Four Ways to Beautify Your Home

Monday, May 16, 2016
Does the thought of staging your own home overwhelm you?

Not sure where to start?

Confused about what you need to do to attract a buyer?

Worried about the competition and how much money you’ll spend?

And how much time you’ll devote?

If that sounds like you, relax. You’re normal! Depending on the condition of your home, its price and your market, staging can happen in a day, a year, or anything in between. And the budget for time and money can range from minimal to frightening.
But one thing is certain. If you concentrate on the following simple projects, your home will look like it’s had a beauty makeover, even if you don’t tackle any major projects.

Add Some Surprises

Tips about how to stage a home always include advice about using a monochromatic color scheme. But that doesn’t mean a home should look bland. The place to put splashes of color is where you want people to look.

Once you determine the focal points in your home, like the dynamite seating area pictured above, think of ways to bring attention to them. Color is the easiest way. Here are samples.

  • To emphasize a fireplace, stage the mantel with items that introduce a new color to the room. 
  • When the view is special, window treatments that add color will pull the eye in that direction. 
  • A gorgeous entryway deserves some special artwork or colorful furniture. 
  • Strong colors on outdoor furniture will show off your home’s outside living space. 
  • A colorful headboard will add focus to a bedroom that lacks architectural interest.

Make Monochrome Work for You

The best-staged homes have a seamless color scheme. Here’s an easy way to determine if you already have a color scheme that makes your home feel as large as possible: Ask yourself if you can move furnishings from one room to another and still have the colors looking like they belonged. Would your choice of throw pillows for your living room still look good in your bedroom? Would the curtains in the family room look good in other rooms as well?

It sounds boring, but trust me, your home will look bigger, cleaner and newer with totally coordinated colors.

This use of a simple and consistent color palette is especially important to problematic floor plans, where rooms may seem to be isolated or cramped

Big art gives the impression of spaciousness and adds a
focal point, calling attention towards one area of a room. 
How to achieve this? The short and simple list is paint and fabrics. Here are examples. 

  • Spray paint lamp bases, vases, and other small accessories that don’t fit your new and improved color scheme. 
  • Recover pillows that need a color switch. 
  • Paint all interior walls the same color. 
  • Use slipcovers to make upholstered pieces match. 
  • Paint or recover upholstered pieces. Yes, it’s possible
  • Re-paint furniture that’s already painted, converting it to one of your chosen colors.

Create a Sense of place

Everyone wants to feel part of a group or family they are proud of. You can capitalize on that desire by promoting your location. Choose what’s special about where you live – the neighborhood, the climate, the view, the history, the multi-ethnicity – and promote it in your staging as well as your MLS listing.

Here some examples of ways to promote location. 
  • Hang a poster on the wall that advertises a local event or destination such as the annual art festival or an historic site in town. 
  • Display tennis rackets or golf clubs in the family room to emphasize the nearby community courts or golf course. 
  • Add coffee table books about your city, town, neighborhood or area of the country. 
  • Landscape to emphasize your environment, like flowers, shrubs, hardscape and even garden art that is special or indigenous to your area.
Just because a room is decorated around a simple color scheme --
as in this black and white bedroom -- doesn't mean the space will look dull. 

Go Big or Put It Away

Oversized accessories are what give a space some weight and importance. Get rid of the small stuff and substitute some accessories with mass.

The easiest way to accomplish this is to do a walk-through of your home and make a decision on any item smaller than a coffee mug. Ask yourself, does it add appeal to the room? If you decide it should stay, and it is small, you can cluster it with other items on a tray, mantel or shelf. If it’s too functional on a daily basis to discard, can you stash it inside a handsome container?

Anything small in this beautiful vanity area bath has been gathered in
a basket to reduce visual clutter. Photo: Traditional Home
Here are suggestions for supersizing.
  • Remove small area rugs unless essential to keep outside dirt from entering your home. 
  • Clear countertops and stage with big, decorative items. Hide the unsexy things inside pretty things. 
  • Replace small lamps and other necessary furnishings with simple, larger ones. 
  • Store small decorative items until you move to your next home. 
  • Clean up your bookshelves by removing small items. 
  • Replace small wall art with larger pieces, and yes, you can DIY big art!

