Staging a House on a Budget: 10 Tips from Experienced Realtors

Most home sellers have two goals in mind. The first goal is to sell their home for as much money as possible, ultimately maximizing their profit. Their second goal is to sell the home as quickly as possible, so they can close the previous chapter in their life and move onto the next. These are great goals to have, and as a 1.5% commission realtor with a mission of being the most financially responsible way to buy or sell a home, we're here to teach you our top tips for staging a house on a budget.

Home staging isn't difficult and you shouldn't overthink it. There are many budget-friendly tips and tricks we've learned as real estate agents that can help you get your home ready for the market without breaking the bank. While not all of these goals are specifically related to home staging, they are all recommendations we think every seller should consider before listing their house for sale.

Why Is It Important To Get Your Home Ready For The Market?

Every top real estate agent will tell you that the trick to selling any home quickly and for the highest price comes down to taking amazing listing photos. After all, a joint study conducted by the National Association of Realtors and Google found that 90% of home buyers searched online during their home buying process. The average buyer is scanning through hundreds of online listings on sites like Zillow,, and our very own home search platform so it's important to make sure your listing stands out from the crowd. A nicely staged home free of any clutter combined with professional photography is a foolproof way to ensure your online listing receives hundreds of views.

Image of an open concept modern kitchen

Tip 1: Spend time decluttering every room

Cluttered homes not only make rooms feel small, but it also makes it challenging for buyers to think beyond the clutter and visualize living in the space. If you have a cluttered house, before putting your home on the market, you'll want to spend time organizing. When you're getting ready to move, you may want to consider getting rid of, donating, or selling any items you haven't used in a while.

When it comes to decluttering your house on a budget:

  • There's no need to pay for expensive storage options. Instead, consider using your garage, attic, or basement as temporary storage. You'll want to make sure to keep everything organized by using moving boxes. This will not only help you find things more easily when you go to unpack but it will keep all of your belongings in good condition while they're being stored.
  • Post in local Facebook groups to see if any neighbors have extra cardboard moving boxes you could have. Neighbors may have these boxes lying around and taking up space. You'll help them declutter their home, and you'll save some money.
  • Host a yard sale to get rid of any items you do not use frequently. This is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. You'll get rid of things you no longer need and add a few bucks to your wallet.

Tip 2: Complete any home repairs that cost less than $100

In almost all cases we would advise against completing major renovations before selling a home. There are plenty of budget-friendly DIY projects you can do to make your house look great. If the repair costs less than $100, we encourage our clients to do it.

Here are a few of the most common repairs we recommend:

  • Ensure all doorknobs match throughout the house. If the bedrooms have steel doorknobs, and the bathrooms have gold, that will certainly stand out.
  • Fix the sink that drips or the toilet that continuously runs. While you're at it, buy a chlorine tablet for the toilet to make sure it is not discolored.
  • Make sure the shower curtain and shower mat are new. Bathrooms are a major attraction for any buyer, and a dirty shower curtain sticks out like a sore thumb.
  • Consider changing out old outdated light fixtures for a more modern design. Not only will this make any room look updated for under $150, but it will also make the lighting in the room more attractive.
  • Replace any broken window blinds that are no longer working properly.
  • Consider repainting the interior doors. We don't recommend you repaint your entire house (more on this later) but it is a good idea to give the doors a fresh coat.
  • If your kitchen or bathroom is looking dated, consider changing out the cabinet hardware to something more modern.

Tip 3: Leave it to the pros

Undoubtedly, there are some jobs that are better left for the pros. Just because you're hiring a professional doesn't mean you'll need to break the bank! There are various small upgrades you can ask a professional to complete which won't turn your house into a construction zone. To find local handymen, we recommend making a post in a local Facebook group. Within hours you should get several DMs.

