Thirteen of My favorite Things

Monday, December 16, 2019
Bloggers and celebs everywhere love to wind up the year by getting their Oprah on, and sharing their list of favorite things. So, I thought I would jump on the bandwagon.

None of the following are affiliates or paid product endorsements. These are the items that I love for all kinds of reasons. Maybe you will see something that strikes your fancy, something you did not know about, or something that solves a problem for you. That's my hope! 

Seeds from Pinetree Seeds

I've purchased gardening and crafting essentials from Pinetree for years and am never disappointed. They sell not just flower and vegetable seeds, but plants, gardening tools and supplies, natural pest repellants, loose spices and teas, soap molds, yarns and knitting patterns, craft and gardening books, and everything needed to make your own natural cosmetics and toiletries.

What I especially appreciate about Pinetree is that their seed packets are sized right for home gardeners. You don't have to buy 250 seeds when all you want is 15. You won't find better seed prices anywhere.

Celosia flowers I grew from seeds from Pinetree Garden Seeds. 

Original fabrics from Spoonflower

No matter what kind of fabric craft project I'm imagining, I know I'm going to find cloth to suit it at Spoonflower. Known for custom printing anyone's original designs on fabric, gift wrap, or wallpaper, they also sell dinner napkins, blankets, pillow shams, duvet covers, curtains, and wallpaper, including the peel-and-stick kind. So many mouthwatering designs in all categories, it's difficult to make a selection!

Spoonflower is a terrific source of fabrics for some stylish dinner napkins, placemats, tea towels, and other accessories for home staging. Lately, I've stitched up potholders to give as gifts for friends, after carefully choosing the perfect Spoonflower fabric for each person

If you can't find a fabric or wallpaper with just the right
 personality at Spoonflower, I don't know where you would go! 

Ghiradelli Baking Chips

As a chocoholic with a sweet tooth but also someone who values good health, I need something that strikes a balance. My go-to chocolate treat is a small portion of Ghiradelli dark chocolate bittersweet chips. I can nibble on these slowly and be satisfied, instead of destroying a whole chocolate bar! 

They're not cloyingly sweet, and I can remind myself that research shows dark chocolate has numerous health benefits. It contains antioxidants, minerals, and fiber that help your heart and blood profile, and that it improves brain function. Yay!

Headset

I like to listen to music, podcasts, and YouTube, but don't want to impose my choices on Mr. Lucky. My music tastes run the gamut from The Stones to Tchaikovsky. With this headset, I can relax, indulge in sounds I like, exercise, or watch movies and not disturb anyone.

Even without a soundtrack, these headphones soften background sounds I want to block. I chose orange, but they are available in five other colors as well, including neon pink, turquoise, lime green and bright blue.

Yeah, that's right, they are wired, as you can see in my photo. But they're adjustable, versatile, comfortable, affordable, and give me good sound quality.

Buckwheat hulls

The only pillow I sleep on is one I made at least 10 years ago. It's filled with buckwheat hulls.

You can buy a buckwheat hull pillow for $85, or you can order enough hulls to make your own for about $15.

The fabric cover you make will take less than half a yard of fabric. That cover stays on all the time, the way traditional ticking used to cover feather pillows.

Over that cover you can use a standard pillowcase folded over a few times, or make pillowcases especially for your pillow's shape. What a delight it is shopping the Spoonflower site for novelty prints!

The best part is that this source for buckwheat hulls comes from a small North Carolina company begun by a mother so her daughter, born with Down Syndrome, and others with special needs could be part of a business. It's a  win/win purchase.

The beauty of buckwheat hulls is that they support your head and neck gently, and never get warm, so your pillow will always be cool and comforting. Make your pillow just large enough to let the hulls move around a little, so you can adjust it when you sleep with it. My pillow is a lumbar style, but I have made square ones to use and give as gifts as well, and they are equally comfortable.

Unlike pillows made from synthetic materials, buckwheat hull pillows never take on a rancid or funky scent. You can wash the cover to your pillow by removing the hulls first. That's why I added a zipper to one end of my pillow.

This is my pillow, minus a pillowcase. The cover is made from two fabric circles, each one 6 inches in diameter, that are sewn to a single piece of fabric 18 inches (the circumference of the pillow) by 15 inches (the length of the pillow).    

Polymer clay

Polymer clay is fun to play with. It's versatile and just challenging enough as a craft. You can start turning out cool stuff without years of practice. It's not expensive to get started because some of the tools you'll already own.

I've used polymer clay mostly to create beads for jewelry, but also to make Christmas tree ornaments and garden art.

This medium does have some drawbacks. It takes adult supervision if kids use it because it's plastic and you don't want anyone ingesting any, so cleanliness is important.

Also, the clay has to be baked in something like a small toaster oven in a well-ventilated space. I bake mine in the garage because the fumes are toxic to both people and animals, although odorless.

Still, unlike traditional clay projects, what you see is what you get, you can get results relatively quickly, and the color choices are unbeatable because you can blend your own combinations.

No one guesses that my turquoise beads are not the real thing.
Imagine the possibilities for turning out your own
original jewelry using polymer clay to mimic different
 
stones, woods, metals, and plastics. 




Ipad 

My daughter and my younger son gifted me an iPad recently and I although I am still a novice at finding my way around, it's changing my game, making it easier to cruise around the web, to see more interesting feeds, and to be more creative and active on social media. I'll still use my computers, cell phone and camera, but I'm looking forward to expanding my horizons with my sleek, new device!

