How to Make Your Home Look New

Monday, February 25, 2013
People touring homes to buy usually visit more than one.

Some buyers tour 20 or even 100 homes. Some of those homes will be newer than yours.

Although older homes have their charms and are often better built than newer ones, an obviously dated home loses points with buyers.

Buyers have more confidence in new property the way people do with a new car.

They expect it will give them fewer problems. They enjoy the status and satisfaction that comes with “being current.”

But just because your home is not recent construction doesn’t mean you can’t look current. 

If your home is on the market, it’s time to do a quick check to see if it has a sense of newness about it. (Historic homes and country homes need not apply.)

Making your home look young doesn't necessitate a complete overhaul. I have two suggestions: Remove what's dated, and sprinkle in some new ideas. 

What to Lose

Colors of Retirement Age 

Popular color schemes change in 10-year cycles. The 1970's colors were dusty browns and greens. The eighties featured dark greens and mauves. The nineties banked on vibrant colors like turquoise and lime green. The 00's went for lilacs, pale blues, and greys, where we are still hovering today. Smart home stagers decorate with layered neutrals punctuated with accent colors. 

When this home seller was ready to sell her 90's home, she painted the wood cabinets pale grey
and added a subway tile backsplash to make the home look newer and aligned with today's trends.  

Granny Touches

Quilts and flattened pillows are old fashioned. The quilts could be precious heirlooms or pricey modern quilts, but they still say stuck-in-time. Most buyers want to do business with people they aspire to be like. Quilt fanciers -- fairly or unfairly -- just don't rank as rock stars. Play it safe and pack up the quilts, replacing them with new, stylish duvets that look soft and inviting. And don't forget the plump bed pillows. The same goes for lacey sheers with ruffles and tie-backs. Replace them with window treatments with cleaner lines. Browse department stores and places like Bed, Bath & Beyond for the current look.


Clunky electronics age a home. If you have analog televisions, a giant desktop computer, large audio speakers for your sound system, tape decks, and boom boxes for radios, buyers feel like they are walking into a time warp. This is true no matter what the demographics of your market. Today's electronics are sleek and small. It's better to have none at all, since the trend is towards personal and portable devices.

Give Your Home a Facelift 

Color makes all the difference, both inside and out. Ann at One Sutton Place 
painted her red door blue for a breath of fresh air and an eye-catching appearance.   

Brush and Roll It 

Paint the interior walls of your home a stylish color. If you think it doesn't matter what color your walls are, ask any Realtor how colors can be a turn-on or a turn-off. Color has a powerful effect on our emotions, and no matter what they say, buyers are swayed by their emotional reactions to the homes they view.

Grey is still the safe neutral. If you look at paint chip displays in stores, you'll see that greys come in a wider range of tints, hues, and saturations than any other paint color. It's very versatile, so it's easy to choose a paint color that works with the fixed features of your home, such as the flooring, bath fixtures, countertops, and major appliances. 

The way to keep grey from feeling dreary is to keep it light, and warm up the room with whites and wood. And add some colorful accents.

Brilliant Idea 

Make sure your spaces are well lighted. Darkened rooms feel old. Replacing dated lighting fixtures is a quick and inexpensive way to update your home, both inside and outside.

Finishing Touches 

Add pillows, lamps, and other accessories that reflect the latest trends. They needn't be top of the line originals. Knockoffs usually follow trends, so discount stores are handy places for accessories that make your home look fashionably young.

Get a kicky new look for pennies at dollar and discount stores. You can dress up your
closets, vanities, and bookshelves with color-coordinated boxes that hold essential clutter. 

Need to bring yourself up to speed on what's in style? Pinterest boards will highlight trends, so pick some favorite boards to follow. All my Pinterest boards illustrate good staging.

I also suggest Better Homes and Gardens for a mainstream American look, Pottery Barn for a young, sophisticated look, Traditional Home for an upscale look, Real Simple for clean and orderly ideas, Coastal Living for any waterfront property, and HGTV for design inspiration in general. You can also search Pinterest for specific item ideas, such as vases, DIY headboards, stepping stones, loveseats, or whatever.

For answers to your questions about staging your own home, download my super-helpful, home staging eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. It's a 150-page $4.99 pdf that comes with my money-back guarantee. Find out today how your house ranks, and the simple secrets you can use to make your house earn more money.

Top photo: Better Homes and Gardens

The Look for Less: Four Places to Shop

Monday, February 18, 2013
I’m not fond of shopping for the sake of shopping. I love to score a deal, but I don’t like to spend time and energy browsing. So, these are my favorite haunts for scoring quick deals.

Paint Stores

I always tell people to buy paint at the paint store, not a big box outlet or little hardware store. And I have good reasons.

First, the people at paint stores are trained by the paint company. They know paint. 

They know the painting supplies that solve problems and make painting projects go easier. They can answer your questions, and ask you the right questions to make recommendations. They’re less likely to make a mistake with mixing and labeling your paint.

They are the Paint People! Why mess around with minimum wage trainees elsewhere? Paint store staff will have you in and out with everything you need, at the best prices. Buying cheap paint is counterproductive, even when you are selling your home.

Secondly, besides the obvious -- paint, brushes, masking tape, and other supplies --you can also buy dropcloths at the paint stores. Dropcloths are the cheapest source for wide fabric suitable for slipcovers and draperies. I recently covered seat and back cushions for two large wicker chairs (see above photo) and a matching love seat for $27 worth of fabric from Sherwin Williams. 

Paint stores are also my favorite source for discontinued, free, wallpaper sample books. You can use these for all kinds of craft projects like drawer liners, framed art, trays, book covers, and DIY vases

Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar General are all excellent sources for
all kinds of essential home staging supplies. For example, at these discount prices you can confidently say to buyers, "Yes, all window treatments convey,"
(because you sourced them on a budget!). 

Dollar Stores

I’ve switched my shopping habits over to the dollar store for cleaning supplies and paper goods. And you can’t beat their prices for glassware, dishware, and placemats for staging your dining room table.

You can also leave with cheap candles (although I don’t like to burn these cheaper candles because they will put soot and artificial fragrance in the air), ribbon, shower curtains, light bulbs, curtain rods, picture frames, miniblinds, faux greenery, closet and pantry organizing supplies, pillows and other bedding, coat hangers, vases, mirrors, and even discounted hardcover coffee table books.  

If you have doubts about the value of these discount chains for crafting supplies and even home staging ideas, check out these posts about decor ideas at a site called Dollar Store Crafts

Craft Stores

I’m lumping Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Joann, Hancock Fabrics, A.C. Moore, and any local fabric store into this category. Usually, these stores are staffed with dedicated crafters, florists, and seamstresses who are happy and qualified to assist you. They know the right kind of glue, the correct amount of yardage, and the perfect combination of silk flowers.

Most of these chains have discount programs. I never go to Michael’s without a coupon! Always ask, “Is there a coupon that’s good for today?”  or “Is there any discount available today?”  Often the cashier will scan a register coupon even if you don’t have one in your sweaty little palm.  Or it might be the day of the week that military, or anyone over 50, gets 10% discount. But you don’t get it if you don’t ask.

Craft stores are ideal for inspiration and ideas you can knock off, whether it’s a centerpiece, a lampshade, a wreath, a color scheme, window treatments, pillows, or floral arrangements. Soak up what the pros are doing and put your personal spin on it.

   Often all it takes to transform an ordinary room into a beautiful one is a floral arrangement or some silk greenery. 
Good quality faux plants are investment pieces that will 
look super for years.

Other Budget-Friendly Sources

All of us thrifty home stagers love second-hand shops, thrift stores, garage sales, auctions, and even dumpsters for steals. Don’t forget friends and relatives who want to get rid of excess furniture, as well as your own attic, basement, garage, or backyard for things that can up-cycled as part of your staging.

And of course, there’s Craigslist, eBay, and other online sources. But today I’m focusing on fast shopping that delivers what you need without a lot of searching, negotiating, waiting, or repairing.  

Knowing where to shop for home staging essentials stretches your budget and helps you manage your time better. Use this list, and build on it by adding the best quick and cheap shopping sites in your own area.

