Is Your Bathroom Staged to Impress Buyers?

Thursday, July 28, 2011
Bathrooms are so important to buyers that a seductive one can be serious buyer bait, and a loser one can be a deal breaker. 

What’s important about baths is that they look as up-to-date as you can afford, and as luxurious and clean as you can manage. 

Here are some do’s and don’ts to get the look. 

Buy new towels

If you purchase only one thing brand spanking new off the shelf when it’s time to stage your home, make it bath towels. And make them look plush. The white ones get my vote. 

But if the bath is all white, some towels with colored accents or trim will liven things up a tad. I go to places like Tuesday Morning and T.J. Maxx for these kinds of fancy towels. Buy sets, not singles.

Did you know that the five-star hotels donate, or sell to their employees the guest towels as soon as they begin to lose “loft?” Take your cue from these hospitality experts. If you want the luxury look, ya gotta go fluffy.

Women are The Deciders in most home purchases. Most women can spot from across the room a towel that’s been around for awhile. Most women are very judgmental and super-sensitive about hygiene. Most women work hard and like being pampered. Fluffy towels are a sign of the pampered life. I am giving you permission to splurge on towels, in case you need encouragement. Women buyers will love you for it.

Paint with clear colors

Choose pale blues and greens that don’t have any warm or muddy undertones. Tell the paint salesperson you want a color with a high LRV. These letters stand for light reflective value. The higher the number, the more light that particular color reflects, and the “cleaner” the color looks. Clean is important. 

Don’t choose colors that look…how can I say this? …poopy.

Hide the ordinary toiletries

You know the drill. Ideally, there will be no “signs of life” when prospective buyers tour your home. I know it’s difficult when you live in the home and are human, but the more you can make your bathroom look like it’s part of the suite in a luxury resort, the better. That means only pretty stuff gets displayed, and grooming and medicinal essentials get tucked out of sight.

You can do it!

To keep the bath hotel-spotless and discourage people on tour from using the fancy towels, I like to tie a decorative ribbon around the ones I've artfully arranged on rods. I know that some may find this practice hokey, but I want to be practical. I don't want people using them. If they want to wash their hands, they're on their own.   

Replace non-white toilets and sinks

Most house hunters will think twice about making an offer on a house with green or pink toilets. And they want white sinks. 

Neither of these fixtures needs to be expensive. To install a toilet is not difficult. The cost, including new seat, tank kit, and wax ring, could be less than $200. You'll also find good, economical options for new bathroom sinks, vanities and vanity tops, or pedestal sinks at home improvement centers.

Add bling and texture

For all the gleam they add, updated faucets give excellent return on your investment. Consider new ones if yours are beyond polishing to newness. If you are marketing your home as a period piece -- an authentic Craftsman or Colonial, for example -- you'll want to follow through with the appropriate metal style in the baths. That could mean oil rubbed bronze or chrome or hammered nickel.

Make sure your towel bars match the faucet. If possible all hardware should match, including shower head and spout, door hinges, toilet paper holder, and towel rings. Changing out shower hardware is the tricky one because you'll probably need a plumber. The others are DIY projects.

Since baths can feel sterile, add some soft stuff. Textiles usually do the trick. If your bath has a window, dress it with fabric. A shower curtain is another chance at adding softness. Matellase is a good choice because it's classic and spa-like. The current style for shower curtains is oversized grommets threaded on the rod or chrome roller rings.

People like hotel-style curved shower rods.

Don't be incredible

The early days of over-the-top staging, where tea lights floated in tinted bath waters, and champagne flutes sat at the tub's edge, are over. People just shook their heads.

Today's staging needs to be more sophisticated. Keep it simple and tasteful, the way you would actually live if you had a maid!

Don't burn candles for a showing. Don't leave the house with easy listening instrumental music playing. Don't add fake photos as props. So wrong! 

More than in any other room, good bathroom lighting is crucial. Traditional Home.

Maintain the room

Once your bath is staged, the challenge will be keeping keeping it tidy. Having a container of sanitizing wipes in the vanity is a given for quick sink, toilet, and counter cleanups.

