The Psychology Of Home Staging & Getting Top Dollar For Your Clients

home staging

“Exclusive Advice From A Staging Pro”

This post is written by BethAnn Hannah who is Principal Designer at Success Staging And Design, and a prominent agent at eRealty Advisors. She can be contacted at


BethAnn Hannah
BethAnn Hannah

You are heading out on a listing appointment. You walk into the house that your client has lived in for 40 years. It’s decorated museum quality 1970s down to the green shag carpet, along with decades of knick-knacks and family mementos to go with it. Then they tell you their home in its current condition is  worth the same amount as the smaller, but newly renovated home that sold up the street… We’ve all been there.

This is the commonly held attitude of the average seller. The best agents know how to properly prepare their sellers, and often, this means gently suggesting that great aunt Irma’s doll collection (which is dominating the dining room) needs to go. It’s best to stress to your sellers that if they  don’t choose to properly prepare their home for sale, they are potentially leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table, and risk their home being beaten out by other homes on the market.  This will ultimately leave them feeling frustrated by the prolonged time on the market. Why would they want to go through months of dinner interruptions and strangers tromping through their home when they want to get the house sold so they can move on with the next chapter in their lives?

Statistics show that a home is more likely to sell in less time for more money, if you create an environment that is appealing to the MAXIMUM amount of buyers. This is Marketing 101, and it applies in this case just as it does with any other product that is being brought to market.

If home staging is performed correctly, real estate agents will be able to highlight the strengths of the property while alleviating its weaknesses, but this begins with the willingness of the seller to properly stage the house.

Here are some home staging tips you can share with your sellers to assist them in performing  home staging effectively without breaking the bank.  It may mean they are inconvenienced for a few months, but remind them that the goal is to get the most money for the home.

Get Rid Of The Clutter

If nothing else is done, this should be the #1 thing to focus on.  Clutter will make the home unattractive to potential buyers.  Clutter makes rooms look smaller and keep buyers from really SEEING the home. This includes closets. If a closet is jammed packed, it communicates that the seller NEEDS to move to get more space.  It also gives the impression there isn’t enough storage room, which could be enough on that point alone to completely turn a buyer off, and have them move on to the next property.

I recommend to my clients to rent a large storage unit for the next few months, and clear out EVERYTHING that isn’t used on a daily basis. I tell them that since they are moving anyway, it’s best to pre-pack now, and then the actual move will be so much smoother, plus the current house will look so much better. This includes basements and attics. Having these areas almost completely cleared creates a tremendous amount of value and psychological spaciousness to the home.  Ruthlessness in decluttering is required here.

Another common thing which makes a home’s interior looked cluttered is excessive, over-sized furniture. This is why expert stagers will often remove fifty percent of home furnishings when preparing to show the house, so it appears larger. Can the huge, puffy sectional sofa be replaced with a more modern,  streamlined sofa and a couple of accent chairs? Does the large china cabinet REALLY need to stay in the house when removing it will make the dining room look so much larger? (I tell clients to minimize or eliminate fancy entertaining while the home is on the market. Hence, let someone else host Thanksgiving dinner this year.)

Take Care of Deferred Maintenance Items

Sellers should hire a handyman to take care of things they have been putting off. If a potential buyer comes in and sees a lot of cracked walls, leaky faucets, etc – they are just going to make a lower offer, seeing how much work the house needs…. That is… if they make an offer at all. If there is too much work, often – they will just move on to the next property.

Clean The House

This should be obvious, but you’d be surprised how often beds are left unmade, laundry is piled up, the sink is overflowing with dishes. Obviously, in normal situations, it’s fine to live however you want to live, but in this case – cleaning needs to be a priority while it’s being shown.  So, sellers should hire a house cleaner for a deep cleaning, and make sure the home is spotless prior to every showing.

Also, remove all odors – kitty litter, garbage, cooking smells, smoke. Febreze everything, have a steam cleaner come in to do rugs, sofas and chairs, and the curtains should be sent to the dry cleaner before putting  the house on the market. I’ve had clients walk into a house just to immediately turn around and walk right out if the house does not smell appealing.

You want a buyer to be turned on by the home, not grossed out.

Use Paint To Neutralize Decor

Paint can be used to great effect, making a room appear larger than it actually is. To do so, suggest to your sellers to paint it using the same color as the room which is adjacent. For example, if they have a dining room and smaller kitchen which is adjacent, using the same paint will make the two rooms feel like one larger space.

It’s extremely important to use a neutral color. A neutral color will assist in toning down any finishes in the room which are dated. Current trends are light silvery grey colors which go with most decors, and really make white trim work pop. Bold colors will make the house look less attractive, and thus lead to lower offers. You may love your turquoise bedroom, but 90% of buyers are going to feel like it doesn’t go with their personal décor, and will need to repaint. So always use neutral, particularly for larger rooms.

Minimize Artwork

Too much art, and too much personalized art ends up looking like clutter that does nothing to enhance your home to buyers. Of course, family wall photo collage of loved ones is special, but it is a reminder to buyers that they are in SOMEONE ELSE’S home, and it psychologically makes it harder to see themselves there. It’s VERY important that all family and wedding photos – anything personalized get stored away.

Also, try to keep art pieces to statement pieces. One large piece of art over the sofa, is much more dramatic and creates a feeling of spaciousness, as opposed to lots of little pieces. Same goes for figurines, vases, etc. Simple is best. A good rule is to have no more than 25% of any flat surface covered. Anymore looks cluttered.

Prioritize and Update The Lighting

Great lighting is one of the most important attributes of effective home staging. When set up correctly, it will make the home inviting and put visitors at ease.  If old light fixtures are replaced with reasonably priced, modern ones – it will give the home an instant update.  It’s worth hiring a handyman for the day and making the investment in some good lighting as the returns on this in sale will be much more than the investment. Most homes, unfortunately, are not lit properly. House sellers will want to make sure that the lamp and fixture wattage are increased, aiming for a total of about one hundred watts for every fifty square feet. Don’t limit the choices to one or two fixtures for a single room, and instead use a minimum of three lighting types.

All lights and lamps in the house should be left on prior to showing, even on a sunny day. This psychologically makes your home seem more bright.

Landscaping and Front Entrance

Don’t neglect the exterior. This is often the first impression of the home, and sets a tone for the rest of the home tour. Remove ugly screen doors if there is an attractive door behind it. Make sure it is freshly painted with updated hardware.  It’s always attractive and makes for a nice entrance if there is a planter nearby with seasonal flower. It goes without saying, but the lawn should be mowed, yard should be weed free, and if lawn furniture is faded and dated it does nothing to enhance, so just remove it.

Should your sellers take these suggestions, you will have a much easier time of getting their house sold for them, and they will be very happy with the ease of the transaction which should pay off with more money in their pockets!

Staging severely effects the ability to sell your home, but having the proper training does too. You can get the proper training from eRealty. Hear from other agents who share their experience of learning the business and become excellent….