Dressed to Sell: All You Need to Know About Furnishing a Vacant Listing

Yes you can get an eclectic look in rental furniture!

Yes, you can get an eclectic look in rental furniture!

By Karen Eubank
Special Contributor

Your seller has given you the thumbs-up and you’re going to stage that vacant listing. Congratulations! So how do you go about it? My advice is to always call a stager, of course! Most stagers have an accessory inventory — you know, the pretty stuff such as flowers, bedding, and cute items for the bath and kitchen. A few staging companies in town actually carry inventory, but many stagers are opting out of that business model. CORT Furniture Rental is a go-to resource for most Dallas stagers.

Can you bypass the stager and call a rental company directly? You bet, but remember, you’ll be providing all the nice accessories and you’ll be the one directing placement of furniture and steaming the duvet!

Jump for the inside skinny on all you need to know about renting furniture for your vacant property from CORT representative Kathy LaMarr.


5433 Falls Front

Homes of every size and price can benefit from a little staging help, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. That’s the motto of expert stager Karen Eubank, who has helped homeowners maximize profits through strategic design. While the bulk of her clients are selling homes between $200K and $600K, Karen is the go-to gal for Realtors looking to give their clients an edge in a competitive market.

Take this lovely estate for example. Karen consulted on this beautiful property, and while the architecture and finish-out is lovely and high-end, it had several stumbling-blocks that was keeping it from selling. And according to Karen, after a walk-through consultation and a detailed staging report (something she suggests for anyone putting a house on the market), the homeowner was able to do all the suggested changes herself! Brilliant and cost-effective!

5433 Falls Road backyard

“Staging a home prior to selling is always a good idea,” said Mark Cain of Dave Perry-Miller & Associates, the listing agent behind the gorgeous estate at 5433 Falls Road. “Editing or removing collections of things, minimizing furnishings to make rooms look larger, maximizing natural light to lighten and brighten rooms, and giving the house and open and fresh feeling is the ultimate goal of staging. I believe that every dollar spent for staging definitely pays dividends, and I rely on professional stagers for their keen insight.”

Living Room - Before copy Living Room - After copy

And that’s exactly what Karen suggested for this home, which is priced at close to $3.3 million and has five bedrooms, six full and one half baths, 7,151 square feet on more than an acre in Old Preston Hollow. The home, designed by Elby Martin and built by Tom Loposer, has four living areas and park-like grounds, perfect for entertaining. The home benefits from huge windows and mature trees, giving it a feeling of privacy. The finish-out in this home is incredible, with wide hardwood mouldings, gorgeous wood and Italian tile underfoot, a pool and spa that works perfectly with the expansive grounds, and windows in all the right places where you can soak in the view.

Bedroom - Before copy Bedroom - After copy

But some of the furniture was distracting from the home’s selling points, said Karen. “The room with the black headboard bed had a huge change,” she said. “It originally had the twin bed and some mix of teen and childhood items. It had extra bookcases which distracted from the beautiful built-in bookcases. The twin bed was dwarfed by the room, so I suggested it be turned into a guest room.”

It makes a stunning impact, don’t you think? Other rooms benefited from some simple furniture arrangement, such as the second-floor study. With the removal of the desk and a few comfy chairs, it makes a much better reading room. And thanks to a change in perspective with the photography, this shot now showcases the beautiful iron railings in this home, as well as the stunning light fixtures, Karen said.


Study - Before copy Study - After copy

“The large home office on the first floor looked awkward in the original photos. Lots of bookcases that were not built in so not relevant to the sale and the desk was not positioned for maximum appeal,” Karen added. “Other rooms, such as the living, dining, family rooms simply had excess furniture removed.

Keeping Room - Before copy Keeping Room - After copy

A large secretary was moved from the grand two-story entry so it did not compete with the chandelier, a gorgeous architectural feature that gives the home such drama. Moved to the family room, it now helps showcase what is intended to be a versatile communal space instead of making the foyer play double duty.

