A Guide to Home Staging - Sell Your Home Faster and for More

Home staging has become more and more popular over the years. Initially a practice only undertaken by the high-rollers in an attempt to move on exclusive properties and portfolios; today it is being used by a far wider range of people.

Staging your home to sell is not only something that helps speed up the sale in times where the scales of power are tipped in the buyers' favour, but can also add value to your property.

So what is home staging? Simply, it is the act of preparing a home, and its contents, for sale. The key principle is to create an attractive environment and portray an assumed lifestyle for prospective buyers. Home staging should not be confused with preparing a house for sale, while making repairs large or small is important staging looks at the aesthetic and design aspects of a house to maximize appeal.

Think back to times when you have viewed a property, too much mess or clutter or, for want of a better word, 'personal' decorative style can make it extremely difficult to imagine how the house would be if you were to move in. The idea is to make appealing to your target audience by decorating in a way that will blow them away or creating a canvass for them to put their own touches into in their imagination. If they can imagine themselves living there, half the battle is already won.

Staging can benefit you regardless of the economic environment. In a buyer's market, every advantage you can muster is important to sell your home for a good price, in a seller's market home staging can help you achieve a sale faster and more importantly, maximize the sale price.

When staging your home you should always think like a buyer. De-clutter, it may not be appealing because of the effort and you may feel like your house isn't your home anymore but you are moving out, right? De-cluttering makes packing easier when it comes to move out plus it makes your home more accessible to potential buyers. Removing unnecessary clutter doesn't cost anything and although it can be time-consuming it doesn't hurt the pocket. You may even find you realize a lot of the items you remove are not needed and can be sold.

The next step is outside, you may think of interiors when someone mentions home staging but the fact as the face of your house is what people see when they look in the real estate ad or drive up for a viewing. First impressions count so maximize the curb appeal. This can mean anything from a lick of paint to weeding or planting the garden. Go outside and note down anything you think stands out, get a friend to do the same and make any reasonable improvements that you can. If you have doors, windows, shutters and garage doors all different colours it can make a huge difference paint them all the same colour. Using mulch in the garden is a cheap and effective way of improving your curb appeal and making the garden look fresher. If you don't have a garden or even if you do pot plants and hanging baskets can be a great way of softening the home's exterior. Remember, think like a buyer. If a buyer notices things that makes them think maintaining the home will be a struggle they may be put off.

Kitchens and bathrooms might provide the wow-factor for many homes but your entrance is just as important. People make up their minds fast about whether or not they like a person; the same applies for a house. Do whatever you can to make the entrance to your home (both inside and out) welcoming, bright and airy. Again, cut the clutter and if possible use light colours to make it appear more spacious.

When it comes to living areas of your home, know your audience. Are you selling to professionals or a young family? Will they be looking for a family environment or a space to host dinner parties? Again comes, or rather goes, the clutter. Remove family portraits and other particularly personal items. You want to make your house welcoming but you don't want the buyer to feel like they're breaking up the family home or in any way put out messages to say you do not live here. You want potential buyers to feel like they could easily move right in. Neutral but warm is always best for living spaces, this doesn't necessarily mean beige, nor does it have to be boring, add splashes of colour to liven up the room. Consider renting furniture and quality rugs if your current d├ęcor isn't of the level you wish to portray. Surprisingly to some, if you have a large TV, it may be best to remove it while you try to sell your home. A large TV in a games room or den may be a good idea but not in your main living room. People don't want to think that is the lifestyle they will lead, even if deep down they know it is.

The kitchen is the heart of the home. For families a clean, well working kitchen is essential and to the young professional a stylish kitchen is vital not only to their aspiring lifestyle and image but can be a social point of the home. Remove that old clutter and clean till your hands are raw. Turn lights on and open curtains and blinds as fully as possible, the mantra for a good kitchen is clean and bright. You can make relatively cheap and substantial improvements to the look of your kitchen by changing cupboard doors. Painting or staining them to light colours can be a cheaper alternative. Handles and knobs can be replaced to improve any kitchen; the possibilities are dependent on budget. If you have a kitchen-diner set a small, clean but sophisticated place setting.

Bright and clean also applies to bathrooms. Luxury bathrooms add value and a focal point to a home but this may not be possible given budget considerations. However, there really is no excuse for a dingy bathroom. So many homes on the market with horrible bathrooms could be replaced and sold for a higher price straight away, a lick of paint, a good clean or even a second-hand bathroom set can vastly improve the bathroom. Fresh flower arrangements do a lot for a bathroom, both in appearance and aroma.

Last but not least the bedrooms. Use soft, neutral colours, earth tones are always safe. Limit furniture, remove desks if not needed unless the bedrooms are large. Even removing clothing from wardrobes can be advisable in case someone has a snoop. Cramped wardrobes suggest limited storage. Luxurious bedding and accent pillows can add a real sense of luxury to the home and give it that little bit extra appeal that might be needed. Again, de-clutter and remove personal photos, the buyer wants to see themselves in the room, not you or your kids.

In summary, de-clutter, clean, neutralize and if you have the budget improve kitchens, bathrooms and even rent furniture for living spaces. Do this and your house will sell faster and for a higher value.