Grab Millennial Home Buyers with These 4 Strategies

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Do you want to reach the largest possible audience when you put your home up for sale? 

Rather than appeal to a niche market or small demographic,  take a look at who's buying more houses these days. 

It's Millennials. They comprise an increasing share of home buyers, edging out older Boomers. And these Millenials have more money to spend than younger generations. 

Knowing what's important to these house hunters will make your home sale go quicker and easier, keeping everyone happy! 

Here are four ways you can attract and impress this important market.   

Choose trending paint colors

Just like trends in clothing, jargon, music, and cars, paint colors for interior walls come in and go out of style. Interior design color schemes move in 10-year cycles. When you stage your home, be aware of the currently popular colors.

Today's most popular colors are trending away from greys and towards off-white tones like Sherwin Williams Pearly White, or Creamy, or Roman Column. 

The solid advice about home staging has always been to avoid painting walls with bold colors because a neutral color theme will appeal to the greatest number of people. Soft, neutral colors are versatile, and will pair with most people's furniture. 

As always, if you run out of ideas, there's always the internet. On average, 1.8 billion websites are running concurrently worldwide daily, so answers to general or specific questions about decor are just a few keystrokes away. I recommend checking my Pinterest boards for color combinations that work well for home staging. I've blogged about how to choose a paint color the easy way, staging with pastel colors, and the importance of wall color in a staged home. 

Note: Looking at photos of celebrity homes and decorator showcase homes will not help you choose a color for staging. Home decorating and home staging have different aims.

This family room from Young House Love demonstrates how 
a room of neutrals and off-whites doesn't have to be boring. 

Make it move-in ready

Repairing or replacing faulty components shows potential buyers that the house is in great shape. Most Millennials don't want a fixer-upper. They are busy building careers and raising families. They want a property that shows it's been well-maintained. If you sail through your home inspection, you can sell at a higher price. 

Having an inspection done before listing is a good idea. Inspectors want to find problems to prove their value. (And they are valuable!) Repair any cracks and holes in walls and ceilings, and replace loose doorknobs, cracked tiles, and faulty electrical systems the inspector lists. Replace all leaking faucets and corroded water tanks

Millennials have a wish list that includes a home office, a smart security system, unproblematic internet, tv, and cell phone access, and useable outdoor space. So, if you have these features, use your home staging and your online specs to make them obvious.   

What repairs you decide to make will cost you less than the discounts buyers will ask for. And you'll speed up the selling process. 

Focus on a fabulous listing

You have just one chance to impress a buyer. The millennial buyer will form his first, important impression from your online listing.  If your agent doesn't believe in the value of professional real estate photography, find another agent. If it is a question of cost, offer to pay. Yes, it is that important.

When the photographer comes, be totally ready, and then get out of the way. Do not plan on moving things from one room to another. Do in advance what it takes to make your home look uncluttered, even if it means putting wastebaskets, extra shoes, and kids' toys in your car for a few hours!

If you are ever going to pay for a professional deep cleaning or a professional organizer, do it before your home is photographed. 

Make sure your agent knows all the important details about your property. Her job will be to feature what's important to today's buyers, based on her experience and training. Tell her what you love most about your home, the age and brand of things like appliances, flooring, and roofing, what the neighborhood is like, and whatever else she may not realize by a simple walk-through. Insist on reviewing the sales copy before it goes live and don't be shy about suggesting reasonable changes. Your Realtor is working for you.  

Even if you are not needing fancy photography
like drone images or this twilight shot, you should 
 consider professional photos as essential selling tools.
Photo: Hoachlander Davis Photography

Add budget-friendly upgrades

Put money where it matters. Unless your home is a high-end property in a decidedly expensive market, making improvements like complete bath or kitchen remodels won't return your financial investment at the closing table. Averages show that revamping a major bathroom costs about $11,700.  But small upgrades and repairs can put an ordinary house over the top. 

You might consider replacing bath and kitchen hardware such as faucets, spigots, showerheads, mirror frames, and cabinet handles. These metals are the jewelry of the room. Latch on to the mixed metals trend to impress millennial buyers. Here is an article from The Spruce on how to mix metals the right way.

Another economical upgrade that will catch the eye of a millennial shopper is a statement lighting fixture. An oversized chandelier can replace a bedroom boob light. My go-to source for inexpensive ceiling lights is my local ReStore. I know they sell only tested appliances and fixtures. Older style lights are often easy to update with a coat of spray paint.  

This bath, from Sunny Circle Studio, uses both matte black
and shiny brass hardware for a modern, curated look. 

Get the look, get the book

Need more advice, inspiration, and DIY tips to stage your own home? Start today by building your confidence that you can do it! Download my home staging eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. Let my years in the real estate business --buying, fixing, staging, and selling homes -- help you style your home to win buyers' hearts.   

