Is one of your New Year's resolutions is to sell your home this year? If so, it's never too early to begin planning for success.

Even if selling isn't on your agenda yet, if you own a home, chances are that sooner or later you'll be selling it. Last year, the stats show that the average homeowner in America moved after eight years. 

The time to begin your home staging plans is as soon as you are confident that you will place your home for sale. Here is my 7-step program to make the home-selling process smooth and profitable.

1. Get a Realtor

I always encourage sellers to work with a real estate agent. I've given tips on how to choose a Realtor and how to work with your Realtor so you both benefit.

An experienced Realtor will provide you with the information to get you started and help you understand the process, the current market, and a realistic value for your home. Get to know what your competition looks like. Study online photos of similarly priced homes. You need to meet or beat those standards!

2. Plan your budget

As soon as you know what your home could sell for, you'll have a better idea of what you can spend to make it as marketable as possible. Yes, it takes money to make money. Every home needs tweaking to become the dream home for a large demographic. Even if it's just cleaning supplies and a storage unit, be prepared to spend something to get the best return on your most important investment.

3. Evaluate your home

Get real about your home's problems and needs. Here's another area where a Realtor and a home inspector are indispensable. If you've chosen the right ones and pay attention, they will steer you in the right direction about ways your home might be outdated, cluttered, or in need of repairs. Don't get offended or defensive. It's just business. It's time to detach yourself emotionally from this piece of property.

Even when a home doesn't have an
open floor plan, buyers like to see
from one room to another.
Keep doors open, and let photos
for MLS reflect how
rooms relate to each other.   

4. Plan furniture arrangement

Determine the traffic pattern through your home -- the way people on tour will enter and walk through your house. That's the first step in deciding what furniture will go where.

Make the path obvious and easily accessible.

Make the focal point or best feature of each room quickly visible.

Make the eye move evenly and smoothly around the room.

Make the singular purpose of each room clear.

5. Take Inventory

Based on what your real estate agent has told you and what you've learned by studying your floor plan and traffic pattern, you can determine what furniture will best increase the perceived value of your home and what will detract from it.

Do you want to sell the furniture that "just isn't working?" You might decide that some can be refreshed with a coat of paint, or a new slipcover to jive with a simplified color scheme. The furnishings that don't help sell your home, but are pieces you value and don't want to part with can be stored off-site.

Once you know what furnishings will stay, it's time to list what pieces might be missing. Now's a good time to hunt for bargains. Don't forget to let friends and relatives know what you need.

6. Create a staging area

Your collection of samples and possible
staging supplies doesn't need to
look this neat! 
But it should keep you motivated.
Photo: BeachBlissLiv   
This next step really gets the ball rolling and convinces you that your home will be on the market soon!

Anything new that will be part of your home's staging can ideally be stored in one place.

Clear an area somewhere in your home where you can keep everything from fabric, notes to yourself, color swatches, and inspirational shelter magazines, to that new end table you found at Salvation Army and the throw pillows you're going to recover.

Seeing all these items in one place is constantly reassuring to me.

When you've set up your staging area, there's always one place to go when you need to check a measurement or color match. It's also a place to put the "maybes" -- those pictures and vases and trays and blankets you're not sure what to do with yet. 

Your staging area might be part of a closet, under a bed, a corner of the garage, or it could be a spare bedroom or the attic. Of course, this process is much easier if the home you are staging is vacant, but most DIY home stagers don't have that luxury.       

7. Get the look, get the book

As a final step to home sale prep, you'll need my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast For Top Dollar. The title says it all. I give you everything you need to make staging both economical and effective! You'll learn what I've learned over my years in the construction, real estate, and home decorating businesses. It's all there in a 150-page pdf -- the formulas, the secrets, the shortcuts, ideas, and encouragement you need. You can do this! You're just two clicks away from kicking off your home staging plan.

Top and middle photos: BHG