Sell your home without hiring a professional stager

Money, Real estate

Prospective buyers want to imagine themselves living in your home, and a house that is properly staged is more likely to sell quickly and profitably. Follow these DIY tips and watch the offers roll in:

Keep it simple

“The purpose of staging isn’t to fully decorate but rather to give buyers an idea of what it will look like with furnishings,” says Maria Samuels, marketing and materials specialist at online furniture seller InStyle . “Keep things simple while providing a warm feeling for buyers walking in—something an empty house won’t do.”

Involve your realtor in the process. “I keep my clients from spending too much money” says Bill Golden of RE/MAX Metro Atlanta Cityside. “A realtor can see your home through a buyer’s eyes and guide you through making it look best.”

It’s not personal

Diane Vidal, an attorney in New York and New Jersey, staged two of her own properties and sold them quickly and profitably. She recommends removing clutter and personal items, such as family photos and religious symbols, which might make it difficult for prospective buyers to picture themselves in the space.

“It’s also important to remove wallpaper and drapes that are very taste-specific,” says Manuela Ferguson, owner of The Staging Fashionista, “so buyers won’t focus on these things and miss the true assets and potential of the home.”

Less is definitely more. “Rent a storage unit for unnecessary furniture, knickknacks, and other clutter,” says Golden. “You’re going to be packing up to move soon anyway.”

As Jerry Koller of International Home Realty in Irvine, California puts it, “If you’re staging your own home, you’ll have to live in a house that won’t feel like your own.”

Make a good first impression

Take a day or two to clear walkways of snow or fallen leaves, remove animal waste, mow the lawn, and trim straggly trees and shrubs.

“If you don’t have existing landscaping, plant inexpensive flowering plants and bushes in small pots,” says Samuels. “Add an inexpensive pair of colorful plastic Adirondack chairs to create welcoming curb appeal.”

Spruce up the entryway. “If your front door is old or shows wear, a coat of paint in a contemporary color can make a big change,” says Samuels.

Selling the place yourself? Get your residential purchase and sale agreement reviewed by a local real estate lawyer

The kitchen can make or break a sale

Staging this all-important room doesn’t require an expensive renovation or remodel. “Update kitchen cabinets on the cheap,” says Samuels. “A few coats of white paint and some new hardware turn old, ugly cabinets into classic, clean-looking ones.”

If your home boasts marble, quartz, or granite countertops, flaunt them by making sure they’re shiny-clean and clutter-free. Buyers like seeing lots of counter space.

“And make sure all the appliances in the kitchen are the same color or the kitchen won’t show well,” says Ferguson. A mismatched white oven, black dishwasher, and avocado fridge will turn buyers off. Stainless steel is appealing, but you don’t want to shell out big bucks on new appliances.

“Apply a stainless steel stick-on covering,” suggests Samuels. “For just $20, your dishwasher will go from outdated to ultra-modern.”

Stage your own furniture

Golden encourages homeowners to use existing furniture to the best possible advantage. “Unless you’re buying items to keep and use in the future, it’s better to spend less,” he says. “My clients have come up with great finds at thrift and discount stores, yard sales, and even borrowing pieces from friends or family.”

Try to arrange furniture to show off the assets of the room. “Don’t block fireplaces, large bay windows, or built-ins,” says Ferguson, “and don’t cover your hardwood floors with large rugs.”

Choose gender-neutral hues

“A fresh coat of paint goes a long way to refresh the look of a home,” says Ferguson. “Use neutral colors—not necessarily white, but colors like cream, grey, lighter greens, and blues—that are not too obtrusive to the eye so that buyers have a canvas to work with.”

In bedrooms, avoid manly plaids or feminine florals. “Walls should be a neutral and bedding should complement them,” says Samuels. “And keep any wall décor super-simple.”


Jill Valeri, a staging designer with Parker Interiors LLC, encourages homeowners to involve their realtor and friends and to put themselves into buyers’ shoes. “Take pictures of each room from different angles,” she suggests. “Examine them on your computer for things you might have missed, such as crooked art, wrinkled bedding, and dangling electrical cords.”

Before you begin and after you’re done, ask your realtor and a friend to walk through and provide feedback. “Together,” says Golden, “you’ll come up with what works best for your home without breaking the bank or causing significant delays in getting ready for sale.”