Thursday, November 12, 2015

Seven Simple Ways to Upgrade Your Kitchen

A few quality details can elevate the look of any kitchen
Buyers will swoon over a state-of-the-art kitchen. And they will often walk away from a house where the kitchen isn’t what they hoped for.  

You don’t want to be trying to sell a home with a deal-breaker kitchen. But you don’t want to (cha-ching!) spring for a total kitchen remodel either.
The good news is that there are ways to make a less-than-perfect kitchen look lots better without spending lots of money. The secret is to put your dollars where they’ll do the most good.

1. Bright Lighting

Good illumination is important for a clean, modern look and it signals that your kitchen is a serious, functioning space. Get the maximum wattage you can into both your task lighting and your over-all lighting, and make sure your Realtor knows where the switches are.

Budget tip: A statement ceiling fixture, even an inexpensive knockoff or DIY project that started at Habitat, is a plus if your kitchen can accommodate it.  

2. A Fabulous Faucet

Here’s another place where an investment returns itself. An impressive faucet can make an old kitchen look much newer. It doesn’t need all the bells and whistles, but it should be big. Expect to spend between $150 and $300.
Budget tip: Do your homework, be patient, and scoop up one on sale.

A gleaming faucet like this one
will set you back about $100.
3. Newish Cabinets

When it comes to fix-up costs, most of us already know that paint gives you the most bang for your buck. If your cabinets cry out for a quality boost, paint them.

Leave the doors hanging. Clean them with TSP and sand them smooth. Brush around the hinges and roll the rest with a whizz.

Skip the cabinet interiors but add new white shelf liners. With the right paint and prep, even laminates can be painted.

Budget tip: Primer is cheaper than semi gloss paint. So, make your first coat a stain-blocking, quality primer, then sand lightly again, and top coat with a good semi-gloss acrylic. The primer will save you money and give you better coverage in the end.
4. Handsome Hardware

If you’ve had the same knobs and pulls in your kitchen for 20 years, maybe it’s time for a makeover. Hardware is part of the kitchen’s jewelry. Bring home one sample and see what it looks like before committing to a full count. Browse online to see what’s trending and perfect for your kitchen’s style. If the present ones are top quality, remove them, clean them and replace.

Budget tip: If you have visible hinges that don’t make a style statement, a good carpenter can install hidden hinges to create a sleeker appearance. The visible holes for old hinge screws will have to be patched, so replacing hinges works only if you’re painting your cabinets.  
Older cabinets were often custom built on site of solid wood. 
Updating quality workmanship isn't necessary. Photo: Southeby's.
5. Statement Countertops

Yes, countertops are a major investment, but buyers can be fussy about them.

Check what your competition has and try to match the quality in your own kitchen. If the standard is granite and you have old laminate, you could be losing serious buyers.

If the idea of spending money on new counters bothers you, consider the impact it will have on your home’s desirability, and factor into your decision what it costs each month to maintain your home while it’s on the market.

Get prices for granite, quartz, solid surface, concrete and even wood. Some countertop suppliers will throw in a complimentary sink to sweeten the deal.

Budget tip: Put a high end surface on just an island or just the sink area and call it “custom styling.”        

6. Matching Appliances
Although you might get away with unmatched counters, major kitchen appliances that match will give a lackluster kitchen some credibility. Stainless steel isn’t a requirement any longer now that many people are disenchanted with the upkeep.

So, depending on your market, functioning appliances that look new and match could be “good enough.”  

Budget tip: Some appliances can be painted with epoxy paints (refrigerators) or have a reversible front panel (dishwashers).

7. Gourmet Touches

These are less important than the other upgrades I’ve listed. But they will definitely earn you extra credit. If you own a big, bright KitchenAid mixer or a fancy espresso machine, don’t hide them away unless your kitchen is so tiny they would add visual clutter. Other touches might be a stocked wine rack (fill the emptied wine bottles with water and cork them), a beautiful cutting board, or a retro blender. 

Budget tip: Visit a restaurant supply house and buy some pots or other cooking essentials that have that popular commercial look. Even second-hand items look good because those things are built to last!   
Make Selling Your Home a Priority

If your kitchen is functional but leans too much towards builder grade or old fashioned, it could be preventing you from getting offers. These upgrades will add that touch of luxury buyers expect.

Sure, a fancy range hood, a trash compacter, custom tiled backsplash, wine chiller, roll out shelving and other wish-list perks would be nice, but unless they are already in place, adding them probably means you’re over-fixing. Just budget your costs so you meet or beat what homes in your price range are offering.
Of course, maintaining your home’s major systems –electrical, plumbing, roofing, flooring – is more important than cosmetic additions to the kitchen. I am going to assume that your home is already safe and sound. Having a home inspection done before listing your home is a wise move.

