Sometimes you walk into a house and you can just imagine yourself living there. And… sometimes you walk into a house and you can only see the people that live there staying. It’s hard to picture yourself in a house when it’s full of another family’s pictures, toys, clutter, and possessions. It’s even worse if you’re THAT family– the ones with ‘stuff’ who are trying to sell your house!

Here are some simple tips to make staging your home (along with some very impressive before and after shots).

  1. Declutter, declutter, declutter! It’s the number one rule. No one wants to see your junk mail stacked on the counter or a collection of bills on the dining room table. Staging a home is about creating an illusion– the illusion that if you live in this house, your life will be better, cleaner, happier. Those are the wonderful parts of owning a home! Will everything be perfect forever? Of course, not; but it sure is nice to dream about and having a clean home is step one for that.
  2. Put away family specific pictures. As much as you love your family, those who are thinking of buying your home don’t. They want to imagine their own pictures on the walls. Not yours. On that note, keep your artwork non-intrusive as well. One of my favorite office stories was told by my broker. She was showing a home owned by a minister/ artist. She opened up his art studio and was bombarded by huge collection of hand drawn nudes as well as an anatomically correct mannequin standing in the corner with a Santa hat! Needless to say it was more than a little surprising. Her clients did end up buying that home, but I’m pretty sure they decided to burn some sage in that studio!
  3. After you have removed your personal pictures (and maybe your nudes… to each his own…) take the time to properly prepare the walls. Spackle holes and sand rough surfaces. Repaint in neutral colors… Nothing too dark or too bright. Imagine a relaxing day at a spa and think tranquility and unobtrusiveness when you paint.
  4. Replace dated light fixtures. While you may love your bright gold chandelier from the 1990s, most people don’t these days. You can replace your older fixtures with some inexpensive, yet modern styles from Home Depot or Lowe’s for less than $100 per fixture. Simple overhead lights can be found for under $20 and dramatically change the look of a room. On that note, everything looks better in lower light. If you only have bright overheads, think about purchasing some lamps for more ambience. I troll the sale aisles of Target for clearance lamps and shades. If you’re crafty, Goodwill has great lamps that might just need a little paint. Also, make sure everything has bulbs. There’s nothing worse than walking into a room, flipping a switch, and having nothing happen.
  5. Speaking of light: open your curtains and blinds. Natural light can make a house! If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
  6. If your blinds are open make sure your windows are clean!
  7. Vacuum before each showing. It’s a simple thing, but it really helps. I vacuum once a week, but between me and my two hypoallergenic dogs you would think that Rapunzel and two Golden Retrievers lived at my place. Rent a carpet steamer and clean your rugs. It will help more than you will believe.
  8. Get rid of any ratty furniture. We all have that sentimental piece from college that you just can’t bear to part with– do it. It’s time. If you really can’t get rid of it, rent a storage locker and put it in there with all those family photos. Make sure that every room is clean and able to be easily walked through.

A great rule of thumb is to think: Would I be happy if my boss or mother- in- law walked in right now and saw my house? If you can say yes, you’re on the right track– now do more! If you can’t say yes, then there’s your starting point. Then do more!

Here’s a few handy checklists::

Here is an amazing before and after video showing the power of staging.

If all else fails, there are companies that you can hire to help you stage a home. But with some hard work over a weekend and the advice of a good realtor (like me!), you can do this all on your own!

This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.