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How do I Stage an Open House?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Feb 24, 2024
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Staging an open house properly can make the difference between receiving several offers on a piece of real estate and remaining without offers. The main reason home staging works so well to help sell a house is that after clearing out the current homeowner's personal clutter, potential buyers can more easily see themselves living in the home. Home staging deals with clutter and color issues, yet it isn't the same as decorating the home. When you want to do real estate staging and hold an open house, you must strive to present the home in a way that allows potential buyers to visualize living there.

The first step in staging an open house is to analyze the problem areas from the buyer's perspective. Unattractive paint colors are an easy fix for the homeowner. Yet, research shows that even buyers that make a conscious effort to make an analytical decision when considering a home for sale are still likely to be influenced by their emotions and by cosmetic problems such as unappealing paint colors. Decide which areas of the home need painting in order to appeal to buyers and choose appealing colors that make the house seem to have a flow to it. You don’t have to stick to neutral colors, but whatever paint color you choose should be rich rather than loud and it should be contemporary.

The second step in real estate staging, now that you have your color scheme, is to plan needed fixes to dated areas of the house. For example, painting ugly kitchen cabinets and changing their hardware is an inexpensive solution to updating the kitchen. While major renovations may be too costly when home staging, small changes in the right places can increase the selling potential of a house.

The third step in open house preparation is to make needed repairs. Something as simple as a loose floorboard, or linoleum that rolls up on the edges, can turn buyers off and give them the feeling that the house will be a burden rather than a blessing. A missing railing on a staircase can look more unsafe than it actually is and these types of repairs must be made. Cracks in walls are another big concern for buyers and must also be repaired to prepare an open house.

The fourth step in staging an open house is to get rid of unneeded furniture and personal accessories. This includes family photos, personal collections and small pieces of furniture that don’t really need to be there. Keeping the furnishing to the basics in each room can also help the home look more spacious. Use your imagination as a bedroom table may work better in the living room or vice versa. Arrange the furniture creatively in each room so that all the rooms flow together well; be sure that each room has a purpose such as a bedroom or an office.

The fifth step is to add accent pieces to the painted, repaired and sparsely- furnished rooms. Don’t use more decorative pieces such as artwork, plants and pottery than is needed. For outdoors, plant some flowers in outdoor planters or place one or two pots of flowers by the front and back doors. You don’t want your staged open house to look lived in, but rather show that it can be lived in. Baking cookies and having soda or coffee to drink is a nice finishing touch to an open house.

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Discussion Comments
By MrsPramm — On Jan 30, 2015

@umbra21 - As long as people don't spend to much money. If someone is an astute buyer, they aren't going to be looking that much at the surface details. They are going to want to know more about the history of the house and what it's like in all weather conditions and what the neighborhood is like.

It might help a little bit to have new curtains, and carpet and to fix every single door and window to look new, but the money you spend on these things isn't necessarily going to be recuperated, no matter what those TV shows about flipping say.

By umbra21 — On Jan 29, 2015

@Fa5t3r - I would also suggest going through the house and very carefully ensuring that all the little details are in working order. People looking for a new home are not going to like it if a light won't work, even if it's only a blown bulb. Dripping taps and water pressure also need attention if you're hoping to hold an open house on your property, as well as things like making sure all the cupboard doors will open easily and so forth.

It's easy to overlook these little things when you live with them and they aren't a big deal, but buyers will definitely notice them.

By Fa5t3r — On Jan 29, 2015

One thing that is very important to consider is what the weather is going to be like when people visit the house, especially for an open house.

If you are selling in the middle of summer, then you are definitely going to want to play up the outdoor areas, or ensure that there is good lighting, because people will expect it on a summer day. Installing a skylight can do wonders for a dark hallway, but that might be a bit expensive for a house staging. A cheaper alternative, depending on your surroundings, might be to cut down a strategic branch or tree so more light can get into the windows.

You might also want to make sure that the house isn't stuffy or hot or anything like that when people come over.

If it's winter, then you're going to have to make sure the house will be warm enough and light enough to be appealing.

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