Tuesday, October 8, 2019

What Your Closets Reveal About You

A closet says a lot about its owner. When your house is for sale, closets are part of the deal in surprising ways.

Closets are secret places, non-public areas that exist behind closed doors.

But buyers will open those doors. They will step inside a walk-in closet. They will peer into cabinets. They will stare at a pantry.

Buyers are picturing the amount of space they would have if they bought your home. But they are also judging the owner of the home, you.

If they form a positive impression of you, they will form a more positive impression of your home. And chances are greater they will be easy to work with as prospective buyers because, hey, you're a likable guy.

These buyers are less likely to low ball you on pricing, and less likely to put bumps in the road to a closing like demanding special considerations.

Staging your closets could make the difference between a buyer envisioning himself moving in or else questioning if your home is right for him. The National Association of Realtors has found that 83% of buyers' agents agree that staging a home makes it easier for potential buyers to visualize living there

If you don't give your closets -- and other storage areas -- some staging love, you could be alienating buyers. Here are three of the best messages your closets can give someone touring your home.

There's something soothing and reassuring about a closet that has items
arranged by colors. The wooden hangers add a classy touch. Photo: The Spruce

1. I value myself and my possessions. 

If your closets are perfect examples of orderliness and style, chances are the rest of your home shows the same characteristics. You can emphasize those qualities by staging your storage areas to look neat and attractive. 

A thorough closet cleanse begins when you go through your belongings and pare them down. No one admires a hoarder. Get rid of duplicates, expired items, and anything irreparable or useless to you anymore. You want to showcase what looks new and upscale.

The average adult between the ages of 25 to 34 spends $161 each month on clothing. That's a ton of clothes. The time to minimize possessions is as soon as you know you will be selling your home. Not only will decluttering make it easier to clean and organize, but it will make your move easier and more affordable as well.

If you find it difficult to toss belongings, holding a garage sale can take the sting out of what feels wasteful. Use the cash to help with your staging or your move. Donating items to your favorite charity thrift store is another way to part with things gracefully. Tell yourself that set of dishes you no longer use will make a budgeting, new bride happy. 

My one unusual piece of advice I give people purging storage areas in their homes is to be on the lookout for interesting objects they can use for staging. That straw hat or those old leather riding boots that you never wear could become a statement piece of your closet staging.  

2. I curate my life. I'm in control. 

We all admire organized people. Be that person. Once you've narrowed down your closet contents and zeroed in on items that you want to keep, there will still be stuff that is either out-of-season or takes up too much space.

This photo from The Container Store doesn't look like
the pantries most of us have and use, but it is a good
example of how attractive a staged closet can look.  
My opinion is that it's worth the money to rent an off-site space for the possessions you don't need right now.

Since the U.S. storage unit industry generates $22 billion in revenue every year, I think you'll find a facility near you. I've blogged about the best ways to choose and use a storage unit. 

Storing excess in the attic or basement is always an option, but it does give the message to buyers that you don't have adequate, accessible storage. Someone touring your home begins thinking, "If they don't have room for their stuff, then neither will I."

Stacked boxes of stored belongings make it look like you're in a hurry to move. Boxes stored in a basement or attic can be a visual distraction, and might even be a safety hazard. Although a finished basement merely needs to meet legal egress requirements for safe escape or entry, buyers won't be enticed by a crowded or unattractive basement.

So, turn that messy closet into something an obsessive-compulsive could love. Cluster the little things you regularly use and store them in opaque containers. Even a small closet can be made to look larger when storage bins and baskets match.

If there is a light fixture in the closet, make sure it has maximum wattage and that both the bulb and the globe are clean. Add battery-powered, stick-up lights and turn them on before a showing if the closet needs additional illumination.

To make a closet look more spacious, use under bed storage space for essentials you don't need daily.  I've written about other clever places to store excess when you stage.

An overcrowded closet says you don't have control of your life. Now's the time to tidy up!

3. I have an enviable lifestyle.

Never forget that people shopping for a home want to move up the social ladder. A home purchase represents increased self-worth and security. If your home represents a desirable lifestyle, you'll find a buyer sooner.

Pretty things, plenty of space, lack of clutter, handsome
hangers, simple color scheme -- this closet demonstrates
some of the best ideas for staging a clothing closet.
Photo: Women's Day Magazine
The good life means you have separate closets for separate functions. The ideal home has a coat closet, a linen closet, a cleaning closet, as well as designated closets for sports equipment, party supplies, shoes, off-season clothing, crafts, and ... well, we can dream, can't we?

