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Setting the stage when you put a home on the market to sell isn’t that different from a theatrical production. The goal is to establish an atmosphere, get the potential buyers or audience to relate to the space and leave a positive impression.

As in the theater, doing this the right way for a home sale takes some special preparation.

Natasha Salem, who has her own home staging business, Inspiring Spaces Staging and Design Services, knows this from personal experience. She recently put her home on the market. It took about three weeks of hard work to get the home ready to sell, Salem said. But because she paid attention to the tiniest of details, it only took three days to sell. “It’s a process, but it works.”

Salem stages houses that are empty and those that have families living in them. In the empty houses, she works on making them have “a feeling of home.” Those with families sometimes need a little less of that inhabited home feeling, not more.

In furnishing an empty home, Salem, who has worked in property management and interior design, strives to get away from the “showcase” gallery look, so she mixes old and new pieces. For instance, she has a vintage dining room table and a new couch. Salem framed up her own cityscape pictures from Italy, too. “It needs to have some history,” she said.

Salem doesn’t have a storage unit filled with furniture she uses for staging, she said. “I purchase as needed.” Sometimes, she fills up one house and when that sells, she moves it for use in another that is ready for the market.

Mary Lemon and her business partner, Shari Hamann, think accessories can make a big difference in staging a vacant house. Lemon had been staging homes and selling them as a real estate agent, but recently began devoting all of her time to staging with their business, Staged Right.

Over the years, they have accumulated lots of pieces they use in homes, keeping them in their garages, basements and a storage unit. They made a decision to focus on the main living areas and don’t use large pieces, such as beds and couches. “We usually stage with what we can manage to move ourselves,” Lemon said.

Generally, Lemon will stage the front door/entrance area, living room, dining room, kitchen and baths. “If there is a problem area in the house that needs attention, we do that, too.”

They pick up items at garage sales and in home decor sections of stores, such as Target and Home Goods. Right now, business is plentiful -- they have three homes staged and just emptied three more.

Salem said staging a home with people living in it takes a different approach. She will ask them questions about their style, then explain that getting a house “sale” ready as soon as possible will benefit them in the long run.

Both Lemon and Salem named clutter as the No. 1 problem facing most people selling their home. “Less is more,” Lemon said. Clean your closets. Clear out the pantry.

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Salem suggested parents even keep their kids’ toys in a plastic tote while the house is being shown, then taking the tote with them when they leave the house for a showing.

They also said a clean house is very important to buyers. “Use a little elbow grease,“ said Salem.

And just as the HGTV shows preach, take down most of your family photos. “You need buyers to picture themselves in the house,” Salem said.

Television shows, such as “House Hunters” and “Love It or List It,” can give homeowners some idea of what to do to get ready to sell. Lemon said even she watches them for ideas on how to repurpose a piece of furniture she wants to recycle and use for staging.

Another important factor is making sure the space photographs well. “Everyone looks online first,” said Salem.

Adding pops of color and pattern with accessories can help brighten a drab space, she said. Pillows can make a difference and so does good lighting.

Costs vary for home staging, depending on how much is done by the professionals. Most will do a consultation or walk through, offering advice and tips for under $100. The cost goes up if you are asking them to supply all of the furniture for an empty house. Lemon said an entire home may run from $350 to $600, depending on size, and that is for a three-month contract.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7214 or kmoore@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSkcmoore.

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