Sunday, May 27, 2018

Curb Appeal: The Front Doors of Summer

Summer's a great time to have your home on the market.

School's out and buyers want to move before the next school year begins.

People are generally in a more relaxed frame of mind (goodbye, chilly weather, hello vacations).

There are more daylight hours for people to view homes.

And -- most beneficial for sellers -- homes just look brighter, cleaner and prettier in summer than in other seasons.

If the look of your home from the curb hasn't changed since January, what are you waiting for? If it's advice to make the most of your summer staging, I've got that for you.

These photos and suggestions are bound to spark some ideas for staging your front door area.

Do Not Fear Color

We hear so much about neutral colors for home staging, that we might not realize when it comes to exterior doors, the rules change.

The red door on this shingled grey home above is a perfect example of how to make your entry stand out.

These homeowners went beyond painting the front door an extra cheerful color. They added a  friendly "Hello." People on a home tour will certainly remember the house with the yellow door and the hello greeting. Photo: Lolly Lane

A front door doesn't have to be a bright, saturated color to be summery. Cool colors are especially appealing during warmer months. Even though there are decorative props clustered around this beautiful doorway, it doesn't feel crowded because everything is scaled pleasantly. Photo: French Bulldogs.

In Charleston's historic areas, homeowners paint trim like shutters and doors and ironwork with what's called "Charleston green." It's black, but with a hint of green. It's a beautiful background for whatever else you use to adorn your front steps and walkway. Photo: Southern Living.

Flowers make buyers feel welcome 

If it's plain old white, don't feel compelled to paint your front door. You can add some seasonal color and style with plants and a jumbo welcome mat. It's easy to care for container plants that are right outside your front door.

If you're going to have flower pots, why not make them stand-out big and matching? For a formal house -- or to make your home look more formal -- nothing beats a pair, especially when both the pots and the plant selections match. Photo: Drive By Decor.

Summer gives you the chance to play with plants that might not like your climate in winter. These giant elephant ear plants look quirky and dramatic. When a front door area doesn't get direct sun all day, shade-loving tropical plants like these are perfect candidates. Photo: Home Design Inspired.

Artificial plants in containers look hokey, but no one expects you to have fresh flowers in a wreath for your door. These silk daylilies complete a summery rag wreath that's quick, easy and cheap to make.

Even a small entrance or condo door can sport a wreath to celebrate the season and make a home feel tended. Remember that home buyers will be standing at the front door while their broker is unlocking it and they are already judging what the home is worth to them. Photo: Windsor Silks.

Other Tips for Entrance Appeal

Make it a regular habit to quickly sweep away dirt, cobwebs, pollen, and dust around your outside entrance. Clean homes sell faster.

Even a small landing often has space for a chair or bench. Two chairs look especially friendly, but please arrange them to face each other at an angle that would be convenient for conversation.

A small piece of furniture near the front door gives you a chance to make an impression. A wicker table or anything else that's made of wicker looks wonderfully summery.

Your welcome mat is another chance to add a distinctive touch. Treat yourself (and prospective buyers) to a clean and colorful new one. They're so inexpensive!

If your property is unoccupied, use exterior decorations that are not so valuable that they might be tempting to vandals and thieves.

Is your porch, landing or steps needing a coat of paint? Is the door dented or faded? Deferred maintenance is a red flag to buyers.

If you add flags or signs to your exterior staging, be certain they do not offend or alienate any prospective buyers. Nothing profane or in-your-face opinionated.

If you have room for a bench or chair, set them out near your entrance. Match the furniture style to the architectural style of your home -- modern for a contemporary home, classic for a traditional house, some unique finds for a cottage, mid-century-modern for a ranch house, or rustic furnishings for a farmhouse, for example.

Elevate your plants to give them importance and make them more noticeable both from the street and up close. Use a color scheme that unifies a grouping of various containers and plants.

A little lightheartedness goes a long way towards befriending buyers. Show some personality outside your home by displaying a silly collection of garden art like these frogs, or some unusual containers for your plants, like vintage tinware, hypertufa, baskets, or wooden buckets.

I hope you have some fun staging the entrance to your home on the market, and make it a pleasure and an enticement for people touring homes. Download my home staging eBook for more tips to help you sell your home fast!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Tips For A Successful Home Inspection

No matter how well you've cared for your home, the thought of a home inspector examining it to determine if it's a good buy for your prospective buyer can be unsettling.

Unless your buyer is paying cash, the finance people he's dealing with will require a professional inspection. Even if he is financing the purchase himself, he might pay for an inspection to use as a bargaining tool during your price negotiations. And while most home inspections last only two to three hours, they can be some of the most stressful hours of the selling process.

Give yourself some peace of mind and bargaining power by preparing as thoroughly as possible for the exam, just like you did in high school for those algebra tests. You did study, right?

One way to really be prepared is to hire an inspector yourself way in advance of listing with a broker, so you get a heads up on any problems your home has. Still, the buyer will get his own inspection.

Most advice regarding home inspections is aimed not at sellers, but at buyers hoping to ensure their new home gives them no problems after purchase.

But let's look at some tips geared for sellers like you to make sure your home inspection process goes smoothly. You want your home sale to move along without any delays, surprises, or any reduction in your sale price.

What Will the inspector check?

The standard inspection covers the important infrastructure systems -- heating and cooling, plumbing, electrical, the roof, chimney, visible ductwork and insulation, attic, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, foundation, and other structural elements. The inspector also checks to see if all appliances that convey with your home are in working order, including smoke alarms carbon monoxide detectors.

It's important to note that a home inspector is not appraising the value of the property or the cost of repairs needed. Those tasks belong to an appraiser and to specialists, respectively. 

If your home has a crawl space, you should have plastic covering the soil there. Photo: Today's Homeowner

What to do to Prepare

Even though you won't be tagged for having a bit of clutter or messiness here and there, a less-than-tidy home can put a lot of preconceived notions in the mind of the inspector. Cleanliness will inspire confidence.

