Stage an entrance that impresses homebuyers

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Go outside the property you are selling. Come back in the front door. What do you see? 

What you see will be what greets prospective buyers as well. 

If curb appeal is what gives buyers their first impression, an interior entranceway runs a close second. 

The entrance to a home for sale has a tall order to fill. It needs to telegraph immediately the value of your home as soon as buyers walk through the front door. And it still has to function as a space you use.  

Whether buyers are actually stepping through your front doorway, or viewing it as a real estate agent shows it via Facetime or as a videographer has recorded it, the first glimpse inside a home is a sales opportunity. Whether you're selling a one-bedroom, 600-square foot condo or a luxurious, 5-bedroom, 5,000-square foot residence, capturing the hearts and minds of buyers starts when that door opens. 

Make that initial impression count

Since every buyer likes spaciousness, the more spacious your entryway feels and looks, the better. It's not difficult to "get them at hello."

A demilune table like this black one
takes up minimal space, but gives you a
surface for staging a vignette.
The lamp is cordless. Photo: Room for Tuesday

One way to make your small space feel bigger is with good lighting. A well-lighted hall looks larger and more welcoming. 

If there is no overhead light or wall sconce, and no outlet for a lamp, you can use cordless lamps that are battery-powered. One of my favorite bloggers, Kristi at Addicted2Decorating, shows how to convert a standard lamp into a cordless one.  

Another way to magically enlarge the look of a room is staging with some transparent or translucent furniture pieces. A see-through table that almost disappears is perfect for a small foyer. The more floor that's visible, the larger the room will look. Mirrored furniture is also a great choice, since it bounces light around, and seems to erase boundaries.  

Most well-staged entryways include a wall mirror. Reflections create the illusion of spaciousness by tricking the eye. Some real estate pros insist that when buyers see their reflection in a mirror, it helps them envision themselves actually living there. It sounds like a bit of a stretch, but for sure it's true that a mirror enlarges a space visually. That's especially true when the mirror is oversized. 

Another trick decorators use is to ensure there is a view into other rooms. Even if the entry is small, it should offer a glimpse of the rest of the house. Don't let visitors be greeted by a blank wall. 

A small entrance is a perfect opportunity to use a 
Lucite console that practically disappears,
but adds a contemporary vibe.
Photo: Kim Scodro Interiors
When guests enter your home, are they starring at a closet door, or a flight of boring stairs, or a narrow space where coats and shoes are piled? Or do they see an open space tastefully staged, and a view into at least one other room? Ideally, the view from the foyer will be an open walkway that encourages them to enter the next room.   

Tease buyers with a preview 

Let the style of the entry reflect the style of your home -- rustic, modern, formal, coastal, urban, farmhouse, eclectic, or whatever you've decided your home "wants to be." For a together, more intentional appearance, your decor style should play nicely with the architecture of your home. When buyers see a McMansion decorated cottage style, it devalues the property in their minds. And your simple ranch home filled with formal furniture and 18th-century antiques doesn't do your home any favors either. Be true to your provenance.  

So, what you put in your front hall tells buyers what to expect -- a home they can't wait to tour, or one that leaves them lukewarm, or even disappointed. Disappoint them at the door, and it's difficult to dispel those poor first impressions.  

Add some decorative touches  

Just the way you'll do in other rooms of your staged home, add some props to your entrance to make your house look interesting, friendly, and desirable. You can round up the usual suspects: books, vases, plants, sculptures, candles. pictures, or interesting boxes and baskets, and choose two or three (not all!). A rule of thumb is that a staging prop should be no larger than a cantaloupe. That means it's big enough to be interesting, but small enough to not steal the show or disappear into someone's pocket.  

A runner or rug is usually a grounding element and makes the space feel pulled together. You just don't want to create a tripping hazard or add an area rug that's so small it looks like an afterthought or one that hides a beautiful floor that's a selling feature.

This hall runner breaks up the dark expanse of
flooring, yet coordinates with the black and white
color scheme of the area.
Photo: Tracey Ayton. Room design: Karla Amadatsu

There's something so Hollywood about a mirrored
piece of furniture. In this entrance, its look
is softened with books, a large plant, and some
charming vintage luggage. Photo: Adore Magazine

When the architectural details of your home  
are what you want buyers to notice, simple decor
in the front foyer is best. Photo: Unknown source

A roomy foyer can tolerate a useful addition like 
this cabinet. Clearly, this entrance is part of the front
room, but still acts like a separate area. Photo: BHG

When your entrance is this grand, a simple staging
shows it off best. A mirror over a clean-lined table with a tray
and some flowers won't steal the show from the gorgeous
flooring and staircase. Photo: Laura Casey

When visitors enter this home, it's clear they'll be
treated to a beachy interior. Photo: BHG

Get the look, get the  book

Be sure to visit my Pinterest board for more inspiring photos of hallways, foyers and entrances.  

And for everything you need to know to get you off and running, or just fine-tuning your existing home staging, you'll want my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar.  

Top photo by Michael Graydon; Room design by Montana Burnett

Convert that vacant house into an irresistible home for sale

Thursday, December 31, 2020
Staged homes sell faster and for more money than unstaged or empty homes. However, some homeowners need to list their home empty of people or furnishings. Sometimes these owners inherited the property and live elsewhere, or they had to move quickly for a new job, or just don't have the time or money to stage the house. But there are ways to make staging an empty house practical so that it looks better on the market and commands a higher price.

When you stage a vacant house, you have special challenges not faced by someone living in her home for sale.

Let's examine those challenges and how to address them.

Area rugs, wall art, plants and some decor accessories help,
but can do only so much to make an empty room look
like it is staged for sale. Photo: Design Recipes via TNS

When you lack furniture

This is probably the major hurdle. To remedy it, I know that some recommendations call for simple or soft staging -- that is, just putting down some larger area rugs and some limited groupings of small furniture. But I think this is counter-productive. It looks scant and cheap, hardly the lived-in, luxurious, comfortable appearance a home on the market needs.

Usually, the problem with furnishing a vacant house is the cost. One option is to stage at least the major rooms -- the largest bedroom and the living room. Kitchens and baths are easy because they usually don't call for actual furniture, just some props like towels, plants, and a few pretty decor items.

It's better to have a few pieces of important pieces of
furniture --like this table, chairs and 
etagere -- than a scattering of insignificant, smaller
pieces. Photo: Bria Hammel Interiors

Staging an empty living room will be the biggest, most expensive dilemma. A few scattered chairs and some end tables don't cut it. An upholstered couch and at least two chairs, a rug, and a coffee table are minimal requirements.

To keep an unoccupied home looking like it has enough furnishings to be convincing, each room needs certain basics. 

For example, a bedroom needs a bed that looks inviting, with a comforter and coordinated pillows. If there is enough room, there should be a side table or two, each with a lamp or plant or some books, plus a chair or bench. If the room is large, a dresser and mirror can be part of the staging. 

And a dining area needs a table and the appropriate number of chairs. If the table will comfortably seat six, it's best to stage it with six chairs. A centerpiece or table settings, some art or a mirror, and large plants will soften the room's look. If there is space, a buffet, armoire, sideboard, console table, or shelving unit is a smart addition to the mix. An impressive chandelier can make a powerful statement in a sparsely furnished dining room.   

An empty room is a prime target for a staged
home office. Photo: Elliot/Meyers Design
Renting furniture, as easy as it is, can be stressful because you'll never know how long you'll be paying a monthly fee. One thing is statistically true, though: Staged homes sell faster. So, you could come out ahead financially by saving costs of utilities, taxes, mortgage, and other upkeep costs when your home sells months sooner. 

Often a homeowner who is moving can leave enough furnishings temporarily behind to make the home look staged and welcoming. I've done this myself with local moves. But if the move is a long-distance one you'll have to schedule two different moving days, complicating logistics and costing more money. 

Matched pairs of chairs,  pillows, end tables, and lamps create 
 the impression of good design and value. Photo: Erin Comerford

A well-dressed bed carries the room, but a bedroom still
needs some signs of practical comfort
and decor, like a bench or chair, some art, and
a nightstand or two. Life on  Virginia Street

Another option is borrowing furniture from an understanding friend or relative. This approach might be combined with purchasing a few new pieces that you'll be using in your new home. Remember that the new furniture doesn't have to be "new," but can be second-hand finds good enough as is, or else spruced up with paint or slipcovers or simple repairs. Or you may choose to buy some inexpensive knockoffs that you can donate locally after the house sells.

