If you’re getting ready to sell your house, you probably have a to-do list a mile long. Near the top of that list, marked with an asterisk, should be to stage the house. This means getting the house immaculately clean, picture-perfect and looking its absolute best before potential buyers see it. Staging is also an important task to complete before arranging photoshoots and virtual tours.

The job of staging your house can seem overwhelming, but it’s absolutely worth the time, effort and financial investment. Staging, when done well, makes an enormous difference in helping buyers to see your home’s potential and envision themselves living there. The following tips will help you stage your house to maximize buyer interest.

Go for Neutral Decor

Buyers need to be able to imagine themselves living in the home, so approach staging with neutral décor in mind. Potential buyers all have different tastes and styles, which makes it impossible to decorate your home in a way that pleases everyone. Neutral décor gives your home the broadest possible appeal. Remember, you are showing off the house itself and not your personal style. Redecorate bedrooms to look gender-neutral, keep artwork and ornaments generic, and repaint any “love-or-hate” wall colors with a trending neutral. Cream, white and grey accents such as throw pillows, planters and lampshades can tone down existing brighter décor.

Declutter, Declutter and Declutter Some More

Decluttering is key to making your house look cleaner, neater, more neutral and more spacious. Pack up all non-essential items and store them away out of sight—this doesn’t mean in closets and cupboards, as buyers will check out those spaces. Storage spaces that are only partially full appear considerably larger. Keep those spaces neat by using matching baskets to store miscellaneous items. Remove any family photos and mementos, hide away personal items like toothbrushes and paperwork, and edit down ornaments and accents to just a few neutral ones. Keep in mind that buyers are interested in the house, not your possessions.

Do a Deep Clean

A deep, thorough cleaning of every inch of your house is an essential part of staging. Your house needs to be pristine to attract maximum buyer interest. It shows potential buyers that the house has been well maintained and makes it more visually appealing during a showing. Go beyond cleaning the usual surfaces. Scrub baseboards, clean scuffs and fingerprints off walls, and get carpets and upholstery professionally cleaned. Bring in a paid cleaning crew if you need to.

Make Minor Repairs and Aesthetic Updates

Staging should include making any needed minor repairs around the house—all those little aesthetic fixes and maintenance tasks that were never urgent until you decided it’s time to sell. Examples of repairs include replacing the hinge on a crooked cabinet door, re-doing the caulk around sinks and tubs, refinishing chipped or scuffed-up wood and filling any tiny holes in the walls. Some aesthetic updates to consider include switching cabinet hardware to a modern style, replacing corroded or stained faucets, and using a grout stain remover on bathroom or kitchen tiles. Hire a handyman if you can’t complete these tasks yourself.

Rethink the Furniture

Staging experts agree that less is more when it comes to furniture. You should not only rearrange your furniture, but remove as many pieces as you can. If your own furniture is outdated or doesn’t fit a neutral style of décor, store it elsewhere and rent more fitting pieces for the staging period. Try different configurations of furniture that are adaptable, such as a modular sofa or dining table with a leaf.

Less furniture overall and smaller items of furniture make a room look bigger. Try different arrangements and ask some friends or family members to help assess the results. Pull seating away from the walls to give the illusion of more space. Make sure the natural flow of foot traffic through a room is uninterrupted. Highlight any unique, attractive room features such as a window seat or fireplace, making sure they are in unobstructed view.

Let There Be Light!

A home needs lots of light to look its best. Before showing your house, open up all window coverings and turn on all the lights. Dust bulbs and light fixtures, upgrade to brighter bulbs and consider replacing some wall art with mirrors to bounce light around a room. New white or cream lampshades help to brighten your décor, too.

Consider Curb Appeal

HGTV experts remind home-sellers that first impressions count. Start with your home’s curb appeal. Rent a power washer to deep clean driveways, patios, pathways and outdoor furniture, and wash all your windows. Front yards must look well maintained, so mow the lawn, keep plants manicured, edges trimmed and beds filled with healthy plants. Add some new flowers if your yard lacks color. Brighten up the doorway with a fresh coat of paint on the front door, a new welcome mat and some potted flowers.

Don’t Forget the Finishing Touches

Keeping a home ready for buyers to view can be difficult when you’re still living in it. Keep a checklist of finishing touches to do shortly before a viewing. The list should include keeping pets and pet items (litter boxes, food dishes e.t.c.) out of sight, and putting fresh flowers on the dining table and a bowl of fresh fruit in the kitchen. In the bathrooms, arrange fresh white towels and fancy new soaps, and remember to put the toilet lid down! Open all the windows to bring in fresh air and do a final check to take away any clutter and make sure the house is impeccably clean.

Call in a Pro

If you really don’t have the time or mental bandwidth to take on the task of staging, see if you can make room in your budget to hire a professional. Options range from partial to full staging, so you might do some easier tasks yourself and hire a pro for the rest.

Staging your house does take some time and effort, but it's worth doing right. If you focus on decluttering, cleaning and depersonalizing your house, the task will be more straightforward and less overwhelming. Ultimately, staging is an investment that always pays off in terms of buyer interest and getting that "sold" sign up.