Except for the part about you having to be the room service person, you might even begin feeling like you live at a luxury hotel.

Plan to take Mr. Clean (Magic Eraser) into the shower with you. That's how I keep our glass shower doors and tile surround from getting dull, just by wiping walls as I rinse. Call me crazy, but the shine speaks for itself.

There's a book for this! 

Need more bathroom staging tips? Download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. You'll get encouragement, solutions, links, advice, and so much more. If you have a home to sell, I'll help you stage it yourself.

A Well-Staged Home Is Like a ...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I know that there will always be another woman in Mr. Lucky's life. It's always been that way.

Even though he visits his current love almost every day, showering her with attention and buying her expensive gifts, I'm not jealous.

Heck, I'm partly responsible for how attractive she looks! If you guessed that the other woman is our boat, you guessed right.

Many of the features that make a boat a pleasure to visit, are the same things that make a home one that buyers want.


Nothing's nastier than a boat that's a mess. You just expect something that floats on water to be well-washed and smelling good.

Fortunately, Mr. Lucky is scrupulous about marine maintenance. Like I said, he showers her with attention...and fresh water.

A boat that's not kept clean is a smelly boat. Mustiness, mold, and the debris from ordinary usage, not to mention holding tanks and bilge water, have to be attended to. Just like a staged home. Minus the holding tanks. Does your home shine with cleanliness, and smell good, too?


Fresh air is a must in a boat if you want to make boating enjoyable. We installed two, small, solar-powered ventilating fans that bring fresh air into our boat continuously. I talked about the advantages of ceiling fans here. If your home has ceiling fans, and they are on switches separate from the lights, use them when you are expecting a showing. It adds a valuable certain sense of liveliness to a home.


A boat, like a house, must be kept shipshape if it's going to be safe, comfortable and good looking. Do you have rusty hinges, leaks under the sink, malfunctioning appliances, worn flooring, or other signs of neglect? If you don't have the skills or tools or time for home repairs, make a list and hire a handyman who can help you batten down the hatches. Sometimes a captain needs a deckhand to help bring the ship into the harbor.

Our 34-foot Mainship takes almost as much maintenance as a house, without the lawn.


We like our vessel to look good on the water, and at the dock. That means stowing away anything that's superfluous. Does your home look as good as it can from the curb? Do you need to stow some of your gear off-site?

You don't need to set the table, but a home on the market should look comfy and friendly.


Does the first room house hunters see when entering your home say, "Welcome aboard?" Does the living room appear comfortable and spacious? Or does it feel crowded? Remove a chair or end table, and see how it feels. Is the purpose of the room clear, or is it adrift?

I made a shower curtain in the colors I chose for the boat, blues and creamy white.

Color Coordinated

Forget "pops of color" and go for a seamless color scheme that makes your whole home flow. Choose colors that aren't dark or vibrant, colors anyone could love. Forget your personal favorites, and limit yourself to neutral and classic combinations that anchor the decor.

Where the port holes are, I sewed curtains for privacy. But they let plenty of light shine through. 

Well Lighted

A boat can be dark and dreary below decks, or filled with natural light. I vote for white curtains and drapes. They bring in more light and increase the apparent size of spaces. Supplement your own portholes (which are actually called portlights in nautical jargon) with lamps and overhead lights that show off your property. Buyers equate light with clean, new, and happy.

I love my galley. Nothing is complicated or awkward. I stocked it with blue and white ware. 


Buyers will look into closets and cabinets. Give them the idea that everything has a place, and there is plenty of storage space. I recently blogged about staging closets. Boaters learn to make do with simple things because there is never extra space. You can do the same. Overhaul, and simplify!

My nautically themed tray exemplifies how local color, or specialness, can be part of decor. 


That's the word I choose to use to describe the message a home should give to buyers. Does your home show off what's unique about its location? I've blogged here about how to emphasize the specialness of your hometown or your part of the country. What's characteristic of your port of call?

