How to Stage a Home While the Owners are Still Moving

By Jonathan Deesing

movingFor real estate agents, every home staging poses unique challenges. One of the biggest is trying to stage a home while the owners are in the process of packing and moving out. With boxes, tape and bubble wrap strewn about, it can be hard to give a good idea of what the house really looks like, not to mention the potential lack of furniture or décor that can make the house look and feel empty. But just because your clients are moving doesn’t mean you can’t present a beautiful and clean home to buyers  – it just takes some clever planning.


As in all things real estate, communication is key. Coordinate with sellers to establish when they plan to move out and how long they think it will take. Moving with kids or pets adds a layer of complexity that is almost certain to extend this timeline, so make sure you fully understand the situation before you start hauling in your staging furniture.

It’s also important to know when the owners will actually be in the act of moving – nothing is worse for a buyer than showing up to view a house that has a moving van parked outside. Coordination will ensure you don’t schedule a showing on moving day.

Capture the moment

One of the cheapest and simplest ways to show off a home at its best is by using media. If you know your sellers are moving soon, ask if you can drop by to take some pictures of their home in its lived-in state. This can sometimes be challenging because a pre-move home is usually not at its cleanest, so mitigate this by asking the sellers to take the pictures themselves. The more photos the better – homes with more pictures in their online listings typically receive more responses.

Another excellent tool for your clients is a virtual tour of the home. There are a number of approaches to virtual tours. The quick and dirty tactic is to simply film yourself on a walkthrough of the home. Using a smart phone or film camera, you can give a basic rundown of what the house looks like and show a clearer view of the floor plan. If you want to go all out, you can create a fully rendered 360 tour of the home. A number of technologies allow you to stitch photos of the home together, allowing buyers to tour the home virtually. Some even allow buyers to test out what new cabinets or flooring would look like – without a fistful of color samples.

According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 42 percent of homebuyers began their home search process online, where images and media reign supreme. Buyers want to see a home at its best so make sure you can provide that. If you have a photo album or virtual tour ready for potential buyers, it won’t matter if the house is covered in a fine layer of moving dust.

The show room

Another way to show off how a house should look is by leaving certain rooms untouched. A single bedroom, living room and dining room are usually enough to give a clear picture of the home and impress buyers. This comes back to communication with sellers, as you will need to ask them to leave behind furniture and décor during their move. If the house has a walk-in closet, leaving behind a few suits or coats can make it seem even larger and help buyers visualize it easier.

Hide it away

If timelines are tight or the move isn’t going to plan, a portable storage unit is a great option. In fact, portable storage units can be one of the most useful staging tools in your arsenal. A number of companies offer this service, in which a small to large metal container is dropped off in a driveway for the use of the homeowners. Many of these companies will even haul away the unit after you’ve filled it and store it off-site.

For staging, having a place nearby (yet outside the home) to store excess furniture or belongings amidst a move allows you to show off all the empty storage space inside the home. It also allows you to eliminate clutter and anything else you don’t want buyers to see. And in a pinch, these personal storage units are a great place to hide junky moving supplies.

Curb appeal

In the stress of selling a home and moving out, yard maintenance is one of the first things to go. And unless you’re showing the home during a snowy winter, an ugly yard can be a deal breaker. So make arrangements for the yard to be maintained if the owners have already packed away their mower. Adding a flat of flowers to a garden only takes an hour or so and a few potted plants on the patio can go a long way in making the home look lived-in.

Selling a home while the owners are moving out is never a great situation, but it doesn’t have to be a headache. With solid communication and planning, you can present a home at its best – even when it isn’t.