Staging a house involves updating furniture, paint, decor, or appliances to make a property more attractive to potential buyers. While staging can help a listing sell faster and at a higher price, it can be expensive and time-consuming. To help, we compiled the top 27 home staging tips, along with before and after photos.
Here are our 27 favorite home staging tips from the pros:
Diana Bourgeois, Staff Writer, Fit Small Business
Staging a home can help you sell an unoccupied listing at a higher price point, but it can be expensive to hire a professional staging company. What’s more, many solo agents and small real estate teams don’t have the budget or other resources to buy and store furniture for a variety of home styles. To save money, hire a virtual staging company like HomeJab. The platform lets you schedule a professional photo shoot and then personalize your listing photos using dozens of beautiful templates that include virtual furniture, rugs, lamps, wall art, and other decor. Click here to learn more about how HomeJab can help you stage your next listing.
2. Mentally Prepare Your Clients
Elizabeth Leanza, Realtor®️ & Accredited Staging Professional, Exit Realty King & Associates
In my opinion, the very first, and most important, step of staging a home for sale is to mentally prepare my clients for what is to come. When you stage a home for sale, it’s important for the seller to understand that their home will no longer feel like their home and, sometimes, it can be tough for them to emotionally detach. It can be challenging for some owners to have to hide children’s toys or their personal belongings they use on a daily basis before each showing, or to pack away a quirky family heirloom on display (that may not be the easiest on the eyes). However, I explain the benefit and importance of keeping the home neutral, tidy, and free of clutter—a potential pitfall when staging a home that is occupied.
3. Don’t Let Staging Overshadow the Home
Fainna Kagan, Licensed Real Estate Broker, Corcoran
I once showed an apartment that had sexually explicit artwork displayed throughout the home. Not surprisingly, that is all my buyers remembered from the apartment. They didn’t notice the large kitchen or the great views because they were distracted by the art. You want the great qualities of a home to stand out, not the furniture or art. Because furniture and artwork are often the first items that a buyer notices, the furniture should be simple and understated. Use neutral colors, like whites and beiges, for furniture and walls. And lastly, add pops of color for accessories—such as pillows, table lamps, and artwork—to make the listing stand out in photos.
4. Create Vignettes in the Right Places
Jennifer Harder, Founder & CEO, Jennifer Harder Real Estate Lenders
You want to set the mood in each area and room in the house. This lets prospective buyers imagine how they are going to feel when they move into their new home. Create a scene that revolves around a light source like a lamp or window. Just make sure to avoid the pitfall of overcluttering the space. Keep the theme of the home cohesive!
5. Remember That Your “First Showing” Is Online
Tracy Deno, Associate Broker, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
I always tell sellers that your first showing is a virtual showing, so having pictures that are of good quality and showcasing your house in the best way possible should be a priority. Fewer, larger items showcase the space, and give it more scale so buyers can visualize themselves in the home. Brighter and de-cluttered spaces photograph better and will lead to buyers spending more time looking at your home—and could lead to a faster sale.
6. Update a Dated Kitchen With Off-white Cabinets
Audra Slinkey, President, Home Staging Resource
Color trends have changed drastically over the last five years, so it’s critical to blend what’s currently trending into your home in order to freshen its appeal. The challenge with paint color is picking something that will work with your current finishes (counters, backsplash, and flooring). A common solution for updating a “brown” kitchen is painting your kitchen cabinets off-white to update a dark, dated kitchen instantly.
7. Add Luxury With Great Bed Linens
Raj Qsar, Founder, The Boutique Real Estate Group
Since beds tend to be the focal point of most bedrooms, don’t just settle for whatever linens your client happens to have on hand. A collection of high-end duvets, pillows, throws, and shams are key to effectively staging a bedroom. If you want to see just how important bed linens are to staging a home—along with better lighting and composition—check out the before and after shots below.
8. Create a Command Station
Lisa Dooley, Owner & Organizing Coach, Your Organized Life
One area that we always focus on is creating a “command station.” This space should have storage (filing, cabinets, bins, and baskets all work great) and is ideally located in the kitchen or adjoining space—the “heart of the home.” With a simple desk and seating, we highlight both the form and functionality of the space and present an option that the buyer might not have thought of. Now, the new owners can envision themselves sitting there, managing their lives and creating the home they want.
9. Replace Old Lighting Fixtures
Margaret Schaffer, Founder & Lead Stylist, Restyle Home Staging
My best tip for staging any home? Let there be light. Updating lighting fixtures makes a major difference in nearly any space, and this is particularly true for homes that are not newly built. One of the biggest giveaways of a home’s age is outdated lighting fixtures. I recommend swapping out old fixtures for ones that are more modern, as well as adding a good balance of floor and table lamps to brighten up the room. For a truly cost-effective solution, always allow windows to bring in some natural light as well. The better buyers can see the home, the better they can see themselves in it.