Top photo: Style at Home

30 Tips For a Profitable Yard Sale

Sunday, May 15, 2022

If you are planning to put your home on the real estate market, selling some of your personal belongings now has distinct advantages. It will simplify your moving, and put cash in your pocket that you can spend on a few home staging essentials or luxuries. 

How much money you make from hosting a garage sale depends on what you have to sell. But it also depends on how, when, and where you plan your sale. 

Over the years, I've held my own garage and yard sales and I've helped some organizations and clubs hold fundraiser sales. Along the way, I've made mistakes and learned some lessons. Here are my best tips for success.

Plan ahead. If possible, choose a time of year when the weather cooperates, when people want to be out and about. The second Saturday in August is called National Garage Sale Day, but spring or fall might be better for your climate. 

Neighborhood sales, town-wide events, or other group sales build attendance. Talk to your neighbors about a joint effort. Make sure there are no HOA restrictions or local ordinances against yard sales. 

Follow traditions where you live. In some places, Fridays and Saturdays are the norm. In other places, only Saturdays are what's expected. 

Promotion is everything. List on Facebook Marketplace and Facebook, local social networks, Craigslist, church or neighborhood bulletins, and listserves. Get the word out as soon as you can count on a reliable weather forecast, probably a week ahead.

Your merchandise doesn't need to look new of course, but it should be clean. Don't display broken or grimy things.

People are especially particular about kitchen 
and dining equipment being clean.

Price items ahead of your target date. Don't wait until the day before your sale, when your mind is on other details. Buy preprinted stickers at a dollar store or make your own from plain labels.

Be realistic about your prices. Keep in mind that people are doing you a favor by helping you pare down belongings.  

Have a good starting bank of cash so you can make change. Have quarters, singles, fives, tens, and twenties. A "carpenter's apron" helps you keep the money handy and safe.  

Signage is what attracts people. Purchase signs or make large, weatherproof, legible ones. Make them all match to "build your brand." Include one in front of your property. 

Try to make your sale itself obvious from the street. If possible and safe, place at least one large item or a table with some things on it near the front of your home.

In an urban setting, you might be able to use sidewalk chalk to direct people to your sale, using colorful arrows to show the way.

I like to have some music playing in the background. It puts people at ease. Choose music anyone could love, a mix of both relaxing and upbeat. 

Price items so people don't have to ask what things cost. Putting a price sticker on the underside of an item makes people pick it up and once they handle an object, the chance of them buying it increases. 

When stickers aren't visible, interested
buyers will still handle the item to see
how it looks and what it costs.

Do whatever it takes to keep things at a comfortable height for customers, not on the ground. If you don't have sufficient tables, borrow from friends who have collapsible ones. You can also make temporary tables of milk crates, indoor tables, sawhorses, boards, tailgates, or lawn furniture. 

Arrange things in categories -- tools, sporting equipment, kitchen things, lawn and garden stuff, decor, toys, and whatever else you have. Generally, books and clothing do not sell well at these sales.

Bundle together small and inexpensive items such as an assortment of flower seed packets, a collection of cheap bracelets, or a few boxes of nuts and bolts and screws. Tie or tape them together or place them in a plastic bag.   

Realize that people will arrive early. Be prepared. The first arrivals are usually the most serious buyers. 

Decide ahead of time what currency you will accept -- cash only, or checks and online apps like Venmo?  

Know the retail value of any high ticket items so you can help people understand what a bargain they are getting. Do your research online before the sale. I don't endorse "make an offer" stickers. Get negotiations rolling with your sticker price. 

If your sale is large, have a helper or two so people can get the assistance they need and you're not overwhelmed.

If an item is unassembled, such as a daybed frame or an inflatable hot tub, keep a photo on your phone of the way it looks set up to show to anyone who shows interest.

Arrange your things in categories. I bagged a bunch
of assorted drapery trim, curtain rings, hooks,
and tape in one clear bag to appeal to decorators.  

If you are selling electric appliances or tools, keep them near an exterior electric outlet or run an extension cord from inside, because people may want to try them. 

Keep arranging items so they look neat and accessible. Doing so keeps you on the "sales floor," where you can easily engage with customers. 

Unless you know the person, don't promise to hold items for someone who promises to return with the money. Don't let anyone into your home to use the bathroom or try on clothes you are selling. You're not a department store.  

Do not sit in a chair and stare at customers. Try to stay on your feet and keep moving. Greet them and small talk if they seem receptive. Some people go to these sales for the enjoyment of socializing, but they also make purchases. 

Some of your offerings may need explanatory
tags to give buyers info on size or usage. 

Be friendly and courteous. Some people may be impolite or not speak English, but they all come to find bargains, so treat everyone as a valuable customer. Often these are the ones who spend the most money.

Have some bags and boxes available to encourage shoppers to gather more items and simple for them to carry them off after paying you. 

