In this lagging real-estate market, every little counts when it comes to making your home appeal to potential buyers. That's why it can pay -- with a quicker home sale at a higher price -- to set the scene with a home stager. Professional stagers can help eliminate clutter, arrange furniture and prepare a home to make a great first impression. Here are before and after pictures of nine rooms that have been professionally staged in houses across the nation. As you click through our slide show, you can see the difference staging can make and get ideas for how to make your home look its best for resale. STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL

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In this lagging real-estate market, every little counts when it comes to making your home appeal to potential buyers. That's why it can pay -- with a quicker home sale at a higher price -- to set the scene with a home stager. Professional stagers can help eliminate clutter, arrange furniture and prepare a home to make a great first impression.
Here are before and after pictures of nine rooms that have been professionally staged in houses across the nation. As you click through our slide show, you can see the difference staging can make and get ideas for how to make your home look its best for resale.

By Pat Esswein
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 2 of 19

LIVING ROOM BEFORE

Courtesy Cheryl Cox

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PROBLEM: Staging often requires returning rooms to their intended purpose, rather than reflecting the homeowners' living style. These Charlotte, N.C., homeowners used the living room, located just off the home's entrance, as a home office, complete with a large desk, office equipment, and many, many books. Though functional for them, it failed to impress buyers, to whom it appeared small, dark and cluttered.
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 3 of 19

LIVING ROOM AFTER

Courtesy Cheryl Cox

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SOLUTION: After stager Cheryl Cox moved the existing furniture to other rooms in the house, she removed the dated wallpaper and painted walls in a neutral color. To call attention to the hardwood floors, Cox replaced the large area rug with a smaller one. To allow maximum light into the room, she replaced the heavy drapes with sheer panels. She brought in appropriate furniture to transform this space into a warm, inviting living room that emphasized the room's size, fireplace and hardwood floors -- all great selling points.
Cost: $705
Stager: Cheryl Cox, StageCoach Home Staging and Design
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 4 of 19

GUEST BEDROOM BEFORE

Courtesy Debbie Takahashi

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PROBLEM: The wallpaper in this guest bedroom in a Lake Elsinore, Cal., home was very busy and reflected the homeowner's very specific and personal style. The empty room also didn't help buyers visualize how they could best use the space.
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 5 of 19

GUEST BEDROOM AFTER

Courtesy Debbie Takahashi

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SOLUTION: To appeal to the widest range of buyers, stager Debbie Takahashi removed the wallpaper and painted the room in warm, neutral tones. She staged the room to help buyers imagine welcoming the first of many houseguests to an inviting and guest-ready room in their new home.
Cost: $800, plus $273/month for furniture and accessories rental
Stager: Debbie Takahashi, Staged by Design, Rancho Santa Margarita, Cal.
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 6 of 19

DINING ROOM BEFORE

Courtesy Carolyn Stieger

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PROBLEM: The owners of this moderately priced home in Sterling Heights, Mich., were updating their kitchen and dining room in preparation for sale. The large dining table with oversized chairs crowded the room and impeded traffic flow. The tile flooring was loose. The homeowners wanted to make the room seem larger and complement the new kitchen. They also wanted to purchase a new dining table and chairs that would work equally well in their current and future homes.
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 7 of 19

DINING ROOM AFTER

Courtesy Carolyn Stieger

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SOLUTION: Home stager Carolyn Stieger helped the homeowners select new floor tile for the kitchen and dining room, as well as a rich wooden dining table and four sleek chairs. She removed the table leaf to minimize the table and maximize the room's size. From elsewhere in the house, Stieger brought artwork that bridged the colors of the two rooms and enhanced the sense of space. She selected accents for the table (candles, placemats, napkins and napking rings) and a large silk plant for the back wall that cost less than $55.
Cost: $141
Stager: Carolyn Stieger, Images of Elegance, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 8 of 19

FAMILY ROOM BEFORE

Courtesty Jeanne Westmoreland

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PROBLEM: This Atlanta, Ga., home had been totally rehabbed, and the owner wanted it staged for sale. From the front door, buyers could look through the foyer and kitchen to this family room. Stager Jeanne Westmoreland wanted to create a strong focal point, using the fireplace, to pull buyers into the space.
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 9 of 19

FAMILY ROOM AFTER

Courtesty Jeanne Westmoreland

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SOLUTION: Westmoreland's strategy was three-fold: She showcased the architectural focal points of the room, including the fireplace and the vaulted ceiling. She created a perspective so that buyers could envision how their furniture would look in the space. And she added warmth and color to appeal to buyers' senses, helping them to imagine relaxing by the fire. The owner received an offer on the night of its grand open house.

