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Staging can make a huge difference when selling your home. The key is to highlight your home’s strengths, while downplaying its weaknesses. Some steps are as simple as removing a few personal items and giving your home a good scrubbing, other steps require a little finesse. The goal is to style your home so it will appeal to a broad pool of buyers.

Here are a few good reasons why staging is worthwhile:

According to the National Association of Realtors, 49 percent of realtors representing a buyer report that most buyers are affected by home staging and 47 percent report some buyers are affected by home staging.

Thirty-two percent of buyers’ agents also believe that staging homes increases the dollar value buyers are willing to offer by one percent to five percent.

So let’s get started!

De-Clutter Your House:

One of the simplest and cheapest things you can when you prepare your home for sale is de-cluttering. It will eventually also help you when you move, but more importantly, a buyer does not want to open a closet or attic door and face a wall of clutter. Packed closets, cabinets, countertops and drawers make them look like they hold less. It makes your home appear smaller than it is, and in some cases clutter just makes people feel overwhelmed. It is also wise to remove a few pieces of furniture. When it comes to staging, less is more.

De-Personalize Your House:

You want your prospective buyer to feel at home as soon as she walks in. That’s hard to do if buyers are greeted by loads of family pictures. Replace some photos with generic art to add pops of color into a room. Your taste and style are unique, but many buyers may be unable to see past the brightly colored paint color or loudly patterned wallpaper.  Chose neutrals for accessories.

De-personalizing your home is all about neutralizing, or removing your personal flair from your home decor, so that buyers can imagine themselves moving in. The goal is to make the potential buyer feel like your home could become theirs.

Make It Look And Smell Fresh:

It goes without saying that your house should sparkle and shine to impress a buyer.

Scrub bathtubs, tile and other surfaces. Rent a steam cleaner to give dingy carpets a second life. Give your home a good dusting and make sure there are no dishes are left in the sink or laundry piled up.

Burn a candle or defuse your favorite scent. Better yet, baking cookies right before a showing helps make a house feel inviting and homey.

Update Dated Hardware:

So your kitchen predates this decade? No problem.

A few simple hardware updates give kitchens, bathrooms and even furniture a fast and easy facelift. Change dated gold fixtures and hardware from gold to a brushed nickel or chose a more modern shape.

Touch-ups:

If you need to, but cannot replace your cabinets some small fixes can freshen their appearance. Paint the cabinets or replace just the cabinet and drawer fronts. If you have scratched wood floors or cracked tiles, but don’t want to pay to restore your flooring, consider at least replacing the broken or damaged areas. If you don’t want to paint the whole house, but want to refresh things you can either chose an accent wall or pick a couple of rooms that really need the lift. For example, if a child’s room is bright pink (or any other specific color) it narrows their decorating choices without repainting. Chose neutral, warm colors, so buyers can imagine what they can do with the room.

Arranging Furniture:

With proper placement of furniture you can create the illusion of more space in your home. You can also enhance a specific focal point like a fireplace or showcase architectural features by rearranging furniture and creating better traffic flow. Guide the prospective buyer to the homes most attractive features.

Most importantly, make sure that the furniture you chose do not overwhelm the room. Find balance within the room. For example, if your bed is against a wall and cannot be centered between or under a window, add curtains wider than the window to make it look centered.

When it comes to accessorizing, use the rule of three for grouping decorations and pictures. Odd numbers work. Group items by size, color, or shape.

Lighten It Up:

Bright and airy make any room appear bigger. So chose soft, light fabrics for window dressings, open up blinds but make sure those windows are clean, and make sure your lighting scheme brightens every nook and cranny. Add lamps and mirrors to brighten dark hallways with no natural light.

Lighting is especially important when you take photos to be shown on the listings website. Always make sure your home photos show your house as light and bright.

Should It Stay Or Should It Go:

Remove any built-ins or fixtures that are moving with you. Buyers will assume that you take your furniture, but built-ins are a gray area. Also make sure you are clear on any appliances that may stay. You don’t want buyers think they are getting something that isn’t staying. If you have any concerns, make sure the agent is informed and can communicate specifics.

Fix What Needs Fixing:

Fix all leaks, creaks, cracks and jams. For one, discovering a flaw – even if it would be an easy fix for the new owner – leaves a bitter taste in a buyer’s mouth. It makes your home appear less cared for if the “spot test” of the garbage disposal or flip of a light switch reveals issues.

Secondly, major issues should always be either revealed to a potential buyer or should be repaired before a sale as an inspection will likely turn up these problems. Trying to sweep it under the proverbial rug could cost you the sale.

Open Houses Aren’t For Furry Friends:

Of course your pet is part of the family, but many buyers associate pets with tougher wear on carpets. Furthermore, while most pet lovers don’t notice, potential buyers may detect the smell of animals in the house, which isn’t good news if your buyer has allergies or simply isn’t a pet person. Lastly, take the fur babies with you when you leave the house during the showing. Buyers don’t want to hear barks in the background or puppies jumping up on them.

Spruce Up The Curb Appeal:

Curb appeal elevates that famous first impression. A good-looking front yard and entryway aren’t just memorable – in real estate, an inviting first impression can clinch the deal.

The key is to spruce up the exterior without spending a fortune. Changing the front door color or painting shutters can update the look. You can also easily install new house numbers or a nicer doorbell. Of course, cleaning up flower beds, planting a few colorful annuals or placing lush planters that are spilling over with seasonal flowers will go a long way. Make sure the lawn is mowed. Pick up any toys that the kids left out. Then get in your car and drive past your home and try to look at your home with fresh eyes. Does anything stand out to you or needs to be fixed? If so, fix it. First impressions count.

Staged homes sell faster, for more money. A little work is well worth it.