Many people will want to negotiate prices. Be flexible, but have a bottom line in your mind. The more items a person wants to buy, the more agreeable to discounts you should be. 

Decide when you will reduce prices. Many sellers decide that after 12 noon, everything is half price, for example. 

I find that even though retail pillows seem
to be priced sky-high, people don't want to buy used
pillows no matter how cute or new they are! 

Know ahead of time what you will do with what's left.  Research which local charities near you will make pickups and what their schedule and guidelines are.  

It's better not to reclaim leftover belongings once you've decided to sell them. If some of your things are too valuable to donate or toss, explore other avenues for turning them into cash, such as selling them individually online or offering them to family or friends. 

Arranging for a yard sale is hard work. But if you do things according to a schedule and with forethought, it can be both enjoyable and profitable. 

For more tips on how to make it easier and more profitable to sell your home, be sure to download my eBooks for home staging!

Top photo: Country Living Magazine

This One Trick Will Make Your Home Look Larger, Newer, and Cleaner

Friday, April 08, 2022

If you ask the typical househunter why she wants to move, you're likely to hear, "We need more room." Second on the wish list is usually a move-in-ready condition.

The best homestaging techniques capitalize on what buyers expect to see in their dream house -- a home that looks large and ready for them to move into. And one of the simplest ways to accomplish both goals is to strategically use the reflective power of mirrors when you plan your staging.

Mirrors are an easy and economical solution when a home needs to feel bigger, newer, and even cleaner. If you are living in a furnished home, you already have mirrors in some rooms. Let's make sure you place them to advantage and choose ones that help sell your home.

Emphasize spaciousness

Buyers can learn exactly what a room's mathematical dimensions are, but they also respond viscerally to a room's perceived size, and that's why mirrors can come to your home staging aid. A large wall mirror will instantly make a space appear twice as deep. Even smaller mirrors have the ability to "punch a hole" in a wall to make a room feel more open.Your mirrors don't always have to be wall-mounted versions.

Often the built-in bookcases are backed by mirror panels. I like to see glam mirrored furniture, or an etagere that has mirrors for shelves. And who doesn't crave a full-length mirror in a closet or dressing room, and of course, in a home gym?

Any mirror, whether large or small, modern or vintage, expensive or cheap, simple or elaborate, round or rectangular, will help your rooms look and feel roomier because of the way they fool the eye. Although not written with an eye to home staging, you'll still find inspiration and advice in this post from Homes and Gardens about decorating with mirrors.

Four full length mirrors hinged together 
make this stylish bedroom
even more distinctive as well as larger than
it actually is. Photo:Ballard Designs.

Modernize decor

A home's style is determined by its decor details. Things like bedding, lamps, artwork and paint colors reveal to home buyers what the present owners are like. A common tenet of home staging and real estate is, "People buy a lifestyle when they buy a home."

Does your own lifestyle look enviable? Does your decor make you look like the kind of person who has invested time, money and thought into your home? Or does your decor look so dated that people looking to buy will question the general upkeep of the property?

According to the National Association of Realtors, the typical homeowner has lived in his house for eight years. Trends in interior decor, just like fashion cycles, last 10 years. That means your choice of decorative objects will work in your favor at selling time when you have updated some elements of your decor while you lived there.

Buyers like to feel they are moving up the social ladder, moving to a home that is more updated. Even historic homes need to have modern appliances and luxuries.

Mirrors are inexpensive enough that you can economically add them to your home as staging props to modernize your home and define its style. Unlike other fixtures in your home -- things like countertops, lighting fixtures, sinks, and cabinets -- you'll be able to take mirrors with you when you move!

Besides being a mere space-filler the way any wall art is, a mirror will double the appeal of props like flowers and chandeliers. Photo: Lamps Plus.

Brighten your rooms

Mirrors bounce light back into the space. All mirrors, no matter what style or size, make the most of the both artificial and natural light existing in a room. Often a dreary kitchen can be transformed by adding a mirrored backsplash, or a windowless bathroom can be brightened by a wall-to-wall mirror over the vanity. A narrow foyer or hallway can feel sunnier when a mirror decorates one wall. And a charming alcove will become a selling point when it's emphasized with a mirror backing.

One of the best locations for a mirror is opposite a window or bank of windows. In fact, a well-placed mirror can act as a kind of faux window. One common and effective placement is over a fireplace, calling attention to a room's focal point. Good mirror positioning is wherever it will reflect something like a beautiful chandelier or outdoor view. Make sure your mirrors do not reflect something boring like the ceiling or an empty space.

A mirror can help define your home's decor
style and elevate it's perceived value 
 on the market. Photo: Mindy Gayner via Spruce. 

