Real Estate Pros Use These Cheap Tricks To Make Homes Look 10x Better — & You Can Easily Do Them Too

Secrets from the pros on how to get a showroom-quality home.

Written by Maria Cassano
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Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a major renovation to transform the look and feel of your space. Take those home makeover shows, for example. Yes, the contractors often rip out old fixtures and change the layout, but the house is just big, empty rooms until the interior designers come in: It’s the staging and thoughtful touches that really pull a space together — and no one knows the value of these affordable, easy upgrades better than real estate pros.

For this article, Bustle reached out to over a dozen home experts to find out to make big impact tweaks to houses and apartments — no demolition necessary. These are the cheap tricks they use to make spaces look significantly better, and with the recommended decor and gadgets available on Amazon, you’ll never have to leave the house.


Using Statement Mirrors To Distract From Flaws

According to Adie Kriegstein, licensed real estate salesperson and the founder of NYC Experience, you can easily “stage the space with furniture and decor that draw the eye away from any less-than-perfect features.” In some cases, “a realtor might place a large piece of art or a statement mirror on that wall to distract from the flaw” — like this hanging gold mirror, which easily covers scuffs and panels. Since its 10-inch diameter weighs less than a pound and the chain is designed to be seen, it’s extremely easy to hang on any wall.


Updating Curtains For Style & Privacy

“Another overlooked area is window treatments,” Kriegstein wrote. “Updating curtains or blinds can add a new level of style and privacy to a room,” and it doesn’t have to be expensive, either. These tiered cafe-style curtains are made from a blend of linen and polyester, and the set costs under $20 in most colors. They have a semi-sheer opacity that offers privacy while still allowing light to filter through.

  • Available styles: 10


Styling Your Space With Plants & Other Natural Elements

“Strategically place plants or other natural elements in areas that could use some sprucing up,” wrote Kriegstein. If you don’t have a particularly green thumb, this best-selling snake plant is a good option. It’s earned an overall 4.5-star rating from reviewers because it tolerates a wide range of lighting conditions, thrives on minimal water, and doesn’t require pruning. Just re-pot it in the container of your choice, or choose one of the included decorative options for a few dollars more.

  • Available styles: 9


By Choosing An Easy-To-Care-For Live Plant

According to Kriegstein, “A potted plant in a corner can make the space feel more alive and vibrant and it can also add a subtle pop of color." This UppWell wood stand turns your potted plant into a mid-century modern statement piece. Its bamboo construction adjusts to fit most pots between 8 and 12 inches and it can support up to 150 pounds. Most importantly, it keeps damp, dirty materials away from your floors.


Or Using Natural Elements To Protect & Decorate Simultaneously

Available in round or square shapes, these wooden coasters are another easy way to add neutral elements to your space. They’re made from natural acacia wood with curved edges, so stylish, but also durable and capable of keeping drips and condensation inside to protect your tabletops. Their non-slip feet prevent scratches and spills.

  • Available styles: 2


Or Elevating The Ambiance With Realistic Faux Plants

Casey Napolitano, real estate agent, broker, and founder of NDA Real Estate, also uses plants to make a statement — but this tip is as low-maintenance as it gets: “Faux orchids, with their lifelike appearance, effortlessly elevate the ambiance of any home, imbuing it with an air of opulence and sophistication,” Napolitano wrote. This direct recommendation has a 4.6-star rating from reviewers because it looks and feels real and it comes in a chic white pot that goes with any decor.

  • Available styles: 2


Choosing Neutral, Wrinkle-Resistant Bedding Sets

To make your “home feel like a high-end retreat,” Napolitano also recommends choosing “neutral, wrinkle-free bedding sets,” like this luxury quilt set that looks way more expensive than it actually is. Made from 100% microfiber, the set includes a quilt and two matching shams, which are lightweight enough for summer, but layer well in colder weather. It’s also machine-washable and has earned over 6,000 five-star ratings.

