Staging a home of any size might seem like more of an art than a science, but there actually are some tried-and-true guidelines that will make a home feel more inviting to most buyers — and they tend to be applicable across the board, no matter what size of home you’re staging. That said, it’s usually more critical to apply these best practices to smaller homes, like condos, when you’re trying to sell. The reduced square footage of these homes, combined with the potentially smaller pool of buyers, means that you can’t make as many staging mistakes; the process is less forgiving for condo-owners than people who have a thousand or two square feet to spare.
But you don’t need to hire a professional stager to successfully prepare your home for sale, and it probably won’t take nearly as much work as you think. If you follow these 13 tips for staging and selling a condo fast, you’ll be putting your condo’s best foot forward and entertaining offers from buyers before you know it.
If staging had a single golden rule that should be followed by everyone, everywhere, it would probably be this: Less is more. Removing furniture, tchotchkes, books, clothes, even countertop kitchen appliances can all make a house look cleaner and more welcoming for the average buyer, and the first thing that most stagers do is go on a clutter-clearing rampage to remove any extraneous items and artifacts from every last room.
This is good advice for any homeowner who’s looking to sell quickly, but it’s even more critical for condo-sellers; with limited square footage, condos can acquire that cluttered look much more quickly than a typical single-family house. You can rent a storage unit, host a “condo sale” and ask friends and family to come take items off your hands, or find a sympathetic conspirator with plenty of room to spare and ask to stash your things there, but do your best to eliminate as many “extra” items as you possibly can from your condo.
Clear off surfaces
Whether it’s the kitchen counter, bathroom counter, or the dining-room table, you’ll want to keep the surfaces in your home empty and polished for potential buyers. It’s often easiest to clear your surfaces in tandem with eliminating your clutter — decide what stays (for now) and what goes, and then get it out of the condo entirely so you’re not tempted to let it creep back onto the surfaces once the initial cleaning spree is over.
Clear surfaces are much easier to keep clean in addition to being more visually appealing to buyers. Of course, you can keep a few items out — a vase of flowers on the dining-room table or a tray of cookies on your kitchen counter — but really do your best to pare down to the essentials so that the few items you might be keeping around can draw the eye and maintain that minimalist visual appeal.
Scale down your furniture
It’s never fun to remove a trusted friend from your home, and your furniture might be just that to you — but be honest with yourself about whether the scale of your extra-deep pit sectional in the living room or the king-sized bed in your bedroom really matches with the size of the room. Maybe you like throwing dinner parties and have a table that can seat eight in your dining area when really it was built for a four-top table.
Whatever the case, remember that you can always reunite with your favorite items of furniture after the sale is over … but for now, replace that California king with a more reasonable queen or even double bed so that buyers can see around the furniture in your house and don’t have to imagine what the floors look like underneath everything.
Light it up
More light can make even the smallest spaces appear brighter and loftier. Start with the light bulbs — you might not need to go full “daylight bright,” but most bulbs these days offer a ton of ranges, so if you can upgrade the wattage throughout most of your house, you’ll be doing yourself a favor. Replace any burnt-out bulbs and ask yourself if you can bear to increase the amount of light in any rooms where you’ve traditionally preferred a dimmer look; buyers will want to be able to see everything.
To the same end, remove any items of furniture or decorations that are blocking your windows so that you can open them up and let in some fresh air — or at least some natural sunlight when the condo is being showed to prospective buyers.
Go sheer on the window treatments
Instead of thick, dark curtains that block out the sunlight, find some sheer, light-colored window treatments that allow the light outside to creep in. This definitely isn’t ideal if you prefer to sleep in pitch-black environments, but isn’t it worth a little inconvenience if your condo sells more quickly?
If you’re not sure what colors to use, ask a trusted friend or even your real estate agent for an opinion. You can’t go wrong with neutral colors on the windows; sheer white treatments are probably your best bet, but get a second opinion if you’re not sure how it will look.
Get storage-smart in the kitchen
Even if your kitchen counters are perfectly clear, buyers are going to be put off your postage-stamp kitchen if they open up cupboards and find stacks and piles of dishes and pots and pans crammed into a tiny space. You want to give the impression that your kitchen is bigger than it looks, not smaller, and buyers should feel like they could fit all of their kitchenware into your cabinets and drawers with room to spare; hiding full-to-overflowing situations behind those doors and drawers has the opposite effect.