Although you may have to spend some cash to check off all items on this list, money spent on a minor remodel in a kitchen typically returns 80 to 100% -- a better return than money spent in other areas of the home. So, go ahead, gussy up that kitchen!
You can get more DIY tips for selling your home in my $5 eBooks.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Outdoor Decor in Five Easy Steps

A staged home depends on some seasonal touches to make it look loved and tended.

But when your home is for sale and the winter holidays approach, I know you have your hands full.

That’s why I wanted to share with you how easy it can be put together an outdoor arrangement that spans the seasons, one that greets Realtors and their clients with something festive. 

The secret’s in the formula.

It’s one you can apply to any floral arrangement when you want it to make a real statement at the front door or from the curb. 

Step One: Start Big

Start with a large container. And the perfect one is the jumbo pot that housed a display of your summer flowers. Retire those annuals and remove any bulbs you want to save for next spring.

Leave the potting soil in the container, and leave any perennials that will winter over. A pot with personality is ideal, like a wine half barrel, a brass spittoon, a faux-finished plastic pot, or a lined wicker basket. Put it where it will give you the most curb appeal all winter. 

Paint your container if it needs refreshing or if you want to change it with the seasons. The same container can be black or brown in the fall for example, then gold or red in December, and maybe white for a fresh start in January. 

Step Two: Build a Base

Lay on a couple of wreaths. This jump-start creates a base and adds importance to the arrangement. The wreaths could be real or artificial. Just lay them on the lip of the container or on the soil.

If you plan to locate the container on the porch or other protected area, you’ll have more leeway with what your wreaths are made from. Burlap, felt, fabric, or straw wreaths need shelter from the elements, but wreaths made from real or artificial greenery, tinsel, grapevines, twigs, plastic, or metal can handle any weather. 

I started the Christmas decoration with a tinsel wreath and a plastic Della Robbia wreath. 
I let the vinca vine that was still growing in the pot peek out from the center,
and I wired some pine cones onto the bottom wreath.
Step Three: Add Height

You need something tall to make your statement piece. It needn’t be weighty or fancy or expensive or rare. Branches are perfect. Professional decorators, florists and homestagers keep an arsenal of sticks, branches and poles to use this way.

If you have access to woodlands, take a hike and bring your pruners. You’re bound to find pretty limbs that are suitable au natural or spray painted. Craft stores and craft departments sell bamboo, willow, tall grasses, and twiggy stuff, all reasonably priced.

Insert your branches or sticks into the potting soil to anchor them firmly. If the branches are fresh and real, cut the stems at a sharp angle and poke them in so they can absorb moisture from the soil and stay fresh longer.

Your large items could also be a trellis, tuteur, obelisk or other garden construction. Even garden poles or a tomato cage inverted to make a pyramid can provide that structure your container garden needs. 
Here's a bird's eye view of the bamboo garden stakes inserted into the soil to make a teepee.
Step Four: Fill In

While taking that walk in the woods or when pruning your own landscape shrubs, look for greenery that can fill in the center of the display. If real greenery isn’t available, use the faux stuff. Yes, real and fake can co-mingle!

You can begin the season with a potted mum, switch to ornamental kale around Thanksgiving time, and add silk poinsettias for Christmas. If you live in a mild climate, you have more options for incorporating plants like succulents, ferns, pansies, and potted bulbs like amaryllis and paperwhites.  

The two kinds of greenery I wound around the
garden stakes were both artificial. Why not?  
Step Five: Find Details

Finish your work of art with some smaller items that define the season. Look through your props for those that will withstand some months outside. These will be the details that put your display over the top. You can change these as the season progresses.

Pumpkins, gourds and other autumnal objects give your container the right spin that will take you through Thanksgiving. After that you can replace them with red bows, glittery ornaments and whatever else you discover when you dig into your holiday decorations. Come January, just remove the obvious holiday trinkets and go for a fresh, wintery look built around pinecones, and greenery, or whatever might be blooming in the more southern states. Add an ornamental birdhouse or some ceramic animals for some whimsy.

Another detail that adds drama is lighting. You can tuck a spotlight into the arrangement, or place one where it will illuminate the area at dusk. A string of lights is another possibility, wrapped around the sticks, wound around the container, or nestled in the foliage.

Mixing in details like these snowflakes and this ceramic bird will give 
your holiday decorations a custom look instead of something off-the-shelf.
Additional Tips

Many sticks are free!  After I gave these crepe myrtle branches 
a coat of red paint they remind me of underwater coral formations.  
When working on your container, place it on a bench or low table. You’ll do less bending and have a better view of what you’re creating.

