Setting The Stage: Giving Your Home A Makeover

Setting The Stage: Giving Your Home A Makeover

Whether you’ve gotten a new job, just had a baby, are becoming an empty-nester, or want a yard for your puppy, you’ve decided it’s time to sell your house and move on.

One problem: It’s been on the market for a month, and you have no meaningful prospects.

You simply don’t understand why. With its bright green walls (maybe showcasing a crayon masterpiece or two), Power Wheels mini-convertible, and well-used arts and crafts table, it should be apparent to anyone that your front room would serve them perfectly as a children’s play area.

And who could overlook the kitchen in which you’ve lovingly cooked so many meals? Prospective buyers ought to appreciate the blue granite countertops that remind you of the sea and should understand the creativity it took to fit a four-seat dining set near the window so your family had a place to eat breakfast.

The love with which you’ve filled your home is, to you, apparent in every room. Well-trodden carpet, a fridge crammed with artwork and report cards… you know that this is a place in which any family would be lucky to take root. So why haven’t they?

If this sounds familiar, you might be running into an issue of perception. For you, your home’s quirks represent memories. For house hunters, they could represent work they’re unwilling to do.

Enter staging—the practice of making your home attractive to the broadest swath of buyers. According to the National Association of Realtors, 77% of buyers’ agents said staging makes it easier for their buyer to visualize a property as their future home. Not convinced? The same study indicates that about a fifth of sellers’ agents said staging increases a home’s dollar value between 6%-10%.

Don’t confuse staging with major repairs, though. If there’s something fundamental wrong with your house, make sure to either disclose or fix it before putting it on the market. A home in good condition provides the canvas—staging is the icing on the cake.

So where do you start? I suggest devising a game plan, especially if you’re on a budget. Work with your agent to determine a reasonable spend, then tackle each major space. In its 2015 Profile of Home Staging, the National Association of Realtors ranked the following rooms in order of importance:

  1. Living room
  2. Kitchen
  3. Master bedroom
  4. Master bathroom
  5. Dining room
  6. Children’s bedroom
  7. Guest bathroom

Ranked above all of these, however, is decluttering your home. If signs of your children, pets, or collection of nesting dolls are visible at every turn, bite the bullet and find space for them in the garage (if you have one) or a storage unit. Remember: it’s temporary, and in all likelihood, will help you sell your house more quickly.

Back to your game plan. Now that you’ve budgeted and decluttered, it’s time to decide whether you want to hire a stager or do the work yourself. NAR cites an average range of $302-$1,358 for staging services, but it’s worth it to note that in the affluent Northern Virginia market (and depending on the size of your home), you may find yourself well above those numbers. Talk to your Realtor® about what hired staging could do for your home’s value and determine your potential return on investment. If you decide it’s worth it, your agent will likely have a network of staging professionals to recommend.

If you’d rather take on the project yourself, here are a few tips:

  • Neutralize. You don’t have to go beige on beige on beige, but steer clear of loud colors on large areas like the wall. By the way, this also applies to your floor-to-ceiling collage of family photos—pack them up in preparation for your big move. If you just can’t let your penchant for color go, consider incorporating it in a sleek floral arrangement or your dining room placemats.
  • Brighten up your home! Zillow suggests cleaning the windows, using high-wattage lightbulbs, and opening the blinds to allow as much natural light as possible.
  • Don’t forget the little things. Modern and understated drawer pulls, soft and clean towels, and gleaming grout and surfaces will make your home look ready for a new owner. Make sure utilities are working and turned on and that the home smells fresh.
  • De-cram the closets! Either empty them completely or leave a few pieces, but visitors don’t need to see your entire shoe collection on display when they’re evaluating your home. This will also make closet space appear larger—and buyers want to imagine it full of their things, not yours.

Do you have a real estate question, or do you or someone you know need a qualified agent? Contact me anytime at or visit me online at Good luck, and happy staging!