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Staging your home to sell is a strategic way to make it look inviting and attractive to potential buyers. To sell your house in this market, you need to go the extra distance. Home staging may cost some money, but if it leads to a sale, it's a worthwhile investment. (For related reading, see How To Stage Your Home For A Quick Sale.)

Start with Cleaning
The "clean" that you and your family find acceptable does not equate to the higher level of clean required to sell your home. Keep in mind that potential buyers will snoop and check out every nook and cranny.

Run the vacuum
Mop hard floor surfaces. This is especially important if you have small children and pets.

Put items in cupboards, drawers, closets and anywhere else to get them out of sight. Clutter makes a home look smaller. Since you're moving, you might as well toss things out, too.

Focus on Bathrooms and the Kitchen
These areas are critical. Shine your faucets and keep countertops clean.

Don't Forget to Spruce Up Outside
Don't neglect the exterior of your home. Trim shrubs and clear debris from the yard.

Stage Left
Professional home stagers (yes, such a job exists!) are insistent when it comes to creating a blank canvas. The buyer needs to be able to project themselves into your home and envision living there. Even though you love your fuchsia dining room, not everyone will. Here are some home staging tips from the pros.

Remove Anything Personal
Staging pros can be brutal about this. Your cherished family photos are distracting to buyers. They need to be put away. Even if you are very proud of your bowling trophies, pack them up.

Play Up the Good Parts
Just like staging in a theater, lighting can play up the positives about your home and keep the unflattering parts in the shadows. In addition to lighting, you can stage an entrance to a room or enhance it with the right accents.

Home Sweet Home
While some realtors will tell you the smell of baking cookies sends a subliminal message to buyer's brains, you can't always be cranking out the cookies. Opt for vanilla-scented room fresheners.

Remove Evidence of Fido
Don't assume your buyers like pets. Even if they do, they don't want to look at or smell cat litter. And you may not smell your animals, but people coming in your home will.

A fresh coat of paint is an inexpensive way to brighten up a room. Use flat paint on most rooms, but a satin or semi-gloss for heavily-used rooms like kitchens.

Consider New Furniture
Oversized sofas, chairs and tables should be replaced if possible. You want the buyer to visualize their own furniture in your rooms. Remember, whatever you buy will be great in your new home! You might also consider storing your outdated, big furniture and renting some for home staging purposes.

Use Accessories Wisely
No one wants to see your porcelain chicken collection, even if you think they're cute kitchen accents. But buy some inexpensive, neutral accessories like vases, bowls and nice towels to display.

The Bottom Line
If you are really overwhelmed with preparing your home for sale, consider hiring a professional home stager. They may even offer a free initial consultation. Look online or in your phone book. Call and interview a few about their fees and staging methods. (To learn more, check out how to Stage Your Home Like a Pro For Free.)

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