People are demanding more than ever from their residences. They want more old-fashioned comfort but also modern conveniences. They want room to spread out and places to come together. And they want Instagram-ready style! 

If you're preparing your home for sale, the closer you can come to matching the wants and needs of today's market, the sooner you'll be able to cash out, and move on. 

No home is going to check all the boxes on a buyer's wish list. And it would be impractical to spend money on upgrades that don't return the investment when you sell. But there are home staging techniques that can win over these demanding buyers.

Get with the times

The wheels that are driving changes in real estate are propelled by the covid-19 pandemic as well as changing demographics.  

The pandemic demonstrated to employers and employees alike that a good deal of work can be done at home offices and other remote locations for businesses. 

Currently, more millennials than boomers are buying homes. According to the National Association of Realtors, 86% of younger millennials and 52% of older millennials are buying their first home. This means there is a growing market for affordable homes, and homes that are move-in ready. It also means that urban areas aren't necessarily a must for the young working professionals who qualify for mortgages. They're free to choose suburbs or rural areas -- good news for people selling homes in these locales, and selling prices have risen in many of these areas. 

Let's take a closer look at the preferences these house hunters have, and the ways that sellers like you can satisfy them with minor upgrades and smart home staging. 

Incorporate a place for workouts

People have learned that if they have a place at home to work out, gym memberships might not be necessary. Sales of home gym equipment have skyrocketed, and people need space for that treadmill or bike. For lots of reasons -- convenience, health, sanitation, personalization, privacy -- those millennial buyers and boomers alike want some space so they can exercise at home. Even a basic home gym will increase the value of your property. 

A fitness area is appealing to many of the current homebuyers,
but it needn't monopolize an entire room. It can be part of a
bedroom, basement, or garage. Photo: Cain and Company

You say you have an empty room to stage? Consider setting it up as a home gym with basic equipment you can find inexpensively on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, things like a treadmill or mini-trampoline. Second-hand stores are a good source for benches, hand weights, and mirrors. You can always sell these things before moving.

Even if you can devote only a corner of a bedroom, home staging comes to the rescue. You can plant the idea of space to exercise in the minds of people on a home tour, or with people viewing photos online. Stage a place with smaller equipment like a floor mat, resistance bands, a stability ball, and weights.

Where there isn't the floor space to make a fitness area, 
there's always the wall. You can purchase ready-made units
or create your own with shelving to hold weights,
bands, mats and towels. Photo: Ashley Winn

Stage for a comfy look

Buyers prefer a home that feels safe because of the latest security technology, and yet warm and fuzzy and friendly. Although younger buyers seek out the latest in appliances, home entertainment systems, and in all their personal devices, when it comes to kicking back or entertaining, they want more traditional accommodations. 

To achieve this cozy atmosphere, stage your most comfortable furniture with fluffy pillows and soft throws. If you have a fireplace, stage it as the focal point of the room and a gathering spot. Stage a center kitchen island with place settings.  

The other market group that is buying homes is multi-generational families. They are looking for larger homes to accommodate more people, a bigger kitchen, good parking, and outdoor areas for recreation and meals. Are you making use of all the square footage in your home? Is it time to finish that room over the garage? Or to remodel the basement as a media and game room or as an extra bedroom? Basements lend themselves well to the open concept floor plan many buyers are drawn to.  

Hunkering down at home has become more normal. Buyers want
comfortable rooms for relaxing. Photo: Remodel Washinton DC.

One of the features that always impresses buyers is 
a room that is flooded with natural lighting. 
This room capitalizes on that with undressed windows.
Plenty of soft furnishings make the seating arrangement
extra inviting. Photo: Joyelle West via Meredith

Find room for an office 

Surveys show that buyers look for places in a home that will function as a home office. It's vital for employees working from home, students, crafters, entrepreneurs, teachers, job seekers, and independent contract workers. 

Most people cannot dedicate an entire room as a home office. Often a guest room, FROG, or dormer room gets pressed into doing double-duty. Two other spaces that can be staged as a work area are oversized landings and hallways. Sometimes kitchens built in the 90s and later included an alcove or built-in desk as a home management center. 

Staging a home office is easy. A Zoom Room is a real bonus for many people who work from home, so if you already have an area that you use as an office, keep it clean and organized for Zoom-readiness. Make it pretty with a unifying color scheme for desk accessories. Remember to hide personal information and valuable electronics out of sight. I have staged with a handsome but defunct, closed laptop which if opened is obviously missing the keyboard and innards so I know no one is going to walk off with it.  

A very small home office can be as simple as desk and
chair and a few props, just enough to suggest a place 
to take care of homework or hobbies or household
management. Photo: Elliot Meyers Design 
A cozy "office" can usually be tucked into a corner
somewhere in your house. A setting like this one gives
you a chance to create a vignette. The furniture  
doesn't have to be traditional office style. Photo: ispydiy

Use the right furnishings

House hunters will judge the spaciousness of your home. Of course, they will study the square footage, and room measurements, and floor plan, but what you choose to use as furniture and how you arrange it can make the most of all the space you do have. 

I am not going to tell you to buy or rent new furniture just to stage your home for sale. Most real estate agents say that most Americans have too much furniture in their rooms. It's time to take a critical eye to what's necessary and what's superfluous, devaluing, or distracting. 

I've blogged about how to avoid the most common furniture arrangement mistakes, about how to choose furniture that makes rooms look larger, how to make rooms look more stylish, and how to arrange furniture diagonally to fool the eye

Here's a good example of the kind of combinations that
would attract younger buyers because it combines
the latest appliances with a traditional and comfortable
seating area for meals in the kitchen. Photo: home

You can put some of your current furniture in storage and rearrange what you have to make your rooms appear more like what buyers appreciate. It will probably take some paring down, imaginative thinking, and a sacrifice or two, but you can make your home look more like what buyers see on HGTV shows, in furniture showrooms, on the pages of shelter magazines, in Instagram feeds, and on Pinterest Boards. People buying a home want to feel like they are moving up the social ladder, and being on-trend goes along with that idea.

If your bedroom is crowded with two or more dressers, find a way to use your closet more efficiently, store out-of-season clothing off-site, or downsize your wardrobe altogether. If you have small footstools and extra side tables in your living room, cut back to what looks less cluttered. If your garage is packed with so many belongings, there's no room for a workspace or a car, it's time to do some decluttering and reorganizing. If your hall or bedroom walls are covered with lots of small framed pictures, pack them up and use one large framed artwork or handsome mirror instead. 

Your mantra can be, "Use the best and store the rest." 

Get the look, get the book

The past year has brought changes to the way we live our lives and some of those changes are here to stay. The more you make your home for sale match the needs of today's buyers, the quicker it will sell, and the sweeter the final price will be. Sensible, smart home staging alone can move you closer to those goals without the major investments that don't return money at the closing table. 

Don't leave here without checking out the three homestaging eBooks I have written to help homeowners prepare their homes for market. Download now and get on your way to making your home sale go smoothly, quickly, and profitably. 

Top photo: Robert Elliot Custom Homes