The Five Building Blocks of Staging (part two)

Services for Real Estate Pros with Franklin Run, LLC

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


In the previous article, we discussed the first two “building blocks of staging.” To review, number one is clean, clean, clean! In other words, showing a buyer a dirty home won’t make a positive impression no matter how well you use furniture and accessories. The second step is lighting. Make sure you make the most of your hard work by showing it off with good lighting, artificial and natural. To complete the look of the perfect home, the last three steps involve furniture and accessories, window treatments, and finally the finishing touches.

The third building block of staging your home is the use of furniture and accessories. Vacant homes can seem sterile and actually have an echo when there is no furniture present. Also, if there is nothing else for the buyer to look at, like pretty towels, or a beautiful bedroom set, they find the flaws in the home instead. Suddenly, cracks in walls, missed paint touch up, and slightly crooked baseboards are the star of the show.

To determine if your home needs full, partial, or something in between staging, follow these guidelines: If the home is on the extremely inexpensive side, you can probably get away with just staging the kitchen and baths. Midrange homes usually require bathrooms, kitchen, living and dining rooms and maybe the master bedroom. Depending on where the master bedroom is located, like say it is very close to the living room or other staged area, you will need to fill that room. If your home is a split plan, just use staging in the master bedroom and not the other bedrooms. If all of the bedrooms are grouped together with the master it can look silly to stage one and not the others. Use your judgment by walking through the home by entering the front door. If any room looks “blank” then stage it! Conversely, more expensive homes probably need to be staged throughout the entire house, including all bedrooms. In this way, sellers should expect the staging investment to be proportionate to the price of the home and the location and neighborhood it occupies.

To start the process, all rooms that are going to be staged must have appropriately sized furniture. For example, large overstuffed sofas can make a small living room look even smaller. Sofas and loveseats come in roughly three sizes: small, average and overstuffed. Pick the one that fits the size and shape of the room, keeping in mind the ceiling height as well. Furthermore, a king size bed in a small master bedroom can convince a buyer that even their own queen bed will not fit. For this reason alone, it’s probably a good idea to rent furniture. Not only can you pick from a wide range of sizes of furniture, but the company will move the pieces for you and you can avoid storing anything. Open spaces and walkways are very important so don’t pick too many pieces for any one room. Use only the amount of furniture needed to make the space look balanced, no more. Lots of room to look and move around will illustrate to the buyer that the home is spacious enough for all their possessions.

Moreover, when buyers tour some houses it is not readily apparent where everything goes. If the buyer has to guess where the dining room is, they won’t feel like they are home. Through good staging, it is possible to lead your buyers by the hand. By placing a dining table of an appropriate shape and size, you can create a space for eating that the buyer may not have considered otherwise. Dining rooms should have a table the right size and shape for the space. Round or oval tables work well in small rooms. Square or oblong tables can be tricky depending on how many chairs can fit comfortably in the space. A good rule of thumb is to consider the number of bedrooms. More bedrooms mean more people to fill chairs around the dining table. Add a simple green silk plant in the center of the table you’ve chosen and you’re all set.

Similarly, sitting areas are a good way to mask an otherwise “unusable” space. By simply placing a table, a lamp, and a chair in a corner, a “bonus” space has definition as a reading/ sitting area. Sitting areas create a sense of relaxation and peace. When viewing your property, buyers will remember this feeling and remember your home.

Additionally, kitchens can generally be completed with just some neutral accessories such as a bread box, a silk plant or two depending on the size of the counter, and a candle. Show off your upgrades by leaving the counter to shine without being too crowded. Make sure the clocks are set on all appliances; otherwise the flashing lights will distract the buyer.