Maintenance Issues

A vacant home still has to be maintained. Buyers will consciously or subconsciously be comparing your home to others they've visited. Don't be the property that looks abandoned. When buyers suspect that you don't take care of the home or were in a rush to leave, they are more likely to present low ball offers.

That thought alone should help you justify the cost or the trouble of doing routine cleaning. Remember that an empty house doesn't stay clean. People can track in dirt, leave cabinet doors open, sit on beds, use the towels, or leave the toilet seat up. Cobwebs form. Dust settles. Indoor air can smell stale, even when the home is being heated or cooled.  

Curb appeal counts more than ever before. A home needs to look occupied from the street. It needs to resemble the online photo, where people get their first impression of your home. And buyers need to be impressed as soon as they arrive at your property. An unkempt yard, a littered driveway, unswept front steps do not impress. It's going to be cost-effective in the long run to pay someone to check on the property's exterior.

Safety Issues

But perhaps the most important reason a home has to be maintained is that thieves target empty properties. They could be looking for cash, drugs, artwork, televisions, computers, copper pipes, small articles left behind, or even a place to sleep. Stickers or signs that announce a security system is in place will help.

Automated timers help a vacant house look occupied. Some lights should come on and off some at predictable times, and other lights at random hours, as though someone were actually living there. I also like programming a radio or sound system of some kind to come on for a few hours in the middle of the night, preferably with a talk show. A motion-activated exterior light is also a warning to troublemakers. 

But that's all pretty much old school now that there is a good selection of smart devices available to protect you from not only intruders, but fire, water, and gas leaks. Since you don't know how long your home will be on the market, it's handy that some of these security systems and cameras are available with no monthly fee or long-term commitment, and can be operated remotely. 

Interior lights go a long way to making a home appear
occupied, especially if they turn on and
off at various times. Photo: Mattamy Homes

Of course you will forward mail, or have a neighbor pick it up daily. Mail getting forwarded through the Postal Service isn't foolproof. Hand-delivered circulars and other advertising material don't get forwarded, and magazines get forwarded for just 2 months.

Many communities have programs that enlist local law enforcement to check on vacant properties. If this is the case where you live, notify police so they can do routine drive-bys. It's also smart to let a few neighbors know the house is vacant and to give them your contact information.

Even if your home gets a purchase offer the first days it's listed (it happens all the time to staged homes!) there is always a gap between that time and the actual closing date because of negotiations, inspections, appraisals, title search, and financing. It's not a good idea to de-stage until just before the actual closing.

An exterior that is well-maintained shows well
to buyers and lets trouble makers know that
the home is either lived in or visited frequently.

Get the look, get the book

I hope you found this advice helpful if you are selling a home that is empty. 

Maybe you bought the property to fix and flip, In that case, factoring in the cost of staging should be part of your business plan.

Whatever your situation, I encourage you to take steps to be competitive in your local real estate market and get the best price you can for the property. Being competitive means home staging! 

If staging is just impossible, and you must list a vacant property, make sure it's as clean as possible and that all major systems are functioning as they should. 

You can get helpful advice about low-stress staging on a shoestring from my home staging eBooks. Download today and see how you can make DIY home staging profitable.

The 3 home improvements you can't ignore at selling time

Friday, December 18, 2020

The way your home looks outside tells buyers what to expect inside. They may not be actually driving by, but they will still judge your home based on how it looks from "the curb." Today's curb is the Internet, where 44% of homebuyers shop for the next home.

Usually, I blog about making your interior rooms pretty. But let's be honest. Without taking care of the important exterior stuff like your roof, siding, and windows, those fluffy pillows and perfectly staged closets are like lipstick on a pig. (It's just an expression.😊 I'm not calling your house a pig!) 

Interestingly, in Remodeling Magazine's 2018 Cost Vs. Value Report, seven out of the top 10 home improvements that offer the highest returns, are exterior ones. 

Let's look at three of these outdoor upgrades, ones that promise impressive returns on your investment.  They are long-lasting improvements, making them the ones that home buyers value.  

Siding refresh

If your home's siding is in bad shape, you can bet that potential buyers will notice. Replacing problem siding can get pricey. Depending on where you live and the size and style of your home, prices vary widely, but the national average cost is around $15,000. However, this upgrade comes with a 76.7% ROI.