Watering can with long spout

It's just a simple vessel, but such an effective tool, I had to include it. There's no other way to water plants, indoors or out, without wasting water or splashing water where you don't want it, on a tabletop, for example. I also use it to efficiently rinse a shower stall after spraying and wiping the walls. It's kinda cute, too, pretty enough to leave out as part of a plant display.

My green plastic watering can holds just 6 cups of water
but is surprisingly helpful around the house. 

Etagere

For home staging, the etagere is super useful. It's as functional as a bookcase, but has more style. Staged lightly with a few decor pieces, or more densely with books and other objects, it fills space without crowding a room. 

This etagere has smoked mirror
shelves, which add to its appeal. 
I deliberately purchased one that had an Asian tone, with the pagoda-like top. I wanted to display some chinoiserie collectibles all in one place. 

My etagere is a piece from Wayfair and was priced at less than $150, a bargain compared to others I looked at. It's an investment piece that didn't break the bank.  

The finish was a bronzey-gold, so I sprayed it with gold that had more of a glossy finish. I can't think of a staging job where an etagere wouldn't add just the right touch.         

Rebounder

A mini-trampoline has always been a favorite of mine. I gave the last one I owned to my youngest grandson, and when I started missing my bouncing routine, I replaced it with this rebounder.

I need a way to get moving no matter what the weather or my daily schedule. Spending just 20 minutes on the rebounder gets my heart rate up, tones muscles, and improves lymph system functions, all in a low-impact way.

I realize that a 20-minute workout session sounds lame, but, hey, it's better than nothing at all, and a rebounder delivers impressive benefits in the shortest amount of time. I have never been athletic, but have always been active and healthy. At age 77 now, I'm not going to become Ms. Fitness Fanatic.

My headphones can reach me when I'm on the rebounder, so I can listen to music, which makes it more like dancing than working out. The handle makes it accident-proof.

My Keto cookbook

I know I raved about the Ghiradelli chips I love, but I've been eating a Keto diet for the past month. After a week of adjusting ("keto flu"), I'm losing weight and feeling great! This book makes it easy to track macros. It gives me menus and recipes. Those chocolate chips are for binge days, because, you know, chocolate!

The author is an authority on eating well. This book tells you everything 
you need to know about following a ketogenic diet.

Bergamot essential oil

Since my favorite tea to drink is Earl Grey, it's not surprising that my favorite essential oil is bergamot. The scent of Earl Grey tea is what makes it unique and so appealing. Having the essential oil on hand means I can savor that scent in other ways as well. My fave brand? Aura Cacia, for its absolute best quality.

I mix it with coconut oil and sugar for a wonderful sugar scrub. Combined with sweet almond oil, it's my go-to makeup remover. And added to witch hazel and some lavender essential oil, it makes a delightful air freshener spray.

Bergamot oil possesses health benefits as well. It reduces anxiety, promotes sleep, reduces cholesterol, combats food-borne illnesses, and fights inflammation.

I've blogged about the importance of using natural essential oils rather than artificial air freshener sprays, candles, and diffusers for adding fragrance to a home when it's on the market. Bergamot, along with other feel-good scents like lemongrass, peppermint, orange, lemon, pine, and cinnamon, are perfect for giving a home a clean, pleasant scent.

I encourage you to read labels. The terms "natural oils," or "perfumes," or "fragrant oils" are not the same as essential oils. 

Bathroom wallpaper

Sure, wallpaper isn't usually recommended for home staging, but in our master bath remodel this year, I decided to paper one wall with something that would cozy it up and also add some life to a windowless room. Every day I see it, it makes me smile. The pattern is called Palm Leaves Banana Leaf, and I ordered it from Wallcoveringsmart. One roll was enough, and the cost was less than $60 -- so worth it!

Wallpapering just one wall in our master bath made a big difference.
It created the feeling of an exotic oasis! 
Everyone has favorite sources, products, foods, people, places, and activities. Although I usually limit my blog to topics that benefit people staging their own home, I enjoyed compiling this list for you and hope you enjoyed learning about what I value on a daily basis. Now it's time for you to make your own list!

The Hidden Dangers of DIY Projects

Monday, December 09, 2019
Homeowner enthusiasm for DIY home improvement projects keeps growing.

It makes sense because enhancing your home with your own hands saves money, and gives you a feeling of satisfaction and pride.

But as fun and fulfilling as doing it yourself can be, many projects can lead to falls, cuts, burns, and bruises. Whether you're putting in a new bathtub, painting over old paint, or repairing a fence, it's never wise to ignore the old adage, "Safety first!"

Did you know that over a fourth of U.S. patients reported in 2016 that they had visited an urgent care center in the last two years? For someone in the midst of a DIY project, that visit could represent pain, long term injury, financial expenses, and a postponed or canceled project at home.

It's all preventable if we review some basic safety measures to keep you on the job, healthy and happily creating a more valuable home.

Start Right 

Every DIY project makes a mess before it makes something better. Clutter is your enemy when you begin because it only complicates the chaos as you work.

Starting with a clean work area -- whether it's a workbench in the garage, your kitchen's center island, or a full floor of a house -- is essential. When your surroundings are neat and organized, you'll feel more in control of the project. Less stress equals better focus equals fewer accidents.

