Staging a house: 14 psychology-backed tips

Whether you’re representing a listing or creating a model unit for potential renters in your complex, staging a house is a great way to make it more appealing. Find out what psychological factors influence decision-making and how you can create a space that is more inviting and more profitable than you ever thought possible. In addition, you’ll find out why it’s what you don’t include in a room that may have the biggest impact of all.

August 17, 2022

8 min read


When selling a home, you want to make prospective buyers fall in love with each room and the exterior when they view it virtually or in-person. As a full-time or part-time real estate agent, consider staging your client’s home to successfully catch the attention of viewers and increase the home’s selling price. You can also see our visual on how to sell here.Staging a home means decorating and highlighting the home’s most important assets. Buyers should be able to comfortably imagine themselves moving in and making the space theirs. The house will also advertise better when listed. Staging a house does take quite a bit of work, but according to several studies, the return is worth the time, effort, and costs put in.

1. Create Coziness in Larger Rooms with Warm Colors

Warm colors subconsciously make you think of heat and sunlight. Since they give off a feeling of warmth, when staging a house, you should paint larger rooms with warm colors. They will make viewers feel cozy, especially if the room does not receive as much sunlight or you live in a colder climate.

2. Enlarge Smaller Rooms with Cool Colors

While warm colors create a sense of coziness, cool colors can help calm and soothe. They remind people of the natural world. In fact, similar to the ocean, cool colors appear as if they recede, making them ideal for smaller rooms that you want to appear larger. Use lighter shades of cool colors to expand small rooms, like an office space or bedroom.

chart with colors listed on the left side and corresponding emotions next to each color

3. Decide Which Emotion to Evoke Based on Room Color

Colors can also subconsciously affect our moods and how we feel. The way colors affect our brains is why brands focus so much on testing their logos and products. For a staged house, consider which emotion the colors below evoke and carefully choose based on room size, lighting, and how prospects will walk through the house.

Beige sofa with blue wall and art hanging. In the foreground, a carpet, circular wood table, and wood chair

Tips for Using the Rule of Three

The rule of three is a design principle that affects how each staged room should be laid out. The guideline is to arrange items in three because three is the lowest number to begin a pattern. Arranging items in odd numbers make them more appealing and memorable.

5. Group Furniture in Trios to Help Guide the Eyes

Even though the human eye begins to notice patterns in three, the mind wants symmetry. By having an odd number of objects, people will gaze for longer due to their minds trying to make a space symmetrical. As prospects look around more, they will also stay around longer and contemplate the space more thoroughly.In most rooms, you should have three main items that draw buyers’ attention. For the living room, it can be the couch, rug, and coffee table. While the dining room should highlight the dining room table, chairs, and chandelier or overhead light.

6. Display Three Distinct Textures or Fabrics to Make Furniture Pop

You can also use fabrics in threes to further attract the attention of buyers. For instance, when staging a sofa, consider the fabric of the sofa itself, the throw pillows, and the blanket. On the bed, consider the fabric of the headboard, the blanket or duvet cover, and the throw pillows.As far as textures go, having too many textures can be overbearing, especially if certain buyers plan to sit or touch items. Having three separate textures in a room brings a nice cohesiveness. You can use wood-accented items mixed with soft linen fabric with handles or chandeliers giving off a sleek finish.

White open kitchen with three lights hanging above the island

Light Staging Tips

Lighting can make all the difference when it comes to staging a house and making potential buyers feel welcomed. Similar to an art gallery, you want to highlight the house's most prominent and desirable features. Use a mixture of natural and artificial lighting to achieve this desire.

7. Divvy Up the Amount of Natural and Artificial Light

Natural light comes from the sun and emits all colors of the rainbow. Natural light releases both white and yellow light, depending on the time of day and weather conditions. For instance, during sunrise and sunset, the sun emits warmer yellow light. While on a clear sunny day, there is more blue and white light, hence a brightness outside.Artificial light stems from a filament that either uses electricity or a halogen gas to glow. Light bulbs emit different color temperatures to replicate different shades of natural light. For instance, soft white emits a warm and yellow light, which gives a cozy feeling. While a bright white contains more blue and white tones, replicating a bright afternoon day.When staging a house, use both natural and artificial light to your advantage.

