Staging a home for sale is one of the hottest topics in residential real estate. In today’s challenging property market, you want all the ammunition you can get to sell your home at top dollar--and sell it fast.

So what is staging? It’s literally showcasing your home in its absolute best light. You draw buyers’ attention to your home’s most appealing features--and skillfully divert their attention from those that are less-than-stellar.

In short, staging is creating visual “eye candy” that emphasizes your home’s positives. It’s part art, part science--and all marketing. It can involve everything from fresh paint to clever carpentry, new lighting to new window treatments. And don’t forget the borrowed (or rented) furniture to define and enhance each room!

To see staging in action, watch an episode or two of HGTV’s Designed To Sell, The Unsellables, and The Stagers. And for some simple staging techniques presented with tongue-in-check humor, see Top 10 Home-Staging Dos  and Top 10 Home-Staging Don’ts by Designed To Sell’s Donna and Shannon Freeman.

Should you try to stage your own home--or hire a professional? My real estate experience has taught me there are two essential staging tricks that every home seller can do:

* Clear it out. You have stuff--lots of stuff. And your house is overloaded with all that stuff. Go through each room and get rid of the clutter everywhere you see it. Your rooms will look bigger, more restful, and more inviting. And all you did was pick up!

* Clean it up. Make sure everything shines inside and out, from windows, floors and countertops inside to the deck, garage and yard outside. Pay particular attention to the kitchen and bath. A little well-applied elbow grease will go a long way in selling your home. And it’s free!

Do these two simple things, and you’re already ahead in the staging game.

But should you keep going and stage other aspects of your own home? That depends on whether you have the eye, the skill--and the objectivity. Can you put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and see your home as the buyer will see it--positive points and negative points? Are you prepared to tackle those negatives? Do you have the “designer’s eye” for color and other design elements? Do you have the technical skills to complete improvements?

Staging can definitely help sell your house for more if it’s done right, whether you do it on your own or you hire a professional stager. Your real estate agent will be happy to share staging ideas and recommend a professional, if needed.

And visit my Web site for more information, too. I’m always available to discuss your specific needs or answer any questions you might have about any aspect of real estate.