Real Estate Image Gallery
Real Estate Image Gallery

The cardinal rule of home staging? Clean, clean, clean. See more real estate images.

Alvis Upitis/Photographers Choice/Getty Images

If you're selling a home these days, in most parts of the country, just putting up a for sale sign and hoping for the best probably won't be enough. In a sluggish real-estate market, homeowners sometimes have to take extra steps to make a sale. For sellers trying to make a good impression, home staging has become a popular way to increase a home's selling price and decrease selling time.

Home staging is arranging furniture and decor with the intent to showcase a home for sale. It could cost you nothing -- a simple cleaning and the removal of day-to-day living items can sometimes be all you need. But it can also involve some financial investment -- like painting, improving the landscaping and adding furniture and plants to give potential buyers an idea of what their new home would look like.

However, staging isn't decorating, according to real-estate professionals. It's more like depersonalizing a home so that prospective buyers can imagine themselves in it. This can mean removing family photos, piles of newspapers and the cat's litter box, as well as adding neutral-colored paint and carpet and buying new appliances.

So where do you start? Should you hire someone to stage your home for you, or can you do it yourself? If you want to hire someone, where do you look? If you do it yourself, what do you need to know? Do staged homes actually sell faster and for more money? We'll answer all of those questions as we explore how home staging works.