I always designate a central spot where tools and supplies are returned, even if it's just a simple project like framing a page from a book to hang as artwork. When I paint a room, I keep everything I need in one place, in the center of the room. It lessens the chance that I'll trip over something or knock over a can of paint. When I have a hot glue gun project, I collect all the supplies I will be using before I even plug in the gun. You don't ever walk away from a hot glue gun if you have children or pets.

In fact, keep things like sharp tools, moving machinery, and toxic material way out of reach of young children.

These are the kinds of practices that save injuries, save steps, save time, and save frustration. They can also save you the cost of emergency room care, physical therapy sessions, and chiropractic treatments!

For projects that take up room, like installing overhead light fixtures, upholstering chairs, cleaning gutters, tiling a backsplash, or painting a deck, give yourself working room. Clear pathways to eliminate tripping hazards.  Keep cords, ladders, equipment, and other obstacles out of your way.

Another important part of starting a DIY project is a tool check. This is an especially important step if you're planning to use anything electric or sharp. Is every tool you'll use in good working order? Batteries charged? Drill bits and utility knife blades sharp? Electric cords in perfect condition?

I would not think of doing any kind of gardening, no matter
what time of year, or how messy or brief the task, without gloves
and long sleeves. They both protect me from insects, cuts, thorns, and dirt. Yesterday I pruned this overgrown Chindo viburnum with my loppers. 

Dress for the Job

While you probably don't need to wear a HAZMAT suit for most home improvement projects, you do need to wear what's appropriate for the job at hand. The wrong clothing could make you uncomfortable, distracted, and vulnerable.

For example, if you're wearing loose clothes like floppy sleeves, an unzipped jacket, any dangling jewelry, or untied shoelaces, they could snag on a moving piece of equipment, or make you trip.  Keep long hair out of the way as well.

Please don't wear open-toed shoes like sandals or flip flops. Wear waterproof boots if you are pressure washing. Wear workboots that support your ankles if you move around on uneven surfaces. Wear heavy-duty workshoes if you will be moving heavy things that you could drop. Wear comfortable athletic shoes or Crocs if you'll be standing on your feet for long periods. Wear shoes with good sole support if you'll be going up and down a rung ladder.

Don't Drink While You DIY 

More than 7% of the population aged 18 years and older — nearly 13.8 million Americans — have problems with drinking, including 8.1 million people who suffer from alcoholism.

If you drink do so separately from any do-it-yourself home improvement projects. Even a glass of wine can impair your judgment. Postpone the drinking until the work is done. I know people like to have friends over for a beer-and-painting party, and that's just foolish for all kinds of reasons. It's not good for your home or you!

When I gave a demonstration for my garden club on making a hypertufa container for planting, I stressed
the importance of protecting yourself from airborne
dry cement and toxicity from wet cement. 

Protect Your Eyes, Ears, and Lungs

Work glasses or safety goggles are designed to protect your precious vision.

You don't want any foreign objects in your eyes that can irritate, cut or scrape. Get a good pair and then use them loyally if you are subject to sawdust, cement powder, wood chips, tile dust, tree branches, metal slivers, chemicals that can splash or outgas, insulation fragments, or airborne sand particles. Sunglasses are not the same as safety goggles. 

You can protect your hearing by wearing earplugs, headphones, or some form of hearing loss protection. Wear them when you are around anything accompanied by high levels of noise and intense decibels. Many people ignore the negative effects that loud, sustained noise can have on their long term hearing. The damage can be irreparable, and hearing aids aren't sexy, convenient, or cheap.

Project your lungs from the fumes that can come from paints, solvents, and cleaning supplies. Read labels. Use adequate ventilation. If necessary, wear a full-face respirator, not just a dust mask. Those little white masks screen out only airborne particles, not vapors. Buy zero-VOC paints. Take painting and staining projects outdoors, especially when using spray paints and especially if you are pregnant.

Take care of the little repairs in your home early, and you'll keep
big repairs at bay. This photo and top photo: Family Handyman

Keep Up Routine Inspections

Home improvement DIY projects are more fun when they are upgrades rather than repairs. Routine inspections minimize repairs. Part of being a homeowner means there is always something to inspect before it becomes a problem.

Make sure your home doesn't have exposed surfaces that are asbestos or lead paint. Removing these materials calls for pros, but covering them with safe paints and new, impermeable surfaces takes care of the problem.

Check your air filters monthly. Watch that your gutters aren't full of leaves. Look for cracks in your foundation and any concrete surfaces like driveways, patios, and sidewalks. Check the expiration dates on fire extinguishers. Make sure no mold is forming in basements, window openings, or under sinks. Inspect your roof once or twice a year for loose shingles and damage from animals or trees.

When you keep on top of these systems, your home will be safe for everyone inside. And you'll save money because you'll identify potential problems before they turn into costly, larger problems.

Practice Good Work Habits

People who work every day in the blue-collar trades learn safe routines for the work they do. Use your own common sense and awareness to do the same.

Tackling home improvement jobs yourself can be enriching and fulfilling, but also dangerous. Stay safe as you work, and you'll be encouraged to handle additional projects to make your home look and function better. For more about working safely while doing home improvement, check these additional simple safety tips.