To get more tips on staging your own home to sell it, download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. It’s a 150-page illustrated pdf that will save you money when you stage, and make money when you sell! I guarantee you’ll be pleased or I will give you your money back.


20 Real Estate Words You Never Heard Before

Monday, February 11, 2013
This is the kind of freeting every home needs.
What's a freeting? Read on!
When you're a home seller, you soon learn that the everyday English language fails you.

You meet people, run into situations, and even DO things that demand a new word. Like these I have coined:


Inflatable mattress dressed to look like a regular bed.

Bubble Bath 

A grandiose master bath built at the height of the housing boom.


Older home that looks good.


A price reduction because the home was cluttered with too many cute plates on the walls.

Drive-by Shooting 

When a home buyer drives neighborhoods snapping photos on a cell phone to send a significant other for immediate feedback.

Flip Flop

Home renovated to sell, but done poorly.


First impression the foyer of your home gives to those arriving.
We could call this house "a cougar." 


For sale by crazy person, a phrase used to describe a home overpriced because the seller thinks he doesn’t have to pay a Realtor.


Craft room

Half Baked

Kitchen not staged


A text message that the people coming to view your home (that you spent all weekend cleaning) bought another home.

Lady Ga Ga

A married couple tours your home and only the wife falls in love with it.
A leather sofa like this will not need to be "pillowized." Photo: brabbu


When you SO desperately want a room in your house to look like a photo in a magazine, it actually happens!


Towels exclusively reserved for when people are coming to view your home.


When a home seller buys all the staging accessories in one trip to Target.    


Neighbor from hell


Efforts made to cover couch stains with large, decorator pillows.


Shortening draperies and curtains by using masking tape or duct tape


White thrifted finds. All the furniture you bought second hand, and then painted white to stage your home. 


Artificial wow factor, such as an avocado refrigerator painted with stainless steel paint.

If you want some serious help staging your home, download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. You can begin now to DIY your way to a sold home!

Top photo: Meg Broff Interiors

Lighting Secrets to Help Sell Your Home

Monday, February 04, 2013
Wide, white lampshade, check!
 Pale walls, check!  Big lamp, check!  
When your home is for sale, the more light your rooms get, the bigger and cleaner it feels to people touring it.

Here are some tips to use indoor lighting and natural that gets those results.  

Up the Wattage

Kinda obvious, but often overlooked: Make sure all your fixtures and lamps have all bulbs with the correct wattage.

The emphasis is on “all bulbs.” How many of us have replaced a bulb in a multi-bulb fixture with whatever we had on hand? Or neglected to notice that, in fact, one bulb was burned out. Double check all your lights.

Replace those boob, ceiling light fixtures with something big and bold and reflective. Don't be shy about installing a chandelier style. 

When it comes to task lighting, you may personally like the moody look of subdued illumination, and cozy pools of light spaced around a room. But this is the kind of lighting that makes a room look small and cramped.

Whether you or your Realtor shows your property, it’s sometimes awkward to circle the room and turn on all the task and accent lights. That’s why it’s important that general, overhead lighting be sufficient.  

Other tricks for boosting the brightness: double up on lamps. Yes, I mean pairs of lamps in close proximity. Or, place a large mirror on the wall behind a table or desk that sports a lamp.

Best Table Lamps

If you are absent before a showing, you can’t count on your Realtor to arrive at your house before her clients do, and turn on all lamps.

In one property I had on the market, I put timers on a couple of table lamps, just to make sure that darker rooms were always well-lighted when I was away.

To me, the cost of electricity was worth it. No one said it wouldn’t cost any money to sell a house.    
Most home stagers prefer white lampshades, and for good reason. Darker lampshades will absorb light so that you’re not getting all the wattage you want.

Also, ditch the ditzy table lamps. They take up too much tabletop real estate for the little bit of charm they bring to a space.

Nothing beats a pair. Of  lamps, that is. I changed the way the cord exited the base 
on one of these elephant lamps so they could face each other.

Best Floor Lamps

When choosing a floor lamp, look for lamps that provide ample light and take up little floor space. A floor lamp that bounces light off the ceiling will go a long way towards increasing the size of the room.