Clean your house inside and out before an inspection. It's a good idea to especially tidy up areas that the inspector is likely to see first. Inspectors usually start by checking the exterior of the house. His first impression will be based on that. Although the work he'll do is calculated by objective ratings, we're all influenced by our subjective observations.

Tidiness will also make it easy for an inspector to do his work. You want him to be able to see behind appliances like your water heater and furnace. You want him to be able to test all electrical outlets. If you haven't decluttered your home, a good time to do it is before your inspection.

The person paying for the inspection is the party that gets to follow the inspector around (without getting in his way or asking too many questions, please), and that's who will get a written report of the inspection. A buyer may or may not share the report with you the seller, usually not.

If you don't like the idea of vacating your home while an inspection is underway, have your Realtor be present. Generally, it's best if sellers and buyers don't meet up until the closing. Rules about who gets to see the printed report actually vary by state. Your Realtor can advise you.

An inspector will note clogged or leaking gutters and downspouts, a roof that's mossy, or shingles that are loose. 

Don't Neglect The Important Stuff

Although a professional inspection does not cover the land, or things like outbuildings or pools, an inspector will look at exterior conditions like grading for problematic drainage, and landscaping that is hanging too close to the roof or closer than 12 inches from the siding, or firewood stored less than  30 feet away from the house.

After you've taken a walk around your home to perform a visual inspection of the roof and siding, double check your home's security, particularly, the locks and deadbolts. Did you know that as recently as 2013, victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $4.5 billion in property losses, and burglaries of residential properties accounted for 74% of the total reported? Yikes. No wonder inspectors check these things.

Plumbing problems can be a deal breaker. Even minor issues like an incorrectly installed outdoor spigot, slow-draining shower stalls and bathtubs, or a leaking kitchen sink can look serious enough for a buyer to pull back his purchase offer. Some inspectors will check for water quality, especially if the home has a well or water filtration system.

No home is perfect, but you need to be prepared for a thorough going-over.  

Make His Job Easier

Be sure an inspector has an easy time of his stay. Utilities should be on, including water, gas, and electric. Are pilot lights working as they should? Will he need the garage door opener? A key to a storage room or an exterior electric box? A remote for a ceiling fan?

Your prep list should also include replacing filters in your HVAC system and checking that all lights have working bulbs.

When an inspector can't check a system or appliance, he has to note that on the paperwork. He's checking off boxes on his boilerplate report. If too many entries note "unable to inspect due to ..." or "recommend further evaluation by licensed... " plumber or electrician or pest control contractor or other professional, a buyer can get discouraged. No one wants to pay for another inspection or worry about what's been hinted at.

Finally, if you have invoices documenting major improvements and repairs, you might as well make them available. You can leave them with your Realtor in case any questions come up about the age or material or capacity of things such as plumbing pipes or electric wiring.

Get more advice on selling your home quickly and profitably in my $4.99 homestaging eBooks. I want you to be happy with the sale of your home!

Friday, April 27, 2018

How to Profit from Home Improvements

The typical homeowner wants to spruce up her property when she's ready to sell. At least the smart ones do. She knows buyers can have oversized expectations and long wish lists.

But... where to start? The kitchen? The bath? Paint? Carpet? Roofing? Windows?

Don't be that homeowner who chooses the projects she always dreamed of tackling while she lived in the house. Choose the projects that give you the best return on your money when it's selling time.

Here are five home improvements that do just that.

Garage Fronts Can Get Ugly

It may not sound all that exciting, but replacing your garage overhead door can actually be quite thrilling in terms of its effect on your final selling price. Because...curb appeal.

According to Remodeling Magazine's 2018 Cost vs. Value report, switching out your outdated garage door for a new one will probably pay for itself once your home sells. Not only can it improve the look of your exterior, but it can also have a positive effect on your insulation, and therefore, decrease monthly energy costs. Buyers' agents will research energy bills for their clients, so look for ways now that you can reduce your utility bills.

As a bonus, this project doesn't have to be expensive, and can take only as much time as it takes to phone a company that installs garage doors.

If you are on a budget, and there is nothing structurally wrong with your existing doors, painting them is simple, inexpensive, and a quick DIY project. I've painted many garage doors and can show you how.

A garage overhead door and driveway are often most of what people see
for the front view of a home. Photo: Decorative Concrete Orlando.

Clean Baths Look Newer

Buyers might love a completely new bathroom, but does it work in your favor to give it to them? Unless you've owned your home long enough for it to have appreciated handsomely, or you bought it for a song, or you've inherited the home debt-free, you'll have a hard time financially justifying a total bath do-over.

There are still some inexpensive upgrades that can make a bath look new. I recently purchased a low-flow toilet at Lowes on sale for about $100. It took a handyman an hour to remove the old one and install the new one.

Bath vanities and pedestal sinks can be are thrifty purchases as well. Many baths are small enough that a sheet vinyl remnant at a floor covering store will be a worthwhile expense for the newness it brings to the room.

Even simple changes like adding a shiny new faucet and shower head, replacing old towel bars with a matching set of new ones, putting up a trendy new overhead light, or hanging a beautiful mirror will make the whole room seem fresher. These are the kinds of changes that can go a long way toward bumping your home above the comparable ones buyers are touring.

The thrifty alternative is to take care of just what's going to give buyers what they are looking for -- a clean, functional, attractive and comfortable space with some wow tossed in. Sometimes, all it takes is a thorough cleaning followed by re-grouting tile or re-caulking around the tub for the facelift that impresses people.

Don't forget the power of paint.

Flooring Changes Everything

A floor says plenty about a room. A new floor is a good place to start if
you're not sure how best to spend money for home improvement. 
Floor surface makes up a big percentage of what a person sees and feels when he enters a room. Is it stylish?Comfortable? Quiet? Suitable for the room?

If you answered no to any of these, maybe a replacement is what you need to spring for. Don't assume flooring changes will be expensive. There are some flooring updates that won't set you back and can really make a difference when you list.

