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Set the Stage for Selling Your Home    
By Natalie Ermann    
So, you're ready to sell your home. You're already dreaming of the place you'll be moving to, and you've emotionally let go of the place you're leaving behind. That may be psychologically healthy, but it won't help you put that "sold" sign in your yard. Lisa LaPorta, designer on HGTV's "Designed to Sell," says people often mistakenly think, "This house was good enough for me -- I'm not going to renovate it now that I'm moving." Enter the art of home staging: fixing up a house so it's more salable. Roger Hazard, designer on A&E's "Sell This House," shows viewers that it's not difficult to stage a home using just the basics, a little elbow grease, and the knowledge of what house hunters want.
1. Achieve a sense of order by ... Packing up personal effects and store extra furniture. Don't stop clearing, Hazard says, until two people can walk side by side without bumping into anything.
2. Keep in mind most people can't see beyond clutter... Tastes differ, but everyone hates clutter. Hazard suggests asking your real estate agent for a profile of the typical buyer in your neighborhood: You wouldn't appeal to empty nesters the same way you would newlyweds.
3. To get an honest opinion about what needs changing in your home ... Invite those candid friends over, LaPorta says. Real estate agents can't be expected to criticize -- they want to keep you happy. Hazard advises taking the pressure off your agent by asking him to tell you not what he thinks but what he's hearing from prospective buyers.
4. If you are on a limited budget, concentrate on cleaning up, opening windows, and updating the hardware ... A spotless, odorless, light-filled home sells faster and doesn't cost much to create. Changing hardware -- what LaPorta calls "jewelry" -- is another inexpensive way to update. Paint cabinet handles with a nickel finish, for example, or replace them with untarnished $3 knobs.
5. When painting, you'll appeal to more people with warm, neutral colors ... "Soft, neutral colors create a sense of warmth," LaPorta says. "White evokes coldness." Hazard agrees: "People usually like earth tones. Just don't use a different color in every room."
6. A staged home can get you tens of thousands of dollars more from the buyer ... "Even if staging a home doesn't drive up the price by tens of thousands," LaPorta says, "it'll help you sell faster." Hazard points out that agents like to show staged homes more than fixer-uppers, thus increasing your chances of a sale.
7. Features that should be shown off include fireplaces and wood floors ... Fireplaces and wood floors are very desirable and should be highlighted. "I've moved many a sofa from in front of the fireplace," Hazard says. "To stage it, I put a nice stack of logs inside and candles on the mantel." Show off wood floors, LaPorta says, by picking up rugs, which can make a space feel cluttered and small.
8. When arranging your furniture, don't put all the pieces up against the wall ... "People always push furniture against the walls or into one part of the room," LaPorta says. "But in larger spaces you should float the furniture in the center -- it'll make a space look larger."
9. Of the following, the most important to many buyers is curb appeal ... Curb appeal -- a manicured lawn, nice landscaping, no stray bicycles or lawn tools -- is very important, because it's the first thing people see. "If house hunters don't like the place when they first drive up, they may not come in," LaPorta says. Kitchens and bathrooms also have to be clean and clutter-free. A fresh coat of paint for cabinets, and even appliances, can make a world of difference for not much money.
10. As you walk into the house, the first space you see should be in the best shape it can be ... The first room people lay eyes on will color their opinion. Make sure it's an attractive, clean, clutter-free space, even if it's just a hallway.
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