Downsizing Series: Staging Your Home

Geva Lester

Downsizing Series: Staging Your Home

Lights, Camera, Action!


Previously in our series we’ve talked about sorting through the accumulated stuff in your home and preparing mentally for your move, which included gathering the right team.  Now you are ready for one of the most important parts of selling your home- staging!

When staging your home, you want to think about telling a story to the buyer.  This story is, in essence, “This is a loved and cared-for home where you and your family will be happy.”  Each step you take in staging your home will help to create that story for your buyers from the moment they see your home.  In that moment when your house comes into view, the curtain rises, and your house starts telling your buyer its story.

Each home is different, so while we can offer general tips, having a stager on your selling team is usually well worth the expense.  A great stager will be able to see the best ways to highlight your home, and bring in decor and furniture that current buyers will appreciate.  They can also work to make your home look its best with the furniture and decor you already own. Most realtors will have a preferred stager that has proved their worth in sale after sale.


Good news is, if you’ve been following the steps in our Downsizing Series, you’ve already sorted your life (click here to see the article if you still need to take that step).  You’ve packed away or stored all your personal photos, mementos, trophies and such, helping the buyer not see your life in the house, but imagine what their life could be.

But you might need to go a few steps further. You don’t want the buyers to feel physically or psychologically crowded while walking through your home. Take out and store extra end tables, statues, chairs and other furniture items that make walking through your rooms a maze instead of a stroll. Also store all but the most essential decor- you want shelves to be mostly empty, and any decor to highlight the room instead of drawing attention to itself.

Only keep the furniture the buyers will need see the potential of each room- bright mornings at the breakfast table, cozy nights around the fireplace, a relaxing retreat in the bedroom.  More tips on how to arrange furniture below.

Cleanliness is an essential part of prepping a home for sale.  Not just normal surface cleaning, but a true deep clean.  Living in our homes each day, it’s possible to overlook the small stains and scuffs that always happen.  But buyers will see them right away.  Consider hiring a professional cleaning crew to do a thorough deep clean.  Your realtor should be able to recommend a trusted cleaning company.


Natural light is your friend!  Few buyers want to live in a cave, and you want your buyers to be able to see your home in the best light.  Take down as many window treatments as you can, leaving plain windows or sheer curtains if necessary.  Especially, any dark, heavy drapes need to be removed to diminish dust and  let in as much light as possible. And make sure your windows are part of the deep cleaning process- you might be amazed at the difference a professional window cleaning can make!

But not every home showing will be on a bright sunny day.  So make sure you have a plentiful supply of lamps (matching within a room) with bright, soft white bulbs (60 watts or higher for best visibility) that will bring a warm, cheery glow to your rooms during evening showings.

Most dark or colorfully painted rooms can and should be repainted in a neutral white or light grey tone. This can brighten a room and will help create the “blank canvas” effect for the buyer. Strong colors on walls can distract or put off potential buyers, as colors can be a very personal preference.


Now that you have made sure your rooms are clean, well-lit, streamlined with only the most essential furniture and decor (n0 personal items!), and have a neutral color palette, make sure they are in a layout that best highlights the room before the photographer arrives. Photos are more important than ever these days with most buyers doing most of their home shopping online. They still want to tour a home before buying, but if you don’t have good pictures, they probably won’t bother with a tour.

Here is where your stager (if you have one on your team) and your realtor (if they are experienced) will be your biggest help. Every home is different, so having experienced professionals on your side that can help you set up your home to highlight each room to its best advantage can be invaluable.


But here are some room staging tips to keep in mind:
  • Exterior: Clean (power washers can work miracles!) and well maintained.  Pick a landscaping piece or two as focus points (birdbath, statue, etc.) to highlight parts of your yard, but don’t overdo it. A yard can start to look full a lot quicker than you think!
  • Living room: Arrange seating around the focal point.  A fireplace makes a great focal point, or a beautiful window view. Make sure furniture isn’t set too close together and that one particular piece doesn’t overwhelm the room.
  • Kitchen: Kitchens are important to get right- they can sometimes make or break a home sale.  Make sure it looks and feels clean, functional, and bright. Make sure you’ve removed all magnets and papers from the fridge, and the counters should only have a few carefully chosen items. These might include matching ingredient containers, knife block, stand mixer, or a colorful fruit bowl.
  • Bedroom: Each bedroom should include a bed, nightstand with a lamp and a dresser with a mirror over it, if space allows.  In the master, make sure the bed is a queen or king and there are two nightstands.  A mirror over a dresser will make any room look bigger.
Once everything is set, your realtor will schedule photos. It’s a good idea to be out of the house for photos, but if that’s not possible, don’t hover!  A trusted realtor photographer will know what they are doing to make sure to present your home at it’s best.


Now it’s time for the show! Or rather, showings. Your realtor will set a date that your home will go on the market and showings will start. Right now, showings are even more tightly scheduled to give time for proper cleaning and safety.  If you can, take a staycation at a nearby hotel so you don’t have to worry about daily cleaning or hiding your everyday items for showings.

But if you need to stay in your home, confer with your realtor to let them know days and times to schedule showings so you can plan on when the house will be need to be show-ready and what things out of the house you can do during showing times.

Back to “Staged & Ready to Show”

Things to remember if you are living in your home to get the house back to “staged and ready”:
  • Constant Cleaning. Anything you use, you clean. This can get exhausting (really- take a staycation if you can!) but it is absolutely worth it.  Have cleaning spray bottle and paper towels that live next to the shower (but don’t forget to put them away!).
  • Vacuum and dust every room, every day.
  • Use a shower caddy for your personal soaps and shampoos that can be put away.
  • Have a set of “show towels”: new towels and hand towels that you put out for showings.  Put away old towels/ in use towels neatly in a cabinet or linen closet. Also: “show soap” for all the sinks.
  • Fresh flowers are great for tables and side tables, just make sure to change them out when they start to wilt. Another option- fake flowers.
  • Cook as little as possible so you don’t have to clean your stove and other appliances constantly.
  • Smells absolutely are part of the experience.  Rely on your realtor and/or stager to let you know how your home smells- we all get used to the smell of our own home!  Cleaning will help, but burning a lightly scented candle or baking cookies (refrigerated cookie dough can be your friend for easy clean up) can leave your home smelling wonderful right before you leave and a showing arrives.

The Applause

Now the only thing to do is wait.  How long you wait depends heavily on the market and your realtor, but if you put in the work staging your home, any buyer that walks into your home will see its true potential. And a well-staged home often gets a better price than similar unstaged homes, making your effort literally pay off!

If you are thinking of downsizing or moving, contact Geva & Jane today! They have a wealth of experience with getting a home ready to sell and finding the right buyers with the right price. And they have a trusted stager who has the inventory and know-how to show your home in its best light.


Elizabeth Marcano, Writer for Geva and Jane Real Estate

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