Wood siding should be painted every three to seven years. Stucco and fiber cement board need periodic re-coats as well. Put on your "buyer spectacles" and decide if your siding looks bad. When it appears chalky or shows signs of hairline cracks or fading, it's probably time for a repaint. Because all paints will fade or change color slowly with time, you can't count on touchups to hide problem spots. Paint makes your home look better, and it adds a layer that protects it from damage done by the sun and moisture. 

As a house painter myself, I have painted all kinds of exteriors, including brick, asbestos, vinyl, and aluminum, but these were cases where problems were extreme (No one wanted to buy that putrid green vinyl-sided house until it was painted yellow, the most popular house color). 

Sometimes cleaning is all that's needed to make siding look attractive again. Start with a simple hose-down. If mildew or accumulated dirt don't come off, a pressure wash should be the next step. With a rental sprayer and good instructions, this can be a DIY project.  

I never recommend DIY exterior painting unless you have the equipment, time, and experience. Even if your home is a small, one-story building, taking on the job yourself can be frustrating and counter-productive. Full-time professionals know the right products, all the equipment, and the know-how to give you a good finish. Ask around, and get reviews for local house painters. Tip: changing the color of your siding could cost more than staying with the same color, since a color change could require two coats of paint.    

Siding is most of what people see when they look at your
home, either IRL or virtually. The better it looks,
the better you look as a seller. Photo: Zillow 

Roof repairs

Smart buyers walk around a property and look up. They want to know that one of their first projects won't be replacing the roof. When the roof looks iffy, they may not want to go to the next step of paying for a home inspection. If they love your home, they may make an offer, and request a reduction based on the cost of a roof replacement. 

The most common roofing material in North America is asphalt shingles. In some areas of the US, tile or metal roofs are common, and these kinds of roofs need regular checks for damage. Because it's sometimes impossible to observe roof damage from the ground, you're smart to hire a home inspector (or maybe just a contractor or roofer) before listing.  

My experience as both a buyer and seller of homes is that aggressive negotiators will quote a price reduction that is more than what it will cost you to do repairs and replacements. In other words, it's probably cheaper to fix a problem roof before listing. It's one more thing you can brag about in your MLS facts. Also, that all-important profile photo of your home as well as any drone shots can show off your new roof. 

The good news is that the cost of replacing a roof averages over 68% ROI, which is pretty good considering what other home improvements return. Tip: do some research about what shingles give you the best value.

Upgraded windows and doors

A recent article in Kiplinger reported that 89% of buyers value energy-efficient homes.  Fortunately, window replacement can offer a handsome 72% payback when you sell. A front door replacement will return even more -- 91.3%. 

The trend in some markets is towards black trim and
sash on windows. If you decide to replace all your windows, 
this might be the way to go. Photo: Hawthorn Builders

Sparkling windows and a bright front door
are both important parts of good 
curb appeal. New styles make your home
look more contemporary and are easier to
keep clean. Photo: Morrison Developers 
New replacement windows reduce heating and cooling costs because of their improved insulation. They have features like tilt-in sashes and encased grills for easy window washing. And they can certainly modernize your home's exterior. If your windows are old, get some quotes for replacing them. For a typical 3-bedroom ranch house the job can be done in a day or two by an experienced crew. 

Tip: you don't have to buy the very high-end windows unless all the materials in your home are high-end and your likely buyer expects and is willing to pay for the quality. "Don't over-fix," is one rule of home improvement for resale.  

Sometimes the glass in a window, sliding patio door, French doors, or storm door gets cloudy over time. That happens when the double-pane (insulated) glass has lost the inert gas sealed between the two glass panes. You don't necessarily need a total replacement. Usually, a local glass company can remedy these situations by replacing just the glass. 

If your front door isn't showing serious signs of age, but you want to change the color or freshen it, I've blogged about how to paint a front door without removing it from its hinges, and how to choose a front door color. 

Nothing makes a home look more energy-smart than new windows
and new exterior doors. Their improved insulating qualities and 
up-to-date appearance are good buyer-bait. Photo: Zillow 

Get the look, get the book 

Considering that every day your home stays on the market is a day you pay carrying costs (mortgage, taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance), it makes sense to do what it takes to make your home irresistible to buyers. Outside maintenance should come first. And then, have fun indoors deciding on wall art, tweaking your bookshelves, and doing some comparison price shopping for some stylish new furniture.   

