Staging a Home to Sell

Quick note:  It’s come to our attention that the linkup button for yesterday’s Holiday Project Linkup wasn’t working.  We’ve fixed the problem, so please make sure you stop by and share your holiday recipes, decor, or craft projects with us.  Merry Christmas!

As you know, Justin and I have bought and sold several houses since we were married a few years ago.  We tend to purchase affordable fixer-uppers and then put a lot of sweat equity into them, so that we can get the custom features we enjoy without a huge price tag.  Many of you have done or are doing the same thing, and possibly you are hoping all those updates and DIY projects are going to pay off one day when you sell your home for a profit.  Fingers crossed, right?  Today’s post is all about using staging techniques to show off your hard work to potential buyers.

Before I turn things over to our guest blogger, I want you to check out some homes I found that have been staged to sell, with terrific results.  I’ve got the befores and afters for you, right here.  Click over to the source to learn more about these incredible makeovers.

Goodbye House Hello Home dining collage

Dining Room transformation at Goodbye House Hello Home

Home Blog living room staged collage

Staged Living Room at A Home Blog

Imperfect homemaking bathroom collage

Staged Bathroom at The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking

Tidbits from the Tremaynes collage

Ready to Sell Kitchen at Tidbits from the Tremaynes

Young House Love den collage

Organized Den Makeover at Young House Love

Today’s guest post comes from Ruth at A House in Holland.  She’s got some great ideas to help you learn more about staging a home in the real world.

Submitted by:  A House in Holland

Hi, everyone!  I’m Ruth from A House in Holland.

Like Cassity and Justin, my family experienced some exciting changes in 2012.  A new job took us from the Indianapolis suburb we’d enjoyed living in for almost seven years across the country to sunny California.  It was an exciting opportunity that brought us much closer to our extended families.  Even though we felt good about the move, we were nervous about the process of marketing and selling our Indiana home.  At the time our for sale sign was pounded into the ground, homes in our area were spending an average of nine months on the market.  As it turned out, our Indiana home was on the market for 14 days before we received an offer for our asking price.  That beat our previous record by one day—it took us 15 days to sell the home we’d owned previously.

In any market these days, unloading a house in less than a month is a feat worth mentioning.  It’s also worth mentioning that we’ve actually been living in the homes that we’ve sold during showings with three children and pets.  Both times we’ve sold, we’ve used some of the very same strategies to get our houses ready to sell fast.  Those strategies include preparing to sell well in advance, aggressive pricing and marketing techniques, focusing on staging, and prayer.  I’m totally not joking about the use of prayer, but since  prayer is pretty much self-explanatory, today I’m going to share some of my tips for applying the other strategies.

Prepare to Sell Well in Advance.  By well in advance, I mean this: from the moment you purchase a piece of property, you should view it as a future transaction.  You don’t have to know months in advance that you’ll be moving in order to have a nicely staged home.  Treat it like the investment that it is:  keep an eye on the neighborhood market, just like you would if you’d invested in the stock market.  Make choices about your property that will add–not subtract–from it’s value.  Maintain your home to be in the condition you would want it to be if you were buying it.  Here’s an example from the kitchen dining area in our Indiana home:

IN Dining Room transformation

The picture on the left is of the room as it looked when we were having the inspection, prior to purchase.  The former homeowners had a distinct decorating style, and the dining space and kitchen were not well lit.  During the course of the time we lived in the home, we subtracted most of the furniture, repainted in a neutral tone, added lighting, and hung curtains.  By completing these projects over time as we could, the only staging needed was the addition of a pretty tablescape.

Aggressive Pricing and Marketing.  Experts agree, when it’s time to put your house on the market, you want it priced as close to the actual price at which it will sell as possible.   This means doing your homework BIGTIME and hiring experts (realtors, appraisers) as necessary.  Make sure your listing price is realistic—not the price you think you deserve or that your mother thinks you ought to get, but the price that comparable properties are going for in your area.  The longer a house sits on the market, the more potential buyers are going to wonder what’s wrong with it…which will keep them away or cause them to offer waaaaay less than your listing price.  So, price realistically and invest in some solid marketing.  (FYI…in today’s digital age, most potential buyers are deciding which homes they are interested in via internet searches.  Make sure your online listing has the maximum amount of well-photographed pictures of your home.)

Staging.  In my humble opinion, it won’t matter how aggressively your house is priced and how well it’s advertised if it doesn’t show well to potential buyers.  It’s not enough in a slow market just to make a few basic repairs, run the vacuum around, and make sure there aren’t any dishes in the sink.  The goal of staging a home is for buyers to be able to walk in and imagine how great it would be to live in your house.  That’s going to take some effort, a little cash, and an ability to think like a potential buyer.

