Thursday, February 28, 2013

First Impression is Key!

Preparing your home to sell can certainly be a daunting task, and most sellers don’t know where to start. I suggest you start where your buyers will start, with a first impression. It’s difficult to be objective about your own home, but there are some tricks you can try.

Jump in your car, and drive to an entrance to your neighborhood. Try to imagine that you are buyers considering purchasing a home there. Drive through the neighborhood, and take note of the conditions of all the homes, not just the ones that are for sale. What are the features of the homes you find most attractive? What makes some of the homes less appealing?

After you have figured out the components of good curb appeal, drive by your own home, and continue down the street. Then, drive by it from the other direction. How does your home compare? Are there changes that could be made to improve that “first impression?” Perhaps there is too much overgrown landscaping, or the yard is too bare? Is the exterior color attractive, and does the home look well-maintained?

I had a staging client who was instructed to change the mint green exterior of their home. They weren’t sure what color to paint it, and it’s so difficult to choose from a small color swatch. I suggested they tour areas of similarly priced homes, and decide what colors they found to be the most popular and the most attractive. The result, when they painted their home, was dramatic!

To be as objective as possible, try to see your home and neighborhood through the eyes of the buyers. You don’t have to have the most attractive home in your neighborhood to get it sold. But, wouldn’t it be nice if buyers pulled up in front of your home, and were excited to see inside?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Terms That Can SELL YOUR HOME!

I am asked quite often “What is the difference between decorating and staging?” I thought I would provide you with a quick explanation, and some definitions of other terms we use in staging.

Decorating is furnishing and accessorizing a space, with the taste and lifestyle of the homeowners in mind.

Staging is decorating, also, but in a manner which showcases the best features of the home, detracts from any negative features, and appeals to the greatest number of buyers.

Neutralizing is removing a particular style or theme. For example, if a home is decorated with a Southwest motif or a kitchen has a “cow” or “rooster” theme.

Depersonalizing is the removal of any items which speak loudly of who lives in the home. Family photos, memorabilia, travel souvenirs, trophies and awards, to name a few.

Scale is the term used to describe the relationship between the size of the room and the size of the furnishings. If the furniture is too big, or there is too much of it, it will make the room appear small and crowded. When the furniture is too small or there is not enough of it, the room can look bare and uninviting.

Balance refers to the placement of furniture in regard to other furniture or an architectural feature like a fireplace or built-in bookcases. Large pieces of furniture should be placed in a way in which the weight and height is even throughout the room.

Vignette is a word that stagers use to describe a smaller area furnished and/or accessorized which conveys a welcoming feeling on its own. A window seat accessorized with pillows, and a decorative tray containing a coffee cup and a book, would be considered a vignette.

Understanding these terms and recognizing the value of staging your home is vital in today’s market.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Big Black Box!

Let’s face it, we love our television sets. In my staging career, this has been proven to me numerous times. I come into a home to make recommendations to make it show better, and clients seem so willing to add or remove whatever I suggest. Except the TV, that is. And, whatever they sit on to watch TV.

In recent years, televisions have certainly become more streamlined. Flat panel styles are much less intrusive than the large screen projection ones, or “the big black boxes”, as we stagers like to call them. But, not everyone has made the switch. That leaves a whole lot of family rooms whose main feature is the overly-large TV. In homes where all the furniture is aimed at the TV, it may cause buyers to overlook the features which are a part of the home. Buyers should be directed to that fabulous fireplace, or the incredible floor to ceiling windows.

Another distraction for buyers is the number of TVs in some homes. I had clients who had a TV in every room, including the dining room. Fortunately, we worked out a compromise, and they removed all but two. And, the big black box that swallowed up most of their small living room? It was one they agreed to remove, and it opened up the space to reveal a very nice sized room, which buyers appreciated, and the home sold quickly.

It’s never easy to have your home on the market. But, taking the steps necessary to get it sold quickly, means the inconvenience won’t last long, and the sooner you and your TV can be together again!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Interior Paint: The New Neutrals!

If you are planning on selling your home, you might want to consider repainting the interior. Painting is one of the best ways to change a space dramatically, at a relatively low cost.

But, the days of painting every room white are gone. An all-white house can easily be forgotten, since there is nothing to stand out in the mind of buyers. A perfect example of the power of paint would be in the condo or townhouse market. Since most units are identical, often the only thing that can make one unit more memorable than the rest is the color of the walls.

The question is what color paint do we use? The reason white was thought to be the best color is that white will go with everything, allowing the buyers to move right in. However, white is not very warm or inviting. Today’s savvy buyers are looking for more, and the answer is to go with other neutrals. Technically, the only true neutrals are black, white, and gray, which do not appear on the color wheel. The “new” neutrals are attained by mixing opposite colors on the color wheel. They range from beige, or tan, all the way to chocolate brown or slate gray, with a large array of shades in between.

It is recommended that for small spaces, you stick with the light to medium value of these colors to create a more spacious-feeling area. And for those large, cold rooms, choose the darkest value of these colors to create a warmer and cozier space.

