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Staging a House

Staging a house goes way beyond your efforts to make it look nifty before having friends over for a dinner party. If you've ever visited a new home development and walked through the builder's model home, you know exactly what staging is. Builders usually do extremely elaborate staging jobs.

Staging finishes the process you started with the three Cs (clean up, clear out, and cosmetic improvements). Here are some staging tips that you can use to increase your house's emotional appeal:

  • Kitchen: Aromas from fragrant goodies like freshly baked gingerbread or just-brewed coffee bring back wonderful memories of home. Conversely, many people find odors from pungent foods such as liver, fish, and cabbage to be a turnoff.
  • Bathrooms: Always have fresh towels in bathrooms. Buy new shower curtains; old ones are usually mildewy. Put new soap in the soap dishes.
  • Collections: Everyone has collections -- family photos on the wall, autographed baseballs, dolls, trophies the kids won in school, whatever. You're not running a museum or a curiosity shop. Put away your collections so people focus on the task at hand -- buying your house.
  • Clear everything off your refrigerator. Most folks use magnets or tape to stick everything from vacation snapshots and finger-painting masterpieces to notes for the kids and "to do" lists on the surface of their refrigerator.
  • Comfort: Keep your house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A house that's too hot or too cold isn't inviting.
  • Fireplace: Functioning fireplaces are utilitarian (another heat source) and romantic (candlelit dinners by the fire). If you have a fireplace, spotlight it. Polish your fireplace tools. Pile logs neatly in the fireplace. When your house is shown on cold fall or winter days, nothing says "Welcome" like the warmth, glow, crackle, and smell of a blazing fire.
  • Flowers: Vases of colorful, fresh flowers spotted throughout the house make a wonderful impression on prospective buyers. You don't have to spend a fortune. Bouquets of carnations, daisies, tulips, or other seasonal flowers from your local supermarket are fine.
  • Furniture: Rearrange furniture to create a warm, inviting feeling.
  • Light: Bright, well-lit houses seem more spacious and cheerful. During the day, open all your curtains and drapes. If the view is unattractive, get sheer window coverings that let light through, but mask the view. When you show your house, brighten up rooms by turning on all your lamps, even during the day. Be sure hallways and stairways are brightly lit. Don't forget to turn on closet lights, oven lights, and the lights over your stove and kitchen counter.

Prospective buyers often drop in or drive by in the evening to see how your house looks at night. Interior lights that can be seen from the street make a house look cozy and inviting. From sunset until you go to bed, keep at least one light on in each room that faces the street.