Reviewed by Mike Kelly
Updated March 7, 2023
You’ve decided to sell your home. Now what? One of the best ways to sell your home quickly is to stage it. Staging is helping your home stand out in a crowd by making it well-decorated, clean, and clutter-free. A staged home will look more appealing to potential buyers and, hopefully, convince them to buy sooner and pay more.
Staging a home helps prospective owners visualize themselves living there, and gives them a positive feeling. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. You can hire a professional to stage your home, or you can do it yourself using less expensive methods. Here are a few home staging tips you can try.
Once your home is on the market, it becomes a product. You’ll need to lose any emotional attachment you have to the home, and consider it a commodity to be sold. Remove any personal items, like family photos, souvenirs, and mementos. Instead, place some neutral objects here and there. A few nice-looking books on an end table, a colourful vase of flowers in the dining room, or even a rubber duck on the edge of the bathtub can go a long way to making your home look more appealing. Prospective buyers will find it easier to imagine their own property in the home, rather than looking at yours. It can be difficult, but effective home staging means looking at your property objectively.
It may not seem like clutter to you, but it sure will to potential buyers. Put away knick-knacks, and clear off the kitchen and bathroom counters. Interested buyers need to be able to visualize the home as their own and displaying too many of your personal touches makes this difficult. Put away your heirlooms, collectibles, and photos. Your home should have a spare, polished appearance. This applies to the inside of your cupboards and closets, too. People will open them, and they want to see a clutter-free, organized space—aim for closets and cupboards that are no more than 75% full. This part of the process is a good chance to start the process of getting your stuff ready to be moved to your new home, and even move some things into storage if necessary.
Your house needs to be spotless. Make sure you scrub the bathroom, clean the grout, and hide the toilet brush. Take time to steam clean the carpets, wash the walls and floors, and dust the moldings and ceiling fans. Wash your windows inside and out, polish all fixtures and wipe down all your appliances. You may want to consider hiring a professional cleaning service.
A fresh coat of neutral paint goes a long way. Consider repainting rooms that are bold or dark with warm neutral shades like tan, taupe or grey, especially if the room is smaller. Keep the ceilings white to create the feeling of extra height and increase brightness. Unusual wall colours may prevent a buyer from imagining the room as their own. To further enhance the colour scheme of your home, put fresh, white towels in the bathroom and maybe a new bedspread in the bedroom.
Your house should smell good. Make sure there are no musty smells or unpleasant odors. Be especially aware of any pet odors. Open the windows and add some fresh flowers. If you want to go one step further, you can make your home smell lovely on viewing days. Bring a pot of water to a boil and place some cinnamon sticks inside, or bake a fresh batch of cookies.
Look around your house carefully, and replace any cracked tiles, fix or replace leaky faucets, and replace burned out bulbs. Replace worn carpet and flooring as this is one of the first things buyers will see when they walk in. Organize your cupboards and closets. Give them a quick refresh by replacing outdated knobs and handles with new brushed nickel or silver versions. Repainting your cabinetry goes a long way as well.
If you’ve been using the spare bedroom for storage, clean it out, and furnish it properly. You can rent a bed, night tables, and lamps if necessary. Focus on highlighting the best use of the space, especially if you can show a room has more than one function. For example, use a small desk with a stool to introduce a workspace, or add a daybed to an office to create extra sleeping space. Try not to leave a room empty as this can make the space look smaller. Arrange all your furniture to allow for an easy flow of traffic through your home.
Curb appeal refers to how the house looks to people viewing it from the street. The front of the house is the first thing people will see, and it will make an important impression on them. Make sure you’ve trimmed the lawn and hedges, planted flowers, cleaned the exterior of the house, and cleared your gutters. Paint any faded window trims, as well as the front door to give it a fresh look. Try to keep colours on the exterior of your home neutral as well, and save the bright colours for your flower beds and planters. Think about replacing your house numbers with shiny new ones and putting out a brand-new welcome mat. Make sure to remove any toys and pet accessories. If you have any outdoor furniture, it should be tidy and in good condition.