Here are a few of the things we did to stage our Indiana home:

Music Room to Dining Room Makeover

  • Paint: Behr Antique White, leftover from other projects – FREE
  • Curtains:  already in the room – FREE


  • Decorative plates:  already owned, hung on the wall with a combination of paperclips and hot glue – FREE
  • Table:  (bear with me) purchased from Target for $225 with the intent to keep and use in next house.  After assembly,we realized it was too small for our family and was only held together with four bolts.  But it looked so cute that we actually debated about it for 14 days before packing it carefully back in the original packaging and returning it to Target.  (Despite the pretty place settings, no one ever ate at the table.)  I don’t recommend doing this, unless you really, truly want to see how a piece of furniture fits into your home but, well {hanging head in shame} – FREE 
  • Table Settings:  purchased linens and napkin rings from Target for about $35.  (And I did not return them!!!)  Used dishes I already had – $35
  • Flowers: single grocery store bouquet lasted the entire two weeks the house was on the market, believe it or not, and cost me $6.
  • Total cost of Dining Room Makeover:  $41

Den Makeover

  • Replacing an extraordinarily ugly shelving unit with a nice filing cabinet that I don’t have a picture of:  $200.  Money well-spent, since it eliminated a huge clutter zone.  (Sorry, no pictures of this transformation!)
  • Flowers for the window seat (3 bouquets over the course of 14 days), since I simply ran out of time for making curtains or a cushion and needed something to distract people from the missing cushion and curtains: $10


Total cost of Den Makeover:  $210

Elimination of Clutter Spots Everywhere

  • Rental of a 10×20 ft. self-storage unit within 2 miles of our home was $95/month and we used it for 2 months.  It was actually more space than we needed–we only filled 1/3 of that space.  Still, we did store a lot of clutter, boxed storage like Christmas decor and out of season clothing, and garage things like tools and lawnmowers.  Getting those things out of our closets and garage opened the spaces up a lot  and showed off all of our handy storage areas to their best advantage.  Below is a pile of stuff pulled out of closets, waiting in my garage to be boxed up and taken to storage. (Nothing like moving to show you what a hoarder you’ve become!)


  • Purchasing cardboard moving boxes and packing tape from Home Depot to contain some of the clutter: $50

Total Cost of Eliminating Clutter Spots:  $240

Painting interior and exterior trim work

  • We used some paint we already had, but purchased a gallon of exterior paint for $40
  • We hired a local college student to paint.  I think we ended up paying him about $150 for what he did.

Total cost of Painting:  $190

New Curtains, Pillows, & Linens for the Great Room/Kitchen (updating colors)

  • Valances were made by me, using fabric I already had – FREE
  • Creamy white draperies from Target – $65
  • Two cute pillows from Target, plus the ones we already had that matched – $40

Total cost of Great Room update:  $105

Storage Bench near Door (to corral shoes and after school clutter)

  • Purchased bench from Target for $125
  • Baskets also from Target for $12/each

Total cost of storage bench:  $161

So, the amount we spent on staging our home during the month before it went on the market was about $947Was it worth it?  According to, we should have received a 586% return on our staging investment.  If you do that math, it means we should have had a return of roughly $6K on what we spent to stage the house.  I think the best way to figure out if we came close to that is to take a look at how our competition (the other homes for sell in our neighborhood) fared.   One home in our neighborhood that was quite comparable to ours (same age, size, beds/baths, finished basement, etc.) went on the market several weeks ahead of our home for $5K more than the price our home was listed.  Several days after we accepted an offer, the price of the competing comparable home dropped by $20K, and two months later, was still on the market–as were the other five houses in the neighborhood that were listed for sale before our home.  So yes, we feel that $947 was money well spent!

Currently, we’re living in Northern California, still shopping for a home in a much different market than we left behind.  Instead of looking at homes that have sat on the market for a month or two, we sometimes have to wait in a line of other eager homebuyers to see a home the first day it is on the market.  Most sellers get more than their asking price whether they’ve staged their home or not…so once we find a place, I’m sure there are more room makeovers in our future!

Thanks for sharing your tips and experiences with us, Ruth!  It sounds like home staging really paid off for you!  Even if we aren’t selling homes right now, I think we can all appreciate how nice it would be to come home to a nicely staged home.  A little sprucing up—or even a big makeover—can make a huge difference in your enjoyment of the space you call home.  Check out some of my favorite makeovers below:

Remodelaholic Makeover Collage

Small Bedroom Renovation | Kitchen Renovation | Half Bath Reveal 

+ posts

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Very smart and good advise! Which is exactly what we did when we sold our last house, in another province. And, the DAY after it went on MLS, we had three showings, and it sold the same day. It sold, for, if memory serves me correctly, $2000 less than full asking price, and set a new price record in our neighborhood. It was bought by the second couple that came to look. And, by the next morning, the first, and third couple, both contacted their real estate agents, wanting to make an offer, but it was too late. And, the only reason the other two didn’t make offers the same day as the successful one, was because they wanted a “new” home, until they went looking and realized a new home (ours was 12 years old) was going to be $30, 000 more than ours, and ours had been renovated to be in “like new” condition. Preparing your home properly makes you money. The more quickly people accept that, the less discouragement will be felt! Again, excellent post!

  2. Phew! This post makes me quite relieved! We plan to put our house on the market in March, after YEARS of wanting to! My home has been “staged” the whole time we’ve lived here, and I am certainly praying it pays off when it’s time to sell!
    Good job staging and thank you remodelaholic for this delightful, with the times post!