Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Ebook Ordering Glitch Fixed

Have you ordered an eBook on this site and been sent down a rabbit hole? I just discovered that some readers were not able to buy any of my books! Apologies big time. And the glitch is now fixed thanks to my wonderful wonderful web designer Carrie at Carrie Loves Design.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

3 Ways to Freshen Your Spring Landscape

Spring is a terrific time to have your home on the market.

It's generally considered prime house-selling season.

But if you plan to list your home this spring, know that you won't be the only one.

There could be some stiff competition in your market for buyers' money. 

Be the house that buyers notice and want to tour! Finessing your curb appeal should be step one.

There's no shortage of advice about how to spruce up your home's exterior, but I think it all comes down to three tasks. Tackle these simple chores and you've nailed it!

Contain Overgrown Shrubbery

Businesses, home sellers, real estate agents, investors, and home buyers all "get" on some level the importance of curb appeal It's the reason the U.S. landscaping services industry has increased by 5.8% within the past five years. 

It's just human nature that the first thing people notice is eyesores. When potential buyers see shrubbery and trees neglected, they form an impression of the property as a whole. They're thinking, "If the exterior hasn't been maintained, there's a good chance the interior hasn't either."

That's why it's important to clean up the yard -- before you list, before you have photos taken, before you hold an open house, and even before you tell neighbors you'll be selling. I've blogged about the best ways to prune shrubbery. It's easy when you know how and have the right equipment.

Mulching around your trimmed shrubbery will give your landscape that finished look.

Add the Features People Want 

Good landscaping strikes a balance between
a lush appearance and controlled vegetation.
Don't overdo pruning to remove the
natural growth patterns of your plants. Source: unknown
Most Americans prefer to move over the summer months, so take full advantage of your home's outdoor space. Seeing how the outdoor area can be used in the nice weather will boost buyers' interest.

What outdoor living spaces does your home now have? Are they desirable? Do they look cared for? Maybe it's time the porch swing got a coat of fresh paint and some new cushions.

If you have a back deck or front porch, and it is not already staged to sell, what are you waiting for? These are the places where people envision the good times they will enjoy in their new home.

Stage them for entertaining or relaxing. In either case, comfortable-looking seating is important. If you balk at the expense of new outdoor furniture, remember that you will be able to move it to your new home. Other features like a fire pit or shaded patio can also help buyers see the positive possibilities of your home.

Make Your Curb Appeal Colorful

Once your landscape is clean and trimmed, and you have staged the outdoor usable areas people love, it's time to add color. How much color you add and what colors you choose will depend on the style of your home, the weather where you live, your budget, and even how the neighbors have landscaped their homes.

If the property you are selling is a condo with no landscaping to speak of, your front door is your curb appeal. Add color with a wreath. 
You can DIY a thrifty rag wreathor buy a beauty like this from The Wreath Depot.

Here is a list of the possible places to punch up your curb appeal with color:

Lawn furniture painted stand-out colors
Colorful fence
Outdoor rug on your deck or porch
Window boxes with an assortment of flowering annuals
Vivid umbrella over the outdoor table
Large planter barrel with flowers in contrasting colors
Shrubs that are a totally different color than your house siding
Porch floor or patio that's a surprising color
Bright pillows on outdoor seating
Welcome mat in cheerful colors
Wreath on front door with faux flowers, ribbons, or other embellishments
Glazed, ceramic planters
Birdhouse or birdbath
Utility shed painted a striking color
Colorful shutters and front door

Of course you'll choose just a few of these options. If you're on a tight budget, focus on the front of your home. That's where first impressions are formed. Even simple pops of color there can do wonders.

Plants make people feel good! Studies show that in a work environment, plants reduce negative feelings by up to 60%. No matter what your climate is like, or what the architecture of your home is, there are always plants that are suitable. So, make sure that what people see at the front of your home includes greenery. 

A front entrance doesn't need multiple pops of color.
These handsome steps are flanked by two matching
cement pots filled with purple petunias. Source: unknown

Improving your landscaping doesn't have to take a lot of effort. Commit to these three simple tips and you'll increase the curb appeal of your home to draw in that serious buyer!

There are countless other ways to impress buyers and stage your home for a faster sale. For more tips on how to get your home ready for sale, no matter the season, download my $4.99 home staging ebooks.

Top Photo: Julia Palosini

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Cafe Curtains: Good News, Bad News

I've had a long-standing love affair with cafe curtains. I know what makes them lovable and useful, and I know their failings.

My thrifty mother made the cafe curtains in the bedroom I shared with my sister when we were teens.

She sewed them in crisp white cotton that was printed with small pink rosebuds, and she finished the top edge with a pale green trim that had loops. The loops threaded onto brass curtain rods anchored midway up the window trim.

Mom liked those curtains because they were easy to sew. She didn't need pleater tape, lining, or fancy hardware for hanging.

And she especially liked them because they didn't use as much fabric as full-length curtains.


These are some of the same reasons home stagers can use cafe curtains to their advantage.

Cafe curtains have a simple appeal. They're in their element in farmhouse kitchens, coastal cottages, the breakfast nook, a sun parlor, and the bistros they are named after.

They're easy to make. They're economical. They are charming and homey. But these "half-curtains" have a downside that might make them unsuitable for your staging project. Used in the wrong room or the wrong house, they can look skimpy, informal and cheap.

Here's how to make the most of these short window dressings.

Not welcome here

If you're looking to create a luxe, high-end room, full-length draperies with plenty of fullness are your ticket. In fact, draperies made of fabric that has weight and width can turn an ordinary room into something quite stylish and rich.

If you want a room-darkening window treatment, or the complete privacy that comes with top-to-bottom draperies, then cafe curtains are not your answer.

Although they tend to convey a breezy casualness, cafe curtains can be designed to look more formal if you use statement curtain rods, brackets, finials, and rings. Hardware with some heft will add some gravitas. These could be made of wood or metal. And fabrics like velvet or heavyweight drapery textiles will make these short curtains less cute and more serious.

More memories

My mother also made the cafe curtains for our beach cottage. The small bedroom where my sister and I slept all summer faced east, and the sun streamed in early to awaken us. Another day of going barefoot awaited!

