Thursday, December 7, 2017

Landscaping Your Modular or Mobile Home

If you own a mobile or modular home, you know the advantages of buying and living in one.

They're affordable, energy efficient, and well-designed for today's lifestyle.

When it's time to sell, you'll face the same challenges owners of conventional homes face. Your home has to look good from the outside as well as the inside.

But landscaping around a home in a mobile home park is not like landscaping a site-built, two-story Colonial on a one-acre lot.

For one thing, the land under the home is probably leased -- not sold with the home -- and the lot is probably small. The park will likely have restrictions on what you can and cannot do on the property.

But if your single wide or doublewide is situated on a generously-sized lot you own instead of on common ground, you can take on landscaping projects with a larger scope. Either way, curb appeal is just as important as when a conventional home goes on the market.

The Appeal of Mobiles  

Because its underpinnings are concealed nicely and its landscape has matured, 
this mobile home looks more like a conventional house  Photo:
People buy manufactured homes for different reasons. The most common one is economics. Single folks, young couples, retirees, and anyone tired of renting a house or apartment, are more able to become homeowners than if they went shopping for a conventionally constructed home. Mobiles are priced low because they are constructed in one-fifth the time and at half the cost of site-built homes. The builders don't have to hassle with weather delays and the entire building process is more efficient.

Some people buy mobiles when they learn that manufactured housing assembled in a controlled, factory environment uses fewer materials and generates 35% to 40% less waste than comparable site-built units. Yes, mobiles are "greener."

Unique Landscape Challenges

For a mobile home to look competitive in the real estate market, it needs to look, well, not too mobile. In other words, its wheels and axles, if they are still in place, need to be hidden. Make your skirting look as strong and straight as possible. The right skirting can make a manufactured home look more permanent and valuable.

If you plant shrubs near the skirting allow enough room so things like ductwork and plumbing can be reached. Sometimes maintenance people, or you, need to crawl under your house.

Another spot that needs cosmetics is the hitch. If it is not removable, can you conceal it with fencing, lattice, or a planting that covers it? Some people cluster a grouping of container plants or a raised bed built of blocks around the hitch.

Here is an example of a sidewalk extension using concrete pavers. You can make
an entrance garden wall from concrete blocks. The wall leads your eye
to the front door. Photo: MobileHomeLiving
Mobiles tend to look boxier than conventional homes. Having a porch, patio, deck or other "bump-out" helps to break up those boxy lines. But shrubs, either in the ground or in large planters, are another way to help soften the straight lines of your home and anchor it to the surrounding land.

If the space that surrounds your home is small, don't consider it a deal-breaker for buyers. Many will welcome a tiny lot for its low maintenance appeal. If privacy is an issue, lattice panels or 4- to 6-foot fencing might be your best option. It may not need to be a solid, continuous fence, since the illusion of privacy can be enough to create the sense of a private, outdoor space.

Make Your Entrance Important 

A common mistake homeowners make when they design their front landscape areas is to put all the interesting plants in the wrong location. When you're deciding what to grow where, add color and texture where you want people to look: your front entrance.   

Why? Because a well-designed front garden will make visitors and buyers feel welcome and curious about what's inside.

Your entrance area doesn't have to be large or extravagant. In fact, it should be simple but interesting. Incorporate some curved lines when you outline a bed. Aim for or a clean-looking border for a raised garden by using concrete blocks. Use an uncomplicated color scheme when you select shrubs and flowering plants.    

This retaining wall allowed the homeowner to hide skirting and give the look of a solid foundation. The gravel mulch,
mature shrubs, solar lights and colorful annuals are all easy to care for. Photo:

Containers are perfect for entrance gardens because you can easily maintain them while your home is for sale. If you have existing beds, you can add potted plants to these gardens to keep them looking colorful no matter what the season.

When you choose containers that match each other, they look cohesive.
Installation and upkeep are easier. And you can take "your garden"
with you when you move. Photo:
"Often the idea of mixing containers into gardening is not even considered. If you have potted plants, chances are they're on your porch or patio, but blending those into the landscape design is quick, easy and makes landscaping on a budget simple," writes Kalley Y. on The Clayton Blog.

Typically, homeowners can get a 100% ROI on the money spent on a home's curb appeal. So it makes sense that any improvements you can make to your modular or mobile home's landscape is money well spent.

Install Hardscape

Statistics say that the landscaping industry is set to experience an estimated 5.9% annual growth through 2019.

If you are beautifying your yard to improve your home's value, adding hardscaping is one easy way to do it. When you add things like wide steps and a landing, or a deck, or a concrete path, or a patio to your outdoor space, it's as good as adding actual square footage in the eyes of most buyers.

Concrete pavers surrounded by natural rock give this
winding path its personality. Photo: StyleEstate
Hardscape has the advantage of being quick to install, whether it's DIY or a professional job. Hardscape looks good from Day 1. You don't have to wait for it to grow the way you would for a flower bed or tree!

Build An Entertainment Spot

Another type of outdoor home improvement that can bring in significant ROI is creating an entertainment space.

A fire pit is the perfect way to start any entertainment space, It also makes an ideal centerpiece in the landscape.

There are countless ways to construct your own fire pit, but consulting a professional can often produce luxurious results that yield a higher ROI.

Stage your entertainment spot with some matching outdoor chairs to make it look more inviting. If you have a view, capitalize on that by putting seating where people can enjoy it.

Unless security is a problem, an outdoor dining area can be staged with table, chairs, benches, plants, lighting, and an outdoor grill. When they are shopping for a new home, buyers like to envision how they will entertain.