Our ship's clock isn't exactly an antique. Close enough.


I'm going to coin another word, one that means using antiques to make a statement in a home. Someone once said that antiques smell like money. Whatever. You want what antiques add to a home -- some age, some class, some sense of history, some softness. Find some accessories with patina and charm to fit into your decorating, even if everything in your home is new. Especially if everything is new.


The smell of fresh paint is like buyer-bait. It lures house hunters. They trust that the home is well-taken care.

New carpet and paint are sure signs that a home has been refreshed. You needn't go overboard with renovations, but I never heard anyone say, "Boy, am I excited about that carpet allowance!" Do the work that any landlubber is going to swoon over.

Anyone that boards our boat senses immediately that we love it. We keep it clean, organized, repaired, fresh, and decorated with care. Does your house show that it is well-loved?

Boaters like to say that the happiest days of their lives are the day they buy a boat and the day they sell one. I hope you'll be able to celebrate a happy day soon.

Smooth Sailing! 

If you want more tips on staging your home for the real estate market, my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, is the answer. You can download it now, and start staging your own property today.

Look Normal! Make Your Home a Gnome-Free Zone.

Sunday, July 17, 2011
Is your yard home to families of little gnomes made of resin, colorful crops of concrete mushrooms, or flocks of plastic flamingos?

Worse yet, have you decorated your flower bed with a two-foot-tall, plywood cut-out of a woman bending over to reveal her polka dot bloomers?

If you answered yes, you are guilty of displaying slob art. "Slob Art" is art designed to impress, but ironically has the opposite effect.

Slob Art can also be chosen to flaunt one's personal artistic preferences in the face of what is generally considered good taste.

It was Jean Shepard who coined the phrase Slob Art. Jean Shepherd is the man who wrote the story that became the classic movie, A Christmas Story. He has always been one of my favorite humorists. I can’t imagine anyone not being delighted with his tales of small-town, American 1940’s life, peopled with the likes of Flick, Schwartz, Scut Farcus, and his own semi-autobiographical self, Shep.

Shepherd loved to poke fun of middle-class tastes. Think of that lamp "my old man" wins in the movie – the leg covered in fishnet stockings topped with a fringed lampshade.

Tacky lawn art is fun and campy in a tongue-in-cheek way. But everyone's taste is different, so it's probably time to pack up your cute garden signs, concrete jockeys, and other personal decorations, once your home is for sale. 

Don't get me started on toilets recycled as planters.  

If your home is on the market, look closely at what distractions are part of your curb appeal. One birdbath is probably all you'll need for front lawn decor. The focus should be on the front door, and the message should be, “Come in. Normal people live here.”

Flipping a House? Here's the Good News and the Bad News

Thursday, July 14, 2011
Are you staging a house that you bought to sell at a profit?

If so, chances are that the property is vacant. When no one lives in a house for sale, the situation can make your job as seller easier in some ways and more difficult in other ways.

Let's try to make it as easy as possible by reviewing what's unique about selling a vacant property. 

The advantages 

First, once the home is staged, no one is messing it up on a daily basis.

There's no cooking, sleeping, showering, coming and going, or hanging out. So, the house stays clean, except for whatever dirt a house tour creates, and some dust, fingerprints, or cobwebs.

And scheduling a showing is certainly easier than when advance notice is required. 

There's no last minute checklist to go over, no pets to ferry around the neighborhood in the family car, no fluffing pillows, polishing faucets, and stashing the toiletries.

Staging can be done with an eye towards maximizing aesthetics. Since The Model Home Look isn't the way most people actually live, you're free to concentrate on pretty first and practical second. Within reason.

The Downside

But there are other ways that an unoccupied home will challenge you if you are a home stager or home seller.

You'll need to find ways to furnish the home and still stay within budget. Renting furniture can get expensive, and buying furniture is impractical as well.

Break-ins and vandalism can be a problem.

The home can have a sterile and empty feeling, an extra challenge to your staging skills.

