Staging your home before a move can bring you extra dollars when it’s time to sell–and you don’t need to bring in fancy furniture or exotic art to make it happen.

According to the National Association of Realtors 2015 Profile of Home Staging, 96 percent of buyer-side agents said staging had a positive effect either most or some of the time. And that translates into real dollars, according to a 2011 survey.

The fact is that most buyers form an opinion about a home within mere seconds of entering it, so those first impressions can be a deciding factor in making the sale.

If you are looking to stage your home on a budget, take our room-by-room house tour with DIY tips from real estate agents and organizers on how any seller can present their home in the best possible light.

Clear Clutter

Two key words for successful staging are “declutter” and “organize,” says Lauren Silverman of Glenview, IL-based MOREganized LLC. The goal is to allow buyers to imagine how their own furnishings and belongings will look in the home by offering a clean palate.

“Look at your home with a critical eye and donate or store extraneous furniture, knick knacks, and personal items, from family photographs to confidential files,” Silverman said.

The upshot? You’re one step closer to packing for your eventual move.

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Stay Neutral

Even though paint color can be easily changed, potential buyers often forget that when viewing the house, said Will Johnson, a Hendersonville, TN, real estate agent.

Your best bet is to choose neutral paint colors in tones of whites, tans or greys. If your existing walls are anything but, it’s time to break out the coveralls and rollers.

Little Touches

“Open up a cookbook on your kitchen counter and add a bowl of lemons or stack wood in the fireplace,” said Johnson.

In other words, make your house feel like home.

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Consider Curb Appeal

Since the outside of your house is the very first impression for potential buyers, you want it to look inviting. Power wash the windows and screens, trim your shrubs, mulch your flower beds and plant pots of colorful flowers.

Johnson recommends arranging chairs on the porch, affixing new house numbers and adding a fresh coat of paint to your mailbox and front door.

Flip Those Switches

Make sure that all the light switches work.

While you’re at it, make sure you have appropriate wattage bulbs in the fixtures, said Realtor Bill Golden of RE/MAX Metro Atlanta Cityside.

“Missing or dim lighting can make a home look dark and depressing, while overly bright lighting, such as fluorescent, can create a sterile atmosphere and detract from the warmth factor you’re going for,” Golden said.

Another quick fix is to exchange any dingy-looking light switch covers with bright new ones.

Make it Sparkle

Your home should shine from top to bottom.

“When buyers see an unkempt home or smell anything but ‘clean’ when they walk in, they will immediately get turned off and won’t be able to see the good features of your home,” said Pat McGeehan, CEO of Four Front Properties.

“Cleaning and deodorizing with a fresh scent before every showing is a must,” McGeehan added.

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Entrance

Make an inviting first impression by banishing common door clutter such as coats, footwear, sporting goods and tote bags, said Silverman.

Kitchen

Clear those counters of paperwork and extra appliances to showcase your work prep areas; then empty the cabinets and drawers of excess dishes, such as serving pieces, gadgets and other items you don’t frequently use.

“While you are at it, check your refrigerator and freezer for unidentified leftovers and little-used condiments,” Silverman said

Golden adds that you might want to swap dated cabinet handles with newer, more modern ones for an easy upgrade.

Bathroom

Keep bathrooms as minimally adorned as possible: hide toothbrushes, fake
flower arrangements, potpourri, fuzzy toilet seat covers and any other decorative items, said Jeanie Engelbach of apartmentjeanie.

“You want to make it look as antiseptic as possible, almost like a showroom,” Engelbach said.

And you know they’ll open the cupboards and medicine cabinet so clean those out, too.

“The cabinets needn’t bring to mind a warehouse club,” said Silverman.

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Bedrooms

“If any of your bedrooms are unusually small or large, or even just irregularly shaped, leave in the furnishings that clearly demonstrate the use of any odd or transitional space so potential buyers don’t assume it’s wasted space,” said Golden.

A tight corner might benefit from a bookcase, for example, or a cavernous room could look cozier with a sitting area anchoring it.

Your top hot spot in the bedroom is likely the closet. Donate apparel you no longer wear and store what’s not in season. Clear out extra hangers, especially the wire ones, and empty the floor of shoes and luggage.

“Storage sells,” said Silverman, “Buyers are looking for places in the home for storing their things, so it behooves you to make the most of your space.”

She recommends organizing your clothing by style, season and color; using uniform hangers, preferably the thin-profile ones; placing shoes on shoe racks; and using baskets or bins to corral accessories.

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Cathie Ericson