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House during winter

Selling your home in fall or winter may not be ideal. After all, once daylight saving time ends, home buyers don’t usually enjoy going to look at new homes in the evening, when it’s dark.

But that doesn’t mean you should give these seasons the cold shoulder. You’ll just need to overcome some challenges to show your home in its very best light.

Lori Matzke, a professional home staging expert in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and the owner of HomeStagingExpert.com, says you don’t need to sink a ton of money into staging your home for fall and winter.

“The biggest investment you should make is with elbow grease,” she says.

So, roll up those sleeves! Here are five wallet-friendly staging tips:

Make It Look Sweet from the Street

Start with a good pair of clippers.

“Get rid of old trees and shrubs. That’s a huge factor in curb appeal,” Matzke says. “A lot of people keep overgrown trees and shrubs because they’re emotionally attached to them, but as soon as the house sells, the first thing the owner does is cut that tree anyway.”

Remember that natural light is at a premium in fall and winter. Buyers want to see light coming into a home, so if it appears shadowed by trees and hedges, the home won’t look inviting.

If you’re worried about leaving behind stumps or bald patches in grass, try mulch.

“It’s about $3 a bag, and it makes a huge difference and covers a lot of indiscretions,” Matzke says, adding that big patches of missing lawn may require a few pieces of sod.

Also, consider painting your front door. Paint adds color and a feeling of freshness.

Invest in a nice new doormat. “Avoid those ‘We’re cat people’ mats or anything specific or quirky,” Matzke says. “A simple color or ‘Welcome’ will work.”

Get Rid of Those Trinkets and Extra Furniture

Nothing ruins the illusion of open space like those little knickknacks and collectibles littering every surface. Pack up the doll collection, the little picture frames, the candles and the souvenir paperweights.

“Box up everything that’s smaller than a football and that you don’t absolutely need,” Matzke says. Pack up about two-thirds of your possessions to create an illusion of space, which buyers find appealing.

Matzke even suggests clearing out furniture you plan to take with you, such as buffet cabinets or bookshelves. “It just makes the house so much lighter and more open,” she says. “If you’re not taking it, get rid of it now.”

Lighten and Brighten

Eliminate excess shadows inside your home to maximize the light.

New light fixtures or even just new, clean shades for old lamps make a home seem fresher and brighter.

Remove heavy, dark or dirty blinds and drapes. If you’re concerned about privacy, replace them with sheer drapes to let in light while also preventing others from seeing in.

Also move furniture away from walls and out of corners by about 6 to 8 inches, Matzke advises.

“Don’t fill the corners of rooms,” she says. “Open corners create visual square footage. Buyers like to see at least three full corners of a room, so really edit down what’s taking up space.”

Update Colors and Fabrics

Tattered fabrics and upholstery. Dated cabinetry. Radical paint colors. These things keep buyers from connecting with your space. In cold-weather months, people want a home to feel cozy and inviting, so if your home’s decor looks unkempt or old-fashioned, they won’t want to spend any more time there.

Paint is a small way to make big changes. First, neutralize.

“Get rid of all those different colors,” Matzke says. “Lots of colors make a space look small and boxed-in. Create a nice flow by painting in neutral colors; it makes a home look 10 times bigger.”

Update cabinetry with hardware and apply new stain, varnish or paint. Tighten up loose hinges and buy an inexpensive bottle of orange oil cleaner to bring back shine and luster on old wooden cabinets.

And don’t forget bedding. “Often, people have these really nice homes but their bedding is old, dated and mismatched,” Matzke says. “If you don’t want to invest in all-new bedding, maybe flip the old ones over or just use a neutral-colored blanket.”

The same goes for couches and other upholstered items. If your couch or chair cushions are dirty, try flipping them over. Or, for a modest investment, new slipcovers give dated-looking furniture a contemporary look that’s more inviting.

“The new slipcovers they make now look great. They have elastic and fit like a glove,” Matzke says.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

If your floors are dirty or worn, consider buying new ones. Now might be a great time to look around for retail promotions and sales.

“A lot of carpeting and flooring stores do one year of interest-free financing with no payments for six months or more. Especially around the holidays,” Matzke says. “When the house sells, you can pay it off right away. But buyers can’t see past bad flooring. And you might get a better price on your house if you update the floors.”

Finally, Matzke offers this advice: “Find a real estate agent who has a good eye for staging. That can be a big help and they’ll usually do it for free, or at least a consultation to offer specific suggestions.”

Thinking of putting your home up for sale soon? How do you plan to entice potential buyers? Let us know in the comments below!

Jessica Santina is a freelance writer, editor and contributor to the mortgage and home buying channel at MoneyGeek.com. She is an award-winning arts and culture, travel, food and lifestyle writer and blogger whose work has been published in numerous local and regional publications.

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