Home Staging on a Dime

Room that's been staged for sale for story on home staging.You don't need granite countertops and state-of-the-art appliances to sell your house. A few home-staging concepts put into practice can help your home sale get off the ground.

Instead of lowering the price on a townhome that wouldn't sell, Northern Virginia realtor Pat Hupp turned to basic home-staging concepts to deal with two shedding cats, a stinky litter box, wire kitchen shelves stuffed with appliances that didn't fit in the cabinets, oversized living room furniture, an empty sunroom, clutter and toys everywhere.

"In one evening, we moved every piece of furniture in that house and cleared the clutter," says Hupp of the staging intervention. "It sold the next day."

While home staging won't always sell a house overnight, the same inexpensive home-staging concepts that worked for Hupp and her clients will work for you, too.

Follow theses tips from the home staging pros to get started on your own transformation:


Before Staging Your Home

If you're not working with a professional home stager, you'll want to do some groundwork first. Hupp advises visiting professionally staged model homes to see it done right. And to also visit comparable homes that are listed in your area. It's important to see what you're up against. Plus, you'll find ideas, motivation and direction to give you a competitive edge.


Search Homes for Sale Find a local expert contractor who has been pre-screened by ServiceMagic Let the Home Staging Begin

With ideas in hand, it's time to get to work. When getting started, Hupp always tells her clients not to spend money staging their homes unless it's really necessary. Instead, she recommends using what you already own or borrowing items from friends and family. Keep this in mind as you work through the four steps below.


1. Declutter

"Clutter eats equity," says Barb Schwarz, who has seen too many homeowners fail at this simple concept. Schwarz, a designer turned realtor and the founder of stagedhomes.com, has staged more than 5,000 homes. To get decluttering right, she suggests removing all items that are smaller than a breadbasket (and of course, personal photos, too). Be aware that clutter may also come from crowding larger items, too. Look for clutter on floors, walls and even in closets. You want to make homebuyers envious of your organized home -- and you can't do that if it's filled with clutter.


2. Arrange for space and flow

Once all the rooms are cleared out, focus on arranging what's left. "Remember, you're selling space, not furniture," says Schwarz. To make rooms feel bigger, Schwarz relies on the "Rule of Three." "You only need three pieces of furniture to stage a room and three decorative items (of varying size) to stage a surface, such as a mantel or dresser," she says. Apply the rule of three with flexibility. For example, in the living room, the rule of three applies separately to soft and hard furniture.

When you're done staging furniture and décor, there should be ample space to move into, out of and around furniture in each room. Also, the pieces you've selected should illustrate a purpose for each room (i.e. don't blend office furniture into your living room).


3. Add warmth and comfort

With the clutter gone and the space opened up, the next phase of staging turns the house into a home. Hupp advises sellers to focus on making it warm, bright and clean. Most of the warmth in a room comes from painted walls and lighting, as well as fabrics such as window treatments. Hupp says that buyers go for walls that are neutral or painted in soft palettes. If you need to repaint cheaply, Home Depot and Lowe's sell mistake paints for about $5 a gallon.

Portable lighting such as floor or table lamps enhance both warmth and brightness. "Lighting is so important," says Hupp, "just putting a table lamp in a room immediately makes it feel cozier." Also, colored bulbs are an inexpensive tool to perk up dull, dark or small rooms. Use blue daylight bulbs to brighten and pink bulbs to warm and flatter.


4. Clean and freshen

The last major home staging element is cleaning. When you are showing your house, it can never be clean enough. Schwarz even tells her clients to get their homes "Q-tip clean," meaning every corner and crack should shine.

Once the house is clean, Hupp recommends keeping that fresh, clean smell by "putting the kitchen out-of-service" and, ideally, sending pets to friends or family. Smells wield a strong influence over our opinions, so homeowners should not assume that all buyers are warmed by the smell of cookies, your favorite spices or beloved pets.

Home staging might feel like a lot of work, but as Hupp's townhome owners learned, the effort pays. You might be signing that contract in no time.

Did home staging help you sell your house? Got tips and advice to share? We want to hear from you! Add your comments in the box below.

Want more home staging tips and techniques? These AOL Real Estate guides can help:


More on AOL Real Estate:
Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
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Julie Pickens

Great suggestions for getting your home in top shape! Great suggestions that really do work.

July 17 2011 at 6:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Donna Mason

Need some helpful ideas? Here's a few...

May 15 2011 at 12:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply