Here are some tips that may help you have a successful property showing:

-- De-clutter. Don’t just get rid of old magazines and newspapers. Box up your personal items and decorations, as well as extra furniture and excess clothing – and store it off site. Buyers want a home that feels spacious, and that goes for closets and garages, too.

-- Wash the windows and screens. Replace heavy curtains with sheer ones. Light sells houses.

-- Clean everything. First impressions count. Hire a professional if you can afford it.

-- Eliminate smells. Clean the carpets and drapes to eliminate food, smoke or pet odors. Open the windows if the weather allows. Use potpourri or candles if you need to.

-- No pets. Send your pets to a friend or neighbor’s if you can, or confine them to one room, ideally the basement.

-- Maintenance. Worn carpet, torn screens, sticky doors and leaky faucets will turn off buyers in this market, especially in higher-priced homes. Realtor tip: replace dated countertops with a neutral color. Basic formica will only run you a couple of hundred dollars and could make a big difference.

-- Tidy up the yard. Rake, edge, trim, and add new mulch. Clean the gutters and spruce up the porch with fresh paint and a pot of flowers. Realtor tip: pick up a pair of shutters from an architectural salvage store.

-- Basement boost. Make sure basement steps have fresh treads and the furnace is clean and accessible. Realtor tip: Fresh paint on an unfinished basement floor can keep it from looking like a dungeon.

-- Add some luxury. A new shower curtain, fancy soaps and fluffy white towels make guests feel pampered when they enter the bathrooms. Put away your toothbrushes and toiletries.

-- Set the scene. Set your tables for a fancy dinner. Stage other vignettes throughout the house – such as a picnic on the patio or a game in progress – to help buyers picture themselves living in the home. Realtor tip: Check the website for inexpensive and creative decorating ideas.

Source: National Association of Realtors; Realtor Tips from Onalaska, Wis., Realtor Cindy Gerke, of Cindy Gerke & Associates

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