10. Only Use Key Pieces of Furniture
Sophie Kaemmerle, Communications Manager, NeighborWho
You don’t need much furniture to stage a home—just a few key pieces in the bedroom, living room, and dining room (if applicable). For the bedroom, go with a bed and dresser. If your home is tailored to families, consider borrowing a baby crib for one of the bedrooms to make it appealing to young parents with little ones. The kitchen and dining room should have a set of table and chairs. Skip renting furniture, as it can eat up your budget pretty quickly, especially if the house is on the market for a few months. Put a social media post out to family and friends asking if they have extra furniture they aren’t using and can lend you or wish to sell inexpensively.
Another option is to search your local Facebook Marketplace for items people are selling. Just make sure the furniture is up to date and in like-new condition. You can always buy used and refurbish it yourself with a coat of paint to update. You can resell the furniture when your house sells as well to get your money back. This will likely be your biggest cost for staging. Set the budget for no more than $500.
11. Add Harmony by Creating Symmetry
Justin Riordan, Founder, Spade and Archer Design Agency
Symmetry, repetition, and rhythm can be found throughout nature, and humans find them to be aesthetically pleasing. Symmetry can be found in most animals and insects. Repetition is why we find flowers so pleasing. Rhythm can be found in the ripples of a sand dune. A quick and easy way to make a space more aesthetically pleasing is to use these simple principles of good design.
12. Make Quick & Cheap Updates With Paint
Karen Mendenhall, Staging Specialist, Stage It Charlotte
Update an outdated property with paint. It is the lowest dollar investment with the highest rate of return. The seller is not buying their property back—so they need to put their personal preferences aside and trust a professional stager who knows what to do to best present the property for sale.
13. Put Excess Clutter in Storage, Not the Closets
Julie Young, Co-founder, BY Design Home Staging
In most showings, clients tend to do two things: open the curtains and peek in the closets. This is why jamming everything you’ve decluttered from the home into the closet is a bad idea. Here’s Julie from By Design Home Staging on the subject:
“Storage space is high on your buyer’s list. If there is not enough room for your stuff, they know there will not be enough room for their stuff.”
14. Don’t Forget About Curb Appeal
Jeff Fisher, Realtor®️, RE/MAX Fine Properties
Don’t forget about curb appeal when staging your home. Many homeowners forget that the outside matters, too, and it’s often the buyer’s first impression. To spruce up the outside, consider investing in a new mailbox, painting or staining the exterior, or throwing a fresh coat of paint on the front door. Alternatively, beautify the yard by planting some fragrant flowers.
15. When in Doubt, Bring in a Professional Stager
Karen Gray Plaisted, Owner, Design Solutions KGP, LLC
I am a professional home stager and I find most agents suggest that you clean and declutter. Unfortunately, the majority of sellers have no idea what that really means, so they go overboard to the point of sterilization—a little too far—so the house has no personality that a buyer can relate to.
There is a fine line, and if the agent or seller is not sure how to get a look in a house that buyers desire, it’s always best to call in the pros to achieve the best look possible for the house. An agent is a pro at negotiations, not necessarily the aesthetics of a home.
16. Create a Focal Point for Each Room
Tracy Kay Griffin, Lead Designer, Express Homebuyers
Understand every room has a focal point. To create a nice focal point in the rooms in your house, pick a key piece of furniture to anchor the room and place the rest of the furniture around it. Remember to keep in mind the traffic patterns of how you’ll walk from one room to the next and move within the room. Leave these traffic patterns and pathways open.
If you have accumulated too much furniture in one room, perhaps you can move some of it into another room. Or make the decision to get rid of extra pieces of furniture. You can also use furniture differently from how you are accustomed to using it. I’ve used dressers as foyer tables and dining room consoles and chairs as bedside tables. I’ve used ottomans and trunks as coffee tables and folding kitchen tables as desks. Think creatively and come up with your own ways of repurposing items.
I also like to use nature to create focal points and add beauty. Floral arrangements go on entry tables, coffee tables, dining tables, bedroom dressers, and even in the bathrooms. Bringing the outside in always tends to lift our spirits.
17. Try Flash Staging
G. Brian Davis, Director of Education, Spark Rental
One trick I’ve done with past properties is “flash staging,” where a staging company and professional real estate photographer come in, stage the house, do a thorough professional photo shoot, then remove all the furniture and decor. Because it all takes place over the course of a couple hours, and the same furniture and decor can be continually reused for different homes. It’s far cheaper than traditional staging.
For example, in the last property I did this with, it cost me $750, compared to quotes in the $3,000 to $4,000 range for full staging. The photos attract far more showings, which is the key to getting offers.
18. Get Rid of the Clutter
Sissy Lappin, Co-founder, ListingDoor.com
Clutter is one of the frequently overlooked, but most important factors that will affect whether you get your asking price. For some reason, buyers think clutter is contagious! If you have too much stuff in your house, they will subconsciously doubt that all their stuff will fit. Clutter can actually take off 5% to 15% of a home’s value, just because buyers are less inclined to make a high offer for a house that looks messy. Having clutter is like having a strip club across the street: No one will want to live there!