Favorite Tips 

A  fire pit is a magnet to people touring your property. Make it even
more special by adding seating and colorful cushions. Photo: BHG
When you add paths, make them direct people around your property so they can appreciate it from every angle.

Try to have some unusual elements in your landscape, some surprises for visitors, like a small fountain, a collection of one kind of potted plant, a jumbo shrub in a half barrel planter, or a birdbath tucked into a corner of your lot. You don't want all the same plants and landscape features that all your neighbors have. 

Choose the plants that front your skirting to be ones that keep their leaves all year long. No bare branches allowed up close to your home!  

Plant what thrives in your region of the country. Don't try to grow desert-dwelling cactus in states with humid summers. Don't try to grow heat-loving tropicals in northern states with long winters. 

Add color in broad sweeps. Avoid the polka dot effect of spreading various flowering plants in beds scattered across your property. Help people focus on your home. That's  what you are selling. Also, a complicated landscape looks like hard work to buyers who don't enjoy yard work.  

Finally, leave some areas of your yard as places to rest the eye. You can count on mulch, gravel, groundcover plants, or whatever kind of grass does well where you live, to create areas that are restful and easy to keep looking good year 'round. 

It's true that manufactured homes are often harder to renovate inside, but landscaping is a sound investment and can work wonders to enhance the best features and aesthetics of your modular or mobile home.

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 way to a more profitable sale today.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Eco-Friendly Updates that Impress Buyers

Today's home buyers are smart buyers.

And that means they are looking for smart features, including earth-friendly materials and products.

It's no wonder an eco-friendly home is desirable.

It's a healthier place to live. It's economical because it reduces water and energy costs. And, there's a certain satisfaction that comes from knowing you're reducing your personal carbon footprint.

What eco-friendly attributes does your home have that you can boast about when it's time to sell?

Think Green

According to HomeAdvisor’s 2017 True Cost Survey, homeowners spent nearly 60% more on home improvement projects that year than they did the previous one. And while there are countless improvements you can make to your home, some of them deliver more bang for your buck than others. 

Some green upgrades-- like a tankless water heating system, solar panels, and construction materials from renewable sources --  might be so pricey they aren't going to return your investment unless you continue living in the home long term. As a home seller, you need to think more short term.

Three of the most economical and environmentally sane investments you can make when you're planning to sell are improvements in your HVAC  system, your kitchen, and your landscaping. These improvements are clearly visible so they earn you bonus points from buyers.

Improve Your Heating and Cooling  

Although not the most glamorous or visually appealing upgrade, improving your home's heating and air conditioning system prior to putting it up for sale is an enormous selling point.

If your home was built more than 10 years ago and still has its original heating and cooling system, it's not energy efficient. Home buyers are often wary of older homes, and outdated HVAC is one of the reasons.

Your Realtor can point out to buyers that the new system will substantially reduce the average energy costs by as much as 20%. That means lower utility bills and a decreased carbon footprint -- both tempting selling points in any real estate transaction.

Other energy-saving perks that can impress buyers are a programmable thermostat, double pane windows, and non-toxic blown-in insulation. Depending on the condition of your home and the local market, it could be worth your money to add extras like these.     

Update Your Kitchen

A recycling center doesn't have to look messy.
Photo: Sarah Steinbery Designs.
Are you that homeowner who says, "I'm not going to fix up my kitchen for the next owner?" That's short term thinking of the wrong kind.

DIYNetwork reports that "If you plan on updating only one room in your home, it should be the kitchen. Large, open kitchens have become the social hub of the modern home. High-end touches like granite countertops and energy-efficient stainless appliances are the gold standard in modern kitchens."

Don't be the seller who underestimates the ROI you can realize when you install upgrades like new countertops and Energy Star appliances. Realtors and other experts across the board agree that a kitchen remodel done right can return between 80% and 85% of your actual cost. Compared to other remodeling projects, that's a handsome return.

Of the 93% of homeowners who are updating countertops during a kitchen renovation, most are aware of buyers' preferences and are choosing natural stone materials. Not only is it eco-friendly, but it's durable, non-toxic, sanitary, and always attractive in a classic way.

Other green upgrades to your kitchen are a low-flow faucet; floors made of cork, sustainable hardwood, or bamboo; an under-the-counter water purifier; a recycling area; and a convection oven.

Rethink Your Landscape

No home seller can ignore the importance of curb appeal. The way the front of your home looks can determine whether driveby home shoppers are interested in your home or not. Landscape can make the difference.

A professionally designed landscape will incorporate varying textures, shapes, and colors.

You don't have to spend a fortune, but hiring an experienced landscaper to design a custom plan for your front and backyard spaces can make all the difference in your home's appeal to potential buyers.

If you plan to keep some of your yard's existing landscaping elements, a professional landscaper should be happy to work with you to develop a unique plan, one that buyers will appreciate for its good looks and its eco-friendly features.

You want your landscape to be based on plants that don't demand lots of water to look good and stay healthy. You also want it to be easy to maintain. It should not require ongoing applications of toxic chemicals or excessive use of power equipment for its upkeep.

Fortunately, there are plenty of plants that require little or no upkeep. Some of my favorites are Variegated Ribbon Grass, Thornless Common Honeylocust, and Grey Owl Juniper shrubs. These are the kind of plants that let you -- and that next owner -- enjoy the benefits of a beautifully landscaped yard without the chore of yardwork and maintenance.

