The Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts in Home Staging

By Patti Stern, PJ & Co. Staging and Interior Decorating

The early spring home selling-season is kicking off. There’s no time like the present to start decluttering and transforming your lived-in home into a show-worthy property to make a positive impression on potential buyers. That means attending to the most important details that will create mass buyer appeal and increase your home’s value.

“A seller has to try to be objective by looking at their home as a product or some other commodity that one would purchase,” says Lisa Gallagher, a real estate professional with William Raveis, Newtown, Conn. “You have only one chance to get it right so present your home in the best possible light.”

Indeed, 95 percent of homes that are staged by professional home stagers sell, on average, in 35 days or less and for near the asking price – versus 140 days for non-staged homes, according to a study by the Accredited Staging Professionals (ASP), a national staging trade organization.

Staged homes also show better in photographs.

“Homes that are prepared for market and look good on the Internet, usually sell the quickest,” Gallagher says. “Time is money and less time on the market means less stress and frustration for the seller.”

While some homes may require more work than others, the following represent our top staging “do’s and don’ts” that are essential in getting your property ready for sale.

PJ & Co.’s Top 5 Do’s in Home Staging

1. Focus on curb appeal. 
Make the best first impression by sprucing up the lawn and landscape.

  • Remove dead or overgrown shrubs.
  • Touch up any peeling paint, and power wash the outside if needed.
  • Repair any cracks in the driveway and walkway and also power wash steps and railings if necessary.
  • Look at the outdoor lighting. Is it time to repair or replace?
  • Add welcoming touches to the front door including seasonal plants and a fresh welcome mat.
  • Ensure that you have a prominent, working doorbell and that the front door is freshly painted.

2. Declutter and neutralize.

living room_patti

Living Room Staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating
Removing the carpet to reveal hardwood floors, adding a coat of neutral paint, and updating lighting, window treatments and accessories gives a fresh, bright and updated look to the room.

Look at each room objectively and start packing.

  • Remove anything that will distract buyers from seeing your property, including personal collections (yes, that sports memorabilia room has to go!), a wall of family photos, newspapers, books and magazines, etc.
  • Consider donating outdated furniture and household accessories to a local nonprofit.

3. Refresh walls, rugs and windows treatments. 
When was the last time your seller painted? Are their imperfections or scratches on the walls? Is the current paint color dated? If so, consider adding a fresh coat of neutral paint. The same applies to area rugs and carpeting. Be sure to have them professionally cleaned and, if dated, consider replacing. If you have hardwood floors under the carpeting, you’ll find it worthwhile to remove and refinish the floors so you can then use the hardwoods as a selling-point. As for window treatments, replace any outdated or specific styles. Or if you have great windows — make sure they stand out by removing all of the window treatments.

4. Brighten and add warmth. 


Master Bathroom Staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating
Stagers made this bathroom sparkle from ceiling to floor by adding updated light fixtures with bright, cheerful accessories.

It’s important that the home feels light and bright. Open the curtains wide (or replace as indicated above) and let in as much natural light as possible. Also, replace any light fixtures that are outdated and make sure all existing lights are working.

5. Make it shine. 
Clean, dust, vacuum, and deodorize. Think: aggressive spring cleaning!

We often suggest to our clients that they have a professional service clean the property from top to bottom — including the walls, ceilings, and baseboards. Dirt eats equity. The more your home shines, the better for prospective buyers. Windows and mirrors should be free of fingerprints, and hardwood floors should shine.

Scrub bathrooms and kitchens so they sparkle. Don’t forget to dust lampshades and curtains too.

Top 5 Don’ts in Home Staging

1. Don’t be emotionally attached. 
As soon as your sellers make the commitment to sell, they need to look at their end goal. Are they downsizing, moving to be near family, or a warmer climate? It’s important for them to emotionally detach from selling their home. Any negative remarks you gather as their real estate professional from home buyers, the sellers need to be able to use as constructive criticism and be willing to do what it takes to get their “product” sold timely and for top dollar.

2. Don’t be afraid to team up. Selling a home can be overwhelming. Just packing and decluttering is a monumental task and that is why using a professional home stager is an investment in getting your property sold. A professional stager (not a decorator) is an expert who can look at the home objectively and provide proven methods to help enhance your clients’ home showings.

3. Don’t leave anything broken. 
Everything should function properly and be in working order. Sellers need to make sure they repair leaky faucets, cracked windows, loose doorknobs, broken tile, as well as replace any light bulbs that don’t work.