You're never sure if the property is show-ready. The last home tour may have left pillows scrunched, toilet seats up, dirty footprints through the living room, fingerprints on the stainless fridge door, rugs wrinkled, bulbs burned out, and cabinet doors open wide. You can't expect a Realtor to be your tidy-up person.

How about that exterior? Landscaping can get messy if you don't have a routine system -- either yourself or a lawn service -- to take care of the home's exterior.

Lastly, remember that utilities need to be kept up, which adds to the ongoing costs of maintaining the property until it sells. Electricity is a must for showing a home. Running water and some degree of heating and cooling are usually a necessity as well.

Does your front door look inviting? Does it look like 
someone lives there, even if no one does?
When I began this blog, Mr. Lucky and I had just decided to purchase another home for the purpose of fixing and selling it for a profit. We worked on the property for six weeks, staged it to look lived-in, turned it over to a Realtor, and sold it profitably in 45 days.

Flipping a home doesn't always bring in a hefty profit. Like any business, there are risks, and your job is to minimize them. One thing is a fact -- staged homes sell faster for more money.

If you follow the advice I've gained from my experience as a real estate investor -- the advice I offer in my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar -- I promise you'll eliminate risks!

Top photo: Better Homes and Gardens

How I Would Run My Own Television Show

Monday, July 11, 2011
Today the new season of Design Star begins on HGTV. I haven't decided if I will follow it. I've almost stopped watching the home rehab and staging shows on television.

It's all about my sanity. I need to preserve what's left of it, and I have too many opinions that get in the way of my just sitting back and enjoying the mayhem.

Mayhem it is. As I mentioned two weeks ago, my daughter and her husband were one of the couples who had a room makeover on TLC's Trading Spaces. So, I got to see the absurdity behind the scenes. The guests are encouraged to get a little zany and emotional. Worker bees do the details that designers get credit for. Workmanship is shoddy.

To be honest, I am posting this to rant. But at the same time, I hope I can point out some solutions to common remodeling misconceptions and mistakes. Mr. Lucky and I have worked over 20 years in the building trade, and rehabbed enough houses to have learned a few tricks. 

I always joke, "I want a show of my own!" Here's what I would do if I won on Design Star. Which won't happen. I'm not weird enough, young enough, or good-looking enough.  

Hyped schedule 

I wouldn't pretend that good work could be done in a rush. I know producers need to inject the drama that the work needs to be finished for the open house that's just a day away. But, seriously? I would tell my viewers to make a realistic schedule and to be flexible. But that doesn't make an exciting format. This is only one reason I don't have a show!

My reality tv calls for gloves and a hat.

Wacky outfits

I would wear clothes that are appropriate for the tasks. Why are hosts wearing high heels when they replace light fixtures and hang draperies? Why are they painting walls in halter tops and flip flops? The answer is, of course, that it looks sexy. Well, there goes my contract, because I'd be wearing my paint-stained overalls, cotton work gloves, and clunky work shoes that protect my toes.

Dramatic demolition 

We've all seen it. The host hands the homeowner a sledgehammer and the "fun" starts. Wood cabinets that could be taken to ReStore or elsewhere, get smashed to splinters and hauled to the dumpster. It's just too boring to remove things with a pry bar.  On my show, we'd recycle as much as practical.

Carpet craziness

It's also very dramatic to show hunky carpenters rolling up an entire room of carpeting in one piece. On my show, the hunky carpenter (my co-host) would use a utility knife to slice the carpet and padding into 3- or 4-foot wide strips. It's a whole lot easier to roll these and carry them out. One person can do it alone, and the woodwork doesn't get scratched from that stiff carpet backing. 

Goofy painting

Since I paint for a living, I'm especially opinionated about painting techniques. On my show, my hunky assistants and I would always cut in before we roll walls. We'd use a 5-gallon bucket and a grid instead of a dippy little roller pan. We'd use a handle on the roller so our wrists wouldn't take the abuse, and we so we could paint comfortably all day. We'd use a two-step ladder to minimize stretching and over-reaching.