Cafe curtains let the sun shine in, and at the same time provide privacy. Although my sister and I didn't want to block the view, create privacy, or darken the room, cafe curtains might be perfect for you if you are staging a room where the view from the window might be something you don't want to call attention to. If the window overlooks a neighbor's messy backyard or an unattractive rooftop, cafe curtains will block the line of sight but not the natural light.


These curtains can be simple or elaborate. The simplest version could be the ones made from dishtowels fastened to a tension rod with clip-on rings. Nothing wrong with that in the right setting!

The panels can be shirred on the rod for a hardware-free hanging. The problem with shirred, or "rod-pocket," curtains is that they can be difficult to push open and to stay pushed to the edges of the window. Rings or fabric loops are more likely to stay in place.

If you are making your own cafe curtains, you can stitch the rings onto the fabric, or buy clip-on rings, which make washing the curtains easy.

The simplest way to install cafe curtains is with a tension rod that sits inside the window frame. For home staging, this eliminates the problem of anchoring brackets to the wall or trim, where the next buyer may not want brackets.

Tips and tricks

I like to see cafe curtain rods that sit at exactly the halfway point on double hung windows, or wherever there is a sash edge. This method gives a cleaner, more deliberate appearance than a rod that crosses a window pane randomly.

I also suggest that the curtain rods and the curtain rings be made of the same material -- natural wood, or painted wood, or brass, or nickel, or whatever. Or at least the same color, such as white plastic rings on white metal rods.

My eBook, How to Make No-Sew Curtains and Draperies top Stage Your Home includes some easy cafe curtains that are perfect for home staging.

Some cafe curtains require no or minimal sewing skills. These burlap versions 
are folded and fringed at the top edge.

Some cafe curtains are more elaborate, edged with contrasting piping 
or a band of coordinated textile, and then, like this example
 from Soyna Hamilton, finished with fancy trimmings. 

There are other ways to make informal cafe curtains look more impressive. One way is to hide the curtain rings so that the fabric looks like it has a pleated top, as in this photo of the back of the curtain panel from Young House Love. 
Ikea sells these Syrlig rings, clips and hooks as sets that 
you can use with pleater tape to make a top tab that is evenly pleated. 

Here is a way to convert a hemmed piece of fabric into a curtain panel that can be threaded onto a rod. You'll find 15 other new-sew methods to make all kinds of window treatments in my $4.99 eBook, No-Sew Curtains and Draperies to Stage Your Home.  All the styles and methods I describe in the book are designed with economical, easy home staging in mind. Download your copy now and get started dressing your windows!  

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Secret Ingredient for Kitchen Staging

Have you cleaned and decluttered your kitchen, and are now left with a cold, soulless space crying out for personality? If so, I have two words for you: cutting boards!

Wood is always a sure way to warm up the chilly mood of any room. And one logical, natural, quick, and economical way to introduce wood elements to the kitchen is with the cutting board.

Whether hung on the wall, laid on a center island, clustered in a corner, propped against a backsplash, arranged on a bar cart, or centered on the kitchen counter itself, a cutting board or a group of boards is a no-brainer prop for a home stager to use.

Either new or old boards are fine to use for staging. Best sources for older cutting boards are second-hand stores, garage sales, flea markets, and antique stores. Or you could poke around your grandmother's house.

And if you are worried about using these older boards for cooking and the contamination they carry, don't. Studies show that wood cutting boards -- whether bamboo, maple or other hardwood -- actually self-seal and kill bacteria as long as the surface is wiped clean after use. Plastic cutting board, even when bleached, can still harbor bacteria.

When I talk about cutting boards, I am including thick butcher's chopping blocks, thin and long-handled pizza peels, and everything in between. They can be pieced together from cross-grain wood scraps or sliced from a single log of beautifully grained hardwood. Boards designed especially for serving cheeses are usually marble or granite. Bamboo is eco-friendly and handsome. For staging purposes, plastic, stoneware and glass boards usually don't have the appeal we're looking for.

Check out these photo examples and then consider ways you can add some cutting board charm to your staged kitchen.

Don't assume you need to have a heavy, precious vintage board to add style to your kitchen counter. This grouping of an assortment of ordinary boards gets some heft from a distressed dresser drawer. The plant adds some life and color to the vignette. Photo: GlamShell

Bigger boards don't need any further embellishments to make an impression. These boards have some history, which helps them give a little friendly personality to the room. Photo: SavvySouthernStyle

A couple of oversized cutting boards like these will inject some character into an empty space and introduce a natural element. Whether your boards are new or aged, some kind of detailing or distinctive wood grain will make the display more interesting. Photo: BelleMaison

A pizza peel and a thin cutting board, both with handles, add some height and textural contrast to a display of ceramics holding metal and wood cooking tools. Photo: Homedit

Even boards without a wooden pedigree can be pressed into service to help style a kitchen. This selection of white plastic boards and marble boards look clean and tidy combined with one wood board and nestled in an old box with other kitchen objects. Photo: RustyPelican

If you have some wall space to fill near or in a kitchen, a natural choice is something like this medley of boards artfully arranged above a small dresser, where a basket and lamp tie the color scheme together nicely. Photo: PineAndProspectHome

Get more ideas for staging your home for sale when you download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast for Top Dollar. Don't wait when you can start your staging today! 

Top Photo: LeoDesignsChicago

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

How to Market Your Home to Women

Did you know that single women are now buying condos and homes at twice the rate of single men? According to Forbes, it's a trend that's not going away soon.

After married couples, single women make up the largest segment of home-buying demographics.

And in married couples, it's women who "tend to be the majority influencer in homebuying decisions," says Forbes.

So, when staging your home for sale, it makes perfect sense to appeal to feminine tastes.

I'm not suggesting pink walls and ruffled curtains.

What I am saying is that the features most women want are easy to incorporate into your staging. And you don't have to get all girly, or offend men buyers, in order to capture the hearts of single women home buyers.

