Staging a rental property is a little like dating. Not only do you want to make a good first impression, you also want to make a good match for a long-term relationship. People stage homes for sale, and similarly, a staged rental may help you get top dollar. But there are a few differences. Here are the basics of rental staging- including when not to stage.

Differences between staging for rent and sale

Renting typically has a much faster turnover than when a home is for sale. A rental home may still have tenants in residence when its being shown to rent. That said, the basic staging premise is the same whether renting or selling- the desire for people to see the home’s potential and imagine themselves living there.

Rental staging- it can be easier than you think

staged homeYou don’t have to rent a home full of designer furniture to stage a rental- far from it. In fact the most basic things are to make sure a home is clean, in good repair and the exterior is appealing. Adding a few touches is icing on the cake.

If the home is totally vacant and you are disinclined to stage it with furniture, consider at least bringing in a dining table, neutral table cloth and chairs. This will give you a good spot to sit and talk about the rental with good prospects or review a rental application. A potted orchid makes a good centerpiece, and can survive days between showings without being watered.

Other than furniture pieces, all of the accessory items listed can be stowed in four 27-gallon totes (which can be the foundation for the bed setup described below).

Act Early

As soon as you are aware tenants have given notice, work with your management team to assess the condition of the unit. If you are self-managing, make sure you know the law that we all must follow regarding proper notice to enter. This early visit can serve two purposes. Your manager can make a move-out checklist for the current tenants. A list can also be made of any wear and tear or deferred maintenance to be taken care of, that the owner must approve.

welcome matWork can be done while tenants are still in place, but wise property managers will handle this with sensitivity. Moving is a difficult process and having upset tenants will not make scheduling showings any easier. With good relations, tenants can be asked to hide clutter and laundry before the unit is photographed and for scheduled showings.

Keep it simple

Cleaning (including carpets), painting and replacing anything damaged such as outlet covers or light fixtures are some of the basic items that will make a rental listing shine. Take particular care in kitchens and bathrooms, making sure toilets and sinks are clean, and caulk is refreshed. An outdoor welcoming doormat creates a psychological effect that will help potential tenants focus more on the positives of your property.

Here are a few extras you can do yourself.



  • Put out fresh white towels
  • Fold a hand towel and place it next to the sink
  • Put a dish filled with boutique soaps next to the sink
  • Place a small plant on the counter or behind the toilet
  • Hang a trendy shower curtain


  • Hang a hand towel from the oven door or fold one on the counter
  • Add a matching rug by the sink

Master bedroom

  • Get a blowup mattress and put it on the totes you used to carry your staging materials
  • Cover the bed with a trendy comforter and lots of throw pillows
  • Place a cute end table and lamp next to the bed

Outdoor lanai

  • Set up a small bistro table and two chairs
  • Put a small plant on the table

General tips
oil diffuser

  • Open curtains and windows and air out the home prior to showings
  • Turn on all lights- overhead and lamps, even during the day.
  • Carry a can of organic scented air freshener, such as apple-spice or linen, and use sparingly to neutralize bad smells. Alternately, if the rental is vacant, place air fresheners where they cannot be seen in the kitchen, bathroom and main living area, or display an oil diffuser as an accessory.
  • If you are bringing in furnishings, incorporate mirrors. Mirrors make small spaces appear larger.
  • Plants show the renter in a subconscious way that the home has enough light to support plant life.
  • Pick up a few tasteful accent pieces at discount stores like TJ Max or Ross.
  • Have on hand a few major furniture items that hold up well and that you can switch out between properties.
  • If you don’t have room to store furniture, consider renting furniture.


Know your audience

Keep accessories neutral to appeal to the most renters. You can reuse items again or for multiple rentals.

The more expensive the rental, the more effort you should put into staging. On Maui, homes and condos listed for over $4,500 per month should consider hiring a professional stager.

When not to stage

Maui’s rental market is competitive. If your unit is priced right, you may have no problems getting good tenants to rent your property. If your unit is on the less expensive end, you probably don’t need to invest the time or money it takes to stage a home, except for making sure it is clean and in good repair. You might even be able to rent your home in the middle of your current tenant’s messy move-out.

However, the rental market is shifting. The meteoric rise of rents has leveled off as income levels could not sustain high rent or sales prices. The new law against illegal vacation rentals is putting more units into long-term rental. You may see less competition for units and lower prices in the coming months.

The bottom line

Whether you want to stage your rental property or not, it’s always a good idea to show the property at its best by doing a thorough cleaning between tenants, sprucing up the exterior, re-painting and making repairs where necessary. This is a cost of doing business that will pay off by shorter rental gaps and better long-term tenants.