You have decided to sell your home.

You have decided to sell your home. But before you put it on the market, it is best to prepare your home – or “stage” it –to make it appeal to the greatest number of people who will view it both online and in person. Please note, research from the National Association of REALTORS® has found that 90 percent of potential homebuyers start their search on the Internet. When those buyers are “clicking through” listings online, your home may have only a few seconds to make the best first impression with photos of neat and attractive interiors and exteriors.
Home staging is the effort to organize and clean your home, as well as to decorate it specifically for potential buyers. Your real estate and other professionals can assist you with staging your home. But if you decide to manage the process on your own, here are some tips for getting your home ready.
1. Create a neutral space
Put yourself in the shoes of a potential homebuyer. Try to look at your home through the eyes of a complete stranger. Each person has unique tastes and your objective is to make your home appeal to them. So you want to create a neutral space for them to envision their lives taking place. The most important thing you can do is to organize, clean and remove clutter and personal items. Although you’ve grown accustomed to looking at your home, a new buyer is looking at it for the first time, and that first impression is priceless. Pay attention to the details to facilitate potential buyers’ ability to see the potential and beauty of your house,.
2. Examine the exterior
Even before potential buyers see the interior of your home, they drive up to your house (or see a front view on the web). Take the drive yourself and look for any areas in need of touching up. Pay attention to:

  •   Front lawn and patio: Is it well groomed? Are the trees in need of pruning? Are there colorful flowers? Are there dead branches, dry leaves or weeds to remove? Take care of those items and consider adding a new layer of mulch in your front beds to complete an appealing look.
  •   Walls: Are they clean? Do they need a new coat of paint? Think about neutralizing or softening the color to maximize your range of buyers. (New research has found that rather than all-white walls, younger buyers like the softer colors.)
  •   Windows, shutters and awnings: Are they broken or dirty? If so, clean them and fix them.
  •   Rust: Are there metal surfaces that are showing signs of deterioration? If so, repair or replace them.
  •   Pavement: Is it cracking or dirty? A pressure wash, repairs or refinishing will make a big difference.
  •   Front door: Is it inviting? In good condition? Are there bugs around the threshold? Does the doorknob need replacing? A fresh coat of paint or a new stain job will enhance your front door and say “welcome” to potential buyers.
  •   Roof: Is it weathered and dirty? Are you missing tiles or shingles? Are the gutters clean?
3. Inspect the interior
A potential buyer’s first steps inside your home will sometimes make or break the sale. Consider what their sensory experience will be.

  •  Is the lighting dim or bright? Bright lighting opens up a room, where dim lighting and dark colors make them seem smaller.
  •   What kind of mood have you created? Is there clutter or noticeable odors?
  •   Are the floorboards scuffed?
  •   Are the light switches clean?
  •   Are the blinds dusted?
  •   Are there any stains or scratches on the flooring?
4. Prep the kitchen
From the aroma of your cooking to the wear-and-tear on your stove, cabinet interiors to cutlery drawers, potential buyers are observing everything in your kitchen. Remember the details and make them appeal to a broad audience. If your cabinets are worn and you can’t replace them, change the doors or paint them. Replace hardware if needed. Even little touches make a big difference.

  •   Is the kitchen cluttered with tabletop appliances, making the space seem crowded?
  •   Are the kitchen lights bright enough?
  •   Do any parts of the kitchen look overused? If so replace, paint or touch it up.
  •   Are there dirty dishes in the sink?
  •   Is there dust on top of the refrigerator or the cabinets?
  •   Are the walls around the stove and the stovetop clean?
  •   Do you have anything cooking that leaves an unpleasant odor?
5. Enliven living areas
Inspect the open areas of your home. Removing clutter and creating open spaces will make it easier for potential buyers to envision themselves living there. You can repurpose spaces and furniture for new functionality. Ask yourself the following questions and remedy them before a potential homebuyer steps through the door.

  •   Can I reposition furniture to make the room more spacious, balanced and inviting?
  •   Can a buyer figure out what a room’s function is? In other words, is there a space for dining in the dining room, is there a bed in the bedroom? While your family might be using rooms for other purposes, buyers may have trouble seeing, for example, that your home office could serve as a child’s bedroom they really need.
  •   Are there stains on the roof, air vents, furniture or walls?
  •   Are all the light bulbs functioning?
  •   Is the fireplace clean and enticing?
  •   Are the curtains clean and inviting? Remove them if it’s possible. If not, wash or replace them if necessary.
  •   Do the closets seem crowded or spacious? Reorganize them.
  •   Are there any squeaky doors or floors? Use paraffin, wax or soap on worn sliding-glass door tracks.
  •   Are there visible pet hairs, stains or odors? Store away pet beds and litter boxes.
5. Sort through storage spaces
Attics, garages and sheds tend to clutter quickly. Take the time to organize your belongings or consider renting storage space where you can keep items while your home is listed. This will help you prepare for your move, which may be sooner than you think if you pay attention to minor details.

  •   Throw away things you no longer need and remove clutter.
  •   Clean surfaces and tidy-up.
  •   Check lights and floorboards. Make sure spaces are bright and safe.
  •   Clean all dust and cobwebs. Sweep the floors.
6. Clean the bathrooms
A clean bathroom is especially important. Spic-and-span sinks, tubs, walls, counters, mirrors, toilets and floors will make a big impact on a buyer. Make every effort to mimic spa environments by purchasing fluffy new towels you can take to your new home. Keep the bathroom impeccable, inviting, and relaxing.

  •   Are the faucets dripping or stained? Are there leaks or nicks that can be repaired?
  •   Are your belongings occupying the counter space?
  •   Are cabinets unorganized and overcrowded with belongings?
  •   Is the toilet lid closed?
  •   Can you add any finishing touches to make it more appealing?
7. Prepare for your showings
Though it is your home, a showing is a professional visit. The real estate agent (yours or the buyer’s) will have an easier time showing your home if you are not present. Leave things as tidy as possible and keep the following in mind:

  •   Don’t expect your agent to know where all the light switches are, so leave all the lights on and the curtains open.
  •   Leave the TV and radio off, or leave soothing music playing.
  •   Keep your family and pets away during a showing. If you cannot leave, do not answer questions from buyers. Instead, direct questions to your agent.
  •   Pay extra attention to the kitchen, the bathrooms and the master bedroom before you leave.
  •   If there are overpowering odors, make sure to air them out. Use a light-scented room deodorizer, and make sure pet beds and litter boxes are clean.
  •   Take out the garbage, cover garbage cans and tidy the patio. Any patio furniture, fountains or swimming pool should have been cleaned.
The HomeGain real estate community has found that investing time in these home-improvement activities can pay off big when selling your home. In fact, cleaning and de-cluttering your home for an average cost of $402 can benefit as much as $2,024 in the final sales price of your home – a return on investment of 403%.
So remember, literature and television shows are available with tips and tricks for staging your home. And if you are pressed for time, there are also professionals who will come to your home and stage it for you. Good luck!