I am in the process of selling my house I've heard research that says that staged houses sell for more money and quicker. I'm all for more money and less having to keep my house perfect, so I wanted to stage my house. My agent pays for a stager to come to my house and evaluate every room, give us a checklist and a to-do list, along with a quote for what she can do. While she was very helpful in giving us advice, we didn't want to spend the money getting someone else to do the staging. As a frugal Mooser, I am all for saving money in the process of making money. I would, however, recommend getting an agent who will pay for the initial consultation, because you could learn a lot about what it is you need to do before you do it.
Get rid of your emotions
Selling your house can be very emotional. You have many memories - good and bad - there and you don't want strangers trampling on them. In order to get the most money out of your house sale, you need to check your emotions at the front door. House selling is a business transaction and feelings have no place in business. This means that you'll have to let go of items you might be emotionally attached to, like those pen markings that mark your child's growth, or the wallpaper your late mother helped you choose.
Get yourself some boxes
At our last move, my husband spent a fortune on brand new boxes from U-Haul. This time we prepared early and have been collecting boxes from various spots for months. If you shop at a particular store often, get to know the manager and often they will even put boxes aside for you to pick up. I also saw that a friend is moving in down the street for me, so of course I gently asked if I could have their boxes when they are done. Don't be shy at this stage!
The first step in any house staging is to de-clutter. My home is filled (filled I tell you!) with stuff, what with five of us living here, three of us being children and one of us (me) being a bit of a hoarder. I spent a good week of evenings packing stuff that we don't need into boxes and arranging them thoughtfully in the storage areas in my basement and garage. I took all souvenirs, special items that weren't decorative and even family pictures down. My bookshelves and my kid's bookshelves were packed tightly with books. I packed away some of the books, leaving space on the shelves for decorative items or for you know, space. Dressers were cleared, shelves were thinned out and the kitchen countertops were left empty. The effect was one of "do you still live there?". This was my intention, as you want potential buyers to see their stuff on the shelves in their minds, not only picture your child's grade 4 sculpture looming largely on the bookcase. The same goes for family photos. Buyers can't imagine themselves living in this house if your 16x24" wedding photo hangs over your bed.
Painting is probably the most important step in any house sale. Fresh paint does so much to a house - it covers dirt, brightens up the place and replaces what you think is a good colour scheme. While you could hire a painter, doing the work yourself is always the best deal. Send the kids to your parents or wait until they are in bed, and get painting. Look for coupons or sales ahead of time and store the paint until you are ready to use. Home Hardware has a very handy paint calculator so you can get just the right amount, saving you from making a second trip or from having a can you can't bring back once it is mixed. The Dollar Store has cheap tools for painting, including rollers and paint trays. Use old sheets that you realized during your declutter don't fit any beds in the house to cover all flooring and furniture. If you are like my husband and don't cover the floors, we found a scrubbie pad from the Dollar Store works great to scrape paint off hardwood!
Painting a neutral colour is very important at this stage, because some people might hate blue so much, it makes them hate your house. At first I was not happy with the very neutral colour my husband chose for our paint job, but seeing the photos of our home I realized it really brightened up my otherwise somewhat dark home. Benjamin Moore has a great article on colours to paint your house for sale.
Clean, clean, clean and then clean some more
Buyers want a clean home. I hadn't really deep cleaned my home since I moved in, having gotten pregnant within months of closing with my third child, I was very busy as it was. So, it was quite the shock to me how much dirt was living on my carpets, my blinds, my cupboards, my doors and my trim. I am all about organic or natural products for cleaning so I picked up sponges from the dollar store, got a few club size tubs of vinegar, some spray bottles and ripped up some baby clothes that were stained for rags and got cleaning. It took me about a month of working each night and through the days when I could to get every inch of my home clean. But, truly, my house sparkles. I now notice any new fingerprint or drop of water on the tile. You should also consider cleaning inside of cupboards and drawers, as new buyers might peek in there and if it is a disaster, that could turn some people off.
