Staging Your Home on a Budget

Karin Carr, Owner
Published on July 6, 2016


If you’re getting ready to put your home on the market, there are plenty of articles out there (mine included) about ways to fix up your house first.  But what if you’re not made of money and don’t have a ton o’ cash sitting in the bank to use for remodeling?  You probably want to sell your home quickly and for as much money as you can get but if you don’t have $10,000 to spend on repairs it can seem intimidating.

It’s ok.  I’m here to tell you how to do it on the cheap! Staging your home on a budget is very effective and even small investments of time and/or money can make a big difference on your home’s sale price.

Here are some low cost home preparation ideas that have a big impact.


Curb appeal

Curb appeal is huge!  I cannot overestimate this enough.  I remember when I bought my first home in Salt Lake City in the 90’s I hated brick bungalows.  Square, brick boxes with two square, brick pillars holding up the roof.  I told my Realtor® (that was before I became one myself) that I didn’t want a brick bungalow, no matter how fabulous it looked inside.  He sent me page after page of brick bungalows to look at.  After two days of wasting my time I fired him.  To me, my house could be amazing inside but if it had no curb appeal I didn’t want it.  Right or wrong, it was THAT important to me.

And it is for a lot of buyers.  So how do you improve your curb appeal when staging your home on a budget?

  • Water and mow the grass regularly.
  • Pressure wash the side of the house and patios, especially any north-facing areas that have a greenish tinge.
  • Pull weeds.
  • Plant some brightly colored annuals along the walkway and/or along the sides of the driveway.
  • Give your front door a coat of paint with a pop of color.  Bright red or deep green can give the house some oomph.
  • If the trim paint is peeling, paint the trim without painting the entire house.
  • Hang a big welcoming wreath on the front door that’s appropriate for the season.

These ideas are more elbow grease than cash.  So get started on these right away if you’re planning to sell.

Staging the interior

I wrote an article called 9 Tips for Staging Your Home to Sell so check out that one too.  But here are some low cost ways to get the inside of the house showroom ready.

  • Make it smell good!  Not overpowering perfumey smells, but no dog odors or cigarette smoke please.
  • Wash the walls and touch up the paint where needed.
  • Dust the chandeliers, high up in the corners, and on those plant shelves that collect dust.
  • Clean the glass on your light fixtures, like in the entryway and dining room.
  • Remove heavy, ornate curtains and replace with sheers to let the light in.
  • Arrange the furniture to allow the traffic to flow easily.  Take out extra pieces of furniture and store them in the garage or elsewhere so that rooms don’t look cluttered or small.
  • If you have doilies and crocheted table runners, consider packing them up.  We want the house to look modern and updated, so buying some strategically placed decorations from a discount home store is an inexpensive way to update the look of a room.
  • If you have gorgeous hardwood floors show them off by rolling up the rugs.  Area rugs add color and decor but in this case the floors are the star of the show, so let them be seen.
  • If you have a honey-do list of small things that need fixing, like the broken latch on the sliding glass door handle, small holes in walls that can be patched easily, or a burned out lightbulb in the ceiling fan,  do them now rather than waiting until you’re in contract.  Because the buyer will ask you to fix things they find that are damaged once they do their due diligence so might as well do them now.
  • If you have a teenage son, please remove any posters on the walls of scantily dressed women.  I just saw a townhouse last week with a huge poster of a naked woman in a suggestive position.  My client was there with her 13 year old daughter and they were horrified.  Needless to say we did not make an offer.

Stumped for ideas to make the house more appealing?  Pinterest is your best friend!  I have a couple of boards created with cool decorating ideas, popular paint colors, and furniture arranging tips.

One of the biggest mistakes sellers make is not getting their home ready prior to listing it.  Don’t put it on the market and THEN start fixing what’s broken.  Do it first so that when buyers come in to see your home, they aren’t making a mental tally of all the things they need to do because they will factor that into their offer price.

Staging the exterior

Besides curb appeal there are other things to do outside, even when staging your home on a budget, in order to maximize your home’s “wow” factor.

  • Clean out the garage so that buyers can see all the storage space and any workbench areas.
  • Place patio furniture to show what a great outdoor living space you have.  An inexpensive firepit surrounded by a few chairs, or a couple of chaise lounges with a big umbrella between them makes the backyard beckon to buyers who love spending time outdoors.
  • If you have a screened porch or covered patio/deck, consider hanging sheer curtains, get some plants, and turn that area into a little oasis.  Screened porches sell houses in Georgia.
  • Clean out the gutters
  • Wash the windows
  • Repair any broken boards on the fence
  • Trim back tree branches that are too close to the house or would scratch the car when you drive up the driveway.

Are you seeing a theme here?  Staging your home on a budget is more about cleaning and home maintenance than it is about having granite counters and high end appliances.

