Trying to sell your home? Don't leave it vacant

Most real estate agents would rather endure a root canal than have to show a vacant house for one simple reason: Buyers lack imagination.

Part of selling a home, agents say, is selling a lifestyle. You want prospective buyers to be able to envision themselves living in this new space. The general advice agents tell sellers is to depersonalize the home -- put away things like family photos or soccer trophies which only serve as distractions. But please, most agents say, don't move out and leave it empty. And if you must move, rent some furniture and stage the home.

For one thing, empty homes tend to show every nick and ding. The paint around where a piece of art once hung screams out how much the room needs to be repainted. Scratches that were hidden behind the sofa now wave hello to all who enter the room. And the spot on the floor where the rug once laid now only shows how faded the hardwood floors have become.

"When a home is completely empty," said Lynn Whitley, a Realtor and professional stager in the Jacksonville, Florida area, "it lacks the warmth and character that makes a house a home. Buyers enjoy the homes that have the furniture and decorating that they would like to own, and these homes often command higher prices."