Dirt Cheap Staging Ideas

Real Estate Agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices

I often get asked, by sellers, what they can do to improve their home so it will show better for potential buyers.  In this market, many sellers are strapped for cash and money to pay a professional stager anywhere from $50 to $150 per hour is just simply not feasible.  However, when it comes to selling your Salt Lake City home, appearance is everything. Here are five home staging ideas that won't break the bank and can be taken care of by the homeowner themselves:

1) Pack Away Personal Items

Packing away personal items is one of the simplest, and most inexpensive, things you can do to sell your Sandy home, Holladay luxury estate, South Jordan townhome, Herriman rambler or Draper condo quickly.

The reason you want to 'de-personalize' your home is because you want buyers to view it as their potential home and prospective buyers won't be able to picture themselves in the house if they're surrounded by dozens of photos of your family members or your childrens personal awards and accomplishments.  You don't have to remove all traces of your family and life in the home but personal items need to be kept at a minimum.

Pictures are extremely distracting. You cannot believe how long potential buyers will stop and stare at people they do not know in photos.  It is also a good idea to remove most religious items from plain view, so as not to stereotype your home.

You essentially want your home to show like a model home.


2) Clear Away Clutter

Ridding your home of clutter is another simple way to get buyers to focus on the bones of the house, not the titles in your CD collection.This is often the most difficult thing for most people to do because they are emotionally attached to everything in the house.

After years of living in the same home, clutter collects in such a way that may not be evident to the homeowner. Many sellers have actually been surprised when I point out an overflowing book shelf or a work bench in the garage that has been a "dumping ground" for years.  These things have looked like this for years and therefore, doesn't stand out to some sellers as being problematic.  However, it does affect the way buyers see the home, even if you do not realize it. Clutter collects on shelves and countertops, and in drawers, closets, garages, attics and basements.  Even if you don't think a buyer will open the drawers in the bathrooms... clean them anyway, because I promise you, they will!

Remove items from countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms. If you have kids, get rid of the toys all around the house or, if you must keep some for your children to play with through the selling process, organize a small amount in a closet. For all you know, the buyers could be empty nesters. Put things in boxes and neatly stack them in the corner of the garage. If you have a lot, you should consider renting a small and inexpensive storage unit. Even better, ask a friend or relative to hang onto your items for free.

A good rule of thumb... Pack up 80-90% of your home.

The cost: The price of a storage unit varies (around $45 a month for a 5-foot-by-5-foot unit).

3) Rearrange and Neutralize Rooms

Rearrange the rooms in your home to reel-in prospective buyers. Make sure each room has a distinct, useful purpose. You might want to tour some builders model homes to see how the rooms are furnished and layed out. Builders are experts on preparing their product for prospective buyers because most have used good professional stagers.

If your home has been painted recently, consider yourself ahead of the game. If not, take a paintbrush to the rooms that need it most. Sellers who paint the interior of their home will see a larger return on the investment. Fresh, neutral paint on the walls, trim and doors is worth its weight in gold, it makes everything appear clean, fresh and new.

The cost: Anywhere from $12 to $50 per gallon for paint, plus another $10 to $50 for other painting supplies (primer, brushes, drop cloths, etc.) You can get back some of that money as a refund on your taxes for any items you donate to charity (such as those extra shoes in the closet).

4) Scrub and Deodorize

This is a no brainer... No one wants to look at a dirty, smelly home, especially not prospective buyers. So make sure your Bountiful home or Murray condo shines from top to bottom.  Clean and deodorize a home before every showing.  If you'e cooked with garlic or curry, make certain the home is aired out properly in plenty of time prior to the buyers arrival. The goal is to help buyers imagine themselves living in the home.

When buyers see an unkempt home or smell something when they first walk in, they become turned off immediately. They can rarely see past it to look at all of the great features in the home.

It's worth the money to have your home professionally cleaned so that everything is spotless, including windows, sliding glass door tracks, garage, basement, ceiling fans, etc.

Of course, the old standby of baking cookies in the oven, bringing cinnamon sticks to a slow boil in a pot of water or using air freshener to mask smells before each showing. Ridding the home of litter boxes is also a must!

The cost: Varies by the location and size of the home cleaning service, but typically less than $100 to clean a four-bedroom, 2,500-square-foot home. Cookie dough runs about $3.

5) Enhance Curb Appeal

Whatever you do, do not overlook the home's exterior when selling! Curb appeal is just as important as cleaning the inside of the home, as it's the buyer's first impression of your home. You only have one chance to make a first impression. There are so few buyers out there, you want your home to stand out.

Mow the lawn, make sure the sidewalk and driveway are free of clutter and debris, and ensure the house number is easily visible. If the sidewalks are have snow or ice on them, shovel and put de-icer down. It may also be beneficial to pressure-clean the exterior of your home, driveway and sidewalk, if needed.

Another valuable low-cost solution? Mulch. Mulch is cheap and covers a multitude of sins. It makes everything look trim and neat.

The cost: Mulch costs around $3 per bag.The cost of renting a pressure washer varies, but you may be able to get one from a local hardware store for around $50 per day. It may cost double that to purchase a pressure washer. Professional cleaning with a pressure washer for a 2,500 square-foot-house may set you back about $250.

