house attractive to termites.

The Walk-Thru Test

Once you have completed your staging tasks listed above you need to do one more thing; Do another run-through of the property from the beginning!

That’s right – get tough with yourself and look at everything you’ve done and consider doing even more de-cluttering, cleaning, paint touch ups, etc.  Generally our first time through we aren’t disciplined enough to get the job done.  A helpful tip – have a friend come through and get their reaction to your changes.  If they don’t notice a difference, then you’ve got more work to do.

There are many resources on the Internet for ideas on how to prepare your home for sale.  YouTube is a great place to learn home-staging techniques.  There are many videos that show you exactly what to do to make your home shine!


Jeff Haring CRB, GRI  Realtor- Sales & Property Management
Ventura County Real Estate