An extension cord snaking across the floor to a lamp is a red flag to home buyers. It gives the impression that there’s a problem with the home’s wiring, even if there isn’t. Try to arrange lamps so the cord isn’t visible.

Uplights, Downlights

One clever way to add some drama to a room is with hidden lights that wash a wall with light. Make sure your walls are blemish-free and expertly painted when you aim a light at them at a sharp angle.

Dark corners in a room are no friend to the spacious look you want. Solve the problem with low wattage uplights that can be left on. Or place in the corner a table with a large table lamp. Wall sconces are another possibility. Some are battery operated so there's no cord dangling below if they aren't hard-wired.   

An unseen light behind a sofa or under kitchen cabinets give a room a certain glow. Lighting like this can often create a focal point or emphasize one such as a fireplace or some built-in cabinetry.

Proving the Rule

Every rule has an exception. If your home is large, make one of your rooms stand out as a dimly lighted retreat. It could be a romantic bedroom, a media room, a man cave, or a library. It shouldn’t be a kitchen, bath, closet, hallway, or children’s room.

This approach could solve the problem of a room that is already dark because it’s on the north side of the home, has poor natural lighting, or is so small that you’re not going to fool anyone into thinking it’s large.

What a cool way to hide a less-than-perfect view, but still
let in the light.  And there's always room for a creative lighting solution
like this sunny pendant fixture. Photo: Meredith 

Daylight Rocks

Are your rooms getting enough sunlight? Even if your windows are small – especially if your windows are small – there are ways to increase the amount of perceived light entering the room.

Keep window treatments away from the actual framed window opening. My window treatments ebook shows you how to make 15 different styles of no-sew curtains and draperies especially designed for home staging.    

Also, remove or prune outdoor shrubbery that blocks light entering through windows. Watch the way sunlight moves across a room over the course of a day, and observe what’s shading the room. It could be the lower branches of a tree that’s overgrown or too close to the house. People like open views. 

Work with your Realtor to encourage her to show your home when it looks best. Perhaps the morning sun floods your kitchen, but leaves bedrooms dim. Since many people don’t care about bright morning sun in bedrooms, mornings would be the best time to show the property. Dark and rainy days are not ideal for showings.

Of course, it’s not always possible to control the schedule, but it’s worth mentioning to your Realtor. 
You can't beat a white ceiling for bringing a room to life. Don't listen to people
telling you that the wall color on the ceiling will heighten a room.
Light reflection matters more.  Designer: Nate Berkus for Katie Lee.

Brighten Ceiling and Walls

I’ve given many ceilings a coat of fresh paint, and the client is always amazed at the difference one coat of bright white paint makes. Over time a ceiling can take on a dull grey or brown tone from dust, pollen, aging paint, nicotine or cooking oils in the air.

Paint sold as “ceiling white paint” is specially designed to be reflective because it’s a pure, bright white. It doesn’t have the durability or washability of wall and trim paints, so it’s usually less expensive.

If you think your ceiling can benefit from some brightening (most can) it’s not that difficult to paint a ceiling if you do half a room at a time. Remove the small furniture to another room. Scoot all the big stuff to one side of the room, and cover the floor. Then, working on a step ladder, use a brush to cut in around the edge of the ceiling, and roll the reminder from the floor, using a roller screwed onto a long handle (like a mop handle).

Make your walls feel clean and bright with wall colors that reflect rather than soak up light. Muddy colors with dark undertones will close in the walls of a room more than clear, pale colors. Use a flat finish rather than a finish with sheen. Flat finish tends to blur the boundaries of the room, making it feel larger. 

Light Your Way to a Purchase Offer

“Plenty of light” is high on the wish list of most buyers. Even if you don’t have an abundance of natural light, you can still go a long way towards pleasing buyers by putting to work my tricks to create the sense of light-filled spaces in your home.

Want more tips and encouragement to help you sell your home? That’s what you get when you have my handy eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. It’s just $4.99 and is an instantly downloadable pdf. You can start today to make your home the one that real estate buyers want.  

Top photo: Room design by Melanie Coddington, via Cococozy.

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