If you’re selling your home and you’ve already decluttered as part of your homestaging, I don’t want to encourage you to stockpile decorating items.

But if you are a professional stager, a builder or real estate investor, I encourage you to schedule your décor purchases to save money. Buy decorating supplies on sale after the holidays. And look for marked down décor props during the year at places like Michaels, Target, Walmart, TJMaxx, Hobby Lobby, and home improvement centers.      

You can always spray paint ordinary decorations like wreaths, branches, leaves, pumpkins, lanterns, ornaments, bows, and even silk plants to match the season. Why not utilize silver gourds, red birdhouses and glitter-encrusted branches at Christmas, the same items that were part of your autumn arrangement?

Bows make a big difference. If you plan it right, just changing the bow to match the season and replacing a real plant with a faux plant will fast-track you to the new season.

Remember that selling your home means selling your location. Remind prospective buyers of what’s appealing about your locale. Include seashells and driftwood in your arrangement if you live by the sea, tropical flowers if you live in the South, or skis and sleds if you live where it snows.
If your effort doesn't look attention-getting enough, elevate it.
Place your container on something stable like this plant stand,
or a stool or pedestal. You'll be surprised at the impact added height makes.  

Here is the same container as my Christmas display,
now holding an autumn arrangement.  

The fall display began with a painted grapevine wreath
and a foam wreath loosely wrapped with burlap.

The sticks providing height are willow branches from Walmart. 
The cost of about $6.50 was worth it because they're versatile props.

The pumpkin centerpiece could have just as easily been a potted mum,
cluster of gourds, or a scarecrow. I don't like scary things for homestaging.

About as scary as my homestaging gets is a scared cat. The silk flowers,
another pumpkin and a gourd are all that's needed for this easy display.

Selling a home is stressful, but you can simplify some of your homestaging tasks by following advice like this and other tips in my homestaging $5 ebooks  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Seven Ways to Turn Off Buyers

You don't have to break the bank to make buyers love your home.
Home buyers are a picky lot.

Most of them have long wish lists, strong opinions, high expectations, and tight budgets.

Let’s just say that it’s easy for them to name deal breakers and find ways to whittle away your asking price.

Your job is to remove the hurdles to a purchase offer and a good selling price.

If you’re unsure what hurdles your home might present, scan this list of the seven big ones – the obstacles that most buyers can’t ignore, along with my suggestions for the best fixes.

1.Outdated Kitchen

Your kitchen doesn’t necessarily need all top-of-the-line stainless appliances, tile flooring, brand new cabinets, and granite counters. But it can’t have a microwave from the last century mounted over your stove, butcher block laminated counters, a carpeted floor, and no dishwasher, if you want your home to sell quickly for a price you like.

Real estate experts agree that remodeling your own home just so you can sell it doesn’t make economic sense. Making it bright and contemporary does make sense.

Here are some fixes to consider if your kitchen needs a facelift. Paint dark cabinets white. Replace obsolete appliances with new ones without changing the plumbing or floor plan. Add inexpensive but stylish cabinet hardware. Make sure the kitchen looks as roomy and functional as possible.

Remember, too, that “clean sells,” especially in kitchens.

2. Outdated Bathrooms

Cleanliness is even more important in bathrooms. Do your baths have crusty old faucets, dated light fixtures, wall mirrors with bad edges, wallpapered walls, and a pink Formica counter over a particle board vanity?

You might be thinking, "The buyers can replace all this with what they like." Yes, they can, but they will ask for a discount or give you a very low offer. Any price discount they ask for will be based on their own high estimate, higher than what you could get by shopping around for the best deal. 

Bath and kitchen remodels are not cheap, so any way you can update on a shoestring without sacrificing quality, you’re on track. The smaller the space (I'm looking at you, powder rooms), the more realistic it is to update it economically.

New faucets, shower curtains, towels, light fixtures, mirrors -- they all have big impact for the money spent. Depending on your home's price and the local market, it may pay to install a new vanity, sink, and countertop, or new flooring. Keep the plumbing where it is, and pay attention to current trends.

Any bath can look more modern when you choose classic accessories. Restoration Hardware.
3. Dark rooms

Rooms appear dark because there's not enough natural or artificial lighting, or perhaps because there are too many dark surfaces in the room. 

So, you'll be smart to replace any lighting fixtures that don't illuminate enough. Then, install the highest wattage bulbs recommended. Add additional lights and lamps or add sun tunnels to dark rooms. 

Welcome sunlight by staging with window treatments that don't obstruct light. Wash windows inside and out. Trim trees outside that create shade around windows. Choose wall paint colors that reflect light. Finally, remove, repaint or re-cover dark furnishings. 

