Racing to unload your home before the real-estate market tanks? Here's how to prep for that all-important first impression: the open house.

De-clutter. Pack up your winter clothes, that extra sofa, your prized collection of ceramic roosters. "Start really moving out," says Lisa LaPorta, cohost of HGTV's "Designed to Sell." "Know that the house you're selling is not the house you live in anymore."

Neutralize your space. Hide all your personal items, including wedding photos and refrigerator magnets. "You want buyers to envision themselves living there," says Pam Liebman, CEO of the Corcoran Group, a New York City-based real-estate firm.

Fix it up. Repair leaks, water damage and loose or cracked tiles. Make sure your windows are washed and your curtains pushed way back for maximum light. Mow your lawn, and weed your garden.

De-stinkify. Liebman advises setting out scented candles, potpourri or fresh flowers--"they don't say 'bake cookies' for nothing."

Beat it. Owners should make themselves scarce--and wait for the offers to start pouring in.