One selling point your listing can brag about is sustainable flooring. Linoleum flooring can last for more than 40 years if properly maintained and can be made to mimic all kinds of styles. There's even an eco-friendly kind, marmoleum, that will appeal to a lot of families.

To keep costs low, see if you can lay a new floor on top of the old one.

Smart rehabbers develop a working relationship with a flooring outlet. You can do the same. Explain that you are selling your home. Look for a deal. Then select wall color paint based on what bargain carpeting you select. New carpeting needn't be top of the line. An inexpensive carpet feels better with good padding underneath.

Hold off on sledgehammering

The kitchen is often the deal-breaker or -maker in a home sale. So it's only natural that you want to zero in on this room. Spend, but spend wisely.

A brand new refrigerator, dishwasher, stove, and microwave will woo buyers, especially if all come from the same manufacturer. But you can save some money shopping for unmatched, scratch-and-dent models, and even by negotiating at places like Lowes and Home Depot.

If your cabinets were poor quality to begin with or have taken a beating over the years, it'll probably be a better investment to replace them entirely. Stock cabinets from home improvement stores will go a long way towards updating your kitchen but be prepared to have some muscle and know-how to yank the old and hang the new. And most handymen, carpenters, and contractors aren't cheap.

This kitchen designed by Lynn Donaldson features two work surfaces -- a thin
butcher block  top on the island and a solid surface countertop elsewhere. 
Instead, you may be able to replace or resurface just the door fronts for a totally new appearance. To save money, leave some cabinets off and replace them with open shelving on wall brackets.

If your kitchen cabinets are still in great condition, you can clean them, sand them down, and paint them to completely change their look. Adding new hardware can do wonders, too.

Is your countertop making your kitchen look old? Work with a local stone company to create a high-end look on a shoestring. Tell them you are fixing a house to sell. Ask for a discount and don't be too choosy about the pattern. Just make the colors work with the existing flooring.

If you have a kitchen island, remember that the top doesn't have to match the counter. Look for bargains.

You can buy a new stainless double sink for about $200, and even less than that for a flashy faucet.

Unless your kitchen is very large, chances are a gallon of paint will give your kitchen walls two fresh coats.

Don't even consider leaving in place wallpaper or -- gasp! -- floral wallpaper borders in your kitchen or anywhere else. Buyers will experience unpleasant 80's flashbacks. Wallpaper removal is free.

The view from the Street

Buyers want to view homes that welcome them from the very start. That's where landscaping plays a major role.

Healthy turf, trimmed beds, pruned shrubs -- it all adds up to a
well-tended property that looks easy to maintain. Photo: Unknown source
Most Realtors agree, a good-looking landscape is buyer bait. The stats say that spending 5% of the value of your home on landscaping can increase its resale value by 15%.

According to Money Magazine, if you work with professional landscapers and make good decisions with their advice, their cost could bring a recovery value of up to 200% when you sell.

But you don't have to go overhaul your yard and gardens to profit from improved landscaping. Just giving your home's exterior a good power wash will make a big difference. I also recommend putting a coat of paint on your the front door. You don't have to change the color if it was a good choice originally.

Edge your mulched beds to give them a crisp look. Top-dress them with fresh mulch. Kill or pull any weeds. Tidy up shrubs that look too shaggy or overgrown. Remove unhealthy specimens. None of these tasks require a lot of cash or time yet the results will be dramatic.

Make More money when you sell

It's a common fallacy with homeowners that if a project is expensive it'll pay off in the end. These simple renovations prove that you don't have to spend a lot of money or time to reap benefits when you list. Frugal home improvements make sense. A dollar saved is a dollar profited. If you spend wisely, you'll leave the closing table with more in your pocket.

Are you staging your own home before going to market? You can get more thrifty and practical tips for staging your own home in my $4.99 eBooks on how to sell your home faster and for a better price.

Top Photo: Lenox House Design

Friday, April 13, 2018

Can Pinterest Show You How to Stage?

Staying ahead of the interior design curve is a smart move for both home sellers and professional home stagers.


Because when people shop for a new home they want to believe they are improving their lives, creating better surroundings for themselves and their family. If a home looks like the dwelling of a  prosperous family who has it all together, they're more likely to desire the lifestyle.

And, don't kid yourself, lifestyle is what a person buys when he or she buys a home.

Having furnishings that are on-trend indicates that people have the taste and finances to choose these items, whether flooring, appliances, window treatments, wall color, or other elements of a home.


It's snazzy -- the patterned carpet, the vibrant red leather sofa,
the oversized landscape, but is it Everyman's taste? Source: unknown 
We all know that people go to Pinterest to see what's new and exciting. So, let's look at what Pinterest tells us about people's taste in trends. We just have to look at what are some of the most-searched-for interior design trends thus far this year.

According to Pinterest and also who won the Best UK Interiors Awards, many of the trends seem to be pointing to 1970's design because of their colors, neon signs, and crazy prints.

"Style reflects what people feel and what is happening in the world," said Kelly Forsyth, a writer of The Odyssey. "People of the U.S. were feeling pretty similarly in the 1970s (to today), and their style reflects that."

Pinterest analytics say that intense interiors like those designed by filmmaker Wes Anderson are hot right now. "Maximalism" is the most searched-for term on Pinterest in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

Compared to minimalism, maximalists are more creative with their designs. The result is a unique and strange look that's appealing to especially younger buyers.

I'll leave it to you to decide if your market and your home can support this kind of over-the-top boldness. If you're selling a loft in a big city, yes. If you have a ranch house on a  quiet cul-de-sac in a small, rural town, no.

Ksenia Shestakovskaia, a former textile-maker in Berlin, says maximalism is the push-back against the boredom of Scandinavian minimalism. "I found that at a certain point things got so clean that they projected nothing," she said.

For a home on the market. bright colors are better left to furnishings used for staging,
or for what is easily
 switched out for something the new owner will love. Photo: Instainterior.