Central to the idea of sustainable and healthy landscaping is the notion that what you plant is suitable to your climate. Growing tropical plants in the desert is just one example of poor ecology. To learn what kind of landscaping is appropriate to your locale you can contact your county extension service for free literature and online advice.

It's Easy Being Green 

It's not just young buyers or other niche markets that are interested in conserving resources like water and energy, and living in ways that don't harm the environment. If your home wasn't recently built or recently remodeled with environmental factors in mind, you may want to consider some of these renovations.

Environmentally smart home improvement projects can come with big price tags, but if you choose the right ones, you'll see a faster home sale with less negotiating and good ROI.

Top photo: hgtv

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Four DIY Ways to Improve Your Bathroom

Home buyers aren't attracted to outdated properties, and a bath is one room that doesn't age well.

Let's face it. Tubs, showers, tilework, and toilets are not easy to replace.

But some DIY projects for renovating your bathroom don't call for major expenditure, hiring expensive contractors, or securing permits.

If you have some time, doing a DIY project or two can be fun and rewarding. These are some of my favorite ways for a homeowner to update a bathroom.

New Backsplash

One of the most popular DIY projects in recent years is applying your own bathroom or kitchen backsplash. The fact that 87% of homeowners who renovate their bathrooms choose to update their shower, demonstrates the desirability of this DIY bathroom project.

A new backsplash will give your room the appearance of a much bigger renovation, even if it's a simple peel-and-stick project. You can redo the tile in your bathroom, for instance, or purchase prefabricated wood that can be easily attached to the wall with some heavy-duty adhesive.

The shower walls, the tub surround, or the wall opposite the entry door are excellent choices for a new backsplash treatment. In the kitchen, backsplashes tend to go behind the kitchen sink or stovetop, or are used to accent a breakfast nook.

Updating Bath Vanities

Besides fixing your bathroom backsplash, you can also redo your cabinetry with relatively little DIY know-how. Usually a screwdriver is all that you need to easily remove the doors and then switch them out with new ones.

Or, you might want to take the doors off altogether and create an open storage space, a style that's increasingly popular. Changing just the cabinet knobs and drawer pulls is the easiest move for making your vanity look stylish.

Wall Art

Simple framed prints are affordable and tasteful
bathroom art. Photo: Sussan Lari Archtect
USA Today says one of the simplest things you can do in any DIY home project is hanging up new wall art.

You can either buy inexpensive pieces and put them in cheap frames, or you can make your own pieces to add some buyer appeal to any the room. Garage sales and thrift stores are also good sources for second-hand art that's perfect for homestaging.

Bathroom walls usually have limited wall surface for hanging art, but even a small framed print will make a small room look more interesting. With the right art, you can make a huge impact on your space without making a huge investment.


One final way to update your bathroom is to give it a fresh coat of paint. Nothing beats paint for the return on your home improvement dollars. While it's not the quickest DIY project, it's often necessary before listing your home for sale.

Because of the constant use and high moisture levels, your bathroom's current paint or wallpaper probably needs an upgrade as part of your staging, especially if you just added a snazzy new backsplash as well. Buy paint that has mildewcide added, made especially for baths.

If you go with the same color you presently have, one coat will usually cover. But if you're making a drastic color change, you may need two coats. Make sure, however, if your bathroom is tiny to not choose a dark color. The dark color will make your room seem even smaller. Clear, cool, light colors work best for baths. 

These DIY bathroom tricks will help improve your space without a lot of money. If you're ready to sell your home, these are the simple DIY home renovations that will improve your selling success. For more tips to success, download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. 

Top Photo: Milano Carrera

Monday, October 16, 2017

How to Mix Different Decor Styles

I get it. You're staging your home for sale, but when you look around at your furniture it doesn't look like a model home furniture.

No sweat.

You can stage with whatever furniture you already own and still keep to a budget. There's a current trend that will save your butt.

It's eclectic mixing of decor styles. So, smile! I'll show you how to use what you have and maybe add some thrifted pieces so buyers will get the message that your home is stylish and welcoming.

Professional decorators have always used this approach to make their clients' homes look layered, curated, fashionable, and personal. Now it's your turn.

It's easy to mix decor style when you've grasped the basic guidelines.  You'll make that model home look boring!

Four Tricks of the Trade 

One. Enlist the aid of paint. Paint some mismatched pieces of furniture or accessories all the same color. I once staged a vacant home with a collection of second-hand furniture, all of which we painted white. It was a cottagey look that reflected the nature of the property. The white colorway looked completely intentional rather than like a fallback option.

Here's a happy mix of different styles and eras from
Danielle Oke Interiors. Antiques cozy up to modern upholstered
pieces, Asian rattan, and a glass and brass table. 
Two. Stage so that most of the decor of your home fits one particular style. Ideally it will be a style that fits with the character and architecture of your home. Some decorators recommend an 80/20 rule. The formula is 80 percent of your furnishings are one style and 20 percent are random styles.

That's fine if you already know your style, have the furniture to match, and if it's not a style that is off-putting to any class of buyers. Millennials generally don't want traditional (grandma's) furnishings, and retirees, for the most part, aren't fond of a hard-edged industrial look.

Don't stage a girly bedroom on one side of your home and a man cave on the other. Mixing pieces from both rooms will make your home feel less specific and also larger. If your man objects to a fluffy, white rug in his personal space, remind him that's it's just temporary.

