Monday, November 11, 2019

5 Steps to Selling a House During a Divorce

As if going through a divorce wasn't stressful enough, adding the sale of a jointly owned home turns the process into a minefield.

Whether the home is occupied by both partners, only one, or neither, decisions about the sale will take ongoing cooperation -- something that's often missing when a couple is calling it quits. If you are currently in the process of divorcing, or perhaps contemplating a divorce, the more you educate yourself about your rights and how the home home selling process happens, the more you'll be able to protect yourself now and ongoing, as well as create a quick sale at a good price.

Dissolving joint ownership of property, although painful, is a necessary step so each of you can establish independent finances. Done equitably, you'll both will get money you need to start over.

The sale also allows both of you to see yourselves in a new light.

If you are sure you are going to sell the house, you should have already consulted a divorce lawyer. Laws regarding jointly owned property vary from state to state, and you'll need to know your rights. 

Then, to help you make sensible decisions and create a peaceful transaction, review these five steps to selling your home.

1. Choose a Real Estate Agent

I never recommend selling a house without a real estate professional, and especially when the owners are divorcing. The agent provides a buffer and acts as a mediator just by nature of the job description.

If you and your ex-to-be agree that the agent you worked with when you bought the house is a great match for you, see if that agent is still available. If not, you can each make a list of agents you know or who have been recommended. Then, you can compare lists and see if any one name pops up on both lists.

Alternatively, you could each enlist the aid of a friend or relative, and these two people could as a "committee" choose a real estate agent together. The important thing is that you not begin the process of selling by arguing about who the listing agent will be.

Do not hire a personal friend or one of your relatives as your agent. You want someone both parties implicitly trust and feel comfortable with, and you don't want to put a friend or family member in what could become an uncomfortable position.

Image: simplehousedfw.com

2. Decide on the listing price.

You can't set a listing price based on how much money you need. Or on what you originally paid for the house. Or what the Zillow Zestimate is. You need relevant facts and figures to establish its current market value.

Your Realtor will give you the data necessary to determine an asking price for your property. He or she will examine homes like yours in your area that have sold in the past three months and then zero in on a fair price. The agent might also show you specs on homes that have sales pending, and homes near you that have not sold, including how many days they have been on the market, and homes that have lowered their prices waiting for a serious buyer. All this info will give you the big picture,

You could also pay for an appraisal by a licensed real estate appraiser. He will survey other sold properties and compare them to the condition, features, and location of your home.   

When you base your asking price on what the research shows as fair market value, you're more likely to sell quickly for a price you can't argue with. Rather than bump heads with your ex-to-be, you're deferring to the unbiased experts --- the Realtor and the appraiser. This deferring is a common tactic all successful negotiators use.

Your buyers, if they finance the purchase, will pay for their own appraisal, and it may not jive with yours, but that's okay. At least you've set your asking price and you're ready to list it, show it, and accept offers.

Once your home is staged, and you've removed personal objects, you'll see it with new eyes. It's always best if one spouse moves out, and the other takes responsibility for keeping the home show-ready. Photo: Meg Braff 


3. Fix and Stage the house.

Before the house can be shown to potential buyers, you'll need to get it market-ready for the competition it will face. Here's where things can get dicey, when you and your "insignificant other" may differ on what needs to be fixed, removed or replaced.

Almost every home needs minor repairs before it is ready for showings. Rather than bicker over what needs to be done and who will pay, once again it's best to get the opinions of your Realtor. Making these decisions will call for maturity and level-headedness. Remember that you both want the same outcome -- a sold home, so it's no time for petty jealousies or vindictiveness.

If you can jointly draft a list of repairs and updates deemed necessary to command a good selling price, and then get price quotes, and split the bill evenly, that's ideal. Otherwise, one party might provide the labor and the other one the money. Or agree to some other equitable arrangement, depending on your financial circumstances.

Hopefully, you can both agree on the necessity of staging. Staging the home will help you both disentangle emotionally from the property. Once family keepsakes, valuables, photos, and memorabilia are removed, it's easier to see the house as a major investment instead of "our home."

DIY home staging can be economical. Try to agree on a budget in line with the value of the property. According to Realtor.com, a staged home sells for 20% more than an unstaged home, and staged homes sell 88% faster than ones that aren't. With these statistics in mind, it's easier to justify spending some money on things like repairs, painting and some trendy, new accessories. One percent of your asking price is a realistic figure to use when you calculate how much to alot for home staging.

Do not let your listing agent include terms like "motivated buyer," "must sell," "all offers considered." It only makes you look desperate.


4. Review offers together

When the time comes to review purchase offers from potential buyers, you'll need to work together to make sure you both feel you're getting a good deal. Your agent will advise you during this process, but you and your ex-to-be will ultimately be making the decision together. Follow the lead of your Realtor. You are paying for his or her expertise.

No matter what kind of offers you get, always counteroffer. It will keep the negotiating ball in the air and can lead to an agreement. It's best if your buyers not know that you are divorcing. It will only encourage low ball offers and hard-nosed negotiating.

5. Let lawyers distribute the money 

You don't need to sweat the division of the proceeds once the house has been sold. The escrow company will distribute the money to you and your ex after all the obligations on the house and other payments have been made. The attorney you hire will educate you about laws in your state. 

In the U.S. between 40% to 50% of marriages end in divorce. So, you're not alone if you are in the midst of the divorce process. Selling the home can be a rocky road, but it doesn't have to be. It takes patience and compromises for both partners to cooperate and trust their real estate and legal advisers. Once the house sells, you'll both be ready financially and emotionally for a new start.

For more valuable tips on how to get your home ready to sell, be sure to check out my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. Go here to see what you get!


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Six Tips for Selling your Home this Autumn

Just because days get cooler does not mean the home selling market cools.