Creating contrast between wall color and trim color is a wonderful way to highlight architectural detail. Just be sure to keep the trim color the same throughout the home, to retain a sense of conformity. Painting different rooms’ different colors is acceptable, as long as you don’t stray too far in your color choices. That is where the neutrals are such good choices, because they do well together. All paint manufacturers offer a line of neutrals to take away that guesswork. As a home stager, one of my services is to assist sellers with their paint choices. There have been many homes, which after months of sitting on the market, sold quickly with just a simple change of wall color.

So, visit your neighborhood paint store and acquaint yourself with the “new” neutrals.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Don't Confuse Buyers!

How we choose to live in our homes is our business…right? WRONG! If you are selling your home, you may have to make some lifestyle adjustments.

For instance, that pool table you have in your living room might make sense to you, but, to a buyer, it can just be confusing. If you have a room with a chandelier hanging down, you should probably have it furnished as a dining room, even if you have not been using it that way.

Quite often, we have rooms in our homes that have to do double duty, or even triple duty. The room that functions as an office, guest, and exercise room, is sending a message to buyers that there are not enough rooms in your home. It is best to choose one function, and move the other items out.

I went on a staging consultation one time, and the homeowners had a bookcase in front of the fireplace. I asked them why, and they said they never used the fireplace and it was the only place the bookcase would fit. You can imagine how confounded buyers would be. A large TV placed in front of a window because that is the only spot where glare is not a problem, is fine for you and your family. But, when your home is for sale, there should be nothing in front of the windows. When buyers open your coat closet, it is best for them to see coats, not boxes of cereal or rolls of paper towel. The fax machine you keep on your kitchen counter will only raise questions as to why it is there.

Take the time to put your home in order, an order that will make sense to buyers. A little inconvenience is a small price to pay for getting your home sold quickly.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Selling a Lifestyle!

When you put your home on the market, you are selling more than the physical structure.  Think of it as selling a lifestyle.  This is why preparing your home is so important.  As buyers walk through your home, they are trying to imagine themselves living there.  A savvy seller will help them along the way!

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

One of the ways is to set the dining room table.  The china doesn’t come with the house, so why would you do it?  Because buyers want to believe that if they buy your home they will finally be able to have those fabulous dinner parties they’ve been dreaming about.  You are not trying to deceive buyers; you are just providing a visual to stimulate their imagination.

What do cluttered bathrooms bring to mind? A family rushing in the morning to get ready for work and school?  Countertops empty of everything but a shine, reflect a relaxed atmosphere, in addition to an overabundance of storage.  A strategically placed wine glass and book by the tub conjures up a vision of long bubble baths, something most buyers would find very appealing.

Don’t overlook the kitchen, which is one of the most important rooms to buyers.  Make sure all clutter is put away.  Place a cookbook on the counter, with it opened to a photo of a delectable dish.  Buyers imagine a lifestyle of gourmet meals, instead of hot dogs and macaroni and cheese.

It’s very important to keep toys picked up, fingerprints cleaned off walls, and any other sign that says if you buy this home, your kids will go wild.  A children’s book on the table next to the best reading chair will convey a positive image.

Soft music playing will give your home a soothing ambiance, in stark contrast to the blaring TV and kids screaming that the buyers may be experiencing now.  This will also cause buyers to slow down, which will allow them to experience your home in a more leisurely manner.  The longer they stay in your home, the better the chances they’ll write an offer.

If your home is more geared toward a single person or a couple without children, keep that in mind as you set the stage.  A small intimate seating area, complete with tray and coffee cups, might be an appealing addition.

Use your imagination, and think about what you would like to find in a home.  If you get stuck for ideas, visit a model home.  Hiring a professional stager is a great solution, too.  Stagers can look at your home objectively to make the necessary changes.

Just remember, selling a home can be made easier if you also offer buyers a new lifestyle.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Painting a Brass Fireplace!

I was hired to stage a vacant home. I knew I would have to bring some color in, because most of the house had white walls, and the carpet was very close to being white. But, sometimes you just have to do a little more. When I saw this brass fireplace, I decided to give it a facelift. I was a little nervous because I had never done this before, and it didn't seem smart to experiment on a fireplace belonging to someone else. But, I threw caution to the wind and jumped in!


I bought satin black grill paint, safe up to 1000 degrees, #0000 steel wool, and two cheapo throw-away paint brushes (sorry, I know it's not very green of me, but I was not about to clean them in the owner's sink, and they were made of wood).

I put newspaper down and started roughing up the brass with the steel wool. I taped the areas where metal touched tile, and started painting. It did require a second coat, which I applied at the end of the day, right before photos. When it was wet, you could see brush strokes and drips. When it dried, it was ALL smooth! What do you think?


This is what the room looked like the first time I saw it. It was adjacent to the kitchen which had been remodeled with cherry cabinetry, granite counters and stainless steel appliances. This kind of looked like the room the world forgot.


I didn't place a lot of furniture or accessories, but just enough to give everyone an idea how beautiful this room could really be. Now, if this house was mine, I would only allow showings later in the day. Look how beautiful it is with a little late day glow! 


