When Bad Things Happen to Good Real Estate

Monday, June 28, 2010
What you are looking at is furniture on blocks, a stack of bifold doors, an extraction machine, and fans.  What happened?
At our house it’s safe to say that when the phone rings at 8:30 on a Monday morning, it’s not a good sign.  At least it wasn’t today.

Our realtor, Ms. Speedy was on the line, trying to sound calm.  The neighbor next door to our for-sale, vacant condo, had called her to say that water was coming out from under our front door, and that her carpet was soaked.  Both units are built on the same slab. 

We live just two minutes from this property, and our realtor’s office is even closer to it.  Gotta love life in a small town. 

By the time we arrived, Ms. Speedy already had the water turned off at the main tap, and had rounded up the president of the homeowners’ association and a handyman friend.  We stepped into the unit, onto wet and floating squares of parquet flooring, and squishy carpeting.  An inch of water covered the kitchen and bath floors.  It was not a pretty sight.

The good news was that it wasn’t sewage water, river water or rain water.  It was clean water.

Within an hour we had a team of fire and water damage specialists on site.  In another hour our plumber was there.  By this time Mr. Lucky and I had already sucked up over 50 gallons of water with our own big, wet/dry, shop vac.    

The plumber determined that the source of the water was the water heater.  Its safety valve had given out, spilling the contents onto the condo’s floor.  The tank kept filling up to replace the lost water.  What’s strange is that we had turned off the water heater because it made no sense to be heating water while the place was vacant.  The plumber said he had never seen this happen before. 

If you have ever been in a situation like this, you know that all you want is for things to be normal again.  All I can tell you is that if all damage repair specialists are as together as the local franchise owner, Mr. Make-it-right, there’s nothing to worry about.  As we inspected the various problems – wet vinyl flooring, wet baseboards, wet drywall -- his words were downright soothing. 

“I can take care of that”

“We’ll fix that.”

“That’s not a problem.”

The padding under the carpet was the kind that could be dried, so instead of ripping out all carpeting and padding, all of it would all be dried on site.  The baseboards would have to be discarded, but the wet two inches of drywall behind them could be thoroughly dried.  It would take all week, but the place would be clean, dry, disinfected, and out of trouble.

All my precious staging was topsy turvy!  I stripped the beds and relocated to closet shelves pillows, books, lamps, and any small stuff I could.  I brought home to wash curtains and a bed skirt that had wicked up water.        

The work is done by giant extractors, fans, and dehumidifiers.  And four men.  By the end of the day, baseboards were outta there, carpets were elevated, furniture was piled in safe places or elevated on foam blocks.

My philosophy is that every misfortune has a flip side -- either a lesson to be learned or a greater reward down the road.  Let's just see where this soggy road leads!  

Tablescape Staging Prop -- I Just Had to Have It

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A tabletop prop should add something to the room.
Every year the garden club I belong to has an auction of members’ white elephants.  It’s an intramural fundraiser and a good one because, as we all know, one woman’s trash is another woman’s folly.

The auction is actually a raffle, and we hold it when we host our annual luncheon. 

Members buy raffle tickets, place them in tin cans set next to the displayed items, and then wait until after our meal for one number to be drawn from each can. 

When I saw this leaded glass terrarium, I stuffed all my raffle tickets into that one can.  And I won it, as they say on eBay when you have bought something.  For five bucks, I have an interesting item I know I’ll use for staging somewhere sometime.

When you are staging your own home, it's always a good idea to have some options, a little more than you need  in the way of props, so that you can experiment until you get that magic mix of accessories.  

Sometimes you don't know what is going to showcase your home's best assets until you see it in 3-D, in the light of day. So, I like to keep an variety of props on hand to experiment with.

These items might be dishes and other ceramic items, glassware, lamps, vases, wall art, trays, silk flowers and found items from nature.    

For fun, I tried different possibilities with my new toy, the terrarium.

Silk ivy leaves had no pizazz.