What women care about

There are distinct priorities a single woman has when shopping for a home, Safety and neighborhood quality are two concerns high on her list. For this reason, she statistically prefers a city or suburban location rather than a rural setting. Make sure your Realtor can point out safety features like an alarm system, the proximity of neighbors, or a neighborhood with zero crime rate.

If the home you are selling has the kind of location a single prefers, she is more likely than other buyers to sacrifice other amenities. This is a reassuring fact to remember if your home is small or lacking the latest, snazzy upgrades. Location matters most.

If you are selling a secure condo (maybe in a gated community) with a supportive and active homeowners association, single women are your target market.

Other perks

Whatever your location, here are other features that single women look for.

Plentiful closets Generally, women own more things than men do, so an adequate number of roomy closets is a selling point. Stage them to look accommodating.

Killer Kitchen Retired women often look for the kitchen of their dreams. Young women want an impressive kitchen where they can entertain friends. Stage your kitchen to be stylish and to give the buyer bragging rights. Declutter, paint, and add some beautiful, tasteful accessories. Replace appliances if necessary. It will make a big difference.

Choose an area of your kitchen that lets you stage a beautiful vignette. It could be a
center island, bar cart, single shelf, desk, or a built-in bookcase as this photo shows.
Spare Room
Although not a necessity, a room that can function as a home office or craft room as well as a guest room is a bonus. Many women work from home or are hobbyists or crafters who need space. Always stage this room like a bedroom, but a desk or work surface can hint at the multi-purpose benefits. Staging the room with a sleeper sofa rather than a bed works well in a small bedroom/office.

Easy  Maintenance A single woman is going to review her home inspector's report with a fine comb. She does not want to hire a handyman, plumber, roofer, electrician, carpenter, electrician and HVAC guy once she's moved in. She wants these systems up-to-date and trouble-free. Get a home inspection prior to listing and fix things now.

Detail Your Home 

Most women value cleanliness to the point that chaotic, stinky, dirty rooms are deal-breakers. So, most homes need what professional housecleaners call a deep cleaning. A sparkling home is a real draw for anyone, especially females.

You'll want your rooms to smell as clean as they are. In one bathroom staging, we decided to DIY some lavender bath bombs that would look perfectly at home there and scent the room.

You don't have to concentrate on pink to appeal to feminine tastes, but this bath had a pink bathtub, so
pink accessories were a natural choice. Remember that every room needs flowers or greenery of some kind.

Reach out to women

Research shows that women are more active on social media than men. Does your Realtor have a presence on Facebook and Twitter? Also, some Realtors use Pinterest and Instagram to showcase their properties.

Since people can shop long distance, a woman in Chicago might be looking for a home in St. Augustine, and she'll be looking online, checking Realtors in Florida from Illinois.

Your prospective buyer might even prefer to work with a female Realtor. Typically, women are more likely to forge friendships through sharing and casual communication, so look for a warm and approachable personality when choosing your listing agent.

Ladies like their storage. Keep cosmetics and toiletries organized 
and tidy because buyers do peek in closets and cabinets.  
Some Realtors work closely with a bank or other lender so they can help a buyer with financing. Find a real estate agent who has connections with lenders who look favorably on women seeking financing, because this step is often a stumbling block for single women.

Visuals are important to women. Lure them in with beautiful photographs, ideally professionally done. Virtual tours will help her visualize your home. Don't photograph your home until it is staged, and prepare for the shooting by making sure both interiors and exteriors are free from distracting things like garbage cans, cars, toys, pets, and boxes packed for moving.

Get the look. Get the book.

Whether your potential, single female buyer is divorced, widowed, living alone, or living with a partner or friends, she could be your prime candidate to buy your home. Just because you focus on women as potential buyers doesn't mean you will alienate male buyers or couples.

Stage your home according to the simple but powerful principles in my $4.99 eBooks on home staging and you'll keep everyone happy. Download now and start staging your way to a less stressful, more profitable home sale.

Top Photo: Kate Spade

Monday, January 28, 2019

Six Ways to Increase Your Home's Value

Unless you own a luxury yacht, or have hundreds of thousands invested in the market, I am going to
guess that your home is your biggest investment.

When it's time to sell, you want your investment to pay off, because, well... it's an investment!

That means you need to make some smart decisions.

Plan early

Before you list your home is the time to decide what needs to happen for maximum return on your investment.

You want to choose home improvement projects that improve your home's resale value without sacrificing your own bank account.

Here are six sure ways to add worth to your home.

Clean up

A tidy front yard tells buyers what to expect inside.
Getting rid of excess belongings, and then thoroughly cleaning your home inside and out is the perfect start to home staging. It's essentially free, so that's an awesome ROI.

Clutter, dirt, mildew, pet odors, and general messiness send buyers running for the door.

Even a home with fixable "problems" like older appliances or popcorn ceilings can keep buyers in consideration mode if the home is immaculate. But funny smells and other signs of neglect create a hurdle they can't always get past mentally.  

Even cleaning up your yard, pruning shrubs, adding mulch. and spending as little as 5% of your home's value on landscaping projects alone could yield a return on of as much as 150%. That's impressive!

Check Your Floors 

After cleanliness, the second thing home buyers will likely notice in your home is flooring. 

If your floors are old, mismatched, worn, or discolored, you won't get as much money as you would with better-looking ones. The fact that Americans spent $21.9 billion on flooring in 2017 indicates the importance people give to what's underfoot. 

Consider upgrading carpeted or vinyl flooring with bamboo or another hardwood. One Realtor I know just installed bamboo throughout her own home, with an eye to the future when she sells it. She told me it is more popular now with buyers than other hardwoods, carpet, or cork.

Another popular choice is what's called "luxury vinyl," the engineered planks that imitate the look of wood or stone. There is a wide range of prices, depending on thickness, quality, and patterns. Engineered vinyl is durable, water-resistant, and easy to install.

If your floors are in bad shape but you don't want to spring for a new flooring installation, you still have economical options. If your carpeting has seen better days, you can have it dyed, or have it professionally cleaned, or have budget-friendly, builder-grade carpet installed.