The closer you can come to this dream scenario, the better your home will show. Try to create a couple of  single-purpose closets. Perhaps you can cluster sports equipment, luggage, and off-season clothing in separate areas of one closet. Maybe you move cleaning supplies and tools into the laundry area, and then stage one closet as a gorgeous linen closet anyone could love.

In other words, put the pretty things upfront and center, and hide the mundane and personal. Don't be afraid to stage a closet in a way that's a tad unrealistic. Go for a unified look with matching baskets or boxes, and a color scheme that ties everything together. Create closet envy.

Don't have a junk closet in your home. Don't have any mystery closets.

Don't arrange clothing or accessories randomly. Organize by type or by color.

Don't store boxes, baskets, and shoes on the floor. The more visible floor there is, the more buyers are impressed. 

Don't use old, dry-cleaner, mismatched hangers for clothes. Cheap closet accessories send a negative message to buyers. Make them jealous of how together you are.

Don't include photographs of your closets in your online listing. They rarely look impressive unless they are huge walk-in affairs with custom shelving and minimal belongings.

If you plan on listing your home for sale in the coming weeks or months, these are the steps you can take to help it sell quickly for the ideal price. When you stage spaces so they look big and accommodating you've just bumped your home ahead of the competition.


You can gain more insights into what makes DIY home staging successful in my eBooks. Each one is just $4.99, and they are fully loaded with advice on how to make your home ready for market without driving yourself crazy. Click on that eBook link and you are just another click away from starting your smart staging today.

Top Photo: Forbes

Friday, September 13, 2019

Five Simple Changes That Impress Buyers

Staged homes sell faster and for more money. What home seller doesn't want that?

Now I will tell you what home sellers don't want!

They don't want to spend a ton of money on projects, upgrades, and decor that they would rather spend on their next house.

So, when you're staging and your budget is limited, consider these five simple ways to impress potential buyers.


If you look at photos of professionally staged unoccupied homes for sale, you'll usually see furnishings that look like they just left the factory. And that's fine, because buyers like the look of new. It feels clean and trendy.

What these rooms lack is a sense of warmth and reality. Few people live with brand new furniture, and bedding and lamps and vases and pillows and appliances and rugs.

That's where a few well-placed antiques can make a home look lived in but by people who have an enviable lifestyle. If you have inherited pieces that have any degree of pedigree, or look like they belong in another era, you can use them for staging. Just make sure they are in good shape (a little distressing is expected).

"A few well-placed" is the key phrase here. Mix antiques, or pieces that look like good antiques, with mostly furnishings that look new and stage-worthy. 

You can't stage your entire home with old castoffs from your parents. Be selective. Mix things up. Often an older piece needs a modern twist to bring it up to date and make it perfect for staging. It could be grandma's rocking chair with a new buffalo check fabric on its seat, or a relic Remington typewriter placed on a lucite table. 

Organized Storage

Yes indeed, buyers on tour will open cabinets, vanities, closets, and drawers. They want to check roominess. They're looking for leaks and cracks and poor design.

Matching containers and a careful arrangement
go a long way to making even chaos and ordinary
household essentials look organized.  
The first step is, of course, getting rid of what you really don't need to store. Declutter, folks!

The second step is to store things in logical places. Keep off-season clothes and sports equipment out of sight. Keep grooming needs in vanities (or hidden for showings). Keep valuables out of sight. But keep attractive belongings in plain sight.

And the third step is to make stored items look like you really do have everything in your life together! Remember, buyers are buying your lifestyle.

Keep storage areas tidy, clean, and as pretty as you can. Cluster the little things to avoid the messy look of too much stuff.

When you stage, you needn't label your basket, tubs and boxes. It's only distracting to home buyers. You probably already know which basket holds the toilet paper and which one holds shampoos! 

Fresh paint on trim

The Internet is full of advice on painting walls. Painting trim, not so much. Yet a fresh coat of semigloss paint on painted woodwork like door frames, window trim and baseboards will really bring a room to life.

These are often the places that show the most signs of wear -- smudges, dints, and signs of abrasion. If you are neat and patient or else an experienced painter, you can do this work yourself. Painting trim is more time consuming than painting walls, so quotes from housepainters might sound high. Painting woodwork is the kind of DIY project you can tackle in small bites.

When painting trimwork, go with the same exact color, brand, and finish as what is existing. You may be able to get away with touch-up instead of a complete repaint.

