Spend time and resources getting your home ready for buyers before your property arrive on market. The rewards are worth the effort!

12 Critical Home Selling Preparations

    1    Get it clean. After living in, or renting, the home for years owners tend to overlook some of the surface buildup and strange odors. One way to be more objective about the condition of your house is to see other houses on the market in a similar price range.

    2    Get it light. When you get it clean, light it up! When the home is shown, every light in the house should be on and drapes open. Cut back bushes around windows. Kitchens and baths should be bright. It's fine to use candles, but be aware of fire safety.

    3    Decorating is not staging. Many homeowners have attractive homes, and they have decorated them to match their personalities. Red flocked wallpaper may be nice for some but anathema for others. Take "personality" out of the house and stage it so that it will appeal to the largest number of people.

    4    Staging is cosmetic. When you look at an appraisal report, there are two categories of depreciation: curable and incurable. Curable depreciation, when the problem is fixed, adds more to the property value than the cost to fix it. That's the object of staging: to make only those cash outlays that are returned in the sale price. That can include painting, wallpapering, decluttering, and focusing on dramatic, cosmetic transformations.

    5    Go for the model home look. Focus on warm and cozy without your "personality." Get the kids' toys packed up after they use them. Remove the family pictures that cover the wall in the hallway. Take down the electric train layout in the family room.

    6    Remove excess furniture and accessories. Make the space seem larger by having less clutter. In some model homes, smaller-than-normal beds are used. While you don't want to do that, you can probably get rid of 50% of the contents of a room. Take the excess furniture to mini-storage.

    7    Get rid of the old stuff. Remove furniture and paintings over 10 years old unless they are true antiques. Accessories should be used to give the house an updated look.

    8    Have appropriate furniture in rooms. A computer station in the dining room simply may not feel right to a buyer, so relocate it.

    9    Highlight with color. For years, real estate professionals suggested to paint homes all beige. A great home stager can work wonders with dramatic accent walls. Owners should be careful if they are not trained in staging skills because bad choices can ruin the effect.

    10    Make it smell and sound luscious. We all know the trick of freshly baked cookies in the home (you can buy a spray product that saves the trouble of baking), but don't forget that when a buyer is escorted through the home, soft music often sets the stage.

    11    Healthy houseplants and throws on the sofa. Make the house very livable so buyers can picture themselves enjoying the home. Set the dining table as though for company and put a book next to the easy chair.

    12    The best stage is empty. When the house is being shown by an agent, owners/tenants should leave (and take the pets). Let the buyers take emotional possession, ask questions, sit on the sofa, and make themselves at home!