4. Offensive Smells

When your potential buyer gets a whiff of anything unpleasant, it could signal a “thumbs down” to your property. Scents hold power. They create strong emotional responses, for good or not-so-good.

Here's some suggestions that might help. Discover the source of bad aromas and solve that problem. Make sure the filters on your HVAC system are clean. Deal with the cat box regularly. Fix leaks under sinks that make cabinets smell moldy. Limit smoking to outside. Take garbage and soiled diapers outside daily. Use natural fragrances to telegraph that your home is fresh and desirable.

It's easy to make your own diffusers using essential oils to scent your home. 
5. Dirt.

Nothing is more offensive to more buyers than a grimy house. In fact, many small defects can be overlooked when a home is spotless. Cleaning is also the most economical step you can take to prepping your home for sale.

A home on the market can't be too clean because you will be competing with properties that sparkle. A once-over isn’t good enough. A deep cleaning and detailing are what’s called for. After that's done, it’s a matter of maintenance. You might even learn to love living in your staged home. 

6. Walls That Need Work

Interior walls take up lots of visual space. They’re the first thing to meet buyers’ eyes when they enter a room.

Most people want a home to be move-in ready, and when they see things like wallpaper, unusual or bright paint colors, wall stencils, stripes, murals, or faux finishes, what they see is work for them.
I give you tips on doing a good paint job here, here. and here.

If any of these wall treatments sound like your home, there are DIY remedies. Removing wallpaper can be an uncomplicated project. You should then patch and paint your walls a color anyone can like.

If painting is beyond your skillset, and you decide to hire a painter, ask what you can do to prepare the rooms to make the job easier (saving you money). Sometimes, just emptying a room, or clustering the furniture and offering to replace outlet covers after paint is dry can save you some cash. 
7. Poor Floor Plan

Real estate appraisers use the term “functional obsolescence” to describe certain undesirable situations.

Examples are a bedroom that can be accessed only by walking through another bedroom, a bathroom that's the first thing people see when they walk in the front door, a bedroom that’s too small to accommodate anything but a bed, or a door that swings into (rather than out of) a small room like a bathroom or closet.  

What you can do: If the floor plan is bad, you can often minimize or fix it with corrective furniture arrangement. If you can't easily fix the problem, you may choose to get a price quote from an experienced builder to determine what it would take to make it right, since deficiencies like these will reduce the appraised price of your home.

You can stage rooms to distract from what can be considered problem areas like dormer rooms and windowless or closet-less rooms. You should return rooms to their original use. In other words, stage your bedrooms as bedrooms, not an exercise rooms or a home office. Stage your dining room as an eating and entertaining area, not homework central. You can read more about how to fix awkward floor plans in my $5 furniture arrangement eBook.

If your home has been on the market and you’re not getting offers (of course it’s staged, right?), or if you are just now prepping your home for the real estate market, I hope you’ll be able to use this list of the seven things that bothers buyers the most, and use it to better understand your home’s cash value.

Make it easy for buyers to love your home. You’ll get a better price for it, and in less time. 

Top Photo: Better Homes and Gardens 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

12 Ways to Stretch Your Floral Dollar

Becky is one of my best friends. She lives in San Francisco.

For as long as I have known her, she spends an hour every Saturday at the wholesale flower mart. 

It's her special treat to herself.

She has a very modest budget yet returns with bunches of colorful and fragrant flowers that she uses to create arrangements for her own apartment. Every room gets flowers!

There’s nothing quite like what fresh flowers can do for a room. Most home stagers depend on faux plants and flowers for the sake of convenience and economy. But it’s summer now. 
In summertime, many homeowners have flower beds or gardening friends with abundant blooms, so adding real flowers to your interiors might be easy and economical. 
In addition, at this time of year supermarkets and florists are more likely to have locally grown flowers that are priced lower than ones flown in from places like Holland, South America or Hawaii.

So let’s take advantage of summer’s offerings, and delight the people touring your home with a vase or two of natural floral arrangements.

You can spend less than $5 for a bouquet at your grocer’s and make it last two weeks or more if you know how. Just follow these dozen tips I’ve learned from Becky, from trained florists I know, and from what I’ve experienced and studied.

Even a simple arrangement of fresh flowers breaths life into a room, any room. Photo: Decorare
Handle with care. Keep your store-bought flowers cool and treat them gently. 
Carry them upside down to protect their stems. Photo: Gardenista.

Life Extension for Cut Flowers

1. Buy flowers when they have just arrived at the retailer (or wholesaler if you are lucky to live in a place like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, or Seattle). Examine the flowers, stems and leaves carefully and don’t buy anything that looks even a little limp, faded or browned.