Today's Hollywood set designers know that a scene filmed with subdued lighting lets moviegoers know that bad or overly dramatic things can happen here. Likewise, a brightly lighted scene builds confidence and cheerfulness. In a staged home, a well-lighted room, aided by the reflective surfaces of mirrors lets buyers feel safe. A bright room even feels cleaner.
A brighter, cleaner home is more likely to read as a move-in-ready home, and that's what every buyer desires.

Get the look, get the book

Even in a hot seller's market, home staging is important. But it's not everything. You can add new DIY decorator pillows, paint your front door, and stage a cute bar cart, but remember that buyers will need to have a home inspector check a home's infrastructure to assure both the financing institution and the buyer that the property is worth its selling price. Any red flags like a roof that has missing, loose or curling shingles, HVAC ductwork that leaks or is clogged, electrical systems that are not to code, or signs of rotted exterior wood siding, will undermine the best home staging efforts.  

Savvy, professional home stagers know how valuable mirrors can be when they stage for their clients. You can harness this same power when you choose and hang the right mirrors in your home on the market. I'll give you more insider tips when you download my homestaging eBooks. You don't have to make mistakes, waste money, or worry about your staging when I can offer you my years of experience in real estate, home construction, DIY projects, and prepping homes to sell! Go here for your download.

Top Photo: Blackband Design

When a Gallon of Paint Pays for Itself

Friday, March 18, 2022

When you prepare your home for sale, some of the money you plunk down for staging is money well spent. But if you're not careful, some other expenses are a waste of your cash. Of course you want the best return, so let's look at one of the best staging investments you can make -- a gallon of paint. 

Many of the most affordable DIY painting jobs are quick and easy. Here are two of my favorite painting projects that are especially worth the time and money.  

Furniture refresh

Furniture that looks clean, updated and coordinated elevates the perceived value of your home.  Whether buyers are looking at your photos online, seeing a video presentation, or  actually walking through your home, they will form a positive or negative opinion of your interior based on your furniture. 

Of course, they are considering objective facts like how much square footage you have, how old the appliances are, what the neighborhood looks like, and a host of other considerations, but how your home feels to them subjectively influences their decision just as much. 

If your "case goods" (wood furniture like tables, chairs, bookcases, and bureaus) look mismatched and a bit like they've seen their best days, paint can often rescue them. A gallon of semi gloss or satin latex paint costs $33-56,  and is more than enough to bring new life to multiple furniture pieces, and at the same time simplify your color scheme. A simple color scheme makes your home look cleaner, bigger, and more intentionally decorated.  

Besides the usual candidates for updating with paint, we DIYers are famous for transforming old media armoires, stacks of assorted hardcover books, lamps, vases, planters, desks, mirror and picture frames, and even microfiber chairs

I've blogged about the common mistakes people make when they paint furniture and shared with you my practical, expert tips for getting a good paint job, advice you won't see anywhere else on the web. 

Aerosol paints that you spray on are certainly handy and quick-drying, but are less forgiving and cost more than paint from a bucket you brush or roll on. A drip or splatter in your spray paint finish is almost impossible to correct, but you'll have better control when you brush paint on. My favorite brand of aerosol paint is Rustoleum, and that clocks in at about nine dollars a can, a price that can easily double or triple for that large bookcase that might need multiple coats. Brushing is also more convenient than spraying, because spraying demands that you ventilate the work area well and protect surrounding surfaces.                               

If you struggle with color choices, make your life easier by going with one color when you paint furniture. White is the default color because it's so versatile and non-offensive. White is happy to play a supporting role instead of stealing the scene when you stage. 

If you paint with white, you can choose a selection of 
 different whites for variety. Photo: Kim Cornelison via BHG


Note: Furniture like this heirloom quality bed, 
shouldn't be painted. Fenton Home Furnishings 

Overhead garage door

A garage is a sure selling feature when you list your home. Many American homes, ranch design and other styles, are designed with a front facing garage that monopolizes the front facade. Since it's such an important part of your curb appeal, make sure it's clean and not faded. Garage doors that match the color of the home's trim are more likely to blend with rather than dominate a home's facade.

Most people assume that renewing or changing the color of one is difficult, but I've blogged about how easy it is to paint an overhead garage door. You'll use less than a gallon of paint for a single car garage.  

If your garage door is old and you are marketing your home as a smart home by incorporating the latest technology, consider replacing your current door with a modern version. You'll find ones that include camera systems and other security devices that can alert you to who's inside and when your overhead door was last opened. Some will let you close your door remotely from your smartphone. Most buyers would notice and appreciate these features. 

Handsome and well maintained garage doors play an
important part in making your home look
large and accomodating. Photo:
Vinyl Sash of Michigan

Get the look, get the book

The best improvements you make in your home are the ones that increase its value to most buyers. If you don't have the time or budget to make major upgrades, consider how smaller projects can help. Both these options are examples of how you can increase the listing price of your home.

