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Ask the Stager: 5 ways to make a profitable impact on a budget

Ask the Expert Style

Staging your home doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

The key is to stay focused on creating a clean, clutter-free, and neutral space that will show well in photos and in person. Here’s how:

1. Declutter and depersonalize

First, remove all items that are personal or distracting. Take a look at:

■ The curio cabinet with your collectibles and fine china

■ Your framed family photos

■ The collage of magnets and pictures on the fridge

Second, accentuate your home’s available space:

■ Be sure your bookshelves, closets, pantry, and drawers are no more than half-full.

■ Display no more than two items on each section of your kitchen countertops. For example, keep your coffee maker and fruit bowl, but tuck away the toaster oven, knife set, and cookbooks.

■ Remove as many florals or dark colors (especially reds and oranges) as possible. Oriental rugs and floral bedding, pillows, and curtains can make a room look dark and small.

wrong-way-stage-home-sell-ask-stager
BEFORE: Reducing clutter and neutralizing red tones are inexpensive ways to stage a home to sell. —Kara Woods/Staged to Move
AFTER: Neutral tones and fewer pieces make a room look larger. —Courtesy of David Turner; Staging by Stage To Move

2. Clean and deodorize

While it can be a challenge to keep your property “show-ready,’’ it’s imperative that your home, especially your kitchen and bathrooms, be pristine.

If you own a pet, steam clean your carpets and make sure all pet odors have been removed. There’s a saying in the industry: “If you can smell it, you can’t sell it.’’

3. Paint

A fresh coat of paint works wonders.

While it can be cost-prohibitive to paint every space, you can prioritize by focusing on the living, dining, and family rooms; kitchen; office; and master. These are the rooms realtors will photograph for your online listing.

When choosing your color, keep in mind that buyers are drawn to light, airy, and neutral tones. These colors also photograph beautifully.

Here are a few of my go-to Benjamin Moore colors:

■ Hallways and stairwells: “Pale Oak’’

■ Living room, office, kitchen, and overall large spaces: “Collingwood’’

■ Trim: “White Dove’’

4. Rearrange

Again, focus on your home’s key spaces — the ones I mentioned above. Determine which of your existing pieces would work best in these high-priority areas. For example, do you have a console table in the hallway that could replace your server piece in the dining room? If it makes the room appear larger, make the switch.

Rearrange items into groupings that show off your home’s attributes, like your view and fireplace. You don’t want buyers to focus on all of your stuff.

5. Accessorize

Invest in neutral pillows, accessories, and lighting. HomeGoods, Target, and Wayfair are great resources.

When shopping, stay neutral and on trend by incorporating gray, blue, cream, and white tones into your pillows, artwork, area rugs, and accessories. If this palette doesn’t match your décor, be sure you are using complementary neutral tones.

Don’t underestimate the power of new light fixtures. They set the tone of a room and are a relatively easy and inexpensive update. Another tip is to add mirrors to these key rooms. The right placement of a mirror will reflect light and brighten a space.

You’ll also want to invest in white bedding for your master bedroom. If it’s in the budget, use white bedding in the secondary bedrooms, as well. Many retailers have “bed in a bag’’ options that make this an affordable update.

Not convinced your home needs a little work before making its market debut? Here are the facts:

■ The cost of staging is always less than your first price reduction, which is typically 1 percent to 5 percent of the asking price, according to the Real Estate Staging Association.

■ Keeping your home immaculate and show-ready is not easy. Homes that are staged prior to being listed spend 90 percent less time on the market, according to association data. Selling your home fast will lessen the inconvenience of having it languish on the market.

■  Buyers tend to ask for fewer concessions when making an offer on a staged home.

Recently we had a client who followed these five steps. When the realtor returned to view the home and determine the asking price, she listed it for $50,000 more than originally suggested. That same home had an offer on the first showing.

Now that’s a solid return on the investment.

Kara Woods, an award-winning home staging and design professional who specializes in the luxury market, teaches at the Academy of Home Staging and serves as Northeast regional vice president of the Real Estate Stagers Association. Send comments and questions to Address@globe.com. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp.