The Two Secrets to Making Your Home Smell Great

Thursday, January 12, 2023

We've all had the experience of walking into a luxury hotel lobby or a department store and immediately feeling pampered and refreshed by the fragrance in the air. When your home is up for sale, you've probably focused mostly on how it looks. But you can't ignore how it smells. 

If you want to "scent brand" your home the way major retail businesses do, you can start by eliminating any offending odors. Then,  you can create an atmosphere that tells buyers your house is safe, clean, comfortable, and desirable. 

Those are the two secrets to making your home's unique aroma one that is a selling point! 

First step

Certain smells are positive and others are negative. One scent that's a sure turn-off is mold and mildew. 

It's common for people to become accustomed to the aromas that surround them daily, so you may not realize that you have a mold problem. It's also common for people today to have mold allergies that create health problems. You may not see mold inside your home but you can test whether you have a mold problem by ordering a test kit from a company called ImmunoLytics.  

One way to keep mold and mildew at bay is to keep the air inside your home dry and circulating. Mold thrives on humidity and stagnant air. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory recommends indoor air be below 60% relative humidity to avoid mildew and mold growth. The way to mediate mold and mildew in your home depends on the type of mold and its extent. 

The ImmunoLytics test kit will determine not only if you have mold but if so, what kind and how to eliminate it. Sometimes it's simply a good cleaning with bleach or another disinfectant. But sometimes it calls for adding air purifiers, replacing drywall, cleaning the HVAC ductwork, or improving the drainage around your home's foundation.  

Fresh air is always nice if the air outside your 
home is not contaminated by pollen, dust, or other 
common pollutants from sources like traffic,
construction, or manufacturing sites. Photo: Laura Casey

Other scents

There are other smells that work against your home being desirable. One comes from pet dander and pet litter boxes. If you keep any animals indoors, there is no excuse for people touring your home picking up any animal odors, given the number and quality of litter products, urine scent cleaners, and washable dog beds available today. An air purifier will go a long way toward keeping your home free of pet hair, dander, tobacco scents, cooking aromas, the stink of sweaty clothing and shoes, and animal scents. 

If you're rehabbing a home that has been vacant or has been occupied by elderly or sick persons, you'll need to pay special attention to the scents that might linger. Circulation of fresh air and a thorough cleaning are a good start. Check upholstered pieces, draperies, carpeting, and rugs to determine if they need replacing, washing, or shampooing.      

This is the air purifier I use.
The cost was less than $115 but it does
a great job keeping the air clean of
dust, pollen, and cooking odors.  

Outside air

Another source of unpleasant scents is your septic system. If your home has a septic system that is not functioning properly your home can have foul indoor odors, soggy ground outside, or interior drains that backup. 

The average household septic system needs to be inspected at least once every three years by a septic service expert. So, it's a good idea to have yours inspected and serviced before listing, and then make the inspection report part of your sales package. 

There are certain plants that give off unpleasant odors as well. I'm not going to suggest you remove problematic landscaping like Bradford pear trees in bloom or boxwood shrubs or some ginko trees, but you can avoid strong scents that can be offensive and even trigger allergic reactions in some people. The most common offenders are narcissus, marigolds, and some lilies. That's another argument for staging your home with silk flowers.  

Other scent sources 

While mold and pets and dirt and poor plumbing and garbage and cooking are common sources of undesirable odors inside, you can check other places that might make your home smell bad. 

Anywhere water can be stagnant is one place. Clean your in-sink garbage disposal. Disinfect the insides of trash cans and wastebaskets. Leave the lid open on your washing machine for a few hours after each load so that it can dry thoroughly. Run a cleaning cycle on your dishwasher. Have your water quality checked if it has any scent of chlorine or sulfur.

Introduce new aromas

Once you've dealt with the causes of anything that stinks in your home, you have a clean palette to add some pleasant scents. I'm a big fan of using essential oils as a way to scent a room. I've blogged about how artificial fragrances are unhealthy and how best to use essential oils. 

The diffuser I use doesn't call attention to itself, so it's
ideal for staging a home. Since I keep my indoor
air dry, I keep the diffuser near my African violets
to give them some of the humidity they love. 

Please don't count on plug-in air fresheners. They are a fire hazard and they annoy people with chemical sensitivities. Fabreze only masks smells and is loaded with carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, allergens, irritants, and toxins! I also don't endorse scented candles for the same reasons. 

The most common clean-smelling essential oils to use are lemon, orange, lavender, lemongrass, and mint. My favorite brand is Aura Cacia

Get the look, get the book

Scents are especially highly evocative and will cast a spell that can trigger either happy memories or uneasiness in people touring your home for sale. Don't put a home on the market that has halitosis! You can harness the power of fragrance to lure home buyers into a quicker, more profitable sale of your home. 

I give you more tips for smart ways to stage your own home when you download my DIY home staging eBooks. You can easily and frugally start your simple staging today to make your property the one that stands out from the competition!

Top photo: AliExpress

How to Get Good Photos of Your Staged Home

Monday, October 24, 2022

You've staged your home and you're ready to list it. Now it's time for it to be photographed. 

