Any good chef knows that presentation is as important to a dish’s appeal as the food itself, and the same principle applies to selling your home. Staging your home to maximize its appeal has real, measurable benefits; according to the National Association of Realtors, every $100 you invest in home staging can bring a return of $400. And one top professional home stager found that a staged home sells for an average of 17% more than non-staged homes, and 87% faster than non-staged homes. That’s a massive impact for something that only costs, on average, $675.
Still, $675 is no small sum, and besides, it’s not that hard to stage your home yourself. At its core, staging a home is about accomplishing two complementary goals: showing the home off to its greatest advantage, and leaving physical and conceptual space in the home to allow potential buyers to visualize their own tastes. Let’s go over four easy ways to accomplish that.
Buyers can’t appreciate your home if they can’t see it. Amp up your lighting to make your home look vivid, welcoming, and cheerful. A bright home looks clean and confident, like you have nothing to hide.
Start out by doing a “light audit” of your home. Open all the curtains and turn on all the lights. Note which areas need more light, and install additional lighting where you can, aiming for around 100 watts for every 50 square feet. While you’re at it, replace outdated light fixtures, and consider converting to LED lights, which give you more lumens for less energy.
Think about light tone, too. Excessively cool white light can seem sterile and unflattering; experts suggest softer tones, and some home stagers use light pink bulbs, which can be flattering to skin tone, and is easy on the eyes. The brightest white bulbs should be reserved for settings like bathroom vanity lighting, where you want clarity and a lack of shadow.
Keep in mind that problems with dimness might be decor-related as much as light-related. Dark walls or furnishings can make a brightly-lit room seem dull and underlit; swap out dark-colored furnishings for light neutrals, and if you don’t want to repaint dark walls, use diffuse lighting to brighten as much area, as evenly as possible. And if you have high ceilings, make sure you direct some light sources upwards, so the overhead space doesn’t become oppressive.
Of course, bright light isn’t necessarily always better. Researchers at the University of Toronto found that bright light has a tendency to intensify emotional responses. So if your home is appealing, brighter lighting will make it seem even more appealing. But if your staging isn’t as good as it can be, dim lighting could actually drive buyers away. Think of bright lighting as the icing on the staging cake, not the cake itself.
Remove Clutter and Personal Items
As a general rule, you’ll want to remove at least half your belongings from your home before showing it. This isn’t a knock on your stuff; it’s just that a less-cluttered space looks bigger, and lets buyers see the true dimensions of a room. (But don’t remove all your stuff. Paradoxically, an empty room looks smallest of all.)
Furniture is often the biggest culprit when it comes to overstuffed homes. Once you’ve removed half or more of your furniture, move the rest of it away from the walls, and arrange it into small, intimate groupings towards the center of rooms, making sure to leave obvious traffic routes. This will make the space seem more spacious and welcoming.
Another great furniture-related tip is to rearrange for aesthetics more than function. Your living room sofa could make a large, empty study seem much more appealing, and a dining room table in front of a picture window can be a great way to draw attention to one of the strongest features of a home. Get creative and think outside the box when you’re reshuffling the interior.
When you’re removing extra furniture and clutter, also consider taking out personal items. Things like family photos, quirky art, clothes, pet beds, and mail can hinder a buyer’s ability to imagine themselves in your home. You want to aim for an impersonal, slightly blank neutrality.
Flowers and other greenery can make a home seem cozy and welcoming, no matter the season. Start by hanging a wreath on the door, to make a strong initial impression, and put fresh flowers in the entryway. Viewing a home is a full sensory experience, and the smell of flowers can make a home more appealing as much as any visual upgrades.
Consider placing flowers in every room, especially ones that are very neutral. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on professional flower arrangements; cuttings of fresh lilacs, peonies, or marigolds from the yard can work just fine.
Don’t forget to liven up outdoor spaces, too. A hanging plant is perfect for a small porch, while larger spaces like decks and patios can benefit from larger potted plants.
Although fake plants can be a temptingly cheap option, try to avoid using them. Fake plants can make a home seem artificial and overly staged, and a good home staging tries to build an intimate, authentic vibe.
Open Spaces Up
We’re in the era of the open floor plan, but no matter your home’s layout, there are ways to open up the space. Removing half your furniture, and moving what remains away from the walls will increase the visual openness of the space, but there are many other strategies you can use to that end.
If you have a small room, paint it the same color as the adjacent rooms; this will create a visual impression of one, large space. You can enhance this effect by installing matching, monochromatic furnishings, like drapes, furniture, and wall hangings that match the walls.
Mirrors are a great way to make a space seem larger. If you have a great view from a particular window, hang a mirror so it reflects that view, essentially multiplying its effect. Mirrors also reflect and enhance light, which is an important component of an open space. Make sure that, in addition to turning on all the lights, you’ve opened all the windows, and removed heavy, obstructive window treatments, to admit as much natural light as possible.