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Whether you’re thinking about putting your home on the market or launching your own house-flipping business a la HGTV’s Christina Haack and Tarek El Moussa, one thing’s for sure: The way you present your home to potential buyers matters. Nobody knows that better than real estate agents and home stagers, who see firsthand what makes people’s eyes light up…and what makes potential buyers race out the door faster than you can say “potential sinkhole and poltergeist problems.” That’s why we turned to them to uncover which items they rely on again and again for making a home look its best. You might want to copy their recs even if you aren’t planning on selling anytime soon.

But first, a couple pro tips if you are trying to stage your home: (1) Declutter as much as possible—even if that means moving things into storage until the house is sold. (2) If you’re staging an empty space and are trying to stick to a budget, focus on staging just the master bedroom and living room. “Those are the spaces people pay the most attention to—especially if it’s an open concept kitchen and living room—because it’s where they spend the most time,” says Kristina Kuba, real estate agent at KVA Group at Keller Williams Realty in Tampa, FL. Zeroing in on those two spaces, along with a few outdoor flourishes, can have a big impact in how quickly people start making offers on your home. Here’s what to consider before that “For Sale” sign goes up.

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WoodBeCompany/Etsy

1. A Layered Welcome Mat

Layered welcome mats—one larger, patterned option under a pick with a little more personality—has been a trend for a while, and it’s one of the cheapest ways to make a great first impression, according to House Candy Home Staging founder Ashley Tapley. (She should know—it was one of a few budget-friendly tweaks she made to help a formerly-stuck-in-the-‘70s mobile home sell its third day on the market.)

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Bed Bath and Beyond

2. Updated Porch Lights

Another easy way to boost curb appeal? Swapping out the porch lights, Tapley told Staging Studio. It’s “one of the cheapest and easiest updates you can do when selling,” she says. When shopping, look for a style that’s one-fifth the height and width of the doorway, so you get the scale just right.

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WAYFAIR

3. The Right-Sized Rug

Smaller rugs can be easier to haul from one space to the next—not to mention they’re cheaper—but they can also throw off the scale of the room, making it seem dinkier than it is. Your rug should be large enough that the front legs of the sofa and any chairs in the living room fit under it.

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4. A Contrasting Sofa

When it comes to staging living rooms, a rug and a sofa are a must, as well as a coffee table and a floor lamp (gotta have that ambient lighting). Sofas can be big-ticket items, but they don’t have to be—you just have to know how to make yours pop. Darker floors are popular lately, so Kuba tends to choose a lighter sofa to provide contrast and balance things out. She opts for something light gray or cream-colored. (On that front, IKEA’s Ektorp couch is particularly popular among stagers, since it has a transitional style that works well in a variety of aesthetics—and, as a result, it appeals to a wider range of buyers.)

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IKEA

5. An Inexpensive-Yet-Chic Side Table

At $20, Ikea’s Gladom tray table is a stager’s best-kept secret. It can work as a side table, paired on either side of a bed as mod nightstands, or situated side by side in front of the sofa as a makeshift coffee table.

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West Elm

6. A Luxe Headboard

Kuba has found that people’s eyes light up more when they see a tufted headboard over more rustic, wooden styles. Oh, and they’re an easy way to make a statement in the room without needing a bunch of art or other décor. And if you really want to create a more high-end vibe, opt for the largest mattress that won’t overwhelm the room—typically a queen—and raise it up. Beds with a little more height tend to be perceived as more luxurious, Kuba says.

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AMAZON

7. ‘Tom Ford’ by Tom Ford

You may have noticed a certain book on just about every console or coffee table in recent home listings—and there’s a reason behind it. Tom Ford by Tom Ford is a designer staple. New York-based designer and stager Leia T. Ward of LTW Designs often keeps a copy on hand when styling spaces, since she’s found it fits with a range of aesthetics and can help add height to items on a table. (Not to mention it’s chockfull of style inspo.)

$81 AT AMAZON

West Elm

8. A Sleek Desk

If you have the means (or the spare furniture) to outfit a spare bedroom, ditch the guest room vibe. “Most people can visualize where the bed will go,” Kuba says, so it’s not necessarily worth the effort. What is worth it? Creating a home office. “That’s one COVID-related trend; people aren’t buying to please others, they’re buying more for themselves, based on what’s most conducive to their lifestyles.”

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RELATED: What to Do When Staging Your Home, According to a Celebrity Interior Designer

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