For more ideas on how to profit when you sell your home, be sure it is staged right inside and out. Yes, you can do it yourself! My eBooks are indispensable guides for all aspects of DIY home staging, from choosing a Realtor to arranging furniture, and everything in between. Get smart about your home's staging! Follow this blog, search the archives here, and be sure to download my home staging eBooks now.     

Impress First Time Home Buyers 7 Different Ways

Friday, February 25, 2022

First time home buyers, whether single or a couple or a young family, represent a growing market for existing home sales. Often millennials, they have preferences that aren't exactly the same as other buyers. 

Like most buyers, they want a clean and spacious home. But first time buyers have special preferences, too, and knowing how to appeal to them will help you tap into this large, important demographic.  

Offer move-in ready

A home purchase is a major investment, the largest one most people will make in their lifetime. Today's homes are pricey. Because they are not cashing out of a previously owned home, new buyers will be using precious savings to make a down payment. So, they want a home that doesn't need updates and repairs once they are the new owners.

They don't want to worry about expensive, unforeseen repairs down the road. They are less likely to have funds for improvements like exterior painting, popcorn ceiling removal, a new roof, updated bathrooms, or a kitchen remodel. 

How does your home stack up next to comparable properties -- homes near you, about the same age, with similar square footage and number of rooms? Do your research and look online to see how the competition is presenting itself. You may decide to make some improvements to compete. 

Be patient

Any real estate transaction is a multi-step process. A newbie can be overwhelmed by all the detailed communications, from reviewing the initial paperwork and scheduling showings, to the multiple  documents that need to be signed at each step of the negotiating process. He can get confused and maybe drop the ball once or twice. It's important to work closely with your Realtor to make sure your buyer understands all the details as you move through the selling procedure.  

Be honest

While younger buyers may not be knowledgeable about how the deal unfolds, they are more savvy than older buyers about how the internet works. Online, they've already read all about your house. They can find out things like what you paid for it and when, who the neighbors are, and how much you still owe on the home. They can search social media to read about you, as well. 

Once you understand the information your buyer might already have, you can see how important it is to be forthright about your home's specifications, not to withhold crucial information, and to respect your buyer's acquired knowledge of your property, and not to "hard sell" your house. Nothing works like the truth, and a good Realtor will make sure your data is accurate.  

If your home doesn't have an outdoor
space for relaxing and entertaining, one of the
easiest ways to add something functional is 
by installing concrete pavers to create a patio. 
 Photo: Future PLC/Polly Eltes via Ideal Home

Stage entertainment areas

Younger buyers, especially singles, are likely to keep up an active social life. Singles will want to invite friends over for hanging out, games and TV. A young family will want to entertain at home. Stage your home to feature its outdoor areas for enjoying meals and backyard sports. Inside, show what rooms can be flex space. 

Some millennials will want a serious home office and Zoom room for work. Families with young children want a yard for playing. Show how your home can offer a carefree lifestyle by simplified yardwork, modern appliances, uncluttered spaces, and easy-to-care-for flooring like LVP planking.    

Demonstrate economy 

Prospective buyers get to see utility bills. They want to know the cost of cable, internet, water, and electricity. Replacing your HVAC as soon as you are considering selling your home is a smart move. Older units and ductwork begin to heat and cool less efficiently, and a newer unit will be more energy efficient. A history of low energy bills is a plus when you go to market with your property. 

Whatever green features your home offers are things you should brag about in the listing, so make sure your listing agent knows if you have things like an on-demand water heater, an attic fan, smart thermostat, well-insulated doors and windows, a landscape that's not thirsty, passive solar heating, and new major appliances. Let home shoppers know that you have reliable, high speed internet service.    

Check your landscaping

None of us are immune to the opinions of others. People base many of their buying decisions on what others will think of them -- whether it's a car or a new pair of shoes. This is especially true of the demographics that make up first time home buyers. How your home looks from the outside is a deciding card. 

Review your curb appeal but driving by, comparing it to neighboring homes. Photograph your home from the road, driveway or sidewalk, so you can check how the landscape looks with fresh eyes. Does the lawn have healthy green grass? Are trees limbed up to look neat and let natural light enter windows? Are shrubs pruned correctly? Lawn edges trimmed? Fresh mulch applied?   

Add trendy furnishings

If your current furnishings are looking tired and dated, consider renting or borrowing some contemporary pieces to give your home a minor face lift. Stage with your best pieces that aren't fussy looking or old fashioned. Add a couple of cheap knock-offs that look trendy from big box stores.  Decorate with neutral colors and DIY modern art. If some of your electronics are dated, hide them when your home is photographed and shown so young buyers feel right at home. 

Your home staging should be based on simple
furnishings with clean lines. Photo: Sunset Magazine

Get the look, get the book

To make sure your home is staged to sell, don't leave here before you download my home staging eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, You'll have all the tricks of the trade to make your home stand out, the one that shows well online and in person. Don't take your home to market unless it's ready to meet or beat the competition. 


