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How To Stage Your Home To Sell
During the last few years, sellers who staged their homes for sale reaped huge profits. It was a seller's market in which buyers grossly outnumbered sellers. There were plenty of buyers who were willing to pay a premium for a home that looked like a dream. But, the market has changed. Will staging still payoff for sellers in a today's softening real estate market?

Some sellers will shun the idea of fixing up their home for sale because the upside potential, or return on the dollars invested, is limited. When the market is racing upwards, it's easy for sellers to justify putting money into preparing their homes for sale. But, why make the effort if the potential reward is diminished?

The best reason to consider improving the look of your home before marketing it is to improve your chances of selling in a more challenging market. Most buyers are turned off by a messy, dirty, tired-looking home. This is particularly the case when there are plenty of listings to choose from, as there are in many areas today.

Some staging projects--like painting and changing worn floor coverings--usually do payback a premium on the amount invested. But, even if you were to only recoup the money you invested, it would be worth the effort if it improves your chance of selling and reduces the amount of time you're on the market.

It may be even more important to stage your home in a softening market than it is in an extremely low inventory seller's market, such as the one we are leaving. Most buyers have difficulty envisioning how a house will look cleaned up. First impressions are lasting. If your home smacks of deferred maintenance, it will leave a negative impression with most buyers.

HOME SELLER TIP: Staging your home for sale needn't cost you a fortune. There's a lot you can do yourself to improve the appeal of your home. If you've lived in your home for several years, you probably have too many possessions. De-cluttering the living space does wonders to enhance the appearance.

Pack up knick-knacks and family photos. They are distracting. Remove excess pieces of furniture, particularly small pieces like end tables and footstools. A lot of small rugs make a room look smaller. Consider removing some or all of them.

House and outdoor plants add warmth and interest. But, avoid arrangements of small pots. One large plant, or large planted pot, is usually preferable to a lot of little pots.

Pay attention to the traffic flow in your home. Furniture should be arranged so that prospective buyers will have an easy time navigating your home. Buyers should be able to walk through a room without being impeded by a piece of furniture.

In most cases, the bigger a home appears, the better. If your hallways are narrow, remove furniture to create a more spacious appearance. Under furnished is often better than over-furnished. You should strive for a spare, but not bare, look.

After living in your home for years, you may have difficulty transforming it from cluttered to inviting on your own. It helps to engage a neutral party to assist you. A few hours spent with a decorator who specializes in helping sellers fix up their homes for sale may be all that's required to plan the transition.

THE CLOSING: Curb appeal is important, so make sure that your home creates a good first impression when viewed from the street. Some buyers won't even consider buying a home unless it looks appealing on the outside.

By: Dian Hymer December 17, 2001
Dian Hymer is author of "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer's Guide," Chronicle Books.

Copyright 2001 Dian Hymer
Distributed by Inman News Features