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5 Tips to Stage Your Home Like a Pro

Colour of the year, purple accent wall

Let’s face it. Real estate markets across Canada currently favour buyers. That means selling your house in today’s tough real estate market takes a lot of extra work. To stand apart from the competition, your home needs to look its best.

Quite often the best way to achieve this is through staging. But not everyone has $500 to $15,000 to spend on a professional stager. Not to worry. Follow these five tops and even your best friend will be surprised you didn’t hire a professional.

#1: Remove your personality

Cost: $0

The home you live in is very different than the home you are trying to sell. The home you live in will include photos of family, friends and pets; children’s artwork; memorabilia and collectables and maybe even sacred items or funky artwork. The home you’re selling cannot include any of these items (or only a very select few, but think long and hard about the inclusion of these items). That’s because you’re trying to sell a potential buyer on them living in the home, not on how you and your family living in the home.

#2: Create space through decluttering

Cost: $0 – $200+

Once you’ve packed your family photos away, it’s time to clear some of your clutter. Remember, the aim is to show buyers how much space you have in your home — not how much stuff you have collected.

A general rule of thumb is to clear 50% from every drawer, cupboard, closet and storage space. For the remaining 50% make sure you have (or buy) tidy containers to store and control the clutter. Use baskets or containers to store toys and bins to store gear.

While decluttering often costs little to nothing, storing your clutter may require a bit of an investment from you. Very often, sellers will need to rent a temporary storage space.

Storage facilities will charge about $200 for a 10×10 secured storage room, which is more than enough space to store a one-bedroom apartment. To keep your costs low, consider decluttering your house and then taking stock of all items that need to be removed from the property. Choose a storage room just big enough to fit this stuff and don’t sign any one-year agreements.

The aim is to pay for just enough space, for just long enough, to sell your home for top dollar. As soon as the buyers agree to a final purchase price, you can move your personal items back into your home and proceed with the formal moving out process.

#3: Add some curb appeal

Cost: $0 – $1,000+

Talk to any Realtor and they’ll tell you a tale of a buyer that refused to enter a home, simply because they were turned off by the property’s curb appeal.

Believe it or not, this happens. Every. Single. Day.

To avoid this — and to really set your home apart from competitors — add a bit of curb appeal. Adding curb appeal doesn’t have to be a costly or timely endeavour, but it does require a commitment to making the outside of your home spotless and presentable.

Start with cleaning the exterior of your home. This costs little more than your time. Continue by touching up flakey paint or consider repainting the entire house if the paint job is really outdated. This update that will cost you $1,000 or more, but will do a long way to adding the necessary curb appeal to attract buyers.

Plant some bright, cheerful annuals in your garden ($10 to $25 cost), remove weeds and prune back overgrown bushes and trees.

If you have a porch, set the stage with a potted plant or a chair with a colourful outdoor pillow.

Remember, first impressions are vital, so don’t lose your chance to get buyers in the right mood from the moment they drive up to your home.

#4: Show each room’s purpose

Cost: $0 – $100+

Most of us use our spaces in ways that suit our lifestyle: Dining rooms become offices, family rooms become playrooms and spare bedrooms become storage areas.

But this is not the best way to show a home. Buyers who see rooms used for multiple purposes end up walking away with doubt. Is there enough space in this home for what I need? Can we do all that we need in this home?

For that reason, it’s absolutely vital to restore each space to its rightful purpose. Remove filing cabinets from dining rooms; remove exercise machines from bedrooms (unless you have a massive master suite). The aim is to restore each space back to its original purpose.

The great news is when you decluttered, chances are you probably found a lot of the decor and furniture items you will need to redefine each room in your house. If you didn’t, consider investing in a few small pieces. You don’t have to blow the budget on furnishing your entire basement, but you do need to provide potential buyers a glimpse into how the home can be used.

When setting up each room, remember to keep pathways clear and always keep in mind that less is more. Also, try to avoid putting all your furniture against the wall. While many of us do this, it actually ends up making a room look smaller. The goal is to help buyers see your home’s space, not your stuff.

#5: Unify with Colour

Cost: $0 – $1,000+

If you’ve ever been to a new, builder-staged home, you’ve probably noticed that decorators picked a colour scheme and used that colour scheme throughout the house. That’s because this is a well-known stager’s trick.

Homes that have a repeating colour scheme seem bigger and more organized. The good news is that most of us already lean towards specific colours. Take a look at your curtains, towels and bedding, you’ll probably find a recurring colour and, if you do, build on this colour. Add splashes of this colour to every room in the house.

If you don’t find a unifying colour, then pick a colour and, once again, find ways to add this colour into every room in the house. in small ways. Inexpensive options including using scented candles, towels, framed postcards, even throw pillows to unify your décor.

Ready, Set, Sell!

After following these five tips, it’s time for test: Ask an honest friend or neighbour over and ask for their input. Now you’re ready to sell your home.

Remember to keep your place staged and looking its best until after the offer is finalized. Thankfully, with these no cost or low-cost staging tricks, you can keep your attention on making sure your home is the best one on the block.

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Romana King

Romana King is an award-winning personal finance writer, real estate expert and the current Director of Content at Zolo. Romana has contributed to business and lifestyle publications including, Toronto Sun, Maclean’s, MoneySense, Globe & Mail Custom Content Team, and The Toronto Star. Among her achievements, Romana won silver for her annual Where to Buy Now real estate package in the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. In 2015, she won a SABEW Business Journalism award. When she was editor of CI Top Broker, Romana helped guide her team to obtain its first KRW Business Journalism nomination, and in 2011, she was part of a small team that helped MoneySense win Magazine of the Year at the 34th annual National Magazine Awards.