Three. If you have lots of one-of-a-kind pieces, add some generic textiles, furniture, or accessories to make the decor seem less disjointed and personal. You can always remove the unique pieces for a more stripped-down look, or replace them with more common objects. If your unusual pieces are large -- a baby grand piano, for example -- make it the focal point of the room. Buyers will have a crisp recall of your property after touring a number of homes that day.

Four. Use cross-pollination to bring a room together and keep it from looking like a garage sale. Need examples of cross-pollination? Lampshades and lamps that are similar in color and style throughout the room. Pillows that match. Pairs of furniture, like matching end tables or side chairs. Picture frames across the space of a room that are identical even though the artwork is different.

Here's What Not To Do

Resist the temptation to place all of one style in one room or one area of a room. That's deflating the whole appeal of an interesting mix. If you have a Colonial chest, top it with some batik pillows. If you have a Mid-Century-Modern chair, set it on an Oriental rug. If you have a shabby chic headboard, cover the bed with a trendy geometric patterned duvet.

Starting with an ordinary bedroom and what could be considered old-fashioned furniture,
this room gets its upbeat look from some modern art and ethnic textiles.   
Don't use too many colors. Work with one, simple color scheme for the whole house. This system works well whether we're talking about wall colors, flooring, window treatments, or upholstery. Your color scheme should revolve around three colors.

Wood tones should stay in the same family. All stained pieces could be dark like ebony, a blonde like some oak, or a reddish tone like mahogany, or a light brown like walnut.  Aim for a consistent look in all your stained pieces,  whether flooring, furniture or wood trim around doors and windows. If you have to stain some furniture legs, for example, chances are they will look good in your new home as well. A dark stain gel will cover prefinished stain work.

Why This Mix-Up Is Good Home Staging

It's a great time to be a home seller staging her own home on a budget. Current trends are on your side. Chances are you can tweak the things you live with now, the things that you love (and even the things you don't!).

An eclectic mix is going to reach out to a larger number of buyers because everyone will see something he or she relates to. Your mix-up of styles, done right, will hit all the bumpers. That's pin-ball talk, not automotive.

So, forget the old rules of matching everything. Have fun with your staging. And don't forget to check out my eBooks to see where you need a crash course to make your home The One that sells.

Top Photo: Inspired Room

Friday, September 22, 2017

How to Stage Like a Pro When You're Not

If you are staging your own home you face some challenges that professional stagers don't face.

You probably haven't taken an extended online course in home staging , or even attended a weekend crash-course in staging.

And you probably don't own a warehouse full of spiffy furniture and accessories to tap into.

But when you are a DIY home stager you have advantages the professional ones don't have.

You can use your own furnishings.

You can work with your own timeline.

And you can save money.

You might even have fun and learn some new tricks to make your next home look and function better.

The benefits the pros have don't have to be obstacles to you doing a successful staging of your own property. There are ways you can imitate the results that good professional stagers get.

Imitate the The Training 

I frequently see photos of professionally staged rooms that miss the mark. I don't want to bash the industry as a whole, but I think that just because someone is accredited by a staging school or organization doesn't mean that she or he has the imagination, experience, talent, energy, connections, or resources to make your home as handsome and sell-able as you could.

Using your own belongings, selectively chosen, to stage your home will save money 
and let you enjoy your home while it's on the market. Photo: Alice Lane 
Having lived in your own home, you know what's both unique and less-than-ideal about it. Most of us know what everyday traffic patterns function best with our floor plans. You probably know from rearranging furniture over time what looks best. You know the rooms that get the most compliments from visitors. You know what you like about your home, inside and out.

By reading my eBooks and my blog, you can zero in on what gaps you see in your staging education. If there are certain rooms that seem problematic, you can do a search right here to read in the archives about how to stage them to sell. Look in the sidebar labels to see what topics interest you.

You can also study my Pinterest Boards, where I've carefully curated images and stories specifically targeted to help DIY stagers. These Pins are not just pretty pictures and impractical or obvious advice. They give you the guidance and encouragement you want, whether inspirational or hands-on tutorials.

Imitate the Inventory

So you don't have stacks of dining chairs, rows of dressers, and shelves full of fluffy pillows to dress your home on the market. You have what's worked for you. It probably just needs some editing and some refreshing.

These are the four steps to take to when you are staging with your own furniture.

New slipcovers  and some paint can pull together a mismatched
dining set. Photo: Pink & Polka Designs, where
Kristi makes custom slipcovers in Raleigh, North Carolina 


Decide what pieces are the best looking. Most of us have too much furniture.

Choose the pieces that make your home look like it is lived in by prosperous people, not down-and-outers.

Anything that looks like its best days are over needs to go into storage or repaired or repainted or cleaned or sold or donated.


Decide into which rooms these best pieces will go. Don't assume that furniture needs to stay in its present location.

Sometimes a love seat will work better in the master bedroom than on the sunporch. Sometimes a bookcase will look better staged in the front entrance than it does in the already-crowded home office. Think outside the box.


Decide which accessories are the most flattering. Once you have located the major pieces, you can add the minor pieces like end tables, coffee tables, side chairs and rugs. Then choose the wall art, tabletop props, lamps, and window treatments that help sell your home by making it look newer, cleaner, prettier, and more stylish.


Decide if you need to supplement any furniture or accessories by buying, making, or borrowing. Here's where a friend with a fresh eye and maybe a  talent for decorating comes in handy. Lacking that, train your eye by studying professionally designed rooms in shelter magazines and decorators' portfolios on their websites. Just by browsing these images you will become a better judge of what needs tweaking or embellishing in your own home. Trust me on this.

