Portland Home Staging Tips – Make a Small Home Feel Spacious

portland home staging tips

Portland real estate activity sees a definite slowdown in the wintertime. Coupled with a cooling seller’s market overall — some markets are in fact favoring buyers — sellers are going to need to work a little harder.

Thankfully, there’s the art of home staging. It’s more popular than ever in Portland, the best way to help get buyers excited about homes of all shapes and sizes.

This month we look at one of the major staging challenges in a number of Portland homes: a small footprint. Although the average square footage of new construction is declining again after an explosion that happened in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, for a while very large homes were the norm around the country. Many Portland home buyers have found they can live with a smaller square footage than they originally had in mind. Professional home stagers capitalize on the fact that well placed furniture can practically warp space-time to make a small home appear larger.

Whether you have a Portland condo, an ADU in the backyard or mini Southeast bungalow, it turns out that the principle of Occam’s razor applies to stage smaller spaces — the simplest solution is usually best. And while we’ve geared these tips to those selling real estate, anyone who has recently purchased a modestly sized Portland home could also put them to use.

  1. Clean. We know — you were hoping the tips wouldn’t be that simple. Well, it works. Dirty homes trap odors that can make buyers want to move on through no matter how beautifully staged your rooms are. Plus clean walls and switchplates are brighter, and therefore contribute to the perception of increased space.
  2. Even Brighter. Realtor.com suggests painting rooms in light shades and decorating with items that reflect light, like mirrors and objects with metallic finishes. When the windows are uncovered and the lights are on, the room should be cheerfully lit but not blinding. Of course, selling a home in winter often means real estate agents and their clients are coming after dark. Keep in mind the daytime vs nighttime appearance of the home. Check if a solar tube
  3. Don’t leave rooms empty, if you have good furniture to work with. A Realtor.com study found that the eye tends to estimate smaller room sizes when faced with an empty room over a furnished one. This explains why buyers often wonder whether their bed will fit into an empty bedroom in an unstaged home. It also explains why new home owners end up purchasing furniture that doesn’t fit! Staging the home with basic furnishings helps the brain process the space more accurately. However, if you stage a small space with oversized furniture that doesn’t fit, the room can look even smaller and less functional than it actually is. Also, consider if a room is too small to stage as a bedroom, considering staging it as an office or other alternative space like a yoga room. A small desk and cabinet, or a yoga mat and some pillows will fit in most spaces!
  4. Subtly remind buyers that size isn’t everything. Some Portland homes have plenty of square footage but zero usability — the floor plan is all wrong. But some smaller homes can flow so easily they appear bigger. To avoid breaking up that flow, don’t place items of furniture through the room’s most logical pathway. For example, a foyer that opens right into the kitchen should probably not have a bench in the middle, no matter how useful it is for removing boots.
  5. Go Zen. This applies to all-sized homes, but small homes in particular can not afford to be cluttered. Stage your home in a way that allows the eye to move over surfaces — the back of the couch, the table, to the window — without interruption. Uncluttered homes are not only more pleasing to the eye, they also appear bigger.
  6. In living rooms, think focal point. People have gathered around the fire for millions of years. It’s no wonder that most prefer to see living room furniture arranged around a central point, whether in the middle of the room or on the wall. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the coffee table, a fireplace or a wall-mounted TV, a focal point-setup is the simplest way for buyers to imagine living in the space. Conversely, arranging furniture can be a powerful way to change the focal point, to draw attention to a nice view instead of an ugly wall heating grate.
    Outside matters, too. Although winter in Portland means that buyers on a home tour might just be rushing from their car to the front stoop to avoid getting wet, the home’s size can be assessed in that quick instant. If buyers see a lot of heavy foliage closing in on the home, it may seem smaller than it really is. Be sure the roofline is mostly visible across the front and sides of the house by thinning branches. A clean, bright home exterior will also send the message that the home is well sized.

    Stage the home as an escape. Ask buyers if they prefer a home with chores or a home without chores and it’s easy to guess which one they’d pick. Standard home staging advice is to hide items that remind buyers of their everyday life. No ironing boards, laundry baskets, or big family photo-sorting projects — unless you have a craft room dedicated to it. Similarly, avoid setting the table.

    Try smaller furniture. Because most people use furniture as a visual meter-stick to assess room size, scaling it down a bit is a trickier, but effective, way to make a room appear larger. Minimalist designs also tend to emphasize the space around the item, rather than the item itself. Definitely avoid high-backed chairs like recliners, which separate the room visually.

    Use color to bring the room together. Not everything needs to be neutral. Just pick one or two colors and allow them to flow through the room, allowing the eye an easy passage. Kitchen cabinets are a great example. Simplest solutions often work the best, but it helps if they are executed by professionals. Our real estate team can connect you with Portland home stagers and interior designers who have experience with your type of home, whether it’s a historic craftsman or 90’s ranch house. Our top 1% seller’s agents have marketing packages that are tailored to attract buyers even in the slowest of markets.

November 16, 2018

Stephen FitzMaurice

Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor is a top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. A Principal Broker in Oregon, Managing Broker in Washington, he has been licensed since 2003 for residential real estate sales. Call his team in Oregon at 503-714-1111 or in Washington at 360-345-3833.

4% max to sell a home in Portland and SW Washington.
4.25% max to sell a home in Salem and Bend.
Over 2,000 homes sold.