A Good Go-To Color Scheme for Staging

Monday, May 31, 2010
White milk glass, a white tray, 
white candles, and some glass globes 
from a fan light all came out of the closet.
When in doubt, go with white. That's my motto.

Since so many of my draperies, side tables, greenery, artwork and assorted décor tchotchkes are on loan at our for-sale condo, my living room at home has been looking sparse for the past month.

Over the weekend I decided to remedy that, and at the same time, give the living room a summery vibe.

Easy Solution

My simple approach was to make a sweep of the house, hunting down anything white.  The only white in my living room, besides the trimwork, has been two lamp shades, a painted and distressed tall table, and the painted brick fireplace.

Here’s some of what I scrounged to add to the mix and fill in the gaps:
  • Gauzy white curtains from the back of my sewing closet to cover the two windows
  • A collection of milk glass pieces I keep meaning to sell on eBay
  • A large white plastic serving bowl that from a distance looks like porcelain
  • A white urn I tell myself I am going to convert to a lamp someday 
  • Three white flower pots from my garden shed
  • An off-white tray from up high in the kitchen cabinets 
  • One chunky white vase that went immediately onto the mantle
  • A white china duck that belonged to my mother
  • An eight-inch round whitewashed basket
  • A white linen tablecloth and white seat cushions for the dining room table that’s visible from the living room
  • Two frosted white globes from a ceiling fan/light we removed years ago
  • A stack of white and off-white books from my bookshelves
  • Mr. Lucky’s Panama hat 
Then I dug out some white upholstery fabric and sewed a cover for animal print seat on a side chair. I needed to replace an end table so I looked in the garage for that old 36-inch round of fiberboard that has screw-on legs, and draped it with a white quilt.  And finally, I made a 14-inch wide white tissue paper flower and set it in a white metal flower holder.

Everything looks nice and fresh.

For a simple approach to decorating your staged home, think about a white-on-white color scheme.  It's goof-proof.

For other formulas that will work in your staged home, download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. It's just $4.99, and comes as an easy to download pdf .

Flowers in the Staged House

Thursday, May 27, 2010
I thought these cheery, scented lantana 
blossoms would be ideal by the front door,
 but, alas, they needed more care than I gave them.
Those of you who have read my ebook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar, know that I am big on greenery. 

Today I want to talk about outdoor greenery.

I hate it when I don’t listen to my own advice and it comes back to bite me. I’ve written that in the staged-for-sale home, outside greenery, unless it is part of the maintenance-free landscaping, should be faux. Good quality faux. Not cemetery flowers faux.

What can be more inviting that a basket or bucket of colorful blooms by the front door?

Or even a convincing silk fern?  Really, they’re made so well today that unless you go the really cheapo route, or leave them in direct sun for months, they look fabulous. 

But while staging the front door area and the deck of our condo on the market, I convinced myself that real flowers were the way to go. 

They’re fresh, they’re genuine, and they’re even fragrant, I mused as I potted up some geraniums, lantana and petunias. Since we live about two minutes from the property, I told myself that I’d be by daily to water them.

Wrong. We’ve had weeks of high heat with scant rainfall, so I’ve already replaced some dead plants, and the ones remaining don’t seem all that happy. 

I think I’ll follow my own instructions and go shopping for pretty silk greenery. Where’s that coupon for 50% off any one item priced under $20 at the home décor store?

F.S.B.O or Realtor?

Monday, May 24, 2010
Our Realtor, Ms. Speedy, called to say that our property was shown over the weekend and that a woman is in love with our little condo.

But we all know that love comes with complications.

The problem is she has to sell her own home first. Her home is in a nearby town that doesn’t have much to recommend it, so I am not counting on her infatuation turning into an offer anytime soon.

It’s encouraging, but that’s all.

Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall when people tour the home you have staged?

Being on the scene to answer questions and to point out all the amenities from a personal point of view is one of the reasons people decide to sell their homes direct, without a broker.

Although there are advantages --- mostly economic – to going the F.S.B.O route, I think the advantages to working with a licensed Realtor outnumber them. The way I see it, a Realtor:
  • Knows the market and can easily research accurate, comparable properties to establish a fair and realistic asking price.
  • Is in touch with what buyers want and can suggest ways to improve your property.
  • Acts as a buffer between you and the buyer so the transaction is less personal and more professional.
  • Provides a measure of security because she’s already collected some information about the buyer (no strangers knocking at your door).
  • Works with the buyer to assist with financing, home inspections, and the legalities of the transaction.
  • Saves you time by working with qualified buyers.
  • Has the skills and capital to advertise your property to the target market and to a worldwide market.
  • Adds credibility that makes buyers feel more comfortable. You have a professional representative instead of being just Joe Blow selling his house.
  • Buyers trust the Realtor as a third party, and feel they are being represented.
Do I sound like a mouthpiece for the National Association of Realtors? I don’t have any ties or affiliations with any real estate company. The reason I have a high regard for Realtors is that I have worked with some excellent ones. Finding a good real estate a gent is a topic for another blog post.

