34 House Staging Tips

There are so many home improvement and real estate television shows these days a potential buyer expects near perfection when they are buying a home.  As a seller you have to consider house staging tips as a primary strategy if you want to sell your house quickly. There is a lot of competition in the housing market and every thing you do to try to better your chances to sell your house quickly you really should do.

In addition to conducting home improvements which can help sell your house fast, house staging is a set of activities that make sense when they are presented to a person but surprisingly not everyone makes the effort to do!  For instance, the house next to ours was for sale at the same time ours was.  The owner was a real estate agent but he had made no efforts to fix up issues with the house or to stage it at all. He even left his sink full of dirty dishes in the dish water!

House staging tips

  1. Keep your sinks clear and clean.  This means no dishes, clean or dirty in or around the sink.  This also means that your bathroom sinks should be clear of hair or toothpaste.
  2. Clear and clean the counters.  In the kitchen you should move appliances, jars and any other clutter into the cupboards, storage or waste bin.  In the bathroom this means makeup, hair brushes, dirty soap dishes and anything else aside from perhaps a water glass.  After you’ve cleared the counter tops clean them thoroughly including around the sink basins which often get a nasty dark grime around them.  An old tooth brush will get this gunk up. Also, bathroom decors play an important role. You want to make the bathroom feel relaxing and welcoming.house staging tips - appliance
  3. Make appliances shine.  Inside and out! You can try to make your own cleaning products as many home made solutions will work.  In the oven you will want to clean the interior walls and the grates.  Outside of the oven you should clean the elements and trays.  Remember to wipe finger prints off appliances.  In the fridge and freezer you should take the shelves out and clean them in addition to wiping down the fridge walls.
  4. House staging, unfortunately, means you will be cleaning regularly.  On a daily basis you need to make sure your bathroom(s) are spotless.  A buyer doesn’t want to see little hairs in the bathtub, grime on the shower walls or splashes under the toilet seat.
  5. Keep the toilet seat down.  An open toilet just isn’t appealing.  A buyer will likely look in the toilet anyhow but an open toilet isn’t what you want the buyer to see when they enter the room.
  6. Kitchens and bathrooms sell houses.  If you can see dirt, clean it up.  If this means wiping/cleaning the insides and outsides of cupboards this is what you need to do.
  7. For example, in our house we had had a problem with our fridge’s freezer not deicing (which we had fixed quite some time ago). The problem was that when we had moved the fridge the floor got scuffed up.  We had to turn to a not so eco-friendly product, Mr. Clean eraser bars to cleans these marks but we did manage to get them up. You do what you need to when house staging.
  8. Make your floors shine.  Anywhere you have tile or linoleum flooring you should clean almost daily.  We have a steam mop which uses only water to clean not only our time and linoleum floors but our hardwood floors as well.  The power of steam is remarkable.
  9. house staging cobwebsClear the cobwebs.  We found cobwebs in places we never imagined to look for them.  A quick once over with a long handled broom was enough to clean them out.
  10. Dusting.  If you are anything like us your house has dust in it.  We simply don’t prioritize dusting when it comes to cleaning.  So our house needed a major dusting done.  Everything from bookshelves to the top of the TV to nick knacks and art.
  11. Pick up garbage. The exterior of our last house was across from a massive parking lot and it seems discarded everything would blow onto our lawn and even make its way to the backyard and under the deck.  So I cleaned up each any every piece of garbage I could see.  Would you want to buy a home littered, literally?
  12. Wash the windows.  Dirty windows are easy to notice, especially if they’ve never been cleaned (like ours hadn’t been …).  We hired a company to clean the exterior windows for about $90.  We tackled cleaning the insides of the windows and all of the window screens. One tip here is to use old newspapers to wipe down the windows because paper towel leaves streaks and newspapers do not.  Also, to clean screens I found using the vacuum extensions worked wonders!
  13. Dirty windows also reduce how much light gets into your house.  You want to get maximum light into your house.  As part of our house staging we took a lot of the window coverings right off the windows to allow more light in.  They were dated and looked cheap so we eliminated a problem and brightened up the space!  We made sure we open the curtains we kept up each and every morning.
  14. Power washers are a wonderful tool. I power washed the deck and wooden furniture and the wood looked like new when I was done.  I also power washed away dirt and weeds from between the interlocking brick in the walk way and power washed the driveway and sidewalk out front.
