Let’s face it: Looks matter to homebuyers who are trying to make a connection with a property.

Even in a competitive seller’s market, which characterized real estate in 2018, proper staging is essential to getting homes sold. Staging can even increase a property’s value by up to 5 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors' 2017 Profile of Home Staging, the latest report available.

Did you catch on to any design trends this year to improve your listing’s appearance? These were the hottest staging styles and tips of 2018 featured in Realtor Magazine’s Styled Staged & Sold blog.

1. Dos and Dont's of Hiring a Home Stager

The right professional stager needs to complement your selling strategy, support your sellers’ goals, and be able to work with the home’s existing decor. Audra Slinkey, president and founder of Home Staging Resource, breaks down the questions you should ask a stager and how to judge his or her professional experience to make sure it’s a good fit for your listing.

2. Jaw-Dropping Transformations of Outdoor Spaces

Home buyers are increasingly judging the livability of patios, terraces, and other outdoor entertainment areas. These spaces — no matter how small or large — can be a selling point, so it would be wise to explore outdoor staging for your listings.

3. By the Numbers: Home Features Buyers Sprung for in 2018

Open floor plans remained all the rage, while smart homes grew in popularity. Having a pulse on the latest design trends can help you anticipate what buyers will be seeking in their next home. Were you on top of the styles that took center stage this year?

4. The Secret to Kitchen Envy: A Stylish Island

The star item of many kitchen makeovers is the center island. It's not only a gathering spot for cooking but also for eating, working, and socializing. To make it even more of a focal point, many homeowners are freshening up the look of their islands, moving from traditional colors to eye-popping designs.

5. Before and After: How Staging Makes the Difference

When staging a home, there’s a lot to consider: the potential buyer’s needs, the original purpose of the space, the layout, and the latest design trends. The wrong furnishings can make a space feel cramped.

This article was contributed to The Log by National Association of Realtors.