The Big D’s of Home Staging on a Budget

Do you like to SAVE money?  More importantly, do you like to MAKE money?  When you put your house on the market, you definitely hope to make money, but there is no guarantee.  Fortunately, the housing market is back on the upswing, and it’s becoming more and more of a seller’s market, especially here in Texas.  Recently, San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth were ranked on Zillow’s Top 10 Seller’s Markets (#3 and #10, respectively).  With a low inventory and a high demand for homes, parts of Houston have also been considered a seller’s market.

Everything in Texas is big, but the cost of home staging doesn’t have to be.  You may think that in a hot market you do not need to stage your home.  If you set your price just right and set the stage for home buyers, you may not only get the price you’re asking but also get a bidding war and buyers willing to pay over asking price! A 2012 study completed by RESA, the Real Estate Staging Association, concluded that staged homes spent 73% less time on the market, compared to homes that were not staged, and ultimately  saved the home sellers time and money. How can you afford not to stage your home? As a professional home stager, I would be inclined to suggest that you hire a home stager because they know how to accentuate the positives of your home and make it look extremely attractive to future home buyers.  But as a homeowner, I just don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on upgrades and renovations, so I can totally relate to the fact that you may not want to spend a lot on staging.  Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to stage your home.  How much you spend on staging your home is totally up to you; there are no set parameters.  Before you take those MLS pictures and put your house on the market, here are the Big D’s of Home Staging On Any Budget (and I don’t mean Dallas…LOL).

This may be a time-consuming venture (depending on how long you have lived in your home and how much junk you’ve accumulated), but it is FREE.  And who doesn’t like free?!  The good news is that you may even make some money selling your unwanted items, or at least get a tax write-off for donating your stuff.  A good rule of thumb is that if you haven’t used it in the past year, toss it; this especially holds true for clothing, toys, and holiday decorations.  Also, get rid of things you don’t like anymore, as well as things that are broken & irreparable, outdated, mismatched, too small/too big, or faded.  Now is also a good time to go through your filing cabinets, drawers, and shelves and recycle/throw out/shred old appliance manuals (but be sure to keep the ones for your current appliances for the future homeowners) and old receipts and bills.  Pare down furniture in rooms, and keep only what is necessary.  And don’t forget the garage, a.k.a. a popular dumping ground for lots of stuff!

Along with boxing up unnecessary items, like holiday decorations and out-of-season clothing, be sure to remove and box up personal items, such as family photos, religious and cultural décor (I love my decorative wall crosses as much as the next Texan, but unfortunately, you don’t want to offend anyone), and collections.  Remove your kid’s name from their bedroom wall.  Take down anything with your name, monogram or initials.  The point of decluttering and depersonalizing is to neutralize your home as much as possible so future homeowners are not distracted by all your stuff and can picture their stuff in your space.  If you need to, rent a storage unit to store boxes of stuff and excessive furniture.

Here is another time-consuming task, but after the cost of a few cleaning supplies, it’s also virtually FREE.   Mop tile and wood/laminate floors, vacuum and/or shampoo rugs and carpets, suck up dust bunnies and crumbs, and dust all surfaces.  Throw all bedding, draperies, and shower curtains in the washing machine or take to the dry cleaners (be sure to check the laundry label).  Wipe down the interior and exterior of the microwave and wipe off the stove top (two of my least favorite things to clean but totally necessary).  Even clean out your fridge, especially if you’re selling it with the home, because people will actually look in it.  Wipe down all cabinets, as well as kitchen and bathroom counters, bathtubs, and showers.  Make everything sparkle and look as close to brand new as it can.  If cleaning is not your thing, and you have money in your budget, hire a cleaning service.

Walk through your home and make a list of all of the little things that could use repairs.  Oil squeaky doors, grout around tubs and sinks, unclog drains, tighten that toilet handle, etc.  Replace burnt out light bulbs inside and outside the home.  Replace any broken, outdated or themed hardware in your home, such as light switch plates and outlet covers, knobs and pulls on cabinets and drawers, light fixtures, door handles, etc.  Use putty to repair small cracks in walls and ceilings.  If you’re not the handy type, think about hiring a general contractor to do the repairs.  Many potential home buyers like turn-key homes that require little to no updates or repairs.

This is my favorite part!  The point is to bring your home into the 21st century – if your home still looks like it did when you bought it back in the 50’s/60’s/70’s/80’s/90’s, chances are, it will need some updates.  An exception should be made here, though, for period homes, such as Craftsman bungalows, Victorian homes, and midcentury modern homes, where the original charm should be preserved since that is the character that is admired. That said, it is important to try to pare down your décor and depersonalize it.  For example, despite the current wallpaper trend, remove all wallpaper and wallpaper borders; many homebuyers may not like your choice of theme or colors. Paint walls, and even outdated dark wood paneling, a light neutral, such as grey or tan.  And don’t forget the ceilings!  Spray paint outdated gold hardware (door handles, light fixtures, ceiling fans, etc.) or replace if possible.  Organize displays on mantles, countertops, and shelves.  Be careful, though, because this is where you can totally go over budget.  Seriously, you can get by with new paint, fluffed up throw pillows, and a few nice items on display.  Remember that “less is more”.

Spruce up the front of your house and yard.  Mow, fertilize and water the lawn. Water and trim plants and flowers.  Weed flower beds.  Plant flowers, such as petunias, which are colorful and cheap and grow well this time of year in most climates; they look great in the ground or in hanging baskets.  Paint the front door, hang a wreath, and lay out a clean welcome mat.  Repair and/or paint your fence and mailbox.   Make sure that your house numbers are attractive and visible.  Again, if you don’t have a green thumb, include a landscaper in your budget.  Remember that a good first impression will get potential home buyers through the front door, and they are more likely to make an offer.

It’s all in the details!  Create a home-y atmosphere by setting the dining table, enhancing a reading nook with an open book and a cozy blanket draped on the chair, and adding spa-like accessories to your bathroom.  Keep fresh flowers in vases throughout your home while it is on the market.  That old trick of baking cookies during your open house actually works.  By appealing to a potential homebuyer’s 5 senses, you are inviting them to call your place their future home.

I know that this seems overwhelming and like a lot of work, so hiring a home stager may be worth it, after all.  A professional home stager can walk you through the process, supervise your efforts, or even complete it themselves, depending on your budget.  They can also recommend painters, landscapers, and general contractors if you choose to forgo these tasks.  Whether you choose to DIY or hire a home stager, in the end, home staging will pay off.  Your house will look great for MLS pictures, will show well, and will more likely sell for TOP DOLLAR.  HAPPY HOUSE SELLING!