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Staging A House Flip – Lesson Learned!

Home » Blog » Learn » Flipping Houses » Staging A House Flip – Lesson Learned!

When selling a house in this market it is crucial that your property look it’s best….both inside and out. On the rehab end of this business, so much attention is focused on getting the project completed. But what about after the work is done and it’s time to sell?

In the past, when you could move properties quickly staging (to us) didn’t seem like such a big deal. It felt like just another costly expense. Turnaround was so quick that it just didn’t seem like it was worth all the effort. Now things have changed. With so many properties on the market sitting vacant, you really have to put that effort in to get people to want to see your home. We have one property right now in particular that is just beautiful. It has an all new kitchen, a good layout, plenty of space, and is in a very good neighborhood. For all of it’s star qualities, we were just not getting much action on this place. We decided to create a staging plan for the house.

Before, my staging was pretty limited. A few little plants here and there, some towels and rugs in the bathroom, etc. But now it was time to think bigger. There are some great resources out there for discounted furniture—I was shocked. Who knew that Big Lots carried some really nice pieces of furniture?! This actually turned into a big adventure for me and was a lot of fun (but seriously hard work, especially when you are pregnant and putting together furniture with an allen wrench!—plus I hate reading directions) Danny originally threw out a crazy budget of like $10,000. My sensibilities would not permit spending so much on furniture; I knew there had to be deals out there. Men: if you have a woman in your life who enjoys the thrill of the bargain hunt I would suggest enlisting their help—I know how most of you hate to shop!

First stop was the Salvation Army resale store where I found a super nice espresso colored bedroom set: queen bed (including head and foot board), dresser, bureau, and large mirror for $400! We happened to have our old queen size box spring out in the garage so we used that and a $25 air mattress that worked out perfectly. At Big Lots I was able to find a couch on sale ($325), a matching chair ($200), and a floor lamp ($80) for the living room. They also had a nice breakfast room set that I picked up for $325. At Garden Ridge Pottery I found a coffee table ($50) two side tables ($25 ea), a huge 8 x 10 rug ($95), matching runner ($30), a 7 piece queen size bed set ($50)and a lot of really nice artwork. Ross is another great store for finding small items like rugs for the bathroom and kitchen, PLUSH towels (don’t buy the cheap ones, they just LOOK cheap), jars and canisters for the kitchen, candles, artwork. Goodwill is another good source for decorative items. I don’t know about elsewhere, but ours has a “Julia’s Attic” area of the store where they sell higher end items that are donated from the Junior League. There are some nice things to be found in there. In summary, I stuck all of that cheap furniture in that house and it looks like a million bucks! This house is retailing for about $250K, and you wouldn’t believe how many people have expressed an interest in buying my “el cheapo” furniture!

When it was all said and done I ended up spending right at about $2000. This included all of the furniture, accessories, artwork, some cleaning supplies, and $100 for the furniture delivery. We held an open house the following weekend and were shocked at how much traffic we got. It took about a week for me to accomplish everything, but I think the end results were great and I learned a very important lesson. The time I spent working and bargain hunting to get this all put together at the lowest possible cost was definitely well worth it. Showings have doubled on the property and everyone loves the staging. I think that potential buyers have spent much more time in the house than when it was empty. We are currently negotiating a contract and hope to get it closed soon!

Currently, my plan is to continue doing this with all of our higher-end properties. We usually have enough properties going through the pipeline that it’s not a problem to move the stuff on to the next house without having to worry about storage. And if anyone who is buying the house wants the furniture I planned to mark it up 100%. I figured that I actually need the stuff, but if someone wants to pay me twice what I paid then they can have it! This way I can go out and get the same thing if I need it, but double. This would help us build some inventory.

