Home Staging Challenges: The Garage and Backyard

The trick to getting your home sold quickly is to make it appealing to as many people as possible. To that end, one of the tips home sellers most often hear is the importance of curb appeal – making the front of the home so appealing that buyers can’t wait to see the inside. Then the advice turns to decluttering, cleaning and staging the interior of the home.

All that clutter typically ends up in the garage, in boxes piled to the ceiling. By the time the house goes on the market, the garage is akin to the “junk drawer” in the kitchen.

Over half of homebuyers say they want a garage, and the bigger the better, according to the National Association of Home Builders report, “What Homebuyers Really Want.” A whopping 86 percent of respondents rated “a garage with storage” as either essential or desirable.

Just as the interior of the home should be staged so that a buyer can picture herself living in the home, so should the garage. If your garage looks like a self-storage facility, it’s time to get to work.

Clean, Declutter and Paint

Most every neighborhood has a homeowner with an impeccably clean garage. You know the guy – the walls are clean, the tools are organized and the floor is even painted.

That is the condition to aim for when staging your garage. The first step is to pull everything out and start the project with an empty room, and the next step is cleaning.

Cleaning a garage isn’t the same as cleaning the interior of a home. Depending on how you use the garage there may be wood shavings, grease, oil and other substances on the walls and floor.

All of that “gunk” needs to be removed, and the best way to do it is by power-washing and then going back over the surfaces with a scraper to get at the paint splatters and anything else that didn’t come off with washing. Use an oil and grease cleaner to get rid of oil stains. Some of these products can be used in the pressure washer.

Once the cleaning is done, paint the walls with semi-gloss paint and the floor with epoxy floor coating.

Get Organized

After the paint dries, it’s time to think about organizational tactics. Pegboards to hang tools, built-in cabinets for miscellaneous items and bins for paint cans and other bulky items will help make the garage look tidy and well-maintained.

While the home is on the market, keep in the garage only what you’ll be using before you move, like lawn equipment. Box up and store everything else. Move the cars out of the garage during showings.

Staging the Backyard

Judging by the dearth of MLS listing photos showing backyards, it’s obvious that many real estate agents don’t understand the importance of this part of the home. Since most homebuyers choose single-family dwellings over condos or townhomes, according to the 2013 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers, it only stands to reason that many of them want useable outdoor space.

What constitutes useable varies, of course, depending on the type of home and the buyer’s lifestyle. The latest National Association of Homebuilders survey finds that new-home buyers want exterior lighting, lots of trees, a deck or patio, and the yard fenced in.

Luxury homebuyers have different criteria. Fifty-three percent of them say they want a backyard “oasis,” including water features, according to a Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate national survey, published in September 2013. They are in agreement with other homebuyers when it comes to wanting an outdoor fireplace or pit.

If you do nothing else, give the backyard the same curb-appeal treatment you would give a front yard. Remove the kids’ toys and any debris from the area, pull out dead plants, trim what’s left and mow the lawn. A new layer of mulch in garden beds can make the entire yard look fresh.

If you won’t be staging the deck or patio, take the barbecue equipment to storage. If staging is on the list, however, you can find ideas online, in magazines or at new home communities.

If you are reluctant to spend the money required to make the backyard a showcase, keep in mind that the annual National Home Improvement Survey from HomeGain.com finds that $564 spent on landscaping renovation results in a whopping 215 percent return on investment when you sell the house.

That’s not a bad return for a little money and lots of elbow grease.


Mia DeCato - June 12, 2014 at 3:23 pm

My house sits on 1.3 acres and on the side of a hill. My agent has done a great job by hiring a photographer and highlighting my “park like” yard. My backyard is small, but the side yard is large with a fire pit and can be accessed from a walk-out basement. Families with young children are looking at this yard and saying it is not good for kids because ‘mom’ cannot look out the window over the sink and see her kids playing in the yard. I am a Master Gardener and my landscaping is beautiful and in good shape with high quality plants. Buyers are making a long term decision based on a short time decision. The feedback from the last 5 showings say, the house is beautiful but they don’t like the yard. I cannot change the lay of the land…any suggestions????

Todd Blair - January 29, 2014 at 12:56 pm

I totally agree the backyard and garage are almost as important as the rest of the home. I hadn’t heard that National Home Improvement Survey stat but I’ll certainly use it to help motivate some sellers to put a little money and time into staging their backyard.

Shannon O'Brien - March 16, 2014 at 12:22 am

Todd, I’m a gardener so I look for backyard pics when I’m looking for a home. I can’t imagine I’m the only one yet Realtors don’t seem to get that we are out here. Hopefully you all will start showing us the yards. . .especially in regions where gardening is popular.

sally - January 29, 2014 at 12:56 pm

very true, staging the exterior of your home is as important as staging the interiors. It is sad that some people overlook the exteriors when staging. Keep in mind that unmainteined exteriors can be a deal breaker to some homebuhyers!!!!!

Shannon O'Brien - February 4, 2014 at 1:42 am

I know for myself that when looking for homes online if the agent didn’t post photos of the yard I didn’t look at the house. I love gardening and I think lots of homebuyers do.

If you are a homeowner trying to sell a house with a nice yard, insist that your agent includes photos.

Michael - February 13, 2014 at 3:37 pm

I think people by a place to live first. So if you need more information about the property you like you always can get it from the listing agent or website owner.
Good luck!

Shannon O'Brien - April 2, 2014 at 9:26 am

You have a point, Michael, but remember: there are far too many other homes listed for which the agent took the time to photograph ALL the features. Homebuyers typically won’t waste time asking for more information if they can find what they’re looking for just by clicking to the next home.