10 Home Staging Secrets

By Kimberly Fusaro
Selling your home sounds easy enough. Just hammer a "For Sale" sign into the front lawn and start bringing in the buyers, right? Not so fast. If you want to get the highest possible sale price, you need to woo potential buyers. That's where professional home stagers come in: Like a Hollywood set, your home can be turned into a scene that buyers will want to latch on to. If you're serious about selling, you might want to consider hiring a professional home stager to transform your house into every buyer's dream-or just borrow these tips from the pros to get it in ready-to-sell condition.

1. Clear Out Clutter
Whittle huge photo displays down to a few frames. Pack up collections and knickknacks that are cluttering your bookshelves, desktop, dresser and end tables. "Show potential buyers your home, not your stuff!" urges professional home stager Jan Whitlow.

2. Let Light In
Pull up the shades and draw back the curtains! "Light creates a positive, cheerful environment," says professional home stager Trish Kim. During showings, turn on every light in every room. And leave some of the lights on in the rooms that face the street until you go to bed. "If potential buyers drive by after-hours, the welcoming light in the window is very seductive," says Kim.

3. Make the Background Neutral
If the walls are in neutral shades, the space will feel bigger, says Barb Schwarz, CEO of StagedHomes.com. You don't want potential buyers' initial thought to be, "Well, I'd have to repaint the purple bedroom and the brick-red dining room, to start," so consider repainting bright-hued walls before you start showing. Even with a neutral backdrop, you can still add "movable color" to the rooms with artwork, bedspreads or area rugs. All add visual interest, but the buyer knows you'll take them with you.

4. Create a Lifestyle
If you think your home might appeal to someone who entertains, set the dining room for a formal dinner party, suggests Kim. Or turn your master bedroom into a quiet spa-like haven if the whirlpool tub in the master bathroom is a selling point. "Buyers are looking for an upgraded lifestyle," says Kim. It's up to you to help them imagine it.

5. Play Music
Have music playing softly in the background. "I call it 'buying music,'" says Schwarz. Choose something mellow and play it just loud enough so it's discernable. The idea is to mask the echoey sound of shoes clap-clap-clapping through an empty house-not to start a dance party. Schwarz recommends light jazz without a lot of vocals: something similar to elevator or department store music.

6. Neutralize Odors
Contrary to popular belief, no odor is the way to go. The smell of bread or cookies in the oven might appeal to you-but potential buyers may not agree, says Kim. Open the windows and let fresh air flow through your home. Sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of trash cans and place a box of it in the fridge to absorb unpleasant smells. "You can't sell it if you can smell it," seconds Schwarz.

Eliminate common kitchen odors before your showing with these smart tricks.

7. Clean, Clean, Clean
If you're selling your home, you can't stash clutter in the closets or have a fridge full of messy takeout containers. Potential buyers will be inspecting every square foot-and that means you should, too. Store clutter in neatly stacked boxes in the basement-or better yet, in a storage unit. Then white-glove clean any and all surfaces, says Schwarz.

8. Rethink Your Furniture
If taking out a few pieces of furniture would make a room feel more spacious, then do it, urges Schwarz. Put pieces that are rarely used (like extra dining room chairs) in storage, then rearrange what's left to maximize each room's space. One thing to hold on to: items that double as storage, like an ottoman with a lid, where you can stow clutter at the last minute.

9. "Stage" Every Room
A dining room in top form won't do you any good if your kids' rooms look like a tornado just tore through them. "The whole house has to be staged," says Schwarz. If your children have a hard time getting a handle on their stuff, buy underbed storage boxes and insist they toss their toys in them at the end of every day. Once a week, have them sort through the storage boxes before they're allowed to watch TV or have a friend over, to keep the clutter under control.

10. Don't Forget the Outside
"All of the property has to be staged," says Schwarz. Your house number should be big, shiny and easy to read. Landscaping should be pristine-and give the impression it's easy to maintain, so opt for simple over fancy pruning designs. Finally, the garage and shed should be in reasonable order, too.

Photo: © Polka Dot Images/Thinkstock

Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.

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