• Clear the clutter. Box up collections, knickknacks, photos and family mementos. Remove unneeded furniture to make rooms feel more spacious. Clear unnecessary items from kitchen countertops.

• Clean the home from top to bottom -- including light fixtures, windows and closets. The bathrooms should be sparkling and spotless.

• Let there be light. Pull up shades and open curtains.

• Play quiet, soothing music during showings.

• Paint the walls earth-tone neutrals such as tans, browns and greens. Add color and interest with artwork, area rugs and accessories, but don't overdo it.

• Create a lifestyle. For example, add luxurious bedding and arrange spa products and fluffy towels in the master suite.

• Eliminate, don't mask, odors. The home should smell fresh and clean when a buyer walks in. Sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of trash cans and keep an open box of it in the refrigerator.

• Make a good first impression. Prune landscape bushes, remove dead plants, paint the front door and window trim, buy new house numbers and a welcome mat.

• View every room from a buyer's perspective. "Define the spaces as clearly as possible so the buyer can envision living there," said stager Kristin Register.


If you wish to hire a professional home stager:

• Get referrals from friends or your real estate agent.

• Visit open houses in your neighborhood to see if they've been staged and if you like the stager's work.

• To find a certified stager, go to, which holds home staging workshops around the country and lists certified stagers by state.

• Interview two stagers to find out if you're comfortable with their experience, personality and style. A stager will typically come to your home free of charge, describe their fees and services and give you a written proposal for your home.