You’ve got this.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there are certain universal features that all eyes agree on, like cleanliness, spaciousness, and comfort. You can make a home more beautiful and irresistible to buyers by focusing on those desires.

Are you staging your own home? Do you stage other people’s homes? You’ll find advice like this and so much more in my $4.99 eBooks.

Top image: Traditional Home

Three Steps to a Quicker Home Sale

Friday, February 12, 2016
Are you waiting for your home to sell?
Or are you doing more than just waiting?
It’s common for sellers to put their home up for sale, and wait…and wait. And wonder why they’re not getting offers.

Let’s assume that your home is in good shape and that it is clean and staged to appeal to most buyers.

Your Realtor has priced it competitively.
You’ve had showings. And you’re still waiting for a serious offer. Maybe there’s more you can do. Maybe selling your home faster for a better price is as simple as making friends, or more accurately, nurturing friendships. Here’s what I mean.

Befriend the Buyer

No one likes a friend who’s needy, demanding or deceptive.

You don’t have to become friends with every prospective buyer, but being friendly will go a long way towards building trust. Generally, it’s unwise to meet the buyer, but you can still look like the good guy by being honest about your property in the MLS listing and when you respond genuinely and promptly to any questions or concerns they have.

Be honest in your staging techniques as well. Never hide serious problems behind furnishings or landscaping. This kind of trickery has been known to erode trust between seller and buyer, and often blow the entire deal out of the water.

Paperwork that shows you have maintained 
your home always impresses a buyer.
Another way to befriend the buyer is to make sure all the necessary paperwork is available and accurate. Buyers are impressed when a home seller has records of repairs and upgrades, user manuals and warranties for major appliances, and receipts from paid utilities and taxes. Not only does it build faith in the homeowner’s thoroughness, but it helps prospective buyers predict their actual costs.

As soon as buyers show interest in a home -- whether they read the specs online, hear about your place from their agent, or see the for sale sign when they drive by -- they form a mental image of you, the seller. You want that image to be favorable.

To that end, keep your home clean and repaired. Cleanliness matters. It makes people feel good. It helps them think clearly. It gives them confidence.

Make it easy for them to tour the home, even on short notice. Everyone wants a friend who’s obliging.

Neighbors close by can help you sell your home, 
so don't keep them in the dark.

Be courteous

When you receive an offer, any offer, always counter with your own offer. A friend never rebuffs or ignores you.

You don’t want to reveal too much about yourself, especially anything that could encourage the buyer to chip away at your asking price or make a low ball offer. If you are getting a divorce, or have to move by a certain date, or are nearing foreclosure, that’s none of their business.

Most people, in the absence of real information, will fill in the blanks with wishful thinking. They want to believe you are a good, hardworking, ordinary citizen wanting to sell your home to them at a fair price.

Befriend the Realtor

Although selling a home is a little like running a small business, it’s also like cultivating a friendship. You can’t be inconsiderate and expect your Realtor to behave like a saint. Be polite when you talk. Be professional when you make decisions. Take her advice. Show appreciation for her assistance.

The relationship you cultivate with 
your listing agent is one of the 
most important relationships you can have.
I wrote about more ways to be the perfect client when I wrote about the reasons your home isn’t selling.

Befriend Anyone

The more people know that your property is for sale, the greater the chances that it will sell sooner rather than later. You don’t have to plaster your neighborhood with posters (in fact, most Realtors don’t want you to circulate your own literature) or email everyone where you work, but you can still spread the word.

Your neighbors will know your home is on the market, but they may not have the details. You can help your agent (and yourself!) by keeping the brochure box out front stocked with clean, dry, printed handouts of your MLS listing.

Some sellers don’t want co-workers to know they are selling their home. If that’s you, examine your reasons for secrecy. If there are valid reasons to keep the matter under wraps, like a confidential transfer within the company, or a pending job offer that requires relocation, or that creepy guy in the mailroom who looks like a stalker, that’s one thing. But if you just don’t like the idea of the people you work with knowing how your house is priced, you could be sabotaging a potential sale.

Harness your social and business networks to let people know that your home is listed. You might even begin spreading the word prior to listing with a Realtor, but make sure you have made any upgrades or repairs you’ve planned. It’s also smart to declutter, clean, and start staging before you invite the neighbors over for a party where you’ll casually drop the fact that you’ll be selling soon. Most people would like to have someone they know and like move into their neighborhood. That means your neighbors can be part of your unofficial publicity committee.