It's not a hand-knotted, silk rug from Asia worth thousands. But for 
about $100, it looks great, and is perfect for staging! Photo: Wayfair  
If your wood floors need an overhaul that you can't afford, you might be able to have them screened and top-coated, a simpler and cheaper process than refinishing.

Another possibility is to use rugs to cover the worst areas of wood flooring. Most buyers will peek under the rug, but first impressions will still have influence. My favorites, for now, are the new but distressed synthetic Persian and Oriental designs. They look convincingly rich but are inexpensive, just right for staging a mid-priced home.

Some people will criticize my suggestion to hide flooring that's not perfect. And I usually recommend that a seller never deliberately conceal problems in a home, but a rug is just a rug. It's temporary and easy to peel back. Certainly a home inspector is going to make note of serious floor deficiencies.

Make doors attractive  

Does your front door say hello with a smile? Is your garage door an asset? Doors issue an invitation and create curiosity. Make them part of your selling team.

Front doors are the visual focal points of your property from the street. If they don't add major points to your curb appeal score, give them some love. If they don't respond sufficiently to a good cleaning, you might want to paint them. 

I've already blogged about how easy it is to repaint your overhead garage door, and how anyone can paint a front door without removing it.  

Invest in Smart Stuff

Today's home buyers usually include some smart home features on their want lists. 

If you have an older home, upgrading your HVAC system will help buyers relax about the age of the structure. Replacing AC equipment components that are more than 15 years old can result in significant energy savings, but since buyers are entitled to learn what you are paying for utilities, the sooner you upgrade the system, the better your record will look to them.

Buyers are impressed with smart devices that will save them money or make their lives more convenient. If you have a Nest thermostat, programmable interior lighting, and an automated lawn watering system, make sure the agent showing the home understands and explains the savings they bring.

But if your new smart refrigerator has a touchscreen that creates shopping lists and lets you turn on the ice maker from your smartphone, don't list it with the MLS specs if it doesn't convey with the property. The same thing applies to features like security systems and your programmable outdoor grill.    

Freshen walls

This foyer sports a fresh coat of Benjamin Moore's Spring Sky.
Photo: Meg Braff Interiors 
Unless you haven't lived in your home very long, your walls are likely ready for a fresh coat of paint. This is especially true if the colors vary from room to room, or if they are unusual, dated, dark, or saturated colors.

Painting gives you a better return on your money than any other DIY project.  

On this blog, I've passed along my best tips about how to paint like a pro, whether you are painting walls or furniture. 

Hire Good people 

Most of us need some work done by professionals, whether it's an electrician, an exterminator, plumber, house painter, or carpet cleaner.

My best advice to avoid substandard work is to get referrals from people or agencies you trust, and get quotes from two or three of them before making a hiring decision.

Minor renovations, as well as big upgrades, need to be quality work. If the home buyers don't notice shoddy workmanship, the home inspector they hire will. Work with local, professional contractors if necessary for larger projects, and be willing to put some time, effort, and skill into each remodeling project you begin.

Never pay for the entire project ahead of time. If a contractor does not have the capital to go buy the basic materials for your project, (paint, lumber, plumbing parts...) maybe he isn't the contractor for you. 

Stay in communication with people who do work for you. Politely let them know your preferences, your budget, your schedule. Show your appreciation for the work they do. I always buy the donuts for their first day on the job.

Get the look. Get the book.

Since you're about to start a new chapter in your life, it's time to profit as much as possible from your home investment. You don't want repairs and upgrades and home staging to end up costing you money that doesn't return to you in the form of a quicker sale at a better price. Do the homework and you'll be able to decide which property improvements will add value.

For more tips on how to prepare your home for sale, no matter what style, age or condition of your home, download my $4.99 home staging ebooks and get ready to attract buyers!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

How to Stage Focal Points

I won't lie. It took me a few years to figure out how to determine and then stage around the focal point of every room.

The book definition of a focal point wasn't much help: "The center of interest or activity; the point at which all elements or aspects converge."

Eventually, I established a set of guidelines that helped me make the most of a room's focal point. Here's what I learned by trial and error, by observing rooms I liked, and by listening to professional designers.

Decor Definition

For staging purposes, your focal point of any room is going to be what is most inviting about the space, what makes a prospective buyer want to live there. It helps if the focal point is also large, attractive, and obvious to anyone entering the room.

Most built-in features, like this loft bed make excellent
focal points. Photo: Ash Street Interiors 
Examples are --

A stunning view of outdoors.

The largest piece of furniture in the room, and it better not be an old recliner.

Beautiful or rare architectural features, like a staircase, vaulted ceilings, intricate millwork trim, or a fireplace.

Built-ins, like bookcases, bunk beds, breakfast benches, or window seats.

A feature or furnishing that clearly demonstrates at a glance the purpose of the room, such as a desk in the home office, a billiard table in the game room, or storage bench in the mudroom.

Dual Confusion

A room's focal point gives the viewer a point of reference, a place to rest the eye and let the brain know there is a sense of order and purpose to the space, that it's not just a room housing an assortment of furniture and other stuff.

Some larger rooms can have more than one focal point. That fact seemed to fly in the face of the very definition. How can there be two centers? Turns out, one focal point is going to dominate.

Your best approach is to choose one focal point for each room. Make it easy for the buyer to quickly survey the room and respond positively, viscerally, immediately.

How to select

If you are uncertain what the focal point of a room is, ask yourself, "What's the first thing a prospective buyer will notice when she enters the room?" Then ask yourself if that thing is a selling point.

Don't assume a focal point has to be something that conveys with your home when it sells. If your gorgeous velvet sofa is the one thing what makes your living room look special, and your other living room furnishings revolve around it, let that sofa be your room's anchor and focal point. 

A grouping of furniture that function well together
qualifies as a focal point. Photo: bella mancini design
If the room's focal point is an architectural feature and you would rather not highlight it, consider a way to upstage it. 

In one older home I staged, the obvious focal point was the fireplace. But since it was no longer functional and there were large windows overlooking a woodland setting, we staged the room to call attention to the windows and the view. 

If the room has nothing distinctive architecturally, it will be up to you to create a focal point. 

