Staging an open house

Your home is your refuge. It should be a reflection of you, your family, and the things you love, right?

Right. But also, wrong. When it’s time to sell your house, it’s vital for potential buyers to be able to envision your home as their own. 

Makes sense, but how?

It’s all in the packaging. Many real estate professionals will tell you that home staging can help sell your house faster and for more money.

In fact, if we look at the 2021 Profile of Home Staging, a report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 47% of buyers’ agents said that home staging affected most buyers’ overall impression of the home. And just over eight out of 10 of buyers’ agents say staging helps their clients visualize living in the property. 

It’s pretty clear that staging your home can’t hurt. And if you’re going to have an open house (Spoiler alert: You should have an open house!), it can be a huge help. But how do you go about it?

Don’t hit up Google. We have smart answers to all of your questions (and more!)

How do I stage my home?

Since we’ve determined that property staging is an important step for home selling success—at least to some degree—let’s examine how to accomplish it. 

What are the most important factors to staging your home?

1. Declutter.
Of course you love all of your treasured knickknacks and family photos, but they can distract your buyers from seeing your home as theirs. You want clean countertops, clear table tops, and organized closets. Be ruthless. Tuck your treasures away – you might need to get a storage unit and save them for your new home.

You should still make the place look homey, just not too lived in. A few throw pillows on the couch, a decorative floor vase by the fireplace, and a pretty lamp on the end table are all nice touches. 

According to Anne Carr of Los Angeles-based Anne Carr Design, ‘People do like to see a pop of color in pillows or in an occasional chair. ‘When home staging, we also like to add an element of surprise through art with color. The psychology of color says that the majority of people gravitate towards things that are blue.”

The takeaway? Keep the unnecessary bric-a-brac to a minimum and focus on making your home look spacious and clean. More about that next.

2. Clean.
This is actually the most important thing when it comes to selling your house, but if you do it after you’ve decluttered, it will be easier to see any remaining dirt or grime.

Truly—and we can’t stress this enough—this is not the place to skimp! If you don’t have the time or inclination to deep clean, then hire a service. (No shame here. We can’t all be like everyone’s favorite Friends clean freak, Monica.) Even the spaces we tend to ignore in our own homes like ceiling fans, baseboards, and closet floors need attention. Trust us, your buyers will notice.

Oh, and no shoving stuff into the closets and slamming the door shut. Potential buyers will be opening your storage spaces. Being buried under an avalanche of your possessions will not go over well.  

3. Fix it up.
This is definitely NOT the time to pick that quirky paint color you always wanted. This is the time to focus only on what’s visibly broken. Have you been waiting to spackle those extra nail holes? Now is the time. Have a broken fence board? Now is the time.

Anything that looks broken inside the house or detracts from the curb appeal needs to be fixed.

4. Neutralize it.

Remember that quirky paint color we mentioned above? Paint over it. If your very favorite wall is orange, and your prospective buyers loathe orange, it just might turn them off enough not to buy your house. Intellectually, they know they can paint over it, but it can be hard to overcome first impressions.

You don’t have to paint every wall white, but stick with warm, neutral colors, ones that are calm, comforting, and allow potential buyers to see themselves in that space.

A few specifics…

  • Keep things light. Before your open house, you (or your realtor) should turn on all lights (including closet lights) and open the curtains.
  • Each room should have a purpose. Buyers want to see possibilities. If you have a large living room, consider dividing it into two seating areas. Make one a reading nook and one specifically for watching TV. If you currently use an extra room as a catch-all for clutter, make it over into an office or a spare bedroom. 
  • Look critically at the floors. If possible, replace old, stained flooring. If you don’t have the time or money to replace, use throw rugs to spruce up the worst areas. 
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Do I need to hire a professional?

Well, it depends on a few factors. 

First, take a look at the market. In a buyer’s market where homes are not flying off the proverbial shelves, home staging can help you sell faster. In the NAR’s 2021 Profile of Home Staging report (mentioned above), 31% of sellers’ agents reported that staging a home greatly decreased the amount of time on the market. 

