Good Things in Small Packages—Staging Tips for the Small Home

Recently, I received a request from a friend in the midst of a not-uncommon situation.  Her husband received a promotion and job transfer to a neighboring state.  While the promotion was welcome, the transfer was unexpected and stressful.  The family had to relocate within weeks, and absolutely did not want to be in a two mortgage situation.  When I visited their Killearn Acres home, I found one of my most common challenges—staging a small home for a quick sell.  Following a fast staging process, my friend’s home sold for asking price the day after their first open house.

By far the largest percentage of homes on the market in our area are “3/2’s” or three bedroom, two bath “starter” homes.  These homes are generally under 1,600 square feet and are on small lots.  Small homes share many staging challenges, most of which are easy and inexpensive to overcome.  Here are my top tips for staging a small home for a top-dollar sale.

Highlight Selling Points:  If your home has hardwood floors, be sure to show them off.  This sounds like common sense, but I often have sellers with huge area rugs covering hardwood floors, particularly in living areas.  Not only does this hide the beautiful wood flooring—a top buyer’s request—it also makes a small room feel even smaller.  Remove the large rug and opt for a smaller, neutral option.  The same goes for bathrooms.  Opt for one bath mat, and showcase your tile.

Maximize Spacious Feel:  In every room, you want to have the minimal amount of furniture and arrange it in such a way as to create a natural flow.  This can be as simple as taking a leaf out of your dining table and removing a few chairs to create a more spacious feeling dining area; trading out an oversized chair and coffee table for smaller options in a family room; or moving down a bed size in bedrooms. 

Keep it Light:  Take every opportunity to lighten up your home’s interior.  Light, neutral colors make rooms feel larger.  If your home has an open concept, avoid “accent” walls in dark colors, as this makes the space feel smaller.  Another very simple tip is to remove dark window coverings and replace them with light-colored curtains or sheers.  Light curtains allow more light into the room—always desirable—and won’t give your rooms a “choppy” feel.  White shower curtains and bath linens also help to make your bathrooms feel fresh, light and clean.  Finally, always make sure you have adequate lighting in each room, with the appropriate wattage bulbs recommended for each lamp and light fixture.  Prior to your open house, ensure all window blinds and window coverings are open to allow natural light to flood your home.

Curb Appeal:  The most common curb appeal challenge I find with smaller homes is over-sized foundation plantings.  With my friend’s home, the issue was boxwood shrubs that had grown to huge proportions at both corners of her garage.  Not only did these shrubs make the home feel smaller, they also created a safety hazard at the front entry (they were large enough that someone could have hidden behind them).  The shrubs were easily pruned back to the stump and removed, and replaced with attractive liriope plants that are evergreen, and will never become overgrown.  Another common issue I find with curb appeal is lack of mulch.  Mulch is by far the quickest fix for curb appeal, delivering a big bang for your buck.  I recommend pine straw mulch to all of my clients.  Not only is it an attractive southern classic, it’s also a sustainable option, unlike other mulch products which destroy or damage trees.  Avoid dyed mulches which give an unnatural, harsh look.