When there is nothing large like a bed, couch, or dining table, you may be able to arrange a few pieces of furniture in a grouping to imitate the visual weight of an important focal point. An example would be two matching chairs, one on either side of a bookcase or table. 

Play It Up

To make sure your focal points are immediately visible and inviting, don't bury them in clutter. You may have to a rearrange all the furniture before you achieve the look you want. Your goal is to make the focal point both obvious and something that makes the room approachable and friendly.

Color is one way to accent a focal point. If the jumbo fireplace mantel or granite-topped kitchen island is the same color as its surroundings, it may not get noticed. Add a colorful accessory, or a prop that's oversized or unique to bring attention to it.

Look for dramatic pieces like this flroal display and mirror to help
you introduce a focal point to a space that lacks one. Photo: aji  co. 
For example, sometimes all it takes is a large floral arrangement (silks are okay) on an ordinary table in a foyer to create an impressive entrance. Other additions that will draw attention are large lamps or mirrors.

Experiment with what you have, or shop for some decor pieces that make a statement. Places like TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, eBay, World Market, Tuesday Morning, Overstock, and thrift stores are economical sources.

To make a less-than-ideal focal feature worthy of its role, make sure it is immaculate and well-maintained. Clean those windows if the view is important. Repaint that old bookcase if that's what centers the room. Slipcover that sofa if it is the focal point and needs to some spiffing.

Once you get the knack of staging your home's focal points, you'll see a big difference in how your rooms look and feel. And buyers will respond favorably!

For more advice on staging your own home, be sure to download my homestaging $4.99 eBooks. I guarantee you'll get all the tips and encouragement you need to get your home sold sooner for more money.

Top Photo: Lucy and Company

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Christmas Staging on a Budget

Yes, you can stage for the holidays without going crazy.  
At the end of the year, the media assaults us with countless images of elaborate holiday decorating.

They are all tempting, these pictures of rooms stuffed with lush garlands and shiny ribbons, colorful fir trees and mantels decked with symbols of the season, kitchens accessorized with gingerbread men, candy canes, and topiaries.

Because most of us want our homes to look festive and even downright stunning, it's a little intimidating.

When you are listing your home for sale, you can't be seduced by the decorating magazines and blogs featuring over-the-top home tours.

I'm here to pull you out of the guilt loop. If you are staging your home for sale, you have enough to do just keeping your home organized, clean, and show ready.

Here is my handy list of pointers to keep you from getting overwhelmed and yet on budget during December.

Choose a color scheme 

You don't have to use the default red and green color combo for your Christmas decorations.

Instead, select a two- or three-color palette that you really like.

So, step one of your holiday decorating would be to explore your home to collect items of a certain color. Think outside the box.

You may even decide to rearrange some pieces of furniture to relocate chairs or end tables to places where you intend to add seasonal embellishments.

A black and white color scheme is a welcome change from the usual. Diane at
In My Own Style blog used satin ribbons in saturated colors to punch it up a little.
Choosing to decorate using your favorite colors makes your job easy because you'll be able to use what you already have. You'll be surprised what's tucked away in closets, vanities, a storage unit, or the garage and attic, even if you've already decluttered.

Once your decorating is centered around a certain group of colors, your rooms will look cohesive and planned, rather than rooms where someone just layered on a bunch of swags, ribbons, knick-knacks, trinkets, and candles.

Using simple and familiar colors translates as saving money because you won't be running out to stock up on articles you may not love long term.

Don't buy new

I used to hate it when I paid premium prices for Christmas decorations that I would then see discounted big time on December 26. Now, I always think a full year ahead and select a color scheme for the next Christmas season so I know what I'll be using the following December.

That's one way to save money. But you can't rewind the clock to last December 26. The alternative is to buy previously used decorations. We are a throw-away nation. That's unfortunate, but it also serves to keep your budget trimmed.

Please do not turn up your nose at thrift store gleanings. Many an oft-pinned tutorial on Pinterest begins with someone else's ugly reject. Remember almost anything can be spray painted!

Source Smart

Besides thrift stores, flea markets, and garage sales as your sources for cast-off decorations, hunt dollar stores. Some of your findings there might need your imagination to convert them from generic knock-offs to classy accessories for staging.

My other two favorite places to gather essentials for holiday staging (or staging at any time) are out-of-doors, and your own recycle bin.

This non-seasonal wreath was dressed up for the holidays with just the addition of a
shiny bow. I glued gold gift wrap inside a thrift store punch bowl for a fancy
vase that holds a jar of water for fresh evergreen prunings.  
I know it's difficult for urban dwellers to find things like free evergreen clippings, berries, branches, pinecones, logs, rocks or shells. Still, I don't feel foolish suggesting nature as an  ideal source, because I know that city folks will have more variety of retail outlets to turn to for materials, from street hawkers, museums, boutiques, and discount barns, to free curbside "donations."

But everyone has discards that can be turned into pretty props. Tin cans make napkin rings. Oatmeal boxes make vases. And DIY pillows can be stuffed with shredded paper.

If you must buy new (and I understand!) use coupons for stores like Michaels and  Hobby Lobby.

There's always a danger of making a home that's staged frugally actually end up looking cheap. That's the opposite of what staging is supposed to accomplish! I've blogged about the tricks that make inexpensive items look more upscale.

Decorate with year-round items

If you select functional objects for your seasonal decorating, you'll be able to use them all year long. It's true that these items may not carry the same nostalgic memories of a certain time of year, but it sure makes sense financially, especially at staging time when you might be saving up to furnish your next home.

What you buy now can be part of what you want for the new-to-you home of the future.

If it's time to invest in a new duvet cover, make it part of what you plan for Christmas decorating. If you've been planning to replace your little old cutting board, buy a larger new one that will anchor a lovely kitchen display. If you need a snuggly new throw for the family room couch, choose one the colors you are using for wintertime staging.

Keep it simple and tasteful

Some of the most elegant tabletop vignettes, mantel displays, trimmed trees, wreaths and outdoor decor for holidays are the simplest. Let's remember that staging and decorating are two different tasks, and even though you are decorating for the holidays, you are still staging. And staging always calls for simplicity.