4. Don’t invest in major renovations.


Kitchen Staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating
Updated dark wood cabinets with white paint is a simple solution to giving a kitchen a more modern appeal.

Now is not the time to gut the kitchen with a complete makeover. Keep it to the essentials in giving the home a basic cosmetic fix. Painting goes a long way in providing a modern “facelift” to a home, from the kitchen cabinets to the bathroom vanities. Update a home by adding new flooring, if needed, a new bathroom vanity and light fixture, and making any necessary repairs — those projects can be worth the investment to get the house sold.

5. Don’t buy all new furniture. 
Rearrange and put away excessive pieces to simplify and make the room appear larger. Update or hide imperfections in the sellers’  furniture with new throws and pillows. However, if your sellers are already planning to purchase updated furniture for their new home, they may want to consider buying sooner for selling purposes too.

For more examples of interior decorating and home staging, visit

PattiABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patti Stern, principal, interior decorator and professional stager of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating, has been decorating and staging homes since 2005. She and her team provide turnkey, full service home-staging and interior decorating to clients across Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts. She also developed an award-winning staging program for luxury home builder, Toll Brothers. Stern has been featured in Connecticut Magazine, the Hartford Courant, Danbury News-Times and on NBC Connecticut and FOX TV. She is a regular contributor to REALTOR Magazine’s Styled, Staged & Sold blog. To contact, e-mail Patti Stern at

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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  1. Sheila Murphy

    The photography in this article was used to make the pre-staged photos look MUCH worse. Even the darker bathroom countertop was photographed lower to make the undiscerning viewer think that staging made the biggest difference rather than the photographic angle.

  2. Radha Rayasam

    I agree with you Sheila Murphy. People aren’t dumb. Not good & convincing before and after pictures.

  3. I hired a painter to remove ALL the wall paper and re-paint in greys and creams. I hired a Prof. Stager who was amaizing. The home had sat on the market for 3 YEARS prior to my getting the listing, I did these few things, touched up the landscaping and the home sold and closed in 45 days! The buyer’s even wanted to purchase the staggers furnishings! It makes all the difference!

  4. Bette Abrams

    Looked like everything was a major renovation from before and after…in my opinion, not a good example of staging. When I stage I try to work with what they have , especially if they don’t have much of a staging budget.

  5. Great article Patti! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Janna

    i agree the photography makes a huge difference. The key to selling a hard-to-sell home is good staging and a good photographer. Many agents cheap out on the photography and it is such a make or break for showing a home.

  7. Sandy B.

    Most buyers do not want painted cabinets–especially white. Rich, warm, medium-dark woods are still highest demand and look the richest. Throw rugs, throws, towels and owners’ possessions are distracting. We want to see the house; not the sellers’ stuff. I like vacant best. That way you see exactly what you are buying!

  8. Here is a great book to help you with your photographing and staging needs. Simple steps to more clients and more deals.

  9. Bob

    Its says don’t invest in remodeling, but isn’t that what they did in the pictures ? New flooring in the first picture, new lighting, says paint your house. All that will add up quickly. Also, the pictures are much better and from more revealing angles in the after pictures.

    I do see many pictures that the seller shot on an iphone and put on their website, many not good. You can hire a local photographer (with a real camera, not a phone) for only a few hundred who will come shoot the house and grounds, edit them, and email you the pictures back with in 1 or 2 days. It’s worth the wait.

  10. Jennifer Toothman

    Great article. Loved seeing that Lisa is from Newtown. My mom is from Newtown and went to Sandy Hook Elementary. My cousins remain in the area.

  11. The intent of this wonderful article is clear, but it’s polluting the data when you say remove the clutter and there’s new hardwood floors in the “after” picture.

  12. I agree that many of the before pictures are dark and make the after pictures look more impressive, however, paint and updated fixtures are not considered major remodeling. Old wood cabinets are not desirable, so painting them is a simple fix to update them. Empty rooms don’t sell houses- it is proven repeatedly that furniture helps buyers determine the size and scale of a room and give them something to connect with in the space. Ms. Stern’s business is successful because she knows what she is doing!

  13. mary

    They did not install new flooring Tuney Haige — article said they removed old carpet to reveal the wood flooring beneath !

  14. I agree with all the things listed above especially no 1 and 2. Great blog by the way and thanks for sharing!

  15. Home staging is the climax of the home selling process and should be considered as such. Everything should be in order to guarantee that it will be a success.

  16. Home staging is an integral part of the home selling process. It is where your potential buyer will decide whether or not to move forward with the purchase. If you’ve got everything prepared, then there’s no need to worry!