Also, Mr. Lucky and I once tried to sell a house F.S.B.O. After three months of showing the property to assorted “buyers,” we turned it over to a Realtor who had it sold in a week.

What we came to understand was that serious and qualified buyers work with a Realtor instead of shopping F.S.B.O. listings in hopes of getting a steal (no broker to pay!), or owner financing, or other special considerations.

But that’s just my opinion and my experience. Hey, it’s my blog.

Stage Your Dining Area with a Mix of Furniture

Monday, May 17, 2010
You want your dining room to look beautiful when buyers come looking.

But you're sensing that you aren't ready yet. You're sensing your furniture isn't new enough, or trendy enough, or luxurious enough. Or that you just don't have enough furniture or the right table or chairs.

Maybe you're staging an empty house on a budget.

Maybe you're staging a dining room where your informal family room has been.

Experience has taught me that most people already own everything they need for staging.

Instead of investing in an expensive set of dining room furniture, you can usually rearrange what you have to make your home flow and show well!

If you have to add pieces, they can usually be discovered just waiting for you at second hand or at big box stores. And these are the furnishings that tend to have some personality. They often reflect the kind of quality that you would not ordinarily splurge on.

Rule of thumb: furniture pieces don't have to match.

That one rule can save you lots of money because orphaned chairs and one-of-a-kind seats are common in thrift stores and garage sales.

In the Emily Henderson photo above, different styles of seating make this dining area informal and interesting. They don't match, but they have enough in common to look harmonious as a grouping.

I see two different kinds of chairs, both with the same visual weight and proportions,
painted two different colors. It's not formal, it's fun, because most homes aren't formal
and most people don't live formally anymore. Photo: Decoist

A variety of chairs are unified by white paint and light distressing,
adding a vintage feel to this dining area. The slipcovers made for the two end chairs
were made from the same fabric as the new seat covers. Photo: Coastal Living  

Two pairs of chairs around a color-coordinated rectangular table look 
perfectly at home. Photo: Tinypic.com

Benches, whether cushioned, upholstered, built-in, or not, 
are a common seating solution.
The style shown here are an easy DIY project. Photo: Dercoist  
The Wrap 

Don't be afraid to mix things up, as long as there are some unifying colors or patterns.

Take inspiration from the images here and adapt them to your own home's style, your budget, and the local market.

Many of today's home buyers are Millennials who don't want to live with grandma's decorating guidelines. They write their own playbook.

So, have fun with your decorating and combine furniture that makes you and your wallet happy. Chances are it will please house hunters as well.

Download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar for more decorating and staging advice! Why go it alone, when I can hold your hand until your home sells?

Our Realtors Are Blown Away

Wednesday, May 12, 2010
The master bath is small but it is private, pretty, 
and very clean, and the realtors noticed that.
The realtors who looked at our unit today (the ones from our listing agency, six of them)  liked what we did with the condo.

In fact, they LOVED IT!

All of then have seen the place sit there, stinking and dirty, for two years. Our own realtor said they were "blown away."

She said they had never seen one of the condos in that development looking so good.

Condos on the market have unique challenges. They are clustered so that buyers can easily comparison shop.  Typically, condos are compact, and every square foot has to earn its way.

We're pleased that the agents are excited about our property because it will mean they're happy to show it.

Ask yourself what your realtor thinks about your home on the market. Is there enthusiasm there?  Have you taken whatever advice she's offered so that you can operate as a team, supporting each other?  Your realtor is your representative. Surprise her with outstanding staging. You can do it! My $5 home staging eBook will help you from start to finish and with every step in between.

DIY Frugal Pillow Talk

Monday, May 10, 2010
If I use the word fluffing when I'm talking about home staging, I'm talking about pillows, those soft and beckoning props every staged home needs.

Most of us have a running love affair with pillows. It's no mystery why. They're fun. And oh, so handy.

Pillows add a touch of luxury, color, and texture to any room. Perfect for home staging!

On beds, benches, chairs or couches, they help coordinate a room that might, just might, have been put together on a budget from assorted furniture finds.

But, have you looked at what one can spend on even run-of-the-mill department store pillows?  Twenty-five dollars buys you a ho-hum one, and the ones you really want cost over a hundred. Dollars!

