aerial view of Chesapeake Bay in autumn

What is Staging?

Get Rid of Clutter

The most essential task when staging a house involves purging and cleaning—a clean, empty-as-possible house looks bigger. Remove knick-knacks and personal items from all surfaces. Don’t just put them in closets; potential buyers usually look in those, and you want yours to appear roomy. Box up spare belongings and get them out of the house.

With the clutter gone, do a deep cleaning. Make your kitchen and bathroom sparkle, and be sure to close the toilet lid before any showings. Air out the entire house by opening the windows—air fresheners or scented candles can trigger allergies, and you don’t want prospective buyers feeling uncomfortable. If you have pets, wash everything they touch—no one likes pet odor. Consider hiring a professional for the deep clean if you have room in your home-selling budget.

Aim for a Light and Bright Look

Buyers typically like to see bright rooms, so lighting is an essential part of staging a house. Open your blinds or pull your curtains back before a showing. Make sure your light fixtures look appealing. If your lampshades are dingy or your fixtures are dated, consider replacing them. Even dusting your bulbs and fixtures can help let more light into the room.

Play with different color temperatures of lighting as well—the whiter the light, the more it will look like daylight. You can check the Kelvin rating on light bulb boxes to help you choose the right one: soft white is typically 2700K-3000K, and daylight runs between 5000K–6500K.

Stage Important Rooms First

We’re about to get into the part of staging that can cost money—renting furniture, or removing some, which can require a storage unit. This can be a considerable cost of selling your house, so if you don’t have the time or money to stage your entire house, you can get the most bang for your buck by staging particular rooms. The NAR survey found the living room is the most crucial space to stage, with 55% of agents surveyed thinking it’s “very important” to stage it. Next comes the master bedroom, followed by the kitchen. Your last priority can be any extra bedrooms.

Remove and/or Rent Furniture

A good rule of thumb is to remove about half of your furniture. This could be difficult since you may still need to live in the home. But your house will look bigger and more appealing to most buyers with less furniture in it.

If your furniture just doesn’t look showroom-ready (or if it’s already moved into your new home), you can rent nice, new pieces. Put your furniture in storage, sell, or donate it, if you won’t be taking it with you. If you’ve already moved, another option is pop-up furniture, which is made of corrugated plastic or cardboard, but looks nice enough to give sellers the sense of place and potential they need.

Arrange Furniture

Once you’ve settled on the furniture that will occupy the staged home, position couches, chairs, and tables away from your walls. This is a design technique called “floating” the furniture. Anchor the space with an area rug, even if the room has wall-to-wall carpet. This creates a cozy, intimate space, ideal for chatting with friends and family.

Work on your Home’s Curb Appeal

“Curb appeal” is a real estate term for how nice your home looks on the outside at first glance. It’s a big deal when staging a house because the exterior is the first thing potential buyers see. Get buyers in the door by considering the following:

  • Power-wash your house and walkways.
  • Clean your windows.
  • Make sure your house number is easy to read.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Trim overgrown greenery.
  • Plant flowers.
  • Put a welcome mat and potted plants on your front stoop.
  • Clean and arrange any outdoor deck furniture.

Add Little Extras

Once you’ve learned how to stage a house and yours looks perfect, add some finishing touches inside. People love to see fresh flowers in vases, a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter, and folded towels in the bathroom. If you’re living in your home while selling, you can keep your nice extras in a closet so they’re ready to go quickly when your real estate agent calls to say a buyer is on the way.