Here are some of the things buyers appreciate when looking at homes:

  • Get the carpets professionally steam cleaned. Not only will this remove unwanted stains and odors, but it will bring life back into an older carpet that can make it look half its actual age. In our experience, professional steam cleaning will cost about $75 per room. Remember to ask the company if they have any discounts or promotions they are currently running.
  • Replacing the front door if it looks outdated or dinged up. A potential buyer will quickly identify if your front door is old, squeaky, drafty, or dented. First impressions go a long way. If your front door is in good condition, consider putting a fresh coat of paint on it.
  • Consider giving your kitchen cabinets new life. Let's face it, white kitchen cabinets are all the rage. New cabinets cost a small fortune and are not built nearly as well as those built prior to the early 2000s. Instead of replacing your old oak cabinets, hire a handyman to sand them down and paint them white. This may sound expensive but it should only cost around $1,000 and take less than a few days.
  • Painting your kitchen cabinets is also the perfect time to add a simple backsplash if you do not already have one. There are tons of videos on YouTube that will show you how to install a backsplash and if you're feeling handy, there is no need to hire a pro for this job. We recommend choosing a timeless backsplash like a simple white subway tile. After these minor updates, you'll be so surprised at how updated your home looks that you may not want to move after all.

Image of a modern dining room that is virtually staged with furniture

Tip 4: Replace all burnt-out lightbulbs

Real estate agents always stress that a home has proper lighting. After all, it's a major selling point, yet is often overlooked. Most buyers want to see a bright, open home. Keep in mind, not all potential buyers will be touring your home in the daylight, some will be coming to your home in the evening after work hours.

To make sure your lighting is on point:

  • Replace all light bulbs with soft-white LED bulbs in every room. It looks awkward when the lighting tone changes between rooms or light fixtures.
  • Again, consider purchasing new, modern light fixtures online if yours are looking a bit dated. This is by far one of the cheapest ways to update your home.
  • Buy an LED light-strip on Amazon for a budget-friendly way to have lighting under your kitchen cabinets.

Tip 5: If you're staging a house on a budget, Walmart's return policy will be your best friend

While we are not a fan of professional stagers whose cost may run $5,000 or more, we are huge proponents of the concept of light-staging. We don't think you should move-in any new furniture but an accent piece, new rug, or artwork can go a long way. If you want to stage your home but don't want to foot the bill, consider staging your home courtesy of a big-box retailer's return policy. This is a trick of the trade, and the home decor section at Walmart or Target has cute accessories that can make the perfect accent piece for any home. Go on a shopping spree but just remember to save the receipt.

Tip 6: Fake flowers are a home staging secret weapon

Image of a small dining room table with flowers in the middle of the table

Flowers add a pop of color to any room and will ensure the listing photos pop. However, fresh flowers are expensive and don't last very long. Considering buying fake flowers from Michaels or Homegoods. They will certainly help bring color to the professional photos we take.

Tip 7: Landscaping to boost curb appeal

Image of a nicely landscaped backyard with a patio set and grill

A potential buyer sees the outside of your property before they even step foot inside your home. If you're selling your house, you don't need to go nuts with a backyard or front yard renovation. However, you can't neglect the exterior of your home either.

Here are our tips for enhancing the appeal of your exterior without breaking the bank:

  • Mulch loses its color over time. Be sure to lay new mulch in flower gardens, and keep the color of the mulch uniform.
  • Keep the grass mowed and neatly edged, or considering hiring a professional landscaper to cut the grass while your house is on the market. Every two weeks should do the trick.
  • Remove clutter from the yard that is out of place. If you have a pool, make sure there isn't a pool noodle hanging out in the middle of the backyard. Keep all of the outdoor toys and lawn equipment neatly organized and out of sight.

Tip 8: Dust light fixtures and ceiling fans

Buyers genuinely care about the overall cleanliness of a home. Any seller should give their home a proper deep cleaning before putting it home on the market. A clean home doesn't cost any money, just a bit of time and elbow grease! If you do decide to hire a professional cleaner, it should cost roughly $150 depending on the size of the house. If you don't have a cleaner already, we'd recommend posting in local Facebook groups to find one.

Listen up sellers, these are commonly missed places that buyers take notice of:

  • Clean all ceiling fans. Ceiling fans are a great accessory, but trap dust and cobweb magnet!
  • Light fixtures. As mentioned above, you should replace your lightbulbs. While you're replacing the bulb, take the time to make sure to give your light fixtures a proper cleaning!
  • Replace the HVAC air filters which will help your home smell better. More on this below.
  • Clean the shower and bathtub to make sure they are sparkling. If the caulking around the edge of the shower or bath looks discolored, consider scrapping it off and reapplying.