Pantone's color of the year, ultraviolet, has increased in search terms by an amazing 2,675%. Colors like candy pink and purple have also been a favorite among Pinterest people.

"Right now, perhaps it's … a reaction against a decade or so of grey walls and bleached wood dominating the style pages and our homes," reports The Telegraph. "Whatever the cause, the last couple of years have seen a huge revival of 1970s styling … both kitsch and classic."

If you're getting ready to sell your home, I'm still casting my vote for neutral walls and monochromatic color schemes. If you want to cash in on the trendy colors, add them in smaller doses like artwork, pillows, lamps, and side chairs.


Houseplants are an excellent way to make a room connect with
the outdoors and breath life into your space. Photo: DesignAttractor
The Seventies were a time of environmentalism, a playful attitude, and open concept living spaces. In a way, today's interior design trends reflect some of the hippie vibes of Seventies design.

Popular pieces from that decade that are making a comeback include fringing on curtains, rugs, lampshades, and cushions. Terrazzo, which uses a mix of materials for tiling especially in the kitchen, is also popular given its exuberant look and lower price.

More Americans are also bringing the outdoors back into the home. Seventies-style homes boasted hanging plants, natural wood furniture, wood paneling, and indoor gardens. Can macrame be far behind?

Real wooden furniture, in particular, has become a favorite again. It fits with the trendy farmhouse look. And buyers know that wood furniture will last longer and look more authentic than imitations.


Keeping up with some trends that are popular on Pinterest may help your homestaging if you're stuck in a time warp. But remember that people pin what fuels their own quirky fantasies, not what will please a majority of others or even projects that are necessarily do-able or good ideas.

My own Pinterest boards are full of photos and practical tutorials that I have personally curated to be helpful for DIY home stagers.

The average American will move 12 times in his or her lifetime. When it's time to sell is the time to tone down your personal taste so any buyer can relate. Once you're in your new home, you can add all the personality you want.

If you are staging your own home, you can get more tips in my $4.99 eBooks.on how to sell it faster for a better price.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Four Overlooked Steps To Take Before Listing Your Home

Ms. Chang knows home staging. Take her advice.
"Really be hard on yourself."

That's the advice given by Alice T. Chan, a professional stager in San Francisco, when asked what a homeseller can do to get a home looking great for its upcoming listing.

She says that most buyers are "so strapped after they purchase a property that they literally just want to move in and live. Even if they want to make upgrades later on, they want to feel like they're getting the best value possible when they buy. So give it to them."

I could not agree more. The only way to guarantee you're getting the maximum amount for your home is to prep it to satisfy buyers before you list it. Along those lines, here are some reminders of what buyers expect.

But there are a few commonly overlooked steps that home sellers can take to make sure buyers respond favorably, and give themselves an edge over competing houses. None of these steps cost much money. Some are free. All are smart.

One Bugaboo

You can ruin a budding relationship with a potential buyer if you invite her into your home for a look, only to have a mouse run across the floor when you flick on the garage lights. Or have a trail of ants making their way across your kitchen sink. Even one belly-up cockroach will send some home shoppers running for the door.

Insect problems can be a deal breaker. Best bet is to address them before you even think about listing your home. The sooner you take action, the less damage there will be.

A roof is an important part of curb appeal. It needs to look good.
A home inspection -- required by any financial institution granting a mortgage -- will reveal signs of infestation.

It usually doesn't cost to get a termite inspection or a pest evaluation from an exterminator.

If you have severe termite damage you can expect to spend at least $3,000 for repairs, but at least you can tell your Realtor that the problem is solved.

Over Your Head

Have your roof inspected. Ideally, your roof should be checked at least once or twice or year. If you're planning on listing your home, you should have your roof looked at by a professional. It's another assurance you can give your Realtor that one of the major infrastructures is sound.

Experienced buyers always look at the roof. They're eyeing it for loose shingles, dips, bumps, poor drainage, mold, and signs of other problems. If they see any minor roofing issues, they won't feel comfortable placing a generous offer on your home. If they make an offer, they could ask for a reduction in price to cover roof repairs or re-roofing. Trust me, they will ask for more than it would take you to fix the problem.

The Air You Breathe

The HVAC air that moves through your home moves through filters that trap particles like lint and dust and pollen and dander. Regularly replacing the return air filters will let your entire heating and cooling system function more efficiently, more economically.

A ductwork technician once told me that under normal circumstances expensive filters aren't important. The least expensive ones are just as good as the fancy ones as long as you change them regularly and don't have serious problems with things like smoke or odors or allergens.

No matter how pretty your bathroom is, it will not impress a
home inspector if it doesn't deal with water as it should. Photo: BHG

Water Works

Another situation you may have become accustomed to but will not go unnoticed by a home inspector is minor plumbing issues. A toilet that does not automatically cut off the resupply but keeps running is a problem. So is a toilet that intermittently comes on to refill the tank. You may need a toilet repair kit, a minor cost, or just a new flap or float, even cheaper.

Do your sinks drain quickly or slowly? An inspector will check. He will run your dishwasher and washer through a cycle to detect insufficiencies. If sinks and tub or shower drain slowly, you can usually treat them yourself with Draino or Liquid Plumber. If repeated attempts don't fix the problem, it may be time for a plumber visit. Tell him you are preparing to list for sale and see what professional advice he can give you on specific issues he might notice.

Why Stage Your Home 

There are plenty of benefits to staging your home before you list. Increasing the value of your home is the most outstanding benefit. Staged homes typically sell as much as 10% more than homes left as is.

A staged house will appeal to more people and make it stand out from similarly priced homes that are not staged. It's easier for buyers to imagine living in a staged home than an empty house or one filled with clutter or unappealing decor. Selling a staged home is likely to be less stressful for a seller because staged homes sell faster.