Phony budgets

On my show, I'd be realistic about what the materials honestly, actually cost. Retail. And I'd elaborate on what labor would cost if you had to pay for all the electricians, plumbers, drywall guys, landscapers, tile layers, painters, and carpenters.

Shoddy materials

Okay, I've been known to make furniture out of paper mache, cover oatmeal boxes with wallpaper, glue ribbon onto beach mats for no-sew curtains, and cover a plastic serving tray with an old map, but on my show, I'd never throw a yard of muslin over a curtain rod and call it a valance. I wouldn't bring in a bunch of Walmart metal-leg furniture and call it luxurious.

Are you staging a home for sale? Download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. I won't send you down a primrose path. I know the realities of selling a home.  

  I need some high heeled sneakers and cosmetic
surgery to join the group! How about you?

Make Your Closets Memorable to Buyers with These Custom Hangers

Friday, July 08, 2011
Closets are so important to home buyers that you can't ignore them if you're serious about selling your home. You've heard all the basics --
declutter them, clean them, organize them. 

How about making them look so stinkin' pretty, that buyers want to just move in?

I know padded hangers conjure up images of pink crocheted covers for sale at the annual church bazaar. But I'm talking about some padded hangers you make from remnants and scraps of funky fabrics.

These fabrics could be designer samples you've purchased from the fabric store's discount bin. Or leftovers from sewing projects you finished. Or didn't finish. They could even be a skirt or shirt or pillowcase you want to recycle.

These hangers will surely jazz up that tidy closet of yours, making your home the one buyers feel good about.

Find a fun fabric

Here's a chance to inject something trendy, or something extra girly or masculine. Or just colorful. You need less than 1/4 yard for each hanger. A remnant as small as 24 inches by 7 inches will usually do.

As for the hangers, I often find these wooden hangers at second-hand stores. Or you may already have some. It seems like fancier hangers have replaced this simple style, but 10-inch long ones can be purchased as children's hangers.

The hanger I used for my tutorial was about 17 inches wide. But I have made smaller ones that look pretty in a closet or even hung in a bedroom, bathroom, guest room, coat closet, or laundry room.

You may leave these hangers empty, or actually use them. You can hang mundane things like tank tops, or lovely little things like lingerie.

They are ideal for staging an empty closet, where you might want to accompany them with other props like staged shopping bags from status stores on a high shelf, or pretty hat boxes.

You can also use these hangers as a discrete way to add fragrance to a closet. Add fragrant herbs like lavender or rose petals to the filling or tied to the hook as a sachet.

Quilters can use a "fat quarter" to make these padded coat hangers. I've made covers from dish towels, silk scarves, and even a silk necktie.

I use plastic grocery-store bags for stuffing, but most crafters like to use cotton batting or polyester filling, the kind used for stuffing pillows or for quilting. Your choice. I always take the frugal, up-cycle route.

Here are my directions

Lay your fabric out on a flat surface, and place your hanger on it to judge the lengths of fabric you need to cut. You'll be cutting one piece to cover the top of the hanger, and one for the bottom. The top piece gathers, so it needs to be longer.

I like to allow at least 4 inches on either side of the hanger's end, but 3 1/2 inches will do. The bottom piece of fabric needs to be an inch longer on each end, to allow for seam allowances.

Both top and bottom pieces should measure 3 1/2 inches wide. The photo says it all.

I chose scraps from a bed sheet that I had already cut up to make a round tablecloth.   

After cutting the strips, cut each one in half so you'll be able to slide them over the padding.

Run a row of basting stitches along both edges of the longer strips.

Gather the stitches so the longer strips are the same length as the shorter ones. 

Pin and then stitch the top and bottom pieces together, leaving one end open on each set, and the other end rounded. 

This is how the rounded end looks. You can remove the basting stitches now.
Wrap each end of the hanger with three plastic grocery bags. 
Make sure the end of the hanger is well-padded and smooth.  

 Turn the stitched covers inside out, and slide one over the padding. 

