Q: I am planning on placing my house on the market soon. Do I really need to stage it?

A: Imagine taking a date to a romantic dinner at a great restaurant. You pick up your date in a robe with unkempt hair. Your car is dirty and littered with fast food wrappers. Your $200 gourmet dinner is dished out on paper plates with plastic utensils. Do you think there will be a second date? Possible, but unlikely.

Selling a home without staging it is like selling yourself short on a date. Showcasing your property’s best features increases the likelihood of netting the highest offers with the fewest possible days on market.

The National Association of Realtors reports that 83% of buyers’ agents said staging a home makes it easier for potential buyers to visualize the property as their future home. Staged homes sell for up to 18% more than comparable homes that are not staged — and in a third of the time.

It bears repeating: Even in a busy market, staged homes typically sell for more money than comparable homes without staging. Staging is as important as your Multiple Listing Service (MLS) listing, yard sign, open house or caravan. It’s especially important to stage the family/living room, master bedroom and kitchen.

So what can you do to ready your house for sale?


Clean and declutter. You’ve heard it before: If you can live without it, it’s time to sell, donate or store it. Everything that’s leftover must be critical to your day-to-day living or accentuate your home’s key selling features.

Focus on value validators. Value validators are the key elements that justify a home’s listing price. The television set doesn’t validate the price, so arrange furniture to focus attention on fireplaces, architectural elements or views instead.

Stage it, don’t “design” it. Staging is demographic-driven while design is personal. It’s important to understand the difference. Choosing decor that is more “transitional” than stylish makes it appealing to the broadest possible audience. It’s not about how expensive the items are; it’s how they translate to potential buyers. When you lean too youthful, too modern, too formal or too shabby-chic, you lessen your home’s appeal to a segment of prospective buyers. Emotional connections and perceptions are key factors in selling a home. Don’t sabotage buyer perceptions in the name of personal style. Not everyone can see beyond furnishings.

Clutter-free spaces with design that is more traditional than trendy will make your home appealing to the largest number of buyers. (Courtesy of JoAnne Lenart-Weary)
Clutter-free spaces with design that is more traditional than trendy will make your home appealing to the largest number of buyers. (Courtesy of JoAnne Lenart-Weary)

Implement design foundations. I know I just told you to not design, but you do need to implement a few solid design principles that impact the overall flow of the house. Allow 36 inches of open space for traffic flow, reinforce value validators with your largest upholstery and never use a rug smaller than 8 by 10 feet. In today’s world of wood, tile and cement floors, rugs are imperative, not only for aesthetics but also acoustics.

Trust that color sells. The days of creating rooms that look like big bowls of oatmeal are over. Choose muted tones, avoid accent walls (they shrink a space), and contrast light and dark color values for interest. A common mistake is keeping vivid colors in the interior of a room or on lower parts of walls. This may shrink a room or create a false ceiling line, making the room appear smaller than it is.

Be a standout. The average buyer looks at 12 homes before they purchase. Does your home blend in with all the others? Think of things that make the house distinctive and memorable, like an attractive front-door color, color blocking on a bookshelf, a touch of whimsy in the kitchen or living room, or luxurious bedding. Grabbing the eye of would-be buyers will help you get the price you want.


JoAnne Lenart-Weary is a home-staging expert at Staging and Design Network, a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered in a future HomeWork column by a member of the MBAKS, write to