Tips for Staging Your First Rental

Is It Really Worth the Money and Effort?

A woman landlord and her associates hang a chandelier in the dining room of a clean, well-lit rental apartment.

 Jodi Jacobson / Getty Images

Staging a home involves positioning furniture and accessories in a way that makes potential buyers and prospective renters see the full potential of the space. The goal is to create maximum functionality, but also to create a feeling of home and comfort that allows the buyer or renter to envision themselves living there. 

It may involve de-cluttering a crowded space or introducing furniture to an empty room. You want to provide a clear function for each room or area of each room. It can be difficult for a buyer or renter to visualize an empty room. Home staging brings that vision to life. 

How Much Does Staging a Rental Cost?

Staging costs vary greatly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the costs for an initial staging consultation can range from $75 to $500. Factors that could influence the price you will pay to hire a third party to stage your rental include:

  • Area of the country you live in
  • Size of the rental
  • If you only want current items decluttered or rearranged
  • If you will be renting furniture or accessories
  • How long you need apartment staged

Do You Need to Hire a Professional?

You do not necessarily have to hire a professional home stager to stage your rental property. You could use items that you already own to stage the rental or you could purchase inexpensive items for staging. 

You can find great deals for used furniture on Craigslist. Accessories such as bath towels or coffee mugs can also be purchased inexpensively from a variety of stores. Believe it or not, many home staggers actually use air mattresses to stage bedrooms. 

When staging a home yourself, you need to consider if the furniture you own fits the style of the rental. It should be neutral and add value to the space. In addition, if you are considering purchasing pieces just to stage the rental, you’ll need to also consider storage. If the answers to these questions are no, it might be better to hire a professional or consider utilizing the latest interior design software programs that make it easy to create and lay out virtual rooms, among other features.

  • Can help get property rented more quickly

  • Can help get property rented more quickly

  • Can help your property stand out in competitive rental market

  • Cost

  • Damage to staged items

  • May not be necessary

  • Can only stage vacant units

Tips for Staging an Apartment and Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Neutral: You want your rental to appeal to the greatest number of prospective tenants possible. Keep all furniture and accessories neutral. Avoid specific design styles, such as nautical or bohemian. Stick to neutral colors including off-whites, grays, and tans. 
  • Less Is More: Cluttered rooms feel small. You want the furniture and accessories to fit the space, while leaving plenty of room to freely move around.
  • Give Each Room a Function: Give each space a function as a living space, work space, eating space or bedroom. 
  • Know Your Audience: While you must always follow Fair Housing rules so you do not discriminate against any tenant, based on the location of your property or size of the unit, a certain type of tenant may be more likely to rent it. If the area sees more single tenants, you may want to stage a second bedroom as an office. If families are more common, that second bedroom may be more effective staged as a nursery. 
  • Maybe Staging Is Unnecessary: If your property is in a desirable rental market, spending money on staging may be unnecessary. The rental will likely rent quickly whether the rooms are staged or vacant.

Tips for Apartment Photography

  • Clean Floors: Dust, dirt and hair can show up in photographs. You should vacuum and mop the floors before having photos taken.
  • Clean Windows: Dirty windows will prevent light from entering the space and will show up in pictures. Make sure all windows in the rental are clean before taking pictures.
  • Let Light In: Natural light will make the property more appealing. Open up all curtains and remove obstructions from windows to let the light warm up the space.
  • Time Photographs Right: Avoid taking photographs midday when the light is too strong. It can create harsh glares and shadows. Rooms will photograph better in softer light. Aim to have pictures taken at dusk or dawn. 
  • Full Frame Lens: A full frame camera lens is best for photographing real estate. It will capture the whole room and make the room appear larger. 

Bottom Line

Staging a rental has the potential to get the unit rented faster and for a higher price, but landlords need to decide if the cost is worth it. Spending $1000 to get a vacant unit that rents for $1000 a month rented one month sooner is pointless. If staging gets that unit rented two months sooner, then the staging is actually saving you $1000.