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How to Stage a House for Sale (While Living In It)

Staging a vacant home is fairly easy, but staging a house for sale while still living in it is more difficult. In this article, we’re going to use our real estate and staging expertise to help you successfully stage a house to sell while you’re still living in it.

Even though staging a house for sale while living in it can be a challenge, a well-staged home listed with a top real estate agent is worth the effort because it often leads to faster sales and higher offers. When you’re staging a house, you want to showcase a clean and spacious space where buyers can visualize the property as their future home.

Does Staging Help Sell Houses?

Yes, staged homes sell faster because they create a strong first impression and stand out from the competition.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 82% of buyers’ agents say staging makes it easier for buyers to ‘visualize’ the property as their future home.

Staging increases the amount buyers are willing to spend on a property. Twenty-three percent of buyers’ agents said home staging raised the dollar value offered between 1-5%, compared to similar non-staged homes on the market.

The survey showed home staging greatly decreased the amount of time a home spent on the market.

Furthermore, TV programs have noticeably impacted buyers’ expectations of a potential property.

More buyers expect homes to look like homes staged on television, causing more disappointment by how homes appeared. If you have the house that satisfies their expectations, you’ll be the one to get the offer!

Can You Stage a Home While Living In It With Kids or Pets?

Even if you have pets or children, you can stage a home for sale while living in it. And you should!


Many buyers decide within seconds whether they are interested in your home or not.

Use the tips in this guide to confidently list a staged home while you’re still sleeping, eating, and living there.

How Do I List My House While Living In It

In today’s market, many people are trying to sell their house while living in it. People moving up in house, downsizing, or moving to a new location often list their house for sale while still living in it.

To successfully sell a house while living in it, follow these six steps:

  1. Mentally move out
  2. Declutter, declutter, declutter
  3. Deep clean
  4. Stage
  5. Keep it tidy with quick cleans
  6. Stay busy outside of the house


Even if you’re physically living there, if you’re listing your house for sale, you need to mentally “move out.” Shift your mindset from this being your house to this being someone else’s house. This is the goal after all. Mentally perceiving your house as the next project to become someone else’s house will help you more easily:

  • take pictures off the walls and shelves
  • pack away treasured collections
  • remove children’s artwork from the refrigerator


Many people think of adding things to stage, but removing things (aka decluttering) is actually a major part of successfully staging.

You want your home to have just enough furniture and decor for buyer’s to visualize living there, relaxing on the couch by the fireplace, enjoying the front patio or back deck, and peacefully sleeping in the cozy bedrooms. But the rest of the stuff? Pack it away in neatly stacked boxes, totes somewhere like the basement, garage, or storage unit. You want to showcase the space, so potential buyers can envision their things and future memories in your staged space.


  • Allow kids to pick a few favorite toys to keep out during this time your house is on the market and available for showings. When it’s time for showings, have a designated shelf or spot to put them away.
  • Allow kids to pack up special artwork for the next house.

After mentally moving out and physically removing a lot of your items, you should be left with a house that looks like someone lives in it and has neutral decor, such as that from Hobby Lobby, IKEA, Pottery Barn, or Target. Light sheer curtains, a fresh front door mat, and fresh flowers or plants are easy ways to freshen your house to sell.

Next, you’ll want to make sure the house shows well in pictures and for showings by making sure it is really clean!


Set aside a time to deep clean your entire house. Do it yourself or hire someone to do it, but make sure you get everything from dead bugs in the window sills to spider webs on the front porch and basement.

  • Dust Shelves, Furniture, & Surfaces
  • Vacuum Floors, Window Sills, Rugs, and Garage
  • Wash Windows & Mirrors
  • Sweep
  • Mop
  • Wipe Down Counters
  • Wipe Down Appliances
  • Clean Toilets (inside & out)
  • Clean Mirrors
  • Clean Tubs & Showers

For a step-by-step guide of what to do in each room before pictures & showings, make sure you download our free Staging Guide (available near the bottom of this post). 


According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the most important rooms to be staged are the:

  1. Living Room
  2. Master Bedroom
  3. Kitchen
  4. Dining Room

So if you’re limited on time and energy, focus on those four areas first.

If you want to present the best property possible, here are staging guidelines to follow:


Make sure your home also has great curb appeal. A warm, clean, and inviting front of the house will invite more buyers to come in and consider the rest of the house.

  • Mow grass or shovel driveway and sidewalks – depending on the season
  • Weed flower beds and lay down fresh mulch
  • Fill in empty beds & window boxes with small shrubs & seasonal flowers
  • Freshen up paint on window trim and columns
  • Sweep front porch & remove cobwebs
  • Paint front door and/or shutters a lively color that coordinates with rest of home colors
  • Hang a wreath and your front door and replace the welcome mat
  • Clean & arrange patio furniture – a couple of chairs on the front porch is inviting
  • Replace cushions, if needed
  • Pick up all pet waste
  • Repair damaged deck boards & fencing
  • Pressure wash the house & driveway


Inside, you’re showcasing a bright, organized, and clean home, so before pictures & showings:

  • Turn on all lights and lamps
  • Open all blinds & drapes to let in as much natural light as possible
  • Clean windows
  • Open doors to bedrooms, offices, etc.
  • Closet doors do not need to be opened, but closets should be tidy because buyers will look inside to see what space is available!