5433 Falls Bar 5433 Falls Road Kitchen

And there’s plenty of space in this home that will serve its purpose, such as the bar area with at 75-bottle SubZero wine chiller and wine storage vault. The kitchen features granite and butcher block counters with custom Christopher Peacock cabinetry, a walk-in pantry, and commercial grade appliances such as a Dacor six-burner range with double ovens, a built-in SubZero refrigerator as well as two each additional refrigerator and freezer drawers, a farm-style sink, all of which is open to the newly restyled keeping room.

Master - Before copy Master - After copy

This is a fantastic family home, with a gorgeous 23 x 23 master suite for those who need a place to recharge their batteries after a long day. The upstairs master is sizable and features a gorgeous bank of windows, a dramatic tray ceiling, and the most perfect chandelier that just breathes romance. There’s a second master downstairs, perfect for guests.

5433 Falls Raod Master Bath


In the upstairs master bath you’ll find beautiful custom tile, a luxurious jacuzzi, his-and-hers vanities, and a private water closet with bidet (a must these days! No joke!). It is so serene and relaxing that you’ll never want to leave, and thanks to the huge closets and ample features, you’ll never have to!

Not only is this home amazing, but the transformation helps it show off its many features that will attract the perfect buyer, and soon!


6934 San Mateo Front

I can understand the limited appeal of chickens for some people. Most think they belong on farms, or on their dinner plates. Not many people think of chickens as backyard pets. Well, except for me. I have three of them and I honestly can’t imagine not having a coop in my backyard. Which is why I was so excited to get this listing from stager Karen Eubank.

6934 San Mateo Porch 6934 San Mateo Living

“I love walking into homes like this, such character and a seller with great taste,” Karen tells us of 6934 San Mateo, on MLS for $325,000. “It just needed a few pieces of large furniture removed, some rearranging,  a few pieces of art moved and two mirrors repositioned and I knew it would be a very hot property.”

6934 San Mateo Dining

It’s represented by Britt Lopez, who has had some fabulous Hollywood Heights listings that we’ve easily fallen for. This one is so gorgeous, too, but when Karen sent me the listing she told me there was a really cute chicken coop on the property. Color me puzzled when I didn’t see it in the listing photos from Shoot2Sell. Honestly, I want to know if there’s a cute coop on the property, that way I can be prepared to negotiate that sucker into the contract, because, c’mon! CHICKEN COOPS ARE AWESOME!

Karen reminded me that not everyone feels that way. OK, true, not everyone loves having a few yardbirds in the backyard, or having fresh eggs in their omelets. Pity for them. Me? I wanted to see this coop! Britt, brilliant woman that she is, obliged and sent me a few photos of this lovely poultry palace.

San Mateo Chicken Coop 002 San Mateo Chicken Coop 003

“The backyard is a super party yard and of course everyone today wants their own fresh eggs so you can have a readymade and CUTE chicken coop,” Karen said. “I knew this place was going to blow off the market once the photos hit MLS.”

My birds and I would love this coop. And apparently, a chicken coop isn’t such a huge turnoff, because Karen sent me this listing less than a week ago and this adorable 1931 Tudor with more than 1,600 square feet is already under contract. Seriously, it’s a win for chicken people everywhere. And Karen says that the proof is in the pudding that staging works — just a few days on market and this home received several offers above asking.

6934 San Mateo Kitchen

There are some details that won’t wash for everyone, including the tile and sink in the second bathroom, as well as the funky backsplash and island in the kitchen. This two-bedroom, two-bath home has a hidden bonus that everyone will love, though — a Murphy bed in the sunroom! Karen says that the seller installed that, and it was a huge hit with buyers who toured this cool place.

6934 San Mateo Murphy Bed Up 6934 San Mateo Murphy Bed

“It’s a perfect example of that Hollywood Heights eclectic, cool vibe. People move into this neighborhood for exactly what this home offers,” Karen said. “It’s not cookie cutter, it has the great built ins and arches, cool tile work and of course the Murphy bed and the chicken coop!”

6934 San Mateo 6934 San Mateo Master Bath 6934 San Mateo Bedroom 6934 San Mateo Second Bath 6934 San Mateo Backyard 6934 San Mateo Patio

Eubank Staging

The National Association of Realtors’ Field Guide To Preparing & Staging a House for Sale hit our inbox last week. It’s a compilation of staging tips and information gathered over the course of the past two years. There’s some great information and some ridiculous information. So let me break it down for you.

