How to Make a House You've Already Moved Out of Look Like a Home

Jo Boxwell
July 29, 2015

Many sellers struggle to make their homes look less cluttered when they prepare to put their property on the market. But some have the opposite problem; they have already vacated the home, leaving only the bare walls and floors.

If you have to move before you sell, putting your home on the market when it is already empty may be your only option. But real estate agent Chris Lodge says there is still reason to be optimistic, and there are things you can do to make a big impression on buyers.

The Perception Problem

One of the main reasons that vacant homes can sit on the market longer than furnished properties is that people often find it hard to imagine the potential a room has when it is completely empty. Many people find it hard to judge, for example, how much space a bed will take up in a bedroom, or how furniture could be laid out in the living room, or whether there is enough space in a smaller room to turn it into an office. Sometimes rooms might actually feel smaller when they are empty, because many of us have a hard time visualising the empty space.

The Advantages

Despite what some real estate agents say, Chris Lodge doesn’t agree that a vacant house is necessarily a tough sell. “There are some benefits. An empty house is a blank slate and you can see the exact condition of the walls, floors, etc.” If you are selling a home that has been well maintained, buyers will appreciate the fact that they can see exactly what they’re getting. A prospective buyer can walk into your home know that there are no cracks or blemishes hidden behind pieces of furniture.

If the home is showing obvious signs of wear and tear, it may be worth your while to do a few touch-ups and repainting to make sure buyers aren’t deterred by scratches and stains.

Chris maintains that there is another significant advantage to selling a vacant property. “People love walking into clean houses. Homes that are empty are much easier to clean than those with furnishings and lots of personal belongings.”

Staging an Empty House

In her role as a home stager, Chris always recommends that sellers try to make their homes warm and inviting, and this still applies to sellers with vacant properties.

Chris points out that there are several ways to stage an empty home with just a few key pieces, which you could leave behind from your move, or rent from a furniture rental store or home staging company.

“I suggest that they put out nice clean towels and bathroom accessories in the bathroom, flowers in the kitchen and a few pictures on the walls. Just a few pieces of strategically placed furniture can make a big difference, such as a chair in the entrance, a dining room table and or a beautifully made-up bed in the master bedroom.”

What about Virtual Staging?

If there’s simply too much space to fill with rented furniture and accessories, or the property is more of a fixer-upper that can’t effectively be staged, don’t worry – there are new technologies that can help.

Real estate agents are increasingly boosting their listings with the use of 3D floorplans, which often include furniture and fixtures drawn in (see image above) – a form of “virtual staging”. This is a great way of allowing buyers to see how much furniture can fit into a space and what its potential could be, even if the property is not in good condition in reality. So if you’re seeking a listing agent to sell your empty property, it’s worth asking whether they used this method for marketing such listings. (For more on this technology, see this article.)

If you’re getting ready to put a vacant property on the market, find a real estate agent who is able to help you identify specific ways to bring out the best in your home to make sure prospective buyers can see the potential beyond the bare walls.   

Jo Boxwell
Jo Boxwell creates content for Team Powerhouse Realty, an independent brokerage based in Prince George, BC. Team Powerhouse Realty is a company of friends that loves helping people buy and sell commercial and residential properties in northern BC.