You'll get all the encouragement and tips you need to make your home the one that stands out from the competition when you download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar.

Top photo: Apartment Therapy

How You Can Easily Create Festive But Frugal Place Settings

Saturday, December 05, 2020

If there's ever a time to add touches of glamour to your staged home, it's during the month of December. No matter what style of architecture or decor your house represents, some sparkle and flair are appropriate now that we are celebrating the holidays.

One of the easiest areas of your house to dress for the season is the dining table. I've already blogged about setting the table in a staged home, but today I want to pass along my best ideas for setting a holiday table. And I want to encourage you to do it the thrifty way -- by using what you probably have on hand already, or what you can easily find at second-hand outlets and the dollar store.

Place settings have a role to play when your home is on the market. They don't have to look complete. They have only to suggest the good times people will have once they buy your home.  

This classic black and white, gingham-grounded place setting gets  
its uptown look from a couple of fancy plates. Photo: jane-athome 

Today's economical melamine dishes look like china,
and they come in all kinds of styles, like this cute holly and berry pattern.   

Basic elements of the staged setting 

The best staged settings for the dinner table include these essentials: 

A solid foundation that frames the setting -- something like a placemat, a charger, a table runner, or even all of these things

A simple color scheme, or a motif like farmhouse or chinoiserie or plaid

Two or three layers of dinnerware

A napkin, preferably a fabric one

At least one ornament or other detail, ideally something seasonal 

Optional elements for this staged setting might include glassware, napkin rings, mugs or cups, a seasonal centerpiece, a tablecloth, favors, cutlery, candles, and greenery or flowers or something else from nature.

Having some novelty Christmas plates and
napkins is fun, but they aren't a necessity. 

Sourcing on a budget

When you are preparing your home for sale, you have more important things to spend money on than new tabletop decor. 

So, instead of shopping Pottery Barn or Home Goods for the latest style chargers or placemats, dollar store versions can be your thrifty alternatives. The Salvation Army and Restore are always stocked with dishes, glasses, cups, bowls, vases, and candlesticks. 

I hope you have your own favorite local charity shops and thrift stores. There are also deals to be scooped at estate sales and auctions and on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, eBay, and Etsy. Friends and relatives can also have tabletop items to loan or give to you.

I also hope you have access to a fabric store or sewing department. I can never bring myself to pay full price for fabric placemats and napkins because, what are they but pieces of cloth that have been hemmed? To save a bundle, I will hem. Some fabrics, like felt, microfiber, heavy upholstery textiles, and faux leather, don't require hemming. And some, like burlap and other loose weaves, can have their edges fringed instead of hemmed.

When in doubt, go with green. It looks at home with 
most other colors, and with either silver or gold
accessories, and with embellishments from nature. 
When shopping for staging supplies at dollar stores, discount centers, and cheap import stores, inspect the things you are grabbing at $1 each. Sometimes there are imperfections and blemishes. When shopping at thrift stores, keep an open mind about using just parts of what you buy as bargains. A $2 skirt might make four beautiful placemats that would cost you $20 even discounted at Tuesday Morning. 

There are assorted reasons items end up in retail bargain bins. Department stores will donate discounted styles, out of season merchandise, returned items, or just because it's the last of the stock. I just purchased two goblets perfect for staging, clearly never used. They were probably part of a set that was separated or damaged. I also snagged a $9 Williams Sonoma new Christmas kitchen towel for a buck because it had a small stain that a dab of bleach easily removed. 

People downsize and pass on household products. People donate items they were gifted and don't like.  They lose or gain weight and then donate still-good clothing.  For home stagers on a small budget, second-hand stores can be your supply house, even though you will not always find multiples of a single item, as you would shopping retail. I've blogged about the secrets to successful thrift store shopping.

Perhaps you will choose to stage a Christmas brunch vignette like this.
Thrift stores sell holiday dishes and mugs all year long. 
I once paid $1 each for a set of 18 new Christmas
plates, the ones I used in a budget Christmas post last year.  
These are the Christmasy props I used in the photo above this one.
I think I will get years of use from these poinsettia and
amaryllis mugs and the adorable sleighs, both garage sale finds. 