Large art

The mirror over this console table is low
enough that it ties in with the tabletop
arrangement. Photo: Whitney Campeau Interiors
Skimpy art on your walls downgrades the look you want -- the look of style and luxury.

Instead, decorate with oversized art on walls large enough to call for decor pieces. Use frames and matting that make the artwork look even more important.

Large art is your best friend when you have scant furnishings and need to fill spaces. Oversized wall hangings don't take up any floor space and they create the illusion of a  well-appointed room.

Make sure your art is hung low enough to visually connect with the rest of the furnishings. The visual center of the piece should be at the average eye level, about 60 to 65 inches above the floor. If a piece of art will be placed above seating like a sofa or above a console table in a foyer, it could be lower, so that it doesn't seem to float unrelated to the sofa or table.

Trust your eye, then make it a little lower.

If your art is a mirror, be certain it reflects something other than the ceiling or floor.

Matched sets

Budget staging often calls for purchases from garage sales and second-hand stores. But too much recycled stuff is going to look, well...like a garage sale.

One way to avoid this mish-mash look is to decorate with some matched sets. Look for lamps, framed pictures, pillows, twin headboards, side chairs, and end tables.

Just the right amount of symmetry keeps this living room from looking too formal. 
The pillows and artwork are pairs, but other elements are singles. 
Photo: Robin Stubbert. Designer: Kelly Hopter Interiors

Bedrooms are a natural for staging with pairs of pillows and nightstands. If you have pairs of vases, occasional chairs, small tables, upholstered pieces, or other furnishings, and you have them in separate rooms, I suggest reuniting them for a more intentional look to your staging.

If you look at all the above photos, you'll notice that they all show pairs of furnishings, whether towels or baskets or lamps or pillows. Pairs work in your favor only if they literally match. Painting two lamps that are almost alike the same color doesn't have the same power that duplicates do.

Get the Look. Get the book. 

You can gain more insights into what makes DIY home staging successful in my eBooks. Each one is just $4.99, and they are fully loaded with advice on how to make your home ready for market without driving yourself crazy. Click on that eBook link and you are just another click away from starting your smart staging today.

Top Photo: House & Home. Photographer: Alex Lukey. Designer: Sam Sacks.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Secrets to Staging with Silk Flowers

It's nice to think you can have fresh flowers in your staged home every time prospective buyers come by for a tour. But let's get real.

Fresh flowers, for all their magic, have certain drawbacks.

They have a short lifespan, and it's simply not economical to replace them weekly.

They take a bit of finessing to make them look good when you bring them home, and to continue looking perky through the week.

Who has time and money for that? Especially when you can use faux flowers and plants that have the same impact?

I think we all know that natural elements like plants add personality and a quality of genuineness to interior decor. They bring a room to life.

But no one said those plants and flowers have to be living specimens!

The cost

A bunch of flowers at supermarkets where I live costs about $4, and usually three bunches for $12. An ordinary bouquet might run between $10 and $30. Not too bad. But how about longevity? If you take good care of them, they might last the week.

I can spend the same amount of money and get flowers that last forever. I know what you are thinking -- that they look cheap and artificial, but that all depends on what you choose and how you use them. 

These are silk lilies from Hobby Lobby. 

These are lilies I cut from my garden.


The lilies I gathered from my flower garden come up every springtime, They are fragrant, with strong stems and lovely soft colors. But after a few days in a vase, they can drop pollen. The water needs refreshing and sometimes petals curl or fall.

The silk lilies I purchased for staging are a different story. They are literally carefree and can be packed away for months and another use. Their stems are flexible so I can arrange them and they will stay put, especially in a container with dry floral foam to hold them.

I've ruined more than one piece of furniture when condensation or overflow from "plant care" left a stain. You too?

If you buy supermarket bouquets, the flowers in any one $4 bunch are usually assorted, and probably not all the various colors you want for staging. You need a more monochromatic look, or at least a limited palette. With silks, you can have it your way -- choosing exactly the colors you want to work with.

There is another advantage to using artificials. It has to do with allergies. When strangers are touring your home on the market, some of them may be allergic to real flowers -- either the scent or the pollen. So, using silks is playing it safe.

Keep a variety of different varieties of faux flowers, all in the color palette you are using
for staging, and you'll have more fun and success making interesting arrangments. Photo: Rtfact


I like to use florals that are in season -- tulips, forsythia, and crocus in spring; daisies and dahlias all summer; and amaryllis and poinsettias in winter. Orchids rein all year.