  • Available styles: 9


Upgrading Shower Heads To High-End Dual Units

To easily upgrade your shower, Robb recommends "replacing the right bathroom fixtures,” including this stainless steel rainfall shower head. “Going for the combination of a good quality shower head and a detachable handheld unit can make getting clean an opportunity to relax for you,” Robb wrote. The 8-inch shower head is high-pressure and easily attaches to most standard .5-inch pipe threads, the handheld offers three different spray settings, and the 60-inch hose that connects them is made from durable stainless steel — all for under $40.

  • Available styles: 2


Placing Fresh Towels In The Bathrooms

"It may seem obvious to some, but the home should be clean,” wrote Kristina ODonnell, Realty ONE associate broker and realtor. “An easy update is to place fresh towels in the bathrooms arranged neatly over the towel bar." This bath towel set is made from fluffy, absorbent Turkish cotton, and according to reviewers, it’s a “great value.” Each order includes two bath towels, two hand towels, and two washcloths (in your choice of dark gray or white), all made from 100% cotton.

  • Available styles: 2


Storing Miscellaneous Or Messy Items Away In Baskets

“If the closets are messy, pick up a few simple square baskets to store the messy or miscellaneous items,” wrote ODonnell, which gives “the appearance of an organized space." These rope storage baskets are medium-sized to fit clothes, toys, accessories, linens, and more. Their opaque cotton construction hides clutter, their hidden handles make transporting items easy, and their foldable design saves space when they’re not in use.

  • Available styles: 8


Getting Clutter Up & Out Of The Way

When it come to clutter, Ken Sisson, associate broker with Coldwell Banker Realty in Studio City, CA, agrees. According to Sisson, it “can’t be overstated” how important it is to declutter. "Just like a good deep cleaning, decluttering is typically a high-value proposition,” Sisson wrote, and “one of the best ways to declutter a home is to get things up and out and put them in some overhead storage in the garage." This expert-recommended overhead garage storage system keeps up to 30 cubic feet of bins, boxes, luggage, or coolers up and out of the way. Since it’s made from stainless steel, it can support up to 250 pounds of weight.

  • Available styles: 2


Modernizing A Bathroom With A New Light Fixture

“A new bathroom light fixture might be something that makes a huge difference in the overall presentation of the home,” wrote Sisson. This bathroom light fixture is a direct recommendation from Sisson. It’s pretty affordable, but modernizes a space with its matte black hardware and Edison-style bulbs underneath clear glass shades — and it includes all the hardware you’ll need for an easy installation.


Choosing Curtain Rods That Complement The Home’s Style

“Curtain rods are often overlooked, but the right curtain rods (at the right placement) can really make the whole home feel better. Curtain rods can be minimal yet so chic, and often come in different finishes to best complement your home style,” wrote Jennifer Patchen, broker at Opendoor. (This metal curtain rod from Amazon basics is chic, durable enough to support up to 20 pounds, and comes with all the hardware you need for installation.) “When installing curtain rods, make sure that they are hung closer to the ceiling and not right above the window,” Patchen continued. “Pair them with pleated curtains that sweep the floor, and you’ve got that high-end look."

  • Available styles: 2


Adding Wire-Free Luxury With Battery-Operated Sconces

“A simple way to not only add light, but some luxury as well is battery-operated sconces,” wrote Patchen. “These won’t require an electrician to wire, and will instantly upgrade your space. Some sconces can even be placed over artwork to elevate the look." These rechargeable motion-sensored lights automatically turn on when someone walks by. The base sticks to your wall using a 3M self-adhesive backing, while the light attaches to the base (and detaches for charging) with built-in magnets.

  • Available styles: 2


Adding A Bright Accent With Wall Decals

According to Patchen, “77% of homeowners love a brightly-colored accent wall,” and “it’s a relatively easy project for any homeowner” — especially if you opt for a wall decal. “Wall decals are perfect if you’re trying something new but don’t want to commit to a full paint upgrade, and it’s easy to remove as you look to redecorate the following season,” Patchen wrote. This scalloped wallpaper, for example, comes in your choice of three colors and has a peel-and-stick design that’s easy to apply.

