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By Raani Starnes

Basic principles of real estate staging

Real estate agents agree that staging a home can increase its value and reduce the time it sits on the market. Effective real estate staging takes time, but it need not cost a lot of money. Often, a few minor adjustments can drastically improve how well your house "shows." Following some general guidelines will allow you to effectively stage your home without breaking the bank.

Make a good first impression with curb appeal

Now is the time to catch up on yard work and sweep the front porch. Plant some colorful flowers and replace the welcome mat. The neighborhood matters, too, so you may have to mow a lazy neighbor's yard yourself during this important time.

Clean and de-clutter

Give your home a thorough cleaning or hire a professional. Despite all of the scrubbing, a cluttered home will not seem clean, especially in pictures. Since most buyers first view a house online, you will need to get every room organized before the big photo shoot. Experts recommend packing up about one-third of your belongings into boxes to give your home a more spacious feel. Stack the boxes neatly in the garage or consider moving them to a storage facility.


One of the most important principles of real estate staging is depersonalization. Potential buyers want to picture themselves in your home, and they won't necessarily share your personal tastes. Remove religious symbols and family photos, and replace these items with artwork or other non-personal decor. Hide toiletry items such as toothbrushes, deodorant or worse under the bathroom sink before showings. Too many personal items, pet paraphernalia, unmade beds, and strange odors are common turn-offs that can scare buyers away. Vanilla is a natural scent that most people will find appealing.

Highlight your home's features

Play up your home's best features. Perhaps your house has a large living room with a dramatic fireplace. Make the space look even bigger by having the perfect amount of furniture. The room shouldn't be too sparsely furnished, but it should not be cluttered either. Hang a bright piece of artwork above the fireplace and place candles on the mantel to draw more attention to this focal point of the room. Not every room needs to be staged. Your time is better spent on the front entrance, common areas and the master bedroom than on the smaller bedrooms.

Develop a staging routine for showings

Keeping your house clean and tidy should be an everyday priority while your home is on the market, but you will also want to make a list of things to quickly attend to before each showing. When you get that phone call, you will want to quickly clear clutter, stash personal items and take out the trash. Turn on lights and open curtains throughout the house before showings, since buyers tend to prefer homes that seem bright and airy.

Visiting a model home can provide you with additional staging ideas. Once you've staged your home to the best of your ability, you will want to have it looked over by a second pair of eyes. This need not be an expert in real estate staging. Your friend, neighbor or real estate agent will be able to see your house more objectively than you will.

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