And for more tips on staging your home when it's time to sell, be sure to download my $4.99 eBook DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast for Top Dollar

Curb Appeal: Front Entrances That Say "Happy Holidays!"

Thursday, December 05, 2019
If you're like most people, your schedule is crammed during the holidays. And if you are marketing your home during December, there's additional pressure to make it look inviting and neat every day. Tall order!

You don't need to tackle new craft projects or break the year-end budget to have your home looking stunning. Just simplify your decorating and seasonal staging! Make the entrance of your home -- what greets people coming to tour it -- the focus of your curb appeal and homestaging.

Here are easy ideas for making your home inviting to buyers during the winter holidays. As always, it's about curb appeal!

Create a plan

Start by selecting a simple decorating plan. Maybe it's a two-tone color scheme, or a candy and cookies motif, or a Santa theme. If you have something that looks like a collection of antique toys (teddy bears, an old wagon, sleds or skates) collect them all in one place to create a unified look. Maybe the nativity is your theme, or angels, or greenery, or plaids, or snowflakes.

This is the approach professional decorators in upscale department stores employ to cast a spell over shoppers, setting a consistent, feel-good, mood. That's how you want home buyers to feel when they enter your home on the market, that everything they see is intentional, not lazily thrown together. It builds their confidence in the maintenance and quality of your home as a whole.

You'll need to clean up your outside entrance of the stuff of summer and autumn. You want a blank slate to spark your creativity. Collect the props and outdoor decor that you can press into service to cast your Christmas spell! With luck, you'll have what you need from previous Decembers, but you may choose to add some new filler items to freshen the look and pull it all together.

Start with a seasonal wreath on the front door.
I've blogged about
how to make a greenery wreath,
a rag wreath, and
felt wreath. 
This twig wreath cost me 90 cents at Salvation Army,
and the silver poinsettias are from Dollar Tree.

Add something to ground the doorway and add seasonal personality. I spray painted these branches white and tucked them into the nursery containers of
three small juniper shrubs nestled in a lightweight plastic urn. 

An assortment of evergreens on your steps is a simple way to give a
nod to the season and greet people coming to the door (be sure to de-ice the steps!).
The greens can be real potted shrubs, artificial topiaries, or just branches cut from your tree or shrubbery. Their containers don't even have to match,
the winning way the gals at TheMerryThought set up their front entrance. 


Keeping it clean and still festive, this entrance plays with simple signs of the
season -- a holly wreath, an evergreen garland draped casually over the doorway,
some logs and winter boots. Photo: InTheFields 
If you have a front porch or even a small landing where you've staged with
chairs or a bench, now's your chance to add some
welcoming winter accessories. Photo: One Sutton Place
Make your outside decor local as well as seasonal --
reflecting the charm of your area, whether it's an
urban or rural location. This wreath has a coastal theme.
Don't forget to add a fresh and cheery welcome mat!
Any garland or wreath you add can be real or faux as long as it is weatherproof.
This red door makes quite a statement. But I'm not suggesting you paint your front
door just for the holidays! It's not a good idea to cover it with a holiday wrap either,
because buyers will want to see your real door if they are serious buyers. Photo: BHG
The holidays are a time to go bold. So don't be afraid
of color combos you might ordinarily avoid for homestaging.
Pepto Bismol pink and bright red? Yes! Photo: JuliaRyan
Instead of a wreath or other decoration on your door,
the siding or trim near your entrance can be the
background for that festive touch. This wreath is
attached to the exterior light fixture. Photo: CitrineLiving 
This wreath of plastic sandwich bags I made years ago and it
comes out to play and get a makeover every Christmas. One of its best qualities is that
it looks attractive from both sides, so it's perfect for glass doors. 


Streamline your Decor

I love seeing home exteriors decorated during December with outdoor lighting. Who doesn't? The more lights the better, but it seems to me that the fun of putting up the lights and enjoying their sight turn into their opposite when it's time to take them down. Talk about unpleasant chores!   

My advice is to skip the elaborate lighting displays and make your entrance the star. This simple approach will free you so you'll have more time and energy for what counts, being with family, neighbors and friends at the end of the year and observing the traditions you honor.

I'm wishing all my readers the happiest of holidays!




5 Steps to Selling a House During a Divorce

Monday, November 11, 2019
As if going through a divorce wasn't stressful enough, adding the sale of a jointly owned home turns the process into a minefield.

Whether the home is occupied by both partners, only one, or neither, decisions about the sale will take ongoing cooperation -- something that's often missing when a couple is calling it quits. If you are currently in the process of divorcing, or perhaps contemplating a divorce, the more you educate yourself about your rights and how the home home selling process happens, the more you'll be able to protect yourself now and ongoing, as well as create a quick sale at a good price.

Dissolving joint ownership of property, although painful, is a necessary step so each of you can establish independent finances. Done equitably, you'll both will get money you need to start over.

The sale also allows both of you to see yourselves in a new light.

If you are sure you are going to sell the house, you should have already consulted a divorce lawyer. Laws regarding jointly owned property vary from state to state, and you'll need to know your rights. 

Then, to help you make sensible decisions and create a peaceful transaction, review these five steps to selling your home.

1. Choose a Real Estate Agent

I never recommend selling a house without a real estate professional, and especially when the owners are divorcing. The agent provides a buffer and acts as a mediator just by nature of the job description.

