If you’re thinking of putting your home on the market, you want to sell it at a fair price, as fast as possible, and with the least up-front investment of time and money.

And while you may need to make critical repairs or decide to update a few “That 70’s Show” elements, there are many time- and budget-friendly ways to make your home look its best as potential buyers consider making it their own.

It’s called staging. And it’s about making your home as appealing as possible to people you don’t know.

Staging is most frequently associated with making empty homes look “lived-in.” Sellers hire professional stagers to bring in furniture and accessories to maximize a home’s appeal. But you don’t need to hire pro stagers to learn from their best practices. Stage your home so that you can sell it fast.

Here are 10 ways to get your home ready-to-wow without breaking the bank:

  1. Make your house sparkle. Don’t underestimate the impact a rigorous cleaning can have on your home’s appeal. Scrub the kitchen and bathrooms until they shine. Give your windows a streak-free finish that allows the natural light to flow in. Dust blinds, vacuum furniture, launder drapes and bedding. Don’t forget to look in high and low corners to remove cobwebs you may not have noticed. And if you have pets or children, deal with odors and stains thoroughly.
  2. Depersonalize. Potential buyers don’t want to see your family in their future home. They want to experience what it might feel like if they lived there. And while you may love the wall of family photos in your living room and your kid’s artwork on the frig, take them down. Give buyers a glimpse into their future in their new home where their personality and family treasures will shine. Recognize that this is an emotional decision for them.
  3. Make room. When professional stagers enter a home, they often remove half the furniture to make the space appear larger. They also declutter, removing accessories and artwork to free up space and simplify the home’s appearance. Edit, edit, edit. Be ruthless. Rent a storage unit if you need to. Remember, it’s only temporary.
  4. Improve the flow of traffic. Once you’ve depersonalized and decluttered, take stock of what’s left and move things around to maximize the space. Create cozy conversational groups of chairs and sofas. Consider how to make awkward spaces, like a nook under the stairway, usable. Simply adding a chair, side table, and reading lamp can go a long way. Most importantly, make sure paths from one space to another are clear and unencumbered. You want potential buyers to flow through the space easily.
  5. Let the light shine. No one wants to live in a dark, dingy home. Consider removing drapes to increase the natural light coming through your (now clean) windows. And increase the wattage of the bulbs in your lamps and fixtures (adhering to the fixture’s maximum recommended wattage of course). Experts recommend a total of 100 watts of light for every 50 square feet of space. Make sure you consider all lighting types: ambient lighting (from your windows and overhead light fixtures), task lighting (like pendant, under-cabinet, or reading lamps), and accent lights on your tables and walls.
  6. Paint walls and cabinets sophisticated, neutral colors. Paint is one of the least expensive ways you can freshen and brighten your home for sale. Choose warm, light colors. Don’t underestimate the importance of pre-painting preparations to cover cracks and improve surfaces. A fresh coat of paint looks and smells clean. It will be time and money well spent.
  7. Accessorize mindfully. You’ve depersonalized and decluttered. Now it’s time to focus on developing your home’s character by accessorizing with care. Group interesting items sparingly, preferably in groups of an odd number of items unified by color, shape, texture, or some other characteristic. Place 3 items at the points of an imaginary triangle. Line up 5 or 7 similar objects down the center of your dining table or on your mantle. Strike a balance between clean and lived-in when accessorizing. A well-placed bowl of fruit on the kitchen island will help potential buyers visualize life in the home.
  8. Deal with storage areas. Buyers will open your closets and drawers, so make sure they are clean and clutter free. And as much as you hate cleaning the garage, it’s an important element of your home and deserves some respect. The cleaner it is, the easier people will be able to envision their cars parked within those 4 walls.
  9. Improve your home’s curb appeal. Your home’s exterior is as important – perhaps even more so – than its interior. It’s the first impression your home will have on your potential buyers, so you want it to be at its best. Trim trees and bushes, plant flowering shrubs, and remove weeds. Replace or repair crumbling bricks, and make your front porch welcoming with good lighting and a clean appearance.
  10. Stage the backyard too. Even if you have a small patio or yard, make it feel usable. Clean, depersonalize, and declutter. Set up a café table and chairs or comfortable outdoor loveseat. Put down a new outdoor rug. And – as with the front yard – spruce up your landscape with flowering plants and carefully selected accessories, like containers and candles.

Staging your home for sale is all about maximizing its benefits and doing your best to minimize its weaknesses. Taking a little time to make some of these simple changes may be a lucrative investment.

Image Credit: Staged Living Room via Wikipedia