Slightly Bigger Budget Ideas

If your wall colors are extremely bright or dark, outdated, or overly worn and scuffed, consider painting the room(s.)  If the first room you see when you enter the house is electric blue you will immediately alienate buyers who don’t like that color and then it’s an uphill battle to get them to overlook it.  If you do it yourself painting is cheap, but you can always hire people to do it for you quickly and easily without investing a ton of money.

Exterior paint is a bigger expense and can cost upwards of $1500 but if your house hasn’t been painted in more than 10 years it probably needs it.  Don’t give buyers a reason to lowball you on the price if you can help it.

Avoid hiring a budget real estate agent

Staging your home on a budget

Hiring a qualified Realtor® is probably the most important thing you need to consider when selling your home.  I have a seller right now who had an awful experience the last time she sold her house.  The first agent she hired put a sign in the yard and she never heard from the agent again until a few days before the listing was due to expire, asking her to renew the listing.  She declined and listed it with a new agent who was slightly better with communication but still didn’t seem to do much to earn her 6% commission.  No wonder she had a bad experience!

So when you see a sign nailed to a telephone pole at the intersection that says, “Sell your home for $500!” it can be extremely tempting!  But here’s what they don’t necessarily tell you:

  • $500 gets your home listed in the MLS and a sign in the yard
  • If you want the agent to advertise your home AT ALL, that costs extra
  • If you want the agent to handle showings, that costs extra
  • If you want the agent to give the disclosures to the other agents and buyers, that costs extra
  • If you want the agent to negotiate any offers for you, that costs extra
  • If you want the agent to do anything other than spend 15 minutes putting your home on the MLS, that costs extra

I mean, of course that all costs extra, right?  For only $500 that agent can’t possibly make this business model be profitable for her if she spends any money out of pocket to advertise your home.  So if you want those things, you’re going to pay for them.  I see listings on the MLS every day where the confidential remarks say things like, “Send all offers to the seller.  Get disclosures from the seller.”  That agent is not really representing the seller, she’s just making him pay to get his home to populate to the sites like Zillow,, and the like.

Ever notice when you go out for dinner to a place that offers an a la carte menu you end up spending just as much money or even more by adding up all those things you want than if you’d just ordered a meal from the beginning?  Same principle applies here.  By choosing a full service real estate agent you get the benefit of everything we do.  I don’t EVER want a client to think all I did was stick a sign in the yard and wait for someone else to sell the house for me.

The marketing and exposure a home receives is one of the top factors that determine whether or not the house sells and how much it sells for, so hiring a discount agent is a poor business decision.  If you hire a competent and innovative agent who can sell your house for much more, then their fee wasn’t more in the end after all since the higher house price covered the expense.

To quote Indiana Jones, choose wisely.

Finally, a word about showings

So you did all these things, got your home on the market, and now people are calling to make appointments to come see it – woo hoo!  What now?

  • Never ever EVER leave the house in the morning without putting dirty clothes in the hamper.  No one wants to walk into the bedroom and see your unmentionables on the floor.
  • For crying out loud, always flush the toilets. (I’ve seen this more times than I can count.)
  • Wipe down counters in the kitchen and bathrooms each morning.
  • Don’t leave any dirty dishes in the sink.
  • Open all curtains to let the light in.
  • Set the thermostat at a comfortable temperature.  Now is not the time to save a few bucks on the electric bill.
  • Make sure the house smells pleasant.
  • Put away any valuables.  Not that you’d leave your expensive jewelry lying out on the dresser, but put it away please.
  • Take the dog with you or put him in a crate (if he’ll be quiet) or in the yard in a dog run.  If your dog is protective and will bark at the “intruder” the entire time the buyer is in the house the showing will not go well.  If the dog seems at all aggressive, even if he’s crated, the buyer will be fearful and have a poor experience at your home, so try to take the dog with you when you leave for showings.
  • LEAVE FOR SHOWINGS.  Please do not stay and follow the buyers around the house.  They do not need or want your commentary, but they do need privacy to discuss their honest impression of the house.


You Can Do It!

Selling your home on a budget is not difficult or complicated.  It takes a little planning and elbow grease, but with some effort and very little money you too can get your home sold for top dollar.  Happy cleaning!


About the Author: The above article Selling Your Home on a Budget was written and provided by Karin Carr.  Karin has helped literally helped almost 200 families buy and sell homes since 2005.  If you are in the market to BUY or SELL a home, she can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 404-855-1807.

Are you looking to sell a home in Canton, Woodstock, Roswell, or the surrounding area?  If so, the above tips on selling your home on a budget should be very helpful.  Cutting corners to save money can end up costing a seller more money in the long run.  If you haven’t hired the best Realtor® in the Cherokee County area, contact me for a no-obligation consultation with me.  I’d love to show you what I do to get you the highest possible price in today’s market.

I help people buy and sell real estate in the following north Georgia cities: Acworth, Ball Ground, Canton, Kennesaw, Woodstock, White, Roswell, Milton, Alpharetta, Dallas, Powder Springs, and the surrounding areas.

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