By Shandra Hill Smith
You’ve decided to take the leap and put your home on the market. In today’s real estate climate, wooing potential buyers indeed may call for a tried-and-true method to help secure a sale: staging the home.
When prepping your home for sale, put yourself in the future homeowners’ shoes, advise staging professionals.
“The ideal mindset for the seller should be ‘I’m inviting strangers into my home to imagine what it would be like to live here,’” said Michelle Tondi of Michelle Tondi Designs. “If you do this, you will look at your home in an entirely different way. It will help you identify and focus on the issues needing your attention.”
That approach calls for a bit of “de-personalizing,” as Angie L. Thompson, an interior designer who owns ATLdesigns, puts it. “Take down the family photos,” said Thompson. “You just don’t want to confuse the seller. They need to focus on the home, not the homeowner.”
To help set your house apart and potentially wind up getting what you think your home is worth, Thompson suggests that you not only de-personalize, but de-clutter before making updates to your space.
“More times than not, we have accumulated far more than we realize,” Thompson said. “Most buyers need to see that a room has enough space for their belongings, not yours.”
Before opening your doors to potential homebuyers, store the clutter, advises Lisa R.M. Arrington, owner and principle designer, Interior PossibiliTEAS. “Move it to a storage facility,” basement or attic, she said. “Keep every room very clean and uncluttered during showings and open houses.”
Also, make sure each room looks like the room that it is, said Corinne Matthews of Dream Room Designs. For example, if you use one bedroom as an office, move the papers and other items out of view, and put in a temporary bed, such as a twin with inflatable mattresses covered by linens. Additionally, “you can do an inexpensive headboard on a wall.”
If the home is vacant because you’ve moved out before selling, you may bring in rented furnishings and decorative items to make it look occupied; it could not only appeal to the buyer, but give them an opportunity to see their furnishings in place of what’s temporarily there.
An update to the home could be as simple as putting in “inexpensive window treatments in the main areas of the home – family room, living room, master bedroom,” said Thompson, to both warm the space and make it more inviting.
Keeping in mind that kitchens and baths sell homes, the pros say it’s important to invest top dollar in those areas. “Solid surface countertops are always best, even if they are not granite,” said Thompson. “If granite is out of the budget, try a laminate top to simulate granite.”
She added, “In terms of hardware and light fixtures, change out the brass and go with the satin nickel or oil-rubbed bronze finish, at least in the main areas.  Install fashionable, yet reasonably priced, faucets and overhead lighting whenever possible.”
Additional tips include putting on fresh coats of paint, having the carpet cleaned; polishing and/or refinishing wooden floors; repairing gutters and trim work and wiping light switches clean of fingerprints and other unsightly marks.
Professional stagers advise sellers to keep in mind the outer appearance as much as the inner, as it makes for the first impression for prospective buyers.
“Keep all walkways cleared of overgrown bushes, plants and limbs,” Arrington suggested. “Give the front door a fresh coat of paint. Add some color with potted plants placed near the door.”
For added beauty, consider planting beds of annuals such as begonias and petunias, said Hunter J. Ramon, a licensed landscape architect and owner of HJR Environments. Ramon also suggests planting shrubs to hide unsightly utility boxes, and applying mulch, which can help to keep down weeds, feed the soil and serve as borders around trees and shrubs. “Other things like cleaning gutters, pressure washing driveways, walkways, exterior doors, and anywhere there’s mud or mildew all contribute to a tidy, well-kept appearance,” Ramon said.
While it may sound like a significant amount of work and even seem a bit overwhelming, experts say taking the extra steps can pay off in a major return on your investment.
Instead of allowing the process to intimidate you, hire a professional,  Matthews said.
“You may read all of these things and think you have to do all 10 when in fact you may only have to do three or four of them. If it’s something as a homeowner you don’t think you can do yourself, I don’t think the answer is to just ignore it. It’s not realistic to say ‘I’ll just put it on the market as is,’ particularly in this kind of market. You may have to make an investment in your house in order to sell it.”
Resource Guide
ATLdesigns: (404) 861-1393
Interior PossibiliTEAS: (678) 231-6567
Michelle Tondi Designs: (404) 409-9059
Dream Room Designs: www.dreamroomdesigns.com
HJR Environments: www.hjre.com
Lowe’s: www.lowes.com