If you are selling any kind of home, you can get more tips on staging it in my $4.99 eBooks. Download and start staging your own home today so you'll attract a serious buyer.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

What to Do Waiting for Your Home to Sell

Are you impatient for your home to sell? Staging will help! 
If worrying about your home sale is keeping you up at night, you're not alone.

If you talk to people who've sold their home, they will usually tell you how much they hated the time between when they listed their property and when they closed.

They can have good reasons for their frustration. Most sellers are trying to keep the house show-ready.

They might be dealing with difficult negotiations or lowball offers.

Maybe the local housing market is overloaded with properties and they're not getting many showings. Perhaps they are in a time-crunch to move.

Having a decluttered and staged home will go a long way towards minimizing these obstacles. Staged homes statistically sell faster and for more money than unstaged ones.  To shorten the wait time even more, and at the same time, take the worry out of waiting, try these tricks experienced sellers use.

Vacant House

If you've moved from the home you've listed, whether it's been staged or not (I hope it is!), checking the property regularly is a good idea. You can't assume every Realtor will make sure a toilet isn't running, that pillows are fluffed, and that lights are turned off.  

If you've moved so far away that you can't easily visit your old home, can you ask a neighbor or friend to stop by? In addition to making sure everything is locked up, he or she could sweep the walkway, remove any junk mail, and brush any cobwebs or debris away from the front entrance area.

Don't let your staging results go to waste. Maintain an appearance that makes your house stand out from others -- the cleanliness and other signs that someone loves and cares for the home. Don't look desperate to sell or that you've already left town and written off the property. You'll only attract low offers.

Knowing that your home is perfect for someone takes the pressure off you. A clean house priced right will sell. 

Occupied House

It's not unusual for folks living in a decluttered and staged home to enjoy the minimal lifestyle. To me, it's like the ninth month of a pregnancy when everything is ready for the new baby and you are looking forward to the adventure ahead.

Of course, waiting for an offer on a house you're still occupying has challenges, too. You can't live a regular life without creating a little chaos around you.

Although it's impossible (without a live-in maid) to keep your home looking like a model home, having routines and practices that keep your homestaging intact will go a long way towards making your home tempting to buyers. People buy a lifestyle when they buy a home.

I often hear people who finish their staging tell me, "I wish I had done this sooner, so I could enjoy my home looking like this."

Check Your Mindset

Keep your home fresh while it's on the market. If the seasons change, change things like throw pillows and the front door wreath to reflect the time of year. Cooperate with real estate agents to make it easy for them to schedule showings.    

Every seller, every home has a sweet spot between holding out for the perfect selling price and not jumping at the first serious offer. Stay current with what comparable homes in your market are selling for. A good listing agent will guide you towards what's a realistic price. Having confidence that your price is right will help you be patient.

Buyers can often discern when a seller is over-anxious for a sale. Don't appear vulnerable
to discounted offers by regularly taking small chips off an inflated asking price

If you are still in knots about your home's sale, find a way to deal with the stress. This could be the time to learn a new skill or take up a hobby you're curious about. Socialize and exercise.
Enjoy the time you have in your home. Play tourist in your hometown before you relocate. Learn about your future neighborhood, town, or state.

Need more encouragement and suggestions about staging and selling your home? Download my $4.99 home staging eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. It's a 150-page pdf that will guide you step by step through doing it yourself with style and ease.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Beginner's Guide To Selling Your Home in the Internet Era

It's becoming increasingly common for a homeowner ready to put his home on the market to say, "Why don't I sell it myself without a real estate broker?"

Is this you? Are you thinking of hammering a  For Sale By Owner sign on your front lawn? I've previously blogged about selling your home without a Realtor, and advised against it. But I wrote that post eight years ago. Some of my rationale is still solid, but some things have changed so it's time to re-evaluate the FSBO scene.

More people are plugged in

The number of devices that connect to the Internet is expected to rise from about 13 billion to 50 billion by 2020. It seems like we are all connected all the time! Why not? The web lets us learn about anything and reach goals easier than we could have scarcely imagined a generation ago.  

About 92% of people now use the Internet when looking for a new home.  If you'd prefer to sell your home on the web without a real estate agent, it 
might be something you'd have no regrets about. 

Questions to ask yourself

Eyes wide open is the way to tackle
any FSBO program. Educate yourself about
the advantages and disadvantages. 
Do you have time to gather the specs about your house and prepare the selling literature?

Are you up to the task of researching what a realistic selling price for your home is? 

Can you show your own property without tipping your hand about how anxious you are to sell, or having personal opinions about the prospective buyer influence the negotiations? 

Does your daily schedule allow you to show your home when a prospective buyer wants to see it? 

Are you skillful and comfortable about negotiating price and other considerations?  

Be aware that real estate agents are probably not going to bring you clients unless you subscribe to a FSBO program that hooks you into agents willing to work with you. Otherwise, you are going solo. 

If you decide you want to "be your own Realtor," here are just a few tips to help you get started with marketing and selling your home online

Don't Hesitate To Pay For Exposure

One of the best ways to sell your home online quickly is to make sure the listing reaches as many pairs of eyes as possible.

Since selling your home without a Realtor's guidance can save you thousands of dollars in commission costs, why not allocate some of those savings to exposure? Fortunately, there are quite a few FSBO websites to choose from. Research the features and costs of each program to determine what fits your finances and skillset.

The FSBO website you choose should have a high search engine rating, a simple user interface and navigational site map, and of course, quality listings with clear descriptive sections,  plus sufficient images.

Some FSBO sites will let you list with Multiple Listing Service,, Zillow, and Redfin. Most offer different packages at different prices. If you want to spend for it, you'll get advice, signage, forms, brochures, and other perks.

Advertise Best Qualities

Brag about your house. Be professional
instead of personal. Don't be like this guy.
When you create your home's listing, think about what a potential buyer would want to know. Reflect on what you enjoy about your home and locale.

Mention improvements and upgrades you've added, and indicate how these upgrades relate to the bigger picture of health, convenience, aesthetic appeal, and even social status or success.