Don't let the lack of professional experience or training deter you from staging your own home. Start planning your staging projects and you'll get the results you want -- a home that sells quickly for a price you like. Begin your planning by downloading my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Magic Words That Turn Buyers On

Most people looking for a home to buy start their search online.

Yes, they drive neighborhoods, but they do their research on the Internet. If they don't see what they want in a listing, you're swiped left.

So whether you are a FSBO or working with a Realtor, knowing how to describe your property is crucial.

I'm going to make it easy. Here is my list of seven words that are what buyers want to see and hear.


This term tops the list. Most buyers are impatient to get settled into their new homes. Many of them lack the skills or budget to manage the upgrades they'd love. Give them what they want and you're golden.

If you have unfinished projects -- the garage shelving your bought and never installed, the window treatments you started and never finished, the closets you've been meaning to organize and clean -- start by making a list. When buyers see a home that needs fine tuning or repairs, they fall out of love with it.


Everyone wants more room. You can't claim spacious if your whole property is tiny, but if the closets or the yard or something else is large, use the magic word "spacious."

If you get unnecessary furniture and personal  belongings off-site, it's gonna go a long way to letting you claim "spacious." It may inconvenience you. It may cost you, but no one ever said that selling a home isn't like running a business, and you may have to spend money to make money.


It isn't just the neatniks out there who get turned on by the word "immaculate." Buyers expect clean. They might have just come from touring a home that was cleaned professionally, or a model home, or a new home, or one tidied up by a professional organizer and then staged to impress. These homes could be your competition.

No home on the market is too clean. I know it takes work and constant attention if you are living in your staged home. Tell yourself it's only temporary. Tell yourself you can do it. It helps if you have a routine cleaning schedule and some help from whoever lives with you.

Remeber, declutter first, then clean. Why bother cleaning what is leaving the property?  


Who doesn't want a place of their own that isn't going to drag down their weekends or bust their budget with repairs? It's an over-used expression, so if you're going to claim your home is well-maintained, make it genuine. When you clean your home, do it the way you would detail your car. Better, yet, the way a pro would detail your car. Get into every corner. Polish what should be shiny. Dump the junk.

You can't advertise "well-maintained" if your roof is 30 years old, your wood-burning fireplace has never been cleaned, your faucets are crusty, and your siding sports a layer of mildew.


Not every buyer thinks ahead to what it will take to keep a home in tip-top shape. But more experienced homeowners can spot a maintenance nightmare. The list might include white carpeting, an expansive lawn, a pool, wooden windows, siding, and porch railings that will need painting, and yes, even stainless appliances (not everyone loves 'em, so don't hate yourself for not upgrading).

Sometimes installing a fancy new countertop and faucet, 
plus a fresh coat of paint on surfaces can let you claim
"recently updated" in your description. Photo: Martha O'Hara
Most low-maintenance features are part of a house's original design. There's not much you can do on a shoestring about not having a brick exterior, solar heating and a metal roof, but you can add some visible, low-maintenance features.

You can reduce the size of your turf by increasing the mulched areas. You can have wood windows replaced (or do it yourself if you have some muscle and basic tools.) Look for other after-market features that will make sense for your price point, your region of the country, and your market of buyers.


In your home's MLS description, "new" is a word that stands out. Its definition can be a little loosey-goosey.

Is a year-old refrigerator "new?" Can you call the bath remodel you did two years ago "new?" When is a "new" deck considered old?

If you hired a good listing agent, she will filter the fluff out of your list of amenities. The last reaction you want from people coming to view your home is disappointment after you have set them up to expect what doesn't exist.

One alernative is to simply list the year of the purchase or when the work was done. There are other words that can stand in for the word new. In some cases, "recent" or "fresh" can describe things like paint jobs and carpeting that wasn't exactly done yesterday but still looks great.

Recently updated

When you describe your home in literature, online listings, or conversations, one word to avoid is "repaired" or "replaced." These words indicate a problem existed. The better words are "upgraded"  or "updated." They sound more like the decision was based on trends, cosmetics or simply a boost in quality.

The word "recent" carries some serious weight. Buyers prefer to imagine they are among the first to use the feature, whether it's the shower stall, flooring, or media room.

Unless they are FSBO, most home sellers are not writing their own real estate listings, but you can still feed your listing agent the facts. I've blogged already about how to write a home-for-sale listing that sells.

I've written three homestaging eBooks to help you prepare your home so it will sell fast for a price you like. Download them for $4.99 each to get a headstart on your homestaging today.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Staging Diagonally: A Way to Fool the Eye

The larger your home on the market appears the more money it commands.

Yes, buyers will study the square footage stats, and appraisals will be based on numbers, but buyers will also respond to how your home feels, how they experience it.

Of course, removing clutter and excess furniture goes a long way to making a house look spacious. But what else?

One trick decorators have up their sleeves is employing the magic of diagonal lines.

If you think about a square, and then visualize the line that goes diagonally from corner to corner, you'll realize that the line that goes from corner to corner is longer than the line that goes from side to side.

A diagonal arrangement forces the eye to wander back and forth across the space, and makes the walls of a room appear "pushed out."

Tables, chairs, and couches are the obvious choices for diagonal furniture placement, but a bed can be set kitty-corner as well, even in a small bedroom. Don't overlook the possibilities of setting case pieces like bookcases, benches, armoires, chests or dressers the same way.

