02/19/2014 05:03 EST | Updated 04/21/2014 05:59 EDT

Home staging, a makeover for properties, a real estate trend

Staging is like a cosmetic makeover for a home, often removing lived-in furniture, painting over walls with neutral colours and adding eye-catching aesthetics.

The real estate industry estimates staging a home can add between six and 15 per cent to the asking price.

Ella Zetser stages homes at The Last Detail Home Staging in Toronto. She says it's an appeal to a prospective homebuyer's emotion.

"The staging is what makes the house pretty and that's what people see first they look at the furniture, flowers, mirrors, and pictures. They fall in love with that — they don't understand it, but that's what they're doing," she says.

Real estate agent Yan Gurevich says staging — which starts at around $2,500 and depends on the size of the home — helps buyers see how they would live in the space.

"You want to bring them closer to that vision," says Gurevich, "and they will pay more, it's just a fact."

Zetser says staging generally makes homes sell faster with higher price tags.

"We've seen houses that have been on the market that haven't sold. And then we stage them and they sell right away, sometimes for over asking," she says.

Zetser says there are several keys for staging a house.

- Get advice. Zetser recommends "a fresh eye" for this. "Even if you don't want to hire a staging company, you can simply have a consultation. That'll cost $250."

- De-clutter. The room has to be visually appealing from a distance. "You judge a room from the door. You stand at the door and you look at the room and that's where the buyer will look in the room. We don't even know if they're going to walk in."

- Lighting."If you have energy-saving bulbs, sorry to say, they need to go out and regular bulbs need to go in." She says energy-saving bulbs take too long to "warm up"— time that homebuyers don't give to viewing each room.

- Neutral wall colours. "If your living room is yellow and your dining room is red and your kitchen is blue," Zetser begins. "They don't want to paint, they don't wanna renovate, they just wanna buy the house and move in tomorrow because they fell in love. If they didn't fall in love, they're going to lower your price."

- Dining room table. "The bigger the dining room table and chairs, the better the house looks. The more it looks like you can entertain more people the better. But it has to be the right size table and right number of chairs."

Those tips aside, Zetser stresses it's all about first impressions. Get the first room when you walk in to look right, because there is not a lot of time to win buyers over.

"You have six minutes to sell your house," Zetser says. "The whole house: six minutes in and out."