First I put a silk ivy plant in it.  Nothing terribly exciting.

Then I tried an antique tea pot.  Nice, but a little too museum-like.

I put a candle holder with a yellow candle inside. Not terribly interesting.  How about the candle my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas, the luscious bunch of asparagus?  We're getting closer.

Finally, the one I like best is leaving it empty and using silk flowers next to it, all on a silver tray.  I'm glad I won my glass terrarium staging prop.

Maybe Mr. Lucky’s not the only one around here who gets what he wants.  Luck is really a state of mind, and a good one to cultivate.

A recent study I read about showed that people who thought they had been given a good luck charm (by the researchers) actually performed better on tests.

The teapot looks too much like a stuffy display.

I liked this candle, but I couldn't light it or smell it any more!

Leaving the glass house empty turned out to be just right.

Today I want to encourage you to cultivate a lucky state of mind.  Believe that you will sell your home for a price that makes you happy! 

Meanwhile, be on the lookout for props that help with your home staging.  Trust me, you'll get lucky.

I give pointers for creating beautiful tablescapes for home staging in my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. Download it now, and start staging your home the thrifty way

How to Deal with Too Many D.O.M.

Monday, June 21, 2010
Are you counting the days that your home has been on the market?

Welcome to the club.

Our project property has been for sale now for 30 days without an offer.  That’s nothing to sweat about. We see homes in our neighborhood that have been on the market for well over a year.

We can’t afford to be in that position, so we priced ours very competitively, and staged it to appeal to most people.

Many sellers are losing sleep worrying about double mortgage payments, falling equity, foreclosure, or whether they will be able to relocate for a better job, or to finally retire.

I hope you are not in this position. I hope you are selling your home for the best of reasons – to move onto the next happy chapter of your life, whatever that may be.

If the stress of having a home on the market longer than you expected is weighing you down, there are some mental gymnastics you can do to lighten the load.
  • Tell yourself that all it takes is one person to buy your home.  That person is out there now. 
  • Remind yourself that you have had the pleasure of living in this home for however long you have owned it.  Home ownership doesn’t always mean making money.
  • Count your blessings. Watch the national news on television or read a newspaper daily to help keep your life in perspective.  Half the world’s population lives in unsanitary conditions without access to clean water. One billion people worldwide live in sub-standard housing. 
  • Know that there are some things over which you have no control.  If your home is priced right, is clean, and staged to be attractive, it will sell. 

Mr. Lucky Stayed Home in Case We Get an Offer

Friday, June 18, 2010
Have you ever been to a class reunion?  No?  You're missing a chance to reflect on your life.
Yesterday I flew to New York, where my Brooklyn-based sister met me.  Today we drove together to Connecticut so we could both attend my high school reunion.  It's my first, exactly 50 years to the day when 180 of us graduated from a brand new high school.  What surprised me is how bonded and close all the members of our class felt.  From what I could tell, all the old divisions of cliques and status were gone.

Maybe it was because everyone in the room was the same age.  How often does that happen after you've left school?  Maybe it was because, as the first class to move through a new high school, with no upperclassmen ahead of us, we developed a special closeness.

It was a unique situation.  Can you imagine being able to draft your own student council charter, choose your school colors, name the teams, vote on the school song, design the crest?  It was like starting your own small democracy or corporation, and I think it gave all of us good experience and greater confidence.

We also initiated our own school news magazine and yearbook.  Under the tutelage of our advisor, Mr. Robert L.Bachman, both of our publications took prizes at the Columbia University's Scholastic Press Association.  Thanks, Mr. Bachman, for developing in me an appreciation of good journalism.

Mr. Bachman wasn't at the reunion dinner this evening, but one of my English teachers, Mrs. Anna A. Malootion was, so I was able to thank her for teaching me how to diagram sentences and thereby understand the relationship between nouns and verbs and adjectives and adverbs and prepositions and modifiers.  I ate it up!

