Make an Impression with Home Staging

When it comes to selling a house, most people want three things: the highest possible price, the shortest possible time on the market, and the least inconvenience. One way to achieve these goals is to use staging.

Staging is the term used to describe furnishing a house to produce the most buyer-friendly appearance. This typically includes removing all the homeowners’ belongings and having an interior decorator or professional stager bring in furniture and décor that make the house feel spacious and beautiful. The idea is to showcase all the property’s best features. In some cases, the furniture and décor are available for sale to the prospective buyer.

According to some studies, staging can lead to as much as a 20 percent increase in the sale price; however, professional staging can be expensive, so it is typically reserved for more expensive homes. Remember, the other benefit of staging is less time on the market and as we transition from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market, the time it takes to sell a house could have a significant impact on the sale price, so read on to determine whether you may want to hire a professional stager or even do a little amateur staging yourself.

Before you begin staging, I recommend removing everything from your house and, if needed, painting the interior. Paint is relatively cheap, and it can make a huge impression on a home’s overall appearance. A new vanity in the guest bathroom can also make a nice difference—you invest a few hundred dollars and add $1000 to the appeal of the house.

Now, bring in just enough furniture and décor to make the house feel like it belongs on the cover of House Beautiful magazine. Have you ever noticed that the houses in those magazines have very little on any table or countertop? Let this be your model. Certainly, avoid using any valuable or breakable furnishings. This is not the time to showcase your Great Aunt Mathilda’s crystal vases and fine china.

As fun as it can be to decorate a house, this should not be used as an opportunity to express your personal style. Instead, your goal should be to appeal to a broad spectrum of buyers. Use pleasing, neutral colors and allow for as much natural light as possible. Depending on your budget, you may only stage the most essential rooms: the living room, dining room, and master bedroom. That’s far better than not staging at all.

Once you’ve made the interior as inviting as possible, step outside. If you have an outdoor eating area, arrange your patio furniture to its best effect. If you have a pool, make sure it’s clean and that any pool toys or floatation devices are stacked neatly at one end. To keep everyone safe, either install a secure fence around the pool or use one of the substantial pool covers that prevent drowning if someone falls in.

Finally, prepare your landscaping to maximize curb appeal. Trim bushes, plant some colorful flowers, and mow your lawn (or in my case, the dandelion, and star thistle patch). It’s hard to overstate the importance of curb appeal. I know of prospective buyers who have arrived at a house and based on what they saw from the curb, asked their Realtor to cancel the showing and move on to the next house.

When your house has prospective buyers coming, open the curtains and turn on lights for rooms without much natural light. If the weather is nice, open the windows for fresh air.

Very few of us are aware of our own home’s smell. Every house has a smell and odors can influence people’s feelings about a house. If you have the time and inclination, you can make your house a little more appealing by baking a batch of cookies before people come over. If that’s more work than you care to do, a drop of vanilla on a lightbulb or two can provide a subtle but lovely ambiance. Less is more here. It is far better to underdo than to overdo.

If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery.

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