  • Available styles: 3


Opting For Clean, Neutral Color Schemes

Chase Michels, broker and partner at The Michels Group, relies on “neutral color schemes” to “create a clean and fresh canvas.” These dried pampas grass bundles, for example, go with any existing color scheme and add a touch of natural elegance to your home. Since you can cut them to the desired length and they don’t require watering, they’re great for creating your own no-maintenance floral arrangements, centerpieces, or shelf accents.


Minimizing Eyesores With Neutral Accents

“By using neutral paint colors or furnishings,” Michels wrote, you can “[minimize] the visibility of any eyesores.” A modern beige runner, for example, warms up a space without overwhelming it and pulls the eye away from fixtures that might need updating. It can also be used to cover up worn spots on the floor, or (since it’s machine-washable) absorb moisture and dirt in bathrooms, kitchens, entryways, and laundry rooms.

  • Available styles: 3


Replacing Old Light Switch Panels

"Light switch panels are an easy upgrade,” wrote Logan Patterson, associate broker at Logic Realty. “A new panel without any sun damage, cracks, or grime will help your wall paint look newer." These wall plate covers come in various designs (for traditional switches, rockers, and outlets in all different configurations), but they’re all made from high-quality bamboo that resists fingerprints and cracks. The sets also come with the screws you’ll need for easy installation.

  • Available styles: 12


Hiding Wires In A Cable Management Box

“Cord covers or cable boxes can help keep wires and cables organized and hidden,” Michels wrote, and this cable management box is more stylish than most. Whereas other options are just black or white cubes, this one features a ridged oval design in your choice of green or white. As a result, it doubles as a chic accent piece on your bedside table or desk — and its interior is large enough to hide a power strip.

  • Available styles: 2


Using Cable Clips To Boost Tidiness

According to Michels, “cable management solutions” like “cable clips” improve the “overall look and tidiness of a room,” and these cable clips are one of the top-selling solutions on Amazon. Their flexible silicone construction allows you to remove your wires from the clips as needed, but securely hold them in place otherwise. Their self-adhesive backing also sticks to most surfaces, so you can feed your phone charger up behind your bedside table or organize all of the cords on your desk.


Ensuring That All The Light Bulbs Match

“Ensuring that all lightbulbs in a room match creates a cohesive and visually appealing lighting scheme,” wrote Scott Bergmann, realtor with Realty ONE Group Sterling. “Even a few mismatched bulbs can give the impression of a lack of attention to detail or a cheap appearance.” These Sigalux light bulb sets help you start fresh with energy-efficient LEDs at a great price. They come in your choice of daylight or soft white and you can get them in packs of up to 12 bulbs.


Incorporating 21st-Century Tech Using Smart Plugs

“Even if your home was built decades ago,” wrote Eric Robb, owner and team lead at Robb Realty Group, you can still “incorporate [tech from the] 21st-century.” These recommended smart plugs from Wyze allow you to “gain control over practically any item in the house,” so you can manage them from your phone or with your voice using Alexa or Google Assistant. You can start your coffee in the morning with a few words, put your lamps on automatic schedules, or turn off your straightener from anywhere.


Hanging Plants From The Ceiling

“Hanging some plants can help to bring some greenery up and [off] the floor,” Robb wrote, and these recommended plant hangers “offer any bright corner the feeling of a lush greenhouse.” The beige macrame ropes come in three sizes to fit pots between 5 and 10 inches in diameter. They’re handcrafted from cotton and also include screw-in hooks for hanging.

  • Available styles: 2


Decorating With Fake Accessory Plants

If you’re looking for that staged home feel, consider “fake accessory plants,” Sebastian Jania, owner of Ontario Property Buyers, wrote. These artificial succulents “make an impression” with their round modern pots and convincing plastic leaves in a range of different shapes. Since they’re small and lightweight, they’re also easy to place on shelves, windowsills, and side tables for a pop of natural color.