Finally, use towels to dress up the bathroom as long as they are neutral and not too frilly. Investors should purchase several items to use over and over again such as towels, silk plants and candles. Earth tones are a good investment since they go with everything and look modern. A neutral fabric shower curtain completes the look. Keep two on hand along with a white shower curtain rod and neutral shower rings. There is no need for a liner, make the set as light and airy as possible. Always keep the toilet paper roll full. An empty roll sticks out like a sore thumb. Don’t worry about using bath accessories and countertop decorations if the bathroom is small. It will just look crowded. If the counter is big, place a candle and a small, neutral silk plant and keep it simple.

The fourth building block to staging is window treatments. While some views may be less than desirable, others may be the focal point of the living or dining room. Generally, the buyer wants to create their own window treatments to match their taste, so blinds and curtains can usually be skipped. Simple cream or white colored blinds or neutral curtains may be used in cases where the view is average to poor in order to focus on the room and not what is outside.

For good balance, if you use blinds or curtains in one window, you should use the same treatment on all windows in that same room. It is not necessary to use the coverings in the whole house if it is not warranted by a less desirable view. This means that you may use window treatments in one room and not another depending on the view. For a window with a pool or lake view, no window coverings are definitely the way to go.

Also, the window you must pay special attention to in the average home is the bathroom window. Most buyers are looking for privacy in this area. If the window is not already frosted or otherwise made private, blinds or curtains that can be closed are a must. Again, ALL blinds must be at least partially if not all the way open for ALL showings. You will want to adjust the slant on the blinds to let in light but show off less of an ugly view. Again, do not rely on your realtor or buyer to do this.

The fifth and final building block of staging is the finishing touches. Exciting and nostalgia inducing smells such as apple pie and vanilla can bombard the senses and create a dazzling experience for a buyer. A citrus smell says super clean and completes a bathroom well. Use reed diffusers or oil plug-ins. They are cheap, last a long time and ensure the home smells as good as it looks.

To really ensure your buyer is impressed, you can even show the buyer how spaces like closets and laundry areas will be used with simple objects. For example, some well placed gift bags and boxes in the master closet can surprise and impart a sense of an ideal lifestyle on a buyer when they inevitably open that door. Pretty cloth hangers in the guest closet with sachet scents can both fragrance the space and complete the look.

Remember, the more staging you do, the more distractions from flaws you create. Also recall from the previous article that you are creating a feeling, an emotional stage for an emotional decision. For example, many of our buyers have asked to keep the furniture and accessories exactly the way they are because they have bought into the look and feel of our staged homes so much. Staging really does make a potential buyer feel differently about your home. On the seller’s side, good staging says, “Welcome home.” When good staging is presented, buyers won’t hesitate to say the investor’s favorite word in return - SOLD!

Comments (5)

Lynda Eisenmann
Preferred Home Brokers - Brea, CA
Broker-Owner,CRS,GRI,SRES, Brea,CA, Orange Co

Hey Tom,

Wow, you've really packed a lot of great information into this post. I've bookmarked it for a re-visit. Thanks!

Aug 05, 2008 06:35 PM
Jared Tafua
Prudential California Realty - Brea, CA

Thanks for the post, I've booked marked it as well. I was in a home today that the seller could really use your tips.

Aug 05, 2008 07:23 PM
George Sanchez
California Housing Realty - Corona, CA

That is quite some detail on staging.  Thanks. You make some very good points and bring to light some areas of staging that I did not even think about.  Thanks again for taking the time to post this information.

Aug 05, 2008 08:27 PM
Tom Vuong
Franklin Run, LLC - Lake Mary, FL

Thanks, guys for the positive comments.  Make sure you check out Cherie's previous blogs on staging if you haven't seen it.

Aug 05, 2008 09:13 PM
Michele Reneau
Certified Staging Professional (CSP) Elite Instructor - Summerville, SC
Realtor, GRI ~ Charleston, SC Relocation Experts Team

I'm a BIG proponent of staging. There are so many important aspects of a good staging job and you hit them all! I have a professional stager on my team that handles all those details to make sure they get done, but I always love reading about it because it helps me warm sellers up by coaching them in advance before she gets there.

Dec 11, 2009 03:08 AM