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Simple Staging Tips that Make Buyers’ Dreams Come True

ForSaleByOwner May 3, 2024

Paula Ramos has no idea how she accumulated so many magazine pages, newspaper clippings and website printouts, but she can tell you that they no longer fit in one box.

Or two, for that matter.

In fact, Ramos’ collection of home decor ideas now fills three filing boxes stowed under the kitchen table in her Tampa, Florida, home. “I like to dream, as my husband says. I like to be ready to try something new and different, and all these clips come in handy when I’m feeling inspired,” says the 31-year-old occupational therapist. “One of these days, I’m going to build my dream house, and I’ll put ideas from a lot of these clips to good use.”

Until then, Ramos says she’s more than willing to tell others how to use their residential space, including buyers who have looked at the last two homes she and her husband have sold without an agent.

“One of the best things about not working with a real estate agent is you don’t have to necessarily play by their rules,” Ramos says. “I know all the conventional wisdom, and how sellers are told to downplay the cool things they’ve done with their space, or the cool things they want to do, but if I’m showing my house, I want to give my potential buyers some ideas. I want to see that spark in their eyes if I suggest something or show them a picture of something that might work.”

Ramos says she always asks the buyer a few questions before she schedules a showing. Nothing too intrusive, she adds, mostly just the basics. “I just ask how many people might be moving in, what their ages are, real baseline stuff,” Ramos says.

The answers to those questions give her a place to start when she begins showing those prospective buyers around. “It’s easy to get people to tell you how they’d like to use the house, or how they use the house or apartment they live in now,” she says. “When I walk into a den, I don’t say it’s a den to a family with small kids. I say it’s a game room or a playroom or a family room. Then I might show them a picture I cut out of a magazine and say, ‘If we had kids while we were here, I was planning on doing a chalkboard wall right here because there are no windows and it’s a great big open canvas.’

“All of a sudden, they see your house as their house, and that’s pretty much the goal.”

Ramos says her most successful selling suggestion occurred last year, when she and her husband sold their home in Sarasota before moving to Tampa. “Our house had a nice big garage that we used for our cars, but there are some people in Florida who use their garages as an extended living room,” she says. “I found these great photos of man caves online and basically laid out how our garage could be a great place for the man of the house to hang out with his friends.”

The buyers agreed, adding a portable air-conditioning unit, indoor-outdoor carpeting, a big-screen TV, a sound system, a leather couch, a few chairs and a poker table before they even moved in. “The guy was a retired cop from New York who wanted a place to watch Yankees games with his friends,” Ramos says. “It’s a perfect spot for him.”

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