  • Available styles: 2


Updating Dome Fixtures With Flush Mount Ceiling Lights

“These will make any house look more expensive, even if the house itself looks a bit dated cosmetically. They are a much better alternative to traditional dome lights that one may have at home,” Jania wrote, recommending these LED flush mount ceiling light fixtures. They’re also dimmable, ultra-thin, relatively easy to install, and allow you to choose between three warmth settings.


Tackling Odors At The Source With The Right Cleaning Products

“We all love our pets as literal members of our families,” Sisson wrote, but guests or “prospective buyers” can “do without pet odor” — “or, equally as off-turning, the smell of cigarette smoke.” When it comes to getting rid of unwanted odors, Sisson recommends that you “clean as if your life depended on it” using this Angry Orange odor eliminator spray. While we may have gotten used to the scents in our house, this formula uses ingredients derived from fresh orange peels to penetrate most surfaces and tackle the smell at the source. No wonder it has over 100,000 reviews on Amazon.


Blocking Tough Stains & Odors With This Cult-Favorite Product

“Sometimes, though, the odor problem can be well beyond what inexpensive cleansers can handle,” Sisson wrote. “These tend to be situations in which more work is required.” According to Sisson, eliminating the source of the odor and hiring a company to do a home ozone shock treatment can help. After that, “if a paint job is on the to-do list as well, it’s highly recommended to use Kilz primer,” Sisson wrote, which is designed to block tough stains and odors on most surfaces, including drywall, wood, plaster, ceramic, brick, glass, and masonry. One gallon covers up to 400 square feet and dries to the touch in about 30 minutes.


Adding Fragrance & Minimizing Pet Odors At Once

For a more temporary fix, “strong air fresheners or scented candles can be used to mask the smell of mold, pets, smoke, or other unpleasant odors,” wrote James Anderson, CEO of Veritas Buyers. These Pet’s Favorite candles have been proven by independent labs to minimize pet odors using their non-toxic fragrances. The soy paraffin blend is hand-poured in the US, burns for up to 70 hours per jar, and comes in your choice of seven scents.

  • Available styles: 7


Camouflaging Older Windows With Trendy Drapes

“Heavy drapes or blinds could be used to hide a poor view or damage around windows,” Anderson wrote, and they don’t have to cost a ton, either. These pom-pom curtains are extremely affordable despite their triple-weave construction that blocks out at least 85% of sunlight and helps to minimize drafts. They’re also machine-washable, come with two free tiebacks, and add plenty of style to your space with their various color options and pom-pom edges.

  • Available styles: 23


Adding Solar Path Lights To Your Outdoor Space

"A little more brightness can always make an environment feel better,” wrote Brady Bridges, broker and owner of Reside Real Estate — and that goes for both indoor and outdoor environments. “Path lighting, such as solar-powered lanterns, can make a big difference in the outdoor areas of your home within a minimum budget,” Bridges wrote before recommending these solar outdoor lights. Since they’re waterproof, weather-resistant, charge up with sunlight, and automatically turn on at dusk, they’re a low-maintenance way to boost the aesthetic of your outdoor space.

  • Available styles: 7


Choosing One Accent Rather Than Several Smaller Ones

Rinal Patel, founder of Webuyphillyhome, wrote that less is more while decorating: “It is easy to get carried away by the overwhelming number of accessories,” and going overboard will result in a “disorganized appearance” that makes the house look “too congested.” As a result, Patel recommends using one larger piece of decor (rather than dozens of little ones) to make a statement. This flower vase catches the eye with its book-like appearance and holds flowers in its acrylic construction. Since it’s so visually interesting, it’s the only accent you need on a tabletop or shelf.

  • Available styles: 5


Improving The Space With Large, Elegant Decor

“Instead of using little flower vases, or little decorative accessories that would take up space, using a larger one helps improve the space of the home,” Patel wrote. Whether you fill this face vase with real or faux flowers, it’s a modern, elegant accent that elevates the room rather than overwhelming it. It’s made from off-white ceramic, comes in your choice of medium or small sizes, and has been called “beautiful and unique” by reviewers.

