Preparing a house for the market is a daunting task. There’s a finite amount of time to sell a home for the best price possible, so homeowners must take certain measures to ensure they make the best deal.

Most people do a good job of cleaning and picking up before showing homes to potential buyers, but overlooking one step could end up costing thousands in the long run.

Vicki Sindelar is an accredited home staging professional with Finishing Touches Staging and Design. She says staging is all about turning a house into a simple and clean canvas so buyers can see the potential in it.

“I would depersonalize it, I would make it absolutely immaculately clean, I would make it neutral. What we want is for the general population to be able to walk through the door and visualize themselves living there,” Sindelar says.

Depersonalizing a house involves clearing away clutter, rearranging furniture, paring down decorations and especially removing family photos. Not only does this direct viewers’ attention to the walls instead of the pictures hanging on them, it also is a safety issue. Sindelar says you don’t want strangers to be able to see pictures of your children, their names or where they go to school anywhere in the house.

Many homeowners forgo the services of a professional stager because they want to save money and clean up the house themselves. While this is fine, sometimes it isn’t enough to just vacuum, put out flowers and make the house smell nice.

“I think the main (benefit of staging) is that if it’s done when it should be, which is before the listing is done, then the pictures on the Internet look spectacular, and that is where most people go shopping for a house. They go to the Internet and they eliminate possibilities because of what they see in those pictures. … Staged homes appear to be well-cared for, and I think people want a home that someone has cared for,” Sindelar says.

Real estate website Trulia notes in an article about home staging that buyers make their final decision about purchasing a home based largely on emotion, and staged homes can help create that emotional connection.

“Homebuyers begin their shopping process with a list of criteria … but what pulls them towards one house over another is the emotional experience they have upon entering that specific house,” the article says.

Sindelar also believes every room needs to have a purpose. A spare bedroom should look like a spare bedroom when showing it to potential buyers. It shouldn’t be a catch-all room for old exercise equipment or holiday decorations.

Her services can involve as little or as much direct intervention as the homeowner wants. Sometimes she walks through the house and makes a detailed list of suggestions the owners take care of themselves; other times she has full control and does the staging and organizing herself. Her main goal is to make the house look as good as possible so it sells quickly.

“Honestly, staging could be $100 to maybe $500 and you have it done, versus lowering your price $10,000 in a month because no one is looking at your house. … That’s why I do it, is to help people get the best price for their house in the shortest amount of time,” she says.

Statistics uphold the claim that staged homes sell faster and for a better price. According to a 2010 report by the Real Estate Staging Association, staged homes spent 78 percent less time on the market than un-staged homes, which could potentially save homeowners nearly $15,000 in mortgage and expenses.