Money Talks, So Should You

How to stage your home to sell

Elizabeth Rosen
by Elizabeth Rosen, Contributor (@dimespring)

When you are preparing to sell your property, you need to do more than just routine cleaning — you have to “stage” your home so it’s appealing to buyers. A messy, cluttered house will really turn off buyers because they will have difficulty seeing the beautiful home underneath. Take the time to go through every inch of your home (including the exterior) and make sure everything is clean and polished. Here are some useful tips for staging your home and preparing it for potential buyers.


This is probably the most popular piece of home staging advice, but only some home sellers actually seem to follow it. Look at every surface in your house with a critical eye, and trim down on the knick-knacks and personal memorabilia. You can even use this opportunity to throw a garage sale or donate unwanted items to a local charity. Your home doesn’t have to be completely bare, but you want to disassociate yourself from it as much as possible. After all, it’s now someone else’s turn to imagine living there!

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Arrange in Groups (furniture, items, wall art)

Reconsider how your furniture is arranged and get rid of anything that’s worn out or oversized (too big for its space). Arrange couches and chairs in groups to create conversation areas. Don’t be afraid to play “musical furniture” and move things between rooms — you never know, an armchair from the living room might look great in the master bedroom. Make use of awkward spaces in your home so buyers don’t see it as a downside by creating a small office area or reading nook.

The technique of grouping can be applied to other items as well, such as candles, picture frames, and decorative trinkets. When displaying home accessories, think in odd numbers and arrange them in groups of three, like a triangle rather than a line. Instead of hanging all of your wall art at the same level, switch up the patterns and groupings.


Improper lighting is a major problem that many home sellers tend to overlook. Poor lighting does little to show off your home and dark corners can make buyers feel uncomfortable. So pull back the curtains and open the blinds to allow natural light in. Slightly increase the wattage of your light bulbs if the fixtures look dim, but don’t just rely on overhead fixtures (i.e. ambient lighting) to illuminate a room. You also want to have task lighting (pendant, under-cabinet, and reading lights) and accent lighting (wall sconces and table lamps).  Good lighting makes your home feel warm and inviting. It’s an important part of staging and selling your home.

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Did you allow your daughter to paint her bedroom bright purple? Or are most of your home’s walls painted stark white? The best-staged homes on the market are the ones with neutral color palettes. Choose warm and soothing tones for the walls, such as tan or honey colors. Or add a little color with a soft blue-green paint. Colors that are too bold can scare off buyers, so give them a more neutral blank slate to work with.

Focus on the Kitchen & Bathrooms

If you ask any real estate expert, they will probably tell you that kitchen and bathroom renovations give the most bang for the buck. Upgrading appliances, countertops, and fixtures can help add value to your home and boost your asking price. Buyers love to see updated spaces because it means they’ll have less work to do.


While hardwood is usually deemed to be the most desired type of flooring, these days we have so many more choices. Take a good look at your floors and determine whether they need to be waxed, shampooed, or replaced altogether. If you don’t use hardwood, consider ceramic or stone tiles, as well as eco-friendly options like cork.


Nobody looks forward to doing yard work, so don’t pass yours onto the buyer. Before showing your home, you should clean up the lawn (fixing any yellow or bare spots), arrange outdoor furniture in nice groupings, and plant some new flowers in the front. Curb appeal is a major selling factor and shapes the buyer’s first impression. Also remember to keep a yard sign in front of your home so passersby will know that it’s for sale.

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Staging your home is a key part of the home selling process. There are many different staging techniques that can help get buyers in the front door and lead to offers. Don’t try to cut corners or mislead people about the condition of your home because the buyer (or at least the home inspector) will eventually find out. So roll up your sleeves and do the work to fix any leaky pipes or wonky doorknobs, wax the floors, and put a fresh coat of paint on the walls. The extra effort will pay off! Taking care of all these details is the key to good staging and a swift home sale.


Elizabeth Rosen grew up near Boston and comes from a family of financial planners. She attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa. where she studied professional writing. After graduation, Elizabeth moved to San Francisco where she worked for several years as the senior writer/editor and content manager for an online company. She now lives in Los Angeles working as a financial writer for numerous websites and print newsletters.