Houses are often one of our largest assets. So when it comes time to sell, it’s a good idea to do everything possible to get the best sales price — especially in a slow real estate market or during a downturn.

But glance through photos of homes that are for sale, and it’s easy to see that many people don’t bother. There are photos with items strewn around, houses with weird decor and overgrown yards, etc. And they wonder why they’re not getting any traffic.

That can be a good thing for you though, because if you take the time to make your house shine, it will really stand out from the competition.

The first step is to look at your house objectively. Are the walls clean? What kind of shape is the carpet in? How is the paint, inside and out? What does the yard look like? If you have grass, is it green? Are the weeds pulled? Do you have a potted flower blooming by the front door? Do you have a large collection of stuffed Garfields taking up one room? Have you removed posters from the walls? Fix those things ASAP, and you’ll have a good start.

Even if things look pretty good, houses can almost always benefit from a fresh coat of paint. If painting the whole thing is too pricey, just painting the trim makes a big difference. Of course, if you paint you’ll need to move a lot of stuff out of the way first. Use that as an opportunity to declutter.

Speaking of moving stuff, you want your house to look spacious and light. When my ex and I sold our condo, we prepped by trashing or donating things as a first step. Then we literally took about 1/3 of the remaining furnishings and knickknacks and stored them at someone else’s house. (Our pets also went on a little vacation with relatives.) Then we cleaned, painted, and cleaned again. It made a huge difference, People who had toured other units in the same complex commented on how much bigger ours seemed (even though it was the exact same unit.)

If you’re not sure what your house should look like before it goes on the market or is photographed for a real estate web site, tour a couple of model homes to get an idea. If you’re still unsure or if that just isn’t your thing, staging your home can be done by for you by professionals, who will generally make your home look closer to a slightly lived-in model home.

The whole thing is a lot of work, but it’s likely to pay off in a faster sale and better price than you might have gotten otherwise.