Tips For Getting Your Property Staged:

  • When thrift store shopping for bargains, make sure you are sticking to the stores in the better parts of town—you’re more likely to find higher quality items. You don’t want Uncle Lester’s 1970’s couch.
  • A welcome mat on the front porch with some potted plants makes the entryway more inviting.
  • Make sure to keep a can of air freshener at the property if you’re not using plug-ins. Nothing is worse than walking into a musty-smelling house.
  • Keep the décor as neutral as possible to appeal to a wide range of buyers. I like using a warm color palette. This looks high end, but feels warm and inviting. I like espresso colored furniture, warm browns, and beige in the living room and bedrooms. Spa-like colors in the bathroom are nice: think white fluffy rugs and towels, soothing greens (earth tones) or soft blues. I love using warm reds in the kitchen areas.
  • Remember that the purpose of staging is to make it easier for the buyers to envision themselves living in the home. Try and make it as comfortable as possible. Keep it cool if it’s summer, warm in the winter. Set the table if you have one. Throw some soft pillows on the couch and chairs.
  • I like to use something in the house with the word “home” on it. It helps to get that message in a visual way.
  • Keep your eye out for sales at retail stores and yard sales.
  • Buy multiples of things that look good and you’re buying for a steal. These things may be hard to find later on.
  • Black and white pictures with a white mat and a black frame look classy and neutral. If you have some great black and whites that you’ve taken, don’t be afraid to print them out and showcase them. I like architectural types of photos or street scenes.
  • Make sure the scale of the furniture fits the room. Don’t stick a gigantic couch in a tiny living room or vice versa. Make sure you measure the room to make sure anything you buy is going to fit.


Comments (17)

  • Danny Johnson

    Great Job!

  • Scott Janca

    Wow!! Truly an Amazing article – Great write up Melissa. Please keep up the great work I have been learning & growing with FlippingJunkie daily, Feeding my #REIFIX.

    • Melissa Johnson

      Thanks, Scott! Glad that you are enjoying the blog!

  • Amy Bly

    Very nice job, Melissa! Glad you both are getting the value of staging in selling homes these days . . . you did a much nicer job than I’ve seen some investors do. Most everyone seems to think they have good design sense and style and can do it themselves these days. Not true! Scale, color, style, trendiness, flow from room to room all play an important part . . . and avoiding the “cheesy” overdone techniques as well, IMO.

    • Melissa Johnson

      Thanks, Amy!! I think having some design experience definitely comes in handy. Glad you enjoyed my post.

  • Sharon Vornholt

    Great job Melissa (and Danny). The house looks beautiful! I love your ideas about looking for bargains. The pieces don’t necessarily have to cost a lot to look like a million bucks.

    • Melissa Johnson

      Thanks, Sharon! I’m glad you enjoyed the article and the ideas.

  • Brooks

    So the truth behind the success of the Flipping Junkie is revealed! (Don’t tell Danny I said that please – wait, is this comment public?!?!?)

    We’ve staged some of ours and have had huge success. We have paid in fees what your purchase prices were, so you’re already ahead of the curve – our curve at least.

    My mother laughingly told me that Big Lots in our area was beginning to get “big for their britches.” She may be right, mothers always are…

    • Melissa Johnson


      LOVE the idea of Big Lots getting too big for their britches. As long as I’m saving $$ it works for me. I scored a great deal this week with their big 20% off sale–I’m cleaning them out!

      PS-It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one who uses the word “britches” anymore 🙂

  • Brooks

    No way, I live in the South as well — a little East of you — over in Alabama 🙂

  • Becky

    I’m new to your blog and am loving it. I’m a real estate agent who works mostly with investors, so all my listings are vacant and I’m so glad you see the value in staging. In the last year I’ve spent about $3000. And have enough to stage 5 homes, and like you I mostly move furniture from house to house and seldom have to store much. Garage sales, Good Will and Craig’s list have proven valuable sources. It takes no skill to purchase from a showroom floor or furniture rental store, but to create a welcoming home from garage sale finds and second hand stores is a skill indeed. Congratulations!

    • Melissa Johnson

      Thanks, Becky! I am glad that you are enjoying the blog. I was unsure about the whole staging process in the past, but after doing it a few times you really can see the difference. Plus, I admit it…I’m a woman and I like to shop (especially bargain hunting!) 🙂

  • Melissa Wurtz

    Great ideas on the staging and resources! I’m new to your blog and investing so appreciate all the FREE advice! Do you ever use the Cort Furniture rental returns? might be another resource for you! Thanks, Missy

    • Melissa Johnson

      Thanks, Melissa! I haven’t looked into the Cort Furniture rental returns, thanks for the tip!! I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog 🙂

  • Eric


    Really helpful information. Thank you very much.

  • Shane Woods

    I love the look! As my wife and I build our business, we’ll definitely keep this in mind. May make the 5 hr drive down and ask you nicely to show us some of your stages in person 🙂

    • Danny Johnson

      That could be arranged if I could find some time.


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