To create  your own novelty plates, you can easily decoupage seasonal fabric
onto the bottom of glass plates, the way I did with this snowman cloth. 
Using school glue for the project, means it can be soaked and removed later. 

Choose a holiday staging theme and have fun with it. Shop your closets, attic, storage spaces, your recycle bin, and nature for what will make an inviting table. Use your imagination to draft objects into new roles. For chargers you can use round plastic party platters or woven grass mats. For napkin rings you can use curtain rings, strings of beads, or tie napkins with raffia, wire, a tinsel garland, twine, or ribbon. Use "dime store" Slinkys or bracelets for napkin rings. Napkins themselves can be folded tea towels or estate sale vintage linens. 

Use what you have to stage your table, even
if you don't own dishware in customary holiday colors 
on hand. These nubby, linen napkins were a no-sew project. 

Every setting should have some sparkle, and you can get it from tinsel,
glassware, shiny ribbon, gold foil, or metallic chargers. I took a blue Sharpie 
to the bumps around the edge of these chargers to add some personality.  
Your table decor can match the style of your home -- formal or frisky,
earthy or polished, modern or old fashioned. Here, 
a dollar store seasonal scarf stands in for the napkin,
and a new outdoor flag became the tablecloth.  

The golden rules for success

Table settings for staging need to be large and simple, never distracting or fussy. They should not include anything expensive, fragile, or sentimentally valuable. Home stagers need to remember that strangers will be walking through your home, and Realtors shouldn't have to be security guards on patrol. For this reason (pilferage) I would avoid setting out real silverware. Usually staged place settings look fine without any cutlery, but plastic versions that look like metal are available at party centers and discount stores.

Whether you are staging a table for two or 12, each place setting should match all the others. However, it's not necessary to compile a matched set of dinnerware at each setting. In fact, a curated collection of various pieces that complement each other is more modern. We're not setting grandma's traditional table, unless you are staging a formal dining room in a luxury home.

The cutlery is 100% plastic. I paid $1 for a pack of
four settings. I made the napkins by sewing two  
squares of Christmas fabric together, right sides together,
then turning it right side out, and top-stitching around the edges. 
Sometimes the simplest setting is the most inviting.
A pretty placemat ($1.50 each), two coordinated plates,
a glass, and estate sale linen napkin in a be-ribboned tin can
napkin ring, and an ornament. Done.

I love mixing dramatic with ordinary, like this glossy
fuchsia charger on the old wood table. If you are staging with 
small items, you can always tie or glue them 
to your setup to keep them in place.

If staging a dining room seems daunting, you can still plant the idea in buyers' minds of good times sharing food by staging a smaller area such as the kitchen island, a breakfast nook, a bistro table in the sunroom, or bar in the family game room. Family meals are usually associated with thoughts of quality time, entertaining, and indulging in the pleasures of food. Your staging can subtly capitalize on these memories and associations. 

One thing to avoid on the holiday table is anything that seems unappetizing. Fuzzy, hairy, or furry fabrics can be off-putting. Everything should say, "I'm clean!"

Lots of holiday decor items can be downright tacky and garish. It really doesn't seem to matter much as long as there is not an abundance of clashing decor styles and colors. Seasonal decorations are known to be temporary, so they aren't always judged on their artistic and quality merits. 

As always, stagers should avoid displaying offensive art and slogans, like coffee mugs with political or sexual jokes, or collections of dubious value (like beanie babies, Hummel figurines, or travel souvenirs).   

Unique items often pop up at second-hand stores in limited quantity.
I couldn't pass up this coiled-edged metal plate, so it became
part of a singular coffee cart vignette. Don't ignore tea-for-two
stagings if you don't want to stage a large table. 

It's simple to make this charming napkin ring of paper,
 for pennies. Diane at In My Own Style will show you how. 
Besides placemats and table runners, you can frame your 
plate with paper products like doilies or holiday cards.
Dinnerware like this, with gold or silver trim is always available
at thrift stores because they are often not microwaveable, or becasue
older people are downsizing from their days of elaborate dinner parties.

Don't feel compelled to stick with traditional colors of red and green, or blue and white. Use what you have -- pinks, orange, chartreuse -- and add some seasonal razzle-dazzle. 

I've blogged about the problem with glitter. But you can get plenty of shine without it. Look for metallic, glass, satin, mirrored, and iridescent finishes. Mercury glass is especially popular at Christmastime.