DIY high end 

Making your own decorator pillows is one of the simplest and quickest sewing projects. Even if you have no sewing skills, pillows for staging can be put together with fusible webbing (Stitch Witchery) or glue (either hot glue from a gun, or white paper glue). Here's a list of possible wallet-friendly pillow fabrics to get you in the groove:
  • Towels or scarves from the dollar store
  • Recycled blankets, draperies, sweaters, or skirts from the second-hand store
  • Felt, upholstery samples, or drapery remnants from the fabric store
Take note, all no-sew fans: A pillow can be as simple as two fabric squares glued around the edges.

The ideal staging pillows will help create the comfortable look any buyer responds to. Pillows do that by coordinating or matching the other colors in the room, not by providing a "pop of color" that detracts from the room itself.

Pillows for staging should be large. No smaller than 16 x 16 inches is best. Lumbar pillows, decorative bolster pillows, or vintage ones like a needlepoint from another era can be smaller.

These pillows pull all the colors of the room together.

DIY pillow f ringe
A fuzzy fringe like this is easy 
to glue on a pillow. 

Pro Secret

What will make your pillows special is what's known as dressmaker details, those trims that add the look of quality and...well, money.

The difference between a plain pillow and one that has piping around the edge is striking.

Sewing piping and other trims like tassels, braiding, rick rack, fringes, and ruffles into the seam of your pillows can be taxing because you'll be sewing through multiple thicknesses.

I have a secret formula for adding trims.

I just hand stitch or glue them on after the pillow is assembled and stuffed.

I've used rope, cording, braid, felt fringe, and ribbon. Remember that white school glues like Elmer's are water soluble, and hot glue will melt in the dryer. I have not had much success with washing and drying so-called washable fabric glues. But are you likely to wash these pillow covers? These are pillows for staging, not heirloom projects.

I made these two matching pillows from white towels
and stitched on the rope trim after I stuffed them.  

My eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, has directions for making no-sew and other simple pillows

You can fill your pillows with polyester batting (Fiberloft), available at Walmart for about $4. Or you could open up one of your sleeping pillows that has lost its umph, fluff up the batting, and stuff your new pillows.

Braiding from a fabric store puts the finishing
decorator touch on a simple, DIY pillow.
I have even used paper that I put through our shredder to stuff pillows. Don't laugh. It's free and it works. These pillows are just props, not designed to become heirlooms, but they will still last for a few years!

Your own DIY pillows will add pizazz to your staged home. That's house fluffing. Get more insider secrets and tips to make your home look it's absolute best! Download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. Start your staging today! 

Two top photos: Providence Ltd Design

Pruning: Insider Secrets to Getting Shubbery in Shape

Thursday, May 06, 2010
People judge a home on the market by its curb
appeal, and tidy shrubs make for good curb appeal.  
If you take a step back and look at the house you are selling do you see anything like --

A front door that's not obvious at first glance. The path to it is narrow, uninviting, or obstructed.

Foundation plantings that have grown taller than the front windows.

Weed vines and other invasives that climb through  hedges or other shrubberies

A fence or outbuilding covered with things you didn’t plant, can’t identify, and aren’t even attractive.

Shrubs that are leggy, sprawling, shapeless, or crowding out more desirable plants.

Shrubbery or small trees that have dead branches.

Greenery that's finding its way behind shutters and vinyl siding, into gutters and eaves, or under decks and porches.

    Why Pruning's a must

    Househunters will judge your home’s interior even before they see it, by its exterior.

    Pruning makes the difference. It will give your home that cared-for look that buyers want. Let's call pruning exterior decluttering.

    The first step is to get your wardrobe right, not to make a fashion statement, but to protect you from scratches, bugs, snakes, poison ivy, nasty weather, and other unpleasantries.

    Dressing the Part

    Long sleeves are a must, no matter what the temperature.

    I am always amazed when I see people mowing the lawn in flip flops, weeding flower beds on their knees in shorts, and pruning prickly evergreens in halter tops.

    Get your vitamin D later, and cover up for pruning. Wear a hat if you have hair that can get in the way.

    I’m also suggesting long pants with a back pocket. More on why the pocket in a moment. Jeans are ideal.

    Don’t forget your closed-toe, lace-up shoes, and socks. If ticks are a problem in your area, tuck pants into socks or wear boots.

    I always don some kind of eyewear, the bigger the better, because even innocent-looking branches and vines can surprise you by springing back in your face. I suppose safety goggles would be best, but let’s not get crazy. Your old pair of wrap-around shades should work fine.

    Gloves. Okay, I have a glove fetish. Ask my husband how a display of gardening gloves in any store stops me in my tracks. “Well,” I always explain as I gingerly toss a cute polka-dot pair into our shopping cart, “they wear out!”