A blue and white color combination is always pleasing and appropriate. Make sure your holiday staging
includes some sparkle. These flatware pieces are made of plastic. I never use silverware or anything
that is tempting to steal. At Christmastime, people get crazy, so keep your valuables like heirlooms,
money, jewelry, and prescription meds inaccessible to the strangers touring your home for sale. 
Strings of single color lights are always a safe choice. Green wreaths are always winners. And arrangements of artfully wrapped packages are sure pleasers.

Another principle to keep your decorations looking simple is to designate a pattern that repeats itself. You may want to use plaid ribbons, a plaid table runner, and plaid ornaments on your tree. Or you could opt for a polka dot or stripe motif that echoes itself in different rooms. This kind of repetition shows restraint, intent, and professionalism. It's the way department store display artists work.

Keep whatever you add to your usual decor anything that diverts attention from your home's selling features -- that killer view, the beautiful farmhouse sink, your roomy master bedroom, or whatever else will make buyers swoon. Your holiday add-ons can actually show off the parts of your home you are most proud of, the things that will win the hearts of buyers.

I hope I've given you ideas and inspiration for financially-sound holiday staging. If you stage your home the way I describe in my $4.99 home staging eBooks, you could be living in your dream home for next year's holidays.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Winter Curb Appeal Formula: Big, Bold, Simple, and Safe

Take away the lush lawn, the green shrubbery, and the colorful flowers that made your home look pretty all year, and you can be left with wintertime curb appeal that's in the gutter.

It doesn't have to be so. Just because trees are bare and snow might be covering the ground is no reason your home has to look disappointing to buyers looking for their next home. You can master the challenge of perfect winter curb appeal with a few simple guidelines.

Check What's Big

Probably most of what people see when they see your home from the curb is lawn. For much of the U.S., lawns aren't looking like a carpet of green velvet in winter. In fact, for many people, the ground is frozen and covered with snow for months.

Followed by mud season. Am I right?

Even if you have a lawn that is dormant all winter, it can still look attractive if you keep it edged, raked, and free from weeds. Depending on your type of grass and where you live, this could be a good time of year to reseed bare spots. But overseeding some varieties of turf in order to have a green lawn all winter can actually harm the grass that is dormant. Your County Extension Agent can give you advice about what's right for your winter lawn care.

Walk your property regularly and keep it picked up. Are papers blowing in from other yards? Are leaves still covering the grassy areas? Are there downed tree branches that need to be collected? Think the way a critical buyer would think.

The National Association of Realtors shows that 34% of people looking at homes are first-time homebuyers. These are the younger buyers that expect everything, especially a great first impression. How a front yard looks is a big part of that impression.

Wintertime buyers are serious buyers. Don't believe that the selling season stalls when the days grow short. 

Now's the time to Go Bold

Make a statement with your outdoor decor this winter. Rather than decorating your entrance and yard with an assortment of the usual holiday trappings, create a single focal point that's one-of-a-kind.

Here are some ways your house can be the one that home buyers remember.

Plant a single, large, handsome planter with an assortment of the plants that can thrive through winters where you live. Keep them pruned and watered to make them standout specimens. If you live where winters are mild, you can add colorful blooming plants to the mix.

Stage your front door so it knocks the socks off visitors. Visit my Pinterest Board for "Front Doors That Welcome" to get new ideas.

Something distinctive will set your home apart
from your competition. Think outside the box. 
Lay down a welcome mat that's super-sized and colorful. Choose something other than the usual off-the-shelf doormat. If your front entrance is protected, you can use almost any style of outdoor rug as long as it stays flat and in place.

Emphasize what's special about your neck of the woods the way my friend Ethel did when she constructed her fisherman Santa for her porch. Ask yourself what's unique about your locale or house and decorate your snowman, angel or Santa accordingly. A bit of whimsy will give your home personality.

Don't be that homeowner who adds a scattering of insignificant outdoor decorations, hoping to distract potential buyers from the bleak and chilly weather and make your house look more appealing. If you overdo the decorations, buyers might not notice some of your home's important selling features.

While 35% of remodeling projects involve the entire home, staging your home for sale shouldn't require extensive remodeling that may not return your investment. At holiday time invest instead in one or two statement pieces you can take with you when you move.

Replace clutter with simplicity

People are naturally attracted to simple settings. It's reassuring to see an organized and uncluttered space. Keeping your front entryway simple and clean is the best way to make buyers have confidence in the property rather than have them wonder what kind of people live such messy lives.

A winter-themed wreath will look good
through all the months of cold weather.
Put a fresh eye on your exterior entrance. Have a schedule for sweeping away leaves and mud. Keep boots and snow shovels tucked out of sight. Consider adding a fresh coat of paint to your front door and adding a simple wreath that will carry you past end-of-year holidays and through the rest of winter.

If you've had photos taken of your home for your real estate listing, you probably tidied up around the property. Now you need to keep up the good work.

Place garbage receptacles and recycle bins out of sight. If you are storing a utility trailer, a boat, an RV or unused vehicle in view from the front of your home, it's time to find storage space offsite or in back of the house. The same goes for summer toys like wading pools, bikes, beach toys, and camping gear. However, outdoor furniture that's designed to withstand the elements can sometimes be a part of outdoor staging during winter.

Not everyone wants to maintain a large garden, whether it's for flowers or vegetables. If your home is on the market, winter is a good time to scale back on what looks like extra work for the next homeowner. You can convert extra garden space to mulched areas, so in spring the buyer can reseed, lay sod, install a swing set or pool, make a dog run, or plant the garden they really want.

Less is more when it comes to seasonal outdoor decor. Staged homes need simple embellishments that are both tasteful, and visually bold. Whether you're putting up decorations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other holiday, make them match the style of your home -- contemporary, historic, eclectic, mid-century, farmhouse, traditional, or whatever.

Practice Safe Selling

Pathways need to be clear and slip-proof. Ideally, home buyers can walk
all around the outside of your home, even with snow on the ground.
Be sure your home is safe for people coming to view it. Because they aren't regular visitors, buyers are unaware of any unlevel surfaces or other oddities where people normally walk.

