Apartment Staging 101: 8 Ways to Stage your Space for Sale or Rent

Updated January 17, 2023 10:32 AM

Home staging is a popular topic in the real estate industry, but most staged homes you see on HGTV or Pinterest are single-family houses. However, nearly 39 million Americans live in apartments instead of houses! Whether you are looking to sell or rent out an apartment, learning how to stage it to appeal to the right people will make or break your success.

It's just as important--if not more so!--to stage apartments as it is to stage single family homes. Let's dive into some of the most common questions and concerns about apartment staging. Here's what we'll cover:

Staging an Apartment vs. Staging a House

Since apartment staging is so rarely discussed, is it really much different from staging a house?

The goal of staging a home, whether that home is a studio apartment or a Beverly Hills mansion, is always the same--to sell or rent the home for the best value in the least amount of time. Staging does that by showing every home at its absolute best

The two main differences between apartments and houses, from a marketing point of view, is usually the amount of space and location. Although there are exceptions, most apartments are smaller than houses, and often located in cities or suburbs.

Apartments can also be located in buildings with a large number of floors, which makes the physical process of moving anything--let alone large furniture--extremely difficult. And in general, apartments, condos, and townhomes also typically don't have much of an exterior to include in the staging and selling process.

Even with these differences, staging an apartment and staging a house will follow the same basic steps to be staged: cleaning, decluttering, repairs, and design. Where the biggest differences (and most notable problems) lie is actually within the process of getting the apartment staged.

Three Ways to Stage an Apartment

There are essentially three methods available to stage your apartment:

  1. Vacant Staging: Arguably the most well-known type of staging where all existing furniture and decor is removed and physical pieces are brought in.
  2. Occupied Home Staging: This is still considered "traditional home staging" but is done when the apartment occupants are still in place.
  3. Virtual Staging: The process of adding digital furniture and decor to property photos. Virtually staged photos can fill a vacant space or replace existing pieces of furniture.

The goal and results of traditional and virtual staging is the same--to sell or rent the listing to the right person for the most money and in the least amount of time.

living room apartment staging

Apartment living room before and after staging

Even though virtual staging is still an unfamiliar choice for many real estate professionals and property owners, it has very clear benefits when it comes to staging apartments, condos, or townhomes.

Virtual staging takes 24 hours or less, and doesn't require moving even one piece of furniture out or into the property. You can show prospective buyers and renters what the space could look like without having to waste thousands of dollars on scheduling and moving furniture in and out.

Read more details about the differences between virtual staging and "real" staging.

Regardless of whether you decide physical staging or virtual staging is best for your apartment, many of the strategies for the best result will be the same.

8 Tips to Stage Your Apartment for Sale or for Rent

1. Make Repairs

Make sure you walk through the apartment and take note of any and all repairs that need to be made. Even a freshly cleaned and clutter-free space wouldn't make the maximum impact if there are also burnt-out lightbulbs, cracked baseboards, and crooked cabinet doors.

It may not be necessary to fix every imperfection, but make sure that there aren't any glaring mistakes that would make new renters or buyers hesitate. Small changes like a fresh coat of paint can make a world of difference! For a reference of what is most important to renters and buyers, read our guide to what buyers want.

2. Declutter

After cleaning, decluttering the property is the second and most important task to get a property ready to list. The ultimate goal of home staging is to make a positive impression and help viewers build an emotional connection to the space and think of it as their future home. With someone else's personal items in the space, creating an emotional connection is unlikely.

Start by removing:

  • Personal items like family photos, toothbrushes, and visible bags or purses
  • Decor with a limited appeal
  • Furniture pieces that don't contribute to the space

If the owners or renters are staying in the space while it's listed for sale, some items will be worth keeping, like abstract art, neutral decor, and key pieces of furniture.

It's especially important to declutter and stage closets, cabinets, and any other potential storage spaces! Storage is particularly important in apartments, so make sure each potential buyer and renter can see how each storage space could fit their needs.

Note: If you are listing an apartment for rent or sale and choose to work with a physical stager, they will strongly recommend removing everything from the apartment anyway. On the other hand, if you opt for virtual staging, you can do what works best for you and your tenants. Virtual staging can fill vacant spaces, work around existing pieces, or even replace furniture when it's not the best fit. This flexibility is what makes it ideal for staging apartments.

apartment living and dining area before and after home staging

Read more about how virtual staging sells houses in real life--not just in the listing photos.

3. Focus on Lighting

Lighting is an extremely important element of any home, whether it's a high-rise apartment in Manhattan or a Craftsman home in a Kansas City suburb. Not all renters and buyers will pay attention or even notice the lighting, but it still makes a powerful impact.

If your apartment already receives plenty of natural light, make sure you don't block it out and even mention it during property tours. If natural lighting isn't optimal, supplement the lighting with warm incandescent light bulbs, a few candles, and even styled lamps where it's particularly dim.