Nonflowering florals are just as refreshing for home staging. Succulents, ferns, and boxwood topiaries are always winners. They look good in any room, at any time of the year and in almost any kind of container. Today's palms and fiddle leaf fig trees are a blessing to home stagers needing to fill large spaces.


The best places to find silk flowers depends on how you will use them. If you want to make a statement and it will be seen up close, splurge a little and get quality silks. You can order from this popular online floral supplier, or shop Hobby Lobby and Michael's. Individual stems will cost between two and nine dollars. If you are going to place the flowers or plant on top of a bookcase, on the wall over a bed, or another unreachable place, look for more budget sources, even dollar stores. I've blogged about how to find bargain faux flowers.

The stems on these tulips looked cheap and didn't look anything like authentic
tulip stems. With the wire stems shortened and hidden, and the silks arranged in
a tight cluster, theses blooms are more likely to pass for the real thing. 

Secrets to success

Especially if you stage with less expensive silks, make them look as natural as possible. Here are 14 ways to do that.
  • Arrange them in handsome or interesting containers, ones with tradition, style and pedigree. Every professional stager has a collection of floral containers. Imitate that plan, and when you know your house will be listed, keep your eye out for beautiful containers and vases. They are everywhere!
  • Make some of the stems on any arrangement shorter than others to avoid that "manufactured look." Use wire cutters (not the good ones you use for making jewelry, or your scissors) to cut a few stems on fake greens and flowers shorter than others. Alternatively, you can often bend the stems at the base to shorten them and bend them midway to make them look more realistic. 
  • You can also cut apart floral clusters so you have more flexibility arranging the stems instead of being limited to how they came off the assembly line. 
  • On many florals, you can push sets of leaves up the stem to make the flower look more realistic and interesting.

These daisies on wire stems came from the dollar store.
The leaves are attached low on the stem. 
I snipped off the stems to make them shorter, and slid the leaves up towards the "flowers" to make this cozy bedside arrangement.
  • Clear glass containers usually don't work for florals unless you use fake water or glass marbles to stabilize the stems and further the illusion. I find that opaque vessels are more practical and versatile.
  • Keep artificial flowers and greenery clean. This is especially important on large, flat leaves that will show dust. It's easy to dunk them in water or hold them under the shower and let them drain until dry.

The blue and yellow color pattern in this arrangement repeats
the colors predominating in the room. Photo: Petals.com
  • Create arrangements that have varied and interesting textures. Incorporate artificial berries, seed pods, ferns, and fluffy flowers as well as smooth ones. Fill in gaps with reindeer moss or sphagnum moss. 
  • Cheap greenery used outdoors will often turn a pale, ugly green. You don't want your outdoor foliage to look like cemetery leftovers! Outdoors, plant real plants. 

A small amount of acrylic water makes all the difference. These pink silk peonies look terrific alone or in combination with other florals and greens. Photo: Afloral
  • Use acrylic water that mimics the real thing when your arrangement is in a glass container. Once you use simulated water in a container, the container can't be reused. You could instead use river rocks or marbles to anchor your floral stems.
  • Avoid fake flowers that don't bear much resemblance to what they imitate. Look closely when buying and compare in your mind to what the real flower looks like. Don't buy ones with stiff plastic stamens in the center.

Your silks will look more natural when clustered with other objects. Don't be afraid to combine assorted flowers in your arrangements, keeping a harmonious color scheme. 
  • Make your artificial creations a part of a staged area instead of a major point of interest. For example, instead of one vase of flowers centered on a kitchen island or dining table, use it as just one element of a fireplace mantle staging, or a bedside table display, or bar cart staging. 
  • If the stems of your inexpensive silk flowers don't look convincing, it's better to hide them in the arrangement by making a tight flower cluster, or by filling in with faux greenery. 
  • Match the style of your plants and arrangements to the style of your home. A casual pitcher of sunflowers is perfect for a country dining room, not the right choice for a formal entryway in a grand foyer. 
  • It's good to have some dry floral foam on hand to help you keep the stems where you want them when you are doing your arranging. Buy foam at the dollar store. 

Get the look. Get the book. 

Whether you are making your home market-ready, or just tweaking it to make it more stylish, my $4.99 eBooks on home decor and staging will make it easy, step by step! Clicking on the link will take you to a page on this site that lists what each book contains. You're just two clicks away from placing your order and receiving any of the three books.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

How to Sell Your Home to Senior Buyers

Millennials aren't buying homes the way Generation X and Baby Boomers did.

But today's people of retirement age are buying homes! And it's a big market that home sellers shouldn't ignore.

