The Five Building Blocks of Staging (Part One)

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Cherie Vuong / Franklin Run, LLC / / / 407-443-4507


The Five Building Blocks of Staging (Part One)

Of all the houses buyers will be touring, how can yours stand out and be remembered? Great staging, of course! In the previous article we discussed staging as a marketing tool for real estate sales. After completing all the rehab and upgrading, you want to show off your work. Now we will dive in and show you some tips and guidelines in order to stage your vacant home to maximize the showings and selling potential. You should keep in mind that money spent on staging brings around a 169% average return on your investment, so it is well worth formulating a good plan to make the most of your home’s image.*

First consider your price point and neighborhood. Is your home on the average working class side of the market or in a lavish gated community? The types of buyers for these two very different markets have very different expectations. The bottom line is these two ends of the spectrum as well as all types of buyers in between have standards and hopes and dreams for their new home. Our general rule is: the more expensive the home, the more rooms need to be staged and the more elaborate it should be.

So, how do you stage for the maximum number of potential buyers to be impressed and get the most for your money? Good staging is not just furniture! In fact, there are several building blocks to really great staging:

1. Clean, clean, clean

2. Good lighting

3. Appropriately sized and placed furniture and accessories

4. Window treatments

5. Finishing touches

Let’s start basic. First, people are people, and the foundation for their senses to be impressed is clean! The house must look and smell fresh and new. Even if you have the most expensive furniture and the most lavish upgrades, if your home isn’t clean, it won’t matter. For example, all hygiene and wet areas should be free of hard water stains, mildew, etc. All lighting fixtures must be free of debris and bugs. Windows must sparkle inside and out. Check inside all cabinets as your buyers surely will. If you must keep cleaning items, toilet paper and the like on hand, make sure they are nice and neat and placed as far back in the cabinet as possible to show off how much room is left inside.

In addition, construction and remodeling leftovers such as dust, paint drips and tools must be removed. The idea is to sell a remodeled home as NEW. Evidence of the remodeling such as a brand new ceiling fan coated with construction dust screams that the home was refurbished. This in turn erases that new home feeling for the buyer.

Also an invasion of any type of pest will be noticed by the buyer immediately. Eradicate any evidence of pests and check on your property regularly to ensure no unwanted creatures have moved in before your buyer can.

Finally, the air in all rooms must be pleasantly fresh and free of humidity. Use the air conditioner! Just because the house is vacant doesn’t mean the buyer will be comfortable looking around while it’s ninety degrees and humid inside. In fact, this may prompt them to leave immediately. Spend money on electricity now, or spend it on holding costs while your property sits without being toured and no offers are made. Regular use of your central heat and air will also help ensure mold and mildew are kept at bay.

The next step in the staging process is lighting. All rooms must have good lighting both natural and artificial. Trim outside foliage as needed to allow light to come in from all windows. Any bedrooms or offices that never had light fixtures installed probably have an outlet that is operated by a switch. Use a floor lamp on that outlet that is simple and bright.

The bathrooms must have lighting that fills the whole room, not just the vanity area. The bathroom tends to look like a cave if only one area is well lit. If you need more light near the tub or shower area, then have it professionally installed.

The kitchen also must be bright and sunny. Avoid anything, including curtains, covering the kitchen window if there is one. Also, consider using under cabinet lighting in upscale homes. Some cabinets can even have temporary under cabinet lighting mounted that you can remove once the house has sold.

Furthermore, the living room should have lots of lamps and overhead light. Floor lamps, table lamps and a lighted ceiling fan or pretty light fixture complete the look.

Finally, the dining room should have a chandelier appropriate to the size of the room. A fixture that is too large and it makes the room look smaller, too small and it just looks silly. Make sure to hang at appropriate ceiling height. The chandelier should be at about eye level when standing next to it. Also, make sure the finish matches other finishes in the room. Check for and replace burned out bulbs in all rooms, including closets, in a timely manner. Remember ALL lights should be on for ALL showings. Do not count on the potential buyer or realtor to turn on the lights for themselves!

In part two, we will discuss the last three steps, including arranging furniture. The goal is to maximize your home’s potential by showing off features and benefits through good staging. Show the buyer how they can live there!


*2003 HomeGain Survey of 2,000 real estate agents nationwide found that

Comments (6)

Yvonne Root
rooms b.y. root - Prescott, AZ
Home Stager - Northern Arizona

Tom, you have a wealth of great information to share here. Your clients should be very happy with what you provide for them. You may want to include this post in the Stage it Forward group.

Jun 25, 2008 11:21 PM
Tom Vuong
Franklin Run, LLC - Lake Mary, FL

Thanks, Yvonne...I'll add that group to my list.  My wife Cherie actually is the one that wrote this article for our real estate investment newsletter.

Jun 25, 2008 11:37 PM
Shobha Vyavahare
stagewithme, Greenville, South Carolina - Greenville, SC

great post, all of the 5 blocks are important, you cannot ignore any of those, they all work in harmony.


Jun 25, 2008 11:48 PM
Yvonne Root
rooms b.y. root - Prescott, AZ
Home Stager - Northern Arizona

Cool Tom. You guys must make a great team.

Jun 26, 2008 12:13 PM
Michelle Minch
Moving Mountains Design Home Staging, Pasadena, CA - Los Angeles, CA
Home Staging Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA

Tom and Cherie: This was a very well written post. Thank you for sharing it with us. There is lots of great information included.

Jun 26, 2008 01:49 PM
Jessica G

Excellent points, Tom. As you said it doesn't have to cost much to increase the perceived value of a home. All this boils down to how well agents can educate their clients. Especially in this down market, agents need to do everything they can to sell a home within a reasonable timeframe and at a fair price. HomeGain relaunched their home improvement survey last year, and have some updated stats, further confirming the importance and value of home staging.


If interested: if you want free guides to give out clients and help prove the points you made above!

Jul 02, 2008 06:15 AM