Stage It To Sell It!


If you watch HGTV’s “Get It Sold,” you know that home staging doesn’t break the bank to make a huge difference in how your home is perceived—it revitalizes your space from dated to fresh, from gauche to graceful. For homes on the market that aren’t making the ‘presentation’ grade, this article provides the staging tools needed to help put that “SOLD” sign on the property. 

Anita Dunbar, associate broker with Montague Miller (, states that staging has had an undisputed, positive effect on the quickness of a sale. “I offer a stager to all my listing clients, who appreciate the advice and enjoy the results. Since 90 percent of all buyers preview homes on the Internet, this is actually the ‘first showing,’ so photos must present the home to its best advantage. Done well, the buyers will take a second look, where the feel of the home and the particulars really make the sale. However, if they don’t like the initial impression, they won’t explore further.” 
Mary Newton ( of Keller Williams Realty agrees that staged homes sell faster and this applies to all houses—from the most modest cottage to the highest end, “land-heavy” horse farms. She tells us that “sometimes the barns are better built than the house, but staging can create the proper setting.” Newton favors a “light hand” in staging (not interior decorating) since staging’s purpose is twofold: “…to portray a comfortable feeling that a buyer senses when walking in, and a demonstration of a room’s use, i.e. desk in a study, bed in a bedroom. Buyers need to ‘get’ a house and it can be a mental challenge to fill in empty spaces. Doing it makes it much easier for them to say, ‘Yes, this is the house for us.’”
Liz Blankenship of Stage to Sell ( concurs that all houses benefit by a stager’s professional assessment and light touch. She cautions against overdoing remodeling or decorating to sell, since tastes are so personal and the idea is to appeal to a variety of buyers. The prime motive is to freshen the home and make it livable for current, as well as future, owners, i.e., “Stage to Live.” When pressed for the most important recommendation to ready the home, she states unequivocally, “Clean and update. Get rid of the clutter!”
Everyone agrees that a staged home presents much better and, following the advice from professionals, homeowners can do quite a bit themselves. Starting with basics, the first rule of staging is to ‘de-clutter.’ Renting a storage space is a good idea since garage and attic should be clutter-free also. If using the garage, make sure it is clean, and the storage neat and organized. 
Clean means more than vacuuming, dusting, and giving the once-over to bathrooms and kitchen. Clean rooms sparkle and are dust-free (even lampshades and bulbs); scrub floors, baseboards, corners, appliances (inside too); pare down closets (a few empty hangers and open floor space give an illusion of space); immaculate kitchens, baths (scrub grout, no moldy loofahs); no smoking or pet odors. 
Updating means to de-clutter and rearrange unwieldy furniture. “Must-go’s”: border wallpapers from the 90s (remove and paint the walls); knick-knacks that are too period specific; wildly unique wallpaper or paint; living rooms as children’s playrooms are a turnoff (set aside a neat section in family room or bedroom); too many ‘collections’; too much of anything (furniture, books, photos, plants, clothing, etc.). 
Clutter-removal prepares you to let go and make your home accessible for others to claim. Yet, clutter is subjective and one may see ‘comforting treasures’ instead, so get others’ opinions. One objective way to de-clutter is to just start packing—books, dishes, gadgets, linens, clothes, photos, etc.—all items you will not absolutely need during listing. Clutter is anything that’s going to distract a prospective buyer from seeing the space and themselves in it. 
Finally, a few quick tips on the feeling to convey:
  • Living spaces: clean and not too impersonal. A few items show someone actually lives in the home.
  • Some kitchens can be made to look spiffed up without remodeling. But watch the staging: six Granny Smith apples or an opened bottle of wine with cork and two glasses half full is not realistic. 
  • Vacant rooms should have at least a vignette indicating their purpose. Use plants judiciously to soften corners.
  • Daily: make your beds, pick up clothes, clean the kitchen (empty dishwasher), and clean bathrooms. 
Essentially, staging is showing your home to its best advantage. Contemplate the message and lifestyle your home is to portray and create a setting for prospective buyers to enter and envision themselves living there comfortably. The upside to all this work: the home sells faster and you may permanently revamp your lifestyle.
Francesca Toscani (Interior Editions) helps you edit your home. She specializes in reworking and remodeling difficult kitchen, bath and other interior spaces to unlock their potential.; 434.823.1817.