2. Buy flowers that were grown locally instead of flowers that have been transported from other states and countries. They will cost less, last longer, and be environmentally friendlier.
3. Buy from a florist or floral department with a high turnover to get fresher flowers. If you usually purchase from the same source, ask when deliveries come in.

At week's end I stripped the leaves from the
alstromeria  pictured above (combined with calla lily
leaves and achillea from my garden). After I shortened the stems 
I had a new arrangement that lasted another week.
4. When you bring the flowers home, diagonally cut an inch off the stems and place in cool water.

5. When you arrange your flowers, first wash your vase well with hot soapy water to be sure it is very clean. Rinse it well to remove any residual soap.

6. Then use clean water in the vase, and change the water every day. Research and most pros tell you that a change of water does more to prolong floral life than packaged preservatives or homemade remedies using things like aspirin, soda, vinegar, bleach or pennies.

7. Make sure no leaves are below the surface of the water.

8. Cut a little bit off the stem end when you change the water daily.

9. Choose flowers that last a long time, like carnations, alstromerias, fressias, gladiolas, gerberas, Oriental and Asiatic lilies, daisies, lisianthus, roses (purchased as buds), birds-of-paradise, and mums.

10. Place the vase where it will be away from heat vents, direct sunlight, or other hot spots.

11. Revamp the arrangement at week’s end, downsizing to a smaller arrangement.
Nowhere is it written that you cannot mix real flowers with faux flowers! 
I gave these three stems of pink roses that
cost $4 a boost from some dollar store fakes.
12. Enlarge or extend the lifespan of your purchased bouquet with flowers or greenery from your own gardens and landscape. You can even mix silk flowers with fresh flowers (a technique I learned from seeing giant floral displays in a hotel lobby.)

Try these methods and I think you’ll discover how much mileage you can get from a well-chosen bouquet. You’ll be able to add a fresh vibe to your staged rooms without breaking the bank. Thanks, Becky!

If you order any of my info-packed $5 eBooks you'll learn other fashionable and thrifty ways to stage a home. They're indispensable whether you are staging your own home, or if you are studying to become a professional home stager.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Help Your Home Sell Itself When You Take a Vacation

Your home can look inviting even when you're not there.
But you might be attracting trouble, as well as buyers.  
When your home is for sale and you want to take a vacation, you’re faced with two kinds of challenges.

The house needs to be secure but not look like a fortress.

And it needs to stay tidy even though no one is home maintaining it.    

A gal I know – we’ll call her Janelle -- staged her own home and it looked beautiful. Then she took a week off to cruise the Caribbean.

When she returned she was surprised to find that while she was gone neighborhood kids had been sneaking into her home at night to party. A watchful neighbor noticed the activity and called local police, who insisted that she press charges for breaking and entering.  

It’s the kind of thing that can happen to anyone who is away from home for more than a couple days.

You deserve a getaway, so here are the simple things you can do to protect your home, not worry about it, and help it maintain that fluffed up look.

Before You Leave 

Keeping your home safe from troublemakers should be a primary concern. Some of these tips are obvious, but are still worth repeating.

Look occupied. Stop the mail. Choose between having a neighbor save it for you, or notifying the postal service to hold it. 

Go bright. Put timers on lights. I’m a big fan of timers. I use two kinds. For random lights like lamps in the entryway or bathrooms, I like the ones that go on and off at irregular intervals. For predictable lights, like lamps in a family room or bedroom, I use the ones that you program to come on at believable times, from dusk until 10 or 11p.m. 

If you use a weekly timer, you can vary the times from day to day for a more convincing illusion. An analog radio set to come on for an hour in the middle of the night can deter a troublemaker, too. Of course, if you have a security system that is programmed to tinker with your lights, all the better.
Some valuables are safer hiding in plain sight. Devices
like this container are called "diversion safes."
You can buy or make them. Photo: Diversion Safes.  

Hide valuables. Thieves, should they find a way to get inside, know where people customarily store things of worth.

The first place they look for small valuables is the master closet. So, think outside the box, and consider places like your cleaning closet or laundry room, using containers that look ordinary and generic.

Hide prescription medicines, jewelry, cash, debit and credit cards, flash drives, and personal information like bank records, school notices, billing statements, and tax returns.

For thirteen different DIY ideas on where to hide articles in your home, visit diyncrafts blog.
Stay low. Don’t announce or post about your trip on social media until you are back home. Remember that the more people know about your absence, the greater the likelihood of a break-in.

