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Published on May 10, 2023

How to Stage Your Home for Sale: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Multiple Offers and a Quick Sale

Declutter, Clean, and Make Upgrades to Increase Your Home's Appeal to Buyers

Home for sale upgrades and staging

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Are you thinking of selling your home or rental property over the coming months? If so, repairs, upgrades, and staging are critical steps to ensure you capitalize your property’s potential value!

Whether you’re selling in a hot or cold real estate market, more eyes on your property listing leads to more visits to your open houses. If you’re lucky, these then translate into multiple offers to maximize your sale price. Given the price point of most real estate, it’s worth it to spend a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars to prepare your home for sale.

According to the National Association of Realtors, “eighty-two percent of buyers’ agents said staging made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.” The so-called “HGTV” effect also works against a seller’s favor – potential buyers expect properties to be freshly upgraded and staged to appear like the homes they see on renovation “reality” shows.

This leaves a small number of buyers who can see the “diamond in the rough” to visualize the potential of a home behind clutter, outdated fixtures, or gaudy decor. The good news is that many of these hurdles are easy to overcome with a combination of DIY and targeted projects assigned to professional handymen or contractors.

We have fresh experience with this topic, having listed and sold our property over the past three months! Below, we share three approaches to make your property shine:

Affiliate link disclosure: purchasing via the link below supports our writing at no extra cost to you.

Declutter & Clean

Before planning any repairs or upgrades, it is important to thoroughly declutter your home. Pare your possessions down to the absolute minimum of what you will need as you prepare and list your home on the market. In an ideal world, property owners should move out completely to create a blank canvas for the pre-sale staging.

During your decluttering process, remove any highly personalized items like family photos or sentimental trinkets. You will want potential buyers to easily visualize their own items in your space, and their own family photos on your wall.

With your your home clutter free, the next step is a deep cleaning of your entire home. Products like Krud Kutter (a kitchen degreaser) and Goo Gone (an adhesive remover) can work wonders on kitchen cabinets, tiles, and other surfaces. For heavy mineral or rust deposits on toilets, sinks, and showers, try CLR.

Deodorize your carpets using baking soda or commercial deodorizers. Pressure wash exterior brick, concrete, or wood surfaces (walls, driveways, patios, or decks. Use a spot cleaner on any stains on your carpet.

You may need to consider replacement for parts of the home that can’t be cleaned despite your best efforts. This includes badly stained carpets, toilets, and plumbing fixtures.

Home Repairs / Upgrades

row of homes for sale upgrades and staging

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina 🇺🇦 on Unsplash

Now that your home is both declutter and sparkling clean, it’s time to tackle home repairs and upgrades. You may want to ask a realtor to walk through your property with you and suggest upgrades with a fresh set of eyes. Some property owners even hire a professional home inspector to identify any issues that need to be addressed. If you wait for a potential buyer to find these issues via their own inspector, you face the risk of providing the buyer a “seller credit” to make the repairs themselves after closing.

Your to-do list should include fixing anything that is in obvious need of repair: leaky faucets, cracks in the drywall, broken appliances, etc. Several easy DIY repairs you can also perform over a weekend include oiling squeaky doors, caulking bathtubs or shower stalls, replacing toilet seats with soft-close seats, and touch-up painting any wall blemishes throughout your entire home (or at minimum your front door).

