Abby Vasek

Getting ready to sell your home and wondering how you can make it look like those beautifully staged homes you see on TV? In a word: declutter.

The SpareFoot Blog talked with Abby Vasek, an Austin, TX, interior designer and home stager, as well as a star of “HGTV Star,” to get some tips on clearing out your home for staging.

How does clutter factor into home staging?

When getting a home ready to sell, clutter is the biggest thing we battle. Decluttering gives you the number one return on investment as far as do-it-yourself projects.

Can home staging be a DIY project, or do most people need help?

I strongly recommend that people enlist the help of someone else—whether a really good friend who has an eye for decorating or is a professional home stager. Because, generally, people can’t detach enough emotionally to do the kind of clearing that’s necessary.

What’s the biggest challenge when it comes to decluttering for staging?

It’s what I call the unexpected clutter. That is, you’ve gone though and have followed all the rules—you’ve emptied half of the clothes from you closet, so it feels nice and airy. You’ve cleared out all the overstuffed cabinets. But then there’s the décor that, though it’s really good in a home that you live in, it’s not good in a home you want to sell. Like heritage walls where, going up the stairs, you have all the photographs of your family. That’s beautiful. But in home staging, it’s clutter.

Light fixtures can really be showstoppers, they can be very inexpensive, and they can be one of the easiest things to do for an upgrade.
— Home stager Abby Vasek

Why is that type of a décor a problem in home staging?

It’s all of your favorite moments with your friends and family, and not the buyer’s. When they see you, they can’t see themselves. So, all those personal preferences need to go out the door. Which is a good reason to have someone else working with you, because we all think our own stuff is cute.

How much does it cost to hire a home stager?

I’ve seen home stagers range from as little as $80 an hour to as much as $150 an hour, and a consultation can generally take anywhere from two to three hours.

What’s the staging process like?

When we show up for a consultation, we walk through and get acquainted with your home. A home stager is going to look at the condition of your driveway–does is need to be power washed? What’s the state of the mailbox? How does the door look? Does it need a pop of color? All those things that, as a homeowner living there, you’ve gotten so used to seeing that you don’t even notice.

Then we start walking through inside and making a list, room by room, of all the repairs and changes that need to be done. The homeowner now has a task list.

What are the biggest mistakes you see homeowners make in staging?

Number one, they didn’t declutter enough. They’ll think they’ve done it, but you open up the medicine cabinet and you see all their personal products. People are nosy, and if they don’t see enough space around things, it’s going to feel cluttered.

Abby Vasek

Abby Vasek designed this dining room for “HGTV Star.”

Number two, they didn’t get their color palette neutralized throughout the home. They haven’t gone through and done a nice, neutral paint job.

And number three, the draperies are hung too tightly around the windows. I like to lift the window treatments up and out. It makes the window look more dramatic, and it lets the light in.

Is there something small that homeowners can do to get a big bang for their buck?

Changing out the light fixtures. I’m always telling my clients that you want something that will stand out enough to be remembered after buyers see six, seven, eight homes. When they’re done, you want them to say, “What about that house with the gorgeous dining room chandelier?” Or “Remember that house that had that really wild entryway light fixture?” Light fixtures can really be showstoppers, they can be very inexpensive, and they can be one of the easiest things to do for an upgrade.

Do you ever recommend renting a storage unit while staging a home?

Storage units are my best friends, and here’s why. It’s an easy thing we can all agree on: Let’s just put it in storage for now. Getting a storage unit really helps the stager to get in and do what they need to do, and it helps people separate from their clutter if they’re having a hard time emotionally. Then they get the experience of living a life less cluttered. Once they’ve lived it, they’ll never want to go back.


Allie Johnson