If you and your ex-to-be agree that the agent you worked with when you bought the house is a great match for you, see if that agent is still available. If not, you can each make a list of agents you know or who have been recommended. Then, you can compare lists and see if any one name pops up on both lists.

Alternatively, you could each enlist the aid of a friend or relative, and these two people could as a "committee" choose a real estate agent together. The important thing is that you not begin the process of selling by arguing about who the listing agent will be.

Do not hire a personal friend or one of your relatives as your agent. You want someone both parties implicitly trust and feel comfortable with, and you don't want to put a friend or family member in what could become an uncomfortable position.

Image: simplehousedfw.com

2. Decide on the listing price

You can't set a listing price based on how much money you need. Or on what you originally paid for the house. Or what the Zillow Zestimate is. You need relevant facts and figures to establish its current market value.

Your Realtor will give you the data necessary to determine an asking price for your property. He or she will examine homes like yours in your area that have sold in the past three months and then zero in on a fair price. The agent might also show you specs on homes that have sales pending, and homes near you that have not sold, including how many days they have been on the market, and homes that have lowered their prices waiting for a serious buyer. All this info will give you the big picture,

You could also pay for an appraisal by a licensed real estate appraiser. He will survey other sold properties and compare them to the condition, features, and location of your home.   

When you base your asking price on what the research shows as fair market value, you're more likely to sell quickly for a price you can't argue with. Rather than bump heads with your ex-to-be, you're deferring to the unbiased experts --- the Realtor and the appraiser. This deferring is a common tactic all successful negotiators use.

Your buyers, if they finance the purchase, will pay for their own appraisal, and it may not jive with yours, but that's okay. At least you've set your asking price and you're ready to list it, show it, and accept offers.

Once your home is staged, and you've removed personal objects, you'll see it with new eyes. It's always best if one spouse moves out, and the other takes responsibility for keeping the home show-ready. Photo: Meg Braff 


3. Fix and Stage the house

Before the house can be shown to potential buyers, you'll need to get it market-ready for the competition it will face. Here's where things can get dicey, when you and your "insignificant other" may differ on what needs to be fixed, removed or replaced.

Almost every home needs minor repairs before it is ready for showings. Rather than bicker over what needs to be done and who will pay, once again it's best to get the opinions of your Realtor. Making these decisions will call for maturity and level-headedness. Remember that you both want the same outcome -- a sold home, so it's no time for petty jealousies or vindictiveness.

If you can jointly draft a list of repairs and updates deemed necessary to command a good selling price, and then get price quotes, and split the bill evenly, that's ideal. Otherwise, one party might provide the labor and the other one the money. Or agree to some other equitable arrangement, depending on your financial circumstances.

Hopefully, you can both agree on the necessity of staging. Staging the home will help you both disentangle emotionally from the property. Once family keepsakes, valuables, photos, and memorabilia are removed, it's easier to see the house as a major investment instead of "our home."

DIY home staging can be economical. Try to agree on a budget in line with the value of the property. According to Realtor.com, a staged home sells for 20% more than an unstaged home, and staged homes sell 88% faster than ones that aren't. With these statistics in mind, it's easier to justify spending some money on things like repairs, painting and some trendy, new accessories. One percent of your asking price is a realistic figure to use when you calculate how much to alot for home staging.

Do not let your listing agent include terms like "motivated buyer," "must sell," "all offers considered." It only makes you look desperate.


4. Review offers together

When the time comes to review purchase offers from potential buyers, you'll need to work together to make sure you both feel you're getting a good deal. Your agent will advise you during this process, but you and your ex-to-be will ultimately be making the decision together. Follow the lead of your Realtor. You are paying for his or her expertise.

No matter what kind of offers you get, always counteroffer. It will keep the negotiating ball in the air and can lead to an agreement. It's best if your buyers not know that you are divorcing. It will only encourage low ball offers and hard-nosed negotiating.

5. Let lawyers distribute the money 

You don't need to sweat the division of the proceeds once the house has been sold. The escrow company will distribute the money to you and your ex after all the obligations on the house and other payments have been made. The attorney you hire will educate you about laws in your state. 

In the U.S. between 40% to 50% of marriages end in divorce. So, you're not alone if you are in the midst of the divorce process. Selling the home can be a rocky road, but it doesn't have to be. It takes patience and compromises for both partners to cooperate and trust their real estate and legal advisers. Once the house sells, you'll both be ready financially and emotionally for a new start.

For more valuable tips on how to get your home ready to sell, be sure to check out my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. Go here to see what you get!


Six Tips for Selling your Home this Autumn

Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Just because days get cooler does not mean the home selling market cools.

Summer may be over, but please don't assume as a home seller that real estate sales take a nosedive. In fact, fall is one of the best times of the year to sell your house.

Buyers tend to be more serious than people who were house hunting during the summer.

The weather is friendlier than in summer or winter, making home tours more comfortable.

And, crisp, dry autumnal air and colorful landscaping result in better photographs.

With cooler weather on the horizon,  potential homebuyers are looking for a place to hunker down for the winter. You can cash in on autumn's appeal with the right staging!

Here are six tips you can use to make your home look like the perfect place for homebuyers to snuggle up this fall. 

1. Use autumn colors

According to Michael Plant, Sherwin-Williams Director of Color Marketing, color trends for 2019 are both jewel tones, and sun-washed oranges and tans. Coincidentally, these are also autumn accent colors.

