In a year when a record 5,900 new condos are scheduled to be completed, a home owner who is trying to sell faces a huge amount of competition. With so many pre-construction condos, renovated lofts and scores of single family homes available, buyers have the luxury of taking their time to pick from a seemingly endless supply from which to chose. Aside from the obvious selling points of a good location, great architectural design, luxurious interior details and finishes or attractive floor plan, there are a few fairly simple and affordable things you can do to make your condo or home stand out from the crowd and sell more quickly.

The professional term for making a home more attractive to potential buyers is called staging. There are companies and individuals that you can hire to do it for you, and often if you list with an agent they will either suggest it or do it themselves. International Home Staging, a company that grants certification for home stagers, claims that on average 93 percent of staged homes will in 31 days, but homes that aren’t staged usually take at least 161 days to sell.

The cost of a basic home staging estimate, complete with plan of action, runs between $300 to $400. The actual cost of the work plus materials or appliances can run anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 or more. It all depends on what you are trying to achieve, the condition your home or condo is in and how much you are able or willing to spend. If you are considering a reduction on your asking price, why not take that amount and use it to make improvements? A good deal of the work can most likely be done by the home owner, which will reduce the overall cost. But you may want to hire a professional just to save time and energy.

Most experts agree that you have to make a good first impression to hook a buyer. If the first impression is negative, for whatever reason, it’s going to be hard to turn that around no matter what you do. That means that from the front door forward, you need to put your best foot forward and make them feel welcome and able to picture themselves living there comfortably. If you own a home with a yard, make sure it is mowed and looks inviting. Clean up the patio if you haven’t and arrange a grill or lounge furniture so that a potential buyer can see the perks of having a place outdoors to relax or entertain. If you are staging a condo or townhome, this isn’t as much a concern because lawn care is usually taken care of. And if you are selling a loft, it might pay to look at the Chicago lofts listed on Best Chicago Condos and see what’s popular right now.

Next, get rid of clutter. You can’t add any more square feet to your home, but you can make it look more spacious by not having magazines or news papers scattered, shoes kicked off by the door or extra furniture packed into a small space. Make every room feel open and inviting. Pay attention to your windows and maximize the amount of natural light. New blinds or treatments are generally inexpensive and can put a whole new face on windows.

Flooring is another area that buyers notice. If carpeting isn’t at it’s best, you should at least have it cleaned or replace it in the most noticeable areas of the home. Make sure that hardwood is polished and tile isn’t dull.

Walls can either pin in a room or open it up, so if the current paint color is dark or suited for only a certain decor, then definitely repaint in more neutral tones, such as beige or sand. These colors are calming and go with most furniture. Potential buyers are seldom sold on condos or homes that they will have to repaint.

Even simple things like door handles, cabinet pulls or plumbing fixtures can add a new look to a home. These are also pretty inexpensive and with the exception of kitchen or bath faucets you can probably install them yourself. Lighting fixtures, even a new shade or cover is another simple improvement that can add to the overall look.

Speaking of the kitchen and bath, those two areas are scrutinized most often by buyers. It goes without saying that you should keep the bath sparkling and adding candles or new towels can transform a bath. Energy efficient appliances in the kitchen are always a big selling point, and worth the expense of upgrading. Even the scent of your home can play a part. Maybe you can’t have fresh baked bread in the oven to entice a buyer, but you can at least have a clean fresh scent or use a subtle scented oil, candle or fresh flowers.

Staging shouldn’t be used to try to cover up serious flaws or deceive a buyer. But making a great first impression is always a good idea, whether it pertains to you or the home you are trying to sell.

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