Decorating a Home on the Market

When you’re living in your home while it’s on the market, it can be challenging to see your house through the eyes of potential buyers. What features do you want to play up, which walls need to be repainted, what items need to be stashed away? Is it ok to have holiday decorations or religious items displayed? A Realtor who is knowledgeable about staging can guide you through this process for a successful and quicker sale.

Staging was a term invented in 1972 by interior decorator Barb Schwarz. When she became a Realtor, she started suggesting furniture and accessory placement improvements to her clients. Because she had a background in theater, her advice quickly became “staging a home.” Since then, she has trained Realtors and professional stagers all over the country and created a national designation for those who complete the program.

Today staging is used more broadly and loosely means the entire process of creating what the buyer will see when visiting a home. According to a National Association of Realtors 2017 Profile of Home Staging survey, Realtors said the most valuable steps to staging a home are decluttering, followed by a complete deep clean (inside and out), carpet cleaning, removing pets (and pet smells) during a showing, minor repairs, depersonalizing a home, landscaping, painting walls, and grouting tile to look fresh. 

According to the same report, the most important areas of a home to stage are the living room, kitchen, master bedroom, dining room, master bath, and outdoor living space.

For those who have their home listed over the holidays, this provides some answers. Decluttering and depersonalization allow buyers to picture themselves living in the home, so holiday decorations and religious motifs should be packed away or minimal. All personal items like photos and legal documents should be stored, as well. Neutral paint is also important in rooms that are painted in extreme colors or schemes. Landscaping and curb appeal are what a buyer sees first. For homes to feel inviting, particularly tiny homes, a staged outdoor living area extends the usable space for socializing, particularly if nicely lighted. Clear large bulb string lights are an inexpensive way to light an area you want to be highlighted.

Buyers see what you show them, so having a home staged, smelling and looking fresh and clean will always make your home stand out. Realtors can walk you through the process or provide professional referrals for more significant tasks.

Sher Powers is president of Greater Nashville REALTORS®. A REALTOR® is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® who subscribes to its strict code of ethics. Contact her at 615-430-6861 or

The RealDeal Column is published every Sunday in the Tennessean.