Living Smart: How to stage a home in 15 minutes

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Keeping the house clean, tidy and show-ready can seem like a never-ending task. Yet, that’s exactly what you’re expected to do once you list your house on the real estate market.

Realtors champion the value of home staging, in which you remove clutter and personal items, and organize the furniture in a way that highlights the home’s best features. Staging your home helps sell the house quickly, and for top dollar.

In today’s real estate market, potential homebuyers need to move fast in order to get the house they want. That means you have to be ready to open your doors and show off your home in a moment’s notice.

So before that Realtor comes knocking, run through this list of ways to make your home look spiffy in a jiffy.

—Time to tidy up

Life happens, and keeping everything folded, stacked and put away all the time is near impossible. But when homebuyers are headed your way, it’s time to kick it into high gear.

Keep a basket handy so you can toss toys into it in a pinch. Stack the magazines and newspapers in a neat pile, fold the throw blankets and fluff the pillows. Line up the shoes in the mudroom and hang coats in the closet.

—Let in the light

No one wants to live in a cave, and a dark, dreary interior is often an instant turnoff.

Open the curtains and turn on all the lights — yes, even in the daytime — to make the house as bright as possible.

—Keep it closed

First impressions mean a lot. Take a minute to make sure all the toilet lids and closet doors are shut.

Yes, the people walking through your house will want to peek in the closets, but let them be the one to open and close the doors. You don’t want the closets’ contents exposed at the first glance in a room.

—Attack the kitchen

There’s no time for a full scrub-down, so do what you can in the time that you have: put dishes in the dishwasher; wipe off the table and countertops; toss any so-so looking food you normally keep out.

If the appliances are covered in fingerprints, buff those away ASAP. And if there’s time leftover to sweep, by all means do so.

—Consider the smell

Sometimes homeowners are oblivious to the way their house smells, which is normal because you get accustomed to your environment and may not realize there are stinky spots.

To be on the safe side, take out the kitchen trash and empty the kitty litter. If you have pet food that’s been sitting out for a bit, move it outside until the showing is done.

Living with a funky-smelling teen? Don’t be afraid to bust out the air freshener and give his or her room a quick spray. If all else fails, and it’s a nice day, open a window or two for some fresh air.