We’ve all heard of spring cleaning, that annual rite of passage when it’s time to purge. If all home sellers followed the “one in, one out” rule, perhaps not as many properties would linger on the market, awaiting that perfect buyer with enough vision to see a property’s true potential through all the clutter.

Enter reality. Today’s buyers not only have bargaining power, but also a vast array of choices, which makes them a savvy (if not picky) bunch. Home sellers must have the same savvy if they wish to sell their properties for top dollar in the shortest amount of time. Home staging can be a key to this success.

The beauty of home staging is it does not have to cost a lot of money to achieve a jaw-dropping transformation. The first step is to have a professional home stager (be it an agent or friend) walk through the property objectively, pointing out potential negatives that could sink a sale. If they notice something negative, potential buyers will, too.

When it comes to quick, easy and affordable home-staging tips, clearing out the clutter is at the very top of my to-do list. Remember, when a home seller puts their property on the market, it is no longer their home. It’s a product for sale, similar to an item on a grocery-store shelf, and to attract the most number of possible buyers, get a high price and sell quickly, it must be portrayed in the best light. Properties that are worn, tired and worst of all, cluttered, simply do not show well. Most potential buyers are not looking for worry and work, they are looking for properties that are move-in ready. Properties that aren’t, the ones known as “handyman specials,” will be forced to have price tags that reflect their shortcomings.

Staging can involve any or all of the following:

• Space planning

• Decluttering

• Neutralizing

• Painting

• Minor repairs

• Renting furniture and accessories

Staging 101

The first step for many homeowners will likely be packing away all nonessentials. Many stagers call this a partial pack or move. The goal is to remove all items, including unnecessary furniture for the staging and marketing of the property.

The next step may likely involve tasks such as repainting and minor repair work.

The last step is the staging and styling, which may involve using a homeowner’s belongings or renting the furniture and accessories inventory of a professional home stager.

When it comes to home staging, here’s my design recipe:

• Remove all clutter.

• Pack away any and all unnecessary items and furnishings.

• Repaint.

• Replace light bulbs with higher-wattage bulbs.

• Replace light switches with new receptacle covers.

• Clean and steam carpets.

• Hire a professional cleaning crew.

• Complete minor repairs.

• Put furniture into storage if necessary.

• Rent furniture or accessories to complete the look.


Cathy Hobbs is an interior design and home-staging expert, with offices in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C.