THE BLOG
07/09/2013 03:05 pm ET | Updated Sep 08, 2013

Get Your House Sold and Get Yourself Moving With These Room-by-Room Staging Tips

When homeowners put their home on the market, they often make one of two mistakes. One is leaving their house as it is, opening the door to potential buyers and thinking it will sell. Or the number two mistake is, spending a lot of money to stage your home so that it will sell. Neither is true. I don't care how well designed or clean your home is, everyone needs to stage their home to sell it efficiently, and you do not need to spend any money to stage your home. Time, yes! Money, no! The right approach is simply a change in mindset.

Most folks think, I'll just get my house clean and ready as if I had company coming over to visit. But, "company ready" is not going to do the trick. Here's why: friends and family who come to visit know (and, hopefully, love) you and they want to feel your personal touches in your home. Your potential buyer doesn't want to feel or see you in the house. No family pictures, tastes or piles of stuff. A buyer wants to be able to envision living in that house. Think: It's not your house anymore. It's a house that will soon be their house. So get the you out of your house. That does not mean a completely empty house. It means a house that has space to be someone's, really anyone's home. That is any qualified buyer's home, of course!! So, think very nicely appointed hotel suite. All the touches so you know what to do in each space of each room, and none of the personality to tell you who was here in this room before you got there. No one wants to walk into a hotel room before the maid has cleaned up all the tell-tell signs of the last occupant!

The real secret to a successful home stage is to pretend your home is already sold. Start the sorting, clearing, and packing now. You are going to do it eventually when you do actually move, so why not do it now? Obviously, you're still living there in your new hotel-home so the basics stay and the personal stuff goes! Your home will sell faster and most likely for more.

Your mantra for the staging: My Home is a hotel! This is when less really is more. So how do you do it? Take it room-by-room and follow these steps to a quick and successful sell!

The Kitchen:

• Remove all appliances and clutter off counters. Counters should be completely clear.
• Clean all appliances. If they really look out of date, research the cost for new ones as you may get the money back.
• Clear out the dishes. Remember you will be moving anyway, now is the perfect time to decide what you want to get rid of and donate. Still want the "Best Mom in the World" coffee mug or the Tupperware that no longer has a lid? Pack up dishes, pots and pans, silverware, etc. that you don't want anymore and donate it to Goodwill. Then pack up the dishes you do want and set them aside for the move. Watch this video to learn how to pack dishes properly. Leave behind one matching set of dishes in the cupboard and display them neatly. Buyers will open the cupboards and this way they can see how the cupboard space is used and how spacious it is.
• Same goes for food, clean out cabinets and the fridge (believe me, they will open the fridge!) and donate pantry items to your local food bank or save them for the move and ask your mover if they work with Move for Hunger and they will donate them for you. Put a few remaining food items back in neat rows.
• Clear out every single drawer, sort it out, and put back only the things you need. Repeat, you are going to have to do it anyway!
• Once everything is cleaned out, begin to set up the ambiance and décor. Place some kind of feature on your counter. It could be an orchid plant or a big bowl of oranges or lemons. Have the table set with plates and napkins and a seasonal centerpiece. Then on open house day bake some cookies for the cookie smell in your home and put out refreshing spa water. Wow, this is a nice hotel, I would like to live here! Fresh baked cookies!

The Living Room:

• Remove all items from shelving and surface areas. If you have ten things on a shelf make it three, so people can visualize their things there. Pack or donate the remaining items.
• The gallery of paintings done by your kid has to go as well as any family photos. Hang generic art or spackle and fill the holes and paint to leave a blank slate.
• If the room needs to be painted, paint it, it's cheap and you will get a better price for your house.
• Fix any light switches, curtain rods, etc. that needs fixing. You will have to fix it anyway so do it now.
• This goes for every room, do a thorough cleaning, all corners, tops, etc. Make sure the carpet is clean.
• Bring out the recycling bins and get rid of old magazines and newspapers.
• Examine the way the furniture is arranged. Does it show the room's best features? Get rid of pieces that wouldn't make sense for someone else. Either donate or rent a storage unit. Its worth renting a storage unit as the buyers will see your garage and basement, so they need to be clear of clutter as well.
• If you have decor themes stick with just one theme in the home. Asian or modern, not both. It should have a unified look throughout the house. It will help you get rid of half your stuff too.
• Once everything is sparkly clean, place fresh flowers or seasonal décor in the living room. On open house day, place cheese and crackers out, or if it's a TV room put out popcorn. Match the food to the room. I mean really, this is a very nice hotel that will soon be my new permanent home.

The Bathrooms:

• Get rid of all products in the shower and on top of the counters. Have each family member live out of a travel toiletries bag while your house is on the market.
• Clean out medicine cabinets, they will look!
• If you have granite, now might be the time to have them resurfaced, makes them look brand new.
• Does the bathroom need to be repainted? Again, it's cheap and you will get your money back.
• Replace rollers on sliding glass shower doors if they stick. Its only $125 and it makes it like new.
• There should be no water stains or dripping faucets.
• Clean the bathroom like your mother-in-law is coming over, it should be spotless!
• Invest in a new set of towels for just when you are showing the house. Put the others away.
• Place one focal point on the counter such as a single flower.

The Bedrooms:

• Clear all dresser tops and nightstands. There should be no personal items.
• All closets need to be gone through with the same eye - am I taking this to the new house? Pack what you would like to donate and put everything else back neatly so they don't fall out when opened. It is better to have an emptier closet so the buyers can see all the room there is to offer.
• If needed, invest in new linens for the bed. Make it feel like a hotel room.
• Again, need to be repainted, carpet cleaned?
• Have a window cleaner come or clean them yourself.
• Place one or two decorative items on the dressers and put the rest in storage or send to Goodwill.
• Make sure every room is arranged to demonstrate what the space is to be used for. If a bedroom was being used as a storage room turn it back into a bedroom. There are no storage rooms or weird areas in a nice hotel suite, now are there?

Exterior:

• Don't forget about the outside of your home. You want to make a good first impression!
• Make sure the front door is freshly painted and the doorbell and porch light work.
• Spruce up the yard, clear the dead stuff out. Everything should be pruned with pops of color.
• If you have a patio, set the outdoor table or arrange wine glasses on the table.

Now take a deep breath, step back and take a picture of each room and the yard. How does it look in the pic? The realtors will be taking photos so you want to make sure it photographs well. Any chair that shouldn't be there, a noticeable stain on the carpet? Once everything is cleaned, arranged, and screaming four-star hotel, pour yourself a glass of that spa water and have a cookie too. You deserve it, isn't it fun staying at such a nice hotel? Your house is going to sell and you are more than half way through the moving process!

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