Leave your table's holiday settings in place until New Years Day. Chances are any online MLS photos do not zero in on tabletop decor, where a Christmas tree and stockings on the mantel will date your listing online. That's just one more reason to limit the seasonal staging you do, and a vote for minimal tabletop staging. 
There's nothing like a buffalo check to say, "Welcome to winter!
I like its lumberjack vibe mixed with iridescent placemats, 
sparkly glassware, and a red tinsel garland. 

Get the look, get the book

If you are living in your staged home, you may not want to stage a dining room table where you usually have meals. But you can still stage it for your photos that go online and for a video tour, and then remove the staging props so you can serve meals as you normally would. If the house you are staging is unoccupied, you'll be able to leave parts of your table settings in place, tweaking them to look less like Christmas. 

A dining table that isn't staged with place settings certainly isn't a deal-breaker, but it is a missed opportunity. So why not use the power of a festive table to help make your house the one buyers want to own. 

Are you staging a house, or plan to in the future? Be sure to download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Fast and For Top Dollar.  You'll get all the professional secrets and encouragement you need! 

Sail through the holidays with these stress-free home staging tips

Thursday, November 19, 2020
When your home is for sale and it's time for the winter holidays, your plate is full. And it's not cookies!

Right now, most of us are trying to navigate the holidays while we protect ourselves and others from the coronavirus. Ordinarily, our calendars are filled during November and December, but with closings, and social distancing, and other restrictions, we're having to define our celebration style in new ways while still honoring our traditions. 
A bar cart staged for the holidays helps people envision 
how they might entertain and relax after they buy your home.

How prospective buyers view your home this year is different as well. Before they step inside it, they may view it initially online, possibly with a previously recorded video, and maybe from their Realtor's cell phone as well. 

Homes do sell in the final weeks of the year. So, don't skip decorating for the season. When you are living in your house for sale, and it's Christmas time and still pandemic-time, it sounds like a tall order, but there are some ways to make it easier. Here are my tips to help you glide through the holidays  

1. Keep it super simple

A house doesn't need to be elaborately gussied up for Christmas this year. It's more important for your home to look comfortable and clean. Decorations can also distract from some of your home's main selling features.  
A welcome mat is a warm touch, and so is a plaque like this 
for hanging coats or hats just inside an entrance hallway.
So, let simplicity be your number one guideline. Remember that whatever you put up has to be taken down. You don't need to pull out every Christmas decor item and ornament you've accumulated over the years. Instead, be selective. Be good to yourself. Limit what you take on. Focus on curb appeal and a warm, welcoming interior.

If you are just listing your home for sale now, my advice is not to decorate until after a video is made or after a professional photographer has taken the MLS photos. If your home is still on the market come January, you don't want your listing photos to look dated. When your Realtor shows clients the property via Facetime in real-time, you don't need to worry so much about dating the property with holiday decor.  

2. Select a theme early 

Having an overall simple color scheme or a singular holiday motif streamlines your decorating. Plan ahead. Once you've settled on a red and white decor palette, or a winter theme for the season, for example, you've minimized how much work and expense lay ahead, and you'll create a more harmonious staging. You won't be tempted at Tuesday Morning or Dollar General to grab whatever appeals to your holiday spirit. With a plan, staying focused is easier.

For example, if you decide to stage with a white and silver color scheme, you could wrap packages with white paper and tie with silver bows, arrange white painted branches in thrift store glass vases, decorate the mantel or dining table with silver candlesticks for white candles, and hang a purchased wreath you can decorate with a white bow. All these items are available at dollar stores or second-hand outlets. Or are already in your closets.  
This colorful, $7 welcome mat got a little quality-boost
from being snug next to the regular, heavy-duty mat.

3. Consider buyers and your family

Of course you'll want to honor your family's traditions and beliefs, but subtlety is the key. There's no need to keep decorations secular, but the focus should be on festive. Some seasonal touches and a little bit of glam, or else touches of old-fashioned homey-ness, go a long way. 
This Advent calendar can sit on a mantel or shelf. Photo: Lisa Leonard
No one ever said that the only place for holiday 
stockings is the fireplace mantel. Photo: Pottery Barn
If your household includes children, I understand it will be more difficult to simplify Christmas traditions. Buyers will certainly understand when they see stockings hung on the mantle, an elf on the shelf, an Advent calendar, and a stack of favorite children's Christmas books. The delights of childhood are an important part of Christmastime.

