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Staging to sell

Want to sell your home? Get out the bucket, mop and Mr. Clean.

The key to making a positive first impression is simple, says Sandra Rinomato, host of HGTV's "Buy Herself" show.

"Get it clean, clean, clean.

"If your house isn't clean, it instantly sends up negative thoughts that the home is not well-maintained," she says. "If your house is spotless, you're ahead of the game."

But don't stop there, advises Rinomato. To increase the chances of making a sale, "stage" the house to make it as attractive as possible.

Until recently, "Staging meant pulling out all the stops: setting the dining table with your best china and crystal, arranging flowers, lighting candles," she says. "Now, we take the minimalist approach. Basically, you want to strip the house to its bare essentials — depersonalize it — so potential buyers can superimpose themselves and their lifestyle on the house."

Rinomato offered these tips for staging a home:

  • Visit model homes and examine shelter magazines for inexpensive decorating ideas. Always keep in mind that you are not decorating for yourself but for the general public.
  • Start with the outside. Give the house a fresh coat of paint, add shiny hardware to the front door and plant a few flowers to send a subliminal message that the house is loved and well cared for.
  • Declutter every room to make it look larger. Get rid of family pictures, trophies and knickknacks. Closets and drawers should be no more than 30 percent full.
  • Invest in eco-friendly but bright lights. Open the drapes or remove them completely. "Light, bright rooms give the impression this is a happy place — and everyone wants to move into a happy place," says Rinomato.
  • Feature only a few pieces of furniture with mainstream appeal. Pull pieces away from walls to make rooms look bigger.
  • Make sure a room's primary use is obvious. A bedroom should look like a bedroom, not an office, hobby center or gym.
  • Bedrooms and kitchens are difficult to stage because they are in daily use, but make the effort. Clear everything off counters and night stands, roll up the rugs and hide the laundry hamper. Buff the cabinets with car wax and clean under the sinks. Invest in pristine, white, bed linens and towels.
  • Minimize the "pet effect." Deposit food bowls and litter boxes in the utility room. Deodorize thoroughly.
  • Organize the utility room and garage. Hang up the bicycles, roll up the hose. Renting a storage locker is worth the cost if it helps you sell faster and for a higher price.
  • Once your house is staged, invite friends or a real-estate agent over and walk them through to get an objective opinion.