Kathryn Weber

Furniture pulled away from the walls and arranged in an open U-shape or conversationally makes your home feel more spacious and more appealing to buyers

Furniture pulled away from the walls and arranged in an open U-shape or conversationally makes your home feel more spacious and more appealing to buyers.

When you're ready to sell your house, it pays to assess your home and make improvements before the for-sale sign goes in the yard. By doing so, you'll help buyers see the beauty of your home -- and that helps put the sold sign up faster. Especially in today's tough market for home sellers, attention to details and a willingness to go the extra mile can make all the difference.

Here is a list of tips to make your home stand out from the rest.

--Be objective.

One of the hardest things for homeowners is to see their house from a buyer's perspective. If you can't be objective about how your home looks, take pictures of it. Take photos from the street, the kitchen, living room and master bedroom. These are the rooms that matter most to buyers.

--Start at the front.

Give the front of your home a makeover. Hire a landscape company to freshen the grounds, trim shrubs and trees, and add mulching. Repaint the mailbox, add new house numbers and hide trashcans. These improvements help hook buyers at the curb, enticing them to view your home.

--Put money where your mouth is.

Investing in the kitchen is one of the best returns on investment for homeowners. The kitchen is the one room that really excites buyers, so make it work for you by adding a new backsplash, fresh coat of paint on the cabinets and trendy pulls. Dated lighting, peeling laminate and crowded countertops will have buyers backing out of the house.

--Make a focal point in every room.

Each room should have a feature that defines the space. A focal point helps visually draw buyers into the room -- and where the eyes go, the heart often follows. Using the photos you've taken earlier, plan a focal point for the main rooms of the house, including the kitchen.

--Empty closets by half.

When buyers look at your closets, less definitely is more. Reducing your belongings by at least half will allow buyers to actually see storage instead of stuff. Rent a storage unit if that's what it takes, but reduce by 50 percent.

--Open the door to sales.

The front door is the first place on your home a prospective buyer sees and touches when they arrive. Repainting or revarnishing the door and polishing up the hardware will create a vision of beauty and buyer anticipation because it says the house is cared for right up front.

--Back off the wall.

Move furniture out in the room and away from walls. Of course, if your house has too much furniture (as many do), you may need to pare down. Make sure to put sofas and loveseats or chairs across from each other rather than in an L-shape. This conversational arrangement is more appealing to buyers.

--Add life.

Invest in good quality real or silk plants. Spindly plants are eyesores. Look in any décor magazine and you'll notice how plants are placed attractively in the room. Use these as guides on what plants to buy and where to place.

--Set the table.

Model homes and homes in design magazines always feature a dining room table that's set, but few homeowners with homes for sale set the formal dining room table. Setting the table makes the room inviting and helps buyers imagine themselves in it.