Staging to Sell: An Ode to our First House

Welcome to our first installment of House-a-versary week! Check back every day to see how we are commemorating the one-year mark of buying our current house.

We worked with really fantastic realtors last year (I’ll share more about them later this week) on both the selling of our old house and buying of our new, and part of their package included a consult with a professional stager, Joyce Stoffel of Preferred Staging. Though I was already proud of the state our house was in (it took us almost 7 years to get there!), she had some really great tips to offer in de-cluttering and preparing to sell. After this experience, I am convinced that so much of selling has to do with how well a house shows. We had a ton of foot traffic and offers literally within hours of listing, and I am sure the staging had a lot to do with that.

As she explained, a stager is sort of the opposite of a decorator. She can help you to neutralize your home so that anyone can see themselves living there.

Before even entering the house, we purchased a new door mat (those make a huge difference!) and scrubbed the siding on the little porch. Inside, having a welcome foyer with a green plant and a pop of color (the pillow) is a great way to greet potential buyers.

Looking back at these photos, I miss the way these floors looked, but I do not miss how frequently they had to be cleaned!

We had a gallery of family photos above the sofa that we removed and replaced with this large compass we found at Eastern Market a few years back. What you can’t see in the photos is that we just moved the baby junk (swing, activity mat, Jumparoo) from one corner to the next. Joyce was all about de-cluttering and clearing off surfaces to make the room feel more open and clean.

We also removed/hid indicators of our cats, like scratching posts, food bowls, and litter boxes. To sell, we decided to board the cats at the vet for the weekend. I’m so glad we did – keeping up with pets is really tough during listing!

We didn’t have a lot of items tucked in the corners, but Joyce was really good at making sure floor space was clear to make rooms feel larger.

I also miss that capiz chandelier! That was one of the first upgrades we made to that house.

One of the reasons we bought this house was that Pat was able to lie down on the kitchen counters they were so large. We had started to forget their size with the accumulation of appliances, mail, fruit bowl, etc. Joyce had us completely clear the counters and only keep a display of olive oils out.

She also likes red to be the accent color in the kitchen and suggested using a red tea kettle and red tea towels for the pop of color. Fortunately, our realtors have done this a few times so they were able to loan us some props.

Another one of her signature touches is a bowl of red apples on the kitchen table. You could buy fake fruit, but we ran out of time to get to the craft store and used real ones.

Little plants in the bathrooms are nice touches, but otherwise keep counters completely clear.

In the bedroom, she suggested we swap out the photos we had above the bed for something larger and more colorful, so we found that artwork at Target. She liked that we had white bedding but did suggest more pillows to make it feel more luxurious (which we did not do).

In general, when trying to sell, cleaning the house within an inch of its life is pretty standard.

I was wrangling a baby when the photographer was snapping photos, otherwise I would have adjusted those crooked hangers. But I do miss that walk-in closet!

In the master bathroom, she liked the artwork we already had and the shelves displaying cotton swabs. Layering the towels beefed them up a bit, and she also had us roll hand towels in the shower to make it feel like a spa. The pretty soap was a HomeGoods find.

In the guest room, we had a couple of items to remove (a chair and an old coat rack that I did not like anyway). She also helped us pick out a paint color. It’s too bad we didn’t have someone help us with that – oh – six years prior so we could have enjoyed it longer! This was another place she suggested more pillows, and she was definitely right, but we had to be choosy on what we could upgrade with a slim budget.

In addition to turning on every single light in the house, which many people already know to do, she had us switch out the bulbs to the highest wattage available in the stores. I was shocked at what a difference that made!

In the clarinet room, we removed all the diplomas and certificates and replaced them with something big and colorful. We took out the music stands so the main part of the room was clear, and tidied up the desks.

Keeping the shower curtains open shows the beautiful tile work and offers another opportunity to roll towels. These we were really careful to not use and were able to return them to Target. The sponge and soaps were again HomeGoods finds.

The basement received some red pillows to add a pop of color (again, loaners from our prepared realtors) and a general deep-clean did the trick.

Funny story about that sofa. It was a Bauhaus that we purchased from Hamilton Sofa Gallery here in Northern Virginia and was the best sofa ever. When they delivered it, we pointed downstairs and the delivery guy responded with, “It’s not gonna go.” So, we could have paid the $300 restocking fee to not have an awesome sofa, or we could pay $400 to the guy who could come back and literally saw the sofa in half and rebuild it downstairs. We knew that it would always stay with the house, and that it did!

We also decided to leave the Ikea Expedit bookcase in the corner, as disassembling it seemed like way more work than it was worth.

In the basement storage room, Pat had to disassemble his electric brewery so no one thought we were Breaking Bad up in there. All of the components are just hidden under the table, which Joyce said could be a “folding table” to potential buyers. I was also surprised that she did not recommend we get a storage unit for all of our things in the storage room (not pictured, behind the camera). She said it was expected that the space be used as storage, and since we weren’t overflowing by any means we could just keep the bins there.

In the back yard, we got new outdoor pillows and just cleaned off the furniture. We did buy a few plants, but very little effort ever had to be done here because it was a condo-townhouse, so the community maintained all the lawn.

You can get a better idea from this picture how we had side “privacy fences,” but the yard was really communal.

There you have it! A tour of our last house plus the tips we learned from the stager. We highly recommend our realtors Jason and Bonnie, and also Joyce for any locals looking to stage their home to sell. Has anyone else ever worked with a stager? (Or perhaps just spent too much time watching HGTV?) What tips have you learned from the process?

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