Depersonalizing Your Home
DIY Home Staging Tips
for a faster, more profitable home sale

Neutral interior design picturesA neutral color palette appeals to most people

Depersonalizing your home is one of the most important steps in the home staging process!

Depersonalizing your home is all about neutralizing, or removing your personal taste from your home decor, so that buyers can mentally see themselves moving in. 

It may seem cruel to hear that the "personal stamp" you have lovingly placed on your home needs to go for it to be more appealing to house hunters, but remember, you are selling your house, not your stuff! 

Your taste and style are important to you. That country look you have cultivated for years, with the roosters and ruffles, the dried herbs suspended from the kitchen ceiling, and the feature wall made of re-claimed barn lumber that you scoured the countryside for... this is who YOU are!

Many buyers may be unable to see past the grapevine wallpaper and chickens lined up on the mantle. Your goal is to make them feel like your home could potentially become theirs. 

Look at your home with "buyer's eyes"

Imagine that you are seeing your home for the first time. How does it compare to the other houses in your neighborhood? What jumps out at you? Is your first impression negative or positive?

Every little thing that is wrong with your house WILL BE NOTICED by home buyers, who only want the most value for their money.

Good exterior paint color combinations for home stagingThis home has great curb appeal

In addition to clutter, unfinished projects and damage (no matter how small) may scare them away. Home buyers will take note of every negative detail and try to negotiate the price of your house down.

If you want to make a quick home sale and avoid a long list of home inspection repairs, you need to fix these problems. See diy home improvement.

Sellers should try to see their home with buyer's eyes. This can be hard, because after living among clutter for awhile, home owners tend to filter it out.

Begin your observation outside at the curb. Try to imagine you're seeing your home for the first time. What jumps out at you? What can you do to make a better first impression? 

If you're having a hard time being objective, ask a neighbor or friend to help you out. Don't be offended when they offer their opinion. Remember, your ultimate goal is to sell your house fast and for more money! 

Depersonalizing your home

Staging empty rooms

Home office interior design picturesAll you need are a few pieces of furniture to indicate the purpose of a room

Depersonalizing your home too much can make your house appear cold and unfriendly. A sterile environment isn't inviting, and some buyers may have difficulty seeing the purpose of an empty room.

In addition, unfurnished rooms cause that unpleasant echo-chamber effect that occurs when sounds are amplified by bouncing around an empty space. 

A few pieces of furniture are all you need to indicate the purpose of a room. A desk and chair will do for an office; an attractively made-up bed, bedside table and lamp for a bedroom; a cozy conversational furniture arrangement on an area rug for a living room; and so on.

DON'T use your worst furniture for staging! Shabby, stained furniture will make home buyers think the home is worn-out, as well. Many buyers will judge a home by its contents.

Too much furniture!

Having too much furniture crammed into a room can make the space look smaller, something you definitely want to avoid when selling your home. A basic home staging tip is to remove all your furniture and put only 1/3 to 1/2 of it back. 

Your aim is to arrange furniture so that it compliments the architectural features of a room and gives the illusion of spaciousness. See space planning.

Artwork and accessories

Typically, when you accessorize your home, you decorate according to your personal style and taste. 

Vignette interior design picturesCreate attractive vignettes with neutral accessories

When staging your home for sale, your personality shouldn't stand out and take center stage. Don't be offended-- not everyone will share your taste, even if it's great!

Some artwork and accessories can be offensive to others; nudes, religious icons, stuffed animals, (real ones) posters in a teenager's room, sports team logos, and anything with a political message. Depersonalizing your home of all the items that fall into these categories will keep you from possibly turning away potential buyers.

Show your house in its best light, highlighting its special features and focal points in a fashion that will appeal to the widest range of home buyers.

Artwork and accessories should enhance the furniture and architecture in your home design, tie the room together and enliven the space. See art of accessorizing and how to make a vignette.

"Taste specific" home decoration

What does "taste specific" mean? Take a look at the squirrel-antler coffee table below-- it is definitely not to everyone's taste! A piece of furniture like this will appeal only to a small number of people.

Tacky coffee table interior design pictures"Taste specific" coffee table

I went into a home once where the front door opened directly into the face of a grimacing brown bear--the fur was hanging on the entry wall. 

Overly ornate and formal home decorOverly ornate pieces won't appeal to most people

After my heart rate recovered, I continued my house tour only to find that the fur motif continued throughout the rest of the home.

