When it's prime time to list a home, will your property be ready? 
Most real estate agents agree that spring is the busiest home-buying period. Families with children want to move as soon as school ends and others want to make a purchase early in the year for income tax reasons.

By March they say the home buying market cools. These stats mean that if you want to get your home listed in a friendly market, you want to get staging it now!

Don’t be overwhelmed. When you take home staging step by step, you won’t waste time, you’ll keep the stress level in check, and you’ll sell your home soon at a price you like.

One: Dump the junk

Getting rid of what doesn’t flatter your home should kick off your plans. It’s a great place to start because you won’t be spinning your wheels organizing and cleaning what we can consider clutter. I’ve already written tips to make decluttering easy.

Give yourself a deadline for having your home excess-free. Setting milestones along the way makes the process smoother. “By Thursday I’ll have the bedroom closets scaled down to essentials.”

If you need to store belongings off-site, now’s the time to locate a place.

Two: Give rooms names

Buyers get confused when a room doesn’t appear to have a singular purpose. Each room in your home needs to shout its function. “I’m the master bedroom!” “I’m the home office.” “I’m the family room.”

So, if you are currently using your dining room as homework central, or your guest room as a crafting place, now’s the time to scale back and make it easy for buyers to see rooms for what they are.

At the same time, you might want to tuck a home management desk into a corner of the kitchen if there is space for it, or a reading spot in a large bedroom. Just make sure you aren’t crowding the space or going in too many directions with multi-purpose rooms. 
Comfort and practicality are selling features that don't require much furniture. 

Three: Check the traffic flow

How you move through your home on a daily basis may be different from the way home buyers tour your home. Try this: enter from the front door. Look around. In what direction would a guest go first? Is the traffic pattern obvious and unobstructed? Does each room appear spacious? Do doors open wide? Are the selling points of the home sure to be part of even a quick tour?

If you need tips on rating your floor plan and traffic path, you’ll find them in my eBook, How to Arrange Furniture. The placement of furniture in your rooms will point people in the right direction and make your spaces feel both friendly and functional.

Four: Choose your furnishings

Now that you know how you want your rooms to function and how you want people to walk through them, you can decide which major pieces of furniture should stay and which have to go. Most of us own too much furniture. The pieces that need to be removed can be placed in storage (off-site is best), loaned to friends and family, or sold.

Choose the furnishings that convey the lifestyle most people aspire to – one of success and comfort. Ask yourself, “Does the furniture look like it belongs to a rich and happy person?” Sounds silly, I know, but isn’t this what most people aspire to?

Repair, recover, repaint or replace… Do whatever it takes to make your home look polished and desirable. For inspiration, thumb through shelter magazines and scan popular Pinterest rooms.

Five: Schedule tasks

Put rehab money where it matters --baths, master suite, kitichen.  
No plan would be complete with a timeline. Now that you know what you want your rooms to look like, you can determine what needs to be done and give yourself some deadlines.

Make a schedule however you like – on paper, your phone, a whiteboard, a spreadsheet, or in your mind -- whatever works for you.

You may prefer to tackle your tasks room by room, or cluster your work by the tools they require. For example, I like to save all my spray painting projects for the perfect day. And I will clean all the ceiling light fixtures when I have a step ladder out. Plan ahead and think like an efficiency expert.

Six: Give yourself a budget

This can be tough. When you’re selling a home, your mind is often fixed on saving for a down payment and for the money to personalize your next home.

Homestaging can require a big chunk of money or it can be done on a shoestring. It depends on the condition of your home, the market for your home, and how it will be priced. Now would be a good time, if you haven’t already, to lock in a real estate agent who can estimate selling price.

Like many other projects, whether a vacation or wardrobe makeover, you might plan to splurge on a couple of major luxuries, and then let other homestaging “needs” stay as “good enough.” The golden rule here is that infrastructure comes first and cosmetics second. In other words, make sure roofing, plumbing, electrical and structural systems are sound before you buy a new living room sofa.

With a rough budget in mind, you can plan what needs to be purchased and what could be borrowed or rented. Factor in costs for necessary contractors such as a carpet cleaning service, handyman, plumber, landscaper, house painter, handyman or electrician.

Seven: Make it fun

At this point, you can turn your attention to nitty-gritty staging. I like to have a “staging area,” where I can collect what items I know will stay, where I can keep tools, fabric swatches, paint chips, lists, props and other accessories.

It’s time to plan your color scheme -- one that will unify the whole house. If you are unsure about some decisions, ask a friend whose taste you trust or seek advice at a paint store.

Your home is bound to continue to look increasingly like a model home as you fine-tune your furnishings and maybe continue to pare down your belongings. Before you know it, you’ll be ready for that initial showing. Next step: a purchase offer!

There’s much more advice on how to stage your own home in my eBook, DIY Homestaging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar., a 155-page PDF that you can download now and view on any device.

All above photos: Better Homes and Gardens