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Tips to Stage a Home That Needs Repairs and Improvements

By Bill Gassett | May 19, 2024

Are you wondering how to stage a home that needs an overhaul due to its condition? Selling a house in need of repairs can be challenging.

However, you can enhance its appeal with strategic staging and attract potential buyers without completing all the repairs.

I will provide tips and advice on how you can accomplish your goal of selling fast without investing a ton of money:

  • How to highlight the home's potential and minimize flaws.
  • Cost-effective strategies to improve the house's appearance.
  • Practical tips for creating a welcoming atmosphere.

From my experience as a top-producing Massachusetts Realtor and expert in home sales, I know there are always things you can do to improve a home's appearance. Even homes that need significant upgrading can be enhanced without addressing the most expensive problems. When you sell a home in lousy condition, there are still steps to take to improve the selling process.

I like to walk through a potential client's home room by room, providing helpful advice.

Let's explore how to stage your house for a successful sale.

Stage a home that needs repairs

1. Clean Thoroughly and Declutter

A clean, clutter-free house instantly looks more appealing. Potential buyers can focus on the home's features rather than dirt and disarray. Deep cleaning is one of the least expensive improvements that can leave a lasting impression.

  • Deep Clean: I ask my clients to scrub every corner, including floors, walls, windows, and fixtures. Pay special attention to kitchens and bathrooms, as these areas significantly impact buyer perception. Clean grout lines, remove mold or mildew and ensure all surfaces shine.
  • Declutter: Remove personal items, excess furniture, and anything that cramps rooms. Clear countertops, organize closets, and tidy up storage areas. The goal is to create a sense of space and allow buyers to imagine their belongings in the home. This is home staging 101, but the selling process can make a significant difference.

Why: Cleanliness and spaciousness help buyers focus on the house's potential, not its flaws.

2. Maximize Curb Appeal

First impressions matter, especially with curb appeal. The exterior of your home is the first thing buyers see, setting the tone for their entire visit. It will also be one of the first things they view online when looking at photography.

  • Tidy the Yard: Mow the lawn, trim bushes, and clear debris. Remove any dead plants and ensure pathways are clean and clear. A well-kept yard suggests that the home is well-maintained.
  • Simple Landscaping: I recommend my clients add potted plants, mulch, and fresh flowers. Choose low-maintenance plants that add color and life to the yard without requiring extensive care. A little bit of color can go a long way.
  • Front Door: Repaint or replace the front door for a fresh, inviting look. A bold, welcoming color can make the entrance stand out. Ensure the door hardware is clean and functioning correctly.

Why: Attractive exteriors draw buyers in and set positive expectations.

3. Highlight Key Features

Draw attention to the home's strengths to help buyers see its potential.

  • Focal Points: I emphasize fireplaces, large windows, or hardwood floors. These are top-rated features among most buyers. Use furniture and decor to direct attention to these areas. For example, arrange seating around a fireplace or ensure windows are unobstructed to highlight natural light.
  • Good Lighting: Use natural light and lamps to highlight these features. Open curtains and blinds during showings, and add floor or table lamps in darker areas. Bright spaces feel more welcoming and spacious.
  • Neutral Decor: Keep decor simple and neutral to appeal to a broad audience. Avoid bold colors and patterns that might not be to everyone's taste. Neutral tones create a blank canvas for buyers to imagine their style.

Why: Highlighting positives distracts from needed repairs.

4. Make Minor Repairs

Minor fixes can significantly impact overall appeal. They demonstrate that the house has been cared for, even if it needs more extensive repairs. Addressing the little stuff is one of the best tips for selling a property fast.

  • Quick Fixes: Patch holes, fix leaky faucets, and replace broken light bulbs. These small details can significantly influence buyer perception. A leaky faucet might suggest underlying plumbing issues, while a broken light bulb can make a room seem dark and unwelcoming.
  • Paint Touch-Ups: Cover up scuffs and marks with touch-up paint. This is a cost-effective way to freshen up walls without repainting entire rooms. Focus on high-traffic areas like hallways and entryways.
  • Flooring: Clean or refinish floors to improve their appearance. Shampoo carpets, polish hardwood floors, and replace any damaged tiles. Clean floors make the entire home feel more inviting.

Why: Addressing minor issues shows that the house is well-maintained despite more significant repairs. Some improvements have considerable ROI, while others don't. These do!

5. Use Strategic Furniture Placement

Proper furniture arrangement enhances space and functionality, making rooms appear larger and more inviting.

