With many homes in Denver selling within days (if not hours!) of being listed, overconfident owners looking to jump into the red-hot real estate market this spring might be tempted to skip out on pre-sale prep. Big mistake, says design and staging company White Orchid Interiors’ Lauren Matthews, who claims that home staging is the key to making the most of a seller’s market. “It helps homes go for top dollar, encouraging bidding wars and adding as much as 10 percent to a listing price,” she says.

The design director—who gets Colorado cool points for an early career in alpine ski racing and road cycling—co-founded White Orchid Interiors with her husband, John, in 2006. Together with teams in Colorado and California, she furnishes vacant and lived-in spaces, de-cluttering and styling them to appeal to a wide range of buyers. This past fall, she also appeared on Raise the Roof, DIY Network’s Denver-based show about historic home makeovers (more cool points). Here, her tips for sprucing up your for-sale home.

1. Stage the right rooms. Focus your efforts on the core spaces buyers want to see: the living room, dining room, kitchen,
and master bedroom. Keep other rooms organized and clean, and don’t overlook the home office and the garage (which often appeals to male buyers).

2. Prep spaces foremost for photos. “If a home doesn’t look good online,” Matthews says, “no one will want to see it in person.” Hire a professional photographer to take pictures (or make sure your real estate agent plans to) and ready rooms for the camera. How? Start by arranging furniture so sofas or chair backs don’t block the shots.

3. Streamline accessories. “Photos flatten a room, so too many things can get very busy, very quickly,” says Matthews, who recommends reducing a room’s accessories by two-thirds. Remove personal photos and tchotchkes and hide or store anything smaller than a football.

4. Remove overly stylized design elements. Loud hues and patterns can be distracting and off-putting to buyers, so aim to create a neutral backdrop. Take out brightly colored or patterned sofas or chairs, or cover them with crisp, light-colored slipcovers. Give rooms fresh coats of paint—and eliminate bright accent walls—with one of Matthews’ go-to hues: Muslin, a warm beige, or Revere Pewter, a light gray, both from Benjamin Moore.

5. Add in pops of well-chosen color. If a newly neutral room tends toward beige tones, choose accessories in yellows, oranges, creams, and golds. But if gray rules in your space, go with subtle accents of blue and green. To bring color to your living room, for example, consider a single piece of large artwork, new accent pillows (used ones have a “flat, sad feel,” Matthews says), and a cozy throw. And any room feels lovelier with plants: Succulents have a contemporary vibe and tend to be good for smaller spaces, Matthews says. For bigger rooms, opt for easy-to-maintain philodendron or trendy fiddle-leaf figs.

6. Make sure rooms reflect their intended purposes. Selling a maxed-out family home? Take the makeshift office out of the living room. Putting a bachelor pad on the market? Replace the pool table with a dining set. (Yes, really. You’ll thank us later.)