For example, if your home is located in a picturesque location that's highly walkable and close to many businesses, it helps to emphasize it in the listing. Considering the fact that about 14% of Americans have even changed jobs to shorten the commute, a convenient location can be a major selling point.

When it comes to images, both quality and quantity are important.  Your lead-off profile shot needs to be stellar and show off your curb appeal!  

A good listing will have at least one clear photo of every room, in addition to several angles from the outside of the home. If you've recently remodeled, include pictures of the upgrade and specify brand names and other details.  Even small remodeling jobs can push home-hungry buyers to make a decision, or at least come to see the property.  

Any photo that makes your home look "new and improved" will help attract potential buyers. For example, a 2017 interior design trends survey showed that more than a third of respondents said they prefer a neutral color palette. 

If you want to have a measurable advantage over your competition, hire a professional photographer so your photos represent your home at its best.   

Take Advantage of Social Media

Finally, don't neglect the powers of social media when it comes to reaching buyers. Start by posting to your own friends. Then, post your listing in any neighborhood watch groups, HOAs, and listserves for local residents.

Use Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and/or Twitter. Tune your message to the medium -- frisky and tempting on Instagram, teasingly cryptic with a photo on Twitter, and detailed and inclusive on Google+. Make sure your social media posts contain a link to your home's FSBO listing so potential buyers can learn all about your home and take the next step if they're interested.

Even though a Realtor is a good investment, it's empowering to know that you do have the ability to sell your home with nothing more than a device with Internet access and your own intelligence and efforts.

Help is on the way

To guide you on your home staging journey, my popular book of tips. techniques and tutorials will prove indispensable. Download the  $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, and start your staging today.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Does Wall Color Really Matter When Selling Your Home? (Spoiler: Yes.)

We all want to believe that we make decisions only after we've logically examined the facts. But are we really objective about how we decide things?

We buy cars that eat too much fuel but look luxurious, and shoes that feel uncomfortable but make us look sexy.

Emotions refuse to take a minor role when it comes to buying a house, too.

Home buyers are influenced by intangibles like aromas, sounds, memories, textures, and colors. Even buyers who collect all the pertinent data about things like price per square foot, neighborhood comparables, and average utility bills respond to a property on an emotional level as well.

As a home seller, your task is to make buyers fall in love with your home on all levels. Data matters to buyers, but so do the intangibles. Color is one of those intangibles.

Of all the surfaces in your home, walls are the largest. People touring your home will be surrounded by walls. That means wall color has a big impact on emotions. So it's  important to know what colors make buyers feel good.

Surveys Show

In 2016, approximately 560,000 new houses sold nationwide. Even though it's starting to look more like a seller's market in some areas of the country doesn't mean it's easy to convince a buyer to make that offer. Buyers expect homes to be well-maintained and look pleasing. Paint satisfies in both those departments. It protects and beautfies.

Certain colors are almost expected in certain rooms.
Bathrooms are a natural for pale blues, greens and teals.
Photo: M .House Montgomery 
The best part about painting is its cost-effectiveness. Whether you do it yourself, or hire others to do it, painting gives you one of the best returns on your staging budget. The right color can actually have a better ROI than a big-ticket renovation, according to real estate agents and home staging professionals I've talked with.

An interior design trends survey from 2017 found that more than one-third of respondents would choose a neutral color palette if they were redecorating their home. It's no surprise, then, that "greige" -- pale gray with a beige undertone -- and off-whites are still very popular choices when choosing a new hue for home staging.

Three Boxes to Check Off

We've all heard the advice that neutral wall colors will deliver the clean, non-polarizing canvas that allows buyers to picture themselves in your home.

The interior design industry generates around $10 billion in revenue every year. This figure tells me the average homeowner values her home's interior decor. She wants the latest looks. She wants comfort. And when looking to buy, she wants a turnkey property. Paint can go a long way towards creating all three of those ideals.

ONE: Today's Style 

Paint colors go in and out of style. Grey is still riding high and whites are always stylish. When you paint with a grey or white that plays well with the fixed features of your home, you've checked off the box for colors that are on-trend.

TWO: Comfort  

The colors that telegraph the comfort buyers are looking for are the colors that are not dark, unusual,  highly saturated, or otherwise alarming.

These wall colors -- turquoise and chartreuse -- are the kinds of colors that a new homeowner might find difficult to decorate around. Deep colors like these have too much personality. 
Also, it will probably take two coats of paint to change the color to something more buyer-friendly.. 

Bathrooms feel right when they are painted with cool colors, perhaps due to the association with water and cleanliness. Kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms can go either warm or cool, depending on the other features, like cabinets, countertops, and floors. Select comfy colors and you can check off box number two.

THREE: Move-in ready

Many buyers need to move out of their old homes and into new ones on the same day. Most people do not enjoy painting interior walls, especially if they are already living there. For these reasons, when you make your property turnkey, it's more appealing.

Choose interior colors anyone could love and you've removed the hurdle of a looming DIY project. Check off box number three.


With walls this color, the new owner can easily visualize her existing
furnishings in the space. Photo: Alyssa Rosenheck.
After you've finished rolling neutral paint on, you may need to really take stock of your furnishings and weed out the "color clutter," according to You might love that colorful duvet cover or crazy abstract painting you have, but if it doesn't go with the palette you've chosen, you might need to rethink. Aim for a soothing palette.

If your rooms begin to look boring, it's time to add color where it isn't a permanent part of your house. Here is where accessories like pillows, rugs,
books, and other props come in handy.

Choose these props with an eye to a color scheme based on three colors, all of the same intensity. It's a foolproof formula for a seamless look stagers prefer.

When your home on the market feels as special as those luxury cars and sexy shoes, buyers are attracted to it on a visceral level. Result: Up go your chances of a good purchase offer.

If you are selling any kind of home, you can get more tips on staging it in my $4.99 eBooks. Download and start staging your own home today so you'll attract a serious buyer.

