5 Staging Principles that Pay Off

a living room is staged with a dining table and chairs, chandelier, couch and chairs, a plant, and artwork

Staging has become such a staple of the real estate industry that some agents and even non-licensed specialists have devoted entire businesses to it. While some agents advise their clients to hire a professional stager, others take staging into their own hands. A few even have an arsenal of available supplies to furnish and decorate the property they’re listing. Gaye Ribble, the Team Leader for EmpowerHome Team in Centennial, Colorado, has accumulated between $150,000 and $170,000 worth of staging items during her three decades in the industry!

But you don’t have to be an industry veteran to get started with home staging. By following these five staging principles, you can make cost-effective and smart decisions to help your sellers maximize their market and get a high return on their sales investment.

1. Think Digital First

According to listing agents, the most important staging materials (in order) are staged photos, traditional physical staging, and videos. In today’s market, buyers typically view more houses online than they see in person, and usually view properties online before attending a showing or open house. Because staging plays such an important role in helping potential buyers visualize living in a home, it makes sense that sellers should prioritize digital or virtual staging for their listing. It’s also a cost-effective way to implement some form of staging without making the investment in furniture and decor. 

2. Declutter

When buyers attempt to visualize their life in a potential new home, reminders that someone else currently lives there can be extremely distracting. Sellers and stagers would be wise to keep this in mind by prioritizing cleanliness and simplicity when preparing a property for showings or photos. Besides removing bulky or excess furniture, children’s toys, unnecessary kitchen appliances and other personal artifacts, sellers should arrange a deep cleaning and make sure all displayed items are neat and orderly. Remember, you’re selling the amazing quartz countertops, not the utensils piled on top of them.

This principle also applies to lawn maintenance. Curbs should be edged, hedges should be trimmed, and “no stone should be left unturned,” so to speak.

3. Create a Blank Canvas

When staging a home, the goal is to help buyers realize a home’s full potential. If a room feels dark or slightly cramped, a mirror or strategic lighting might help open up the space. Perhaps the sellers have painted the home with lively and unique color choices in different rooms. Repainting a home with whites or neutral colors would allow buyers to imagine putting their own signature impressions on the space. Even simple tricks like removing half a closet’s items to make it appear larger can go a long way.

4. Watch Home Design Shows and Follow Trends

The home shows buyers watch on HGTV or streaming services still have a big influence on the mental image they have of the home-buying experience. What’s more, the needle of what people consider to be “neutral” or “timeless” is always shifting. Because the hosts of these shows have their fingers on the pulse of current design trends, stagers would be wise to watch these shows and apply the design choices they see to their own listings. By following current trends, sellers can appeal to the largest number of potential buyers.

5. Match Your Home’s Aesthetics

Although it’s important to follow trends and keep them in mind to appeal to the masses, it’s not more important than matching the style of the property itself. A quaint Victorian cottage should not be staged with an interior that’s straight out of an AllModern catalogue. Likewise, furnishing a concrete and steel listing with vintage or craftsman-style items would be unwise. At the end of the day, this principle comes down to appealing to the market that is seeking the particular type of listing.

Why stage? According to NAR’s 2023 Profile of Home Staging (for which they surveyed thousands of agents), investing an average of 1 percent of a home’s sales price on staging resulted in 75 percent of sellers seeing a return on investment of 5-15 percent over asking. Eighty-one percent of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home. And, when staging a home, 20 percent of sellers’ agents reported an increase of 1 to 5 percent of the dollar value offered by buyers in comparison to similar homes.

While staging isn’t free or easy, it can pay off. And, by following these five staging principles, you can minimize the stress of staging while maximizing the return on your effort.

What staging guidelines or principles do you follow? What’s proved to be a fool-proof trick to appealing to buyers? Let us know on our Facebook page. And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more insightful articles and research. 




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