We have an industrial carpet cleaner, but if you don't have one, they are easy to rent at grocery stores. I just used borax and vinegar, rather than harmful chemicals and the water that came up through the carpets was the requisite brown to black colour! Check out my article on how to be a frugal organic cleaner and Heather's on how to spring clean inexpensively.
Get rid of extra and ugly furniture
While my kitchen table and chairs were functional, they didn't look very appealing. My yellow fabric chairs were stained beyond repair. So, my very handy husband built us a brand new kitchen table with very simple instructions from Ana White, who has free instructions on so many DIY projects. Chairs are harder to build, so we bought a set from Ikea, as I found them the cheapest place for new chairs. They also had a buy three, get the fourth free deal on, which worked perfect for us. We tried to sell our old set on kijiji, but it didn't go well, so we gave it away for free instead. The look of the kitchen changed immensely with the new table and chairs so it was definitely money well spent.
We had a total of four dressers in our bedroom, which to me just plain made sense since 3.5 of them were full of my clothes, but it made the room look smaller. I sadly took the clothes from two of the dressers and stored them in bins in my basement beside my children's out of season or too small clothing. We sold the dressers for $100 on Kijiji and the room looks much more spacious.
Cost: $130 to build table/ $250 for chairs/ -$100 for sold dressers = total $280
Cover it up
If you can't get rid of stuff that is otherwise ugly or stained or well-worn, cover it up. Our large sectional couch is ten years old and has been through two dogs and three babies and a woman who sets her full glass of wine right on the cushion while reading. We couldn't really afford to pitch it and start new so we covered it up with strategically placed throws, both of which we already had, and brand new throw cushions that I got from Loblaws for $5 a piece. The couch looks new-ish again.
Our bedding didn't have a bed skirt, and while the stager suggested buying all new bedding, bedding can be expensive. Instead, we covered the bottom mattress with a white sheet and while it doesn't look fancy, it looks nicer and didn't cost a cent.
We have gorgeous hardwood floors in our home, but with all our children and animals, they have dings and scratches. We bought two rugs on sale from The Brick to add some softness and cover the floors a little bit.
Above I asked you to take away furniture when it made the rooms look cluttered, but in some cases your dead space needs something. You can move furniture from other rooms and give it a new use, which is a free way of doing it, or you can buy furniture to fill the space. My office had both my desk and my children's desk in it. It looked too cluttered, so we moved the kid's desk to one of my son's rooms where he had only a bed and a dresser, which filled that space for him. To my office, we purchased two club chairs from Ikea and added an ottoman that my husband made me last year. It looks beautiful and more of a place where someone would want to spend time.
Our living room is quite long and narrow and had some empty space, so again my ever-handy husband built a ladder shelf and we filled it with decorative items that look nice (although not too full).
Another free tip I learned from our stager was that beds against a wall made rooms look smaller, so strategically place your furniture so it makes the room look larger.
Now that all of your family photos are off the walls, are all the walls bare? Ours were mostly bare, although we placed up artwork that was more neutral, like paintings from our travels and photos I had taken that weren't of people. We did find a large canvas at XS Cargo for only $25, which fit nicely over our couch, but then put it elsewhere and splurged on a piece I loved from Urban Barn. I won't include that cost in here because it was an unnecessary splurge. My husband also built us a large-scale art piece to put on the stairway where the ceilings are tall. He simply built a wooden frame, bought a cheap fabric and staples it on. It looks like we spent hundreds on it!
You could also take photographs that you've taken over the years of scenery or striking images and frame them in cheap frames from Walmart or Ikea to save yourself money on artwork. I had two photos of ladders I had taken, which I framed in frames quite a bit larger than the photo for a larger piece.
Bargainmoosers, what actions did you take to stage your house for sale? Let me know in the comments below!
Photo credit: Sean dreilinger