Why spend thousands of dollars for a home staging professional when you can do the job yourself for a fraction of the cost? Just ask Kelly Killoren Bensimon, a real estate salesperson for Douglas Elliman and a star on The Real Housewives of New York who is an expert on home staging and helps her clients get their properties in top shape before they’re listed for sale. “A few simple and inexpensive hacks is all it takes to have your house looking its best and attractive to buyers,” she says. “You can have fun during the process too.”
Below, Bensimon and New York interior designer Catalina Castano share their favorite tips for staging your home without hiring pros like them.
Make a great first impression
Castano says the first impression is everything, so it’s important to keep the outside of your home as inviting as the inside. If the front door has stains or dents, add a fresh coat of paint and place plants on either side of the door. “They’re the perfect way to boost curb appeal,” she says. “Pick a planter that’s clean, simple, and complements your home’s style, but make sure it’s sizable enough to be seen from the street.” For maximum impact, she recommends going with a single flower such as a hydrangea, which can work in most climates, or boxwoods because they’re a classic that always look great. Also, cut the lawn and keep all your windows clean.
Paint your floors
Giving your floors a coat of paint makes them appear brand new, according to Bensimon. In fact, she follows the same advice when the floors in her SoHo apartment need a refresh. “I’ve had clients spent $50,000 redoing their floors in an attempt to sell their homes but in reality, high-gloss paint has a similar effect,” she says. “It’s sophisticated and chic.” Use ultra-high-gloss paint for extra-shiny floors, and add in a few area rugs too.
Overload the mirrors
Cover one wall in your living room with peel-and-stick mirrors from IKEA, Bensimon suggests. They open up the room and make it look twice its actual size. They also create depth and introduce an element of brightness. “Light and bright are big buzzwords in selling apartments, and that’s exactly what mirrors do,” Bensimon says.
Pare down the living room furniture
If you have bulky furniture in your living room or too many tables or chairs, sell them or put them in storage. Castano says that they make the space look small. On the other hand, the room can look off-putting if the furniture is too small. Find a balance. Also, if the pieces are stained, have them cleaned. “You want the living room to be comfortable so that a buyer can imagine themselves there,” Castano says.
Create a minimalist kitchen
A kitchen is often the heart of the home, but it shouldn’t look lived-in when you’re trying to sell it. Remove everything from the counters and the dining table, including food and appliances. But definitely display a bowl of lemons somewhere. “For some reason, lemons resonate with buyers,” Bensimon says. Another tip: Your kitchen will smell great for hours if you rub a cut lemon inside of the sink.
Define each space
Most people have a hard time visualizing, so make it easy for any buyer to define each space, Castano says. If you have a room that you use for storage but also as a guest room, for example, clean it out to give the space a singular purpose. If you want to sell it as a guest bedroom, remove any boxes, buy a clean-lined headboard, clean the nightstands, and add table lamps for mood lighting. These touches all make the room feel inviting to prospective buyers.
Decorate your couch with oversized pillows
Big pillows create volume in a room. But avoid throw pillows with loud patterns. Monochromatic shades such as green, pink, yellow, and orange work best. Home Goods offers a large selection of affordable pillows.
Remove personal photographs
Make sure your home is free of any family pictures or your kid’s artworks. “Potential buyers don’t want go down memory lane with you—they want to make it their own home,” Bensimon says. Remove those photos from walls and side tables, and replace them with coffee table books, candles, or landscape images.
Transform bedrooms into hotel rooms
Channel the vibe of your favorite hotel when you’re staging your bedroom, Bensimon says. That basically means less is more—and always use white sheets and pillows. “The white creates a clean aesthetic,” Bensimon says. “The most color you want is a single bright pillow.” Take the same idea to the bathrooms and select white towels. Also, remove anything from the countertops in your bathrooms such as cans of shaving cream, toothbrushes, and perfume bottles—they’re too distracting.
Don’t overstuff drawers and closets
Prospective buyers will open your drawers and closets. Declutter by moving as many items as you can to storage and folding your clothes neatly. Organize your clothing by type, and use one style and the same color of hanger throughout your closets. Consider adding peel-and-stick wallpaper to the back wall. Castano says that it adds a layer of luxury without a high price tag.