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When staging a home, the goal is to minimize imperfections and elevate the best features.

Broker and Realtor Connie Castonguay works with Realtor Karla Haley to stage homes for Wayzata-based Holmers Real Estate Group. Their work has helped homeowners “make the most money they possibly can, in the shortest amount of time.”

They shared their top 10 tips for staging your home:

1. Freshen the front door and curb appeal

The first 10-15 seconds when a potential buyer approaches a front door is a make it or break it moment, Castonguay said. Everything thereafter is a justification of why they like the home, or why they won’t chase after it.

While replacing an older front door is a wise investment, event a fresh coat of paint is meaningful, Haley said. Other steps to consider in upping curb appeal: Trim trees and bushes. Put away the yard art. Power wash and sweep the steps.

2. When it comes

to the front entry, think of the senses

The more important question to ask when thinking of first impressions isn’t just what potential buyers see, Castonguay said. It’s what they smell.

“All of our houses have an odor,” she said. “We just don’t notice.”

People encounter scents ranging from residents’ pets, to whatever was baked the night before, to the heavy smell of candles and plugins.

Haley said they advise homeowners to use cleaning products steeped in essential oils so the home has a more natural perfume. Using a plugin or candle sends the message that the homeowners are trying to mask some other dubious smell.

3. Declutter,

declutter, declutter

Decluttering is a finesse, Haley said.

“Take the personal items out, like family photos,” she said. “If you can, just make sure that it’s very neutral so people aren’t distracted.”

4. Think of the

details in cleaning

Castonguay said washing the windows is a step that can make the home look new. By deep-cleaning the home, potential buyers can focus on the features that sell.

5. Be sensitive

with color

Both Castonguay and Haley said trendy paint colors may not always compliment the home they’re in.

“Each house we go in and stage, the color is specific to that home,” Castonguay said. “So we bring in a pallet of colors and say, OK, what looks good in here? Is it a warmer white? Is it a smoky gray? Is it a warm tone or cool tone?”

One hardline rule they enforce is steering clear of paint with shine. Flat paint works more at hiding imperfections. When they paint homes, they tend to repaint rooms with heavy primary colors back to neutral colors.

6. With furniture,

less is more

Consider moving furniture so it makes the space feel open, and conducive to conversation.

“All of this is going through the buyers’ minds as they’re walking,” Castonguay said. “They’re either looking through the clutter and mess and getting lost in people’s things. Or they’re getting a real warm and great feel.”

Decluttering and furniture placement work together. The realtor duo recommends to get rid of worn furniture and to keep it simple.

7. Repair and replace

Light fixtures, appliances and faucets are inexpensive items to replace that instantly add value, Haley said. Whatever a flaw may cost to replace or repair, a potential buyer will likely imagine it as double the cost and will deduct that from the value of the home.

“We want to avoid that,” Haley said. “We want them to go, ‘OK, that’s done. Check. OK that’s done’ … and they just keeping moving on and go ‘Oh, we love this place.’”

Kitchen before

A “before” image of a kitchen the Holmers Real Estate Group duo worked on.

Kitchen after

Above: An “after” image of the staged kitchen. Left: A “before” image of a kitchen the Holmers Real Estate Group duo worked on.

8. Get consistent

with appliances

Stainless steel is still a popular finish for bathroom appliances, the pair said. However, it’s more about what looks appropriate for the space. Appliances should be the same color, and should be the right size for the kitchen.

Investing in new appliances gives a generous return in the listing price, Haley said.

9. Depersonalize

the bathrooms

New towels, new rugs and mended features are what counts in the bathroom, Castonguay said. Spend $20 on a new set of towels and repair cracking grout, or fix the caulk in the bathtub. Personal items should be neatly tucked out of sight.

10. Tidy up the

master bedroom

The master bedroom goes with the kitchen and bathroom for being one of the main selling features.

“Make it an inviting place where someone can relax,” “It kind of gets back to that decluttering … organize things so that when somebody comes in, they’re not distracted by the mess.”

One of the frequent mistakes homeowners make is to leave their bedroom closets as they were. Closets can appear suddenly small if homeowners have been constantly packing in knickknacks and clothing for a number of years.

The Holmers Real Estate Group is at 215 Walker Ave. S. in Wayzata.

Lara is a multimedia reporter for Lakeshore Weekly News. If she arrives late to anything, it’s probably because she’s busy petting every cat and dog she runs across.

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