Should I Use Alcohol In My Staging Projects?

I’ve been asked the question about using alcohol in staging projects quite often, and my answer is always the same:  IT DEPENDS.  Yeah, I know, I should be a politician since I’m not really answering the question, but let me give you some ideas as to what I believe it depends on, then you can consider me for public office.  Or better yet, your stager.  

Most importantly, I believe you should stage TO the demographic of the buyer that will be interested in that specific property that is being staged.  

To do this, you should look at the neighborhood first:  

    • Is it a family-centric neighborhood?  
    • Arts district?  
    • Collegiate vicinity?  
    • Religious corridor?
    • Young singles & marrieds?
    • Geriatric community?

You can tell a lot simply by driving the neighborhood and looking at things like the foot traffic – are there younger or older people out walking / jogging?  Are there kids riding bikes in the street?  What sort of shopping is nearby?  Are there sports flags hanging from the porch flagpoles?  Are there neighborhood signs up advertising local events and what type?  And what is the financial state of the people who live there?  Are there broken down vehicles parked in the front yard, because you don’t want to stage with Pabst Blue Ribbon to meet that demographic.

You also need to review the layout and space of the property you’re staging.  Is there a pool?  A game room?  How is the outdoor area set up for grilling, etc.?  If it’s a very small space that doesn’t look like it would host a great party, then you wouldn’t want to set the stage (pun intended) for a party because buyers will get conflicting messages.  Is there a built in wine rack?  What about a wine cellar?  

So let’s say, you’re in a neighborhood of young singles & marrieds, that is very close to night life and hip shopping venues, I’d say you can probably use some liquor in your stagings and not offend anybody.  Especially if the property has a pool and a killer patio or a rooftop deck or a huge kitchen that opens into a great room with a big screen TV – get the drift?

Now, you don’t want to go crazy displaying a nightclub level of alcohol inventory, but you can set up a small vignette that provides the idea of having some fun in the space.  Here is one that we staged this week…we’ve got two liquor bottles, and lots of glasses…plus the lemons in the beverage dispenser to add some color and height.  I don’t think this is offensive, even to a tee-totaler.  And once you walked past this set up, the next room you would see was the sunroom and the view to the awesome pool area, so we’re creating the image of a LIFESTYLE that comes with this house.  

Staged Bar Area by Michelle Lynne

Staged Bar Area by Michelle Lynne

Ultimately, you also have to wrestle with your own beliefs and value system, and I’m not saying staging with or without alcohol will make or break the sale of the house so you don’t need to FEEL that if you don’t put alcohol into a property, you’re doing the client a disservice.  I live in the middle of the Bible Belt and could probably talk to half a dozen of my highly successful local colleagues in the staging industry and they would all have a varied opinion on it.  This is just my take.  Feel free to leave your thoughts below!  


Are Outdoor Living Areas Important in Home Staging?

Outdoor living areas ARE a luxury, especially as these cooler temperatures arrive, and by staging these spaces, you increase the perceived square footage & value of a home.  This means higher offers and more money in everybody’s pocket.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when staging the outdoor living areas to sell:

  • Integrate the interior with the exterior design by keeping the color palette cohesive to make both areas feel bigger.
  • Stage the exterior so it can be viewed from the inside – inviting the buyers step outside and spend more time envisioning themselves living there.  
  • Consider hanging a chandelier instead of a ceiling fan outside, for added elegance and higher perceived value.
Each area of a home for sale is important to create the story of the lifestyle that is being sold along with the property.  Outdoor spaces offer the possibility of leading a desirable lifestyle filled with friends, family and fun.
If you would like help preparing your listings for their best showings, please give me a call – you can find my contact information HERE.



