Hiring someone to prepare your home so it makes a good impression on buyers can pay off. By Pat Mertz Esswein, Associate Editor February 26, 2009 Editors Note: This story has been updated. With the real estate climate making selling your home difficult, home staging can be an effective tool to help seller's out. You probably know that your property needs to be as clean, clutter-free and in as good repair as possible, inside and out. But you can further distinguish your home from the competition by having your home staged -- or window-dressed -- for sale.Professional stagers can see your house as buyers will, and they'll set the scene so that buyers can imagine living there. SEE OUR SLIDE SHOW for examples. They're likely to simplify or streamline the furniture in a room for better traffic flow and to enhance its spaciousness. They may neutralize a too-personal color scheme or add touches of color or accessories where needed. In vacant homes that feel cold and lack visual landmarks, stagers often bring in rental furniture and create "vignettes," say, a seating area in front of the fireplace. Barb Schwarz, president of StagedHomes.com and founder of The International Association of Home Staging Professionals, says that staging helps exhausted buyers "mentally move in" and feel that when they move in for real, they'll be able to kick back for awhile and relax. You can hire a stager by the hour or the room. Schwarz says homeowners typically pay from $200 to $3,000 depending on the level of service required. But the pay-off -- in time saved and higher sales price -- can be nice. In 2006, StagedHomes.com looked at the sales history of 200 properties staged by its members. Homes listed for sale prior to staging sat on the market for an average of four and a half months and sold within just over a week afterward. Homes listed for sale after staging sold within 32 to 42 days. In either case, the homes sold for an average of $26,000 more than expected. The accompanying slide show features before-and-after photographs of nine staged rooms that represent various staging problems and solutions. All of the projects were submitted by Accredited Staging Professionals, trained in Schwarz's method. To find an ASP in your area, visit the Web site of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals and click on "Our Members." For more staging tips and strategies, see Schwarz's book (with Mary Seehafer Sears), Home Staging: The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More Money ($19.95; Wiley). If you're not ready to sell but you wish your home looked that good, see the chapter on "Staging to Live."