When you stage your home — or, in real estate parlance, prepare your home’s furnishings and decorations for potential buyers to view — your goal is to create as blank a canvas as possible. Yes, you need to keep out a few essentials, so potential buyers can see how well the California King-sized bed fits into the spacious master bedroom, but your goal isn’t to show off your own decorating taste; it’s to help other people imagine how their taste can fit into your home.
Keeping your home picture-perfect and hotel-room clean is hard enough when you’re just selling it; it becomes even more difficult when you’re trying to sell your home while you’re still living in it. My family found this out first-hand when we sold our Dallas home last year.
Here are some of the tips we learned, including a few we learned the hard way:
Curbing the Clutter
A lived-in home usually has a lot of clutter; stacks of mail piling up on the table, toys left out on the floor, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and mouthwash taking up the space by the sink. If you’re trying to sell your home, you have to get rid of all of that clutter every time you show your home.
Think of it this way: let’s say that a potential buyer visits your home and sees a pile of toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and other toiletry products cluttering up your bathroom sink and countertops. Does that person think “oh, I guess they didn’t clean up today?” No. This person thinks “this home does not have enough space to store bathroom items effectively.” Sometimes that can make the difference between making an offer on a home vs. passing on it.
Here’s how Realtor.org suggests to curb the clutter: First, you have to clear off every countertop in your bathrooms and kitchens. Second, you have to de-clutter any surface that has more than three items (think knick-knack shelves, refrigerator doors) until there are no more than three items remaining on the surface. That helps potential buyers see how easy it is to keep your home clean and clutter-free, and to imagine living in a similarly clutter-free space.
Removing the Personality
My family lives in Dallas, which means we are huge Dallas Cowboy fans. However, not everyone is as devoted to the home team, which meant that one of the decisions we made right away was to hide nearly everything that was Cowboys-related. We took the Dallas Cowboys throw off our sofa and replaced it with a neutral throw. We took the football off the mantlepiece. We did our best to make our home as neutral as possible.
Why? Well, because we wanted the home to speak for itself. Yes, if you live in Dallas and you enter a home that’s full of Cowboys stuff, you’ve automatically got a conversation starter. However, we wanted the conversation to be about our home. We wanted potential buyers to remember our home as the place with the great master bathroom, not the place that had all the Cowboys pennants on the walls.
You’ve got to do the same thing. If there’s an aspect of your home decoration that stands out, whether it’s sports paraphernalia, model train stuff, or a collection of commemorative plates, you have to take it down before you stage your home. That way, the focus is only on the house itself, not the decorations contained within.
Investing in Storage
So what do you do with all the stuff you don’t want potential buyers to see during a staging? You can’t just hide it all under the bed. Sometimes you have to get it out of the house completely.
That’s what we finally did when we were showing our home. We spent about three months showing and staging it without a single offer, and then decided we needed to get serious. We used a Dallas storage unit and put everything in there: the artwork, the football and pennants, even the huge framed photo of us and the kids. We also took all of those boxes we’d been meaning to sort through — old tax receipts, those kinds of things — and put them in storage as well. As a final touch, we sent my husband’s beloved but shabby recliner chair to the storage unit.
We got our first offer two weeks later.
Sometimes storage is the best solution. As Storage.com notes, a storage unit is a great way to handle your excess belongings, even if it’s only for a month. And when you’re trying to sell your home, you need to stash away as many excess belongings as possible.
If you’re looking for other home staging guidelines, check out this Field Guide from Realtors.org. Staged a home recently? Leave your tips in the comments!