Top photo: Phoebe Howard

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Lights, Camera, Escrow! Simple Ways to Sell Your Home During Winter

People buy homes at all times of the year, but winter isn't the most fun time to be a home seller.

Days are short. Weather can be unpredictable. Travel might be difficult or even unsafe. Schedules are cramped. And home landscapes lack the lushness and color of other seasons.

If you live in the most southern states, where winters mean drinks by the pool and driving to work with the top down, selling a home won't be as challenging, but for most of the U.S., selling in winter takes special planning.

Don't let the lack of sunshine, birdsong, and flowers bring you down if you're a wintertime property seller. Here are some simple ways to make your home stand out.

Curb Appeal

Even when Christmas is past, you can decorate your front entrance
to celebrate the winter season. What is special about winter where you live? 
Buyers judge your home from the outside, so landscaping is just as important in December and March as it is in June, maybe more so!

One reliable budget formula is that spending 5% of your home's value on landscaping can get you an ROI of up to 150%. But if that money is spent on spring flowering shrubs, summer annuals, and colorful fall foliage plants, it's not a well-designed plan.

Some shrubs that look interesting even when their leaves are gone are Japanese maples, witch hazel and red twig dogwood. Some shrubs that still look good during the cold month are hollies, boxwoods, evergreens. Even if the ground is frozen, your local nursery can supply you with small potted varieties of these plants to use as container plants near your entrance.

Other containers can still add color with flowering kales and cabbages, and evergreen branches left from your Christmas tree or prunings from a florist. Even spray-painted bare branches in a bucket can serve as your front entrance spot of color.

Take a serious look at your property in midwinter. Make sure fallen leaves, frost-bitten plants, dead tree branches, and downed limbs are removed. Mulch should cover beds that are resting.

With cold temperatures and dreary skies, potential buyers can have a difficult time picturing what your home looks like in summer. For winter listings, it's important to include a photo showcasing your home in its best season to help them see how it looks at other times of the year.

Safety first

When potential buyers come to your house, will they have a clear path through any snow? Your driveway, sidewalk, and porch should all be cleared of snow and ice to not only make it look nice, but to make sure no one gets hurt walking to or from your house.

Buyers don't need to be reminded of the work they will have to do to maintain a home. Please don't display a stack of snow shovels and bags of ice melt products. Keep them handy but out of sight.

It's also important to make sure visitors have someplace safe and convenient to park their vehicles. If your home is still on the market during the "mud season" common in areas where thawing snow and spring rains make a mess of unpaved roads and paths, let agents know about conditions ahead of time so no one gets stuck.

A place to put muddy boots and shoes just outside your front door and a box of disposable "footies" is a good idea.

Homes on the market in winter will be viewed after dark. Dramatic lighting on your exterior will
help show off the home, emphasize its architecture, deter prowlers, and make the property
look more cared for. Photo: Outdoor Lighting Perspectives

Lighten and Brighten

Realtors might be bringing clients to see your home after the workday is over, when it's dark. Motion-activated exterior lights are easy to install, especially if you can simply replace an existing fixture. Make sure all outdoor lights are functioning and have the maximum wattage recommended.

It's possible you may not have sufficient notice of when your home is being shown. Perhaps you are traveling, working, or you've already moved. In these cases, you'll need some timers on lamps to guarantee that some rooms are pre-lighted when people arrive.    

Because the harsh winter weather can leave you stuck inside, it's a good time to tackle some easy upgrades. If you're not one of the 20% of Americans who feel happy with their home decor, according to a HomeGoods survey, make some decisions about how to change things to make your space feel as inviting and homey as possible.

One budget-friendly way to do that is by painting your interior walls. Choose colors that are in style right now, like warm greys, violets, teals, and greens, to attract trend-savvy buyers.

Real plants and flowers can be part of your "lighten and brighten" campaign. Grocery store bouquets are inexpensive and can last more than a week if you know how to stretch your floral dollar.

Warm Welcome

Warm woods, a color scheme based on greens, fresh plants and flowers,
all make this room a welcome winter retreat. Photo: Flynnside Out Productions
While selling during the winter can be discouraging, there are ways to make the most of the season's charms. The Danish have a word for it: Hygge, and it means coziness. According to The New Yorker, "It is candles, nubby woolens, shearling slippers, woven textiles, pastries, blond wood, sheepskin rugs, lattes with milk-foam hearts, and a warm fireplace."

So, if you have a fireplace, make it a focal point in the room. Stage it with winter style.

If you live near winter amenities like ski areas, winter festivals, seasonal tourist attractions, or special winter scenery, make sure your listings highlight those features.

Keep your house interior comfortably warm. Potential buyers will feel immediately cheered by coming in from the cold.

Here's a bedroom that emphasizes the cozy qualities of winter in a cold climate.
Hygge depends on warm fabrics, layers of natural and textured materials,
 and intimate lighting. Photo: Achia Living   
But with the heat cranked up, it's important to ensure your home is properly sealed. If your attic is not properly insulated or if you have openings or air leaks, now is the time to take care of them. Doing so will not only lower your present energy bills but will produce a return on your investment when you sell.
In northern states, buyers will often inquire about heating costs, so it's a selling point if your home is energy efficient.

Why wait for spring?

If your home is on the market in winter you're bound to have fewer showings, but all it takes is one buyer, so focus on that thought, and stage your home to attract that person. Selling during the winter months can be discouraging but not impossible! With a little extra lighting, a toasty interior, some reminders of the season's pleasures, and maybe a snowman in the front yard, you're sure to attract that buyer who's ready to make an offer.

If you are selling any kind of home, at any time of year, you can get more tips on staging it in my $4.99 eBooks. Download and start staging your way to a more profitable sale today.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Essentials Every Homestager Needs

I ain't gonna lie. Staging a home, whether as a decor-challenged home seller or a professional homestager, can be hard work.

Can be. Doesn't have to be

The difference will be what you have in your toolkit.