Maintain appearances. Make sure the exterior of your home doesn’t look neglected. Hire a lawn service (or neighborhood youngster) to mow the lawn, sweep the steps or driveway, service the pool, or do whatever else will give the appearance that your place is occupied. Someone should pick up deliveries at your door or circulars stuck in mailbox. Encourage neighbors to use your driveway or parking space while you’re gone.

A Home Alone Needs Attention

An untended home can become a problem on its own. A water heater malfunctions.  A tree branch falls on the roof. A screen door blows open. A pipe bursts.

Many communities offer police drive-bys for people away from home. Check with your local law enforcement agency, homeowners association, or neighborhood watch group to see what is available. If anything is amiss they should have a contact number for you.

Stay safe. Unplug unnecessary electric appliances, except the ones you put on timers. This could protect your home from an electrical fire or power surge. Pull the plug in the big stuff, like TVs, but also for your toaster, your coffee maker, and other small appliances. Unplug any electric fragrance diffusers, too (another argument for homemade natural fragrances using essential oils).
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, opening
window treatments will give your home more
light and a more convincing occupied appearance. 

Grant access. Give your house or condo key to a neighbor or friend. Hopefully, this is the person who will water any houseplants and check to be sure things are as they should be.

Comfort counts. Remember that people can be touring your home with an eye to buying it. Set your temperature where it will be comfortable but not waste energy.

Open curtains. Leave your window treatments open. People on vacation will often pull all draperies closed, but from the outside this isn’t the look of an occupied home. And from the inside, your home looks darker to prospective buyers.  Yes, people can look in, but you’ll have already hidden or removed things of value. 

Tell some people. Make sure your real estate agent knows you’ll be away from home. Depending on the nature of your relationship and the length of time you’re away, your agent may be the person you ask to do periodic checks of the home to be sure it’s up to snuff. People touring your home should not be told that you are absent.

Find a caretaker. Consider having a housesitter live in your home while you vacation. This plan is especially helpful if you have pets that don’t like kennel boarding or staying with friends. A housesitter can maintain the perfect staged but lived-in appearance if you choose the right one  Here are tips on finding a housesitter

Schedule check-ups. People on home tours sometimes sit on beds, leave closet doors open, turn on lights, and even use toilets. It should be the job of your listing agent, housesitter, or friend to periodically walk through and make sure nothing has been messed up or is malfunctioning.   

Stay connected. Although it’s nice to go totally offline when vacationing, you’ll need to be reachable when your home is listed. Questions could arise that only you can answer or problems pop up that only you can solve. When you are staged to sell, that sweet purchase offer might be emailed to you while you are relaxing on the beach!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Q & A about Furniture, RE Agents, and Who Stages

Painting old furniture is one way to bring a home up to date.
Q: My husband wants to list our house with an old college buddy of his who is a real estate agent. I think there are other real estate agents who are more experienced.  Also, I don’t like to mix friendship with business. Any advice?

A: I’m in agreement with you. Unless there are other reasons you would choose this agent above all others, I’d use all the persuasion you can to convince your husband to choose a real estate agent based on some of the conditions and qualities I’ve blogged about in the linked post.

If your husband is convinced his friend is The One, I’d still interview the guy – in an informal way – to give him the message that business is business, to express your expectations, and to ask questions about how he plans to market your home.

Q: We are moving out of our home before it sells and I will be staging it with furniture we can live without temporarily in our new home. We have a baby grand piano that I could have moved now or later. Do you think a piano is a good piece of furniture for staging, or is it too specialized and personal?

A: A piano sounds like a terrific item for staging, especially if it is as attractive as a baby grand. Since you’re moving some of your furniture, I assume there’s space for it. If a piano were old and beat up, or if it crowded the rest of the room, I would have second thoughts about staging with it. Good luck with your move!
A big room especially calls for big furniture. Like a piano! Photo by Jolin Collins.

Q: Most of my furniture is old. Not antique old, just inherited pieces that are middle-of-the-road quality. Some match and some don’t. Do you have ideas for making my home look more (how else can I say this?) expensive?

A: It’s a common situation. Here’s what I suggest.

Separate any matching sets of furniture. If you have pairs of matching nightstands or end tables or chairs, use the pairs in the same room, but break up anything like a 5-piece bedroom set.

Can some of your older pieces be painted to give them a more casual look? People used to live more formally, but today, people’s homes reflect a more fun approach to decorating, so painted pieces don’t carry the stigma they once did.

Third, I would find some noticeably contemporary accessories, like a sleek new lighting fixture, a Lucite tray, pillows showing off a trendy design, an abstract painting, or a fashionably padded headboard. These touches add a fresh, new feeling to the décor.

