Never have listing agents and sellers so needed a leg up as they do now. This is especially true for Realtors representing individual home sellers, who might not be able to compete with foreclosures and short sales on price, and so need some other way to create a compelling value proposition for the buyers who do visit their homes. Enter home staging.

According to author Barb Schwarz, who markets herself as "The Inventor of Home Staging," even in a down market staged homes sell in 35 days or less, on average, while those that are not stagedtake an average of 172 days to sell. Schwarz paints a vivid, data-backed picture for why and how real estate agents who list homes should master the key tenets of home staging.

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