Tip 9: Give the home a fresh scent

By this point, you've done so much to ensure your home looks its best. There is one very important sense that you may be forgetting: smell. In fact, most buyers can be turned off just as easily by the smell of your home as they can by the look of it so make sure your home smells nice. Let's face it, sometimes we become accustomed to the smell of our own home, so we recommend inviting a friend over and asking them to provide you with their honest opinion. You may not feel like your home smells bad, but your friend will quickly call you out if it does (assuming you have a good friend).

How do you make your house smell clean and fresh? Simple, here are a few cheap ways to do so:

  • Visit the candle section at Walmart or Target. Stay away from overpowering scents like apple pie or Hawaiian sunset. Instead, opt for something neutral like lavender or fresh laundry.
  • Be sure to replace the cat litter frequently, and make sure your animals are kept clean. A dirty cat or dog has an unpleasant smell, especially on rainy days.
  • If possible, lightly spray the couch with febreze before a potential buyer comes to tour your home.

Tip 10: Pressure wash the exterior

We've spent a lot of time cleaning the inside of the house and making it smell great but don't forget about the outside. If your deck or siding is dirty, you should definitely power wash them. If you don't own a pressure washer, ask a neighbor or rent one from Home Depot. This is another budget-friendly way to boost your curb appeal. If you notice any wood boards that are rotten while you're pressure washing the deck, we recommend replacing them.

What Home Repairs Should You Avoid

Whereas major renovations should be avoided, what about renovating the 'bones' of the house, or the noncosmetic aspects? Our advice remains steady, we recommend you do not complete any major noncosmetic upgrades unless they pose a risk or hazard to the home.

Should I replace my old HVAC unit?

We would not recommend replacing the HVAC before selling your home unless it is not working. The cost to replace a unit can easily reach $6,000 - $12,000+. If the machine is working without any major problems, don't stress it even if it's 15 years old.

Should I replace my old hot water heater?

Very similar to the HVAC situation, if it's not broke don't fix it. If the hot water works every time, it doesn't need to be a modern energy-efficient piece of equipment. These can be replaced by the new homeowner if/when it finally breaks.

Should I put a new roof on the house?

A new roof will certainly make your house look great, but if it's not leaking water or damaged, there is no need to replace it. We've had clients whose roofs were 20+ years old and while it will probably need to be replaced in the next 5 years, it should be up to the new homeowner to do it.

Should I install new energy-efficient windows?

Broken windows clearly won't sell, and windows with a bad draft may detour some buyers. But if the windows are just old, and still work just fine, let them be.

Keep in mind, if it's not broken, don't fix it. If you currently own a home and plan on selling in a few years, start to collect and keep maintenance records of your property. A well-maintained HVAC is what a buyer looks for. Don't let the concept of new force you to overspend.

Repainting the interior

Repainting your home's interior can be a big undertaking. Not only is this time-consuming and expensive, but it's also risky. You may choose a color that's not in demand or one that doesn't appeal to many buyers. If your current paint job has a lot of scuffs, try using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (this works like a charm). Our rule of thumb is unless your current paint color is an offensive highlighter yellow or fluorescent green, it will not deter buyers.

Buying new appliances

We've seen far too many clients spend a lot of money on buying new appliances with the expectation it will help sell their house. That is simply not true. You want to make sure your appliances are working, but they do not need to be brand new just to sell the home.

You don't need to pay for a professional stager

If your furniture is dated, it may be tempting to hire a professional stager. This can get expensive, often costing a few thousand dollars. Keep in mind the 10 tips we listed above are a great way to 'stage' your home while on a budget.

With today's technology, it's also possible to virtually stage your home. This saves clients thousands of dollars and still provides buyers with a sense of what the property could look like with furniture.

How Can Felix Homes Help?

Felix Homes is a Nashville-based real estate brokerage servicing middle Tennessee. We have one simple mission - to be the most financially responsible way to buy or sell a home.

We make our mission possible by not only charging a low commission fee on both the buy and sell side of the transaction, but our brokerage also has a fundamentally different business model when compared to traditional brokerages. We are a tech-enabled real estate firm and instead of having independent contractors agents, we have full-time employees who specialize in specific tasks such as marketing, finance, photography, technology, and of course, being a real estate agent.

Don’t be mistaken, a discounted price doesn’t mean a discounted service. We are a full-service brokerage! Our agents' only job is to focus on you, the client. Our average client keeps an additional $12,375 in their pocket after they sell their home using our low commission model. If you’re interested in hearing more or need any support on any real estate matter, we can be reached at or 615-354-5731.

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