My algebra and geometry teacher, Miss Dorothy Smolenski, was also at the dinner.  She taught me that when the thought process follows a logical progression, you end up with a conclusion -- a novel concept for an artistic type like myself.

What has this to do with staging a home for sale?  Not a heck of a lot.  But as a grandma blogger, I'm giving you the advice that if you can't decide whether you should go to a class reunion or not, go!  Besides the pleasure of connecting with old friends (and when it gets to be the 50th reunion, we really are old  friends), maybe you'll have a chance to thank some of the people who made a difference in your life.

Show-Ready in Mere Moments

Tuesday, June 15, 2010
We had sort of a fire drill here today. Our realtor, Ms. Speedy, called to say her associate broker MAY bring a lady who is possibly interested in our house (yes, the one we are presently living in!) over to see it, like, TODAY or sometime this week. Gadzooks!

Out comes the vacuum.

Into the closets go bunches of stuff.

Out comes the Windex (not green here).

Change the pillow cases. Tidy up the walk-in closet.

Sweep the steps.

Wipe the front door.

Attack the shower door.

Hide the craft supplies, dog brush, piles of papers waiting to be shredded....Mr. Lucky helped. He even shampooed problem areas of the carpet. Bless his heart.

No one came yet, but it was instructive, and helpful in the long run.

Could the house be shown at a worse time, when our best stuff is elsewhere for staging--over at the waterfront condo we fixed up and staged for resale?

Staging Props and a Remote Possibility

Monday, June 07, 2010
What are the chances that someone would consider a home staging prop like this to be valuable?
Have you ever had a day when your faith in the goodness and sanity of the human race was called into question?  That would be my yesterday.

It wasn’t a string of events that eroded my confidence in people.  It wasn’t a major news story.  It wasn’t a friend’s betrayal or something Mr. Lucky said. 

It was that someone who came to look at our property for sale, someone accompanied by a realtor, someone who has money or credit to buy a property listed at $145,000, stole our remote.  Yes, the obsolete, battery-less, cheap, little, generic channel changer.  Can you believe it?  I couldn’t. 

Mr. Lucky noticed it was missing as soon as we walked through the room I’d staged as a TV room.  We quickly ascertained that it wasn’t misplaced, but taken. 

Yes, yes, I know.  Those of you who have read my eBook DIY Home Staging Tips know that I recommend not setting out in a staged home anything small enough to easily fit into someone’s pocket or purse. 

All I can say is, I gave good advice.  Too bad I didn’t follow it. 

But I really wanted that remote sitting handily there right next to the comfy leather sofa.  I want it so bad that I am going to find another remote and hot glue it to the contact paper I hot glued to the tabletop. 

Even if I have to look under all the couch cushions at home to find one!

Real Estate Negotiating and Keeping Secrets

Thursday, June 03, 2010
Is the home you are selling staged to make someone fall in love with it? What else can you do to make it irresistible?
In  a conversation with Ms. Speedy we learn that the woman who fell in love with our condo last month  -- get this – calls Ms. Speedy almost every day to find out  if the property has been sold to someone else!

My opinion is that being that enamored of a house is not a good state of mind.  As flattered as I am that she likes the way we fixed this property, now that we know how much she loves it (since she was foolish enough to tell the broker who will represent the sellers – us ) we are less likely to accept a lower offer from her.

The lesson here is never to let a listing broker know how emotionally attached you are to a property.  It shows too many of your cards.  If you play them close to the chest, you’ll be in a better negotiating position.

You as a seller, need to hide your cards as well.  It's best if a potential buyer believes you are not desperate or rushed because it could prompt a low ball offer.  Contrary to what some people believe, I believe that a staged home sends a message that you are willing to wait for a buyer.  An empty home looks like the owners have moved on and may be paying for two mortgages, but staging an unoccupied residence indicates that the seller has money and patience to take care of his investment.

A home stager makes a house lovable.  You can be your own DIY home stager because you already know your home's most lovable qualities. 

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