This kitty-cornered loveseat rounds out the room while it directs attention to
the outdoor space, a selling point in this home. Photo: BHG

A simple twist of the four chairs so their lines don't parallel the walls of this
narrow patio, make the space more fluid and interesting. Photo: Suk Design Group 

This arrangement is a big improvement over the traditional setup of a major piece of
furniture facing the opposite wall 
straight on. Photo: Homedit
Everything in this room that could be moved was re-arranged to sit at 45 degrees to the wall.
Doing so makes the room look more friendly, less formal. Photo: One Kings Lane   

Furniture groupings such as conversation areas and dining rooms often take on a cozier look when they are placed off the square grid. One caveat: Make certain the angle is pronounced enough to make the placement look intentional, not as though someone has simply been careless about shoving furniture around. To be safe, keep angled furniture at 45 degrees to the wall. And make sure there is still room to move about.

Floors Can Handle It, Too,

I laid peel-and-stick tiles in two rooms of this
1920's home to unify the rooms and make them look wider.  

I love the jazzy look of floor tiles set diagonally, no matter what the pattern or size.

If you are laying flooring like prefinished or engineered wood, running the boards diagonally will create the illusion of a bigger room.

A square or rectangular rug will do the same thing if placed at 45 degrees off the wall.

Tiles on the floor or wall, in a herringbone pattern or otherwise, are widening as well.

Anytime you can show off the longest line in the room, do it, either by what you put on the floor or walls or how you arrange furniture.

So, even if your home's measurements aren't all that impressive, when buyers step inside your home, you can still make them feel like it's roomy.

To test this method yourself, move some pieces of furniture to be 45 degrees off the wall, and see if you haven't increased the visual dimensions of your space.

Have you staged your home like a square or a diamond?

I give many more pointers on how to arrange furniture in my $4.99 eBook on the subject. You can download it now and start your home staging today.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Summer Style: You've Got This!

As soon as summer starts, home buyers get serious. New listings pop up, people take vacations, they're out and about, and the mood is upbeat.

For families with school-age children, the hunt is even more serious, since they want to move before school starts up again.

Most people would rather move during the summer than when weather isn't so iffy, and they may have vacation days to use for moving.

It's a great time to have your home on the market. But it's also a  time that your home needs to be "summer-ized." The summer buyer has special needs, and the sooner and more closely you match those needs, the sooner you'll see a purchase offer.

But how to deliver a savory summer home on the market?  What's important? And how much money and effort will this take?

Let's take it one step at a time.

Go Breezy

Forget the warm and cozy vibes your property exuded all winter. A fresh and colorful look will lure in more of summer's house hunters.

Inside, stage your home's interior with warmer weather in mind. Switch out your accessories. If you haven't already, put away the animal print and earth tone pillows and bring on the pastel ones. If your window treatments are a dark color, replace them with sheers. Use white when in doubt. It's your default color whether you're painting furniture or adding slipcovers.

Even if your home isn't in a perfect summer destination, like the mountains, lake, or seaside, ask yourself if you can play up the way your home is a treat to live in during the summer. If it's close to any summer attractions, make sure buyers know. Don't assume everyone knows your town and its amenities, and you can't assume the real estate agent will think to talk up all that your surroundings have to offer.

Keep the house cool so folks on tour feel refreshed when they enter. It doesn't have to be ultra chilly, but you can't underestimate the impact the immediate impression of comfort has on someone entering from the toasty outside.

Outside Has to Shine

The best exterior homestaging for summer advice I can give is to dress up those outside living areas. 

Make them look like the perfect places for relaxing, entertaining, and playing. If you don't have a patio or deck or porch, chances are you can still imitate the experience no matter what your property is like.

Put a bistro table and chairs on the balcony if that's your outdoor space. Add some comfy seats if you have a front or back porch. Make a simple, economical firepit, or add a hammock out on the lawn if space allows.

Colorful plants in containers create killer curb appeal. Bright colors are the rule here. Cash outlay is minimal for the ROI.

Make sure your lawn is tidy, and areas around shrubs are mulched. This project should not cost you much either.

Of course, your home's basic exterior maintenance needs to impress buyers. Check for red flags that might worry them  -- things like paint that is faded, peeling, or mildewed, windows that are cracked or fogged, gutters that are clogged, or walkways that are uneven.

Does your siding, driveway or any other surfaces need pressure washing? Power washers are rentable for a low fee and are easy to use. Has your driveway been patched? It can be painted with a good quality paint used for concrete. Do you have a pool? Make sure it's in great condition, clean and staged with some tempting lounge chairs.

Elbow grease is free and bleach is economical.

Add Seasonal Touches Inside

The thought of summer calls up happy images for most of us -- road trips, pools, beaches, picnics, baseball games, outdoor meals, light reading, sleeping late, and a relaxed state of mind (unless you're a mom of little ones).

I like to let people on a house tour reflect, even momentarily, of what kind of life they will live once they move into a house. For that reason, I like to add some thrifty items that will trigger those thoughts -- furniture that looks relaxing instead of just impressive, sports equipment that anyone could love, lots of refreshingly cool colors, entertaining essentials that look like fun, and props that capture the spirit of the season.