Finally, I would make sure that any nonessentials that look old-fashioned be kept out of sight. If your home is historic or a traditional Craftsman style or mid century modern ranch, and can support some retro touches, that’s one thing. But otherwise, old window treatments, obsolete electronics and dated small appliances make a home look stuck in time, or the property of people who don’t have money to spend on their home. People want to buy a pampered house.

What not to do: create a bedroom that looks like a furniture store ad. Boring!
Q: Where I live, people don’t stage their homes when it’s time to sell. It seems to be a practice more for cities and suburbs, not rural areas like where we are. Now that we’re getting ready to sell, I wanted to ask your opinion on staging my house. Won’t I look silly?

A: Let’s clarify one thing. A well-staged home does not look like it’s been fussed with. It looks like the home of people who are clean, organized, and financially comfortable.

I say, go ahead and stage your home to make it more attractive than the other homes that are for sale in your area. Make any repairs, clean and declutter everything, create a feeling of spaciousness, and you’re golden.

My opinion is that every home is staged, whether it’s intentional or not, on the market or not.

You'll find more answers to staging questions in my three $5 eBooks on DIY Home Staging, No-Sew Window Treatments, and Furniture Arranging.

Friday, January 9, 2015

So You Want to Become Professional Home Stager

Can your true calling be staging other people's home? 
Would you like to earn a living as a professional stager?

Maybe you already stage homes for friends  and now you want to expand, to legitimize your business.   

Being in business for yourself can be a dream or a nightmare.

It depends on two things: your personality and your preparation.

Fortunately, both these things can be bolstered by some old fashioned determination and a willingness to learn.

Let’s talk personality. Just like any other small business owner, a successful professional home stager needs certain abilities beyond just a love for home décor.

If you ask yourself the questions below you'll get a handle on your self-employment profile. The more yes answers you can give, the more likely you're a candidate for becoming your own boss, do what you love, and make money! 

MOTIVATION. Am I a self-starter? Do I have a history of taking the initiative to achieve what I have wanted? Is home staging something I have been interested in for more than a few months? 

FOCUS. Do I stay on task? Can I begin and complete projects without losing interest or focus? Do I have a history of completing both large and small projects?

SOCIAL SKILLS. Am I a people person? Do I have a large circle of friends and acquaintances? Do I enjoy connecting with new people and maintaining ongoing relationships? Am I presently active on social media? Am I willing to expand my social media efforts? Do I have the support of my family?
The smaller your company is the more of the hands-on work you'll be doing yourself. 

STYLE SKILLS. Do I have a good eye for home décor, color and style? Do I have a passion for interior decorating, real estate and home improvement? Have friends and family always praised the way my own home appears and functions? 

WILLINGNESS. Do I enjoy studying? Am I prepared to enlarge my skillset and stay current with trends in home decor, business, and the home staging field?

MINDSET. Am I organized? Can I maintain accurate records, and keep office supplies and home staging inventory neat and logically arranged? Can I handle stress and juggle numerous projects simultaneously?

Home staging: It's all fun and games...if you know how to play the game.

HABITS. Do I manage my time well? Do I usually deliver what I promise on time? Am I punctual? Do I keep to daily, weekly and monthly schedules? Do I enjoy the process of keeping track of details?

YOUR STORY? We’ve all seen various kinds businesses fail despite the founders being passionate and talented. You probably even know someone who’s spent time and money creating her dream business from her hobby, only to see her abandon it before recouping her investment. I hope that person wasn’t you.  

I am a big fan of self-employment and have been a business owner much of my working life. But I also know that it takes more than love of the work, putting in long hours, and money to make a success of any business. If you are considering entering the field of professional home staging, consider how your personality fits being an entrepreneur before buying any expensive training programs.

With eyes wide open, you'll have a better chance to create and maintain a profitable home staging business.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

One Woman's Story: A Warning to All DIYers

The end-of-the-year holidays are bittersweet for Heather Von St. James.

Nine years ago, on November 21, she sat in her doctor’s office and listened, in shock, as he delivered the message that would change her life. She had malignant pleural mesothelioma, a lung disease similar to cancer with a typical life expectancy of 15 months.  

She was 36, married, and with a new daughter just a few months old. She had everything to live for.

Today she is a spokesperson working to eliminate this devastating but preventable disease. She contacted me because she knows that DIY home improvement projects can expose people to the dangers of breathing asbestos fibers – the cause of mesothelioma.

Heather lives today because she underwent surgery to remove one lung, plus radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Many who are diagnosed are not so fortunate, and live shortened, compromised lives.
“I was exposed to asbestos as a child. I would wear my father’s work coat to do chores around the yard. Little did I know the coat was chock full of asbestos fibers and I was inhaling them daily.”

