Smart Staging Solutions for the Owner Occupied House

By Julea Joseph, guest contributor

JuleaAs a home stager, I hear weekly this song from people getting ready to sell their occupied home:

“My closets are stuffed, I hate my living room sofa, Grandma’s old dinette set looks shoddy, and those oak cabinets in the kitchen are not going to fly with the younger buying bunch. Sure, you wish for a home that looks like the ‘AFTER’ reveal of your favorite HGTV show. A house where everything is perfectly in place–plump pillows perking up your living room sofa, stylish accessories adoring your lovely kitchen, and all your closets looking like Martha Stewart spent the weekend in there.”

It can be done! The majority of homes on the market have people living in them, have well used furniture, and spaces not recently remodeled.  You just need a professional plan, to make smart updates and changes, and have the emotional resolve to understand that your home becomes a stylish exhibit in a real estate professional’s advertising campaign for a cute couple to fall in love with.

How do you pull off this feat? A home stager can be your ace in the hole to tell you what stays and goes, what to pack up, and what needs to be improved.  Once you get done packing and improving, the stager also will swing back in and up-styled your home using your furnishings and accessories to their best advantage. That includes everything from choosing a perfect color palette to styling each room to make that cute couple gush.

Let’s walk through the process. Home stagers start with an evaluation in which they’ll review your home from curbside to back fence offering a list of instructions and suggested enhancements, changes and upgrades for you to get done.

PACK.  You are moving, so pack it up. Start in the main living areas of your home, then bedrooms, then finally basement/storage and garage.  Pack your home like a potential buyer would walk through your home: Foyer, guest closet, living room, dining room, etc. The goal of packing is to showcase every space of your home from guest closet to porch, and to not distract the buyer with your stuff.  And yes, especially those closets … after all, people move because they are out of room at their old house.  Sell them their dream!

Living in a staged home TIP:  Purchase flip top bins for each room of your home that you can use to organize yourself if the phone rings for a showing. Label each bin with the room.  Pop the bins in the garage or storage for showings.

IMPROVE.  Make smart, cost effective, return-on-your-investment updates and improvements.  From a fresh coat of paint, walls and maybe your front door, swapping out your light fixtures both outside and in, refinishing or replacing flooring, to more involved projects such as painting kitchen cabinets. Smart updates can offer a great return. Sure, they require a bit of cash to make these improvements, but the goal is a turnkey home, no buyer today wants a long list of things to do prior to moving in. The days of a “carpet allowance” are long gone–eliminate as many negative reactions to your home as possible.

  • Living in a staged home TIP: If you are painting your rooms, plan on having the replacement lighting done at the same time. The ladders are all there and no need to circle back to touch up where the new fixture went in.

Photo: Julea/Reinventing Space/Portraits of Home

CLEAN.  Clean so your home glows, from the walls inside of closets to the windows outside.  During the selling period, you have carte blanche to have a cleaning crew in scour your home every few weeks. It frees up time for you to do other things and keep the stress of selling in bay.  The goal is a super clean home that translates to the buyer that the homeowners care, maintain, and love their home–and so will the buyers.

  • Living in a staged home TIP: Try using only one bathroom for showering when selling our home. This way the other baths stay in “model” condition. Always replace wet towels with dry ones if showing your home.

ROOM STYLING.  Each space has to be styled to give the room its best selling advantage. This is where home stagers are best utilized. Our interior arrangement and design know-how can expertly arrange, style ,and revamp each of your spaces to showcase the room without any emotional connection. We are masters at making each room visually and emotionally fabulous for that ideal buyer.  We’ll use what you have by shopping your home, perhaps using pieces found in other rooms, and reinvent the setting for selling, rather than dwelling.

If pieces are off scale or are not appealing for the prospective buyer, we can swap them out with rental or purchased items. Home stagers are a one-stop shop to getting your home styled for that targeted buyer. The goal is that the buyer understands how to use each space and connects with the home and pictures themselves living there.

  • Living in a staged home TIP:  Your furniture placement may be adjusted to visually invite buyers in and allow them to walk freely in the room and then pass to the next space. It may not be the layout you are use to, but you’ll have to make allowance during the selling period.

Photo: Julea/Reinventing Space/Portraits of Home

This post originally appeared at Tales of an Interior Stylist. Copyright 2017.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julea Joseph is the owner and lead designer at Reinventing Space in Chicago. Visit her website and blog at

Blog Contributor

This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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  1. Great article Julea! Many homeowners believe they have to remove all their household items in order for it to sell. In fact, I tell homeowners it will probably cost less to stage their home using their items (or a few new ones) versus renting items.
    The hardest part is keeping the kids toys at bay. I tell homeowners to let the kids pick out the toys they cannot live without (within reason) and pack the rest away at an off-site storage site.

  2. Justin Decicco

    Hi there, I have heard many good things about house staging that it is the best option to increase the selling price of our house. I am also planning to go for house staging as we are moving to our new house next week. While discussing with my friend he suggested me about movers new york city. If you have any suggestions please tell me. Thanks in advance.

  3. Really amazing article,Thank you so much for this article.

  4. Great post, And really helpful.
    This is probably the best, Step-by-step guide.
    I have also written a blog if you would like to read.

    Thank you.

  5. Sienna

    Excellent advice on how to be ready to show immediately. I’d also recommend the article The “house itself” advice is pretty much the same, but it also adds some good tips on how to take care of yourself and family in the staging process, such as “moving out mentally” and always having “to go” bags ready for everyone with snacks, water, books, etc. for when your agent wants you to step out.

  6. Great post you have shared, thanks for sharing!!