  • Available styles: 3


Masking A Damaged Wall With Art

“Hang a large piece of art to mask a bad wall,” wrote Denis Smykalov, real estate broker at Wolsen Real Estate. Wheras framed photos and painted canvases can be extremely expensive, these macrame wall hangings cover a large surface area for significantly less. They’re handwoven from 100% cotton and come on a wooden stick with a string, so they’re ready for hanging as soon as they arrive.

  • Available styles: 2


Freshening Up The Air With Decorative Diffusers

“Scent is a powerful tool for creating ambiance,” Smykalov wrote, which is why so many realtors freshen up the air before an open house. “Use candles or diffusers to add subtle, pleasant scents like lavender or fresh linen." This reed diffuser set comes in six different scent options, and the formulas are all free from common toxins. Each order includes 6.7 ounces of scented oil in a reusable glass bottle with five reed sticks and dried flowers for decoration.

  • Available styles: 6


Hiding Clutter Or Uneven Walls With Bookshelves

"Bookshelves are great for hiding clutter or uneven walls,” Smykalov wrote, and this floating two-tier bookshelf is decor in and of itself thanks to its unique, abstract design. It’s available in espresso, gray, or natural finishes, and it comes with all the hardware you need for assembly and mounting. “It looks great in my bedroom,” one reviewer wrote, while another said, “Perfect little shelf for my coffee area to get a few things off the kitchen counter.”

  • Available styles: 3


Using Smart Technology To Make A Home Feel Modern

"Technology can also be used to improve a home. Smart home devices definitely give you the best bang for your buck,” wrote Kriegstein, and that includes smart thermostats. This one is reasonably priced, even though it allows you to set the temperature audibly via Alexa or control your thermostat from your phone. It’s also Energy Star-certified to help you save money on your energy bills.


Installing Smart Lighting Systems

Kriegstein also recommends smart lighting systems, which minimize electricity usage via automation and allow you to turn lights on and off from anywhere. These smart bulbs are also compatible with Alexa and Google Home for hands-free control using vocal commands, and you can dim them, brighten them, or choose between 16 million different colors. Using the hub-free app, you can even set automatic schedules and sync multiple smart devices to create routines.


Covering Up Worn Upholstery With Throw Pillows

"Adding decorative pillows to a couch or bed can cover up stains or tears in upholstery,” wrote Smykalov. If the throw pillows themselves are stained or worn, Amazon has plenty of inepensive but stylish throw pillow covers. These striped linen patchwork covers come in four colors and six sizes, and their minimalist design adds an elegant touch to any bed, sofa, bench, or accent chair.

  • Available styles: 4


Or Warming Up Your Outdoor Space With Throw Pillows

You can also pair these pillow inserts with the covers of your choice to spruce up any space. Available in three common sizes, they’re filled to 90% capacity with plush polyester and wrapped in a soft microfiber shell. They’re also machine-washable and suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, so you can use them to warm up your porch, balcony, or stoop, too.


Using Area Rugs To Cover Up Old Floors

Smykalov also recommends that homeowners "use an area rug to cover up unsightly flooring.” This jute accent rug comes in black or natural, not to mention almost 20 different sizes in round or rectangular shapes. As a result, it goes with any existing color scheme and makes it easy to find the right fit for any space. “Price can’t be matched,” one reviewer wrote, especially since it’s hand-crafted from 100% real jute.

Available styles: 2


Placing Décor On Tables & Nightstands

“It never ceases to surprise me how much of a difference candles, fake potted plants, and small décor such as books can make on a home,” wrote Donald Olhausen Jr., owner of "Putting these décor pieces on tables, bathrooms, and nightstands will give the home a more professional and elegant feel." If you’re short on surface area, this side table is a great spot for décor — especially since its mid-century modern three-legged design accents a room in and of itself. It’s available in seven different colors and it can be used indoors or out thanks to its metal construction.

  • Available styles: 7