Design of The Times – Occupied Home Staging 101

Are you thinking about selling your home? If the answer is yes, then buckle up and I’ll take you for a ride through an occupied home staging consultation! Final stop? Back home in a beautifully showcased house that is market ready! The goal is to get the highest price possible with the least amount of time on the market. 

There are many tricks of the trade to get your house ready for the market. I’m going to go through the must-dos to turn your house into a real estate show home. Throughout this month and next I will fill you in on all the most important staging hacks to turn your house-selling dreams into a reality!

The staging process can be uncomfortable. With many of your familiar items packed away to maximize space, it’s easy to get restless as time passes. Do not lose sight of the goal. Your home prep is the single most important thing you can physically do to sell your home. It’s your chance to show buyers why you fell in love with it when you bought it. Put the hard work in because it pays off! The pricing and marketing are in the hands of your realtor, so choose wisely. Remember, the market dictates the price of your home. A good realtor will interpret that and get your house sold! 

Each viewing is just as important as the first one. You never know who is going to walk into your home and fall in love with it. So, every viewing is your opportunity as a homeowner to showcase your home to perfection. Treat each showing as the only one and go all out to prep your home. Leaving potential buyers with a great feeling about your house means you’ve done your job!

Here we go! 


Front Entrance

They say a potential buyer makes the decision if they are open to your home or not, within the first 11 seconds of walking up to and into your front door. First impressions really are everything. A lived-in home and a staged home can have vastly different front foyers. Living in a space requires ease and functionality, while staging your home requires space and visualization. There are a few items that many people have in their front entrance, no matter the size. An ottoman or bench, a small table, a thick rubber-bottom waterproof door mat, a coat rack (depending on closet situation), and a boot tray. Now, add to this the real life items such as coats, keys, dog leashes, boots and shoes for the whole family, and we are quickly running out of space, no matter the size of the area. Filling the space you have is real life. Just because you have more room doesn’t necessarily mean you will have more space; it means you will fill more space! 

When buyers enter your home, we need them to not feel boxed in. They need room to move and they need a calm setting. The best way to kickstart your viewing is by opening up the front porch and give the buyers, their family members, and their realtor space to all pile in the front door and remove their shoes. So, remove the bench and the table, remove the heavy-duty floor protection. Empty the key hooks, the coat hooks, remove the boot tray and coat rack. There is no greater staging gift you can give to a front entrance than opening it up by emptying it out. With a decorative mat on the floor and a simple mirror or piece of art on the wall, your job is done and the first impression is set.


Stage Rooms for What They Are

Living in a home and staging it for the real estate market are two different worlds. If your home is a 2- or 3-bedroom house, make it easy for the buyers to visualize what they will be acquiring. If one of those bedrooms is filled with boxes, bins, and Christmas decorations, you are telling the buyers that this house is not equipped with enough storage space. You are also missing an opportunity to showcase that space. Likewise, if you have your rec room turned into a bedroom, even though it may work for you and your family, it is giving the buyers the impression that this house is not laid out and spaced out as well as it should be, since the owners are setting up makeshift rooms. If people cannot see a space with their own eyes, visualize their own belongings in there, you may be missing an opportunity to sell your home. 



The kitchen is the heart of the home and the easiest transformation of them all. Buyers are either walking into a lived-in home, a vacant home, or a staged home. Lived-in homes are busy. That’s just life. Even when homeowners declutter, it’s sometimes difficult to know what the next steps of staging are. Decluttering and staging are quite different, but homeowners are hoping for the same result. 

The goal of kitchen staging is to maximize counter space and feature the items that people are purchasing. With a cleared off countertop, you are showing the buyers how much space they will have to work with, and you are taking away the distractions and changing the buyer’s focus to the features of the room. Instead of “Oh! That’s the same toaster we have” you may get a “Wow! Look at that backsplash!” or “There is so much room here for cooking!” Shifting the buyer’s attention to areas of importance can be the difference in a dead-end viewing and an offer on your house.


Closets, Cupboards and Pantries

When people are moving and viewing, there are many checkmarks they are trying to tick. It is important for you to showcase as many of those checkmarks as your home allows. One area that is often neglected (or filled) is closets. Many of us have our closets utilized to the max. When staging your home, it is important to showcase this space and show buyers the full potential of each inch of your home. Many buyers are moving because they have outgrown their current home. It is up to you to show them how easy it is to live in your current home. We all own too much so the closets tend to become a place to stash things since they have doors we can close. Your house preparation is a great time to purge and start packing up for the big move.



There is no greater gift you can give your realtor than to minimize your belongings. Your realtor can only work with what you give them. First worry about preparing for the real estate photos, then the viewings. This can buy you some time from “hiding” items away for the photos to actually getting them organized or removed altogether. The more that buyers can picture themselves in a space the greater the chance that they will leave the viewing with a positive feeling. Positive feelings in real estate viewings speak volumes. If your home can be the one that the buyer compares all the others to, you’re off to a great start.


Maximize Space

This is the perfect follow up to the ‘Minimize’ section. One of the main reasons for minimizing your belongings is to maximize space. Buyers walk into a viewing and take snapshots of each space; especially if they are in the trenches going from viewing to viewing. They tend to stop evaluating each room with the same level of precision, and just have a glance. If they look in a room that is filled to the brim with furniture, there is a good chance that their first thought will be an overwhelming ‘there is no room in here.’ By minimizing furniture (within reason) and personal belongings, you’re helping buyers ease into their viewing. 


Leave An Unfinished Space Unfinished

It’s sometimes hard to not utilize all the space in your home. As I mentioned earlier, living in a home and selling it are two different worlds. If you have an unfinished or semi-finished room in your house, try to keep it unfinished for selling. By setting up a makeshift office, bedroom, or rec room in a space without drywall, paint, fixtures, etc, you’re telling buyers that the finished portion of the home – the portion they may be buying and moving into in a matter of weeks, is not sufficient and they too may not have enough finished space. This screams ‘upcoming project!’ to a potential buyer. To some this is welcoming, but to many it is a negative. Another reason to keep unfinished portions of the home empty is so buyers can see the space for what it is. Storage, an extra bedroom down the road, a cool hangout for the kids. The possibilities are endless! 

This half of the must-do list will surely get you well on your way to making that beautiful show home ready to hit the market. Remember, this is your chance to put in 100% effort and leave the rest to your realtor. Go all in for photos. Have nothing out of place. Once the photos are on MLS, they are in internet land forever. So, make it count! 

See you next month for more staging tips! 

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by Megan Callahan