Slide the second half of the cover onto the hanger, and stitch the two together. 

 Add a bow to cover the hand-stitched seam and to decorate your padded hanger.

A set of padded hangers like this made from a sheer fabric over cotton batting would make an ideal wedding shower or baby shower gift.

Tulle makes an easy decoration for padded hangers. 

 Here is the hanger I made from a men's silk tie. You can always find ties at thrift stores. 

Remember to leave some space in your closets, space for the imagination of buyers.

If you want to learn more decorating and staging tips, you can find them in my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. I give advice on closet cleaning, closet organizing, and closet staging as well as advice on staging every room of your home.

Eight Thrifty Ideas to Help You Stage Your Closets

Monday, July 04, 2011
If you ask a Realtor whether people open closet doors when they inspect homes on the market, she's likely to say something like, "Well, duh!"

At least my Realtor would, because she's that direct.

Here are my eight favorite ways to make closets impressive to buyers.

1.White rules 

There's no substitute for a can of white paint. I like to use semi-gloss in closets and cabinets.

True, it shows off bumps and dents, but it also reflects light and is easier to keep clean.

I know you don't want to empty closets to paint them, but it's not as big deal as it sounds. Look on it as a chance to deep clean and get rid of the junk you really don't need anymore.

Don't skip painting the ceiling a pure white. It will brighten the entire closet. While you have a brush in it, painting inside vanities makes a big difference as well.

If you don't paint, put down white shelf liner where you can, like on wooden closet shelves.

2.Get up high

It's time to invest some cash (not a big bundle) on some closet hangers. Cull the ones that don't match and replace them with some spiffy ones from the discount store. Today's styles are more economical than ever. Aim for whatever is on the floor to be stored in hanging organizers made for shoes.

3.Condense air 

Using Space Bags you can compress down to a few inches all those quilts, extra sheets, pillows, and sleeping bags that you need a few times a year. My experience is that sometimes even the best ones begin to leak air after months on the shelf, but that doesn't mean they are useless. Simply attach the vacuum, suck the air out again, and put them back on the shelf.
Every closet looks better when it's not crowded and it's prettied up.

4. Gussy up

People like clean and people like pretty.

Put the little things in matching or coordinated baskets and boxes, especially toiletries like feminine hygiene produces, laxatives, dandruff remedies, hair removal products, odor eater footpads, denture adhesives, pet shampoos, wart removers, and disinfectants. You get the idea. You'll make giant steps towards impressing buyers with what a problem-free home you live in.

5. Go opaque

My vote goes towards boxes that are not see-through. I realize that clear plastic shoe boxes are handy because the contents are visible, but that's my point. The less visual clutter, the better when it's time to sell your home. You can easily cover cardboard boxes to make them uniform, even if they are different sizes. Use fabric, wallpaper, or contact paper.

6. Reflect

Most closets have little or no wall space remaining, because most of us like to keep accessories within sight to make getting dressed easier. Those ties and belts and necklaces and scarves can eat up wall space. But if you can find a place to add a mirror to your bedroom closet, do it. Even a small mirror will reflect light and confuse the eye about the boundaries of the closet. Ideally, you'd be able to add a full-length mirror.

7. Make scents

Smells matter to buyers. Keep your closet dry and freshly scented. If air circulation is a problem, reducing the number of stored items will help. Keep anything that would mold or give off musty scents out of cabinets and closets. Sachets or scent diffusers can add a layer of fragrance, but they are no substitute for fresh air.

8. Add little lights

A small battery-operated, motion-sensitive light makes a statement in a closet or cabinet. For about $12, this one will stay on for 40 seconds, enough to impress house hunters. Well-lighted spaces build confidence because they look cleaner, bigger, and aren't hiding surprises.

If you are just beginning to declutter closets, follow my 9-step approach I describe here.

Are you working closely with your Realtor to get your home sold? She might suggest cleaning, organizing and sprucing up those closets, as well as the regular real estate advice. I give the same kind of advice in a handy, downloadable form when you buy my $4.99 eBooks,

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