Before the Open House: Trulia Expert Michael Corbett Talks Home Staging

Selling your place, but not sure where to begin when it comes to showing off for prospective buyers? Don’t panic. We sat down with Michael CorbettTrulia's real estate and lifestyle expert and a best-selling author, to learn everything there is to know about staging your home. From an inviting front stoop to an open floor plan, read on – your place is about to be the most sought-after one on the block.

Michael Corbett on Home Staging

Rue La La: What is the most important thing to remember when staging a home?
Michael Corbett: The key is removing and editing. Create space, organize what you have, declutter, and finally – depersonalize. Remove walls of family photos, your daughter’s cheerleading trophies, and any personal reminders of my house, my family, my space. Think of a five-star hotel. You won’t find pictures of the owner’s dog on the walls. Help the buyers envision their life in your home. Anything that distracts from that is not supporting the mission.

RLL: How important is curb appeal?
MC: Think of it this way: If the outside of the house is an eyesore, potential buyers are thinking no even before they step inside. Make the front of the home as inviting as possible. Give the front door a fresh coat of paint. Upgrade your mailbox and house number; add architectural lighting and beautiful potted plants on either side of the doorway. Create a scene on the front porch with a rocking chair or welcoming seating arrangement.

RLL: Which room should sellers pay the most attention to?
MC: These days, the kitchen is really the central hub of the home. Even in lower-priced houses, you’ll find kitchens with all the bells and whistles. But when it comes to staging? Less is more. Don’t line the countertops with gadgets. Instead, pick a few of your favorite pieces like an impressive espresso maker or brightly colored mixer. Choose items that create a lifestyle, not clutter.

RLL: Let’s say a homeowner could only make one or two upgrades before selling. What would you suggest?
MC: It’s important to make basic, simple renovations – the kind you can do in an afternoon or weekend. I’ll reiterate, start the front of the house off with a clean slate. Focus on the lawn, landscaping, and overall curb appeal.

Next, a fresh coat of paint on the inside goes a long way. Current homeowners are often blind to dinginess, fading, and personalized colors. Sure, you thought that lavender purple was perfection for the living room, but potential buyers might think otherwise. Start fresh with neutrals and earth tones.

RLL: What’s the biggest misstep sellers make when marketing their home?
MC: Hands down, bad online photographs. Whatever you do, don’t take them at night or with cars parked in the driveway. Always use high-quality shots.

RLL: Which steps should home buyers take before reaching out to a real estate professional?
MC: A smart home buyer is an educated home buyer. And with the Internet, learning about home styles, neighborhoods, schools, crime, and commute times is easier than ever. This will give the realtor a clear idea of what the buyer is looking for.

RLL: Which popular trends should sellers keep in mind?
MC: Open floor plans are a big draw. But, most homes built prior to the 1960s do not embrace this layout. What sellers can do is allow for as much open space as possible. Edit out large, overstuffed furniture.

A second huge factor is green or eco-friendly components. Now, you may not be able to install solar panels overnight, but you can install cost-effective thermostats that can be controlled by a smartphone.

Ready to stage your space? Our New Home Know-How: Essentials for Staging & Decorating Boutique opened Saturday, May 17, at 3PM ET.

Discover selling strategies, search neighborhoods, or contact a real estate professional at

By Julia Ivins, Staff Writer

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Michael Corbett is Trulia’s real estate and lifestyle expert. He hosts NBC’s EXTRA’s Mansions and Millionaires. In additional to his regular segments on ABC’s The View and Fox News, he is a national best-selling author with three critically acclaimed real estate books: Find It, Fix It, FLIP IT!; Ready, Set, SOLD!; and Before You BUY! Find him on Twitter at @1MichaelCorbett.


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