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DIY home staging: Tips from the pros

  • When the cost of staging will be recouped with the home's sale, hiring a professional stager is the way to go.
  • A front entry way and porch are a potential buyer's first impression of the home, and the most important part of staging. Make sure the porch is swept, there are no overhanging plants and the house number is visible from the street.
  • Some agents do a little DIY staging by helping their clients clean, landscape, paint and even give little home staging gifts.

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A few years ago, staging a home simply involved cleaning up the clutter and making sure the front porch was swept.

Today, there are companies that have mastered the art. Their job is to make potential buyers interested in purchasing a home because of the way it looks — to envision themselves living there.

Part interior design and part home marketing, staging a home can cost thousands of dollars with a professional or hours of your time as a real estate agent. Because there are no set rules on what a real estate agent should do when it comes to staging, we asked a number of sources their opinions. These are the best tips they gave for staging a home.

When to hire a professional stager

When to use a professional stager

To use a professional stager or to not: That is the question. OK, that might be misquoted, but it’s a common question asked by many real estate agents.

The answer is: it depends on your return on investment.

If you hire a staging professional, your bill can run upward of $5,000. Of course, some real estate agents set the seller up with a stager for a free consultation, and then the seller pays for what they see fit.

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Kathryn Sotelo, a Realtor for Keller Williams Realty Louisville East, does this and says she sees a large return on investment for her sellers.

“It’s amazing to see the results that happen when they are taking advice from a professional stager versus the opinion of a real estate agent,” Sotelo said. “I once listed a house where I couldn’t even see the baseboards anywhere in the entire house because every square inch was stacked with stuff.

“I could hardly believe my eyes when the photographs came in. I hadn’t been in it since the staging appointment, and the house looked amazing. Sold it in three days. I can’t recommend staging enough.”

However, if you’re the one footing the bill, you want to make sure that the price you’re paying for staging will make the seller a profit.

Tim Letts, a Realtor for Future Home Realty, said if the home you’re selling is valued around $500,000, a professional stager will be well worth the cost. From his experience, Letts said that for a higher-priced home, a Realtor will see a staging price recouped easily.

For a home that’s priced less than $100,000, though, Letts said it’s better to do some of the staging yourself.

Staging you can do yourself

With many homes, there are small things that you can do yourself to help the seller stage. Here are some of the best staging tips that provide the biggest return on investment, according to real estate agents:

Do it Yourself Staging Landmark Home Warranty

Remove personal items

Ask your seller to remove all of their family’s photos, wall hangings and personal items. You want potential buyers to see themselves in the home, and when there are pictures of the sellers, they sometimes feel like they’re invading someone else’s space. This makes it hard to want to buy a house.

De-clutter

Many real estate agents echoed the same statement: Get a storage unit and start packing up boxes. Lydia Brooks, a Realtor at Keller Williams, McKinney, said that not only will this make moving easier for your client, but it will also free up space for a home to shine.

This might mean asking the seller to remove certain items and put them into storage or simply moving things from top shelves to keep the open and clean look throughout the home. Robyn Buckwaiter, a Realtor with Discover Realty, said clearing the floors of a home can make a huge difference.

“You will add space and a feeling of more space by cutting down what is in closets,” she added. “Clear off top shelves, too. Leave some space open.”

Clean the home

After de-cluttering the home, many agents pay for a deep clean, or help the sellers clean the house themselves. As Realtor Sara Palmer Beck put it, “A bar of soap and elbow grease are free, and a clean well-maintained home is the best.”

Front entryway

There’s a saying about first impressions, and it has never been more true when it comes to home staging. A front entryway and porch are a potential buyer’s first impression of the home, and the most important part of staging.

Realtor Tina Falk recommends sweeping up and ensuring there are no overhanging plants as well as making sure the house number is visible from the street.

“Remove any ‘no soliciting’ signs as the subconscious will read the word ‘no,’ and highly influence how welcome they feel,” she added.

Going above and beyond

Of course, not every home will need the same level of cleaning and de-cluttering, but it doesn’t hurt to try and go above and beyond for your client.

Derek Carey said that he offers everything he has to his clients to help stage their homes; he even goes as far as gardening and landscaping.

Sandy Wolfgang Cutler, a Realtor for Coldwell Banker in Trumbull, Connecticut, also brings furniture and tablecloths from her home or Ikea to help stage a house.

It’s not a bad idea to gift these things to the seller, either. A Realtor for One Stop Realty, Teresa Bellisle, said she staged a vacant house and did light staging with towels and candles.

“It sold three weeks later, and I left everything as a gift,” she said.

What are your top tips for staging a home? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Whitney Baum-Bennett is the SEO Specialist at Landmark Home Warranty. She creates informative articles and graphics about everything from buying a first home to how to fix your toilet; see more of her content here.

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