Being Alaskan and proud, I had no issue with furs, but it's a different story when you put your house on the market for sale. The skins needed to go, as they were just too taste-specific.

The museum-like oil painting and chest on the right are also examples of being too "taste specific." They reflect an overly ornate style that won't appeal to the average home buyer. A home shouldn't feel like a museum. 

So pack away ornate or "theme based" pieces of furniture, artwork, and accessories for your new home, (or sell them at your garage sale!) and replace with more neutral objects.

Collections

Collections have a tendency to overwhelm a room, and too many pieces will create a cluttered look, which can be distracting to buyers. When they enter a room, they may miss the pretty crown molding and fireplace because they are fixated by your shrunken head collection!

With so many people going through your home, you'll feel more comfortable packing away all valuables. For instance, don't stage your dining table with the family silver, or display a valuable gold coin collection for all to see. Pack up your prized possessions for your new home.

Instead, select just a few favorite pieces for displaying later on in the home staging process.

Personal photos, certificates and awards

Buyers will only be distracted by photos of you and your family, making it harder to envision themselves in your home. They WILL look at your photos! Home buyers are curious and want to know about the people living there. When I was a Realtor showing houses, I saw everyone stop to examine family portraits-- it never failed. 

Take prized certificates and diplomas off the wall, and pack up your trophies for your new home. Depersonalizing your home of these items will help house hunters psychologically move into your home. 

Personal items

You'll want to erase all evidence of the untidiness of daily life; anything that gives the impression that people actually live in your home!

Personal items that should be hidden!Arrgh! No words are neccesary...

Depersonalizing your home of daily-use clutter will make your home much more appealing. Hide shampoo, makeup, toothbrushes, medications, ratty bathrobes hanging on the bathroom door, kid's toys, dirty dishes, soiled laundry, and so on. 

Many items, like out-of-season clothing, can be packed away for your new home.

Hide everyday items in pretty baskets, coordinating hat boxes, decorative boxes with lids, and totes that will slide easily under a bed.

I like the shallow plastic bins with lids for under-the-bed storage; you can find them at most home supply centers. These are handy for quickly stashing personal items away when you have home buyers coming to look at your house.

Be diligent about taking your dirty laundry directly to the laundry room. You will have to get the entire family to cooperate. Just keep telling them that the better the house looks, the faster your home will sell.

Pets

Meet Bess and Lucy, my semi-obedient dogs. Sure, they're adorable, but let's face it...pets are messy! They shed, roll in stinky stuff and track in mud.

Cute Corgie and English Springer SpanielBess and Lucy

They barf at the most inconvenient times, and 99% of the time will do it on the carpet rather than that easy to clean hard-surface floor mere inches away!

Ideally, pets shouldn't be in the house when buyers are coming over. We all love our pets, but home buyers won't! Plus, you run the risk of buyers letting your pet out.

I accidentally let an owner's cat out when I was showing a house. Panic ensued as the cat dashed up a tree, but eventually I was able to persuade kitty to come down and got her safely back inside.

Perhaps you have a neighbor or friend who can watch Scruffy and Jingles during viewings and open houses.

Depersonalizing your home of all pet food and water bowls and other pet accessories will keep home buyers from wondering about the cleanliness of your home. Yes, home buyers DO equate animals with a less than ideal level of cleanliness.

Dog bed and toysRemove pets beds and toys

Find a discrete location for your cat's litter box. (Like out of the house!) Change the litter daily and keep the room deodorized.

Many people are allergic to pets, so keep floors and furniture spotless. Home buyers often sit on furniture to get a feel for the home, (that's a good sign!) so, keep a pet hair roller handy and be vigilant about keeping the hair off.

Don't leave insects, reptiles, and rodents in the house for buyers to stumble across. Many people are deathy afraid of snakes and spiders, and may leave in haste with a negative impression of your house. Find a petsitter for them while your house is on the market.

Fish tanks are fine, and most people will enjoy taking a peek inside. Keep your fish tanks sparkling clean while your house is on the market and keep an eye out for "floaters" before each showing.

Bad odors

Odors play an important part in the home selling business. Don't underestimate the power of a bad (or good) odor. A home may have everything on a buyer's wish list, but if it smells awful, they won't make an offer.

The smell of mold inside a house will send home buyers bolting out the door! I have shown houses to buyers who didn't blink an eye at all kinds of obvious problems, but once we discovered a little mold, they totally freaked out! See getting rid of mold.