3 Steps to Selling a Jointly Owned House

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Anyone who's been through a divorce, even an amicable one, knows that emotions run high and decisions that make both parties happy don't come easily. The same is true when a family of siblings inherits a home and can't come to an agreement on what to do with it. And, often a group of like-minded real estate investors will buy a property to manage as a group.

Couples who are splitting face a variety of issues to settle. For the sake of simplicity, I am going to assume that you and your partner (or partners if you share ownership with more than one person) have decided to sell -- to liquidate the property and move on.  

Get expert representation 

Whether you are selling your marital residence, a family home you inherited, or an investment property that you bought with other investors, it's not a process you should navigate without input from advisors. 

If you are selling because you are dissolving a marriage, read my previous post about selling a home during a divorce. Your very first step should be to talk to an attorney who specializes in divorces. The attorney will advise you, for legal and tax purposes, to sell the house before you file for divorce   

Your second important helper will be a Realtor who all parties agree is a good fit for selling your property. This listing agent should not be a friend or relative of any of the property owners. She is going to be the one person who keeps tabs on all the details as the selling process moves along, and who communicates updates to all parties, usually by group emails and texts, and by documents that can be signed electronically.  

For impartial guidance about the condition of the house and what the property is worth, you could hire both a home inspector and a real estate appraiser. The inspector will help you foresee what could be stumbling blocks to a smooth negotiation with the buyers -- what you need to fix or at least disclose as deficiencies. The appraiser will base his selling price estimate on reliable, current data. These reports will make it easier to decide how to market the property because decisions can be based on hard facts rather than subjective opinions. 

Rather than struggle with FSBO, you'll benefit from the
experience a Realtor brings to sometimes emotional
negotiations. She can be the buffer between the selling 
partners when opinions vary. Photo: CircaOldHouses

Perhaps one of the most troubling consequences of a poorly managed home sale is the loss of goodwill between the parties. Most of us know a family whose previously happy relationships or amicable divorce process came to a halt when heirs to a property or partners in a marriage couldn't agree on whether to sell, rent, or maintain the house. In matters like this, mediation can help. A professionally trained counselor or divorce mediator can help guide the decisions so everyone gets some satisfaction.   

Lastly, it's essential to get financial advice about taxes and financing, and the dispersion of funds. It might be best to designate one spouse or partner or sibling as the point of contact during the selling process. This can help you avoid awkward confrontations in front of potential buyers and your real estate agent. If one of you is going to be living in the home, that person would be the best contact person, the person talking to attorneys, real estate agents, bankers, and tax collectors.  

Make decisions

When a divorce is imminent or a business partnership is ending, it's difficult for one person to assume the mortgage alone, as well as pay carrying costs such as taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance. If you and your significant other can't stay under the same roof (and this is common!) it makes sense that the partner with custody of the children stays in the residence. 

Another decision will be the timing of the sale. Do you sell as soon as possible to take advantage of a sellers' market? Do you wait for the best season of the year in your area? Or wait until the youngest child turns 18? Do you do repairs quickly by hiring tradespeople, or do them yourselves? Do you invest in any upgrades? What conveys with the property? Who gets the furniture and expensive assets? 

Level-headed compromise is key to making these decisions. Some of them might require the advice of your mediator or counselor. The sale of a home is something that might end up being disputed in court if you do not handle it right. What's important is that no one act out of spitefulness or pettiness. Take the high road and set an example. Focus on the desired result -- the sale of mutual property so you can both comfortably move on to what's next. 

Stage to sell

Often the home has sentimental value, such as a place where one of you grew up, or a home where you raised a family, or built a successful business. Selling a property like that is difficult, but when it's time to move on, selling it can help you cut the ties and begin a new life. 

Children's rooms can be a challenge to stage and keep 
looking neat for showings and still not confuse or upset children. 
But with the right staging, your home won't be on the market long.  

Staging helps you begin to see your home as a house. Staging helps you disentangle yourself from the past and define yourself in a new way. Staging is the first step to giving yourself closure. If you live in the home to be sold, you have the opportunity to stage it gradually. Good staging calls for both decluttering and deep cleaning, something you'll do in preparation for moving anyway. 

If you are the custodial parent to young children, it's important that you maintain the appearance of a good parent by remaining socially, emotionally, and financially reliable. It also means you and your child or children will have to be ready for showings, and of course, you'll want your home looking tidy and pretty. I've blogged about living in a staged home with children.     

Get the look, get the book

The ending of a marriage or business arrangement represents an especially difficult time for anyone. Divorce and moving are two of life's most stressful transitions. Selling a home that is jointly owned before you file for divorce has many advantages

And staging it so it sells quickly for a price that everyone likes benefits everyone. It can be a cooperative effort if taken step by step and with maturity, patience, and kindness, no matter how much self-discipline that takes!