If your house has a front porch, you’ve got a terrific opportunity to enhance the curb appeal even further. Stage the front porch much like you would a room inside the house, coordinating colours and thoughtfully arranging furniture. The porch should evoke feelings of comfort and leisure. Prospective buyers should look at the porch and be able to imagine themselves relaxing there on a Sunday afternoon.
Another one of the first things potential buyers will see is your mailbox. If you have an old, worn-looking mailbox, it may be worth replacing. You can even coordinate the style with your house’s number plaque or other decorations visible at the front of the house.
Lighting is one of the most powerful tools in the home staging toolkit, and yet is often neglected. The right lighting can change a room completely, so it’s worth investing in some new fixtures if any of your rooms are lacking. Of course, natural light is the best type of light, so keep your blinds open. When deciding on light fixtures, think about layering the light within each room. With modern LED bulbs, it’s possible to get light in all sorts of different colours or temperatures. Use warm, soft lighting for rooms that should appear relaxing, like bedrooms. Use bright, cool, blue-tinged light in kitchens and work areas. Make sure that all the lights in your home are switched on while it’s being shown, lest all your effort go to waste!
If you’ve got a large yard with not a lot going on, it may be worth your time to hire a landscaper to spruce it up a bit. A flat, empty yard will give people a flat, empty feeling inside, and that’s not what you want when you’re trying to get them to fall in love with the home. A well-kept exterior will make buyers think that the interior is also well-kept. A landscaper can do some grading and some planting, and before you know it your house will look more inviting than ever. With landscaping, it’s hugely beneficial to think as far ahead as possible. If you know you’ll be selling your home in a few years, plant some trees now! Established plants look much nicer than new ones, but any plants are better than none. And you can get landscaping coverage under your insurance if you’re worried about a loss to the landscaping.
Once your home sells and you’re planning to move, don’t forget to contact your home insurance provider. You may need coverage on your new and old home at the same time if your old home doesn’t sell right away.
You may also need coverage for your belongings while being transported from one place to the next. Your belongings might be covered while in transit as long as your insurance provider is insuring you at both your old and your new homes. If either home is sitting vacant for a time, it’s important to talk to your insurance provider. When a home is considered vacant, insurance coverage is limited. Home insurance providers are often able to accommodate a variety of scenarios, but it’s always important that they understand your specific circumstance. This will make sure you have all the coverage you need to keep you, your family, and your personal property protected in the event of a loss.
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The cost of staging a home can vary widely, as there are tons of variables. The size of the home, the length of time it will be on the market, whether you need to rent furniture… Home staging can get pricey. A home staging professional will charge $150-$600 for an initial consultation, and then anywhere from $2,000-$6,000 per month while the home is being sold. If you stage the home yourself, you need only calculate the cost of repairs or upgrades, as well as possibly renting furniture for under-furnished rooms. You can also save money by only staging certain rooms. The living room, kitchen, and master bedroom are most important, in that order. A rule of thumb in the industry is that you should set aside 1-2% of the home’s value to prepare it for sale. Your staging budget would come out of this sum.
As the homeowner, you are responsible for paying to stage it. Some full-service realtors will include staging as part of their contract, but it’s likely that the staging fees are baked into the commission you’re paying the realtor.
Many home staging companies will rent furniture even if you’re not paying them to do the actual staging. Most cities have a few furniture rental stores that can help. The price can vary quite a lot depending on the quality of the furniture and how much you need to rent.
You shouldn’t expect a realtor to do the home staging themselves, though in some cases they will. A realtor will at the very least be able to give you suggestions about staging a home, or recommend a staging company that can do it for you.
The short answer is yes, probably. There is some debate about the issue, but it makes at least some difference. The general consensus is that staging can improve the offer value by 1-5%. Many realtors think the increase is even higher, while some think staging has no effect at all. At the very least, staging a home seems to greatly reduce the time it takes to sell.
Want to learn more? Visit our Home Buying, Selling and Moving resource centre for everything you need to know about real estate, buying a home, or moving. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.
About the expert: Mike Kelly
Mike Kelly is no stranger to working under pressure, Mike works hard for his clients in the Toronto real estate market while always maintaining a relaxed, low-stress environment. He builds trust with his clients through open and honest lines of communication.
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