The quicker your home sells, the better. There’s less stress, and less financial obligations like taxes, insurance and utilities. The longer your home is on the market, the more “stale” it looks to prospective buyers and agents alike. Following this three-step path to become a better seller will put you on the fast track to that incoming purchase offer.

You'll discover even more tips to make your home staging successful when you download my $4.99 home staging eBooks. It's easy when someone who's been there passes along advice learned in the trenches. Satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back!

How to Choose Your Real Estate Agent

Thursday, January 07, 2016
When I first started investing in real estate, I had no idea how to select a real estate agent.

I counted on the advice on friends, and on which agent had the most listings, and even how I liked the way she sounded on the phone.

Although some of my approaches might have worked out okay, I know now that they were just as likely to connect me with an agent not suited to the task at hand.

I was lucky in that I eventually found Realtors I loved working with.

I want to pass along these ten danger signs that an agent isn’t the right fit for you. Once you understand the signals, you’re more likely to connect with an agent who will make your home selling process a smooth and profitable one.

1. Prices your house wrong

The agent suggests a listing price that is much higher than what other agents suggest. You should be interviewing at least three agents. Too low and you could be leaving money on the table. Too high and the home will sit on the market. All agents have access to the same comps to determine fair market value for your home.

2. Lives elsewhere

The agent lives in another town. He probably doesn’t know your neighborhood as well as someone more local, and it may not be convenient for him to always show the property.

3. Sticky situation

The agent is a friend, relative, or friend of a friend. It’s always best to keep serious business transactions separate from your social or family life. Decisions should be based on facts and reason instead of emotional ties of loyalty or obligation. If you want to hire a friend or relative as your agent, make sure he doesn't wave any of the other flags listed here.

4. Out of the loop

The agent is not familiar with online marketing. Any agent who does not have an online presence and is not comfortable with ordinary functions like emails, texting and virtual tours cannot compete with the tech-savvy buyers that saturate the market. Find someone who’s up-to-date. Having a working knowledge of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype is a good sign.

5. Lousy photographer

The agent does not make an effort to take good photographs or arrange for a professional photographer. Without good photos, your home will sink to the bottom of the market because buyers usually begin their home search online looking at pictures. An agent who is a poor photographer is often one that does not endorse home staging, and I guess you already know where I stand on that!
The Realtor you choose should be able to provide you with both great interior and exterior photos. Photo: Architectural Digest.

6. Poor communicator

The agent is difficult to reach, won’t return phone calls, doesn’t answer all your questions, or won’t explain to you the marketing strategy she plans for selling your home. Communication is key to building a solid, trustworthy, and pleasant relationship. Ask how the agent prefers to communicate, whether texting, phone calls or emails to see if it fits your preference.

7. Bad match

The agent typically sells homes that are dramatically above or below how your home will be priced. Look at the listings of the agent and see if the buyers and sellers she usually works with are similar to you. While you’re looking at her listings, read them to determine if the properties are being marketed well. The listings should be inviting and informative.

8. Wrong Age

The agent is either very young or very old. Younger agents may not have the experience and older ones may not be in touch with what young buyers expect in the way of speed and service. Age alone isn't any reason to skip over an agent because a new agent might be more motivated and an older one might have a long list of people ready to buy, but age should be part of your criteria.

9. Hobbyist

The agent sells real estate as a part-time job. You want a full-time agent, dedicated to his job, who can be available when buyers and you need him, and has no conflict of interests. He should also dress and act professionally.

10. No magic

The agent and you just don’t seem to have a “good fit.” This one is difficult to describe because it has to do with following your gut. Are you comfortable with the Realtor? Do you feel better or worse after a discussion with him? Does he share his expertise and contacts with you? Do you trust his negotiation skills? Do you feel he’s willing to go the extra mile to help sell your home? Your initial instincts are usually correct.

Once you decide to put your home on the market, ordering my home staging ebook and hiring the right agent are the next important decisions you’ll make. The wrong agent will slow the sale of your home, fail to find the buyer you want, and make the selling process stressful and complicated. But the right one makes it look easy. So keep these tips in mind when you interview Realtors.

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