For those among you with either the skills to do some basic plumbing and electrical wiring, or the budget to hire a professional, the following upgrades are cost-effective ways to refresh the look of your property:

  • Install new switches, electrical outlets, and faceplates throughout your home. Don’t skimp on the new switches and faceplates, these are quick upgrades that make a surprising impact on a room! Consider these panel switches with LED locator lights and matching faceplates. For outlets, consider installing a few with USB inputs (link here).
  • Replace outdated light fixtures with more modern designs (look at comparable homes in your local market for design inspiration). Budget a few hundred dollars for the lighting inside your door, in the kitchen, and in your dining room. Replace all the bulbs in your home with LED bulbs in the warm-medium spectrum (2700K to 3000K for soft and warm rooms, and 3500K for bright rooms and workrooms like the kitchen). There’s nothing worse than harsh cold/blue lights and mismatched bulbs in the same room.
  • Replace outdated faucets in bathrooms, and install a new kitchen faucet. In the kitchen, you can also swap out cabinet pulls to match your new faucet. Avoid chrome finishes on these as that look is a bit dated, and instead look for brushed nickel, matte black, gold, or brass.
  • Install a 240 Volt NEMA 6-50 in your garage (on a 30 Amp circuit if possible) to make your home “EV Charger Ready” (note: check local regulations as this may require a permit). Install this near the garage door for the most flexibility so owners can charge a car outside the garage as well as inside.
  • Install smart home devices throughout your property, taking care to ensure that they are compatible via a single application ecosystem (e.g. Google Home). Consider smart devices for locks, your front doorbell (adding a camera function), thermostat, and exterior flood lights (adding camera functions).
  • Upgrade the exterior “curb appeal” of your home with some fresh landscaping (trimming existing trees, and planting additional plants as needed). Plants that are native to your area are most likely to survive with minimal maintenance and could be an attractive home feature for ecologically minded buyers.
  • Updated kitchens and bathrooms are major areas of a home that buyers evaluate when considering a purchase. If your kitchen and bathrooms appear outdated, you may consider upgrading appliances, cabinets, countertops, and plumbing fixtures for an updated and modern look. If your cabinets are in decent shape, you can save some cash by keeping them in place and replacing only the countertop.

As you plan your upgrades and renovations, consider your expected return on investment. You may not want to invest $50k to boost your asking price by $30k. Look at comparable recent sales in your neighborhood and competing homes currently on the market. Evaluate the condition and age of these properties to determine course of action.

You may also want to consider the time it will take to complete your upgrades and how long you expect your home to be on the market. Spending $15k may be worth it if the work does not prevent you from getting to market on your schedule, and if it will increase the speed and quality of the offers coming in.

When selling a property in a high value market (i.e. aiming for a high price point), most potential buyers expect upgrades and repairs to be completed before your listing hits the market. If you don’t plan to make repairs, you may need to offer a significant discount from market value. At these higher price points, the cost of doing these simple upgrades and repairs is also a smaller percentage of your overall sale, so this extra effort may be worth it! For example, spending $15k on new kitchen might not be worth it for a $300k value home, but it may be worth it for an $800k home.

Decor & Staging

nicely decorated interior with light colors

Photo by Spacejoy on Unsplash

The final step before proceeding to your home listing is decor and staging. The steps outlined below will make your property shine compared to other homes on the market:

  • Choose light colored rugs and artwork to make your space appear larger.
  • Be strategic with a few pops of color here and there. A bright red patio furniture set will make a dull back patio come alive.
  • Let the light in! Open your curtains and blinds to allow natural light to make your home look bright and inviting. Turn on all light fixtures when you expect potential buyers to visit for an extra pop of energy.
  • Bake some bread or cookies the day of your open house. Who doesn’t love the smell of freshly baked treats?


For older homes, one optional step you may consider is offering to purchase a home warranty for your buyer. Home warranties provide some peace of mind for buyers by covering any expenses related to aging appliances and HVAC systems.

You can track your home repairs and upgrades, plus other routine home maintenance tasks, in a home maintenance log book. Join the Citizen Upgrade mailing list and your welcome email will include a link to a google document template you can use to get started. Or get a paper copy of the log book here on Amazon.com (available in paperback or hardback). Both versions of the log book include an extensive checklist of maintenance tasks to consider, which you can edit down to suit the needs of your property. This book will demonstrate to potential buyers that you have maintained your home well. You can pass the book on to them on closing day so they can continue the maintenance plan into the future.

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