Shovel and sand your pathways so they are visible and free from ice or snow. Double check them before a scheduled viewing to be sure they aren't slippery.

Now is a good time to fix any outdoor hazards, the things you've ignored because you're used to them. Adjust any uneven stepping stones that can trip someone. Patch sidewalk cracks that are hazardous. Hire a handyman to set right that wobbly handrail. Use some fast-patch cement or Gorilla Glue to fix that loose brick on your front steps. Screw down loose floorboards on the porch or deck.

Statistics show that homeowners spend an average of 1% to 4% of their home's value on maintenance and repairs each year, so don't think you are wasting money with these simple fixes. It's normal and expected. Investing even a little cash into your home before you sell can make a big difference.

Curb appeal is more important than ever in the colder months. With bare trees, brown turf, and the possibility of snow and slush, it can be difficult to make your home look aesthetically pleasing. But wintertime can be a profitable time to sell your home, so review my four-point formula to see if your winter curb appeal can be improved to make buyers feel warm and welcome.

For more tips on how to prepare your home for sale, no matter what the season, download my $4.99 home staging ebooks and get ready to attract buyers!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

How To Stage Your Home for Fall

Every season has its appeal. Smart home stagers know that tapping into buyers' "mood of the season" can go a long way towards capturing the hearts of buyers.

If you're planning on putting your house on the market this fall, you'll increase your chances of a quicker sale if your home is staged for autumn.

You don't have to make major purchases or spend a crazy amount of time staging just for autumn. A few simple changes are all it takes.

Say Yes to Warm Fall Colors

Most people think of fall as a warm and cozy time of year. Not every area of the country experiences the changing colors of autumn leaves, but these same colors still make a home feel comfortable, friendly and secure.

Adding autumn color is easy. Look for props you have or can buy or paint that reflect the colors of changing foliage and embers -- reds, oranges and golden browns. You can place these decor touches near your front door or walkway.  Real and faux pumpkins and gourds are for sale everywhere at all price points. An autumn wreath of corn husks or grapevines, or a basket of painted pinecones or real pansies outside your entrance will welcome people on a home tour.

Inside your home, adding some accent pillows or throws in warm colors might be all you need. In case your interior color scheme is based on a cool color palette, the safe way to incorporate warm tones is with creamy whites or dark browns, since both are safe neutrals.

In addition, every home decor site and store has autumn-themed accessories like pillows, candles, table runners, garlands, and the like. Don't lose your head; a little "Welcome Autumn" goes a long way.

Another sensible and thrifty approach is to use a floral arrangement with seasonal elements. It needn't be fresh flowers. Silk chrysanthemums or good quality faux autumn leaves and berries will set the tone.

Almost anything woodsy or harvest-themed is also fair game.

Your goal is to capture that snugly feeling most people think of when they think of the end of summer and the coming holidays.

Using rich textures is also a way to evoke that emotion. Any rooms that feel less than cozy can benefit from things like a fuzzy blanket, velvet pillows, a furry ottoman, or a knitted throw.

Some rooms of your house may look less seasonal than others. A dark and dank basement can feel especially unwelcoming. While a full-on basement remodel can offer up to a 70% ROI, there are simpler ways to make this area and other weak spots become part of your strategy to impress buyers. Light paint colors will make dark areas feel more homey.

Using the typical colors of fall and some seasonal decorations like a centerpiece or mantel display, you can make your home feel like the perfect place to snuggle up under a blanket during the fall.

Light Plays a Part

Nighttime curb appeal: Interior lighting at night creates a sense of retreat.
Photo: Archadeck of Raleigh-Durham and the Greater Triangle
Twilight comes earlier and earlier at this time of year. Shorter days lessen the chance for house hunters to see your home flooded with natural light.

Make sure you are taking advantage of all natural and artificial light sources your home offers.

Check your lamps and fixtures for burned out bulbs. You should have plenty of lamps, overhead lights, and mirrors spread throughout your home.

Leave lamps on or plugged into timers when you expect a showing, especially in darker rooms. Not every Realtor will have time to do this for you.  Light and bright sells homes.

Switch on exterior lighting at dusk because some home shoppers will cruise neighborhoods at different times. Timers and solar lights make outdoor lighting easy and economical.

If you can manage it, schedule open houses and showings during the sunniest times of the day so potential buyers get a good look at the entire home, both inside and outside.

Keep Decorations Minimal

There are Halloween decorations and there are autumn decorations. I know that for some people, Halloween is their anticipated time to drape whispery white cobwebs over resin gravestones and skeletons in the front yard. Don't do that if you are selling your home.

Stay with the simple harvest and autumn themes. Too much seasonal decor can be distracting and not to everyone's taste. Instead, let house hunters focus on the pleasant attributes of your property -- that wide front porch, the functional floor plan, the updated appliances, the fresh paint. Remember that you are staging, not decorating. Make your home enviable, not tacky or creepy.

With the beautiful fall atmosphere, fall can be the perfect time to stage and sell a home. Keep these simple fall home staging tips in mind to ensure your house is as perfect as possible when it's time to sell. And if you're looking for more home staging advice, you can purchase my $4.99 eBooks on how to stage your home.

Top photo: Popular Mechanics

Monday, October 8, 2018

Win Buyers with These 8 Home Improvement Projects

If you are like most people, you have a sale price in mind when you decide to sell your home.

It makes sense to get as much money as you can from the sale of your home. Smart sellers make smart choices about what needs to be done and what is "good enough."

Every home and every situation is unique. To help you decide what's the best way to spend your spruce-up-dollars for the best return, here are some of the projects that impress buyers. I've listed these fix-ups in the order of least expensive to most costly.

Clean up the landscape

One of the easiest and most economical ways to increase the perceived value of your home is simply to clean the areas around your home. Every neighborhood has one home where the landscape always looks great. And every neighborhood has one home that's, well... a mess outside. Be the good-looking yard!

Attractive landscaping can add up to 28% to your home's value. But don't think you have to invest in all new plantings (unless you've ignored our out-of-doors for years!). Usually, just working with what you have is good enough.

