How to Stage Your Kitchen for a Home Sale

Attract buyers with a kitchen that’s clean, bright and welcoming — no expensive overhaul required

By Laura Gaskill / Courtesy of Houzz.com

A major kitchen overhaul can cost a huge amount of money — money you probably will not fully recoup when you sell. Instead of going for a full-on remodel, consider what small changes you can make to update your kitchen. Paint rather than replace cabinets, swap out hardware and roll out a rug. If the appliances are extremely out-of-date and you decide to replace them, don’t feel pressured to go super high end. A clean, fresh, bright kitchen that makes the most of the space will attract buyers and does not need to cost an arm and a leg. Here are 15 tips to prep your kitchen before you sell your home.

Know your goals. Stage your kitchen with purpose by getting clear on your goals right from the start. A successfully staged kitchen: 

  • Looks, feels and smells clean and fresh
  • Looks and feels spacious and light. There’s plenty of room inside cupboards and closets.
  • Is tasteful and good looking — there are no glaringly bad or out-of-date features
  • Looks welcoming; it’s easy to envision using and enjoying the space
  • Shows signs of life but is not messy

1. Have your kitchen professionally cleaned. Having a pro thoroughly clean your kitchen is one of the best investments you can make when preparing your home to sell. Yes, you could clean it yourself, but would it really look as good? A sparkling-clean kitchen is one that looks its best. 

2. Be hyperaware of odors.Make sure all garbage, recycling and pet-related items are removed before showing your home, and take the time to clean inside and under the containers themselves. Run a lemon down your garbage disposal. Nothing turns off a potential buyer faster than a bad smell.

3. Consider fresh paint.Aside from cleaning, painting will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Give your kitchen a new coat of paint in a hue that works with the color of your counters and cabinets — when in doubt, go with crisp white. Even if your kitchen was recently painted, take a close look at the walls and ceiling and touch up any imperfections, even tiny ones.

News flash: A staged kitchen is not a practical kitchen. Staging your home is the first step in letting go … which is not always easy. If you are preparing your home to put it on the market, it’s time to make the shift from thinking about it as your home to seeing it as a property that is about to be sold. Staging, when done well, can help make your home more appealing to buyers and help it sell more quickly, and maybe even for a bit more. Isn’t it better to make the best possible impression from the beginning, and not have to live through endless open houses before making a sale? Keep this in mind as you prep.

4. Keep windows clean and clear. Clean the kitchen windows, inside and out. If you have heavy window coverings, consider removing them — or at the very least, be sure window coverings are completely open when you show your home.

5. Clear the counters. A toaster and coffeemaker are just about the only things to consider leaving out on the counters. Put everything else out of sight.

6. Organize inside cupboards. Guess what? Potential buyers will be looking inside your cupboards. And if your cupboards are overstuffed, that gives the impression that there isn’t enough storage space in your kitchen. Remove excess stuff, mismatched items and anything that simply does not look good. If you still need to use these things, keep them in a box hidden on a high shelf in a closet during showings.

7. Organize the pantry. Pare back the contents of your pantry until you have some open space on each shelf. Organize what’s left into a set of matching food storage containers or open baskets. This may mean removing a bunch of food — just remember that a staged kitchen is not necessarily a practical kitchen! As with items from your cupboards, keep extra pantry goods in a box out of sight during showings if you must.

8. Style open shelving.People have a sort of love-hate relationship with open shelving. It can look great, but it can also be a challenge to keep neat. If you have open shelving in your kitchen, your goal should be to show people how it can be useful and look great. Leave some open space on each shelf, and display only matching sets of everyday dishes. You can’t go wrong with a set of white dishes and clear glasses.

9. Set fancy hand and dish soap on a tray. Get rid of the gross old sponges and goopy dish soap containers, and replace them with nice-looking dish soap, hand soap and lotion, all on a neat little tray.

10. Make the faucet shine. A pretty, gleaming faucet makes a good impression. And be sure to fix any leaks while you’re at it.

11. Accessorize the stovetop. A pretty pot or teakettle on the stovetop is a welcoming touch. Just be sure the one you choose is in perfect condition — no scratched-up old pans.

12. Add new tea towels.Brand-new tea towels should be a must on any kitchen staging shopping list. They are a great, cost-effective way to add a splash of color and pattern, especially to white kitchens that can come across as bland.

13. Set out fresh fruit.Anything perfectly ripe and beautiful is fair game. Choose a pretty fruit bowl or set your fruit on a cake plate.

14. Bring in fresh flowers or greenery. Like a fruit bowl, freshly cut flowers, branches or potted herbs will bring life and cheer to your kitchen. You don’t need to spend a fortune on fruit and flowers, though — take this kitchen, for example. Cheap and cheerful daisy-like flowers are plunked in a glass mason jar, and a row of lemons sits on a plain white platter. The arrangement is easy and inexpensive but looks great.

15. Stack your nicest cookbooks. Cookbooks are accessories that make a kitchen look appealing and useful. But do edit your cookbook collection — keep just one shelf’s worth and make sure each book is in good shape. If you don’t have a shelf, a small stack of cookbooks on the counter will work, too.

Tell us: Have you tried staging your home for sale? What has worked or not worked for you?