    My Hedge Hog cordless electric trimmer makes the job of improving 
    curb appeal go quickly and easily.  

    Equip Yourself

    Even homes with small yards need regular yard
    maintenance. Maybe more so than large yards.
    Next, the right equipment. Hand pruners, called by-pass pruners, will take care of single branches up to one inch across. Keep the pruners handy in your back pocket.

    And never set them on the ground, because, trust me, you will lose them under vegetation or mulch. Ask me how I know.

    Long-handled loppers deal with anything larger, up to about three inches. Pruning sheers will trim up little-leaved shrubbery like privets and boxwoods.

    Any homeowner, especially one with a home to sell, who has any leafy landscaping, should own these basic tools.You folks with cactus, rock, and sand landscapes can go back to bed.

    If you anticipate more hedge trimming in your future, consider something like what I have, the Hedge Hog. I bought it at Sears for about $60 and never looked back.

    I just came from spending four hours pruning the front and back yards at one of my investment properties.

    I am not selling my house, but I want to keep my tenants happy, and I had not done any serious yard work there in two years, the kinds of things you can’t expect tenants to do.

    I mean, they’re even older than I am!

    Best Tips I Know

    As I pruned today, I thought of you, my reader. Here are my tips for getting this work done with the least amount of effort.

    When shrubbery is groomed, it gives people the message that
    the people who live here take good care of their entire property.
    Decide if you want a particular shrub to have its natural shape or a more manicured look. If your open house is tomorrow, just cut enough to make it tidy.

    To attack vines, try finding the lowest point, like where it comes from the ground, and cut there.  Then, a good tug might be all you need to reel it in. Pruning from the top down creates more work for yourself.

    Prune back foundation shrubs so there are at least two feet between them and the house. The siding on a house needs room to breathe. In fire-prone areas, keep vegetation even further away.

    Throw trimmings into an open area as you work. You can rake or sweep them up when the pruning is done.

    If your house is not going to be listed for sale in the immediate future, be more bold with your pruning.  Cutting back overgrown shrubs causes them to put out new growth. But different plants respond differently to being cut back, so identify the plant and research how pruning affects it.

    A good place for this kind of information is your local County Extension Service, Master Gardening Program, or gardening center.

    This kind of yard work can have you working up a sweat. If it's cold out, dress in layers; if it's hot out, remember to stay hydrated.

    Get rid of the prunings. Don’t make a brush pile or leave large bags of debris for homebuyers to see. You don’t want to give the impression that owning your home involves work.

    Finally, check yourself for ticks when you are all done working.

    Get the look. get the book.

    The home you are staging to sell deserves to look good from every angle, inside and out. Start with curb appeal, and don't be hesitant about pruning for a tidy appearance. My $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, tells you how to stage your own home, inside and out. The easy and economical way. And it includes one entire chapter on staging your home's exterior.

    Pressure Wash for Better Curb Appeal

    Monday, May 03, 2010
    A home on the market has to sparkle.  An easy – and even fun – way to bring a home’s exterior to life is to pressure wash it.  Siding, foundation, patio, walkways, driveways, stairs, decks, porch, they all benefit from this kind of fast and thorough cleaning.

    When I’m pressure washing I feel like I am holding a magic wand in my hands.  The 2700 pounds of pressure a power washer puts behind a stream of water blasts away grime, stains, mildew, bubblegum, bird poop, you name it.  Gone. 

    Today I spent the an hour and a half washing the vinyl siding on the two-bedroom investment property we own and rent to the world’s nicest couple.  It’s a powerful feeling to see dirt disappear with hardly any effort.  Just point and squeeze the handle of the washer’s gun.   

    For the first pass I use a solution of half bleach, half water, to kill mildew.  Then I switch to straight water and a smaller tip that delivers much more pressure.   Mildew grows on dirt, so removing dirt is key to keeping mildew at bay.         

    We bought our Graco washer because we use it often to prep house exteriors prior to painting them.  We also use it to clean any surfaces that are hard enough to withstand the pressure.

    If you are staging a home to sell, and some of these areas need cleaning, pressure washing might be the way to go.  But please don’t think you have to spend hundreds of dollars.  Just rent one for the day.  The cost might be $50, possibly less for half a day.

    Whatever renting a pressure washer costs, it’ll be well worth every penny.  It's preferable to buying a rinky-dink, low-pressure "homeowner" version that will waste your time and not do that great a job.  The machine we bought cost about $700, to give you an idea of what something that delivers results costs. 

    Use a pressure washer if you want to make your home the one that sparkles the most when buyers take a tour of houses for sale.

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