Probably the most ludicrous information I read was from one of the Extreme Makeover designers. Note I said “designer” not “stager.” While this show is a favorite of mine it is not remotely related to selling a home. They are creating a design, a plan for a specific family. That’s about as far from staging as you can get. I’ve worked in television and you do things differently for TV than you do in real life. Unless a stager has done both, they have no business handing out staging advice.

The bad advice included the idea of using a TV as artwork. It was referred to as the “modern family hearth.” That is completely absurd. The focal point of a room for sale is always architecture not a television that will be moving with the seller. This designer also advocated using window treatments and not using artificial plants. Stagers ditch window treatments in favor of light and revealing architectural detail constantly. We also love our “fake” plants. At last count I had 35 gorgeous artificial orchids that look so real they almost fooled my horticulturist neighbor! There is bad fake and good fake, stagers know how to fake it!


Some really questionable advice about staging a home in the winter included lighting a fire and not showing the house at night. Just stunning. Definitely get your MLS photos with that roaring fire but leave the house for work with a fire going? Never! An agent could be delayed and then you’ve got the potential of a real safety issue at home. If you have a remote starter that would allow a Realtor to immediately turn the fire on and off that’s one way to handle it, otherwise do not fan the flames! Advising sellers not to show their house at night in the winter just blew my mind. Really? Let’s be serious here. The majority of folks see houses after work. There is nothing more inviting than a snow covered lawn with a freshly shoveled walkway, some great landscape illumination and lights glowing from every room in the house.

The Field Guide had a great article on staging garages. Now garages really never mattered until this market. Stagers will always tell you to store your excess off site. It’s worth the money and right now garages are definitely turning away buyers. They should be clean, no oil stains on the floor and no cobwebs on the walls.

Finished garage

We’re all pretty sophisticated about holiday decoration when it comes to selling. It’s a no brainer to keep the 200-piece Santa village packed and just have a tree and a wreath. I was glad to see a tip about using timers in the winter months, which is one I’ve always suggested regardless of the season. Walking into a home with lamps lit equals instant ambience. Another useful piece of information is to ensure holiday decorations are not in the MLS photos! You do not want Valentines Day buyers looking at a bathroom with a snowman toilet seat cover.

Now one tip I loved and I’ve never come across was in an article on staging your laundry room. If your dryer vents outside as opposed to under the house you can have some nasty build up on a side of the house you seldom visit. No one wants to see that! Clotheslines are something else I consider. We’re all trying to be green but it’s worth reeling it in for showings!

We have a lot of multi-million dollar homes in Dallas so I was pleased to read that Ryan Serhant, an agent often seen on the reality show, “Million Dollar Listings New York,” advised luxury listing need staging too! Price point is irrelevant when it comes to creating that emotional connection. Every buyer wants to see “home” when they walk into a house.

Ask a Stager: When Doing a Walk-Through, What Are The Biggest Problem Areas?

Ugly Kitchen

For staging, some rooms and issues can present more challenges than others. An overpopulated living room, an untidy bedroom, an outdated kitchen, and a bathroom with more rings around it than Saturn can make for a staging nightmare.

Karen Eubank of Eubank Staging has seen all these issues and more. So we asked her “What are some of the biggest problem areas when staging a home for today’s market?”

Here’s her thoughtful answer:

The “problem room” varies from house to house.

The single biggest “issues” for any room are clutter, cleanliness and light. Oh and it is absolutely inexcusable to have anything on your property that needs to be repaired. Do all of the repairs prior to listing.

People in general have a lot of items, I have a lot of items. I’d need the entire Real Estate Staging Association board to help me stage my home if I ever moved! The good news is you are moving, so go ahead and start packing and store the items your stager suggests.  You can bet that will include any sort of collection you have.

