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How to Stage Your Home So It Sells for Mega Bucks

Chicago pro home stager David Cieslak shares 11 secrets on making your place look irresistible in today’s real estate market.

A new condo, beautifully staged.   Photography by Joseph Noel, Chicago Home Photos

Spring in Chicago means many things: al fresco dining, men in sandals, road construction, and lots of homes for sale. 

If you’ve thought about putting your home on the market, then you’ve also probably had moments of serious panic about how to get it ready for prime time viewing. These tips from Chicago home stager David Cieslak of Signature Staging should help you get it ready for a close-up.

1. Lose the gigantic armoire and other dated furniture.

“Items such as big armoires holding TVs and large sofas with curved arms and overstuffed backs, as well as pieces damaged by pets and very traditional furniture, are turn-offs to the modern buyer.”

2. Get your kitchen out of the ’90s.

“Recently, we’ve been painting a lot of kitchen cabinets, both stained maple and some cherry. We like to use Benjamin Moore White Dove.”

3. Paint, paint, and re-paint.

“Every home I go into is getting walls painted. I paint over bright colors, pastels—especially anything peachy—and a lot of faux finishing. A freshly painted house with current, neutral colors will allow a buyer to move in, and not feel the need to paint right away.”

4. Say goodbye to some of your worldliest possessions.

“Prized collections of figurines eat up sellable real estate. Remove them. Same goes for the exercise equipment that has clothes hanging over it.”

5. Make your closets and cabinets look pretty inside. 

“I often tell homeowners to edit storage areas by 50 percent. This goes for closets, cabinets, and secret areas. This is a good time to not only get a jump on packing for your new home, but also donate unwanted items.”

6. Clean up your yard.

“Get rid of all yard debris and dead plants that didn’t survive the winter. The first picture online is always the front, and this is the first impression not only online, but in person. Curb appeal is so important!”

7. Buy your home some flowers.

“Flowers are a great investment, especially for the photo shoot.”

8. Make an educated guess about your buyer based on the neighborhood your home is in.

“I will often speak with the homeowner about the neighborhood and surrounding area to get a feel for what demographic we need to target with the staging. For a home that’s in an area with many young families, I create play areas and bedrooms that are a bit more youthful. Young professionals may be more entertaining oriented. Creating an image of a potential buyer also helps.

I once staged a listing inspired by Carrie Bradshaw because a woman with great shoes walked into the elevator of the building where my client lived. Another time, I was very inspired by Mad Men, so I targeted a single male in my design, and that’s who bought the place.”

9. Rent accessories from the stager—or buy your own with your future home in mind.

“While we have plenty of options available for rent, some homeowners choose to invest in smaller pieces that could potentially work in their new home.”

10. Style your home according to the season.

“It’s a good idea to update bedding, accent pieces, and throw pillows for the season. In spring and summer, I stage with brighter colors than in winter.”

11. Remember, furnished rooms feel larger. 

“In vacant homes—especially vintage ones—empty rooms often appear small, making it hard for buyers to visualize what size furniture can fit. A lot of times rooms with furniture actually feel larger. A client of mine had a condo in Lake View on the market for six months. Then, we staged it, and it went under contract in a couple weeks.

David Cieslak is on Twitter at @davidcieslak

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