The Quintessential Home Staging Checklist

Staging a home before a sale can make a tremendous difference to prospective buyers. In fact, one study showed that buyers' agents believe staged homes can actually increase the dollar value that buyers are willing to pay by up to 5 percent. Staged homes may appear cleaner and more appealing, which can go a long way in increasing offers. Let this quintessential home staging checklist be the guide as you prepare your home for sale.

Staging a Living Room
The living room is the most commonly staged room in the home. This is the space where buyers want to imagine themselves relaxing, entertaining guests or relaxing with family, and the right staging can get that point across beautifully. The first step to staging a living room should be removing anything that doesn't add to the appeal of the space. That means picking up toys, removing any clutter and generally tidying the space. This can actually make the living room feel larger, which is another benefit to a great staging.

In addition to tidying the living room, take the time to actually clean it well. Although the space could be tidy overall, prospective buyers who notice dust on the bookshelves or dust bunnies in the corner might be discouraged. Don't give potential buyers the opportunity to find fault, and take care of the small cleaning details that give the entire room a fresh, clean feel.

The living room can be the most direct way that a homeowner expresses their personality, their sense of design and their style. While this can be a positive thing, not all potential buyers will have that same style. When staging a living room, it is recommended to keep the color palette neutral. This might mean focusing on colors like white, grey or beige. Adding in a pop or two of color, however, can add a brightness and prevent the living room from feeling too generic.

A vignette is a small grouping or setup that is purposefully put together. When staging a home, staging vignettes in the living room can make it easier for viewers to imagine life in the home. Examples of vignettes could be a few board games placed on the table or a pair of wine glasses next to a bottle of wine and an open book.

Staging a Bathroom
Arguably the most important tip for staging a bathroom is cleaning every surface in the entire room. A dirty bathroom is one of the biggest turnoffs for potential buyers, so it is vital that the space looks as clean as possible. Toilets, sinks and showers should get particular attention. If there are unattractive or dirty grout lines that don't look better after a thorough cleaning, it might be necessary to apply new grout while keeping existing tiles. Adding a new layer of caulk to replace discolored pieces can also go a long way in making the bathroom more attractive.

Part of staging is ensuring that even cosmetic defects are handled. In the bathroom, the most common minor problems include leaks or drips, which sound bad and may convince buyers that there are more serious plumbing issues lurking out of sight. Hiring a plumber may be a vital part of home staging, and getting rid of leaks or drips can make a big difference.

You can also upgrade the bathroom visually by investing in new hardware if the existing faucets, cabinet pulls or knobs don't match. Matching bathmats, towels and other textiles pull the whole room together, giving it a cohesive and resort-like feel.

Staging a Kitchen
After the living room, the kitchen is the most common room to stage in the home. This is because to many people, the kitchen is considered the heart of the home. This is where meals are prepared and where family members gather to dine and mingle in the evenings. When staging a kitchen, the focus should be on creating the feeling of space. Large, spacious kitchens are highly desirable, so every action should have the goal of adding rather than subtracting space. To that end, the countertops should be cleared off as much as possible, placing unused appliances in cupboards or cabinets instead.

Of course, the cabinets can't be stuffed to capacity and unorganized. Many prospective buyers will want to open them up to see how spacious they are. If your cabinets are packed, that gives the impression that there isn't enough space. Organize pantry cabinets and all cupboards, dust and clean the insides and consider putting some unused kitchen supplies in storage during the sale.

When staging a kitchen, it is also important to clean any existing appliances like the refrigerator and the oven, making them look as new as possible. If there is mismatched hardware in the kitchen, staging is the time to replace it and ensure there is a cohesive look with all materials matching. Unpleasant odors can undermine all your staging and cleaning efforts, so empty all trash cans before buyers come to the home, and clean them out so that there are no residual smells.

Staging Bedrooms
If you decide to stage a bedroom, the primary objective will be creating a space that is clean, appealing and neutral. Although many bedrooms are very personalized with pictures and knickknacks, staging-bedroomthese items should be removed for more space and a cleaner feel. Remove any unnecessary clutter and vacuum the floors, including under the bed. When choosing things like sheets and curtains for the staging, opt for a neutral color palette. Aim to have the textiles match or complement each other, which can make it look more upscale.

Most of home staging is about appealing to the potential buyers of the home, but it can also include keeping your home and your belongings safe. Many people keep their most valuable items in the bedrooms, which can be problematic if you're having a public showing or an open house. Any valuable items like jewelry or family heirlooms should either be safely stored in a secure location in the bedroom or removed from the home entirely until the property is off the market.

One of the first things many prospective home buyers do when exploring a bedroom is open up the doors of the closet. This is logical as closet space and layout is a major factor to consider, particularly in the master bedroom. However, far too many homeowners use their bedroom closets as the catch-all when cleaning and staging the rest of the home. Don't fall into that trap: Take the time to organize and clean out bedroom closets. If you simply have too much stuff to make that a realistic goal, take a few boxes of clothes or shoes and store them off the property to ensure that the closets look appealing and spacious.

Staging the Exterior and Maximizing Curb Appeal
How your home looks from the exterior can play a big role in how appealing it is to buyers as well as how much they are willing to pay for it. For that reason, it is important to stage the outside of the home as well as the inside. This is called increasing the curb appeal of a home, and it should be a priority as you ready your home for sale.

One of the first things to consider is whether there is any faded or peeling paint on the exterior of the home. If there is, repainting or replacing siding might be necessary. Otherwise, pressure washing or another means of external cleaning is probably sufficient.

Be sure to think about the journey that potential buyers will take from their cars to your home. What will they see along the way, and how can you improve that view? You might want to pressure wash the driveway that they will park on, pull up weeds from the gravel pathway or repaint the front door to give it a fresh, inviting look. Replacing smaller items like the mailbox, the doorbell or even the home's address letters or signage can play a role in increasing the curb appeal of the home.

If you have a front garden or backyard, take the time before a showing or an open house to mow the yard, handle any weeding and remove any clutter. While a children's playground, a barbecue or a swing set can be attractive pieces to keep, things like pet supplies and children's toys should be kept out of view.

Staging a home doesn't need to be expensive, but it can have a dramatic impact on both the demand for the home and the price point at which it might sell. These tips cover the exterior, the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom and the bedrooms, but the principles can be applied to the entire property.