4. Don't rearrange furniture 

If a Christmas tree is a must for you, it's best if you can add it without having to rearrange furnishings to accommodate it. Stay to the traffic pattern that makes sense -- one that will encourage home buyers to easily walk through your home and see all its best features clearly.

Consider a smaller than usual tree. You can buy a regular-size one and use all the lower branches for swags and garlands and outdoor arrangements.  If you have access to a variety of greens, you might enjoy constructing your own evergreen wreath according to my tutorial. I learned some good tips from floral designers that I'm passing on to you.

You might also consider substituting a tabletop tree for the full-size tree you usually pull out of storage or buy as a fresh tree. Depending on your floorplan, available tabletop space, and budget, these trees can be as tall as your customary one, or as small as doll-house size, but they will take up less floor space, and that's a good thing. The more floor that's visible, the larger a room looks.        

One of my favorite home staging props is a wrapped package, and of course at this time of year an arrangement of gifts is more than just appropriate. It's almost expected. But the advice of experienced home stagers and Realtors is not to display real presents when people are touring your home. I will take it a step further and suggest that gifts not be displayed in a video that goes public. Thieves are known to canvas homes listed on the market for valuables they can steal. Even if during the pandemic you are home almost all the time, it's better to stay safe and keep valuables hidden.  
A clever way to incorporate a holiday tree that
doesn't require floor space is this
lights-on-the-wall technique. Photo: Reciclar e Decaror

Here is another space-saving idea, a
smaller-than-usual tree that can easily fit in
the corner of a room. Gavin and Co.

5. Avoid certain  products

Sure, glitter is almost unavoidable at Christmastime. It's in bows and candles and wrapping paper and cards, and ... everywhere! 

Glitter is festive and dressy and cheery and colorful, but if you can keep it out of your home, you'll save yourself the trouble of cleaning it up over the next few months, or longer. I know I'm not the only person who thinks this way.  

The other issue with glitter is the environmental one. Plastic glitter is hardly "earth-friendly." Glitter is made of micro-particles of plastic that end up in the oceans of the world, floating as garbage. Ocean-dwelling animals die from glitter that builds up in their systems.

Another decor prop I don't recommend is decorative plants that you don't usually have in your home, like amaryllis and paperwhites and poinsettias. Paperwhites have another downside and that is their scent is overpowering to many people. Everyone senses smells differently, so what may seem pleasantly floral to you may seem nauseating to others.  

Unless you love taking care of plants and have the surfaces to accommodate these living specimens, I would suggest using trouble-free accessories that pack (almost) the same punch. I'm thinking of things like bottle brush trees and faux or real greenery. Of course, if your mother-in-law gifts you a poinsettia, you're going to display it prominently as part of your decor! 

Other perishables are things like bowls of winter fruits -- pears, apples, cranberries, and citrus fruits. If your fruit bowl is strictly for show, why not make it permanent and stage with artificial fruits instead of perishables? You won't have to refresh them or check for spoilage, and your edibles can stay fresh in the fridge, ready for snacking or cooking.
I always encourage DIY home stagers
to use what they already own,
like these fluffy mittens filled with
real or artificial greens and twigs.
Photo: My Crazy Quilt

6. Limit your crafting  

Many of my readers are crafters, and often begin knitting and gluing and sewing in August. That's fine for those do-ahead DIYers. But if it's December and you're scrolling Pinterest for Christmas crafts, think again. 

My experience is that even simple-looking crafts can take longer than you expect. Remember my rule #1 -- Keep it simple. If there is a traditional craft that you do every year and you're familiar with the materials and process, have a go at it. 

I'm not the Grinch. I just want to remind you it's okay to stop yourself if you are thinking in mid-December that you want to embroider individual holiday stockings for your entire extended family. 

Get the look, get the book

These are still the months that buyers shop for hones. Serious buyers are not hibernating. Winter can be a very appealing time to market a home, no matter where you live. Some buyers are looking for a vacation home, or a retirement home, or a first home in a new location, or a house nearer to family. People move for all kinds of reasons and at all times of the year. Keep your home staged and ready for them. Don't leave here without downloading my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar.

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