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Sellers: How To Make Your House Irresistible
By: Good Housekeeping/

The longer your house sits on the market, the less cash it commands. To maximize your profits, use these expert tricks.

Dianna Lenz, 32, and her husband were ecstatic the day they got the permit to start building their dream house in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. One catch: They had to unload their current home first. "I was really nervous," Lenz says. "We needed to sell quickly so we could use the proceeds for the new construction."

She needn't have stressed: The house sold to the first person who looked at it -- and for several thousand dollars more than its appraisal price. The credit, Lenz says, goes largely to Joanne Hans, a real-estate enhancement expert in Mechanicville, N.Y. In this new but rapidly growing specialty, professionals help clients stage their homes - either for sale or just for a face lift - by using little more than the furnishings and accessories that the client already owns.

"A well-staged house creates a vision of a beautiful life," says Donna Marie Baldwin, a top agent in Hillsborough, Calif., for Re/Max Realtors. "When buyers walk through a house, they feel like they're going to have the same life as the people who live there. So the picture has to be a happy one - clean, uncluttered and tranquil." As Lenz discovered, making small adjustments in furnishings and presentation can determine how fast your house sells.

So how do you create that "buy me" feel? Good Housekeeping mined the top enhancement experts for their best-kept secrets and came up with a package of tips that will take your abode from ho-hum to Hollywood-perfect. Maybe you'll be so impressed with your home's new look, you'll decide you really don't want to move after all!

5 easy fixes to make your home more inviting

  • Place a box of chocolates and a water pitcher with lemon slices in the kitchen.

  • Hide pet toys, bowls and litter boxes.

  • Heat an apple pie in the oven. Studies show that the smell of baked goods makes people nostalgic for childhood.

  • Light candles in every room to create a glow.

  • Put away toilet brushes, plungers, sponges, toothbrushes and medications.

Fake more space

Buyers always want more for their money. Here are seven ways to create the illusion of extra square feet.

  • Bedroom: Remove one piece of furniture - an ottoman or a second nightstand. Too-tight spaces are a major buyer turnoff.

  • Windows: Take down worn drapes. Don't worry about replacing them - bare windows always make your home look bigger.

  • Closet: Empty closets by two thirds to create a plenty-of-storage feel. Box and store out-of-season clothes and shoes.

  • Den: You can double other people's perception of your home's play space - just pack up and put away half of your kids' toys.

  • Kitchen: Clear small appliances off your counters. Experts say reducing the number of items visually triples the work space.

  • Cabinets: Stop buying in bulk at the warehouse club.

    Reducing inventory lets you arrange supplies so that the shelves seem roomier.

  • Dining room: Create a feeling of uninterrupted flow by taking out dining-room table leaves and removing all but four chairs.

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