Do the basics: Keep the lawn mowed, trim all the shrubbery, plant what looks good in every season, and add a few seasonal plants for color and interest. Mulch areas that aren't turf, ornamentals, or walkways. Just the way you are doing inside your home, get rid of clutter. Put the nuts and bolts of home ownership -- garbage cans, recycle bins, brooms, rakes, and garden hoses -- out of sight.

If you want to throw some money at outdoor improvement, think furniture. New outdoor furniture is something you can use for smart staging now, and take with you when you move. Staging outdoor areas to make them comfortable and attractive always impresses buyers because it makes the home seem to have more usable living space.

Remember that new doesn't always mean brand new off-the-shelf. Check Craigslist for stylish outdoor furniture you can spray paint to look new.

A well-designed and well-maintained landscape will add money to your asking price. 

Paint your interior walls

Most of the cost of a professional paint job is labor, not materials. Therefore, if you do your own painting you'll enjoy an enviable return on your investment of time and effort. My best tips for a quality paint job are:

  1.  Buy good paint, not necessarily the best, but not the cheapest. Good paint covers better and won't splatter or drip the way bargain paints will.
  2.  Cut in the walls with a brush first  -- corners, around windows and doors and where the wall meets the ceiling. Then roll walls using a screw-on broom handle on the roller frame. Use a 5-gallon bucket and a screen from the paint store, not a small drip pan. 
  3.  Choose a color everyone will like, and have it harmonize with the immobile fixtures of your home -- counters, bath fixtures, and flooring that stays in place. Use the same color in all rooms. Use semi-gloss on bath and kitchen walls and flat everywhere else. 
  4.  Painting a ceiling sounds daunting, but it can be done when you screw on that broomstick extension on the roller frame. A fresh coat of white on a ceiling brightens the whole room.
  5.  Don't paint trim unless you can do a good job. A good job means you have done it before or you enjoy doing a careful job of tedious work.   
Get professional equipment to do a pro job at painting. 

Pay for a home inspection 

Unless a buyer is paying cash (no mortgage or bank) he's going to need a home inspection of your property. Get ahead of any complications, and pay for your own inspection before going to market.

These inspections can turn up nasty surprises, both big and small. Termite infestations, cracked foundations, electric outlets that aren't grounded, floor joists or rafters that have been cut into and weakened, poor water pressure, squirrels in the attic, mold in the crawl space, and a host of other problems you may never have known you were living with.

There are also region-specific dangers to be aware of. For instance, one in 15 U.S. homes is estimated to have radon levels at or above the EPA action level.

The money you spend on a home inspection is one of the best pre-listing expenditures you can make. The average price is $315, more if your home is larger than average, less if you own a small condo. When you hire your own inspector, you can fix what is going to be a deal-breaker or a negotiating chip for buyers.

Add insulation to the attic

Good insulation helps a home be energy efficient, and buyers love energy efficiency. In fact, according to a survey on, homeowners can recoup a surprising 116% of the costs of attic insulation.

Newer homes will usually have sufficient insulation in both walls and attic spaces. But in older homes, the walls may have been poorly insulated and the materials matted or poor quality to begin with.

If you are ambitious and don't mind working in cramped, uncomfortable spaces, you can do it yourself and save some money. Whether you use blown-in insulation or batting, you'll need protective gear and a helper. But I recommend calling in professionals to get the job done quickly and done right.
If you are willing to do the work, you can save $500 or more. 

Fix the roof

I always look at the roof when I am considering a home purchase. A roof that looks compromised can indicate damage to interior ceilings and walls. A single inch of rainfall can put nearly 1,500 gallons of water onto a roof, causing problems to both the shingles and structure.

Typical shingled roofs last 20 to 30 years. Today's 30-year, heavy-duty, shingles look better and don't cost much more than the 20-year ones. This is the kind of upgrade that you can specify in your MLS listing, the kind of thing that home inspectors and home buyers like.

It's difficult to make repairs to a shingled roof without it looking like a quick fix. A buyer is going to ask for a discount if he sees your roof has patches or missing shingles. And what he asks for as a discount will most likely be more than a new roof will actually cost you.

If your roof is metal or tile, repairs are easier. Sometimes all a roof needs to look new is a power washing, a job best done by experts for the sake of personal safety and the protection of your roof surface.

Install new windows

After the roof, windows are another common feature buyers ask about. Older homes can have drafty windows that let air escape and increase energy bills. New windows look better, are easier to clean, and give buyers peace of mind that they're willing to pay extra for. In fact, when you sell your house, your window replacement can recoup 73% to 77% of what you pay at selling time.

If your windows are old, get estimates from local window installers. My rule of thumb is to hire a company that does this routinely, rather than a handyman. Typically, the pros will save you time and do a better job.
Refreshing the bath can call for more imagination than cash. Photo: BHG

Update the master bathroom

Bathrooms are incredibly important to buyers, for obvious reasons. Not only do they want to have enough bathrooms for the family and their guests, but they also want a master bathroom that's spacious, clean, and modern.

To wow home buyers, you can replace your tub, put in a new sink, and replace the tiles if they're worn or cracked. Bathroom additions can see an average 86.4% ROI.

But even minor upgrades to your master bathroom can make a favorable impression on buyers. If you can't afford a tub replacement, it can be professionally sprayed with epoxy for a like-new look. Sinks and toilets are much easier and less costly to replace.

Remodel your kitchen

The kitchen is still the heart of the home, and buyers care a lot about this room of the house. Completing a minor kitchen remodel can see an average return of 98.5% at resale. Minor, pre-sale remodeling projects can include resurfacing the cabinets, installing new light fixtures, a new backsplash, and new appliances.

Admittedly, most of the above recommendations I technically can't label home staging. They are more ambitious than that. But all of them are upgrades you can enjoy now until you sell. These are the kinds of projects that will make your home more attractive, valuable, and comfortable immediately and will help justify a better selling price.

And, once you're done, it's time to move onto our favorite part of the pre-sale process: homestaging! You can get some excellent homestaging advice in my $4.99 eBooks on how to stage your home to make it sell fast for a price you like.

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