Really good photos flatter a home. They tell prospective buyers what they want to know about its layout and main features. They make it easy for buyers to compare it with other properties. And they encourage people to schedule a viewing.   

I always advise a home seller to hire a professional photographer so the home looks as good online as it possibly can. But maybe you're determined to take those photos yourself. Maybe your Realtor won't spring for the cost of a photographer. Maybe you're listing the property yourself. Maybe you want to supplement the professional photos your Realtor paid for with a photo or two that show something you feel is missing. Or maybe professional photos in an MLS listing just aren't the norm where you live. 

Start by staging

Naturally, I believe every home should be staged before it's photographed. After you've decluttered, remove small items that distract. Arrange furniture so the room looks inviting. My ebook DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar should be your guidebook! 

Pay attention to details. Remove that old dog bed, straighten any crooked lampshades and wall art, smooth out the bed covering, and replace or fluff flat pillows. 

Online photos should entice a buyer to require more information and perhaps a viewing. Don't feel that your pictures need to convey all the specifics of your place. The MLS sales copy should convey those facts. So, don't bother photographing your furnace, an unfinished attic, the closets (yes, I said that!), or a crawl space. Just make sure your listing agent lists those important features like a new HVAC system, pull-down attic stairs, those walk-in closets, or a dry and roomy crawl space.

Also, I don't think it's helpful to include close-ups or "beauty shots" of things like table settings, cabinet handles, lighting fixtures, or that special daylily that bloomed last year. Save some surprises for when prospective buyers come to tour your home. 

It's helpful if your photos can indicate your home's floor plan. This 
dining room picture includes part of the stairwell and living room.

Use a good camera

Cell phone photos get plenty of criticism for taking poor-quality shots for MLS listings. But the latest phone cameras have features that make them suitable for listings. So, if you have a fairly new smartphone, you don't need to purchase a special camera just to get good results. 

A serious camera that delivers better photos will cost at least $1300. If you already own a DSLR camera with a wide-angle lens, you're ahead of the game. For about $130 you can buy a 24mm wide-angle lens that will make rooms look more open. The wide angle will let you include three walls instead of just two. That high-quality camera will use flash memory for better results, plus a variety of lens openings and shutter speeds. 

If you aren't entirely pleased with the results of your camera work, but are on a  budget, go to Fiverr for someone who can photo edit your images.  

Time it right 

Choose the ideal time of day to make your photos better. Although not every photographer agrees with me, I like to photograph on a day that is slightly overcast, so I can open all window treatments and let natural, diffused light enter instead of streams of bright light that create harsh shadows. But, you can be your own judge, based on your home's interior lighting, its orientation to the sun, and the position of windows. Take time to experiment. It's one advantage you have as the photographer of your own property. 

Another advantage to shooting your own photos is that you can decide when each room shows well, based on how light enters. Your exterior photos will probably look best when they are taken either early in the day or just before sunset -- the "golden hour." 

If your photos show the neighborhood, schedule yourself so that the street is not lined with trash receptacles and recycle bins or too many parked vehicles. Shoot when you are not distracted or rushed by other people. Don't let people or pets photo-bomb your shots. 

The exterior image -- the profile or main photo --is the most important one you'll take. I've blogged about the common mistakes people make when photographing their own homes. 

If you don't edit your own photos to do things like add an 
interesting sky or clean up the landscape, you can hire 
a photo editing company to bump your pics up a notch!  

Invest in a tripod 

A tripod is one way to guarantee you'll keep your camera steady during shots that take a longer exposure. Even quick-exposure pictures can be blurry if your camera moves ever-so-slightly. A tripod doesn't have to be fancy to do the job. You can buy a dependable, lightweight, easy-to-use tripod for less than $20.  

Here is a simple device to stabilize your camera -- a combination ring holder and kickstand for your phone. 

It's often tricky to photograph bathrooms because the mirror reflects the photographer. Position the camera on your tripod for a well-composed shot. Then use a remote shutter release cord or a timer. You can then edit out the camera and tripod.        

Follow tips from pros

Professional photographers pay strict attention to verticals so that all walls are parallel and at right angles to the floor. You don't want your rooms to look like a carnival fun house.  

The photographer did not aim his camera
to align the verticals in this photo. The result
is the room looks awkward and distorted.    
A good photographer will make sure the colors are true, not overly saturated, washed out, or high contrast. Unless you have professional flash equipment, it's best to use only natural lighting.

Be sure to compose your photos so they are interesting to look at. Frame your image by adjusting the position and angle of your camera to see what looks most flattering and natural.  

Don't hesitate to move furniture slightly to make the room appear more logical or comfortable. This could mean moving chairs closer together or away from a fireplace or walkway. Cluster smaller objects together to make vignettes that help tell your home's story. 

Take many more photos than you need, so that you can willow the results down to only the ones that look pleasant and balanced. If you have decided to skip staging the rooms that are empty in your home (which I do not suggest because I think it looks cheap and lazy), don't bother photographing those rooms.      

