We are currently in the process of selling our home as our family moves into a new home. To find sellers quickly in today's market, we had to stage our house, take professional photos, post the listing online, and host showings - all while living there!
Since we were still living in the unit while it was being viewed, I spent a few days preparing the house. This meant not just deep cleaning but also making the space look neutral enough so that ANYONE could see themselves living there. In other words: staging! The staging process looked slightly different for the photos versus having people come to look at the place - I'll get into that below…
For anyone in the Houston, TX area, Openhouse Photography did our listing photos, and we love them! The images included in this post were all done by Openhouse Photography --> check them out! Click HERE
STAGING TIPS FOR PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEO
Before we listed our condo for rent, we had professional photos taken, and our realtor filmed a video tour. This meant the place needed to look AMAZING. If everything goes well, you'll only have to do this once. Here is what you need to think about before having photos taken:
Clear Off Surfaces - Spaces tend to look bigger when there is less clutter. Clear off your kitchen countertops, and move appliances into cabinets. Clear off dressers, save for a lamp and a book or candle. Surfaces should feel clean.
Clean Windows - Clean windows let in much more light than dirty ones! Make sure your windows sparkle.
Straighten Beds & Couches - A room will look infinitely tidier if the couch pillows are fluffed and the comforter on the bed is straightened.
Replace Light Bulbs - Go around and replace any light bulbs that are out or don't match.
Tidy Entry Way - Again, it's about making the place look like anyone's home. So that means removing a lot of personal items. Minimize the coats on the rack to one or two. If you don't have a nice spot to put shoes by the door, put them in your closet—Tuck away items like mail and keys into a drawer.
Take Out Trash - Take out the trash in each room before photos are taken, especially in bathrooms or offices where the trash cans are open at the top.
Wipe Down Kitchen Appliances / Stainless Steel - This will make your kitchen sparkle. A clean kitchen is a MUST-have for staging.
Less is More - Stash any extra clutter on the floor away in closets or hallways that won't be photographed. Think games, magazines, laundry, nic nacs, etc. The less you have, the more open and spacious the room will appear.
Mop - Your floors should shine! Sometimes vacuuming isn't enough; you've got to mop to get that shine.
Remove Personal Items - Before the photos were taken, I removed most of our family photos and baby items and put them into closets. This creates a neutral setting. You want someone without a baby - or someone with roommates instead of a spouse - to also see themselves in the space.
Remove Signs of Pet - This one is big for a few reasons. First, you want to clean up any pet fur, take out the litter, and clean up the pet food bowl/areas, which is just part of deep cleaning the home. Second, some people may be allergic to cats or dogs or might not like pets. Again, creating that neutral space where they can see themselves living there.
Deep Clean - Don't know how to deep clean the home? Pay someone to do it for you. It will make a world of difference! Hopefully, throughout staging, listing, and showing, you'll only need to have it cleaned once or twice. But it will be worth every penny!
STAGING TIPS FOR IN-PERSON TOURS / SHOWINGS
Before anyone came over for a tour, I would complete these tasks room by room. Depending on how messy the house was, this could take me 1-2 hours or 5 hours on the weekend. For the most part, once we listed the home, we did our part to clean up every night before bed. That way, if someone messaged us to see the place the next day, we were ready!
We ended up showing the place to about eight groups before we had a signed lease. This required a lot of time prepping for lots of showings, but it was worth it. Something that helped was to try to schedule two or three showings in one day. This saved us from going through the entire "get ready" process every single time someone wanted to come.
Here's what I did room by room before a showing:
Open the fridge and, get rid of anything that may smell, wipe up any spills
Wipe down stainless steel appliances that tend to show fingerprints
Empty the dishwasher and make sure there are no dirty dishes in the sink
Wipe down the sink
Run the disposal (drop a lemon slice or some soap into the disposal to get rid of any smells)
Wipe down countertops, and clear any clutter (bottle drying rack, blender, toaster - I put all of that into the pantry and only kept the coffee machine, mixer and knives on the counter)
Tidy up the pantry
Take out kitchen trash and recycling
Turn on oven light, stove top lights, and any under cabinet lighting
Dust dressers and nightstands
Clear surfaces of clutter (stack books, hide phone charger and baby monitor, leave one or two framed photos and stash the rest in a drawer)
Make bed (tuck in the sheets, fold the blankets, fluff the pillows, place pillows on the bed so that the pillowcase opening is facing inward)
Stow dirty laundry in the washer or in your closet
Clear off the "chair" or "bench" that holds random laundry and bags
Tidy the closets (although you might not have photographed the closets, pantry, coat closet for the listing, the tenants will want to open up every door to see how much space they get)
Vacuum or mop bedroom floors
Turn on bedside lights
Dust dressers, nightstands, and changing table
Tidy up toys and stuffed animals
Remove extra clutter like action figures, extra books, etc.