Having my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, at the ready will smooth the process. It will show you all the shortcuts and tricks that make staging easy and effective. Download it by going here, and start planning your staging now. 

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Home Staging Business

Monday, February 07, 2022

If you have a passion for interior decor, and have staged a home or two of your own, it's only natural to ask yourself if it makes sense to go pro -- to start your own home staging business. 

The tug may be irresistible. You see homes listed for sale that lack the pizazz that buyers expect. Your friends compliment you on your own home's decor, and ask you for decorating or staging advice. Why not do something you love, work from home with flexible hours, and earn money doing it, right? 

Well, maybe. 

Let's examine what it takes to own a home staging business.   

Get that education

Getting a home staging business off the ground is as challenging as launching any small business. While a new restaurant or new pet walking service or home cleaning service doesn't have to convince its future customers of the necessity of eating, walking dogs, or cleaning a home, not everyone (even some Realtors) believes that home staging is essential. Having credentials and a website can help you market your business from the start. 

Most successful professional home stagers with a business of any size list certification by an organization like RESA, or can at least list design courses at a community college or an online program. Although there is no recognized licensing agency for home staging professionals, these accreditations look impressive on your website and letterhead. 

But you certainly can educate yourself without spending a few thousand dollars for courses and books, or flying to a major city for a weekend seminar (also big bucks). As an alternative, you can read my three home staging eBooks and follow this blog, including searching the archives here for any questions you have. You'll be able to read all the techniques you need to create beautiful rooms! You'll benefit from my years of experience in the fields of real estate, home construction, staging, and interior decorating, and do it economically on your own schedule, at home. Starting today!   

You'll no doubt be learning as you go. To start, you may have to do some pro bono work for a builder or Realtor, so you can build a portfolio of your work samples. Some beginners do PowerPoint presentations at local real estate company meetings to showcase their talents. Some beginners are able to intern with an established professional stager, especially if she promises not to crank up a competitive staging business once she's trained.    

Show your skills 

Besides learning the finer points of actually staging homes, as a business owner, you'll need to have some business acumen. Help is available through organizations like SCORE so you can learn from their webinars, connect with a mentor, apply for a loan, and take courses in all the nuts and bolts of running your own business. 

It's helpful if you are current with the latest digital technology, from social media management to communicating rapidly and professionally by iPhone and email. Hint: Have a separate Facebook page, Twitter account, Pinterest Boards, and email account for your business. You'll also need a LinkedIn profile that showcases both you and your business.

Be ready to Facetime, Zoom, and possibly make good video
tours for your clients. Photo: Kingston Technology

Because you're in a service business, you'll be selling yourself to other people, face to face. Home stagers need the right people skills --  everything from dressing professionally giving constructive criticism tactfully, and practicing empathetic listening, to reading customers' body language and greeting their dog for the first time

I've already blogged about what it takes to become a successful home stager. Check out that post to help determine if you have the personality and habits to be a success and enjoy your work. Don't make the mistake that others have made by turning a once-loved hobby into a business only to find it's no longer fun when you have to keep records, supervise employees, cater to clients, and maintain a full schedule to cover costs. 

Basic bookkeeping skills are a must for any small business. As your responsibilities grow, some of these tasks like invoicing and tax preparation can be delegated to others. 

Where is the money?

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block that new home stagers face is having the capital to build inventory. You can learn about the problems other home stagers face by joining the Facebook group for home stagers. Although not ideal, a common solution for beginners is to use some of your own furniture, buy some second-hand pieces, and rent the rest of what you need. In some metropolitan areas, there are companies that rent upscale furniture exclusively for home staging. 

You'll have other start-up costs as well. You might need to rent storage space. You will have to hire a truck if you don't own the right vehicle for transporting bulky furniture and supplies. Other typical expenses are website creation and hosting, insurance, taxes, office supplies and equipment, day labor, and travel.

Most new businesses don't begin turning a profit until after the second or third year, so plan on having a financial support system before you quit your day job.      

Define your business 

As a stager, you're not expected to do major renovations like gutting a bathroom and rebuilding it, or replacing flooring, but ideally you will gain contacts with quality tradespeople and companies you can recommend or hire. You also aren't expected to overhaul exterior features like roofing or landscaping. Home stagers usually limit their area to interior work, plus extensions of the living space such as porches and patios, so that's a plus. 

You could also limit your services to consultations only, or staging only occupied homes with the home owner's belongings.     

It's helpful if you have software to demonstrate to clients how rooms
could look after you have staged them. Photo: Home Design 3-D. 

Lest I discourage you from launching your home staging career, I want to point out its benefits. Many women have made a success and lots of money in this profession. There is a certain amount of status and respect it can earn you. I give entrepreneurship a big thumbs up, where you can create your own goals and schedules, and work style. As long as you begin the journey with eyes wide open, home staging is a wonderful opportunity to help others, to share your talents, and to create an income. 