Even if you don't own furniture that itself speaks to casual comfort,
you can still
 stage it to say, "Relax! It's summer!" Rattan, bamboo, 

wicker, metal, pine, teak, and painted furniture are some of the most 
common materials for leisure furnishings. Let's not forget slipcovers for 
converting a formal space to look more relaxed and 
low-maintenance. Photo: Sunbrella on Coastal Living 

Okay, maybe your family doesn't play baseball, hockey, football, basketball,
and volleyball, but if you can show the possibilities for local recreation in your area,
 it is going to impress some people. If there is a pool nearby, have noodles in your garage
. If there is a tennis court in your complex, display rackets in your hall closet.
Photo: The Land of Nod
The coastal decor pillow is the icing on the cake here,
surrounded by bright whites and colors of the beach and water.
Doesn't everyone wish for a house at the shore? You can stage
to create the illusion of that fantasy come true. Photo: Completely Coastal

This collection of summery hats and bags, all in one place,
function like a piece of wall art. It's an easy look to engineer with
a visit to a second-hand shop and maybe your closet.
The plant also lends a seasonal touch. Photo: One Kings Lane  

When in doubt, go white. Get out the paint and give furniture,
fixtures, frames and other accessories a fresh, new look.
The white treatment is especially appealing to buyers in spaces that
call for cleanliness, the kitchen and baths. Photo: Jules Duffy 

If you need more tips on how to get your home ready for market, download my $4.99 homestaging eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. I guarantee you'll get staging ideas. And results that matter to buyers! Or money back.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Your Cheat Sheet for Staging the Bar Cart:

Once your home is decluttered, cleaned, staged, and ready for showings, it may look a little too generic. That's the time to introduce some personality, some minor focal points to keep people on a home tour interested.

Enter the bar cart. It's one of the simplest devices that will add the glamor and detail every staged home needs. It's easy to pull it all together once you know the elements that make for an appealing display.

The Cart Itself

Most carts have an upper and lower shelf. Some have an additional shelf or a drawer or closed cabinet as part of their design. Most have wheels. A cart without wheels is considered a beverage bar, and can be just as functional and stylish.

Choose a cart that suits the room. If you need to fill an empty corner of your homey kitchen, you'll want something different than if you're dressing up an alcove in a formal dining room or that space under the stairs in the basement family room, or even the boring wall in a home office.

A room that lacks some glitz or shine will benefit from a traditional metal and glass beverage cart. A room that needs some weight needs a more solid model, a real piece of furniture. And a room that just needs an end table is a candidate for a small, round bar cart.

Whatever style you choose -- and there are many -- anchor the cart visually to its surroundings if it is against a bare wall. A wall-hung work of art or a mirror is a great background.

Can you pull together a makeshift bar cart from a bookshelf or oversized tray on legs? Probably, but it won't have the same vibe as a sexy chrome model with big wheels, or a vintage bamboo beverage stand on copper casters. Depending on your needs and the style of your home, you can find new, good-looking, new carts for as little at $40, and less if you shop thrift stores or garage sales.

A cart can be packed tight and organized, or sparsely equipped and
loosely arranged, like this one from West Elm.

But even if you decide to spend more, don't feel guilty. This is one piece of furniture that's small, versatile and always in style. In other words, it's an investment piece.

A Tray

Just like styling a coffee table or bedside table, styling a bar cart gets a whole lot easier when you start with a tray. Don't play matchy with the bar cart. Instead, choose a tray that contrasts in shape and material -- a round Lucite one on a square wooden cart, or a rectangular metal one on a round glass cart, for example.

If you go with more than one tray, they don't necessarily have to be a set. Also, a decorative box or basket with low sides can stand in for a tray.

The tray will make an assortment of items read as one unit, and that's always easy on the eyes and makes sense for homestagers. You get to choose the props that go on your staged bar cart because a cart is never a substitute for a liquor cabinet. Technically, it's a station for entertaining and in the case of home staging, it's a device to set the mood for home buyers on tour. It helps them picture themselves relaxing and entertaining friends and family in style.
Duplicate bottles give some order to a collection that
doesn't have a unifying theme. Photo: One Kings Lane. 

Big Bottles

You'll need an assortment of bottles to make your display striking and all Hollywood. These can be commercially- or DIY-labeled bottles of beverages like scotch, vodka, rum, gin and whiskey. Or they can be partially filled pretty decanters, or bottles of wine. Some bottles of mixers like colas, gingerale and tonic water are always good fillers. Of course, a few large bottles of a status brand spring water or mineral water are always smart additions.

Don't feel that you need to actually create a functioning beverage center as though Don Draper and his office mates were going to visit. Your cart can be a simple wine bar, or a selection of juices and soft drinks, fun glasses, straws, coasters, and an ice bucket. Another possibility is to stage your cart as a coffee station.

I never recommend using anything but water in bottles on display in a staged home on the market. It's just too tempting to people on tour of your home. Add plain or appropriately colored water to empty bottles according to their labels. Keep your expensive liquor out of sight.

Chic Glassware

This is not the time for dull or random glasses. This is the time for a sparkling, new set of highball glasses or champagne flutes. A few goblets or pilsner glasses can be part of the mix, but you don't have to set out an entire collection of different types of glassware. The keywords are clear, pretty and shiny.

Since real estate agents can't be expected to police your valuables when showing your home, fine crystal is too valuable for staging, so pack it for your move.

To keep your display from looking too scattered and distracting, have multiples of each glass type you choose. For example, a row of identical tumblers will help pull together a cluster of assorted bottles, giving unity to your staged cart.
This set-up from Target has some attitude!
The black and white palette gives it an uptown look. 

An Objet d'Art

Every display needs something unique. Hunt your house or second hand stores for a filler piece with some heft and whimsy. Some possibilities: a vintage lamp, an unusual ice bucket, an animal sculpture, a one-of-a-kind basket, a bartender's manual or book of toasts.

