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The Art of Readying Your Home for Sale


It goes without saying: First impressions count. And in this market, when homebuyers are focused on value, a well-maintained, eye-catching home is going to show better, demand a higher price and likely sell more quickly than one that is not.

But beyond making sure a listing is clean and in good repair, what can a seller do to stand out to buyers?

Karen Robertshaw, Realtor and partner at Prudential Locations, advises that you highlight a home’s assets, deemphasize any defects, and show off how spacious a space is, to make your home stand out from the competition.

“It is not a one-size-fits-all formula,” says Robertshaw. “Different types of listings require a different focus.”

Here, Robertshaw gives some expert tips on how to stage fixer-uppers and high-end homes for sale.


Staging a home with major issues is extra tricky. For example, Robertshaw cites a listing on Waiiki Street that was in its original 1960s condition and had settlement issues.

“It had turquoise Formica kitchen countertops, lime green shag carpet … you get the picture,” says Robertshaw. “The sellers hired a structural engineer and a soil engineer so they would be better informed about the condition of the house and the land. Once the inspectors were done, it was clear that, realistically, they needed to sell the house ‘as is.'”

Do you bother to stage a home that has serious issues?

“Absolutely,” Robertshaw says. “Because homebuyers, even sophisticated and experienced homebuyers, have emotional reactions to what they see.

“In fact, staging is even more important for a fixer-upper because it can soften and offset the initial ‘Oh my goodness!’ negative reaction. Staging can help distract from the obvious uglies. It can help buyers imagine the possibilities,” she adds.

“If online listings include ugly photos, Internet buyers are likely to eliminate the house from their consideration. One important purpose of staging is to create pleasant, reasonably attractive photos that arouse curiosity, to get buyers off the computer and in the door of your house,” says Robertshaw. “The goal of staging is to have your home put its best foot forward.”

The solution for this local-style home was casual, Hawaiian-style accents. Robertshaw used some existing pieces, de-cluttered and added just the right amount of detailing to make the home inviting – despite its obvious defects. Staging is not about deception – the defects are all disclosed to prospective buyers – but it’s about putting the buyer into a positive emotional frame of mind and showing them that this fixer-upper has the potential to be transformed into their dream home.


Buyers pay more for properties that have a high positive emotional impact. Surprisingly, it is often the high-end homes that benefit most from the right staging, because these homes often have an abundance of square footage.

“That abundance poses its own challenge – cavernous rooms, multiple adjoining areas that need to be defined and ‘purposed,'” says Robertshaw. “If there isn’t enough furniture or if the furniture isn’t well-placed, the furniture will feel ungrounded and be dwarfed by the space. Too much space can feel impersonal.”

“In addition to showcasing the home’s signature or stand-out features, the key with a high-end listing is in to create a ‘wow’ emotional factor that moves a buyer to ‘want to own it,'” she says.

In Part 2 of this home staging series, Robertshaw will share tips for showcasing small spaces and vacant listings.

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