  15. Clean out the garage.  Garages aren’t expected to be perfect but they also don’t tend to get cleaned as much as other parts of your property.  Organizing shelves, getting rid of cobwebs and giving the garage a good sweep will make it appear to be a usable space.freya newfound land dog
  16. Vacuum the floor.  We have 3 cats and a Newfoundland dog.  We wanted to sell our house quickly in the month of July so our pets were shedding a lot of hair.  Each day, twice a day, we vacuumed up pet hair.
  17. Don’t let your dog do it’s business in the yard.  First, grass will die.  Second, not all people like pets.  Third, a buyer will NOT be happy stepping in a pile of do-do.
  18. Since we’re on the topic of pets, you may want to consider getting your pets off the premises. We were told that some people will smell an animal and be immediately turned off a house regardless of your other house staging efforts.
  19. We weren’t going to put our pets in kennels for an undetermined period of time.  However, our Newfie Freya is big (105 lbs) and VERY friendly.  Some buyers could be scared of this big black dog running toward them.  So we got Freya’s training crate out and put her in it each day (in the den in the basement where it was cooler).
  20. Clean the cat litter. Every morning before work I cleaned out the litter.  We also moved the litter so it was less likely to be seen by a buyer.
  21. Air out the house. Getting some fresh air into your house is a simple and free way to freshen up a space.
  22. Declutter! This is THE big piece of advice you will get when it comes to house staging. You will need to remove clutter from your house.  Buyers want to see an open space where they can envision their own belongings.  Some hints on decluttering include going room by room and removing items you don’t love or haven’t used in the past year. Get rid of what is essentially trash: junk mail, old newspapers and magazines, expired food and medicine, broken electronics and televisions, clothing you don’t wear or is beyond repair and old boxes / packaging.  While some items are garbage or recycling material you can also find a new home for goods by donating to charity. We were able to use the 2nd floor of our garage to store boxes upon boxes of “clutter” but if you do not have space to do the same you may want to consider renting a storage unit while your house is on the market.  If you’re overwhelmed with too much clutter you need to get rid of before showing off your home, consider a trash hauling service. These folks will take it off your hands no problem!
  23. If you do find you have a lot of stuff / junk you no longer want or need consider taking it to the dump if no one else wants it.
  24. Adjust the programmable thermostat. The point of a programmable thermostat is to control the temperature in your house based on your schedule.  In our case the central air conditioning was set quite a bit higher during the day when we weren’t there but we knew buyers may see our house when we were at work and we didn’t want them to be hot in a house featuring central air so we left the A/C at the same temperature 24 hours a day. House staging isn’t just a visual exercise, there is a comfort aspect to it as well.house staging light bulb
  25. Use brighter light bulbs.  This brings us back to having a bright space.
  26. De-personalize.  Removal of family and wedding pictures and personal items will make it easier for a buyer to envision themselves living in the space.
  27. Put out a  fruit basket. Adding a splash of colour to any room can be visually appealing.  Flowers don’t have a long shelf life so using fruit instead does the job.
  28. Put the information out there.  We had some issues with our old house when I bought it.  I had to replace the furnace and chose to install central air and there was some galvanized plumbing in the house.  So we left our home inspection out for buyers to look at but in the report we indicated the issues solved with a date and solution description.  In addition, I presented the report from our ecoEnergy retrofit so the buyers would know what we had done to make our house more energy efficient.
  29. Play some music.  You can leave some low volume music playing.  Just be sure it is not offensive or abrasive.  Easy listening is usually a good choice.
  30. Bake your own cookies prior to showing your house.  People really enjoy the smell of freshly baked goods.
  31. You can do house staging outside of your house as well.  My contractor friend suggested leaving a small amount of saw dust in my workshop to show that the space was usable as a workshop.
  32. Maintain your lawn. Keep the lawn cut and the weeds wacked.  Continue to trim bushes and water the plants.  Curb appeal is king.
  33. Plant flowers and lay down mulch in flower gardens.  Yellow flowers are known to be appealing to buyers.  We planted 10 plants in various flower gardens and kept them watered.  We also purchased 3 hanging basket plants that had flowers.  The mulch is useful to keep the weeds at bay.
  34. Make your outdoor space look used even if it is not.  We had a balcony off of our 2nd floor master bedroom but we never used it.  However, when we did our house staging we put some chairs out on this balcony to show a buyer how the space could be used.

