How to stage your home yourself

September 28, 2018 - 5 min read

In this article:

It’s a proven fact that staged homes sell faster. And even if you can’t afford a professional job, you can stage your home yourself with a few tips and a little time.

  • Curb appeal is king, so make the view from the street a priority with an attractive yard and entry
  • Cleaning and decluttering make a huge impact and cost almost nothing
  • Small fixes and cheap improvements like fresh caulking and paint add maximum value

It’s true; the best thing you can do to stage your home is to get rid of things — dirt, at least 30 percent of your personal belongings, and weeds. Add a few design tricks and you’re good to go.

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Stage coach

Shakespeare may have been right when he wrote, “All the world’s a stage.” But when you’re selling your home there’s only one stage set that matters to you: the one you’re marketing.

Actually, thinking of your home as a stage or movie set is a good idea. Just like a theater designer, you’re trying to communicate an impression for an audience. Your audience comprises the sorts of people who might buy your property, and the impression you’re seeking to create is of space, style and comfort, with a sprinkling of aspirational magic.


What you’re not selling is your personal taste or lifestyle. In fact, you should aim to remove a whole lot of what made your home distinctively yours. You need to transform it into a show home that appeals to the widest possible market.

Once you’ve painted over your lovely bright colors in neutral shades and packed away many of your treasures for storage, you may think your home’s bland or even boring. But that’s a good thing.


Of course, you don’t want to go too far in neutralizing your decor. You still need accent colors and pretty things for show.

Related: Selling a home: improvements to get top dollar

So how do you strike the right balance? That’s easy: just plagiarize other people’s ideas. Buy home-decor magazines and watch TV shows such as “The Property Brothers” and “Fixer Upper.” And copy the ideas you like.


You should see staging as an investment. And it’s one you need to manage carefully.

Don’t blow huge amounts on it. Try to spend as little as is necessary to create a look that will maximize the price you get and minimize the time it takes to sell your property.

Scour second-hand store and apps like Letgo for bargain upgrades.

Stage your home yourself — first impressions

Homebuyers do it all the time. They cruise an area, checking out listings and looking out for For Sale lawn signs.

This is why “curb appeal” is so important. If from the street your home looks shabby or uncared for, potential buyers will drive on by.

Related: Selling your home? Use these outdoor projects to up its value

So make yours look neat and loved. Invest time and a little money in:

  1. Tidying up your front yard and driveway and then keeping them trim
  2. Planting colorful flowers and shrubs that will bring your yard to life
  3. Adding hanging baskets and tubs
  4. Pressure washing pathways, sidings and anything else that looks tired or grubby
  5. Fixing any issues with gutters, sidings, windows and screens

It doesn’t matter how lovely your home is inside. If people’s first impressions are poor, many won’t come in.

Stage your home yourself — neutralize and declutter

There are things about your home that make it an expression of yourself. They may include your vibrant color schemes, your displays of precious collectibles or your daring artworks.

These will doubtless appeal to some buyers. But they’ll likely put off many more. One woman’s “vibrant” is another’s “garish.” To a non-collector, tightly packed shelves can look like muddled, random objects that would be better off in the trash. When selling, art can add to a room’s decor, but not if some would see it as pornographic or offensive.

It’s temporary

Your objective should be to make your home as inoffensive to as many people as possible. True, you don’t want to make it as clinical as a dentist’s waiting room. But you do need to tone down any eccentricities. So, by all means, keep three of the finest pieces in your collection artfully arranged on a shelf. Indeed, that moderation applies to everything: having half a dozen of your best family photos around is charming. Covering multiple walls with them isn’t.

Related: Selling a home (small improvements to get to dollar)

Don’t see this as denying who you are. You can repaint the home you buy in your favorite colors. You can proudly put your collectibles, family snaps and risqué art back on display once you’ve moved. Just store them while you’re selling. Right now you want to make your place look as much like the ones on TV shows and in magazines as possible.

Stage your home yourself — make space

When it comes to living, it’s often smart to favor substance over style. When it comes to selling, that’s not the case.

That huge, over-stuffed couch may be great for watching TV and putting up an occasional overnight guest. You love the super-king-size bed that accommodates you, your partner and two dogs in comfort. And it’s great to have a dining table that lets you host a big Thanksgiving meal. But are those outsize pieces of furniture making your rooms look small? Chances are, they are.

Related: Staged homes sell 73 percent faster on average

Homebuyers pay for space. And they’ll often pay for the illusion of space. So put all the enormous furniture that makes your home look smaller in storage. Then rent for the selling period more appropriately sized pieces that make your rooms seem bigger.

Stage your home yourself — design touches

Speaking of furniture, don’t push all yours to the edges of your rooms. Well, not unless a room’s so small that’s your only option. If possible, create at least enough space to walk between the wall and the back of the piece. Counterintuitively, that should make the room appear bigger.

Related: Don’t want the hassle of staging? Full-service prep firms available

And place your furniture into “conversational” groups. That means groups that are designed for people to interact with each other; not groups that make people begin a conversation about why the furniture’s arranged that way.

Don’t make the TV the focal point of a room. It doesn’t matter if you personally are a Netflix addict. You’re selling an aspirational dream here. Get used to rearranging the furniture before and after a binge-watching session.

A bit of color

Designers use “accent” colors to stop neutral decors from appearing too clinical. And you should, too.

Pick a couple of colors that complement one another. Then buy some items that contain those. Your purchases may include cushions, throws, rugs and paintings or prints. You’re looking to add splashes rather than flood the room with color, so deploy these judiciously.


If you’ve anything left over in your budget, you may want to spend it in the kitchen. More than any other room, these influence buyers’ purchasing decisions.

Again, don’t spend more than you need here. But you can achieve a lot for a little — especially if you can do the work yourself — with:

  1. Under-cabinet lighting
  2. A new splashback — 3-D tiles are in vogue right now
  3. Replacement cabinet doors or handles
  4. A rolling (on castors) island — But only if you have plenty of space
  5. Replacement flooring

Whatever you decide to do, remember to steal ideas from TV shows and glossy magazines (or their websites). You want to stage your home yourself in order to sell your property, not to reinvent the wheel.

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Peter Warden
Authored By: Peter Warden
The Mortgage Reports Editor
Peter Warden has been writing for a decade about mortgages, personal finance, credit cards, and insurance. His work has appeared across a wide range of media. He lives in a small town with his partner of 25 years.