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How to stage your home for an open house

how to stage your home for an open house
September 07, 2016

By Ronee Chenault, Redfin

When you put your home on the market, you can’t control where it’s located, how large it is, or what material it was built out of. But you can control how inviting it is to potential buyers. Believe it or not, proper home staging may be the difference between getting zero offers on a home and receiving multiple offers.

So, how can you nail your listing debut? As a real estate agent, I counsel my clients to do the following five things. None of them are expensive, most of them you’ll need to do at some point anyway, and all of them serve to make your home look its best!

Remove the excess

A cluttered home is not a home people can easily imagine themselves moving into. I often tell my clients that since they’re going to move anyway, get a head start and pack up a lot of their stuff now, so their home shows well.

You want your home to be relatively empty, so that people can imagine putting their own stuff on the shelves. Clean up toys, clear out old magazines and completely clear off your kitchen counters. Take as much out of your closets and cabinets as possible. Substantially thin out your bookshelves, take tchotchkes off the mantel, and hide the doggie bowls and litter boxes. Get rid of that junk in the garage you’ve been meaning to throw out. You get the idea.

When you’re decorating a room, use only 1-3 special items to do so, and make sure they’re of general interest. This will help you keep the space minimally busy.

Also, too much furniture can clutter a space. It may be practical for how you live in the home, but it will make your home feel cramped and small. Instead, furnish each room with the absolute minimum. Put the rest in storage, along with several boxes of the other non-essentials that you’ve packed up. The storage fee will be worth it, plus you’ll have a head start on your impending move.

Make your home less personal

You’ve spent years personalizing your space, putting up family photos, adding little interior design quirks that you enjoy. But now you need to put them away. Families touring your home will want to imagine themselves living there. Your wedding photos, mounted stamp collection, or other keepsakes will be an impediment to them visualizing themselves as owners.

Instead, put up photos of landmarks, landscapes, or other middle-of-the-road artwork. In this case, vanilla is the way to go. Remember, this is only temporary: once you move into your new home, you’ll be able to add your personal touch to your new space!

Small details matter

Buy some fresh flowers and put them in a vase on your dining room table, on the kitchen island, and in the living room and master bathroom. Buy some new towels for the bathrooms, to make them feel fresh and new. If a room needs some color, get an accent pillow or two. Those cute soaps you’ve been waiting for the perfect dinner party to put out? Put them out now! Little touches like these, when you add them up, will make a big impression.

And, in the winter, I recommend that old trick of baking something. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. For example, store-bought cinnamon rolls smell wonderful, and you won’t have to do much in terms of actual baking. But that sensory association with a comforting, warm home is important.

Turn on the lights, open the blinds

I know it sounds weird, but turn on the lights, even if it’s the middle of the day. The more light, the better! Make sure the curtains and blinds are wide open. Windex your windows, so they’re clean and sparkling. You want your space to feel as bright, open and airy as possible.

Also, remember that mirrors reflect light and can make a space feel much larger. Depending on your situation, you may want to place a strategic mounted mirror or two in the home. It will enhance the spacious, light-filled look you want.

Cleanliness is of paramount importance

This can’t be stressed enough. Hire a professional cleaner or spend at least one full day cleaning. Between your de-cluttering efforts and your cleaning efforts, you want every room to have that nice, clean, open feeling of a high-end hotel suite: someplace where people are excited to be, where they can just open up their suitcase and start settling in. In other words, “clean enough” isn’t clean enough! The place needs to be spotless in every nook and cranny.

Beyond basic cleaning, look at your walls. How scuffed are they? You may need to touch up the paint. For particularly badly-marked walls, like those in a child’s nursery, it may be worth repainting entirely. And then look at your hardwood floors. If there are some highly-noticeable scratches, a strategically-placed rug may be worth it. Also, steam-clean your carpets, iron your curtains, and dust the ceilings. You’ll be stunned at how wonderful a perfectly cleaned home can look!

Summing up

Think of staging your home as an opportunity. You’re in total control of how you present your home to the public. The effort you put into getting it right will be worth it: you’ll know that your home is putting its best foot forward.


Ronee Chenault is a real estate agent with Redfin, a national real estate brokerage. She serves the far northwest suburbs of Chicago, where she’s lived her whole life. Using her local expertise, Chenault helps her clients get the best deal possible on their home sale. In her free time, she enjoys running with her dog, as well as boating and skiing with her family.