Of course, you're not going to paint your walls deep burgundy, chocolate brown, or royal blue for staging purposes, but you can count of these colors when choosing decorating accessories like your pillows, artwork, throws, wreaths, and vases.

So, replace your spring-like, pastel-colored candles on silver candlesticks with chunky, purple pillars on wooden pedestals. Recover your grey and white pillows with a remnant of deep teal velvet. You might even splurge on a new paisley duvet cover like the one below from Pottery Barn.

Autumn colors are soothing and homey. Warm wood tones and rich reds and olives are balanced here by plenty of whites. When staging, layer on those interesting textures. 


2. Add seasonal gourds

Produce of the harvest season, like gourds, pumpkins, and winter squashes are iconic of autumn. Any of these will add a touch of fall-feeling to your home even if you don't change anything else.

Arranged in a glass bowl or rustic basket, or on a generously-sized tray, they'll create a seasonal centerpiece for your entry table, coffee table, or kitchen island. If these hard-shelled vegetables don't jive with your home's color palette, change their colors with craft paint or spray paint.

No one says your pumpkins and gourds have to be real. Stores are jammed with adorable replicas to suit any taste or staging need. And I've easily made pumpkins from fabric scraps! Other seasonal props are feathers, baskets, dried autumn leaves, branches of dried berries, apples, pine cones, corn husks, terra cotta pots, logs, dried flowers, and shafts of wheat.

Keep your color palette geared to warm, seasonal tones and you can't go wrong. Feathers and faux flowers are from Dollar Tree,  $1 pumpkins are from Home Goods,
a
nd the agate-inspired tray is from Ollie's Bargain Outlet at $7.  


3. Check your water heater 

Anyone shopping for a new home loves the idea that he doesn't have to tackle any home maintenance projects right from the get-go. Before listing is a good time to give your water heater some TLC. Having a plumber drain your water heater and remove sediment is something a Realtor can let a prospective buyer know about. It indicates that you have maintained your home well. Experts recommend doing this once a year and pre-listing is a good time to do it.

A plumber's visit can also include a check of things like dripping faucets, leaking joints, or outdated pipes. Buyers will hire a home inspector, so you might as well fix these minor issues now. An inspector wants to find problems because it assures the buyers he's earning the money they pay him.

If you have a tankless water heater, a water conditioning system, or an irrigation system, make sure your MLS listing includes these amenities. If you have a septic system, buyers will want to know about its location and if it's had problems. The same goes for a private well that is used for drinking water or irrigation.

4. Inspect your roof

Another area that a home inspector will look at carefully is your roof. Savvy home buyers will walk around the outside of a home and look up at the condition of a roof. To avoid surprises, have your roof inspected yearly and earn some more bragging rights for taking good care of your home.

In most areas of the U.S, when your home is on the market in the fall it's likely to be a landing place for falling leaves, pine needles, and twigs. Don't let this junk litter your roof and drift into gutters and downspouts. A clean roof boosts your curb appeal.

Silk hydrangeas on your front door can handle the elements and stay looking fantastic through the year-end holidays. I love this chocolate door! Photo: House Beautiful


5. Revisit your door color

A front door is the smile on your curb appeal. You'll make a memorable impression if your door sports a bold color. I've blogged about how to choose the best color for your front door and also how to paint a front door without taking it off the hinges.

If your door color isn't one of the popular autumn colors, and you don't want to paint it, just clean it and dress it up a bit. Adding an autumn wreath and some seasonal touches near your entrance make your home look loved and shows you're in tune with the times. I have a Pinterest Board for wreaths to give you inspiration and ideas. And also a board for autumn decor ideas that are perfect for home staging.

6. Clean up the yard

A few leaves won't hurt your home's curb appeal, but piles of blown-in debris will ... well... contribute to that haunted house appeal!

Enjoy some outdoor exercise by raking any yard you own and clearing any pathways. Trimming overgrown vegetation will make a big difference. Small projects like these can determine whether people request a tour of your home or else decide to keep looking. First impressions count!

If you have a painted fence, it's a good idea to check it for damage. If it has signs of flaking or thinning paint or stain, a fresh application will do wonders for even an older fence. When the fence is constructed of pressure-treated lumber, it might need a pressure washing to make it look new again.

A fence like this is usually a selling feature that charms buyers. A poorly-
maintained one looks like work to them. Photo: The Fence Authority

Get the look, get the book

October in the U.S. seems to be the month for spooky and scary sights. But it's also the season for slowing down and getting comfortable, that sweet time between busy summer schedules and hectic winter holidays. Make it easy for homebuyers to visualize themselves in your clean and cozy world! My three $4.99 eBooks on home staging show you how. They help you prepare your property for a quick and profitable sale. Trust me. I've staged and sold homes in all seasons!

Top photo: Country Living         


What Your Closets Reveal About You

Tuesday, October 08, 2019
A closet says a lot about its owner. When your house is for sale, closets are part of the deal in surprising ways.

Closets are secret places, non-public areas that exist behind closed doors.

But buyers will open those doors. They will step inside a walk-in closet. They will peer into cabinets. They will stare at a pantry.

Buyers are picturing the amount of space they would have if they bought your home. But they are also judging the owner of the home, you.

