How to Stage the Perfect Open House

You live in your house, so it stands to reason that it looks a little lived-in. You know it, the people who are considering buying it know it, and your realtor knows it. Nonetheless, staging your house to look more like a model house than someone’s actual occupied home will help it sell faster and make it more appealing to potential buyers. You can even hire a professional to stage the house when it’s going up for sale, and if budget allows, you should!

It might seem a little bit silly that would-be buyers would be put off by the presence of family photos or a pair of soccer cleats by the back door, but a properly staged home serves as a clean slate that allows the viewer to imagine their family living there. With that in mind, here are a few basic tips to stage your home before an open house.

Make a Good First Impression

The first thing people will see when they arrive is your front lawn and entryway, so be sure your landscaping is on point and the entry area is clean and in good shape. A little curb appeal goes a long way! Power wash the front door, porch area, sidewalk, and siding. A bright coat of paint on the front door is a quick and trendy way to add character to your home’s point of entry. Put a few potted plants near the front door, replace your welcome mat with a nice new one, and if you have a large front porch, stage some patio furniture in a nice sitting area so that prospective buyers and envision themselves relaxing there with a glass of wine on nice days.


This one goes for the entire house! Go through every room and remove extraneous “stuff” that’s cluttering up the countertops, walls, and other visible surfaces. Put the toaster, blender, and other small appliances in the cabinets instead of living on the countertop. Make a habit of putting your hair straightener and toiletry products away and wiping down the bathroom counters before you leave the house so it’s always show-ready. As much as you love them, put those macaroni masterpieces gracing the refrigerator away for now. You want to have a clean, minimal look free of the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life. No piles of mail, baskets of unfolded laundry, or drying rack full of clean dishes!

Remove some of the less-photogenic items you use every day (like phone chargers and pill bottles) from your night stands and replace them with a small vase of flowers, beautiful lamp, or pretty decorative accent item. They don’t have to go far, just store them in a stylish storage box on or in the nightstand when not in use.

Miraculous Minimalism

Make your home magically appear more spacious by getting some of your furniture and unneeded things out of the way. Since potential buyers are going to be looking in all the closets, shoving things in a closet won’t do! Rent a storage unit and pare down your belongings as much as possible, leaving only the clothes and other items you use all the time. A living room packed with furniture looks smaller, so consider removing a few pieces to create open space.

Box up your out-of-season clothes, toys that aren’t played with regularly, and identify large items you can do without (like a treadmill or rarely-used desk) and move them all out to a storage unit. Better yet, take the opportunity to donate items to a local charity. Chances are, if you won’t miss something for three months while your house is on the market, you probably don’t need it anymore. Having few things in the closets will make them seem bigger to buyers. Organize the things that are staying in the closet by color or size so that the closet looks appealing and not like a jumbled mess.

Deep Clean


Before an open house, be sure to deep clean all the little cracks and crevices that tend to get overlooked in ordinary cleaning. Dust the baseboards, wipe the fingerprints off the stainless steel appliances, and vacuum the ceiling fans- the whole nine yards! It goes without saying that a spotless house is much more appealing than one that could use a good scrub. Consider hiring a cleaning service for this, and definitely have the carpets and tile floors cleaned by a professional!

In addition to being visually clean, make sure you’re appealing to other senses as well. Keep surfaces wiped down and free of crumbs, and be careful not to cook strongly-scented foods the day before you’re going to have people viewing the house. While your broccoli and garlic fish curry might be delicious, the odors left behind after you cook it will be less than appealing to people who didn’t enjoy eating it. Open windows, run the vent hood, and use an odor-neutralizing spray such as Febreze Air Effects to get rid of strong smells, and avoid trying to cover smells with strongly scented candles. These can be overpowering, sometimes simply combine with the other odors instead of masking them, and the scents that you like might not appeal to everyone. Smells are extremely subjective, so you want to keep things very neutral.


You love your unique style, but you want those touring the house to be able to picture themselves living in your house, so it’s a good idea to dial back some of the quirkier decor choices in your house, and take a few other steps to make the house less “you.” If you’ve got the master bedroom painted a vibrant shade of orange that you adore, it’s would be wise to paint over that with a neutral shade, for example. While you’re at it, take down family photos, diplomas, and other personal items that might keep someone from seeing the house as theirs.

Even if you’re more likely to be reading People Magazine than Jane Austen, replace the cheap paperbacks and flashy gossip magazines on your shelves with a few beautifully-bound hardbacks and artsy coffee table books. They’ll photograph better in the listing photos, too.

Focus on Common Areas

Consider getting rid of the TV temporarily so that it isn’t the focal point of the living room, and replacing it with a large piece of art. You can even rent a piece from a professional house stager! Dress up a tired living room with a nice throw blanket and a few pillows, and display fresh flowers or live plants. On the coffee table, kitchen counters, and other high-visibility areas of your home.

Make Minor Updates

While it seems silly to buy new things for a house you’re about to move out of, a few new bathroom rugs or “display towels” can go a long way to make your bathrooms look more up-to-date. If you’ve got corroded bathtub or shower fixtures, replace them with shiny new ones. Put out a decorative soap dish with what our grandma would call a “looker soap,” or replace the plastic bottle of hand soap with a more attractive refillable one. Paint any surface that is chipping, faded, or looking generally shabby. You should also consider painting kitchen cabinets if they are an outdated color, even if the paint isn’t in bad shape.

If this all seems overwhelming, don’t worry! Your realtor will be happy to give you pointers to make your house more appealing to buyers and can recommend a staging company if you decide to call in a pro.