Staging for a Speedy Sale

Attract buyers with these expert home staging tips

Story by Jamey Bradbury

  • A bedroom staged by Susan Gillespie, Gillespie Home Staging and Design. "Once staged, (this home) sold in less than a week after being on and off the market for over a year!" she says. A bedroom staged by Susan Gillespie, Gillespie Home Staging and Design. "Once staged, (this home) sold in less than a week after being on and off the market for over a year!" she says.
  • A living room staged by Stacy Goade, president of Alaska Premier Home Staging. A living room staged by Stacy Goade, president of Alaska Premier Home Staging.
  • Photos courtesy of Photos courtesy of

One of the toughest challenges a home seller can face is how to get his house to stand out from the rest. The answer is home staging: By investing a little time and money, you can create a warm, inviting atmosphere where buyers can see themselves living.

But staging isn’t just about creating a cozy feeling; it has tangible benefits. “Homes that are staged tend to sell for more,” according to Lance Davis of Les Bailey and Associates Real Estate. “There’s an upfront cost, so some sellers opt not to stage their home, but I think that’s a mistake.”

According to a survey conducted by, a $300-$400 investment in home staging resulted in a $1500-$2000 return on investment. After de-cluttering and cleaning, staging has the greatest impact on how quickly a house sells, and for how much.  

No Vacancy

Artists love a blank canvas, but empty, white spaces are a seller’s enemy, says Stacy Goade, president of Alaska Premier Home Staging. “White is popular because it’s safe, but it doesn’t elicit a lot of feelings, and marketing is all about emotion. You buy things because you have an emotional connection.”

A vacant room presents practical problems, too. With nothing else to focus on, potential buyers will zone in on every tiny flaw. “A buyer’s eyes should move around the room,” says Goade. “You need focal points that highlight signatures and take the eyes away from problem areas.”  

Setting the Stage

Staging starts with making repairs to those “problem areas,” but doesn’t end there. Choose tasteful colors for accent walls in the living room, master bedroom or kitchen. Then focus on de-cluttering: “Unless you’re a real minimalist, you’re going to have to get rid of a lot of stuff, particularly personal items,” advises Susan Gillespie of Gillespie Home Staging and Design in Glacier View. Family pictures, trophies, heirlooms – put them in storage so buyers can imagine themselves, not you, in the space.

Next, consider furniture placement. “A lot of times, people arrange their furniture around the television,” says Gillespie, but when showing your home, reposition furniture to draw the eye to the center of the room, and get rid of unnecessary pieces to make the room feel larger. Use your own furniture if you can, but remember: Modern pieces in contemporary colors will help a space feel warm and inviting.

You can use décor to emphasize special spaces in the home. Create a “reading space” by throwing an afghan over a chair and placing a book on a small table near a fireplace. Set the dining room table with a centerpiece and dinnerware that highlights the room’s colors. Build a theme in a child’s room with things you already have on-hand, such as fishing gear or sports memorabilia.  

Take It Outside

While you’re focusing on the inside of the house, cautions Goade, don’t forget about curb appeal. “From the second the buyer steps out of the car, your house must pop,” she says. Touch up the paint, add hanging baskets or invest some time in landscaping.

You can wow buyers with your house’s façade even in the winter by gathering photos of your house taken in the summer, loading them onto a laptop and playing a slideshow of the house at its best during showings.  

Staging should go beyond your front lawn – and onto the Internet. “You need a flawless online presence,” advises Goade. “I can’t tell you how many photos I’ve seen of litter boxes or piles of laundry. You want to post photos of your house after it’s staged, because the Internet is the buyers’ real first impression.”    

First Steps

Ready to reinvent your home for a lightning-fast sale? Goade’s top suggestions for do-it-yourself stagers emphasize planning: “Decide what your timeline is and be realistic about it. Then be realistic about what you can really do. If you’ve got repairs or need to repaint, consider hiring someone.”

And if the thought of giving your home a makeover seems intimidating, get expert advice: Professional stagers offer services from staging the home top to bottom, to giving consultations, to providing strategies for sellers who intend to occupy a staged home while looking for a buyer.

“The days when you could just hang up a sign and sell your house are gone,” says Goade. But the money spent on home staging, says Gillespie, is money well spent: “It’s not about decorating to the max. It’s about using tasteful and simple décor to achieve the quick, profitable sale of your home.”

Sources: Alaska Premier Home Staging; Gillespie Home Staging and Design; and Les Bailey and Associates Real Estate