If they form a positive impression of you, they will form a more positive impression of your home. And chances are greater they will be easy to work with as prospective buyers because, hey, you're a likable guy.

These buyers are less likely to low ball you on pricing, and less likely to put bumps in the road to a closing like demanding special considerations.

Staging your closets could make the difference between a buyer envisioning himself moving in or else questioning if your home is right for him. The National Association of Realtors has found that 83% of buyers' agents agree that staging a home makes it easier for potential buyers to visualize living there

If you don't give your closets -- and other storage areas -- some staging love, you could be alienating buyers. Here are three of the best messages your closets can give someone touring your home.

There's something soothing and reassuring about a closet that has items
arranged by colors. The wooden hangers add a classy touch. Photo: The Spruce


"I value myself and my possessions." 

If your closets are perfect examples of orderliness and style, chances are the rest of your home shows the same characteristics. You can emphasize those qualities by staging your storage areas to look neat and attractive. 

A thorough closet cleanse begins when you go through your belongings and pare them down. No one admires a hoarder. Get rid of duplicates, expired items, and anything irreparable or useless to you anymore. You want to showcase what looks new and upscale.

The average adult between the ages of 25 to 34 spends $161 each month on clothing. That's a ton of clothes. The time to minimize possessions is as soon as you know you will be selling your home. Not only will decluttering make it easier to clean and organize, but it will make your move easier and more affordable as well.

If you find it difficult to toss belongings, holding a garage sale can take the sting out of what feels wasteful. Use the cash to help with your staging or your move. Donating items to your favorite charity thrift store is another way to part with things gracefully. Tell yourself that set of dishes you no longer use will make a budgeting, new bride happy. 

My one unusual piece of advice I give people purging storage areas in their homes is to be on the lookout for interesting objects they can use for staging. That straw hat or those old leather riding boots that you never wear could become a statement piece of your closet staging.  

"I curate my life. I'm in control." 

We all admire organized people. Be that person. Once you've narrowed down your closet contents and zeroed in on items that you want to keep, there will still be stuff that is either out-of-season or takes up too much space.

This photo from The Container Store doesn't look like
the pantries most of us have and use, but it is a good
example of how attractive a staged closet can look.  
My opinion is that it's worth the money to rent an off-site space for the possessions you don't need right now.

Since the U.S. storage unit industry generates $22 billion in revenue every year, I think you'll find a facility near you. I've blogged about the best ways to choose and use a storage unit. 

Storing excess in the attic or basement is always an option, but it does give the message to buyers that you don't have adequate, accessible storage. Someone touring your home begins thinking, "If they don't have room for their stuff, then neither will I."

Stacked boxes of stored belongings make it look like you're in a hurry to move. Boxes stored in a basement or attic can be a visual distraction, and might even be a safety hazard. Although a finished basement merely needs to meet legal egress requirements for safe escape or entry, buyers won't be enticed by a crowded or unattractive basement.

So, turn that messy closet into something an obsessive-compulsive could love. Cluster the little things you regularly use and store them in opaque containers. Even a small closet can be made to look larger when storage bins and baskets match.

If there is a light fixture in the closet, make sure it has maximum wattage and that both the bulb and the globe are clean. Add battery-powered, stick-up lights and turn them on before a showing if the closet needs additional illumination.

To make a closet look more spacious, use under bed storage space for essentials you don't need daily.  I've written about other clever places to store excess when you stage.

An overcrowded closet says you don't have control of your life. Now's the time to tidy up!

"I have an enviable lifestyle."

Never forget that people shopping for a home want to move up the social ladder. A home purchase represents increased self-worth and security. If your home represents a desirable lifestyle, you'll find a buyer sooner.

Pretty things, plenty of space, lack of clutter, handsome
hangers, simple color scheme -- this closet demonstrates
some of the best ideas for staging a clothing closet.
Photo: Women's Day Magazine
The good life means you have separate closets for separate functions. The ideal home has a coat closet, a linen closet, a cleaning closet, as well as designated closets for sports equipment, party supplies, shoes, off-season clothing, crafts, and ... well, we can dream, can't we?

The closer you can come to this dream scenario, the better your home will show. Try to create a couple of  single-purpose closets. Perhaps you can cluster sports equipment, luggage, and off-season clothing in separate areas of one closet. Maybe you move cleaning supplies and tools into the laundry area, and then stage one closet as a gorgeous linen closet anyone could love.

In other words, put the pretty things upfront and center, and hide the mundane and personal. Don't be afraid to stage a closet in a way that's a tad unrealistic. Go for a unified look with matching baskets or boxes, and a color scheme that ties everything together. Create closet envy.

Don't have a junk closet in your home. Don't have any mystery closets.

Don't arrange clothing or accessories randomly. Organize by type or by color.

Don't store boxes, baskets, and shoes on the floor. The more visible floor there is, the more buyers are impressed. 

Don't use old, dry-cleaner, mismatched hangers for clothes. Cheap closet accessories send a negative message to buyers. Make them jealous of how together you are.

Don't include photographs of your closets in your online listing. They rarely look impressive unless they are huge walk-in affairs with custom shelving and minimal belongings.

If you plan on listing your home for sale in the coming weeks or months, these are the steps you can take to help it sell quickly for the ideal price. When you stage spaces so they look big and accommodating you've just bumped your home ahead of the competition.