Although it's never wise to improve or stage your home to attract just one market, there are certain features that senior buyers want that are also what other demographic groups want.

Here is your handy list of senior-friendly amenities that anyone could love.

Simplicity and Accessibility

After downsizing, many seniors are looking to buy a modest retirement home. At the same time, younger buyers are following Marie Kondo and getting rid of excess belongings. You can tap into both these markets by keeping your home simple and accessible.

If you are replacing anything like windows or roofing, use materials that don't require much upkeep (tilt-in vinyl- or aluminum-clad windows, and metal roofing, for example). Add gutter guards to gutters. Minimize landscaping so yard work isn't a stumbling block to a purchase offer.

Homes built on a slab rather than a foundation are popular with seniors who have mobility issues. They want a single-floor layout or an elevator (or the possibility of adding a lift). They want low vanities and countertops. They want accessible sinks and faucets and a water dispenser in their refrigerator door. They want sturdy handrails on porches, stairs, and decks. They want drawer stack base cabinets in the kitchen rather than reach-in cabinets.

For the most part, none of those features are deal-breakers to other types of buyers.

Staging has always been about emphasizing what's good about a house.
This property has the kind of accessible entrance that seniors appreciate,
and the photo makes that clear. 

Seniors also want accessible services, close to public transportation, medical facilities, restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. If your home for sale is located convenient to these places, plan on seniors scheduling a home tour.

When your home has these kinds of senior-friendly amenities, I hope your Realtor points them out in the listing and during showings, and that the photos showcase the essentials and niceties that older folks like.

Size doesn't matter

If the home you are selling isn't large, don't worry. Seniors could be your primary market. Some older women will want that gourmet kitchen they've always dreamed of, and the husband may own a couple of antique cars he needs to house in a supersized garage, but most aging home buyers will want a smaller residence.

To stage it right for seniors, make it look big enough to entertain family and friends. If you have a separate dining area, stage it like a dining room, not homework central or drop zone. If you have three bedrooms, stage them all as bedrooms. Even though you are currently using one bedroom as a home office or craft room, rearrange it to include a sleeper sofa or day bed. Because boomarang kids and grandkids!

Luxurious touches

People who have worked hard all their lives and are ready to retire, often look for surroundings that are either status symbols or luxurious amenities. What does your home offer along these lines?

Even though this spindle bed reminds us of grandma's bedroom,
with a fresh coat of white paint, it looks modern.
The quilt is complimented by bedding and textiles that are more "today,"
and the vintage botanical prints get a stylish framing, bridging the gap
between old and new. Photo: Ashley Gilbreath
When you stage, incorporate some accessories that are modern. A lucite chair, some trendy pillows, a snazzy chandelier -- these are the kinds of furnishings that suggest affluence. You want to create a look that's familiar and comfortable, yet fresh and new.

One safe route is to use antiques (and furnishings that look like they might be antiques!) but toss into the mix some contemporary stuff as well -- a few modern picture frames, a piece of abstract art, some bright outdoor cushions, an eye-catching rug, lightweight window treatments, or a new floor lamp.

What you want to avoid is furniture pushed against the periphery of the room, as though on display. Today's furniture-arranging-style is friendlier, practical, and casual, and that's the look you should aim for, especially if the furniture you are using consists of more formal pieces, like a matched dining room set, a pair of wing back chairs, a Victorian settee, or a china hutch.

You may wish to slipcover or reupholster or paint some pieces of furniture to update them but still maintain their classic lines and quality. I wouldn't paint a beautiful mahogany four-poster bed, but I would use the latest style duvet and pillow shams on it!

Furniture with classic lines combine well with modern pieces like this
tripod floor lamp and a small parsons table. Some pillows with
fun patterns liven up the space. Photo: Iconic Lights 

Ease of Movement

Mobility doesn't always come easily for aging individuals. If you have doors and passageways that accommodate a walker, scooter, or wheelchair, that's ideal! They should span 36 to  48 inches. In some cases, depending on your flooring and supporting walls, a handyman or carpenter can make openings wider.

Safety is a major concern for folks who want to age in place since slips and falls pose a serious risk to aging adults. Flooring that's smooth but not extra slick is attractive to them. Vinyl, bamboo, cork, low-pile carpeting, and wood floors are easy to keep clean. If your floors are ready for an update, spending money on them now can help your home sell. None of these surfaces are off-putting to other demographic groups.