Where to Splurge, Where to Scrimp When You Stage Your Home

Thursday, December 02, 2021
I've never met anyone who said, "I don't care what it costs to stage my home. Let's spend a ton of cash!"

It's just common sense to practice economy when we stage our homes. 

We all want to recover the investment we made when we purchased the home we're now selling, and maybe move on to something even better.

At the same time, we can't work with such a tight budget that the quality of the home staging suffers. 

The solution is to spend money where it matters, where it will make a difference in the perceived value of the house. That's the sure route to a quick and profitable home sale.

Important rooms

Realtors know which rooms and what features buyers put on their must-have list. So...tip one: listen to the advice your Realtor gives you on where to cut corners and where you need to spend some money.

Most real estate pros agree that the important rooms are kitchens and baths. Next in importance is the primary bedroom. Some homes have deficiencies that can't be remedied, like a less than ideal neighborhood, a small garage, or high taxes or HOA costs. If that's the case with your home, then these three important rooms can be what tips the scales and convinces buyers to overlook those problems you can't fix.

If you need to improve the value of the kitchen, bath, and primary bedroom, decide what jobs you can do yourself and what you need to hire pros to do. Minor plumbing jobs like replacing a faucet, fixing a running toilet, or unclogging a garbage disposal, can be  DIY projects, but major plumbing upgrades will require a plumber. Some buyers will insist on documentation that electrical work and plumbing work was performed by a licensed plumber or electrician.


If you are the kind of homeowner who adheres to a daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly list of home maintenance chores, you can probably pass on a deep cleaning of your home when it's time to sell. But the rest of us probably have an oven to clean and some closet shelves to scrub. To make sure that your house looks good and smells good, it needs to be clean down to its bones. This may take a bit of time, but it's worth the effort. If you don't have the time or energy for this kind of work, consider hiring a cleaning service for a one-time deep clean in preparation for photographing and listing.  

Make sure rooms smell clean. Ceiling fans move air and prevent mustiness. They look good and help reduce heating and cooling costs. Unless you're an experienced DIYer, get the help of a professional, especially if you don't have safety equipment, the right tools, or you have a vaulted ceiling, which will be up to 13 feet higher than a standard ceiling. 

I'm a big fan of air purifiers. This is the one we've been using at our house. I like it because it's not big, honking ugly, and yet effective at keeping indoor air clean (not a paid endorsement). I also like to scent the air inside with essential oils, and I blogged about the scent diffuser I use (also, unsolicited endorsement). I cooked salmon for dinner earlier this evening and you would never know it now.

Buyers will judge a home's cleanliness by how clean the  
kitchen and bathrooms are. Photo: Better Homes and Gardens


There are plenty of ways you can throw money on your landscape. All but the horribly neglected landscapes require more than a simple sprucing up when it's time to sell. Many buyers don't want a fussy landscape because they see it as additional labor and expense once they move in.     

When shrubs and trees are well-maintained, they contribute up to 14%, value to your property. If trees on your property need serious pruning, hire a good tree service company that's trained in sane, safe horticultural practices. They usually offer full services like tree removal, stump grinding, pruning, fertilizing, trimming, and mulching. You don't need to splurge on all services. You can choose only what your home needs to be more marketable. 

Overgrown shrubs can be replaced with newer, smaller
ones to make a home look younger. Photo: Helen Norman, BHG


Buyers love a move-in-ready home. With budgets stretched thin by their down payment, moving costs, and perhaps expenses necessary to get their own home market-ready, most buyers hope they don't have to spring for new appliances when they move. 

Buyers often request to see invoices for energy costs. Now's a good time to get your heating and cooling system checked to be sure it is as efficient as it could be. Here is a guide to help you decide if it's time for repairs on your water heater. LED lights and programmable thermostats are energy savers that are worth the splurge. 

Gussying up your interior spaces with cute pillows and artfully displayed dishware without tending to infrastructure like roofing, electrical systems, HVAC, and plumbing is like putting lipstick on a pig. You won't fool a home inspector, so rather than disappoint prospective buyers or have to offer concessions, get ready before you list. There will be fewer glitches on the way to the closing table!      


Don't waste your money on projects that don't matter to the majority of buyers. 

I've previously blogged about my favorite, time-tested tips and secrets to make your home staging dollars go further.  

The list of renovations that don't return your investment includes adding a sunroom, converting a bedroom to a media room, adding an inground pool, changing a garage to make it living space, and removing closets for any reason. 

Of course, I always recommend thriftiness when you stage your home for sale. My eBooks on DIY home staging tell you all the most cost-effective ways to make your home desirable to buyers. Even if you are a professional stager or real estate agent, you are bound to learn from my books new ways to make smart choices about how to spend your staging budget, no matter how small it is. 

Top Photo: Studio McGee

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