Get the  look, get the book

You can gain more insights into what makes DIY home staging successful in my eBooks. Each one is just $4.99, and they are fully loaded with advice on how to make your home ready for market without driving yourself crazy. Click on that eBook link and you are just another click away from starting your smart staging today.




Top Photo: Forbes

Five Simple Changes That Impress Buyers

Friday, September 13, 2019
Staged homes sell faster and for more money. What home seller doesn't want that?

Now I will tell you what home sellers don't want!

They don't want to spend a ton of money on projects, upgrades, and decor that they would rather spend on their next house.

So, when you're staging and your budget is limited, consider these five simple ways to impress potential buyers.

Antiques

If you look at photos of professionally staged unoccupied homes for sale, you'll usually see furnishings that look like they just left the factory. And that's fine, because buyers like the look of new. It feels clean and trendy.

What these rooms lack is a sense of warmth and reality. Few people live with brand new furniture, and bedding and lamps and vases and pillows and appliances and rugs.

That's where a few well-placed antiques can make a home look lived in but by people who have an enviable lifestyle. If you have inherited pieces that have any degree of pedigree, or look like they belong in another era, you can use them for staging. Just make sure they are in good shape (a little distressing is expected).

"A few well-placed" is the key phrase here. Mix antiques, or pieces that look like good antiques, with mostly furnishings that look new and stage-worthy. 

You can't stage your entire home with old castoffs from your parents. Be selective. Mix things up. Often an older piece needs a modern twist to bring it up to date and make it perfect for staging. It could be grandma's rocking chair with a new buffalo check fabric on its seat, or a relic Remington typewriter placed on a lucite table. 

Organized Storage

Yes indeed, buyers on tour will open cabinets, vanities, closets, and drawers. They want to check roominess. They're looking for leaks and cracks and poor design.

Matching containers and a careful arrangement
go a long way to making even chaos and ordinary
household essentials look organized.  
The first step is, of course, getting rid of what you really don't need to store. Declutter, folks!

The second step is to store things in logical places. Keep off-season clothes and sports equipment out of sight. Keep grooming needs in vanities (or hidden for showings). Keep valuables out of sight. But keep attractive belongings in plain sight.

And the third step is to make stored items look like you really do have everything in your life together! Remember, buyers are buying your lifestyle.

Keep storage areas tidy, clean, and as pretty as you can. Cluster the little things to avoid the messy look of too much stuff.

When you stage, you needn't label your basket, tubs and boxes. It's only distracting to home buyers. You probably already know which basket holds the toilet paper and which one holds shampoos! 

Fresh paint on trim

The Internet is full of advice on painting walls. Painting trim, not so much. Yet a fresh coat of semigloss paint on painted woodwork like door frames, window trim and baseboards will really bring a room to life.

These are often the places that show the most signs of wear -- smudges, dints, and signs of abrasion. If you are neat and patient or else an experienced painter, you can do this work yourself. Painting trim is more time consuming than painting walls, so quotes from housepainters might sound high. Painting woodwork is the kind of DIY project you can tackle in small bites.

When painting trimwork, go with the same exact color, brand, and finish as what is existing. You may be able to get away with touch-up instead of a complete repaint.  

Large-scaled art

The mirror over this console table is low
enough that it ties in with the tabletop
arrangement. Photo: Whitney Campeau Interiors
Skimpy art on your walls downgrades the look you want -- the look of style and luxury.

Instead, decorate with oversized art on walls large enough to call for decor pieces. Use frames and matting that make the artwork look even more important.

Large art is your best friend when you have scant furnishings and need to fill spaces. Oversized wall hangings don't take up any floor space and they create the illusion of a  well-appointed room.

Make sure your art is hung low enough to visually connect with the rest of the furnishings. The visual center of the piece should be at the average eye level, about 60 to 65 inches above the floor. If a piece of art will be placed above seating like a sofa or above a console table in a foyer, it could be lower, so that it doesn't seem to float unrelated to the sofa or table.

Trust your eye, then make it a little lower.

If your art is a mirror, be certain it reflects something other than the ceiling or floor.

Matched sets

Budget staging often calls for purchases from garage sales and second-hand stores. But too much recycled stuff is going to look, well...like a garage sale.

One way to avoid this mish-mash look is to decorate with some matched sets. Look for lamps, framed pictures, pillows, twin headboards, side chairs, and end tables.

Just the right amount of symmetry keeps this living room from looking too formal. 
The pillows and artwork are pairs, but other elements are singles. 
Photo: Robin Stubbert. Designer: Kelly Hopter Interiors

Bedrooms are a natural for staging with pairs of pillows and nightstands. If you have pairs of vases, occasional chairs, small tables, upholstered pieces, or other furnishings, and you have them in separate rooms, I suggest reuniting them for a more intentional look to your staging.

If you look at all the above photos, you'll notice that they all show pairs of furnishings, whether towels or baskets or lamps or pillows. Pairs work in your favor only if they literally match. Painting two lamps that are almost alike the same color doesn't have the same power that duplicates do.

Get the look, get the book 

You can gain more insights into what makes DIY home staging successful in my eBooks. Each one is just $4.99, and they are fully loaded with advice on how to make your home ready for market without driving yourself crazy. Click on that eBook link and you are just another click away from starting your smart staging today.

Top Photo: House & Home. Photographer: Alex Lukey. Designer: Sam Sacks.



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