Seldom do we keep our homes “white glove” clean. I’m notorious for simply putting 25 watt bulbs in all the light fixtures prior to a party so I don’t have to clean. Try it, it works! Instant mood lighting and no need to clean!
However when it’s the big, bad, broad light of day you have to have a super clean house. It needs to not only BE clean but smell clean.

Light is a huge factor. It really helps sell a home. So open blinds, curtains, shutters and make sure the light bulbs are working in all of your fixtures. One big tip to make sure ceiling can light bulbs are the same depth within each fixture. If you have one low and one high the light distribution will be uneven.

Buyers will make a decision within 15 seconds about purchasing a home. That means your bang for the buck needs to happen in the areas you see from the front door. Walk and count. Everything you see in those first 15 seconds needs to say
“This is the house!”.

Kitchens are generally an issue if they are dated. Wallpaper, odd color cabinets, linoleum flooring and of course bad lighting need to be addressed. Buyers want a great kitchen and great bathrooms. Just look at remodeling statistics and you will see that both of those items bring more ROI than other things you can do to a home. I’m not saying remodel before you sell, just be aware of the facts. People generally spend a lot of time in their kitchens, they are the heart of the home and buyers don’t want to have to move in and do heart surgery!

For instance, no one wants to see a washer and dryer in a kitchen. Remember that great Lake Highlands house Kerry Slaughter listed last year? I suggested they build doors over their washer/ dryer area. The seller did and the house flew off the market.That was before the market was hot. Kerry and I would both say that issue would have been a big barrier to selling the home.

A super quick fix in a typical ranch is to paint the cabinets (Tricorn Black by Sherwin Williams is a great choice … yes BLACK), update  cabinet hardware and light fixtures and the entire kitchen will have a new personality! Oh and that lovely decorative edging around ranch house kitchen windows comes right off! Pick a nice wall color like Agreeable Gray or Kilim Beige and make it a kitchen every buyer will love.

A big deal killer is a home without a proper master bathroom. That will absolutely lower your price. If you have a great master buyers will be more forgiving of a second bath that is not updated. White is always right when it comes to fixtures.  Re-glazing is cost effective for tubs and sinks.  Now if you live in an  vintage home known for purple or pink toilets with multicolor wall tile  leave it alone. That is exactly what buyers in that area are looking for!

One of the biggest issues it the “mult-task”room. So often the guest room is also the workout room and the craft room. This is disastrous when you sell. Each room has to have clearly defined purpose. If you have a three bedroom home, one bedroom can certainly be a home office but it cannot also be a gym and an art  studio.  It has to be ONE thing. Do not confuse your potential buyers. They are looking at several homes a day and if you want yours to be THE home, they need to remember it without any possibility  of confusion. If a buyer is trying to recall a home and says “Oh yeah, the cute house with the umm office, no was it a gym or no I think it was a craft room?” That’s a house that will not be first on the list.”

Prop Furniture - WSJ

(Photo: Wall Street Journal)

According to this story in the Wall Street Journal, prop furniture is making a comeback for sellers staging homes in the hot residential real estate market. As any CandysDirt.com reader knows, expert staging advice can be the difference between just selling a home and profiting from your home. Still, could a cardboard settee really make the difference between “For Sale” and “Pending”?

So we asked Karen Eubank of Eubank Staging if faux furniture is a cost-effective way for owners staging vacant or unoccupied homes, and how they can maximize their staging budgets to make the most from their property. See what the expert designer had to say after the jump.

The look-but-don’t-sit prop furniture is not something I think will work in our market. I’ve seen it up close and personal and would never use it.

Most importantly, owners need have a realistic budget and time frame in mind. Remember bang for the buck is in the first 15 seconds upon entering the house. That generally means living, dining, and kitchen. Master bedrooms are also important. It’s always best to leave your furniture in the house if possible but if you simply cannot then there are some options.

– Borrow what you can from tasteful friends. Seriously, everyone has more furniture than they need and generally something fabulous in their garage.

– Consignment stores have great deals. Often when you do the math it’s cheaper to buy the living room basics from a consignment store than rent. Then you donate them and take the tax deduction.

– Get an inexpensive mattress from Salvation Army and create a headboard out of just about anything. You can find creative headboards on Houzz.com. Get some great bed linens and lamps from HomeGoods or Target.