Heather’s dad worked in construction. Many homes built before 1970 contain asbestos products. It can take 20 years for you to show symptoms of mesothelioma to appear after a period of prolonged exposure, such as working assorted projects in an old house for years. Don’t put yourself or your family at even minimal risk, however. 

When asbestos fibers enter the lungs they stay there and cause inflammation, scarring, and fluid retention. In time, this can lead to lung cancer, tumors and cancers in other organs.
You can't tell whether a building material contains asbestos simply by looking at it.

If you are planning any remodeling projects that require disturbing the structure (walls, flooring, cabinets, ceilings, insulation, roofing, siding, ductwork) be aware that asbestos may be present.

If the home was damaged by storms, water, fire, or simple aging, materials containing asbestos may now be compromised to make the fibers breathable – not what you want!

The best way to deal with any existing building material that contains asbestos is to leave it undisturbed. Once the fibers become friable -- the way they would if you begin removing things like old popcorn ceiling, asbestos floor tiles, exterior asbestos siding, or old heating ductwork – you are in danger of inhaling or ingesting the invisible asbestos fibers.

If you are buying a home built before or refurbished prior to 2000, especially if you plan to do home repairs or remodeling, get information about possible asbestos products in the home from a home inspector or  from your real estate agent, and the from the present home owner.

When asbestos is a possibility, you should hire a professional asbestos inspector or an industrial hygiene firm to determine where, how much, and how stable the material is. He will advise you on remedial actions to take.

Here is a very short list of just some of the common places a DIY home improver will come across asbestos.

  • Vinyl wallpaper
  • Spackling and glues
  • Cements and plaster
  • Floor tiles, wall tiles, acoustic ceiling tiles
  • Heating ducts, furnaces
  • Roofing felt, shingles, stucco, siding

You can see the complete list of asbestos-containing material used in home construction at this site.

The Environmental Protection Agency does a concise and helpful job of spreading the word about the problems of asbestos. It’s a must read if you are a homeowner.    

If the asbestos can’t be contained or otherwise encapsulated, you will have to have certified asbestos removal professional remove the asbestos product, or find a way to leave it in place and safely cover it. For example, you can lay a floating laminate floor or carpeting over asbestos floor tile. You can put vinyl or wood siding over asbestos exterior shingles.

What we once thought was a wonderful product because of its insulating and fireproofing qualities has become a toxic substance. Don’t stay in the dark. Please educate yourself about this issue, because there is a right and a very wrong way to deal with asbestos!  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Round-Up: This Blog's Best Home Staging Posts of 2014

Choosing a front door color - that's just one topic!  

My blog’s focus has always been to provide the kind of information that helps a home seller get a better price for her home with fewer days on the market.

Looking back at 2014, I’ve selected the seven posts that I think are the most helpful to that end. 

Kick Off the Year! 

In January I wrote about what most Americans list as their number one New Year’s resolution – getting organized.

Based on my own experience and the advice of experts, here is an ultra-simple, two-step process to getting and staying organized.

Save Your Money. 

Sticking to a home staging budget is one challenge that faces everyone who’s trying to dress up her home for the increasingly demanding real estate market.

Here’s a list of best ways I know to get the most for your money when you’re prepping your home for sale.
Power to the Props. 

Details make the difference. Once a home is cleaned and decluttered, you’ll need some decor accessories that deliver the message, “Buy me. You’ll love me.” Here are the special home staging props that earn their keep day after day.
In March I listed my six favorite props for staging your home.  
Living in Your Staged Home. 

Keeping a prettied, shined, and tidied home show-ready can become a non-stop job if you live there like normal people. Buyers don't expect an immaculate setting, but spaces can't look distractingly messy either.  

With some clever planning and rethinking, maintaining that model home look is a whole lot less daunting.

Best Front Door Colors. 

I know one decorator who tells her clients, “Painting your front door changes everything!” I agree. But selecting the right front door color isn’t always a breeze.

Here’s tips that make the decision easier and guarantee you and buyers will love the improved curb appeal.
Get in Gear. 

If you have trouble staying motivated, welcome to the club. I outline the seven powerful strategies that let you accomplish goals, stay on track, and save your sanity no matter what your schedule looks like.
DIY Wall Decor.  

Art on the walls solves a list of home staging problems. Art injects personality, fills up bare spaces, sets your home’s style, adds color, balances the weight in a room, and adds another layer to your decorating.  I show you how to create one of the easiest DIY art pieces, the abstract painting
October's art project: It looks messy, but the results are stunning.

I want to thank you, my reader, for checking this blog, and for following me on Pinterest, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. I'm sending you my best wishes for a New Year that makes all your dreams come true.

If selling your home is one of your resolutions for 2015, you'll want to download my home staging eBooks to help that dream come  true. 

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