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 seniors want that are also what other demographic groups want.

Here is your 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 re-upholster 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

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Ebook Ordering Glitch Fixed

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

Thursday, May 9, 2019

3 Ways to Freshen Your Spring Landscape

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

It's generally considered prime house-selling season.

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

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

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

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

Contain Overgrown Shrubbery

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

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

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

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

Add the Features People Want 

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

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

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

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

Make Your Curb Appeal Colorful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Photo: Julia Palosini

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Cafe Curtains: Good News, Bad News

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Not welcome here

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

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

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

More memories

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

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


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

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

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

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

Tips and tricks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Secret Ingredient for Kitchen Staging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Photo: LeoDesignsChicago

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

How to Market Your Home to Women

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

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

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

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

I'm not suggesting pink walls and ruffled curtains.

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

What women care about

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

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

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

Other perks

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

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

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

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

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

Detail Your Home 

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

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

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

Reach out to women

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

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

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

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

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

Get the look. Get the book.

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

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

Top Photo: Kate Spade

Monday, January 28, 2019

Six Ways to Increase Your Home's Value

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

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

That means you need to make some smart decisions.

Plan early

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

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

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

Clean up

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

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

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

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

Check Your Floors 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make doors attractive  

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

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

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

Invest in Smart Stuff

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

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

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

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

Freshen walls

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

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

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

Hire Good people 

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

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

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

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

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

Get the look. Get the book.

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

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

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

How to Stage Focal Points

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

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

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

Decor Definition

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

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

A stunning view of outdoors.

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

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

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

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

Dual Confusion

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

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

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

How to select

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

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

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

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

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

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

Play It Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Photo: Lucy and Company

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