''Staged'' properties sell about 50 percent faster than homes stuffed with quirky collections, unique interiors and personal photographs. Many professional tricks are easy and affordable.
• Create curbside appeal. An unkempt lawn, dying plants and a dirty walkway will discourage sellers, says Angelina Perez, owner of Bertone, a home-staging company based in Aventura. She recommends sprucing up the lawn with affordable plants, fresh mulch and the use of a pair of clippers.
• Hire or rent a pressure cleaner. Clean the driveway, walkway and exterior walls. Consider new paint for the facade. And look out for small handprints or paw prints on doors and windows.
• Depersonalize. Remove personal collections, one-of-a kind accessories and even family photographs, says Mark Baratto, a certified home stager and real estate agent at http://www.binnovational.com/, a South Florida-based home staging company.
• Streamline. Too much furniture and clutter detract from the basic bones of a home. ''If you can't see it, you can't sell it,'' Baratto says.
• Hit the sales. Baratto recommends buying vases, candles and generic art from the sales section of Pier I and other retail chains. Look for generic items. ''You gotta think hotel,'' Baratto says. Also keep an eye out for lightly scented candles, especially those that smell like just-baked apple pie or chocolate chip cookies.
• Spruce up the bathroom. Toss out the old shower curtain and replace unmatched, thread-worn towels. Shop for looks and don't fret over the quality of the towels, Perez says. ``It's more of a show. You're showcasing your home.''
• Clean, clean, clean. If you're not a competent housekeeper, hire a professional crew to do your dirty work. Rent a carpet cleaner or hire a professional.
It all goes back to the hotel-room concept. If a room appears dirty or untidy, hotel guests promptly check out and leave.
Sharon Harvey Rosenberg is the author of The Frugal Duchess of South Beach:How to Live Well and Save Money... Anywhere! , which will be published in May of 2008 by DPL Press.