In fact, it's not just older people who need accessible entrances and passageways. Physical challenges resulting from injuries or diseases that necessitate a wheelchair affect all ages, including children, veterans, and others. If your home has some features, like an accessible entrance, that's necessary for people with disabilities, the U.S. government will help buyers financially with other home improvements. 

The Bathroom

Aging-in-place modifications have risen in popularity in recent years. What was once considered a "handicap toilet" is now common in new bathrooms, and is now dubbed the "comfort height" toilet. Just a few years ago hand-guards in the shower or tub smacked of assisted living apartments. Not any more.

If you are considering a bath remodel, consider installing a walk-in or roll-in shower stall to really temp those people enjoying their golden years. Prices vary depending on the layout and construction of your bathroom, whether you are just replacing a tub, and what wages and supplies cost where you live. As long as there is one bathtub in the house, young families will still be one of your potential buyer groups.

I've blogged about marketing your home to women and much of the same advice applies. Both seniors and women care (alot!) about safety, location, and cleanliness. Go beyond cleaning your bathroom -- detail it the way professional car detailers detail a car -- by polishing every square inch.

Here's an interesting stat: home renovation projects that involve accessibility modifications now account for 62% of building projects. That's not going to change anytime soon. This fact tells me that if you're trying to sell a home, investing in the needs of the retirement generation is worthwhile.

Get the look. Get the book.

You can never accurately predict who will buy your home. Zeroing in on one demographic isn't the best marketing strategy because you run the risk of alienating another group. I hope these ideas will help you update and stage your property to appeal to older buyers as well as others.

For more tips on how to stage your home, no matter who your buyers are, download my $4.99 home staging ebooks.

Top Photo: Katie Rosenfeld Design

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Four Thrify Tips for a Summer Home Sale

I'm guessing you want your home on the market to sell quickly. You want a good price, and you don't want to spend more money than you need to.

But, you're thinking, "Today's home buyers are used to seeing those picture-perfect homes on home-decorating shows. I don't have that kind of experience or cash!"

Don't let these celebrity stagers intimidate you. You can stage your own home and attract buyers, even the ones spoiled by too much HGTV! And even if your staging budget is small.

Summer is when you'll have the biggest pool of buyers. That fact works in your favor. Some of these buyers will be under pressure to make a purchase offer in time for the new school season to begin. Others want to be settled in before the end of the year and the holidays.

It's up to you to use your funds and energy in ways that pay off. Here are my top four ways to do just that.

Focus on the details 

I can't stress this enough: You don't need to remodel your home. It's true that 58% of homeowners say they plan to spend money improving their homes in 2019, but will they spend where it matters to buyers? Many of those spenders are planning to stay in their home long term. Even though a total kitchen renovation has an average return on investment of 82.7%, it's not essential to every home. A major home improvement project needn't be on your to-do list.

You can't fake a remodel, but you can add budget-friendly upgrades that give your property a cared-for, contemporary appearance. That's what staging a home is all about!

Make sure your home has a summery look. It's time to replace those furry pillows with more colorful ones, possibly floral if that's your look. Bright pillows on outside chairs look perfect.

Get rid of reminders of winter's unpleasantries -- show shovels, boot racks, and scatter rugs at entrances.

Consider replacing the knobs and drawer pulls on your kitchen and bath cabinets. You can also replace the mirror in your master bathroom and update the faucets. Overhead light fixtures are another economical touch.

These simple touches will give your home the facelift you need without the pricey remodel.

Any season that allows outdoor living is a season that calls for exterior staging.
Second-hand furniture with a fresh coat of paint
and some new cushions will return the investment.  

Step outside 

Just like a kitchen remodel, landscaping often comes with a high return on investment. But that doesn't mean you need to revamp your entire yard.

Neatness counts. Start by using the tools and skills you already own to do the following:
  • Keep your lawn mowed and healthy. Ask your county extension agent for advice if you have problems. They are the turf experts for your area. 
  • Prune any shrubs or trees in your yard that need a haircut. Just this step gives your landscape a manicured look. I have blogged about the best way to prune.
  • Pull weeds or use an herbicide to get rid of weeds from the pathways, mulched areas, and anywhere else they shouldn't be growing.
  • Remove any distracting yard art or small decorative items from around your building. Again, neatness.  

Jazz Up the Exterior Focal Point

You want visitors on a home tour to be drawn to your front door. That's the focal point of your curb appeal and where they will form first impressions.

Here are my favorite cost-effective ways to improve your exterior entryway.

