7 expert tips on staging your home for a quick sale

Beat the house market blues and shine a spotlight on your property with home staging

Struggling to sell your home or wondering if you can still get a quick sale in the current housing market? Evidence suggests there’s a way you can outsmart this with a technique known as home staging.

Originally a concept that arrived on our shores from America, it’s become increasingly common in the UK as sellers compete to sell their homes in a volatile economic market filled with base rate hikes and increasingly expensive cost of living.

A new set of keys is a great feelingCredit: Shutterstock/Maya Lab
A new set of keys is a great feeling

But is there any real value to be found in staging your home? We think there is and with 84% of estate agents confirming that staged properties sell quicker than those that aren’t, we share some of the top tips to get you moving.

Providing perfection

Selling to the Instagram generation

If you’ve lived in your home for a long time, navigating today’s housing market that’s filled with buyers who expect perfection is tricky.

We spoke to Elaine Penhaul, Director of Lemon Lime Interiors, an award-winning home staging company that styles over 100 homes each year, to see why the process adds value.

“The key issue we find most of our clients facing,” Penhaul explains, “is that they purchased their homes in perhaps the ‘80s or 90’s  when it was considered the norm to buy a home that needed work. They expected to do the work and they often did the DIY work themselves.

“Now, they find themselves selling to an Instagram generation who want it to look up-to-date with the latest trends and all the work done.

“Why do they expect this? Because it’s how everything else is marketed to them,” she adds, “and they don’t have the extra time or money they need to change anything if it doesn’t suit their taste or needs.”

This is where home stagers come in. As creatures of habit, we often miss the great characteristics of our homes that are hidden under years of ‘life.’  A fresh pair of eyes can unearth the value and translate that into increased offers.

Numbers don’t lie

The proof is in the stats

With a background in business, Penhaul also created Stageflow, the first worldwide app to evidence the return on investment of staging a property ahead of sale. Aware that customers wanted actual numerical proof of the value of home staging, she ensured they had it.

When she says that staged properties sell for anywhere between 5-15% above offer price, she does this with confidence, and she has the numbers to back it up.

The Home Staging Association (a professional body for Home Staging professionals) also confirms this with its 2022 annual report. Compiled from surveying estate agents, property developers and home stagers it details increases of up to 15% above asking price on homes that were staged. This would equate to close to an extra £40,000 on the average UK house price of £261,000.

Credit: Home Staging Association

In 2023, we are also faced with the highest interest rates for 10 years. Adrian Anderson of property finance specialist Anderson Harris explains how this affect the flow of the market.

“The property market has moved from a sellers’ market to a buyers’ market,” Anderson says. “Many of our clients are ‘waiting to see’ what happens to interest rates and property values, hence there is less urgency to transact.”

The market is static and has been for some time. Clearly we need to find a way to stand out in the market and if a quick sale is needed, time is important.

If as the report states, in 2022 a non-staged house took on average 99 days to sell, compared to 45 days for a staged one, how do we apply this magic formula to our own homes?

Show home worthy

Adopting a show home approach

When it comes to selling a new home, staging is nothing new. We’ve all been wowed by a stylish show home with its colour co-ordinated décor and striking accessories. But can we achieve this look in our own homes, or do we need an expert?

That really comes down to you as an individual and how much time, resource and creativity you have. But, speaking from experience gained working in home staging, I’d say that in most instances, an expert will have the creative eye, skills, resources and emotional detachment needed to dress your home in a way that will make it sell.

woman pointing towards window with clipboard with older couple stood behindCredit: Shutterstock/Pixel-Shot
A professional home stager can view your home with a fresh pair of eyes.

Leigh Davies from The Property Presenters, a company that stages homes for property developers agrees, noting how as well as having an eye for design, the practicalities of having furniture and props for staging to hand saves the customer money in the long run.

“Good staging businesses are trained and accredited, vetted and insured.  We provide a stress-free service to the client – no shopping, waiting for deliveries, flat-pack building, tidying. We do everything needed to beautifully present your property,” says Davies.

“Once a property is sold, we take everything away, and a vendor doesn’t have load of unwanted furniture to get rid of .  There is a vast difference between hiring a professional and a DIY job.”

While some of you may prefer to see staging as an opportunity to buy new furniture ready for your next move, unless you’ve found that new home, it’s worth remembering there’s always a risk that the items may not fit or end up suiting your home. Using someone else’s stock may save you money in the long run.

Wow factor

Which rooms need an extra sparkle

If you’re already on the market and don’t have the luxury of time to stage and shoot new photos, there’s still hope. Penhaul and Davies both agree that the kitchen and family rooms are the key to a sale.

“If you’ve got an open plan kitchen and living area,” says Penhaul, “this is where you want your buyers to walk in and go wow.”