  • Open Spaces: Arrange furniture to create open, airy spaces. Avoid overcrowding rooms with too much furniture. Less is more when it comes to staging. Ensure there are clear walkways and that rooms feel spacious.
  • Functionality: Show how each room can be used effectively. Create distinct areas for living, dining, and working. In smaller homes, consider multipurpose furniture, like a dining table that can double as a workspace.
  • Scale: Use appropriately sized furniture to make rooms appear larger. Oversized furniture can make a room feel cramped, while too-small pieces can make it feel empty. Find a balance that showcases the space well.

Why: Good furniture placement can make small or awkward spaces more appealing.

6. Add Fresh, Inexpensive Decor

A well staged family room

Fresh decor can update a home’s look without major renovations, making it feel current and well-cared-for.

  • Throw Pillows: Add colorful pillows to sofas and chairs. Choose colors that complement the room's palette and add a pop of interest without overwhelming the space.
  • Area Rugs: Rugs define spaces and add warmth. They can anchor a seating area or add comfort to a bedroom. Choose neutral or subtly patterned rugs that enhance the room's decor.
  • Artwork: Hang simple, neutral artwork to add interest. Avoid personal photos and choose universally appealing pieces. Sorry, but all the family photos running up the foyer staircase should go. Art can add character to a room without being too distracting.

Why: New decor elements make a house feel updated and inviting.

7. Emphasize Cleanliness in Problem Areas

Keep problem areas clean to reduce their negative impact. This shows that despite needed repairs, the home is well-maintained.

  • Kitchen: I always have my clients clear the counters and ensure the appliances are spotless. They also clean out the refrigerator and oven and organize the cabinets. A clean kitchen suggests a well-maintained home.
  • Bathroom: Scrub tiles, fixtures, and mirrors thoroughly. Replace worn-out shower curtains and ensure no signs of mold or mildew. Clean bathrooms are crucial in making a positive impression.
  • Basement/Garage: I recommend you organize and clean these spaces to show their potential. Even if they're unfinished, neat and tidy storage areas help buyers see their utility.

Why: Cleanliness minimizes the visual impact of disrepair.

8. Create a Welcoming Atmosphere

A welcoming atmosphere helps buyers envision living in the home, making them more likely to make an offer. This is true even in a fixer-upper.

  • Scent: Use mild, pleasant scents like fresh flowers or baked goods. Avoid strong fragrances that might overpower or irritate. Fresh scents can make a home feel inviting and cared for. If you go overboard, some buyers may think you're trying to hide a problem.
  • Temperature: Ensure the house is comfortable. A home that’s too hot or too cold can be off-putting. Adjust the thermostat to create a relaxed environment.
  • Ambiance: Soft music can create a relaxing atmosphere during showings. Choose instrumental music or gentle tunes that add to the home's appeal without distraction.

Why: A welcoming environment makes a positive emotional impact on buyers.

9. Use Mirrors to Enhance Space and Light

Mirrors can make spaces look larger and brighter, creating a more inviting atmosphere.

  • Placement: Hang mirrors opposite windows to reflect light. This can make rooms feel more open and bright.
  • Size: Use large mirrors in small rooms to create a sense of space. A well-placed mirror can make a cramped room feel more spacious and airy.
  • Style: Choose simple, modern mirrors that blend with the decor. Avoid ornate frames that might clash with the room's style.

Why: Mirrors enhance natural light and make rooms feel more spacious.

10. Be Transparent About Repairs Needed

Even when trying to sell a house as-is for cash, it pays to be truthful with potential buyers. Honesty builds trust with potential buyers and helps set realistic expectations.

  • Full Disclosure: Clearly state which repairs are needed, list known issues, and be upfront about the house's condition.
  • Cost Estimates: Provide estimates for repairs to help buyers understand costs. This can help buyers plan and budget for necessary repairs.
  • Potential: Emphasize the home's potential once repairs are completed. Highlight how investing in repairs can increase the home’s value and livability.

Why: Transparency helps manage buyer expectations and build trust.


Staging a house that needs repairs involves strategic cleaning, highlighting key features, and minor improvements to enhance appeal. Everything you do can impact who may end up being your buyer. I would approach it with this thought process.

Bill Gassett is an authority in the real estate industry with 38 years of experience. Bill is well respected for his informative articles for buyers, sellers, and fellow real estate agents to make sound decisions. His work has been featured on RIS Media, the National Association of Realtors, Inman News, Newsbreak, Credit Sesame, Realty Biz News, and his own authoritative resource, Maximum Real Estate Exposure. He has been on of the top RE/MAX agents in New England over the last two decades.
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