19. Make the Most of Outdated Features
Alice McCray, Interior Designer, Coastal Design Interiors
One of our staging jobs had a really outdated pink marble fireplace that the owner didn’t have time—and wasn’t willing—to update before the sale. I knew that the blush color was in style right now and thought rather than trying to work against it, we could use it as a focal feature that complemented the decor. It seemed to visually make it less noticeable when you entered the room.
20. Show Off Views & Light
Ian Wolf, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson, Douglas Elliman Real Estate
When trying to make an apartment look like a home, you also want to show off the views and light—which also means cleaning the windows to allow the best views and light possible. I often see agents or sellers spending $7,000 on staging but then not spending $500 to clean the windows to maximize the light and views. Making the home appear clean often means a fresh coat of paint to get rid of the odd picture discoloration on the walls, and so on.
21. Always Give a Room a Purpose
Pam Hopgood, Home Stager, Perfect Match Homes
If you don’t know what to do with the room, then neither will potential buyers, and your house will be remembered as the one with that funny space by the kitchen or wherever!
I recently staged the home in the example below—a lovely family home with a large space directly off the front door between the kitchen, family room, and master suite. The first thing you saw as you entered the home was this massive space used as a playroom and dumping ground for toys and sports equipment. We staged it as the formal dining room and living room and the house now had a totally different flow to it.
22. Use Light Pillows to Brighten Dark Sofas
Monica Glover, Owner, Arrange Home Staging & Redesign
Dark sofas create black holes in listing photos. Pillows and throws instantly add light. Since over 90% of home buyers shop online first, listing photos have to sell. Dark leather sofas create large black holes in the photos, distracting buyers from a room’s potential. Simply add light colored pillows and throws to instantly brighten the photos.
23. Avoid Dark-colored Ceilings or Accent Walls
Lisa Beekman, Owner, Changing Styles Redesign
When choosing paint color for your room, my tip is to stay light and airy and paint the walls and ceiling the same color. Gone are the days where you have a dark-colored accent wall; over time you just get tired of it. And never paint a dark color on the ceiling—it will only make the ceiling height feel lower and make the room feel closed in. If you want color, bring it into the room with your accessories, like pillows, rugs, furniture, and draperies.
24. Keep a Record of Staging
Bryan Stoddard, Director, Homewares Insider
These days, it’s all about transformation and change. And that’s the case with home staging, too. I’d honestly recommend everyone who’s looking into home staging to develop a process of documenting all the changes and work that went into a property during the preparation for sale.
If you manage to do that—taking photos and tracking changes—you’ll be able to create a must-have before-and-after photo. You don’t have to limit yourself to photographs; create dynamic GIFs or even short videos highlighting all the changes and improvements.
In this way, you’ll avoid doing one of the larger mistakes of staging homes. Prospective buyers often don’t have the imagination or the ability to imagine what the property looked like before your intervention, so having a ready-made photo or link should be a key feature of any sales pitch.
25. Keep Textures in Mind When Choosing Paint Colors
Lara Allen-Brett, Owner, Staging by Lara
A fresh coat of paint or, at the very least, touching up all the moldings, doors, and windows with a glossy white can absolutely breathe fresh life into a tired or sad space. Everyone comes in and says “just paint it gray” or “paint the house all one color,” but there’s much more to paint selection than that. Colors of the floors, texture of the floors, amount of lights and windows—all these elements can make a big difference in whether the greige you choose is flat or is inspiring.
26. Be Both Aspirational & Attainable
Kelly Dollinger, Marketing Principal, Spade and Archer Design Agency
Don’t overstage. If your home is starting to look like the front cover of Elle Decor or House Beautiful, you might be overdoing it. Buyers will feel inadequate for the house and experience it like a museum instead of their potential new dream home.
Instead, stage to be both aspirational and attainable. You want buyers to walk in and say, “This space is beautiful and I could absolutely achieve this look.” If a buyer feels that the house is a step or two above their current living conditions, then you nailed it. It means they are both inspired by the space and find it relatable.
27. Sell It Furnished
Alison Bernstein, Founder & President, The Suburban Jungle
Sell it furnished. People love the convenience of turnkey. We are seeing many new construction homes in high-end markets such as San Francisco and NYC that are impeccably staged, offering buyers the option to purchase fully furnished.
Bottom Line: Home Staging Tips
The best way to stage a house depends on the style of the home and your ideal buyer. Some agents recommend physically staging a home so buyers can envision themselves living there when they tour the space. Others suggest using virtual staging to improve listing photos while saving time and money. Follow our home staging tips above to improve your next listing with staging elements like bright paint colors, symmetrical furniture, and uncluttered decor.