Deep clean the area. Remove anything that's in the way, that hints at a maintenance problem, and anything that doesn't add to the perceived value of your property. Regularly sweep the steps, walkway, and even the door and the trim around it to get rid of dust and cobwebs. Paint the front door if necessary. I blogged about how to paint a door without removing it. 

A new doormat does wonders for freshening up an entranceway. This is the kind of staging purchase that I like because it's not expensive and you use it at your next home, especially if you buy one that doesn't have a seasonal color scheme or message.

Summer is an easy time to find some colorful plants to make a home look special and loved. The larger the container you use, the better. I would rather see one giant planter than a few smaller ones. Keep it next to the door and make sure it gets watered, fertilized, deadheaded, and otherwise tended so it looks as close as possible to something the florist just delivered! Choose annuals that will bloom all summer, right up to your closing date.

Replacing those rusty exterior lights doesn't have to cost much, and spray-painting the existing ones will cost even less. Whatever you spend will go a long way to adding that cared-for look. Not only do lights outside your door make your home feel cozier but they also serve as extra security (burglaries happen every 15.4 seconds and small security features like lights and locks can keep thieves away).

A front door can make a statement when it's this pretty. Imitate the look
with new or painted hardware and light fixture.
Photo: Atlantic Coastal Enterprises.

Find furniture

Empty rooms don't help a home sell. Vacant, unstaged homes are less likely to sell than homes that have furniture and decor. Good home staging makes potential homebuyers envy your wonderful lifestyle.

If you need to stage an empty property and don't have the furnishings to do it, you still have a few choices.

One is to make your move to your next home, but leave large pieces of furniture behind until closing,  and add some inexpensive pieces to complete the look. These inexpensive pieces might be big box specials, garage sale finds, craigslist bargains, or things like faux beds. Sometimes, all it takes is some DIY window treatments, a few pieces of wall art, plants or flowers, and some properly arranged furniture to stage a room successfully.

I understand that this approach means "moving twice," and I know that's not going to work for many of you. Some homes can still look good to home buyers when they are partially staged. Can you leave some rooms unstaged totally and do an awesome job in the important rooms -- kitchen, baths and master bedroom? These are usually the easiest rooms to stage. 

Some of us use the excuse of moving to a new home to purchase investment pieces or decorating accessories we've been craving. If you can justify the expense, this approach will make your staging more impressive.

I also suggest to sellers that they might borrow certain furnishings from friends or family. I would limit this to indestructible items like tables, side chairs, sturdy lamps, paintings, or nightstands. Nothing precious, expensive or fragile!   

Another approach is to rent the furniture that can make your home look showroom-ready. There are 28 million small businesses in the U.S. There's bound to be one near you that rents furniture. Some of them provide furniture specifically for staging. Summertime staging calls for less fiurniture to make rooms look cool and relaxing.

You can make a home to look inviting, even if you're on a budget. I show you how in my $4.99 home staging eBooks. Download now and start today making your home more desirable to buyers.

Top photo: Kerry Spears Interiors

Friday, June 14, 2019

Location, location...How to Sell Your City

I recently visited Charleston, South Carolina (again), one of my favorite cities!

And it's not just me. Charleston has been voted the best city in America in Travel + Leisure Magazine since 2013! The swaying oak and willow trees pair perfectly with the brightly colored historic buildings that line streets bursting with shopping and dining options. Music, art, parks, beaches, and good ole Southern hospitality -- it's all there for residents and visitors. And home buyers.

As I was enjoying the mild, early summer weather and, yes, too much Low Country cuisine, I was reminded of how important it is for home sellers to market a home's location.

Realtors Know 

We've all heard the expression, "Location, location, location." If you are selling your home, it's smart to capitalize on what's best about your city, town, state, and even your particular street.

The first step is to be aware. Learn the history of your city. Whether it's a new-ish subdivision or a city as old as Charleston, know who built it and why. Learn the specifics of your area's demographics, taxes, schools, and climate.

When asked, most Americans say that security, relaxation, and freedom make up the ideal happy home. If you're familiar with life in the South, you know that these characteristics are fully embodied by Charleston. Examine what your particular location offers in the way of things like safety, recreation, and local amenities. If your Realtor doesn't have the stats, it's easy to research all these things on sites like Wikipedia, and the websites of your local and state government.

In the last house I sold I placed a neat stack of printed sheets showing photos of local attractions, including the distance to the nearest dog park, coffee shop, boat ramp, library, grocery stores, and other perks. Not every Realtor who shows your property will know what your neighborhood has to offer.

