I had never heard the phrase "home staging" until a dear friend announced her intention to set up shop as a home staging expert. However, the concept instantly made sense to me. After all, nearly everything in life is staged so we can visualize ourselves driving that car, working at that job, dancing in that beautiful gown or living in that fabulous new home.

Home staging can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be. Use these cheap home staging tips to set your home up for a quick sale!

The definition of “staging”

There’s a common assumption that "staging" is just neatening and decorating your home. The truth is, decorating and staging are vastly different.

  • Decorating: This is what you do when you fill a space with things you personally enjoy and prefer in a home space.
  • Staging: This is what you do when you fill a space with things you anticipate potential buyers can visualize as their own.

When choosing your staging approach, the key to success is to opt for welcoming and warm, while steering clear of anything overly personal.

What you save with a DIY approach

A home staging expert can run you anywhere from $50 to $150+ per hour, or up to 1 % of the value of your home (so for a $200,000 home, you could spend as much as $2,000 on staging!).

However, whether you do it yourself or hire an expert, there’s research to show that home staging does work. For example, sellers who spend even $500 on staging can expect to recoup their cost and then some at the time of sale.

6 Cheap home staging tips

These six tips will help you get the best selling price on your home without taking a wad of cash out of your wallet to do it!

1. Hide or remove your personal belongings.

Because of the differences between "decorating" and "staging," this tip simply makes good sales sense. As well, doing this can also change the energy of the interaction between you and potential buyers if you’re selling the house yourself.

Things you want to be sure to remove:

  • Family photos and artwork (including what’s on the fridge!).
  • Religious or political art, photos, magazines or other relevant items.
  • Pet beds, toys and any children's belongings.

Cost: A roll of packing tape, boxes, and (if there’s no attic or basement space) a small storage space or a corner of a friend's garage.

2. Declutter every space of your home (inside and outside).

De-cluttering is an essential part of staging your home in order to appeal to a buyer. This includes excess furniture, artwork, boxes, bags, even items you’ve stored in the garage, attic or basement.

Cost: Your time, a U-Haul or a pickup truck and a small storage space ($45 for a 5×5 space is typical in most major cities).

3. Touch up the paint and trim.

It’s really quite amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do (and hide!). If you’re repainting, and it makes sense to repaint a larger section, choose a neutral, lighter paint color if you can—this makes spaces look bigger, brighter and cleaner.

Cost: It’s cheaper to do this yourself, and hopefully you already have touch-up paint on hand. If not, expect to spend about $100 for paint, primer, drop-cloths, brushes and whatever else you need (depending on the size of your home and how much painting needs to be done).

4. Spit, polish, scrub and shine.

A clean home is a cheery home—and also a fresh-smelling home. Here, you especially want to be sure that no unpleasant odors may remain in any space in the house or garage—this can be an instant turn-off to a potential buyer.

For extra credit, buy an apple-cinnamon or vanilla scented candle, or (even better) bake some fresh cookies during open houses. This will tell your prospects' noses that they are "home."

Cost: $10 for a candle or a couple of rolls of cookie dough. A cleaning service will cost $60-$100 depending on the size of your home.

5. Give each room a purpose.

Within reason, present your home as one that is adaptable to a variety of uses. Turn one bedroom into a home office or guest room. Make a clear distinction between the breakfast and dining area.

Cost: Some furniture rearranging, a trip or two to Goodwill and part of the storage space.

6. Mow, weed, light and plant.

You want to ensure your prospects' very first impression—made from the car when they first pull up—is a positive one.

Your goals:

  • Ensure lighting makes your prospects feel safe and secure from dawn until dusk.
  • Present a trim lawn and surrounding greenery, with fresh flowers (season permitting).
  • Make sure your front curb, walkway and sidewalk is free from potential hazards and that it remains as neat and clean as possible.
  • Be sure the house number is very easy to see from the street.

Cost: Hiring a lawn service may run $25-$50 (depending on the size of your yard). You may want to head to a home store to get a nice big house number for $10-$15. While you’re there (season permitting), pick up some mulch and cheery cheap flowers for $10 – $20. Also, change out your entryway lightbulbs now to be sure they don’t burn out just before a prospect is due to visit!