An additional option for apartment owners or landlords is to update the light fixtures between tenants. The right light fixtures can shed more light and have a massive impact on the space's design.

example lighting fixtures for home staging

4. Add Smart Accent Pieces

You may put in a lot of work to declutter the space--isn't adding decor counter-productive?

Not necessarily.

If you keep existing furniture in your space, adding a few pieces of the right decor can improve your space even more. However, be sure to only add decor pieces that have mass appeal. This may mean adding mirrors to reflect light and add visual interest, putting small plants on a few different surfaces, adding one or two throw pillows for a pop of color, or adding a finishing touch with fresh flowers on the dining room table.

Don't over-decorate and make the space feel cluttered all over again, but a few strategic accents can make the space feel warm and welcoming.

5. Choose Neutral over Bold

Home staging is about mass appeal, and interior design is extremely biased. Even the best interior designers in the world regularly create designs that thousands of people dislike.

That's why neutral colors and accents are vitally important when staging an apartment. Even when bold colors, patterns, and accent walls are trending, there is a chance they'll turn away an ideal buyer.

Of course, there are many exceptions to this rule. There are times when a bold accent wall in a master bedroom actually adds more value to the space than a neutral color would. This decision comes down to having home staging expertise and knowing your audience and target demographic. If you don't have any design or staging expertise, it's worth asking a professional. However, if you're in doubt about the best choice for your apartment, it's generally safer to replace them with white, beige, or grey colors.

bold kids bedroom before staging
Kid's bedroom after Stuccco virtual staging

6. Clean the Property

Every time a property is prepared for the real estate or rental market, cleaning should be the first step. Be sure to sweep and mop all floors, clean the carpets, wipe the windows, dust the ceilings, and make sure that any visible sources of dust or dirt are freshly cleaned. Potential buyers and renters will notice a dirty home immediately.

7. Don't Forget about the Exterior

Many apartments, condos, and townhomes don't include any actual land or outdoor spaces. For those that do, improving curb appeal is just as important as single family houses.

However, even apartment complexes can still take the opportunity to clean and photograph the property's exterior. For apartments without much of an exterior to showcase, lead into photos of amenities or nearby attractions.

Outdoor spaces in apartment staging, before virtual staging
Outdoor dining area, Stuccco virtual staging
Learn about more real estate marketing ideas in our full guide to marketing for beginners.

8. Strategically Photograph the Space

The way that you photograph your home can make or break your staging and overall property marketing strategy. Real estate photography is designed to showcase each room in a home and communicate the size and feel of the space.

You might be able to take creative or artistic photos of your apartment, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're great photos for a real estate listing.

For example, the picture below is a beautiful picture of a space that has most likely been staged. However, it would make a very poor real estate photo. The focal point of this image is a chair, which doesn't motivate buyers or renters to view the property.

Poor real estate photography, staging in a small space

Whether you photograph a beautifully staged space or an empty space before doing virtual staging, make sure to take the picture from the right angle and at the peak of ideal lighting. Hire a real estate photographer if it fits within your budget, or learn how to take great listing photos in our guide.

Real estate photography tips for online listings

Apartment Staging FAQs

Should I stage my apartment?

Home staging statistics show that it helps apartments sell for the highest value in the least amount of time, so this is an important decision for apartment owners, real estate agents, and property management companies. The main objectives that sellers tend to have about staging their apartments is the inconvenience and the cost of staging.

After all, if you're trying to rent a condo with three floors, moving a sectional up three flights of stairs is a major undertaking. Even if you hire an in-person staging company to take care of it for you, their timeline and costs will increase along with this difficult job.

However, virtual staging removes both of these obstacles from the process of staging an apartment, condo, or townhome. All furniture is virtually added to listing photos and takes 24 hour or less to complete--allowing you to get your apartment listed in record time without any risk of pulling a muscle.

How much does staging an apartment cost?

The cost of home staging is dependent on the location, the property, and the experience of the home stager, so it's difficult to name a specific price range. Traditional or physical staging costs approximately 1% of the home's sale price--however, this is not always accurate when it comes to staging apartments.

The process of staging a studio apartment on the 15th floor in Brooklyn is much different than staging a single-family home in a suburb of Houston. Home stagers are forced to hire movers and often have to work within specific apartment building restrictions--which can drive costs up considerably. After all, just think about what Chandler went through.

Friends meme pivot

Source: Memes Monkey

On the other hand, the cost of virtual staging doesn't change no matter the location or inconvenience of the apartment.

Apartment Staging Overview

Staging an apartment should be done with a similar approach as staging a home or even an office. However, staging an apartment can be much more physically inconvenient. For that reason, try virtual staging and see it will help your listing attract the ideal renters and buyers.

apartment virtual staging
virtually staging apartment or office

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