“Kitchens should be spotlessly clean, clutter free and appear functional as well as stylish,” says Davies.  “Living rooms need a memorable focal point, whether this is a fireplace, large piece of art or great view of a garden and should demonstrate as much seating as comfortably fits.”

kitchen with lots of clutter and messCredit: Lemon and Lime Interiors
A typical kitchen before staging
kitchen with wooden table and chairs tiled floor barstools and view out to gardenCredit: Lemon and Lime Interiors/Jon Holmes Photography
The same kitchen after staging

Lifestyle focus

Selling the dream

Working in property and home staging, I experienced first-hand the difference dressing a home made. While some buyers can see past the memories and clutter of a family home, most of them are buying into a lifestyle from the moment they walk through the door.

If they see an untidy hallway, they think lack of storage. If they see a kitchen worktop covered with appliances and food, they don’t realise it could mean there’s a lot of worktop space – instead, they simply assume there aren’t enough cupboards to put everything away.

Seeing a calm and inviting living room, with colour co-ordinated soft furnishings and décor is key. During a 30-minute viewing you want them to live in the world you’ve created for them, regardless of whether it really represents their life you want them to buy into the dream.

living room with rustic wooden beams and lightly coloured furnishingsCredit: Lemon and Lime Interiors/Fine & Country Photography
A light, bright and airy living room is always inviting

First steps

Staging for a sale

Key to any successful home staging project is decluttering and depersonalising. Before you even begin to think about buying anything new, look at everything you have. If you’re downsizing, it’s also the perfect time to think about what items you’ll want in your new home.

Moving is a good time to take stock of everything you own. Try applying some of the decluttering techniques advocated by followers of the Marie Kondo technique known as KonMari.

  • Declutter by category rather than by room.
  • Follow this approach: clothes, books, paperwork, komono (miscellaneous items including toiletries, toys, kitchenware, and stationery) and sentimental pieces.
  • Gather all the items from a category together in one place to see what you own and easily identify any duplication. It’ll also save you money if you have less to move.
  • Leave sentimental items to the end so you can get the other categories achieved quickly and have more time to consider the things you truly love.

Don’t be scared to move items around in your home. If the main colour scheme in the living room could be complimented with a vase from the bedroom, then move things around. We are all creatures of habit but sometimes the smallest changes make a big difference.

Depersonalising the home is also important. While family photos and possessions are treasured items, buyers don’t need to feel they are intruding into someone else’s personal space.

Appearance matters

Make first and last impressions count

When it comes to selling homes, first impressions really do count more than you could imagine.

“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” says Abbie Drew at Archer & Co estate agents. “Getting the presentation right is crucial especially when you consider that virtually all buyers will review everything on sale before deciding to view in the current conditions. Staging your home is a great way to show your property in the best light and get viewers through your front door.”

From the minute viewers arrive at the front door they are assessing the house. It’s vital that the kerb appeal (making sure the outside of your home is neat, tidy and well maintained) and the hallway  are as good as they can be. It’s the first time the house ‘speaks’ to the buyer and you want that communication to be right.

brick built country style home with steps leading up to door with gardens and treesCredit: Lemon and Lime Interiors/Jon Holmes Photography
Kerb appeal – the first chance to make the right impression

Hallways should be entrances – not open storage rooms. Invest in the best coat hooks , add a mirror to make the space seem larger (it’s also an easy trick so that the buyer can physically see themselves in the house), add some artwork or decorative items but live by the phrase: less is more.

hallway with wooden furniture tiled floor and white wallsCredit: Lemon and Lime Interiors/Jon Holmes Photography
Make sure your hallway provides a stylish welcome

Add a mirror to make the space seem larger – it’s also an easy trick so that the buyer can physically see themselves in the house.

Don’t overstimulate with excessive size or colour – let the buyer feel a sense of space.

It’s also the last room they see as they leave and the memory they take with them. Ideally you want them to feel they’d like to stay and are willing to offer a little more money to make that dream a reality.

Sarah Harley

Written by Sarah Harley she/her

Updated:

Since first picking up a paintbrush and experiencing the joy of re-decorating her bedroom in a questionable red, white and grey scheme as a young teenager, Sarah Harley was hooked on the world of interior design. This obsession even led to a real life ‘Grand Designs’ project in 2005 when she donned a pink hard hat and appeared on TV screens, project managing the renovation and extension of a Grade II listed 17th century Folly in South Wales.

Throughout her career, Sarah has gained an array of experience in several different roles, ranging from copywriting, PR, events management and photography to interior design and home staging. With her two passions being the written word and the joys of a beautifully designed home, Sarah’s mission is to open the door on the world of interiors, inviting readers in to help them work their way through the vast choice of products, ideas and trends so that their own homes can reach their full potential.

Away from work, Sarah fills her Pinterest boards with more ideas, dreams of where to travel, takes photographs and loves being by the sea. She has two sons and if she absorbed everything they said would also be a football expert. The fact is she is often more interested in the colour and design of the kit – but don’t tell them that.

  • linkedin