Hire a professional instead 

Although with practice and the right equipment, you can take attention-grabbing photos, you may decide to hire a real estate photographer to do the job. These people have the experience and equipment to deliver the high-quality images that sell properties. They have drones for aerial pictures, lights that balance the shadows and color of the room, video equipment for virtual home tours, sophisticated photo-editing software, and precise high-end cameras that take extra-sharp images, wide-angle shots, and panoramic views. 

Even homes that are modestly priced or sold as fixer-uppers benefit from having quality photos to whet the curiosity of buyers. Photos shouldn't portray a property for what it is not, but they certainly can highlight important selling features like a large yard, original hardwood flooring, or high ceilings. These are the kinds of properties that benefit most from professional work.  

Your Realtor should be able to recommend a real estate photographer. Some agents have exclusive contracts with photographers. If your Realtor insists that good photos are not "all that important," consider listing with another company. If she is lukewarm to the idea, consider splitting the cost of a professional photographer. Those captivating images can add thousands of dollars to your selling price!  

This small living room was photographed by 
professional photographer Adam Ferman. He's been able 
 to capture the entire room, all five walls, in one picture.  

Get the look, get the book

Staged homes sell faster and for more money. Don't leave profits on the closing table. My three eBooks show you how to make your home more appealing to buyers. Download these homestaging ebooks today that will help you stage like a professional home stager. You'll discover all the tricks, formulas, products, and methods that make your staging easy and effective.

How To Nail Your Home's Staging Style

Sunday, October 16, 2022

When you have a home on the real estate market, buyers judge it from the first few seconds they enter it. That initial impression can be improved or worsened as they tour your home. 

The best way to make sure buyers continue to react favorably to your home once they come inside, is to have one distinct decorating style that runs through your whole house. 

There's an easy way to make this happen. Begin by giving a specfic name to your home's decor style. 

That's right. Having a lable on the look and feel of your home will help you whittle down the furniture and accessories for a more pulled-together, streamlined look. 

It will also make it easier to shop for any additional decor pieces you might need. 

And naming your style will help you coordinate any improvements you are planning. You're more likely to choose the perfect colors for painting projects you've planned. You'll know which of your furrniture pieces should take center stage. You'll nail the right kind of lighting fixtures if you change any of your lights. You'll know exactly the kind of window treatments to use for staging.

How to choose a name

To start, think of all the things you love about your home. Is it the spaciousness? The natural lighting? The floor plan? These are likely the things that will appeal to buyers as well. Think about how you can capitalize on those features when you stage or decorate your home. 

Ideally, what you love about your home jives with your home's architecture. Decorating a modern ranch home in shabby chic style, or a sleek downtown condo in a farmhouse style isn't the best approach to staging. Be true to your home's structure. 

Try this exercise: Imagine the two or three words that define your home's feel and look. Think of at least two adjectives. Then add a noun if you can, so it reads like this -- Cozy, clean cottage, or Funky, industrial loft, or Family-friendly space. 

Try these on for size

If you need other examples, here are some others. 

Warm Woodsy Retreat

Upscale Urban Condo

Intimate Parisian Apartment

Casual Traditional Home

Colorful Victorian Mansion

Choosing words

Let's look at some interiors that have expressed different homeowner styles, photos to which I've given three-word labels.   

Here's a prime example of a room that's decorated
Scandinavian style. It could be called a simple,
textured space
. And it could be your style
if you consdier yourself a minimalist and your

home is sunny. Photo: Fantastic Frank
A casual, coastal retreat doesn't have to be filled
 with shells and rope lamps and nautical paintings. Having a
clean, blue and white color scheme goes a
long way to capture the vibe. 
Photo: Barclay Butera
Symmetrical placement of things like the windows, lamps, cushions, chairs,
and artwork combine with soft textures and comfortable seating
to make this living room a comfortable traditional room.
Photo: Annabell Holland Design 

Look at this interesting mix of antiques, natural fabrics,
and white-painted furniture. It's a nice example of 
fresh cottage style, one of the most economical looks to  
pull off when home staging. Photo: Cottage Living Magazine
 A beautiful dining are sets the tone for this glamorous Asian home.
The upholstered Chippendale chairs, traditonal chinisorerie ceramics 
and clean furniture lines speak to the Oriental influence and the
artwork, color scheme, and chandelier
are downright elegant.  Photo: Monica Wants It

Victorian style can be dark and stuffy, but in this picture
it is balanced by white walls for a fresh, modern Victorian
look. Do your furnishings include some heavy,
ornate pieces? Do you have some collections worthy of 
display? Add some architectural salvage pieces and
potted palms! Photo: Emily Henderson via House Beautiful

Get the look, get the book

If you want to improve the marketability of your home for sale, simplifying your decor style is one of the best ways to give your home a stylish makeover. Once you've named the vision your want your home to have, you can often achieve that look simple by narrowing your furnishings down to what fits your new style, and look adding some elements that drive it home! 

For all the DIY tips and professional secrets you need to make your home staging project go smoothly, be sure to download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast for Top Dollar.  

Top Photo: Style at Home

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. 


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