Because this project was done for a TV production, the house was "staged to the max." Under normal circumstances, the entire house wouldn't need to be staged, and the cost would be less.
Cost: Approximately $1,500
Stager: Jeanne Westmoreland (with Arow Flemmer, Lisa Romans and Angel Walker), Staging by the Masters, StagingbytheMasters.com
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 10 of 19

LIVING ROOM BEFORE

Courtesy Dana Pedersen

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PROBLEM: Left empty, this Bellevue, Wash., custom-built executive home felt cold and unappealing. The builder asked stager Dana Pedersen to highlight the expansive space and meticulous craftsmanship.
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 11 of 19

LIVING ROOM AFTER

hoto by Scott Chytil, Chytil Photo

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SOLUTION: Pedersen staged the space with natural earth tones and used accents of blues and greens to bring the outdoors inside. Potential buyers now notice the picturesque view of Lake Washington and admire the room's craftsmanship and architectural details.
Cost: $450
Stager: Dana Pedersen, Masterful Staging, Issaquah, Wash.
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 12 of 19

DINING ROOM BEFORE

Courtesy Sherri Halvorsen

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PROBLEM: Clutter obscured this dining room in a home in Surprise, Ariz., making a poor first impression as buyers entered the home.
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 13 of 19

DINING ROOM AFTER

Courtesy Sherri Halvorsen

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SOLUTION: Stager Sherri Halvorsen enhanced the room's size by eliminating the clutter and removing the owner's china cabinet and two of the dining chairs. The colors used to accessorize the table, as well as the wall and floor art, complement the carpeting, walls and wood blinds -- all of which were selling points of this house.
Cost: $250
Stager: Sherri Halvorsen, Staged to Perfection, LLC
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 14 of 19

FAMILY ROOM BEFORE

Courtesy Therese Robinson

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PROBLEM: Buyers found this stark family room in a Yorktown, Va., home unwelcoming and hard to envision living in. They were left wondering: How and where will our furnishings fit? How should the space flow? Will this family room be large enough for our family?
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 15 of 19

FAMILY ROOM AFTER

Courtesy Therese Robinson

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SOLUTION: Stager Therese Robinson created a warm and inviting family room that said to buyers, "Come in, sit down, relax, and enjoy family and friends" and helps them imagine doing so.
Cost: $210 per month, including the stager's time and the cost of renting furniture and accessories
Stager: Therese Robinson, Staged 2 Sell, Poquoson, Va.
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 16 of 19

LIVING ROOM BEFORE

Courtesy Kathi Presutti

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PROBLEM: This Ann Arbor, Mich., townhouse had been sitting on the market, vacant, for a year-and-a-half. Because it was empty, buyers were keying in on small flaws, rather than looking at the property as a whole. They also had difficulty visualizing where they would dine.
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 17 of 19

LIVING ROOM AFTER

Courtesy Kathi Presutti

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SOLUTION: Presutti warmed the space, creating strong emotional appeal, and also established two, clearly defined eating areas. The first (not shown) is the kitchen's bar-counter, to which Presutti added three bar stools. Presutti created the second area by using a drop-leaf table as a sofa table. In close proximity, she placed two chairs that could be used for additional living-room seating. After staging, the house sold in 29 days.
Cost: $1,000 to stage the great room (shown), kitchen and two bathrooms
Stager: Kathi Presutti, RE:STYLE LLC, Brighton. Mich.
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 18 of 19

BATHROOM BEFORE

Courtesy Barb Schwarz

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PROBLEM: This bathroom in a Charlotte, N.C., home lacked a focal point, balance and color.
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STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL | Slide 19 of 19

BATHROOM AFTER

Courtesy Barb Schwarz

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SOLUTION: Stager Barb Schwarz, working with staging students, added greenery -- with topiaries positioned to frame the bath -- and splashes of color for a "Wow!" factor.
Cost: This bathroom was staged as part of a class in staging, so there was no cost. The stager used items from her stock of accessories.
Stager: Barb Schwarz, StagedHomes.com, Concord, Cal.
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