How Stage Your Home to Sell


How do you stage your home – with warmth – so it looks as though humans live there? After all, you’re selling a lifestyle. We want buyers to see themselves living there, and how their life would be better.

You want to sell organized, nature loving, energetic, clean, warm and much, much more.

Home staging—the practice of arranging furnishings and decor in a house so buyers can envision living there—is becoming an ever-more important tool for home sellers. In fact, studies show that staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more money than those that aren’t staged.

But home staging can be taken too far. Home sellers sometimes clear out every last family photo, pillow, and doo-dad until their house looks like a hotel for Scandinavian robots.

Here’s how to strike that warm yet aspirational balance, so that buyers feel that your house is the perfect place for them.

Declutter, Declutter and Declutter

Even if you think you’re a minimalist, the truth is, we all tend to collect a lot of stuff. And that stuff is going to distract people from seeing the best features of your home. So reduce, reduce, reduce.

You will probably end up adding a few things back in, but it’s easier to see what to keep if you’re starting with a nearly empty slate, so to speak.

Everyone thinks that their stuff is great and that their design choices will be loved by EVERYONE… But it’s just not true. And that can be hard to hear for many sellers.

Corcoran real estate agent Dennis Margulies, who stages most of the homes he sells, has edited back the belongings of clutter-loving clients “just for the photograph.” And when his clients see how amazing their decluttered home looks, they tend to want to do even more.

So be merciless in your editing before you start adding the details that will warm up your space.

Furniture: Keep only the right stuff

How do you know how much of your furniture to keep? When Margulies works with estate sales, he keeps this principle in mind: “You’re trying to highlight the best attributes of the space.” So he’ll rearrange furniture (and remove some pieces) in order to make a room look and feel as spacious as possible.

You want enough furniture to make the room comfortable, but not so much that people miss architectural details and the feel of the space itself.

If you are renting furniture to stage your home, don’t pick sets. That matchy-matchy look can create a sterile atmosphere, Margulies says. “Personality comes in when you mix things. There needs to be a sense of style.”

Don’t Be Afraid of Color

All the walls should be white, right? Not necessarily. White can look too sterile. You want warmth and style. But not too much style. Don’t be afraid of color – but don’t go nuts either.

Avoid painting every room a separate color. You don’t want to hit prospective buyers with a kaleidoscope of different colors in every room, which can look haphazard.

One accent wall of color in the right place can be effective, says Margulies. It can make a plain room into a place buyers want to be.

Bring in the Green

Another way to make a minimalist space feel warm and vibrant is to add plants. Even without flowers, green plants subconsciously remind people that things live in this home… and that they can too. “I love add pops of color with flowers,” says Lazar. “Place flowers in several areas if you can, since they’re a touch of freshness that brightens the space.”

Do you have an awkward corner that looks too big? You could consider a larger 2-3 foot plant. Your local home improvement store will have plenty of options.

Add easy-to-care-for houseplants in attractive pots, and place them around your home. Or buy a few small seasonal flowers in pots.

At the very least, consider some fresh cut flowers in vases – some varieties can last for a few weeks. Ask your local flower shop for suggestions.

Add Some Unique Details

Contrary to conventional wisdom, you don’t have to banish every last personal object from your home before you show it. “Some family pictures are fine,” says Margulies. Just not all of them. Find the best ones, in the best frames (or have quality portraits reframed).

Yes, you can have a few throw pillows out. “Throw pillows and blankets project the fact that people live here and sit in those areas,” says Lazar. Just make sure they’re in good repair and in bright, harmonizing colors. This is another area that shouldn’t be matchy-matchy.

And, if you have a dining area, “Set the table, and maybe add a centerpiece,” Lazar says. This doesn’t have to be the cliche’d “decorator plate pile” that people dislike. It could be a candlestick, a unique centerpiece or fresh flowers in a vase.

In bedrooms, Lazar likes a few well-edited personal items, like a ring dish or a small stack of books. “This also works in the bathrooms, which should have towels on racks and soap next to sinks.”

Don’t Forget Wall Decoration

A fresh coat of paint throughout is almost always in order. Margulies adds well-framed art and photos to blank walls that need some visual interest.

It may help to take everything down, and consider your most attractive pieces. Select those specific items, and then hang those in areas you want to highlight.

But don’t leave those walls blank. It’s amazing how just a few things on the walls make a home look better. Wall art and decor give scale to spaces, and makes a home feel lived in – and loved.

Alexander’s note: We didn’t forget lighting. In fact we felt it was so important that we’ve given lighting it’s own article. Stay tuned until tomorrow when we Light up your Homes Value.


The professionals at Wissel Homes know the Central Maryland market because it’s our home too. We live and breathe the local neighborhoods in Howard County, Carroll County, Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County and more. We understand what it takes to get the job done right. Contact us today to set up an appointment to list your home or to start the home buying process. Let our experience help move you into your dream home.