This project took about 40 minutes initially, and then another 20 for the second coat. In one hour this whole room was given a new updated look. The owner was thrilled! And, my worst nightmare (dropping the open can of black paint on the carpet) never materialized! Thanks for letting me share this project with you!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Selling? What to do with Fido!!!

The majority of homeowners today have dogs, and as a professional home stager, I get asked all the time if this is a problem when selling a home. The answer is yes.

Most sellers crate their dogs for showings, but this may not be the ideal solution. If the dog is barking the entire time the buyers are in the house, it will not be a pleasant experience, and may be too distracting for the buyers to give your home the attention they should. In order to test whether your dog will bark, ask your agent to come over when you are not home. Quite often, your dog does not behave the same as when you are present. Leaving the dog loose in the home, even if it is as non-threatening as can be, will still turn off buyers who have a fear of dogs. Or, if you have a particularly cute and friendly dog, they could very well upstage your home, when it comes to the attention it is given by buyers.

Another option some sellers choose is to put the dog in a laundry room or garage. This is limiting the buyers access to areas they have a right to see, and will want to see. Many times the size of the garage is a determining factor on whether a home will work or not. It is crucial that buyers have free access to all areas of your home, including the backyard. If you have a pen or kennel outside where your dog will be safe and secure, and buyers will not be fearful, this is an acceptable solution. It is not recommended that you chain or tie your dog up, as this could create a negative response from buyers.

The most desirable solution is to remove the dog from the home during the time of showings. There are different ways of doing this. If you are home during the day, you could take the dog for a walk or put him/her in the car and leave for the duration of the showing. If you are away at work, you might look into daycare for your dog, either at a reputable professional daycare facility, or perhaps a friend or family member could watch Fido. Another option is to find someone in your neighborhood, who would be willing to take your dog during showings.

Even if you wind up paying for someone to care for your dog, it will be well worth it, to allow buyers to have a pleasant experience viewing your home.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Selling Tips for Little or No Money!

When selling, it would be great to update your home, and make it more desirable to buyers. But, in reality, most sellers have no budget or a very small one to work with, so a remodel is out of the question. The good news is that there is still hope.

There are many things homeowners can do to prepare their home for the market and improve the chances for a successful sale. Here are just a few:

Cleaning your home is probably the most important task you can take on for no money. Dirt, dust and bad odors are the biggest turnoffs for buyers. So, roll up your sleeves and make your home sparkle!

Move or remove! Two very important words, which will help make your home look more spacious. Move furniture away from walls. Placing furniture around the perimeters of a room make it appear smaller. The ability to see more walls will actually create more visual space. Remove all furniture which does not add function or beauty. It is not necessary for every space to be filled.

De-personalize and de-clutter! It’s very important for buyers to see your home, not your stuff.

Painting is a very low-cost way of brightening up your home, making it appear more clean and modern. Even if you only do an accent wall, it will create drama, and perhaps draw the eyes of buyers away from dated flooring. A freshly painted front door will really add to the curb appeal.

Get creative! Appliances can be painted, tubs and showers re-glazed, at a much lower cost than replacement. New lampshades can modernize old lamps for a fraction of the cost of a new lamp. Bring old wood back to life with a treatment of wood oil. Brass fireplace doors can easily be painted with heat-resistant paint. Bathroom mirrors can be updated by framing them with molding you have painted or stained. Heavy drapes can be replaced with inexpensive sheer panels. The options are endless. Home improvement magazines or TV shows are a great source for other low-cost ideas.

So, don’t get discouraged when you realize there is little or no money for fixing up your home. Your home may not be the best on the market, but with a little hard work and imagination, you can make your home the best it can be!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Themes and Collections--Neutralize Them!

One of the terms we stagers use often is “neutralize.” It means to stage the home in a way which will appeal to the greatest number of buyers. One of the easiest ways to do this is to eliminate themed rooms and collections.

Themed rooms are easy to recognize. A few of the more popular themes are sports, beach, Tuscany, southwest, and wildlife. Done in moderation, there is nothing wrong with these themes or styles. This is directed towards those who get a little carried away. Every piece of furniture, all the artwork, and all the accessories, have been chosen around the theme. The drawback to this excess is that buyers find it very difficult to imagine their own belongings in the room.

I have a friend whose family room has a “cowboy” theme. I think it is safe to assume that most buyers do not have spurs, pistols, and saddles in their homes, and would have a hard time getting past this theme and imagining their own furnishings there. This doesn’t mean you have to get a whole new room. The trick is to edit. For example, my friend could remove the aforementioned items, but a leather sofa and paintings with cowboys as the subject is perfectly acceptable.

I usually link themed rooms with collections, because quite often I will find collections spread throughout a themed room. But, sometimes they are off by themselves, or a collection becomes the theme. Almost all homeowners have some kind of collection. Whether it is a common one like books or framed photos, or something more unusual like Victorian birdcages or bobble-head dolls, these collections can be very distracting to buyers. The best bet is to pack these collections up, making them safe and sound, and more importantly, out of sight!

The bottom line is your home will sell faster, and you can create whatever theme, or collect whatever you want, in your new home that much sooner.