Living Areas

  • Group furniture 12-16 inches apart surrounding a coffee table and anchored with an appropriately-sized rug
  • Face the couch toward the focal point in the room or toward the first line of sight when walking into a room, as if to welcome guests to “come and sit for a while”
  • Replace worn-out pillows and rugs
  • Pack away personal items like photos, knick-knacks, and scrapbooks
  • Remove extra furniture to showcase square footage
  • Remove stacks of paper, magazines, mail, etc.
  • Neatly stack books and simple decor on coffee table and side tables
  • Plants and flowers add color and life to the room
  • Hang light sheer curtains


  • Make beds & fluff bed pillows
  • Replace heavy drapes with sheers
  • Clear nightstands of clutter.
  • Pack away personal items & photos
  • Leave or hang a few pictures with neutral tones
  • Organize closets by color
  • Donate all clothes and shoes you no longer wear to showcase more closet space


  • Pack away rarely used small appliances and holiday dishware
  • Go easy on buying groceries and use up items in your pantry to showcase more space
  • Declutter countertops
  • Before pictures and showings, tuck away soap, sponges, napkins, paper towels, and dishes
  • Scrub counters, backsplash, and appliances
  • Remove personal items like fridge magnets, photos, and children’s artwork
  • Change outdated hardware for something more modern
  • Consider giving your kitchen cabinets a facelift and brightening up your kitchen by painting your cabinets white
  • Empty the trash often and before every showing. Funky smells do not help homes sell!


  • Store daily items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap out of sight
  • Put down toilet seats and lids
  • Hang a simple, plain white shower curtain
  • Keep a white hand towel and throw rug to put out before showings (not for kids to use!)
  • Tidy up open shelves
  • Put a fresh, small bouquet of flowers in a vase on the vanity


Once you get your home show-ready, little things each day can help you keep it that way…or close. We know living with kids and pets can make this challenging, but being intentional and vigilant about a few simple routines will help your home stay looking staged even while you’re still living in it.

Daily Routines:

  • Make beds every morning
  • Clean shower when you’re showering (Norwex Bathroom Scrub Mitt works great!)
  • Wash dishes after every meal or run dishwasher every evening
  • Wipe down counters and bathroom vanities after use
  • Schedule robot vacuum daily (or manually vacuum dailly if you don’t have one)
  • Tidy up morning and evening putting everything back in its staging place
  • Involve kids in the cleanup as much as possible to share household chores. Explain the importance of a neat home for your family’s quest of selling the house!
  • Empty litter boxes and pick up dog waste in the yard daily
  • Use silicone bibs with catch-all scoop for babies/toddlers to minimize food on the floor
  • Open windows when weather allows to let out unpleasant smells and let in fresh air


The more time you spend in the house, the more you, your kids, and pets will undo the hard work of keeping it show-ready.

Find things to do outside of the house during this selling phase, such as visiting museums, going for hikes, attending sporting events, hanging out with friends and family, and going on those day trips around the state you’ve been meaning to do.

Here’s a list of 42 Things to do and Places to Visit in Wisconsin and the Fun Upcoming Events in Jefferson County, WI!

What Should You NOT Do When Staging a House

Don’t stage alone! Staging is FREE if you list with a RE/MAX Shine real estate agent, so don’t be afraid to ask us for help.

We’re eager to help you achieve your goals and we are pros in knowing what sells (and what doesn’t). 

Don’t empty everything out of the house. A well staged home typically sells better than a completely empty home.

Don’t take it personally! If you’re working with a real estate agent, your home sale is our job. Please don’t be offended if we offer to help stage or suggest things be removed, repaired, or replaced.

Living in a home and staging a home for sale are two different things. Your goal is to sell your home quickly and for top dollar. Following our proven methods will greatly increase the likelihood of your success.

Home Staging Before and After

Here are pictures from recent home staging before and after by our RE/MAX Shine realtors.

Free Staging Checklist & Guide

Get your very own Staging Checklist and Guide, which tells you what to do in each room to make your house look amazing for pictures and showings.

Let Shine Help You Sell Your House

RE/MAX Shine helped 204 families buy or sell a home in 2021, and we would be honored to help you market and sell your house too.

Reach out today and let’s get your home SOLD!

-Written by Val Breit

More House Selling Tips

Save This Staging Checklist for Later

Want to come back to this staging checklist and tips for staging a house while living in it?

Save it to Pinterest and share it with everyone you know who wants to sell their house.

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