Tips for Living in a Staged Home

I’ll oftentimes hear from homeowners “I just can’t live in a staged home”!  But let me reassure you that first of all, it’s just temporary – the sooner we stage, the sooner the house will sell (you can download some statistics from the Real Estate Staging Association’s 2011 Consumer’s Guide HERE) and that the key is to simply contain & hide your personal items so you can easily access them…and so that your personal stuff is kept, well, personal.  Here are some of the tips I share with all of my clients who are going to live in a staged home:


Did you ever live in a college dorm?  If so, this may bring back good or bad memories, but nonetheless an effective practice while living in a staged home.  You must keep your bathrooms tidy, and no sign of “day to day life” occurring in this model home.  So give each member of the family a tote (you can get inexpensive, plastic shoeboxes at WalMart that are quite effective AND the kids can decorate with their names, stickers, etc.) and use it to store the items that normally live on the counter around the sink.  Just put your creams, sprays, gels, toothpaste, razors, etc. in it and place the whole caddy under the bathroom sink or in the bathroom cabinet…anywhere behind a closed door when not in use.  Pull it out, place it on your countertop, use your fancy creams & gels and then pop the whole caddy back behind the door and enjoy the tidy space you now live in.  Many of my clients have taken this uncluttered living practice to their next home, even though it’s not for sale!

Another tip for the bathroom is to take up the bath mats from the floor.  These scattered mats can make the floor look like it needs work, even when it doesn’t AND it breaks up the sight line, making the space seem smaller – and remember we’re selling square footage!  But don’t worry, this stager won’t let you slip & die when you get out of the shower!  The trick is if you have a standard tub, to place the bath mat over the edge of the tub and hide it behind the closed shower curtain when not in use.  And if you have a step in shower, then simply get a terry cloth bath mat (or even a bath towel) in basically the same color as your floor and roll it up at the base of the door when not in use.  Either way, no slipping on a wet bathroom floor!


Something my mom always told me was “no dirty dishes OUT”.  This meant dishwashing duty after dinner every night until thankfully, we got a dishwasher when I was in high school.  Regardless, Mom was right that dirty dishes on the counter or in the sink wasn’t a pleasant view – who really wants to see dried, crusty leftovers clinging to the dishes?  YUCK.  So rinse & put yours in the dishwasher, or do the dishes after every meal.  

Keep your pantry & cabinets tidy too…because yes, buyers WILL open the doors to catch a peek of the space they may be buying!  The kitchen cabinets should be roughly 2/3 full and that pantry should look like a grocery store display with all of the canned goods in one area, the dry goods in another, and so forth…with all of the labels facing forward.  

Finally, keep in mind that the aromas from your cooking may not be appealing to all people, especially if they are a day or two lingering….  Plan to neutralize the scents immediately by opening doors & windows when possible.  You can also leave out 2 – 3 bowls of white vinegar to absorb the scents & odors overnight.  I also suggest leaving out a bowl of whole coffee beans all the time, they absorb scents AND produce a subtle but welcoming aroma in the kitchen.


Most bedroom clutter is found on or near the nightstands, in closets and with dirty clothes simply left about.  A good solution for the nightstand dilemma is to get a decorative basket to consolidate the items and place in on the shelf of the stand, or place the items inside the drawers or doors, depending on what type of nightstand you have.  You can also get one of those plastic shoeboxes I mentioned using in the bathroom as a caddy and do the same for your nightstand items by slipping it under the bed….  

Closets should be approximately 2/3 full and have only 1/4 of the floor covered with any items.  Rotate your out-of-season clothes out of the closet and start packing them up – you’ll need to pack them eventually, why wait until you’re rushed to pack up the rest of the house too?  

And finally…put your dirty clothes in the hamper and make your bed EVERY DAY.  



This is where life happens and while it can be challenging, it can also be the most rewarding room to live in staged.  Start with what you have:  children’s toys & play items can go into an existing cabinet OR (even better) back into their bedrooms when not in use.  Storage ottomans are great tools for easy containment for a quick showing.  Keep your magazines and newspapers to only the most recent issue and stacked nicely with the remote control on the coffee table (or better yet, consolidate these into a decorative tray).  After you & your family enjoy some time in front of the television, be sure to re-fluff the sofa, put the pillows where they belong decoratively, and pick up any items that don’t belong out…all before you turn in for the evening because more than likely there won’t be time in the morning before you rush out the door to work – and hopefully The Buyer will be looking at your house that day.

Why Should I Stage My House – Part II (SELLERS)

If you’re wondering if investing the time or money into staging your house for sale, here are more points of what is in it for you as a seller:

  • Packing / donating / selling the items you don’t want to take with you NOW will alleviate stress when you’re moving because a lot of the work will already be done.  And a de-cluttered, expansive looking house will provide your potential buyers with more room to see their own stuff in the space instead of trying to peer around your excess.
  • The faster the home sells, the fewer mortgage payments the homeowner will have to make – especially if you’ve already purchased your new home.  Check out a home staging calculator HERE and do the math for yourself.
  • The internet is the new “first impression”.  Your listing will look better than the competition and will move your home up in the list of “must see” properties.


