Are you faced with selling a vacant home? Perhaps you've already moved and your former home is still sitting empty on the market. Or you inherited a house with no furnishings. Or bought a house to fix and flip.

I'm here to encourage you to stage that home before you list it. I've heard some home buyers say, "Staging isn't important to me. I want to see the bones of a house, unadorned." 

Okay, but statistics prove that staged homes sell faster and for more money

If you have an empty house to take to market don't feel that your back is against the (bare) wall.  I am going to show you how to make an empty home a profitable home. 

You might choose to rent just a few pieces of classic 
furniture and then fill in with soft textiles
like bedding and draperies. Photos: Andrew Howard

Consider your options

If you have relocated a considerable distance away, and if you need the property to sell quickly, and time is more important than money right now, virtual staging might be your best route. The average cost of virtual staging for a vacant home ranges from $2,900 to $5,250. Your cost would depend on the size of your home, the quality and number of images, and the style of your home. 

The disadvantage to virtual staging is that when buyers arrive on site, they may be disappointed that the home is empty, lacks any charm, and has an echo.

You could also consider rental furniture. The average cost of renting furniture in an average home is about $3,000 per month, often with a 3-month minimum. Your cost would depend on the number and size of rooms you have and where you live. 

The disadvantages to renting furniture are the unknown factor of how long you need the service, the lack of choices, and the absence of those extra details that give a room character. 

Often sellers can leave some pieces of furniture behind temporarily. I've done this myself when moving locally. 

After you are sure you have a problem-free structure you can
start dressing it up to impress buyers.
Be sure to include simple touches like foliage and
mirrors in your props. Photo: Pottery Barn   

Where to begin

The nitty-gritty of home staging begins after you've taken care of any upgrades you know will give a good return on your investment. Any good real estate agent will advise you to have things like your HVAC system and plumbing checked. Is your roof in good shape? Are your windows up-to-date? These are the kinds of things serious home buyers, home inspectors, and lenders care about.      

Knowing that your home's infrastructure is sound, you can begin the fun of staging it! 

Paint might wisely be the first thing that comes to mind. From my years as a professional housepainter, I know that an empty home is far, far easier to paint than an occupied one. Whether you paint just the walls, or just the trim, or both, and whether you make it a DIY project or hire it out, it will pay for itself. A freshly painted house feels and looks new and clean -- just what buyers like. 

To stretch your budget, decide which rooms are your best features and focus on those. Ideally, you will leave no room unstaged, but if you must let some remain unstaged, stage the foyer or the first room buyers will see, and at least the primary bedroom, and the living room. A kitchen and bath can usually get by with a thorough cleaning and some attractive accessories. 

Do not put just a bed, or just a chair, or just a desk in an otherwise empty room. That's just depressing! Either leave it empty, or else bring in enough furnishings to make it look like someone could just move in.   

Second-string players will be other bedrooms, your dining room and a home office. A flex room that can serve as a TV room, bedroom, or home office will get the attention of buyers. 

If your target market includes couples planning to start a family, and you have multiple bedrooms, consider staging one as a children's room or a nursery painted in kid-friendly neutral colors.  

You have a number of ways to bring in serious 
 furniture pieces. Having large scale furnishings like 
these gives a high end look. Photo: Britt Design Studio

Room by room

A living room needs a few necessary pieces. They are -- a couch, two additional seats, some side tables or a central coffee table, and some lamps. 

If you don't have these essentials can you borrow them from a friend or relative? Another option is to buy second-hand pieces on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or a local listserve. You'll find remarkable bargains there. And you can resell these pieces once the home is sold. 

Don't shun second-hand furniture. I've blogged about how to shop in thrift stores and how to shop garage sales to get the best deals. 

A bedroom needs a bed (a real one or a make-believe bed) that centers the room, a nightstand or two, and a lamp or two. Depending on the room size, you might also use a bench, dresser, or chair. 

An entry area needs a mirror, and if there is room, a console table. 

Finishing touches  

Of course, you don't want your rooms to look like a furniture showroom or an unoccupied dorm room. What's called for are the details that breathe life into a space. 

Don't forget the impact that living or faux plants
add to staged rooms. An extra large potted 
plant like this can fill an empty corner.  

Add greenery or flowers -- real or fake -- to every room. Use Command hooks to hang large art on walls. Soften the feel of couches and beds with throws and pillows. Add some books on shelves or tables. Corral small objects on trays or baskets. Use a rug to tie any furniture arrangement together. Add window treatments, even if they are just budget curtains from Walmart or IKEA. 

An uninhabited house can be a target for vandals and thieves. Some smart home sellers arrange for a housesitter to occupy the home while it is being sold, and you might consider this plan if you can vet the housesitter. I've blogged about how to make sure your house stays safe and about the various home security systems available today.  

You've got this! Just focus on the additions that add perceived value to your property.                

Get the look, get the book

A Realtor once told me, "If it's clean and priced right, it will sell." Yes, but will it sell for the best price possible? An unstaged house is a missed opportunity to earn money. So, don't list that vacant home when you have options. 

My eBook will give you many more tips on making your home the one that beats the competition. Don't leave this page without downloading my homestaging eBook, Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. It's the only guide you'll need to learn how to maximize your budget and time when you stage a home for sale.