Do I Need to Stage My House?
Having been in real estate for 11 years, stager for 9, I get this question frequently, even from my close friends. I define the process of home staging as
the process of getting your home ready for market. It starts from the moment you start preparing the home for sale, such as curb appeal, exterior work, landscaping, painting, etc.
So yes, you do need to stage your house. But, it is “How much staging do I need?” is what most people are asking.
Most of the time, when people ask this particular question, they know deep down they need to stage, or at least do some sort of preparation to make the house look more presentable. What they are really asking are: “Do I need to hire a professional home stager?” “How much do I need to do to stage the house?” Here is my answer:
Do Your Research
Have you heard of that story / joke that what do you do if you and your friend ran into a bear in the forest? The answer is that you only need to run faster than your friend.
Well, it is the same in the cut-throat world of real estate. Realistically, you only need to be one step ahead of your competition and that’s as far as you need to do. If you are in an area where almost everyone stages their homes for sale, then yes, you will definitely stage your property.
I usually leave the decision of hiring a professional stager up to the sellers, but I always recommend these few things if you choose not to hire a professional stager and go the DIY route:
I’ve heard of recommendations to pack at least 1/3 of your personal belongings, and I agree. For example, you are selling in the summer, start packing winter clothes (unless you live in interesting weather like ours in San Francisco where you wear trench coats in the summer). Start cleaning out your closets, because buyers will definitely open your closet doors and see how much storage there are.
If you simply cannot pack things away for the selling period, neatly organize everything as if you are displaying them, like this example above. This way your interior looks stylized, not cluttered, and your home still gives visitors a great first impression.
DEEP CLEAN & TOUCH UP
Paint is your new best friend and it is the best and most affordable return on investment out of the entire process (other than magic erasers and windex). Power wash is magical, use it. (If you don’t believe me, see this Buzzfeed post here.). Cleaning is important, because it shows that you, as the seller, have maintained the home well.
Selling is a little bit of a mental game. It is a bit like dating. You want to put your best foot forward and you only have one first impression. So while it may be counter-intuitive to make the home look like new when you are selling it soon, these are the necessary steps to make sure you have a great first impression for your potential buyers.
EVERYTHING HAS ITS OWN PLACE
Organization is key to make the space feel welcoming, fresh and most importantly, potential buyers will feel less intrusive when they are touring your space. Take away all your personalization of the home, including accent walls with strong colors (usually deep red, orange, etc. are hard to please), personalized decorations, personal photos, etc. and store these in spaces where buyers won’t see.
Create niches & spaces where you can store things neatly. I’m obsessed with baskets. They are easy to use, great catch-alls and you can get organized if you are pinch for time. And, they look great! You can get baskets inexpensively in your local Home Goods, Marshall’s, Target, etc. and tuck them under beds, coffee tables, etc. where you can get ready for open house really easily and quickly.
REPAIR, NOT MAJOR REMODEL
When it comes to selling your home, it is really not the best time to do any major upgrades, largely because you will not be able to recoup the return on investment before you sell the house. (I’ve written a blog post on this topic about if you should remodel or not before going on market.) Amongst all your repairs, I generally recommend completing all the minor repairs. Because how easy they are to complete, not doing these repairs can make you seem like you are not maintaining the home properly. If you have any deal breakers type of repairs, definitely complete those before you go on market as well.
The only upgrades I recommend are generally appliances, lighting fixtures, etc. but never major remodels unless the client is an investor who is used to flip projects.
TAKE A FEW TEST PHOTOS
You know how they say the camera adds 10 pounds? Same with houses. If you have things all over the place, clutter, and messy counter spaces, the camera amplifies the effect of clutter and disorganization.
It may look alright in person, but camera sees spaces differently than human eyes. What you see in person is going to be different than seeing everything on photographs. So during your last walk-through, take a few snaps of the home and see if anything jumps out at you in particular. This will help you get ready for the listing photo shoot as well.
Remember, there is only one first impression. Since more than 95% of buyers check out listings online first before seeing homes in person, it is important to make sure you show well both online and in person.
TAKE OUR 30-DAY HOME STAGING CHALLENGE
If you are planning or thinking about staging your own house for sale, consider taking our 30-DAY HOME STAGING Challenge that is a free email course where you will receive 1 email every 3 days. During the email course, I break down the process of home staging into 10 steps. In additions to the email course, you also received accompanying podcasts, action steps and access to our private discussion group for more support.