Completing these 5 basic items, prior to putting your home on the Utah real estate market, should bring a higher return on your investment.  Contact your realtor for more suggestions.






Comments (23)

Larry O'Sullivan
Sandy, UT

Linda - good easy advice, not always understood by owners who are perfectly OK with their home as is. Maybe getting them to view a well presented home may help get the message across.

Mar 09, 2011 05:51 PM
Lynda Eisenmann
Preferred Home Brokers - Brea, CA
Broker-Owner,CRS,GRI,SRES, Brea,CA, Orange Co

Hi Linda,

Wow, what a great job on this one, from inside and out. Common sense, cost effective enhancements to home selling, thank you.

Mar 10, 2011 02:27 PM
Mel Ahrens, MBA, Kelly Right Real Estate
Kelly Right Real Estate - Hood River, OR
Customized Choices for your Real Estate Needs

I always read the "staging" blogs as I'm always looking for new ideas and tips. I agree with all your ideas... de-cluttering is the most important.


Mar 10, 2011 02:55 PM
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

Linda, these are great ideas that most homeowners can implement themselves.

Mar 10, 2011 03:02 PM
Chris Olsen
Olsen Ziegler Realty - Cleveland, OH
Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate

Hi Linda -- Exceptional tips. While these tips may seem easy to understand, the science behind this is solid and it can pay HUGE dividends when done well.  Not easy sometimes from a labor standpoint, depending on the condition of the home, but a seller will pay now in labor, or pay later in their reduced net financial position.

Mar 10, 2011 03:32 PM
Linda Secrist
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Holladay, UT

Thank you for all the great feedback.  I appreciate you reading and commenting on my blog.  I believe good staging (especially of the de-cluttering sort) is key to a successful sale. 

Mar 10, 2011 03:46 PM
Lee Bothast, CRS
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - South Pasadena, CA
2nd Generation Pasadena Area Realtor

Pair these handy ideas with a bit of sweat equity (http://activerain.com/blogsview/2170017/clean-clean-clean-) and you'll have a great house to sell for it's maximum price very soon!  Thanks for the awesome tips!

Mar 10, 2011 04:31 PM
Carol Neu
Evergreen Realty - Big Bear Lake, CA
SFR, RCS-D - Big Bear Foreclosures

I've heard it said "do what it takes to make buyers envision how great their life would be in that space" and you're at  least half way to an offer.

Mar 10, 2011 06:35 PM
Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group
Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001 - Gaithersburg, MD
301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA

Excellent ideas and a great way to start the process of selling. . . good advice

Mar 10, 2011 10:08 PM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

These are great tips and easily affordable.  they are all must do's if you are putting your home on the market.

Mar 10, 2011 10:11 PM
Renée Montgomery
Century 21 New Millennium - Warrenton, VA
Northern Virginia Real Estate

These are great, simple staging tips that everyone can use!

Mar 10, 2011 10:24 PM
Irene Kennedy Realtor® in Northwestern NJ
Weichert - Lopatcong, NJ


Who doesn't love free or cheap tips?  Thanks for posting these!

Mar 10, 2011 11:44 PM
Al & Peggy Cunningham, Brokers
RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage - Brampton, ON
Our Family Wants To Help Your Family!

Linda this was an excellent post filled with great advice and very deserving of the feature.  Sellers in the Salt Lake City, New Utah area would be wise to use your services!

Mar 11, 2011 01:23 AM
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Linda, five great tips how homeowners can spruce up their home and not break the bank.

Mar 11, 2011 01:30 AM
Barbara Altieri
Better Homes and Gardens RE Shore and Country Properties - Shelton, CT
REALTOR-Fairfield County CT Homes/Condos For Sale

Linda -- All great low cost tips that will pay off in more $$$ for the sellers. Thanks!

Mar 11, 2011 01:52 AM
Greg Lussier
Choice One Realty/Better Properties RE - Newcastle, WA
Newcastlenulls Home Specialist


Great run down that can easily be done by the seller. I never thought of removing religious items, or at least keeping it to a minimum, but I can totally understand why this may be a good idea. Although now that I think about it I don't think I've had a home where this was really obvious. Nevertheless good point to add the the list!

Mar 11, 2011 02:07 AM
Brett Butler
Linda Secrist and Associates (Prudential) - Draper, UT

Featured... nice work!!   Proud to know ya and be a part of this team!!

Mar 11, 2011 02:29 AM
Christian Bastian
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Sayville, NY
Christian Bastian - Douglas Elliman Real Estate

This list is spot on and sure to be a big plus for me to present to my clients.

Mar 11, 2011 02:29 AM
John J. Dean, Jr.
Engel & Voelkers Boston - Boston, MA

Thank you for the suggestions .. these will work on any price point listing.  Thank you for the reminders

Mar 11, 2011 02:50 AM
Maggie McFarland
RE/MAX Pearland - Maggie McFarland - Pearland, TX
Pearland Realtor, Homes for Sale in Pearland Texas

Love the title of this blog! It immediately caught my attention! Great point about removing the religious items too!

Mar 11, 2011 02:57 AM