Selling your house in today's tough real estate market takes a lot of work. Your home needs to look its best to stand apart from the competition, which means you need to stage your home in order to get top dollar. Staging services cost thousands, but with a little work and investment, you can easily do it yourself. Here are staging secrets to help you sell your home faster and for more money.

In Pictures: 6 Tips On Selling Your Home In A Down Market

Say Goodbye and Depersonalize
Cost: $0
Selling a home and living in it are two very different things. If you're like most people, you have family photographs to make you feel at home. Now that you're selling your house, however, it's time to make room for buyers to imagine themselves living there, which means that all of your family photos and personal items have to go. While you're packing away baby pictures, take time to say goodbye to your house; if you have children, get them involved in this process as well. It'll make it easier to start looking at your home as an asset you're selling, rather than an extension of you. (For more ways on raising the value of your home, check out 7 Spring Fixes To Boost Your Home's Value.)

Get Packing
Cost: $0 to +/-$50 a month for a storage unit
Once you've packed your family photos away, it's time to clear some of your clutter. You want to show buyers the space, not your china collection - however beautiful it may be. Christmas decorations, memorabilia and books - anything you can do without for a while should be packed away. Cut back your kids' toys; they'll seem like new ones when you unpack again in your new home. Use baskets or containers to store toys and keep things tidy. Consider renting a storage unit; the cost will be worth it, since your home will look much bigger (and considered to be worth more) when it has less stuff in it.

Add Some Curb Appeal
Cost: $0-50
The outside of your home is the first thing a buyer sees - does your home stand out from the street? Clean the exterior of your home, touch up any flaky paint and add some bright annuals to your garden for a quick sprucing up. If you have a porch, set the stage with a potted plant or a chair with a colorful outdoor pillow. First impressions are vital, so don't lose your chance to get buyers in the right mood from the moment they drive up to your home.

Find Each Room's Purpose
Cost: $0-100 if buying furniture
Most of us use our spaces in ways that suit our lifestyle: dining rooms become offices, family rooms become playrooms and spare bedrooms become storage areas. Now that you're selling your home, it's time to restore those spaces to their original purpose. Look around your house for furniture that could fit the space, ask a neighbor or friend to borrow furniture or look at thrift stores or online bulletins for inexpensive staging props. Paint, slipcovers or a decorative tablecloth are easy fixes for dated or worn furniture. It's easy to turn a spare bedroom into an office with a simple table, chair and notebook. An empty basement becomes a game room with a table, chairs and chess board staged to play. Use what you already own, and stage each room so buyers can easily see what its purpose is. (For more info on selling your home, read 7 Ways To Improve Your Home's Sell-ability.)

Unify With Color
Cost: $0-100
If you've ever been to a new, builder-staged home, you've probably noticed that decorators picked a color scheme throughout the house. It's a stager's trick: homes that have a repeating color scheme seem bigger and more organized. Chances are that you already have a favorite color you like to use in your home - just take a look at your curtains, bedding and towels to find a recurring color. If not, pick a color you like and find ways to repeat this in each room in small ways. Scented candles, towels, framed postcards (you can use your family photo frames) and throw pillows are inexpensive ways to unify your décor.

Furniture Placement
Cost: $0
Hopefully, when you packed away your clutter, you also stored excess furniture to help make rooms look bigger. Here's another important tip: if possible, avoid putting all your furniture against the wall like many of us do - it actually makes a room seem smaller. If you have a fireplace, position your furniture so buyers can sit, have a conversation and enjoy it. Keep pathways clear, and remember: less is more. You want buyers to see your home's space, not your stuff.

Ready, Set, Sell!
When you're done, ask an honest friend or neighbor to tour your home and give their input for any final touches. Remember to keep the house staged and looking its best until that offer comes in. With these inexpensive staging tricks, your home will be the best on the block.

Find out what's making news this week, check out Water Cooler Finance: Everything Old Is News Again.

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