While this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to invest in professional staging, you might give it extra consideration if the market is tough and you’re hoping to sell quickly. Additionally, it’s important that you make the decision and have your home staged before you list it. Turning to a professional after the home has been listed for a while without selling means you’ve already missed out on potential buyers.  

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Next, consider your own talents. Do you like to decorate? And—be honest here—are you good at it? Think of it in Friends terms (yes, we went there again!)  If your tastes are more along the lines of Phoebe’s avante garde paintings and furry rugs as opposed to Rachel’s Pottery Barn apothecary table and Ralph Lauren towels, it’s probably a good idea to call in the professionals. 

Those with experience in property staging will know what’s too much and what’s just right. Not only that, they’ll have access to a huge number of stylish pieces of furniture and art, saving you from the expense of buying new furniture you may not even want. 

Depending on the area of the country and how much you need to, professional staging can cost anywhere between approximately $300 and $1,500.

You might be able to give the pros a pass if you’re in a very hot sellers’ market. Of course, you’ll still want your home to be decluttered and clean, but it’s not as necessary to hire help if it’s likely that your home won’t spend much time on the market. 

Another factor to consider is what kind of time crunch you personally have. If you’re headed out of town the first moment possible, you’ll probably want to avoid professional staging. If you’re in a hurry, you’re not going to want to stick around to coordinate the return of borrowed furniture and decor.

And before you make any decisions, ask your realtor for their thoughts. Many realtors will even do the staging themselves, or help you make good choices. 

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Making the most of your open house

Now that your home is magazine-ready and pristinely clean, it’s time to fling open the doors and let all those potential buyers come flooding in! 

To make sure they do indeed come flooding in, it’s important to be sure you and your realtor have taken all possible steps to maximize the opportunity. 

While you’re counting on your realtor to get the word out in the form of yard signs, social media posts, online ads and word-of-mouth, you can take steps to make your home open house ready.

Among the most important things you should do:

  1. Make sure your home is odor-free.
    Is there anything worse than walking into a room and getting hit with a foul stench? Nope, we don’t think so. Since you’ve recently done a deep clean, your home should smell fresh, but don’t forget to wash linens, including curtains and bedspreads, that can retain odors. Also open the windows for about 20 minutes prior to the event to let the fresh air in. 
  1. Don’t burn strong candles or use air fresheners.
    It might be tempting to light your favorite candles, but keep in mind, everyone’s sniffer is different. Your favorite scent might be someone else’s most hated. It’s also important to consider that some people might be allergic to candles or air fresheners. If they can’t come into your home without suffering, they’re not going to want to buy it. 
  1. Don’t stay for the open house.
    We know. You want to be around to answer questions and wax poetic about your home’s many wonderful qualities. DON’T. That’s what your realtor will do. They’ll be there to represent your home in the best possible way. As for you, take your kids and your pets (Definitely do NOT leave Rover behind!) and head for the hills.
  1. Make sure the open house is scheduled at a good time for buyers.
    It’s a pain to have to vacate your house so strangers can enter. It’s even less fun when you have to interrupt your weekend to do it. The fact is, however, most successful open houses are on the weekend and not around a holiday. This busy time won’t last long (hopefully), so make sure your realtor schedules it at prime open house time, even if it’s a touch inconvenient for you. 
  1. Be sure your curb appeal is on point.

You’ve been busy making the inside gorgeous, but be sure not to forget about the exterior. As your home’s first impression, the outside should be attractive. Take time to trim trees, pull weeds, and clear away old lawn furniture, toys, and other detritus. Clean the gutters, mow the lawn, and see to any exterior painting. Finally, add a few flowers for a finishing pop of color.

Finally, revel in your accomplishment.

Yes, selling your home is a lot of work. You might even get through staging, cleaning and fixing up the exterior only to wonder why in the world you want to sell it. 🙂 Rest assured that taking these extra steps will indeed save you time and make you money. And hey, you might even get some decorating ideas to use in your next home! 

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