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The biggest investments of your life can be stressful ones. Buying a house is a massive investment, and wanting to get the most out of your investment when you go to sell it isn’t unreasonable. Staging is widely defined as getting a house ready for the market. By following the steps of a professional stager like Liz Connolly of INhance IT! Staging, you can make your home appealing to the widest range of buyers and help a house sell for what it’s worth.

“You must be committed to getting your house ready for sale,” she says. “Buyers want rooms that are light and bright, meticulously clean, fresh and uncluttered. The more you do to prepare your house, the faster it will sell.”

Below, Connolly offers seven major tips for preparing your home for the market.

1. Perform a curb-through-basement assessment. Start at the curb and look at things like your mailbox, driveway, landscaping, front steps and porch, front door, welcome mat, exterior lighting, paint, siding and trim. Don’t forget to look up for cobwebs, insects and unsightly debris. Look at each area of the home, garage, deck, backyard and all interior living spaces with a critical eye. Ask yourself, “Would I accept this if I were buying this property?”

2. Clean. Cleaning doesn’t just apply to the visible interiors; it also is necessary for spaces like cupboards and closets. Don’t forget the basement, garage, porch, patio, baseboards, light fixtures, ceiling, fireplaces, carpets and curtains. If you can smell it, you can’t sell it. Connolly says most homeowners get used to the smell of their homes over time, so check for odor sources, and get the air ducts cleaned if need be.

3. Declutter. Connolly says clutter eats equity, and a cluttered home is stressful. Clutter is the stuff your spouse wants you to throw out that you refuse to part with: newspapers, magazines, stuffed animals, coupons, recipes, figurines. When you stage, you need to pack these items away or get rid of them entirely.

4. Paint. Painting is one of the least-expensive ways to prepare your house for sale. Remove wallpaper, touch up smudges and freshen up baseboards and trim. When preparing your house for sale, select neutral, light paint colors in pale grays or beiges.

5. Furnish correctly. In many cases, sellers have either too much furniture or furniture that is too large for the space. Staging is a case where less is more. Be sure to have at least a 3-foot walkway in all areas throughout the home. Store excess furniture either off-site or in an area of the basement or garage where it won’t look cluttered. In the opposite scenario, sellers have sparsely furnished or unfinished rooms. Connolly says it’s better to leave rooms empty than partially furnished. The best solution is to bring in rental furnishings to round out the design plan so buyers can envision the space.

6. Assess high-impact areas. Pay particular attention to influential spaces and designs including the kitchen, lighting, hardware, the master bath and the master bedroom. One key area to invest in is the kitchen: Buyers pay extra attention to its flooring. They’re also looking for solid countertops made of granite, quartz or the quartz compound Silestone. Appliances may need to be updated, and stainless is still the most-requested appliance type, according to Connolly. If major light fixtures are dated, they can be replaced easily and inexpensively. Drum light fixtures (with a fabric or neutral shade) blend with most existing fixtures. If hardware is dated, replace things like brass door handles, dated knobs and kitchen-cabinet pulls. In the master bath, buyers want luxury. If you replace carpet with vinyl, be sure to use a heavy vinyl that looks like tile. Replace floral or patterned bedding with fresh “hotel collection” white bedding in the master bedroom.

7. Plan ahead. Preparing your home requires detailed planning. There are so many elements that need to come together prior to putting your property on the market that it can be daunting. If you pack it now, you won’t have to pack it later when your house sells. Put together a schedule, and rely on an array of professionals to assist with the process.

She also shared four common mistakes and misconceptions when staging your home.

1. Waiting to call the stager. Some sellers are embarrassed to have a stager come to their homes before they have “cleaned up.” They go ahead and paint and begin making repairs before the stager arrives. The paint color selected is typically not the right shade to appeal to the widest range of buyers, and at that point, the sellers have no funds left to repaint or do additional projects.

2. Putting the home on the market prior to staging. The biggest mistake most sellers make is taking the “wait-and-see” approach. They list the house without staging, and if it doesn’t sell in a few weeks or even months, then they stage it. It is very difficult to regain momentum once potential buyers have already been through the unstaged property.

3. Thinking staging and interior design are the same thing. Interior design is specific to the client and creates a very personal living environment. Home staging is the exact opposite. Staging depersonalizes the property to appeal to the widest range of buyers in the demographic area. Most of the seller’s personal collections, photos and so forth are packed away during the home-staging process.

4. Not ordering professional photography. Connolly recommends professional photography for all real estate listings, especially staged properties. If the seller has made the investment to stage his or her property, the agent owes it to the seller to secure professional photos to create outstanding marketing materials.

INhance IT! Staging | 314-486-5354 | inhanceitstaging.com

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Robyn is LN's digital editor and a staff writer. Proud alumna of Notre Dame High School in St. Louis and Eastern Illinois University. Avid coffee drinker, dog lover, concertgoer and word nerd.

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