How to Stage a House For Resale: Tips from a Designer


As an interior designer, I have helped many homeowners and builders stage their houses. I begin each project by giving clients the following piece of advice: The moment you put your house on the market, it ceases to be your home and becomes your product to sell. Like any salesperson, you should want to display your product in the best possible light.

My clients usually have mixed reactions to this advice. Some let out a breath of relief, as if to say, “Finally, someone who knows what they’re doing.” Others look at me as if I have no heart. How could I say the house they have lived in for twenty years is no longer their home? The bottom line is, whether you are still in love with your house or not, your goal is to sell it, and you should want to reach that goal by taking the shortest route possible. Here are a few tips to make your house look like your client’s future home.

Remove all pictures:

As a homebuyer, when I walk into an empty home with a realtor and see family photos of people I don’t know, I feel like I’m trespassing in someone else’s personal space. That unwelcome feeling is not something you want potential buyers to feel. Wrap up those pictures and prepare them for your move. Not only will it instantly make your house feel more neutral, but it will give you a head start on the inevitable mountain of packing.

Put away all overly personal items, including those special collectibles:

Your collection of antique porcelain dolls may seem beautiful to you, but the rest of the world thinks they’re creepy. In fact, most of your potential buyers will go home and have nightmares about the terrifying dollhouse their realtor tried to sell them. When showing a house, you want buyers to see the house, not become distracted by the possessions within it. When they think back on your house later, you want them to remember the fabulous swimming pool in the backyard, not the creepy dolls in the foyer.


Remember when you were a kid and your mom asked you to clean your room, so you shoved three weeks worth of laundry, books, toys and food wrappers under the bed? When I tell you to de-clutter, that is not what I mean.

Bottom line is, when your closets are not exceptionally neat, when your garage is filled with boxes and junk, buyers will not see the cleanliness of the rest of the house. What they will see is a lack of storage. What they will do is walk away. Spend several weeks (YES WEEKS) before you even hire a real estate agent and go through each room, each closet. Decide what to keep, donate, or trash. For donations, be sure to keep the receipts; you’re going to need the tax breaks at the end of the year. For the possessions you are keeping, pack them away, store them at a friend’s house or rent a month-to-month storage unit.

What you want is for a homebuyer to open your closet, look at the organized gorgeousness and think, “I wish I had closets that looked like this.” Because their very next thought will be, “If I buy this house, I could have closets like this.”

Move furniture to highlight the architectural features of your home

Your living room has a gigantic picture window that looks out on the luscious front garden you sweated over for five years. This window is by far the highlight of your house, so why did you place your sofa smack dab in front of it? Sure that is the best place if you want to see the TV, but it is not the best place for the sofa if you want to sell your house.

After identifying the architectural and selling features of your house, make sure your furniture is not visually blocking it. Find ways to highlight these features. Put a large mirror above the two-story fireplace to reflect light and draw the eye. Face a pair of occasional chairs toward your wonderful picture window to highlight the view.

Wash your baseboards

Baseboards, and generally all molding in a home, seem to be overlooked during regular cleanings. After years of being forgotten, the moldings that drew you to the house in the first place can become caked with dust and dirt, and dirty moldings make the whole house feel dirty. Before you go through the pain and expense of painting, however, get down on your knees with a bucket of water and wash those baseboards. Half the time they just need a good scrubbing to bring back the shine.



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