House Staging 101

A clean, uncluttered home is the foundation of house staging.

What do you think of when you hear the term "house staging"? A lot of us immediately imagine HGTV episodes and Instagram feeds filled with perfect spaces. Living rooms with just the right amount of lighting and uncluttered but cozy couches. Picture perfect kitchens with the latest designer trends on point. And then we look up from our screens to the spaces we're looking to sell or rent out, and...well, most of us don't have a house fresh out of Joanna Gaines' portfolio, do we?

But guess what—we don't have to! Right now, here in the local Fife/Milton/Edgewood market, you do not have to take on huge, expensive projects to stage your house to attract a buyer or tenant. Nor do you need to hire someone to bring in all new furniture (although you may need to move some out....). Read on for my tried-and-true 5 steps to house staging to help you sell your property or find the perfect tenant.

Staging Step #1: Draw attention to your property's best feature.

Every property has a diamond in the rough. Find it and make it stand out. Maybe it's gorgeous original hardwood flooring. Make it shine and arrange furniture and rugs to draw the eye to it. Perhaps it's a spacious kitchen with counter and cabinet space for days! Clear the clutter, and use pops of color to pull lookers into the space and make them remember it. Whatever your home's best feature, work it. 

Staging Step #2: Start packing immediately.

At the end of the day your goal is to invite people in. You want them to visualize themselves in the space.  If the space is jam-packed with your stuff, they won't be able to do that. 

Focus on creating white space. Remove personal items such as family photos, as well as collections of trinkets and doodads. Consider how much furniture is appropriate for a room, and remove something if there is too much for the space. Clear kitchen and bathroom counters, and create empty space in cabinets and closets. Less is better, I promise. And you’re going to need to pack anyway, so why not start before the pictures?

Staging Step #3: Maximize the use of lighting.

Let me shed some light on the facts (see what I did there?): Lighting sets the tone for how we perceive a space, so make it the right tone.

Natural light is king. For daytime showings, open up the shades and curtains in every room. Also make sure windows are clean as a whistle inside and out. The goal is to have no filtering of available daylight, to make the space feel as open as possible. And also to keep house hunters focused on the inside of the room, not the grime on the windows.

In terms of artificial light, in almost all cases white toned bulbs are preferred. Even in a small, windowless space, the right tone of light can change the feel of the area. If a room does not have an overhead light, or even if it does, add a tall lamp in a corner. Also make sure side and sofa tables throughout the house have appropriately-sized lamps, as well. Again, stick with white tones for the bulbs, but use lampshades smartly to reduce harshness and up the coziness factor in living rooms and bedrooms.

For evening showings, turn off your inner penny-pincher, and turn on all of the lights—interior and exterior—before you leave. Even if it's dark outside, you want the property to shine!

Staging Step #4: Manage smells.

I once walked into an inspection for a rental property in Edgewood, and an offensive smell hit me square in the face like a fly baseball. My eyes were watering, it was so bad. The unit was vacant, and it had been freshly painted, but it smelled like warm garbage had been fermenting for days. Since the smell was not there when we had originally viewed the unit I was determined to figure it out. Once the inspector opened up the crawl space we knew right away—there were some dead rodents. Yuck. So gross.

Clean. 

Just think clean, clean, clean. You simply want the place to smell clean. That means that your focus should be on removing sources of smells first and foremost, not just masking it.

Get rid of smelly furniture. Deodorize sink drains with baking soda and vinegar, and run some lemon peels through your disposal if you have one. Clean the fridge and take out the garbage every day, and especially when a showing is scheduled. Have the carpets and rugs professionally cleaned. And for sure make sure there aren't any animal carcasses in the crawl space!

In terms of adding pleasant scents, don't overdo it. This is not the time to run a diffuser or plug-in in every room. Less is more. I’m all for some lavender or citrus hibiscus but go as neutral as possible. You’re not trying to accommodate yourself. You're trying to reach the broadest audience possible.

That means that white linen, summer cotton, or straight-up bleach is the winner every time. Clean and fresh is the goal.

Oh, and that old trick of baking bread or cookies right before a showing? If you have the time to do it and clean up properly afterward, I have never met someone who disliked the smell of freshly baked goodies!

Staging Step #5: Play up accessories.

When house staging, it's bad business to spend money that won’t necessarily get you a strong return. If you’re planning on selling or renting your property out then maybe pass on the HGTV-style remodeling. Instead, find some cost-effective accessories to get the most bang for your buck. The idea here is to frame the room. Imagine you are telling a story in each room. Make your viewer want to join the house on its story.

Some effective and inexpensive ways to stage a house using accessories:

  • Place fresh hand towels in the bathrooms.
  • Add pops of color to the living room or bedroom with a few throw pillows or books with spines that color-coordinate with the space.
  • Create a cozy reading nook with an accent chair and side table. Don't forget the lamp, and perhaps some flowers or a little plant. 
  • Place potted plants and herbs at the entrance and around the patio.
  • Highlight your beautiful Pacific Northwest outdoor space with stringed lights around the patio, and add solar spotlights along exterior paths.

Every property is different just like every person is different. This list was created for very low level staging. 

If you are working with a more complex situation, like helping a senior citizen in your life downsize their stuff, then know that you are in good company. In that situation, I would encourage you to find an intermediary to help sort through the details of their situation. 

Regardless of your particular situation, you likely want a stress free real estate transaction. Sorting out the stuff BEFORE you're forced to is a tip I can hang my hat on. 

All the best,

P.S. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you don't already. Don't miss out on the tips, tricks, and sometimes just plain funny items I share on social media!

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