For years, homeowners have cherished and embraced the myth that expensive renovations and improvements to their homes were great investments that would more than pay for themselves in the long run by adding to the overall value of their properties when they were sold some day in the near future.

Many major home improvement contracts have been signed and justified by this financial myth. According to Remodeling Magazine, over the last decade, payback on the average remodeling job has fallen from 82 percent in 2003 to 57 percent in 2013.

Here are the payback percentages on some popular home improvements:
• Garage doors only paid back 71.9 percent of their cost when the house was sold.
• Steel Entry doors only paid back 73 percent of their initial cost.
• Built-in, back-up power generators only returned 47.5 percent of their cost at the sale of a property.
• Popular additions such as a sun room only returned 45.9 percent of their original cost.
The moral to this story is that very often homeowners will invest in small home improvement projects that don’t have the return intended and end up costing you money if you’re planning to sell. Fortunately, sometimes all you have to do is use some smart visual techniques from top pro home stagers to make your home look appealing to buyers and get you top dollar.
The art of staging a home so it will have the most appeal to potential buyers is something anyone can do, if they just follow the example of professional decorators. Here are six staging secrets that you can use to make your house stand out and capture the attention of potential buyers:

1. Dress Up Your Porch

Whether you have a large porch or just a few steps in front of your house, adding a new doormat and a few exotic flowers or plants can help make your home stand out.
A nice porch can come alive with just a couple of pieces of outside furniture, while a few strategically placed solar lights on either side of your walkway will do much to make your house sparkle as will porch lights kept on when a potential buyer drives by at dust or at dawn.

2. Make Your House Spotless But Lived-In

While it’s critical to keep your house super clean and spotless when it’s being shown, you don’t want it to appear sterile or un-lived-in. After all, a house is a place where people spend some of their most precious moments, and some of their messiest! So go a step beyond a deep cleaning and give your buyers a reason to feel at home. Professionals use a few fresh flowers in vases or a basket of produce to make a house look lived in. A few lemons on a cutting board in the kitchen is also not a bad idea.

3. Stylize Your Plain Dining Room Table

A bare dining room table is a little like a black hole. It is unfriendly and tends to suck the positive energy out of anyone who passes by it. The pros say decorating such a table with an assortment of small colorful arrangements will breathe life into an otherwise dreary dining chamber.

4. Closets Wide Open

Professionals say you should open closets wide after you have thoroughly cleaned and removed any clutter. By doing so, you create a feeling of spaciousness and you’re declaring affirmatively that there is larger closet space.

5. Install a Pedestal Sink to Create the Illusion of More Space

If you have a tiny bathroom that’s cramped and makes you want to scream, imagine the effect it might have on a potential buyer.
One possible and inexpensive fix the pros use is to remove the big, old sink in your tiny bathroom and replace it with a small pedestal sink and decorate it with a few red roses.
The result is the optical illusion of much space and style, transforming the bathroom from a liability to an asset.

6. Use Art to Draw People In

Unfortunately, many prospective homebuyers tour a house with blinders on. It’s almost as though they have tunnel vision. How in the world can you get them to explore the entire depth and breadth of your home? Professional stagers use a piece of artwork hanging at the top of the stairs, or a colorful vase near the back of the house to catch the eye of prospective buyers. Such a strategy gets them to view the house in its blissful totality, rather than segmenting it into little chucks.