I once showed a certain home three separate times, and each time the house reeked of fried fish. Unfortunately, the tenants were renters who weren't motivated to sell the house, because that meant they would have to move. Each time I showed it, buyers commented on the awful fishy smell. Not one of them was interested in making a home sale. (I suspected the renters of purposely sabotaging the showings.)

For home staging tips and tricks on getting rid of bad smells, see removing bad odors.

Paint colors

Basement interior design picturesNeutral paint colors in this basement room will appeal to most buyers

Color can be personal and taste specific too. Color has the power to evoke strong emotions, some that may affect people negatively. Strong, bold colors like red, orange and purple are stimulative, and may cause some buyers to feel tense, uncomfortable or depressed.

If every wall in your home is covered in dark, gloomy, or blinding paint colors, it may turn those home buyers away who consider repainting too much work.

Many home sellers think that painting all the walls in the house white is a good choice--after all, who can be offended by white? The color white often comes across as too cold and impersonal, though it is a great choice for small spaces.

Using warm, neutral color combinations will create a calm, inviting welcome. There's a reason why home stagers use neutral paint colors. They appeal to a greater mass of people and go with most people's furniture.

If you want to add bright colors, do so in your window treatments, bedding and accessories. See interior colors for home staging and color theory.

Outdated wallpaper

Although wallpaper has made a recent comeback, the wallpaper of yesteryear, as in the dated bedroom below, doesn't have the appeal of the stunning examples currently on the market.

Wallpaper is very taste specific, and it's highly unlikely that home buyers are going to love yours. If you want to sell your home fast and for more money, take down the wallpaper!

Outdated bedroom interior design picturesOutdated bedroom decor and wallpaper

Painting over the wallpaper is NOT the solution. You will see all the seams and texture through the paint-- basically, it will look like painted over wallpaper-- awful! Plus, it'll make it even harder to remove the wallpaper later.

Depersonalizing your home by stripping the outdated wallpaper will make a huge difference to homebuyers, who typically vanish when confronted with room after room of it. For help on stripping wallpaper, see removing wallpaper.

Outdated wood paneling

Wood paneled roomToo much wood?

Paneling is often another deal-breaker for home buyers, especially the faux sheet paneling. Most people consider it cheap looking, dark, and depressing.

It's a toss up which dated home decor feature receives more groans and complaints from home buyers; wallpaper or paneling!

It's possible to paint over wood paneling successfully. Quite often the result is a cozy beachy cottage feel. See painting wood paneling.

Outdated brick fireplaces and walls

Old brick can be rustic and beautiful, or hideous! If you have an ugly brick fireplace or wall, you can often improve the appearance with a coat of paint.

A massive ugly brick fireplace that overpowers a room can be painted white or another neutral color to downplay its size and prominence. Better yet, using the same paint colors as the wall next to it will make the fireplace appear to recede, or blend into the walls.

Go to painting interior brick for information on how to paint brick surfaces.

Curb appeal

Curb appeal is that first impression you get as you approach a house from the street. It includes the home exterior and all of its elements, the landscape, the front, side and back yards, the driveway, the walkway leading up to the front door and even the street in front of the house.

Night lighting curb appealNight lighting will enhance the curb appeal of your home for evening viewings

An attractive home design and landscaped yard can add thousands to the value of your house and help it sell faster and for more money.

The first glimpse of your home exterior should impact buyers in a positive way. It should be your goal, as a home seller, to make house exterior so appealing that home buyers can’t wait to get inside!

Depersonalizing your home of anything outside is just as important as the inside. Remove plaques or doormats with your name on it; cutesy door wreaths, and so on.

The most commonly offered advice from real estate professionals, home stagers and appraisers is to paint your house exterior. Buyers love a newly painted house and appraisers will figure it into the value of your home. Painting the home exterior is a big job, costing you time and money, but may make the difference in whether your house languishes on the market or is sold quickly.

Save bold bright paint colors for the front door. Look at the houses in your neighborhood and choose paint colors that fit in well. In Real Estate terms, this is called the principle of conformity, which means that the highest value is created when a property is in harmony with its surroundings.

For more outdoor home staging tips and tricks, see curb appeal.

Return from depersonalizing your home to home page

Painting interior brick

Painting wood paneling

Removing bad odors

Removing wallpaper