In our next article Wednesday we will discuss a whole slew of home improvements we made which could possible be consider house staging as well.  I figure this list is long enough as it stands!

Do you have any additional house staging tips to share?

photo credit: Jake Gagne photo credit: Dunleavy Family photo credit: Chuck “Caveman” Coker

28 comments to 34 House Staging Tips

  • It also helps to remove some furniture to make the house look more spacious. I did this when I sold my first house.

  • Good tips–the people that we bought our house from (that we are in love with!) did not clean before they left! We thought it was very rude. So not only did we have to clean our old apartment to get our deposit back (we would have cleaned it out of courtesy anyway), but we had to clean our new house before unpacking. Such a mess!

    • Oh that stinks. With our last house we moved then spent the next 2 nights making it shine again. When we bought that house, on the closing day the owners were there cleaning footprints off of the hardwood. It seems like the right thing to do. Our current place was staged, but vacant for a few months so it was clean as a whistle save a bit of dust.

  • Great tips! I am shocked how many houses we see in pictures that looked HORRIBLE. They should read your post lol or watch a little HGTV

    • Which pictures are you referring to Evan?
      We didn’t see THAT many bad houses but I do think some owners just thought “you know what, forget it – i’ll price my house low and then lower it ‘cuz i’m lazy”.
      One thing I didn’t get was owners who didn’t vacate the property when we were seeing it. Talk about awkward!

  • great tips! We’ll probably have to hire a pro to help when the time come to sell the rental home. The yard especially needs some help.

    • A good landscaper can help.
      I actually “killed” my lawn a few years ago as it was so weed ridden. Black tarp on the whole thing then turned the soil, added more soil, seeded it in spring and summer and watered it for the season. Not fun but it was an awful mess. I now know why the prev. owners sold during winter! (snow!)

      • That’s a great idea to kill the lawn & start over. We did that when our lawn was ruined by a lawn service. Ever since the lawn has been beautiful!

        You mentioned using the vacuum cleaner extension to clean the screens. We use the extension with the bigger brush attachment to “dust” the books in the bookshelves. Works great! My husband uses it in the garage for all sorts of shelving/boxes. A miracle tool!

        Thanks for a very good post! I didn’t know that about the yellow flowers. I’ll definitely be putting some in when the time comes!

  • I am exhausted just reading these tips! Selling a home is hard work! But the hard work pays off in the end.

    As for me… this gives me all the more motivation to never move again! :)

  • Barb Friedberg

    Home is on the market NOW. We are cleaning, decluttering, staging machines. After a $400 estimate to mulch our small yard, I’m out in the garden working my butt off! Wish us luck.

    • Best of luck Barb. If there is ANYTHING you would like to pick my brain about, feel free to email me. I’ve got opinions on most everything that has to do with house selling, staging, dealing with clients etc etc etc. But please know I am happy to (quickly) respond to any question(s) you might have.

  • Andrew Canway

    It’s also true that if you take good care of your home right from the start, once you have decided to sell it, you won’t have to take the pain of cleaning it inside out! Besides every time I move in a new flat, I make sure that I have the house professionally cleaned, disinfected and fumigated…basic hygiene:)

  • Sara

    Well thanks for this list.

  • We are planning on downsizing in the next couple years and will definitely refer to this post, great tips!

  • Profiteer

    Be careful with power washers… If your windows have bug screens, the force of the water can remove the coating from the screen, which exposes the underlying silky white threads. This may only happen to screens that have undergone some weathering, but it’s better just to spray around them. Use the regular hose on a soft setting, instead.

  • Urdu Shayari

    Great tips…. I am shocked how many houses we see in pictures that looked HORRIBLE…… They should read your post lol or watch a little HGTV….

  • rahul

    I am exhausted just reading these tips! Selling a home is hard work! But the hard work pays off in the end.

    As for me… this gives me all the more motivation to never move again! :)

  • Ally

    I still think it’s best to hire a professional to do the staging. Takes out the hassle.

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