Sell the climate

The weather of the America's Southeastern states is a plus to many people, especially those who love to spend time outdoors, either relaxing or being more active, and those moving from areas where winters are long. While the summers can get hot and humid, Charleston enjoys mild temperatures year-round (the average is a comfortable 65.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Outdoor spaces like this Charleston courtyard,
sell properties. Make yours
part of the package
by staging it to local traditions.
Photo: Charlestoncvb
What does the climate allow in your neck of the woods? Does the weather encourage outdoor activities like hiking, golf, swimming, or skiing? There are ways you can drive this point home to those on a home tour. Frame a map of the area that shows hiking trails. Stage a hallway closet with golf clubs, or post a schedule from the country club on the bedroom dresser. Hang photos of the ski slopes where you need wall art.

Nearly everyone likes sunshine, so when you stage, to let as much natural light into the living spaces as possible. Keep window treatments light and away from window openings. You can also place mirrors opposite windows to let the light fill the room.

Let your outdoor spaces demonstrate the value of your local weather. If summers are brutally hot, place seating in a shaded spot. And make sure your air conditioning is up-to-date and serviced. If, like Southern California, comfortable outdoor living is the norm, stage your yard, patio or pool so buyers are reminded how much time they can relax outdoors.

Stage to solve problems

Natural disasters happen in most locales. Blizzards, tornados, floods, droughts, landslides, earthquakes -- thoughts of these things can be the elephant in the room when people are relocating. Be proactive when you stage and market your home.

Buyers in areas of the Southeastern U.S. know that hurricanes are possible. Therefore, many homes are outfitted with durable materials designed to withstand the pounding rains and powerful winds. Metal roofs are particularly popular. Because they last a long time and don't end up in the landfill every 20 years, they have the added bonus of being eco-friendly.

In areas where wildfires are a problem, landscaping setbacks are the norm. In areas of heavy rains, correct drainage is important and something buyers should be able to ascertain

If the home you are selling has modern storm-proofing features such as a metal roof or hurricane-safe windows and doors, extra insulation, a backup generator, gutter guards, a programmable thermostat, thermal window treatments, a basement sump pump, or an attic fan, buyers will feel more confident.

Charleston is known for its colorful facades and irresistible curb appeal.
What does the front of your home say to passersby and potential home buyers?
Photo: Architectural Digest  

Pitch to your demographics

Charleston is surprisingly an affordable place to own property. Residents have to pay only about 0.5% of their home's value in property taxes each year, which ranks as seventh-lowest in the entire country. Because of this fact, the city attracts many fun-loving but budgeting young people, as well as thrifty retirees.

Stage the home you're selling with your buyers in mind, but not so specifically that you will turn off other buyer groups. A vintage bar cart as an elegant addition to a living room or dining room is perfect for Charleston's buyers, maybe not so much for a home in a city that's populated predominately by Mormons, who abstain from alcohol.

Walk Through Time

Charleston's history is rich in drama and importance events. With over 400 years of fascinating history, history buffs will get lost in all there is to discover and learn in the city. From Civil War battle sites to plantations that span hundreds of acres, living in Charleston truly does allow you to experience history like nowhere else. You can take a carriage ride, visit the haunted Old Jail, and then explore the city's modern nightlife -- all in one day!

No need to shy away from the less-than-honorable
traditions your town may have " bragging rights" to.
Make local color part of the story of your home. 
When you stage your own home, honor the past without ignoring the less reputable eras. All events go towards shaping a locale's character in the home's decor, whether it's a revitalized town that bounced back from a depressed economy, the birthplace of a notorious thug, or an area that survived war and turmoil.

Select artwork, photographs, and other decorative elements that evoke the city's most beloved or unusual attractions. Sometimes these decor items can take the form of whimsy and other times, of pure education.

You can also honor the history of your region by landscaping with indigenous plants and materials. Water-hungry plantings don't belong on the grounds of a desert home, for example. 

Selling a home isn't easy, but every location has its own kind of charm. Every property has an upside. Some homes and some cities just do more of the selling for you. Focus on your location's advantages and make sure potential buyers get the message so they will fall in love with your property.

Experienced home stagers know how to reflect the character of a city or region in their work, and that's true whether you are staging a historic home in a Southern city or preparing a modern urban loft in Brooklyn. You can be like that experienced home stager! Find out much more about how to get your home sold profitably and faster when you have my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar, as well as my eBooks on furniture arranging, and no-sew window treatments for staging.

Top Photo: Architectural Digest

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Three Ways to Freshen A 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!  

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