Stash as many toys as you can inside the closet
Take out diaper pail trash
Turn on lights
Wipe down the sink and toilet
Shut toilet lid
Clear off sink (stash toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, products, EVERYTHING in a drawer or cabinet)
Put out fresh bath towels and hand towels, and fold them nicely on the towel rack.
Minimize toiletries in the shower/bath
Remove any kid's bath toys
Shut the shower curtain or shower door
Vacuum bath rugs
Turn on vanity lights
LIVING & FAMILY ROOMS
Fluff couch cushions and pillows
Fold throw blankets
Wipe down the coffee table and consoles
Turn the TV off and stash remotes in a drawer
Hide any unsightly cords
Move kid's toys into kid's room or kid's closet
Turn on the end table lights
Wipe down the dining table and chairs
Stash highchair in a corner or booster seat in a closet
Clear off the china cabinet or buffet, except for a candle, flowers, etc.
Vacuum rug or mop floors
Turn on the dining room lighting
Hang a wreath on the front door
Vacuum the welcome mat and sweep the front steps
Make sure landscaping/driveway looks tidy (stash tools in the garage, remove any dead plants or branches, sweep any leaves away)
Turn on the front porch light
30 MINUTES BEFORE THE TOUR
Here are a few more general tips before the prospective renters or buyers arrive:
Turn On Lights & Fans - You want your place to feel light and bright, even on a grey or rainy day. Turn on all of the light fixtures. I even turned our ceiling fans on low to get air circulating and to draw attention to - yes, we have working ceiling fans!
Light Candles - Light a candle in the main rooms - maybe one in the living room, one in the primary bedroom - about 30 minutes before people arrive, making the house smell great and feel cozy.
Fresh Cut Flowers - Grab some fresh flowers at the store. Placing flowers in a vase in the kitchen or dining room is an added friendly gesture, and I will sometimes put bud vases in the bathrooms with one flower.
Check Thermostat - Making sure the house is set at a comfortable temperature is important, not just for the tour day. If tenants feel it's stuffy or too cold, they might think the HVAC is broken or doesn't work well. Save them the worry and make sure the place is at a comfortable temperature well before the showing.
Vacuum - This is obvious, but you want your place to feel super clean, and the number one way to do that is to vacuum! Vacuum the stairs, sweep the kitchen, and sweep the front porch! Generally, this has to be done within 30 minutes of people arriving, especially with a toddler on the loose!
Take Out Trash - You likely do this before you have friends or family over, so you need to do it before a potential buyer views the home! And I mean every single trash can. The bathrooms, the basement, the diaper pail - everything goes. And while we are on the topic of stinky things, we also empty the kitty litter 20-30 minutes prior so that no weird smells are coming from the cat closet.
Play Music - I always have music playing at my house. But I noticed when I was attending open houses that a little bit of background music sets a good mood, and I recommend something like jazz or light pop, or hip hop.
Refresh Yourself on Specifics - If you have multiple people viewing the property, make sure you have the right names with the correct times. Have important information on hand like room dimensions and cost of utilities.
Decide Who is Giving the Tour - Ok, also not necessarily staging related, but after giving a handful of the house tours, we determined it was only necessary to have one of us there. I like to give potential buyers an option: would you like to walk around yourself, or I can give the tour and show you around? The only time someone didn't want me to give the tour was when there was a broker involved.
I hope this was helpful to anyone looking to list their place in the future. I have loved documenting the process this time around. Don't get overwhelmed. At the end of the day, if you put some effort in, it will pay off. Happy home selling!
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