Editor's note: As a special feature for April, the Street.com offers a 20-part series on virtually everything about real estate. This installment, which originally ran as part of Good Life, is Part 14.
In the current real estate market, sellers are going to great lengths to score points with potential buyers.
Faced with dropping prices and surging inventory, some desperate homeowners are offering to pay a year's taxes, pick up all closing costs or even throw in a new car.
Others are burying statues of St. Joseph in their front yards and hoping for a miracle.
But one factor is often overlooked: Although a house is the biggest purchase most of us will ever make, choosing one is often an emotional decision based mainly on love at first sight.
"People are pretty logical about their budget and the area they want to buy in," says
, a Santa Fe, N.M., real estate broker.
But other items on the wish list are forgotten when the right place comes along.
"A positive emotional reaction will put your house high on the list for a second look," she points out.
And experienced real estate agents and professional stagers say there are a variety of tips and techniques that help stir those fond emotions.
Stagers help homeowners prepare their house for sale, either by suggesting changes to improve first impressions or actually doing the work themselves. Rearranging furniture and accessorizing with plants, throws and other cozy touches are all in a day's work for them.
In order to stage your house to win a buyer's heart, you have to disengage your own feelings so you can see what changes and improvements are necessary to attract a buyer.
"Once it's for sale, it's no longer 'your' house, it's 'a' house," says
, an associate broker with
Long & Foster
in McLean, Va.
Try to imagine how a potential buyer would see your property from the first drive-by: Overgrown shrubs, peeling paint and a yard full of mismatched lawn furniture are unlikely to provoke warm and cozy feelings.
So make sure to keep the outside tidy, regardless of the season.
The lawn should be mowed, leaves raked, snow removed. The driveway, sidewalk and front steps should be swept clean and in good condition, and the yard needs to be clutter-free.
Pay particular attention to your front door, Farrell advises.
"People may judge how the house is maintained by how the front door is maintained," she says. "If the front door is not in good shape, people think the house is not in good shape."