Staging a house for sale is a concept foreign to many home sellers. But, it has been immensely popular in the San Francisco Bay Area where sellers have reaped huge benefits from their efforts.

You don’t have to fix up your home before selling. A home can be sold in virtually any condition, if it’s priced right. There are basically two reasons why sellers go to the effort and expense to prepare their homes for sale. One is that it helps to bring a higher price. The other is that it usually results in a quicker sale.

It’s imperative to make cost-effective cosmetic improvements in order to realize an increase in profit when you sell. Major renovations made just before selling — such as completely remodeling kitchens and bathrooms — are not cost-effective. Although they improve the appeal of the home, you aren’t likely to recoup the full amount of your investment on a quick turnaround.

But other cosmetic improvements such as refinishing hardwood floors, replacing outdated floor coverings, removing old window coverings (and leaving them off, in most cases), replacing outmoded light fixtures and painting are worth the money. The reasonsuch fix-ups tend to bring a higher price is that most people have difficulty imagining what a house will look like fixed up. You do the fix-up work so that you don’t leave the sale of the house to chance.

Fixer-uppers appeal only to certain buyers who usually want a break on the price to compensate for the condition of the property. By sprucing the property up for sale, you appeal to a much broader audience. The more interest there is, the more chance there is for a sale at a higher price.

The goal of fixing up a house for sale is to get it into move-in condition. Let’s say your home has an older, dated kitchen. In its present condition, it’s a turnoff to buyers who haven’t the time and resources to remodel it. By painting outdated cabinets, painting the walls in a trendy decorator color, changing cabinet knobs, updating light fixtures, changing the floor and adding stainless-steel appliances, your kitchen won’t be new. But, it will appear fresh and inviting.

You make cosmetic improvements to overcome buyers’ objections. If you sold your home with a dismal kitchen, most buyers would discount the house because they couldn’t live with the kitchen.

You open your home up to a larger pool of buyers by doing the improvements mentioned above. Rather than rejecting the house, buyers feel they can move right in without first having to a lot of work. And, you accomplish this without major remodeling; just sprucing the home up to an acceptable level.

HOME SELLER TIP: Sellers often resist spending money on a property they’re selling. This is particularly so in the current market, where they may have less chance of receiving multiple offers and a generous price. However, properly preparing your home for sale can give you an advantage in today’s challenging market.

Buyers are pickier than they were a year ago when home prices were rising quickly. Currently, appreciation is flat, at best. Many buyers are concerned that prices are falling. So, their enthusiasm for paying huge prices regardless of the condition of the property has waned. Buyers are looking for value.

Getting a house fixed up for sale takes time and money. A good real estate agent can be an invaluable ally in this endeavor. In fact, you should consult with your agent before embarking on any projects to ensure that you make value-enhancing improvements.

THE CLOSING: Resist the temptation to show your home before it’s ready. You could lose a prospective buyer who can’t visualize how your house will look after the improvements are done.

Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.

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