Six Tips for Staging a Small House

Staging a house involves putting in furniture and decorations that will transform an empty shell into a furnished space that looks inviting to potential buyers. Some house flippers hire an interior decorator or a professional staging company to do this chore, but you can also do most of the work yourself if you have a good eye for design. If budgets are limited, house flippers can still make a positive impact on buyers simply by staging the main living area.

Staging causes some additional work and expense, but usually more than pays for itself by enhancing a home’s value. A Realtor.com study showed that staging a home added one to five percent to the selling price. In addition, staged homes usually sell two to three times faster than empty properties.

Staging can be an especially valuable strategy for selling a smaller home. Proper staging can make a tiny house appear bigger and expand the pool of potential buyers.

Here are six tips for staging a small home:

1. Target your audience.

The typical small home buyer is either a young couple just starting out or empty nesters looking to downsize. Both groups will care about ease of maintenance and monthly expenses so make sure that marketing brochures and online listings highlight low utility costs. Property taxes are also lower so have property tax research available that shows a favorable comparison to surrounding properties. You should also highlight ease of maintenance and that less time will be spent on yardwork. For example, seeding and watering will be less expensive for a small property. Point out if there are new appliances or a new A/C system. Since first-time home buyers tend to worry about repair bills, having modern appliances that are still covered by multi-year warranties should alleviate many of their concerns. Eco-conscious buyers often prefer to purchase a smaller home and will be especially interested in knowing if the house has energy efficient windows, solar panels or green insulation.

2. Market the location.

A great location, which has plenty of shops, restaurants and other amenities nearby, creates an impression of plenty of activities to do outside the house. Highlighting the neighborhood’s attractions helps reduce a potential buyer’s anxieties about feeling cramped by a smaller space.

3. Pay attention to curb appeal and outside space.

Buyers begin making decisions before the front door is opened so make sure your small house has maximum curb appeal. Bushes should be nearly trimmed, beds mulched and the yard freshly cut. You should also consider painting or replacing the front door and updating the house numbers and mailbox.

There are landscaping strategies that can make a small yard look larger. For example, taller plants should be positioned near the patio or deck with plants becoming progressively smaller further away from the house, creating an illusion of depth and spaciousness.

If the backyard has a deck or patio, this area should be staged as carefully as the interior of the home. Highlighting adjacent outdoor living space will make the square footage of the house seem larger.

4. Bright lighting adds space.

Easy ways to make rooms look larger are to reduce clutter and let in plenty of light. Windows should be pristine clean and blinds and drapes open so that buyers walking through the house can see into the backyard. Maximizing ambient lighting is a must, especially in areas lacking overhead fixtures. Curtains should be light-colored and airy. Higher wattage lightbulbs can be used to make rooms seem bigger and brighter. Tall corner lamps shining upward create an illusion of more space. Every overhead receptacle should have a light fixture. Pendant fixtures are a great way to brighten up dining rooms or breakfast nooks and can often be purchased for under $50 from big box stores.

5. Choose neutral colors.

A rule of thumb for painting the interior of small homes is to use light, neutral colors such as tans, taupes and greys. Dark or loud colors make a room appear smaller. A ceiling painted white makes a room look taller. Small splashes of color can be used throughout to add interest (such as brightly colored pillows or towels), but should not overwhelm. Painting rooms in neutral shades and adding an occasional color accent helps give the house a sense of cohesiveness and flow.

Another trick for making rooms look larger is to paint the adjacent room the same color. This strategy takes advantage of how the eye functions. Seamless transitions between rooms create the illusion of more space. Glass-topped coffee tables and lush plants can be used to make a living room look larger. A small kitchen can be enlarged by installing light-colored cabinets with glass doors.

The furniture scattered throughout the house should be appropriately-sized for each room. For example, a table that seats eight would overfill a small dining room and an overstuffed sofa would make a living room look smaller. Also avoid using too much furniture since this will make any room look cluttered and small.

6. Highlight multi-functional spaces.

Carefully staging those rooms that can have more than one function (for example, an office that can be converted into a guest bedroom) is a great way to create an impression of ample space. A portable desk tucked into a corner suggests a bedroom that can also be utilized as a workspace. A fold-out sofa in a den or office suggests extra sleeping space. You should research the types of extra spaces popular with buyers in your area and stage your house accordingly.

By taking advantage of a few simple staging strategies, you can make a small house look bigger, attract a larger pool of potential buyers and enhance your selling price.

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