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Eight Home Staging Tips

Updated on February 22, 2010

Chances are the words "seller's market" will not be uttered in reference to this year's housing market. But you may be in a position where you HAVE to sell your house now. In this current housing market, to say the competition is tough is an understatement. You only have one opportunity to make a great first impression on your potential home buyer.

We were fortunate enough to have an interior decorator walk through our home, and give us some very good (free) home staging advice as a gift to us. Here are eight home staging tips to help you sell your house.

1. Clear out the Clutter. Yes, clear out the clutter in every room, every closet, and even the basement (aka the dumping ground). The potential home buyer can't see through your mess, and shouldn't have to imagine what your house would look like without the clutter.

To clean out our clutter, we rented a 15 yard dumpster for a couple of weeks spending about $300. It's a great, freeing feeling to toss all that stuff out, believe me!

If you have items you need to keep, but space is an issue, check out the rates at your local storage facility. We are currently renting a 10 ft. x 10 ft. storage area for $75 a month. This has allowed us to clear out our basement. Our plan is to finish our basement, and turn our two bedroom into a four bedroom home before putting it on the market.

New couches purchased at Jordan's Furniture Outlet (Avon Store). Walls painted Powell Buff. Pictures centered behind couch.
New couches purchased at Jordan's Furniture Outlet (Avon Store). Walls painted Powell Buff. Pictures centered behind couch.
Boys room. Walls painted Powell Buff.
Boys room. Walls painted Powell Buff.
Great room showing couch placement, w/ end tables, 36" lamps and "chatskies". Shelves flanked the TV, creating the illusion of an entertainment center. Laminate (wood) floor installed in this room.
Great room showing couch placement, w/ end tables, 36" lamps and "chatskies". Shelves flanked the TV, creating the illusion of an entertainment center. Laminate (wood) floor installed in this room.
Table and chairs purchased at Jordan's Furniture Outlet (Avon Store). Walls painted Powell Buff.
Table and chairs purchased at Jordan's Furniture Outlet (Avon Store). Walls painted Powell Buff.

2. Paint using a neutral color. Whether it's because of an unusual color choice, or just to cover up scuff marks, and your kid's artwork, painting will really help to clean up your house. We have an open concept home where the kitchen living room and dining room are all wide open.

The decorator recommended the neutral paint color: Benjamin Moore, Powell Buff. Benjamin Moore paint is expensive, but you can save some money by getting a swatch, and have Home Depot or Lowes match the color with a more economical paint.

This neutral color, painted throughout most of our house, has given the house a clean/rich appearance. We also used this color in the hallway, and in our boy's bedroom.

3. Clean the carpets and re-grout the tile. While cleaning the carpets will obviously improve the appearance of your house, re-grouting the tile was something we wouldn't have thought to do.

We have an ivory color tile in our front entrance and bathroom. The grout was a taupe color. The decorator suggested going over the existing grout with a lighter color grout. This job is easy, but time consuming and messy. Check out Lowes for a huge selection of grout colors and tools for grouting. We chose a lighter taupe and the results are impressive giving the tile a fresh look.

4. Replace carpet if necessary. Our great room carpet was just over ten years old. It was in a room with a wood burning stove, and it was also the room where the kids hung out, and made many a mess. That carpet was stained so badly that it was an embarrassment. We were long overdue for ripping it out. We easily disposed of the old carpet right out the slider and into the dumpster.

The room is rather big at 20 ft. x 20 ft., and we agreed that faux wood laminate would be the best choice. We purchased the laminate at Lowes for about $300 (less than the price of carpet) and installed it ourselves. It was a tough, all weekend job, but the result is a nice clean "wood" floor.

5. Evaluate the furniture and replace if necessary. Our furniture was fine with the exception of our informal dining room table and chairs, and one couch that we had in our great room. This couch was nearly as old as I was (we are the third owners) and had been covered just as many times. It was in rough shape, but It had worked out great for our two messy boys! The decorator said it was time for the couch to go. That's where the dumpster really came in handy!

The table and chairs were outdated too, and we sold them on Craig's List. These were stored in the storage unit, and the neutral location worked out perfectly for the sale.

The decorator was gracious enough to go furniture shopping with me. Knowing we have to stay within a certain budget, she suggested we meet at Jordan's Furniture Outlet Store in Avon, MA. We purchased our couch here for a great price. Jordan's is where our decorator shops on a regular basis (for the clients on a budget, whose homes she stages) to get some great deals. Items are either overstocks or have some minor flaws. The turnaround is fast, because there are a lot of repeat customers scouting out the great deals.

We spent $700 on a couch and love-seat, and the couches were flawless overstocks. This purchase qualified (then) for entrance into their Red Sox Monster Sweep, which they are promoting again this year. If you purchase from them, and the Boston Red Sox sweep the World Series, Jordan's will give you a rebate for the entire amount of the eligible item. Wouldn't that be nice?

Using last years "Stimulus Check" and tax refund, we purchased the couches ($700) an antique white and cherry table ($167) six antique white side chairs ($57 ea.). Please refer to the photos below. We are very happy with the furniture, and of course it will come with us to our new house.

6. Move your furniture. The new couches were placed in our living room and the "old" leather living room couches were moved out into the great room.

I am no decorator, so this is where her advice was really helpful. To make the room look 100 times better, she pulled the couch away from the wall, to create the "L" shape that you see in both the living room, and the great room photos. This one change gave the room a more intimate seating area. The room immediately felt cozier and more inviting. She suggested adding a sofa table behind the couch, displaying a lamp and an ivy plant, none of which we have purchased yet.

In the great room photo, you will see that each couch is flanked by an end table. On each end table there is a 36" tall lamp. The coffee table is centered and displays a pretty bowl. Also in this great room photo, the TV is flanked with shelves on either side. This was the decorator's suggestion to move our shelves around the TV, and to make a focal "entertainment center" out of what shelves we did have.

The bedroom furniture was moved into the orientation shown. The decorator suggested floor length drapes for the window treatment. She suggested 24" table lamps for each night stand, and matching pictures to hang above each night stand. The sleigh bed is now the focal point upon entering the room.

7. Decorate at a discount. The decorator took me to another one of her favorite stores, Home Goods. I think I had only been to a Home Goods one other time in my life, but this particular trip was certainly worthwhile.

Based on the living room wall color and couches, I picked out the two pictures (shown hanging behind the living room couch.) These pictures have green, orange/red and brown colors. With the pictures in my cart, I was able to match the colors to glass candle holders, bowls and other "chatskies" (as the decorator calls them). She suggested adding some faux grasses and (believe it or not) plastic artichoke décor. It really looks nice!

At Home Goods, I also found two sets of lamps, one set for the bedroom, one set for the great room, and one single lamp for the piano. For the kitchen, I picked up a ceramic rooster, a pretty platter and a cookbook holder. All of the items' colors matched the pictures on the wall.

By the time I was finished, I had two shopping carts full of décor. I spent quite a bit ($500) but received a $50 discount for signing up for their credit card, which I never used again.

8. Keep the house warm and smelling fresh. Our Great Room has a propane stove for heating. During the winter months, we normally keep the heat off, unless we are out in the room. The decorator advised us to keep the room warm if showing the house during the winter months. Also, using pledge furniture cleaner before a showing will leave the house smelling clean and fresh.

House staging is a lot of work and can seem overwhelming, but take it one step at a time, and you will get there. For the short time you remain in your house, you will enjoy the fruits of your labor. Good luck!


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