I want to share with you my favorite time-savers and energy-savers. Anyone staging a home should have this equipment handy right from the start of a homestaging project. None of them are expensive.

Measuring Tape

One of the first steps you'll make when you stage a home is to take measurements. Measure the rooms, the furniture you'll use (footprint and height), windows and doors, and rugs. Keep these numbers with you when you shop. You'll prevent yourself from bringing home oops or having to live with things like draperies too short, a nightstand that's too tall, or a sofa that won't fit through your front door.

I like to carry a small tape measure in my purse. At home, it's handy to have a yardstick, a ruler and a measuring tape. Don't guess. Although my mother-in-law could take a length of fabric, hold one end up to her chin, and by stretching the edge of the cloth out the full length of her arm-- whether yardage at a garage sale or curtains at a thrift store -- know that it was exactly 33 inches from chin to thumb. Handy.

Paint Color Chip Charts

Decorators and other professionals are awarded paint companies' monster chip charts, or "fandecks"  to help them plan their designs and show options to clients. You can make your own more practical book of color chips that will guide your choices in textiles, furniture, counters and other furnishings.

Next time you are at the paint store or home improvement center, grab all the paint color strips that you think will work well with what you have at home and then make your own paint color book. I've previously given a simple and foolproof formula for selecting paint colors.

 A stager always carries color samples. Know your palette. 


I'm not embarrassed to admit I have an on-going love affair with gloves. How else is a girl supposed to protect her hands from cleaning chemicals, paint, and grime? If you do any landscaping, you need gardening gloves. If you strip furniture, you need heavy nitrile or viton gloves that safeguard your skin from paint remover. If you move furniture, you need gloves that help you get a grip on bulky pieces. If you paint walls or furniture, you need cotton gloves, nitrile or disposable latex gloves that make cleaning up afterward fast and easy.

Microfiber Cloths

One time you don't need to glove-up when cleaning is when you use microfiber cloths and water. We all love these cloths and mops and dusters for their ability to gather and hold the stuff that brooms and ordinary dust cloths send airborne.

For tougher grease and grime, you'll need to use your microfiber cloth with an all-purpose cleaner. I find windows and mirrors are easier to get streak-free if I use a glass cleaner on my microfiber cloth.

For real problem areas, like soot left on an acrylic shower stall wall from candles burned in the bathroom, bring on the magic erasers. P.S. real beeswax candles don't deposit soot on your walls or lungs. All paraffin candles do.

Most of us have some version of a Swiffer for floors. I also like the Swiffer WetJet, For quick dusting and reaching high places, nothing beats a long-handled microcloth duster. Buy your microfiber cloths by the bundle in the automotive department for the best price.

Milk Crates

You can strap this crate in your car with a seatbelt!
The reason I'm big on milk crates is that they are lightweight, economical, have handles, stack easily, and let you see the contents. True, they won't protect their contents from dust, mildew or other damage, but they are big helpers when you are gathering your homestaging supplies in a clean, climate-controlled space. They make transporting supplies easier, as well.

Best source for milk crates? The ones discount stores sell for $2.50 are fine for most storage and toting tasks. If you want to get all crazy and have color-coded or heavy-duty milk crates, here's an online source for that.

Clear Bins

Sometimes you need more protection and visibility than milk crates offer. Bring on the plastic, lidded tubs. There's no shortage of styles and price points.

It's smart to stick to one style of bin if you plan to store or transport staging supplies regularly. Matching ones will nest when not in use, and they will stack easily with lids on. They'll also make you feel and look ever-so-organized!

How much you want to spend depends on your budget and your fussiness. I find that discount stores have bins that are good enough, whether shoe box size or 72-quart, or anything in between.

I like clear bins because the contents are identifiable.


Having the right glue on hand lets you tackle any project at the right time, like when you want to do a group of repairs all at once, or when you need to make a quick emergency fix on deadline, or when the mood strikes at a crafting session.

What did people do before hot glue guns came on the crafting scene? Home stagers can use a glue gun to make no-sew draperies and pillow covers. They're indispensable for a million crafts projects joining metal and wood and fabric surfaces, but be aware that cold temperatures will break the bond. I once made a  twig trellis as a Christmas gift to my sister in New York. I glued all the branches together with a hot glue gun. Fast and fabulous! I drove from North Carolina with it in my trunk and when I popped the trunk in Brooklyn, the trellis was just a pile of sticks, having been undone by freezing temps. There's a lesson here: if you want to remove hot glue, just freeze it.

When working with hot glue, keep an ice cube ready for those inevitable finger burns. Putting ice on that burn for a few minutes will sooth the ouch and prevent a blister from forming.

Another boon to stagers is spray adhesive. Use it to bond new fabric to an old padded headboard, to turn a box spring into a bed pedestal by covering it with fabric, create montages for framing, recover a lampshade, decoupage a tray or plastic container, or cover ordinary shoe boxes with a pretty textile to create props for staging tabletops and closets. Please spray only with plenty of ventilation and not at all if you are pregnant.

I'm not a fan of super glue. I would rather use every crafter's favorite --  e6000. It dries clear, is easy to work with, sets fast and forms a strong bond for fabrics, ceramics, rubber. vinyl, leather, fiberglass, wood, and concrete surfaces. When I want a really durable bond, I'll use a two-part epoxy. And for temporary place holding, nothing beats a glue stick.
With a hot glue gun you can quickly hem curtains,
add trim to pillows or lampshade, and create crafts for
staging, like these faux pewter planters. For starters! 

Spray Paints

My preferred brand is Krylon. They spray evenly, don't spit, cover well, offer great color choices,  and I can use my handle/trigger attachment.

Scoop up a selection of the colors you'll use to reinforce your home's unique color scheme. I always have gold, silver, black and white. You never know when you'll be inspired to transform old into new, convert an assortment of odds and ends into a collection, or work a mismatched item into your grand plan!


To guide you on your homestaging journey, a book of tips. techniques and tutorials will help. You can download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Homestaging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, and start your staging today.

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