– The best bet is to always call a professional stager because they can create a plan and give you great resources. They also have other stager pals with clients that are getting rid of furniture because they are moving and can score some terrific deals for you!

What tips do you give clients when it comes to staging an empty home?

10564 Cox Front

Here’s another fabulous property that just hit the market and won’t stay there for long! I am so in love with this gorgeous contemporary at 10564 Cox Lane in the Disney Streets neighborhood. Within walking distance of Peter Pan Park, you get a great location, great neighbors, and a competitive price at $432,000.

10564 Cox Living Dining

Marketed by Dallas City Center Realtor Kim Tierney and staged by Karen Eubank of Eubank Staging, this house shows like a dream! Colors, textures, and shapes — all of the decor works together to make this home feel unique without being too personal. Karen, a veteran designer, shared this hot tip she used to stage this home — if you need to balance a room without buying more furniture, break up a sectional into two pieces. Great idea!

10564 Cox Family

This 1970s contemporary is perfect for a family no matter the age thanks to its open floor plan. It has four bedrooms, two full and two half baths, and 2,853 square feet. There’s a two-car garage, two huge living areas including a family room with a bar, and a gorgeous pool.

10564 Cox Kitchen

The kitchen features French Limestone and glass tile, which really sets off the bamboo floors throughout the home. I love the breakfast bar and the barstools, a great place to socialize while cooking! There are stainless appliances, of course, and tons of cabinet space.

10564 Cox Master

In the master bedroom you can see what a fantastic value this home is. Check out the huge windows and the size of this room! Seriously, I would hook up my Apple TV in this place and just watch Netflix for the rest of my life (in between trips out to the pool, of course!).

10564 Cox Master Bath

The master bath is equally enticing, with its long vanity with polished stone and a huge mirror that leads to one of the most epic shower and bath combos I have ever seen in my life. The elongated tile is so very zen, and if there’s plenty of mood lighting, well, let’s just say that I would totally melt in that tub after a stressful day.

10564 Cox Backyard

Now, the backyard is just perfect if you’re looking for a way to keep from hearing “I’m BORED!” every five minutes this summer. There’s a great pool with a diving board, as well as tons of space in the garden to totter around. Seriously, this is just a fantastic property!

Star Stager Karen Eubank Scores HGTV Audition For Coming Reality Show

Karen Eubank

We have a potential star in our midst, folks!

Our own lovely Karen Eubank, expert stager extraordinaire, recently auditioned for an HGTV reality show about her passion: staging homes to get them sold!

“HGTV is a big deal, and I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun!” Karen told us in an exclusive interview. “The audition was an absolute blast! Of course I love talking, am passionate about staging, completely comfortable on camera, and not the least bit shy, so that helps!”

The show, which is being produced and marketed by 12 Forward Entertainment (Donna Decorates Dallas, Gator 911), found Karen after chatting with one of her clients. Come to find out, though, one of the executive producers had a mutual friend with Karen from back in their college days at University of Texas — Austin. Talk about a coincidence!

“I noticed all these Middle Eastern textiles and asked if he had lived in Egypt. He said ‘Oh yes, Cairo,'” Karen said, adding that she had a longtime friend from college who had moved to Cairo after graduation.

“He said ‘Is it Tom Hartwell?’ I about fell over. YES IT WAS!” Karen exclaimed. As it turned out, all three of them attended UT at the same time. “So we had this great common ground immediately which is always helpful, but in general, stagers are pretty adept at finding common ground. You have to because staging is a pretty intimate experience!”

After a great “walk-and-talk” Karen says she is upbeat about the experience.

Tim Dickey, one of the producers, played the seller as Karen helped give him advice on how to best prepare his home for the market.

“He gave me a huge compliment when it was all over. He may not even have realized how big it was. He said, ‘I quit listening as a producer half way through and started listening as a homeowner. I’m not selling but I’m going to do some of those things you suggested!'”

Keep your fingers crossed for Karen! She’ll find out in about a month if she’ll be selected for the show. The next step, she says, is a pilot! Exciting!