8. Open Blinds and Allow Natural Light In

For a staged house, you want to brighten up each room as much as possible. One way to easily brighten a room is to clean the inside and outside of windows and open the blinds. Sunlight will make the rooms look bigger, and most homeowners enjoy the natural light in their household as it helps the body’s circadian rhythms, which typically leads to better sleep. If a room lacks large windows, consider hanging a mirror to help reflect the natural light in a darker room.

9. Take Advantage of Artificial Light

Use artificial light to brighten a room and make it seem larger. When using artificial light, make sure you are layering your lighting. Meaning, do not rely solely on overhead lighting, but rather a mixture. You can use the rule of three. A room should have an overhead light, a table or floor lamp, and then natural light from a window. When using artificial lighting consider the season and location of the house. If the house is being shown in the winter in a northern city that doesn’t get much natural light, then use soft white light to emit a feeling of warmth and coziness. If the house is somewhere balmy with consistent natural light year-round, then consider using bright white, which replicates the sun and will be harmonious with the natural light coming in.

General Feng Shui Staging Tips

Feng shui is a traditional Chinese practice of arranging the pieces in a space to create balance with the natural world. By arranging a living space, one can establish harmonious energy between the individual and the environment.

10. Establish Feng Shui Within the Household

When staging a house, aim for feng shui within the household. As buyers walk through the household, each room should have a unique energy that creates a balance within the household.Establishing feng shui in a household begins with the entrance from the front door. The entryway should be welcoming and clean without clutter. While each living space—the living room, office, and bedrooms—should have a commanding position. The commanding position means being able to see the door to the room from your position of rest. If you’re in the bedroom, you should be able to see the doorway when lying down in bed. While if you’re in a home office, it’s wise to place the desk diagonal to the doorway so that you’re not in line with the door, but can still see it.

11. Declutter and Minimize for Buyers

Feng shui for many homebuyers today means minimalism, especially for millennials who make up the majority of homebuyers. The minimalist lifestyle stems from a rejection of unnecessary items within the household and a yearning to spend more on experiences rather than superficial things.When staging a house, keep in mind that buyers want to imagine a decluttered home. They too want ample open space to move around. Staged houses should be even more minimal than a typical household so that it is easy for prospects to navigate rooms. Also remember that there will be multiple people in the household at once, making each space feel even more crowded.

Condo apartment with orange couch, carpet, and open white kitchen in the background

Other Must-Do Staging Tips

You have done the majority of the hard work. Now, comes the tidying around the house to put the final touches on your client’s staged home. These must-do staging tips are typically minor and easy to do; however, failing to do these can leave a lasting negative impression on prospects before they even enter the household.

12. Remove Personal Items

When staging a house, make sure your client removes the majority, if not all, of their personal belongings. Even though the personal items might make it feel homier to the seller, it is off-putting to potential buyers if they see these items. Buyers don’t want to imagine other people inhabiting a space will be paying to make theirs. They especially don’t want to visualize bodily care. So make sure to remove toothbrushes, bars of soap, and razors. It’s also ideal to remove any toys or personal pictures.

13. Cleanup and Maintain the Exterior

The exterior is the first thing that prospects will see and notice when coming up to the property, especially the front yard. If the exterior looks bad, such as an unkempt yard, peeling paint, or untrimmed hedges and trees, it could put a sour taste in many viewers’ mouths. Their thinking when entering the house might not be one of excitement, but rather, skepticism and looking for more signs of mistreatment, damage, or lack of homecare.

14. Fix Up the Front Door

When entering the home, prospective buyers should feel welcomed immediately. You can do this by selecting a non-personal doormat that says, “welcome” and matches the house’s architect. Also, make sure your front door color compliments the current exterior. If you live in a brick house, use a paint color that’s similar to the brick colors. Lastly, make sure to update your light fixtures and any hardware. Light fixtures should be about a third of the height of the door and should have warm white bulbs. Lastly, make sure the doorbell and door knocker aren’t too flashy.Staging a house typically sells quicker and for more than non-staged houses. However, it can be both stressful and time-consuming to stage the perfect house and make sure nothing has been overlooked. As an agent, reassure your clients that you have everything covered and are capable of making smart financially savvy decisions on their behalf. For agents that also do rentals, use RentSpree’s tenant screening services and rental application software to make the renting process seamless.

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