How to stage a house on the cheap


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

After spending the last five years focusing on personal projects and finances, my husband and I are once again getting the urge for an extended travel experience. We’ve spent those years in a typical neighborhood outside a major city with gate codes, a community pool and easy access to a major highway, where we learned that suburbia just isn’t our cup of tea.

With that conclusion and our travel plans in mind, we’ve staged our house and listed it with a real estate agent. Here are a few ways we kept our costs down while moving forward with our dream.

•  Streamline: Clutter and chaos are not your friends when it comes to selling your house. Remember, people are looking for a place that will suit their belongings and lifestyle. The more doodads and knickknacks you have sitting around, the more difficult it will be for buyers to visualize themselves in your space.

Excess clutter can also send the message that your house isn’t large enough, when it fact it may more than meet their needs.

Our personal streamlining process has taken place in several phases. The first was taking a brutally honest look at what items in our home were unnecessary. Then it was a matter of multiple yard sales and repeated Craig’s List ads to liquidate things like antiques, small appliances and other items. Extras without a great deal of value were dropped off at Goodwill, load by load. We made sure to combine those trips with grocery runs and other errands to control gas costs and vehicle mileage.

Once we had downsized as much as we were willing to, we rented a very small storage unit and moved everything into it except the basic essentials. For some time now, we’ve been operating with minimal towels, wardrobe items and even kitchen infrastructure. Since we want to be able to move quickly upon the sale of our home, having the extras in one nearby location preserves our options while allowing flexibility with our long-term travel plans. It also showcases just how much space is inside these walls.

•  Scrub: Cleaning your home from top to bottom provides a fresh look and sends a signal to potential buyers that you are serious about caring for your dwelling. However, many owners think they have to run out and purchase the most expensive products in order to get the job done. My windows and shower doors were cleaned with a homemade mixture of rubbing alcohol and water stored inside a recycled spray bottle. The addition of a scrub rag cut from an old T-shirt and a hand-held squeegee gave me a polished, professional look for pennies.

When the darker areas along the bottoms of our walls where our dog naps made it seem that the interior would need a new paint job, I started to feel discouraged. All of my concocted spray cleaners were failing miserably. That’s when my husband hopped online and discovered that baking soda — yes, baking soda — could remove wall marks and pet fur oils if mixed into a paste and rinsed with warm water. It worked like a charm. For less than $5, I was able to touch up not only the bottoms of the walls, but the woodwork as well.

•  Spruce: Rather than dish out major dough on seasonal flowers and other plants for our yard, we headed to Home Depot to stock up on landscaping mulch for less than $4 per bag. Using it to fill in the areas around our shrubs and walkway added a finished look for less. Some minor weeding and a moderate pruning session completed the job.

Adding floor lamps near the beds in the master and guest rooms gave them a more inviting look. Rather than pay full price, we saved money by picking up good-condition lamp bases at thrift stores. We bought snazzy new discount shades at Ross and Walmart. Since I didn’t want to splurge on full sets of bed linens, I chose a larger bed spread in a neutral tone for the spare bedroom.

This purchase was less than $30 and let me skip the cost of a bed ruffle and new sham pillows. A light taupe blanket dressed the king-size master bed at a comparable cost, although a similarly-colored dust ruffle was required in that instance. Four small, inexpensive throw pillows completed the expenditure for both rooms.

Getting your home ready for sale in order to follow your travel dreams doesn’t have to run your trip budget off the rails. Precision purchases and a little elbow grease will go a long way towards showcasing your house for potential buyers.

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