My wife has been doing all the staging for our houses these past eight months, and is incredibly good at it. Not just making a house look amazing, but doing it in such a way that is both inexpensive and easy to manipulate.
Here are some of her top tips on staging on budget for maximum impact:
1. Buy Small & Light. First and foremost, look for furniture that is both light-weight (you’ll be moving it often) and small (makes the rooms look bigger). Surprisingly, it’s difficult to find either of these things, but if you shop around, they can be found. My wife gets most of our staging materials at four places: American Signature Furniture, a small, locally-owned furniture shop called Furniture Land, Walmart, and Craigslist. In fact, most of the furniture comes from Craigslist and most of the accessories come from Walmart.
We used Ikea for many items in the first house, but quickly realized two problems: things that are put together inside a room can be tough to get out of the room, and Ikea furniture is HEAVY (think industrial strength particle board-heavy!).
For things like beds, instead of a mattress, you can use two boxsprings or a boxspring under a blow-up mattress. With the comforter on top, you can’t tell it’s not a real bed, but it’s much cheaper and much easier to move than a real bed. Be prepared, though, to rebuild it every time a buyer sits on it (which is about 3 times a week).
2. Bargain Hunt. Now that we’re on our third set of staging furniture, we can do an entire house (furniture, accessories, pictures, etc) for about $2500.
My wife will often buy things that are discontinued, pieces of larger sets where other pieces are damaged, items with small scratches or imperfections, etc. She even has salespeople from stores call her when they have “small and cheap” stuff available, as they know what she does and what she’s looking for.
We even found a woman who does woodworking who offered to make us furniture if we ever needed a custom piece, though we haven’t had to use her yet.
3. Use colors wisely. Each set of furniture is color coordinated, and depending on the house (lighting, color of the floors, color of the cabinets, etc), she’ll choose one of the sets.
For example, the red and brown set goes really well with hardwood floors and dark cabinets, such as in The Second Chance House.
And the blue/green set goes really well in the more neutral houses, such as in The Corn House.
4. Use staging to hide flaws in the houses. For example, in this bathroom, there was a cracked tile behind the magazines and under the plant. We made sure the buyers knew about them after the contract was signed (so they could back out if it was really a deal-breaker), but it kept the buyers from focusing on it when they first viewed the house.
5. Use staging to highlight positive property characteristics. For example, in a recent house, we thought putting a TV over the fireplace would make for a really nice living room setup. We ordered one of these prop TVs (the one on the wall) off the Internet, and hung it up.
It gives the buyer the ability to imagine how they could actually use this room, and we’ve had two buyers (men, specifically) ask if I could have one of our contractors actually mount their TV exactly where we have the prop staged.
For more great staging tips, check out Part 2 of this article…