Designer-to-the-stars Meridith Baer gives pro tips for staging your house to sell.

“Nobody cleans their bathroom like that, even on a good day.”

You may have a thought like this while receiving advice from a professional stager — someone who whips homes into tip-top selling shape.

But potential buyers will look upon those expanses of blank, clean counter space and picture themselves — along with their soap and lotion and comb — inhabiting it. Hopefully, they will muse, “I can see myself brushing my teeth here.”

Home staging expert Meridith Baer. Photo courtesy of Meridith Baer Home.

Anything that interrupts their reverie, as they move from the foyer to the kitchen to the bathroom, is an obstacle to a potential sale.

“You want [your home] to be as austere as possible,” said Meridith Baer, who stages for the stars and a host of other clients in California, Manhattan, the Hamptons, New Jersey and Florida.

“The main thing is, you don’t want to distract the buyer,” Baer explained. “You want them to come in and fall in love — just kind of wander through the house and say, ‘Yeah, yeah, I can do this.’”

Photo courtesy of Yitzy Pearson of Pearson Property Management

Her advice extends beyond sellers’ austerity, of course. Southern California is packed with Baer’s moving vans, delivering staging furniture and accessories to homes that are about to go on the market.

The staging maven offers the following simple rules for all sellers, including those who do not want or need the full treatment.

No big projects

“The first mistake a lot of people make when they get ready to sell is, they decide to redo the kitchen or do some elaborate remodel,” Baer said. “When I bought my home [in 2000], the people I bought it from had just redone the kitchen, and the first thing I did was rip it out. I hear that story all the time.”

Tastes vary so widely, you can’t anticipate what a buyer might want in terms of color, appliances, or even where the kitchen should be.

“My recommendation is to not spend that money if you’re sure you’re going to sell” soon, Baer said. Some buyers might want a price reduction to cover the cost of a remodel — but they might not, and in any case, you will save yourself a lot of time and hassle.

Paint it neutral (or apricot)

“The best spending anyone can do is paint,” Baer noted. “It’s something I would do if I were going to sell my house.”

Fresh paint makes a good impression in general, and neutral colors are best — whites, creams and palest apricot, which is “pale, but gives a bit of a glow.”

While gray has made a comeback in home decor, it won’t match everyone’s furniture, Baer said.

Photo courtesy of Yitzy Pearson of Pearson Property Management

The power of the throw

Another low-cost staging trick involves throws and throw pillows.

“Even if it’s older furniture, as long as you simplify it and make it look seamless, it works well,” she said.

Tie the furniture together with throws and throw pillows in matching colors and patterns, and you could save yourself the price of a new sofa.

“I don’t think there’s any point in buying a new sofa unless you know where you’re heading and what kind of sofa you’re going to want,” said Baer.

Downplay your personality

Unless your personality is beige, remove it from the premises.

Buyers are distracted by family pictures and unusual artwork that are clearly not their own. They also can lose their ability to dream about living in your home if the closets are bulging with clothes or your dirty laundry is visible.

While you’re at it, put away jewelry and medication, too. They have been known to disappear during showings.

Photo: MW Studio/Michael Weinstein

Pack early

Between clearing out junk and removing aesthetically distinct pieces, you probably will end up packing early for your move.

Baer recommends boxing up everything and leaving it in the garage — or, better yet, in temporary storage. Some companies will deliver a container to your door and store it for safekeeping until you’ve moved.

While you’re thinking about safety, consider putting a pad under rugs that slip. These days, it’s a better investment than baking cookies just before a showing. The cookie trick has been overdone to the point of seeming forced, Baer said.

You could also install the slip pads, then celebrate your home’s future sale by baking cookies and eating them yourself.

About the author

Melissa Allison
Melissa Allison is lead writer for Zillow Porchlight.
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