If there are any dishes or food prep items that you can live without for a spell, pack them up and store them, too. Then rearrange what’s left so it looks like there’s plenty of room in your cabinets. (This tip applies to closets, too!)
Show some floor
One easy way to make any space look bigger is to maximize the amount of floor that you can see as you walk through the house. Your choice of furniture can make a big difference here; instead of a heavy bed with a headboard and footboard that travel all the way down to the floor, opt for something with longer legs that shows some of the floor beneath. Taller dressers and end tables can have the same effect; legs on a couch can give an illusion of more space in a room, too. Think about how you can increase the amount of floor that’s visible and do your best to implement those fixes before the first buyer books a time to see your condo.
Break up open floor plans
Many buyers do like open floor plans, but there’s also such a thing as too open — a kitchen that runs into a dining room that becomes a living room with no delineation between any of the living areas might not feel very inviting to most buyers. You don’t need to go so far as to build walls or put up screens in between those areas, but strategically placing some rugs to help mark off where the dining room ends and the living room begins can be immensely helpful to buyers who are trying to visually parse the space they’re seeing, and it keeps the sense of roominess without making an open floor plan seem cavernous.
Invest in some new bedding
You can get serious bang for your buck when it comes to staging a home if you upgrade the bedding, believe it or not. A new matching set with a bedspread and a couple of pillows can make your bedroom seem more inviting — and oftentimes bigger — than the same old mismatched quilt and beat-up pillows that you’re used to sleeping under and on every night. Find some bedding that you like in a neutral shade (crazy prints and wild patterns usually have the opposite effect and will make a room look smaller) and get in the habit of using it on your bed so that it seems like an afterthought instead of a special purchase.
Stash your artwork
When you’re staging any property, you’ll want to take a close look at the art on the walls and only keep the most generic, inoffensive images possible — but with condos, you can (and probably should) go a step further and remove all the art. Don’t be afraid of some blank walls! They’ll make your condo look bigger than it really is and invite buyers to imagine their own pieces decorating the walls, and the lack of visual distraction can help your potential buyers focus more on some of the other interesting features in the condo, such as the view from the balcony, than what you’ve chosen to place on the walls.
Mind the corners
In smaller spaces like condos, clearing the corners and leaving them empty can provide a lot of “extra space” to a buyer’s eye. If you can, remove any items or furniture (or televisions or what-have-you) from the corners of the rooms and place them closer to mid-wall, or stash them until the sale is over. The simple act of removing items from corners can add multiple square feet to your condo visually and can help rooms appear more pulled-together, both big benefits when buyers are trying to imagine themselves living in the condo you’re selling.
You might not have the budget to paint every room in your condo, but if it’s something you’re considering doing, then it could actually help boost the sales price — especially if you find a light, neutral color that you can splash everywhere. Yes, everywhere: The kitchen, hallways, bedrooms, bathrooms, and any other rooms in your condo can help the place feel more tied-together and (again) bigger and more open if you maintain a monochromatic look throughout the condo. This might feel like an affectation or you might be craving some pops of color when you’re finished, but the simplified, minimalist look will be appealing to buyers who crave some peace and quiet at the end of their day … and who doesn’t crave peace and quiet after eight to ten hours of work? Try it and see how it works!
It can feel painful to de-personalize a home, especially for sellers who have worked to make their condo a reflection of their personality. Just remember that the generic look isn’t a statement about you and your decorating preferences at all — it’s a way to connect with as many qualified buyers as possible and give them a chance to see themselves living in your home. That’s a lot harder to do with animal or floral or geometric prints everywhere, bright colors, remarkable artwork, and personal items left and right; you want to aim for an aesthetic that’s maybe just a touch more personal than your average hotel room (in other words: not very personalized at all).
You can maximize the space in your condo, help buyers feel at home as soon as they walk in the door, and provide them with an opportunity to see themselves as the masters of the condo castle by implementing these staging tips before you give buyers a chance to walk through. It’s a lot of work, and it requires some discipline, but even the most accomplished interior designers acknowledge that less is more and the personal can get a little bit too political when it comes to home staging. Follow the best practices and your condo will be under contract quickly and relatively painlessly.
This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.