Front porch of a house
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If you’re selling your house, the place has to look its best so buyers can see its potential and imagine themselves living there. That’s what home-staging is all about.

A professional home-stager will cost between $50 and $150 per hour, says Jessica Page, a broker with Innovative Real Estate in the Denver area.

The good news is that you can get it done for a lot less money.

Page and real estate veteran Jennifer Radice of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Boca Raton, Florida, share expert tips for staging your home at almost no cost.

5 cheap ways to stage your home:

  1. Stash personal items.
  2. Clear away clutter.
  3. Rearrange rooms and give them purpose.
  4. Scrub and deodorize.
  5. Enhance curb appeal.

Use our calculator to figure out how much house you can afford to buy.

1. Stash personal items

Packing away your personal stuff, such as pictures, sports memorabilia, even religious items, is one of the easiest, cheapest things you can do to stage your house.

“The reason you want to depersonalize your home is because you want buyers to view it as their potential home,” Page says.

Prospective buyers may have a hard time envisioning themselves in the house if they’re surrounded by photos of your family.

“Pictures are extremely distracting,” says Radice, who also recommends removing religious items from view.

Besides attracting a buyer, “you want the buyer’s agent to enjoy showing the home,” Radice says, because even if a particular buyer isn’t interested, the agent might represent someone who would be a good match.

The cost: $2 to $3 for a roll of packing tape. You can pick up free boxes at stores in your neighborhood.

2. Clear away clutter

Decluttering is another simple way to get buyers to focus on the bones of the house.

“After years of living in the same home, clutter collects in such a way that may not be evident to the homeowner. However, it does affect the way buyers see the home, even if you do not realize it,” Page says.

Radice recommends clearing off kitchen and bathroom countertops.

“If you have kids, get rid of the toys all around the house. For all you know, the buyers could be empty-nesters,” Radice says.

She suggests packing that stuff in boxes and neatly stacking them in a corner of the garage. Anything extra should go in a small storage unit. Even better, ask a friend or relative to stash your items at no charge.

The cost: The price of a storage unit varies (around $50 a month for a 5-by-5-foot unit).

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3. Rearrange rooms and give them purpose

Rearrange the rooms in your home and make sure each room has a distinct purpose. Page suggests touring builders’ models to see how the rooms are furnished.

“Builders are experts on preparing their product for prospective buyers,” she says.

If your home has been painted recently, you’re ahead of the game. If not, take a paintbrush to the rooms that need it most. Sellers who paint the interior of their home will see a large return on the investment, Page says.

The cost: Anywhere from $12 to $50 per gallon for paint, plus another $10 to $50 for other painting supplies (primer, brushes, dropcloths, etc.). You can get back some of that money as a refund on your taxes for any items you donate to charity.

4. Scrub and deodorize

No one wants to visit a dirty house, especially prospective buyers. So make sure your house is squeaky clean.

“When buyers see an unkempt home or smell something when they first walk in, they become turned off immediately,” Page says. “They can rarely see past it to look at all of the great features in the home.”

Radice suggests having the house professionally cleaned so that everything is spotless: windows, sliding glass door tracks, garage, basement, ceiling fans, etc.

She also recommends baking cookies in the oven, bringing cinnamon sticks to a slow boil in a pot of water or using air freshener before each showing. Ridding the home of litter boxes is a must.

The cost: Varies by the location and size of the home, but expect to spend at least $100 to clean a four-bedroom, 2,500-square-foot home. Cookie dough runs about $4.

5. Enhance curb appeal

Don’t overlook the home’s exterior when you’re selling.

Curb appeal is just as important as cleaning the inside of the home,” Page says. “It’s the buyer’s first impression of your home.”

Mow the lawn, make sure the sidewalk and driveway are free of clutter and debris, and make sure the house number is easy to see.

You may need to pressure-clean your driveway and sidewalk.

Another valuable low-cost solution? Mulch. “It makes everything look trim and neat,” Radice says.

The cost: Mulch costs about $3 per bag. You may be able to rent a pressure washer at Home Depot or your local hardware store for $35 per day or more. It will cost you a lot more than that to buy one. Hiring a professional to pressure-clean a 2,500-square-foot-house may set you back about $300.