Here is an example of a real MLS photo before and after staging…which would get YOUR attention better?

Original MLS Photo
MLS photo BEFORE staging
MLS Photo AFTER Staging by Michelle Lynne
MLS Photo AFTER Staging by Michelle Lynne

Why Should I Stage My House? (SELLERS)

I’m often asked this question by sellers:  “Why Should I Stage My House?” and it usually has to do with the investment.  Come on, you know we’re all pinching pennies when we’re selling our homes…wanting to get the most money offered and give the least amount of allowances.  But let’s walk through a couple of reasons that impact your pocketbook in a positive way:

  1. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the averaging staging investment is 1-3% of a home’s selling price, and generates a return of 8 – 10%.  Do the math:  $350,000 listing would cost roughly between $3500 – $10,500 and yields $28,000 – $35,000.  Now, I’m not a math whiz, but that makes pretty good sense to me.
  2. Did you know the cost of staging may be a tax deduction?  Of course, check with your tax professional but you can point them to IRS Publication 523 to determine if you qualify.
  3. The more organized & attractive the home shows, the more desirable people will perceive it to be.  For example, a well organized pantry isn’t going to sell the house alone, but it does contribute to the confidence level the potential buyers will have in the care & maintenance of the house while you owned it (“gee, if their pantry is THIS organized, I’ll be they really maintained the HVAC system, watered the foundation regularly, blah blah blah).
Staging isn’t just about making a house pretty.  Staging includes the preparation and the merchandising of a property and should be done prior to listing a home.  Stay tuned, we’ll be back with some more reasons why you should stage your house, but in the meantime, here what could have been an MLS photo (before staging) and what actually was the MLS photo (after staging)…which would attract YOU to visit the property?
Formal Living Before Staging
Formal Living After Staging by Michelle Lynne

Top 10 FREE Staging Tips

Staging’s Top 10 Tips That Cost You NOTHING – but Make You MONEY

Here are some easy pointers that you can implement without having to spend any money in the preparation of your home.  Is this list all inclusive of the free things you can do?  Absolutely not, but they definitely have some good impact on your goal!

10.  Excess Furniture:

  • Dated, out of style or shabby looking pieces should be removed.
  • Furniture should sync with price point,
  • Fewer furnishings actually make rooms feel more spacious.


9.  Kitchen Cabinets and Pantry:

  • The psychological impact on a buyer is as such, “Gee, if they are this organized, their HVAC system, foundation, and preventative maintenance must all be in great condition too.”


8.  Two Thirds Rule:

  • Store seasonal clothes and clean out the closets to approximately 2/3 full. 
  • This showcases the space. The seller is going to have to pack the stuff anyway…start sooner than later!


7.  Windows:

  • Take down worn out or out-dated window coverings. Bare is better than ugly. Sunshine sells.


6.  Start at the Street Curb:

  • Clean up the yard.
  • Edge the walkway, plant seasonal florals and add dark mulch.


5.  Entry:

  • Scrub / repaint the front door.
  • Remove cobwebs around the entry
  • Clean the porch light glass.


4.  Clean clean clean.  Dust dust dust. 


3.  Personal Effects:

  • Pack up SOME personal effects. Don’t remove all photos, a house still has to have heart. 
  • Keep the “good life” photos on display.


2.  Clutter:

  • Remove all clutter including stacks of magazines, mail, toys, collections, and such.


 1. Freshen Up:

  • Air your home out. Make sure it smells good, but avoid synthetic air fresheners that may bother buyers with allergies or make them wonder what you’re trying to cover up.

Barbara Corcoran: “Staging Is A Necessity”

Barbara Corcoran, a giant in the real estate industry, says “Staging used to be an option, but today it is a necessity”.  In this short video, she walks you through some of the “why” and “how to” in the staging of a property.  

Did you know that people judge your listing within 8 seconds of walking in the door?  

Check this video out, but keep in mind some of her tips are specific to the market she is in, consult a stager in your area to find out where you get the most bang for your buck.



What do you think?  If Barb walked into your listing, what would she have mentioned if she was doing a video?