Summer may be over, but please don't assume as a home seller that real estate sales take a nosedive. In fact, fall is one of the best times of the year to sell your house.

Buyers tend to be more serious than people who were house hunting during the summer.

The weather is friendlier than in summer or winter, making home tours more comfortable.

And, crisp, dry autumnal air and colorful landscaping result in better photographs.

With cooler weather on the horizon,  potential homebuyers are looking for a place to hunker down for the winter. You can cash in on autumn's appeal with the right staging!

Here are six tips you can use to make your home look like the perfect place for homebuyers to snuggle up this fall. 

1. Use Autumn Colors

According to Michael Plant, Sherwin-Williams Director of Color Marketing, color trends for 2019 are both jewel tones, and sun-washed oranges and tans. Coincidentally, these are also autumn accent colors.

Of course, you're not going to paint your walls deep burgundy, chocolate brown, or royal blue for staging purposes, but you can count of these colors when choosing decorating accessories like your pillows, artwork, throws, wreaths, and vases.

So, replace your spring-like, pastel-colored candles on silver candlesticks with chunky, purple pillars on wooden pedestals. Recover your grey and white pillows with a remnant of deep teal velvet. You might even splurge on a new paisley duvet cover like the one below from Pottery Barn.

Autumn colors are soothing and homey. Warm wood tones and rich reds and olives are balanced here by plenty of whites. When staging, layer on those interesting textures. 


2. Add Seasonal Gourds

Produce of the harvest season, like gourds, pumpkins, and winter squashes are iconic of autumn. Any of these will add a touch of fall-feeling to your home even if you don't change anything else.

Arranged in a glass bowl or rustic basket, or on a generously-sized tray, they'll create a seasonal centerpiece for your entry table, coffee table, or kitchen island. If these hard-shelled vegetables don't jive with your home's color palette, change their colors with craft paint or spray paint.

No one says your pumpkins and gourds have to be real. Stores are jammed with adorable replicas to suit any taste or staging need. And I've easily made pumpkins from fabric scraps! Other seasonal props are feathers, baskets, dried autumn leaves, branches of dried berries, apples, pine cones, corn husks, terra cotta pots, logs, dried flowers, and shafts of wheat.

Keep your color palette geared to warm, seasonal tones and you can't go wrong. Feathers and faux flowers are from Dollar Tree,  $1 pumpkins are from Home Goods,
a
nd the agate-inspired tray is from Ollie's Bargain Outlet at $7.  


3. Check Your Water heater 

Anyone shopping for a new home loves the idea that he doesn't have to tackle any home maintenance projects right from the get-go. Before listing is a good time to give your water heater some TLC. Having a plumber drain your water heater and remove sediment is something a Realtor can let a prospective buyer know about. It indicates that you have maintained your home well. Experts recommend doing this once a year and pre-listing is a good time to do it.

A plumber's visit can also include a check of things like dripping faucets, leaking joints, or outdated pipes. Buyers will hire a home inspector, so you might as well fix these minor issues now. An inspector wants to find problems because it assures the buyers he's earning the money they pay him.

If you have a tankless water heater, a water conditioning system, or an irrigation system, make sure your MLS listing includes these amenities. If you have a septic system, buyers will want to know about its location and if it's had problems. The same goes for a private well that is used for drinking water or irrigation.

4. Inspect your roof

Another area that a home inspector will look at carefully is your roof. Savvy home buyers will walk around the outside of a home and look up at the condition of a roof. To avoid surprises, have your roof inspected yearly and earn some more bragging rights for taking good care of your home.

In most areas of the U.S, when your home is on the market in the fall it's likely to be a landing place for falling leaves, pine needles, and twigs. Don't let this junk litter your roof and drift into gutters and downspouts. A clean roof boosts your curb appeal.

Silk hydrangeas on your front door can handle the elements and stay looking fantastic through the year-end holidays. I love this chocolate door! Photo: House Beautiful


5. Revisit your door color

A front door is the smile on your curb appeal. You'll make a memorable impression if your door sports a bold color. I've blogged about how to choose the best color for your front door and also how to paint a front door without taking it off the hinges.

If your door color isn't one of the popular autumn colors, and you don't want to paint it, just clean it and dress it up a bit. Adding an autumn wreath and some seasonal touches near your entrance make your home look loved and shows you're in tune with the times. I have a Pinterest Board for wreaths to give you inspiration and ideas. And also a board for autumn decor ideas that are perfect for home staging.

6. Clean up the yard

A few leaves won't hurt your home's curb appeal, but piles of blown-in debris will ... well... contribute to that haunted house appeal!

Enjoy some outdoor exercise by raking any yard you own and clearing any pathways. Trimming overgrown vegetation will make a big difference. Small projects like these can determine whether people request a tour of your home or else decide to keep looking. First impressions count!

If you have a painted fence, it's a good idea check it for damage. If it has signs of flaking or thinning paint or stain, a fresh application will do wonders for even an older fence. When the fence is constructed of pressure-treated lumber, it might need a pressure washing to make it look new again.

A fence like this is usually a selling feature that charms buyers. A poorly-
maintained one looks like work to them. Photo: The Fence Authority

Get the Look, Get the Book.

October in the U.S. seems to be the month for spooky and scary sights. But it's also the season for slowing down and getting comfortable, that sweet time between busy summer schedules and hectic winter holidays. Make it easy for homebuyers to visualize themselves in your clean and cozy world! My three $4.99 eBooks on home staging show you how. They help you prepare your property for a quick and profitable sale. Trust me. I've staged and sold homes in all seasons!

Top photo: Country Living         


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.

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: 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.

Antiques

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.

Advantages

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

Favorites

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.

Sources

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

Related Posts with Thumbnails