Don't make your bar cart accessories anything precious or small, like an heirloom corkscrew or cute shot glasses. These are the kinds of things that can too easily disappear into people's pockets. Crazy, but true.

Greenery or Seasonal Flair

Depending on the time of year, you may want to dress up your staged cart with a seasonal touch or two. In spring, some flowers (even silks) are a refreshing touch. In summer, a plant or some flowers are perfect. Autumn's cozy accessories are candles, books, and hints of the harvest. Add a winter topiary during the winter holidays. A home that shows seasonal touches is a home that looks lived in and loved.

You may even decide to select your beverage choices to reflect the season -- spritzer makin's in July, and festive drink mixes in December.

Just the look of a stack of beautifully gift wrapped packages can make people happy. And always in season is some greenery. It doesn't have to be complicated. I've blogged about how to stage with economical and low-maintenance houseplants and cactus.

Coordinated colors and the absence of small stuff
help this arrangement look tidy. 

Lemons and/or Limes

Since lemons are one of my favorite staging props, I'm not going to ignore them here. They're made for the bar cart! No matter what kind of container you put lemons or limes in, you can't go wrong. I'm going to suggest faux fruit because over time it never needs to be checked for mold the way fresh fruit would. Today's fake fruit is absolutely convincing.

There's something welcoming and yet sophisticated about even a modest bar cart. I think you'll have fun styling it if you decide there is a role for one in your homestaging.

If you are planning a homestage, you need my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Fast and For Top Dollar. 

I guarantee you won't be disappointed with all the insights, formulas, tips, ideas, and advice I've learned working in real estate -- experience I am happy to share with you. My books come with a money-back guarantee! You can download now and start smart-staging today.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

How to Sell Your Home Faster

People buy homes for different reasons.

If you are putting your home on the market, you'll want to appeal to as many of those reasons as you can. The result will be a speedier home sale.

It’s easier than you might think to make your home appealing to more people. That’s because there are certain qualities most home buyers want.

Here is a list. If these features don’t already exist in your home, it’s sometimes possible to add them economically or else stage your home to create the same impression.

What Buyers Look For  

Less formality. The trend is toward more open spaces. Create the look with less clutter. Matched floor coverings and seamless color schemes help, too, as does casual furnishings.

Move-in ready. More than anything else, most buyers want a no-hassle move. They should not have to make immediate repairs. Have a home inspection done and take care of deferred maintenance before listing.

Master suite. Because who doesn’t want a special room off limits to the rest of the world? If you don’t have a master suite as part of your floor plan, be sure to make the master bedroom and one bath feel like a private retreat for grownups.
This bedroom exhibits the luxurious look of a master bedroom. The horizontal lines
of furnishings and window treatments create the illusion of spaciousness. Photo: Shea McGee Design.
Light-filled spaces. As long as privacy is assured and the view is pleasant, the more windows a home has, the better. Create the feeling by staging with minimal window dressings that make openings look large. Paint with pale colors. Use more-than-adequate lighting. 

Modern kitchen. Buyers fall for spacious kitchens that boast upscale appliances. Here is one place to make some investments if your kitchen is out of date. You don’t need a remodel to buy a new fridge or stove. A spotless, bright, uncluttered kitchen feels more modern, too.
Not everyone demands a huge kitchen.
Up-to-date appliances
and cleanliness go a long way.
Photo: Pamela Dailey Design.

Storage solutions. No one has too much storage space because most of us have too much stuff. Clean out your closets and stage them to look roomy. Make smart use of all your storage areas by compacting and organizing your things.

Consideration for today’s technology. Ideally your home has wireless compatibility throughout. Upgrade the electrical system up to today’s needs. Stage a space as a charging station. Remove outdated entertainment systems (looking at you, jumbo dish, roof antenna, and bulky TV armoire!).

Energy efficiency. HVAC systems and energy-efficient windows are important but expensive. Keep your home at a comfortable temperature while it’s on the market. Yes, ceiling fans are still okay.

Outdoor spaces.
Usable areas for entertaining and relaxing outdoors are priorities for most buyers. It’s economical to create these spaces on even the smallest lots, even if your outdoor space is just a balcony. The photo from Country Living by Mark Lohman at the top of this post demonstrates my point. Some wicker furnishings add that casual vibe buyers like as well as an outdoor relaxation area.

Stage and Promote

Create closet envy with an arrangement anyone
would love. Pack your non essentials up and
stage it glam. Photo: Akin Design Studio.  
Your buyer is out there and ready to be educated about your home.

Therefore, it’s important to be specific about the desirable features your home has. Make these specifics part of your MLS listing, your Realtor’s promotional literature, and online descriptions.

When you talk to neighbors, family, colleagues and friends about your home for sale, let them know what makes your place special.

If the heating and cooling devices are new, document it. If the patio is shaded in summer, make sure buyers know. If there is additional storage space in the attic, mention that in the online specs. If your HOA maintains outdoor spaces, be sure to include that in the listing. If you’ve done major repairs that might not be obvious, make sure your Realtor knows about these. (Tip: Don’t call them repairs. Call them upgrades.)

I encourage you to consider the ways you can add or imitate the features that people want in a property. The sooner you meet these needs and market your home around what today’s home buyers expect, the sooner you’ll sell your home.

And when your home is missing some of these key ingredients, homestaging can make up for the shortcomings. Download my home staging eBook to learn more about how you can make your home more appealing to more people.

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