Selling your home is a process, and one vital part of that is making the home look warm, cozy and inviting. If you’re going to continue living in the home while it’s up for sale, one important part of the selling process is what’s known as staging. Many sellers think of staging as simply cleaning up their home and making sure it always looks nice for potential buyers, but it’s much more than that. Listings that are properly staged will be much more appealing to buyers and are more likely to receive serious bids.

They also tend to sell faster. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) did a study on staged and unstaged homes and found, on average, that homes staged before being listed sold 79 percent faster than those staged after being on the market. On average, staged homes were on the market for four months, while unstaged homes may go unsold for six months or more. While your real estate agent will help you with staging, there are some things you can do right away to prepare your home for showing.

The first thing to do is to fix any little issues that stand out. This may include repainting a wall or two if the paint has been scratched or if the wall doesn’t look as good as it once did. You’ll also want to have the carpets professionally cleaned and make sure all tile and hardwood floors look good. Basically give your house a major cleaning and make any small aesthetic changes that you can. Dust the blinds, wash the curtains, change out dead light bulbs…anything and everything that could make your home look even slightly less appealing needs to be addressed. According to the NAR survey, investing as little as one percent of your asking price in staging in these quick and simple repairs and renovations can increase the amount of your bids by as much as 10 percent.

Every buyer has a number of things they look for in a potential home. Some are unique to the buyer, but other things are common to most everyone who is scouring the market for their dream home. One of these common items is storage. People want a lot of closet space, whether it’s for clothing, hobby supplies or to store Christmas decorations. If you’re still living in your home while it’s for sale, first realize that potential buyers are going to look in all your cabinets and closets. You’re basically giving up a lot of your privacy. But you can use this to your advantage by staging your closets just right. The trick is to take out about half of everything in every closet, then organize what’s left and spread it out a bit. This will make the closet seem larger than it really is.

Lighting is also very important. Most people want a home that appears bright and cheery. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say something like “that hallway is so dark!” but then comment about how much natural light the kitchen gets. That’s why you want to make sure all of your light fixtures have working bulbs in them. Take the time to clean your windows, make sure your curtains are open, and even consider buying higher watt bulbs for your lights and lamps. This is especially important if you do have dark rooms or areas in your home.

Everyone loves their pets, but you might not always love other people’s animals. You have no idea what buyers like or if they have any pet allergies, so do your best to make your pets vanish during showings. That means removing litter boxes, food bowls, and taking your pets to a friend’s or even boarding them for a few weeks while you have showings. While this can be difficult if your home is on the market for months and you have buyers in and out often, it is important that you do your best to remove signs of your pet. People tend to associate animals with dirt, and some may dislike the idea of buying a home that had a pet living in it.

Another similar tip is to “de-personalize” your home. People often unconsciously pick up on things in someone’s home that they don’t like, so be sure to remove these things. This can include things like R-rated movies, items that indicate your religious preference and any books that are controversial. You may even go as far as to put away some of your personal effects such as photos or collectibles to make it easier for potential buyers to visualize themselves living in your home.

These are just a few ways you can stage your home to appeal to potential buyers. Your real estate agent will be able to help you with ideas specific to your home. Your agent is your biggest asset in the quest to sell your home, which is why it’s so important that you find someone you have a good working relationship with. For members of the LGBT community, this may mean working with a gay or lesbian agent. You can easily find one of these agents in your area through, a website specializing in LGBT real estate.

Remember that staging is just one of the factors that makes your home attractive to potential buyers, but it can influence those who are on the fence about making an offer. When combined with great curb appeal, a reasonable price, and sought-after amenities, you’ll have a winning combination that will result in offers in no time.