Six Ways to Increase Your Home's Value

Monday, January 28, 2019
Unless you own a luxury yacht, or have hundreds of thousands invested in the market, I am going to
guess that your home is your biggest investment.

When it's time to sell, you want your investment to pay off, because, well... it's an investment!

That means you need to make some smart decisions.

Plan early

Before you list your home is the time to decide what needs to happen for maximum return on your investment.

You want to choose home improvement projects that improve your home's resale value without sacrificing your own bank account.

Here are six sure ways to add worth to your home.

Clean up

A tidy front yard tells buyers what to expect inside.
Getting rid of excess belongings, and then thoroughly cleaning your home inside and out is the perfect start to home staging. It's essentially free, so that's an awesome ROI.

Clutter, dirt, mildew, pet odors, and general messiness send buyers running for the door.

Even a home with fixable "problems" like older appliances or popcorn ceilings can keep buyers in consideration mode if the home is immaculate. But funny smells and other signs of neglect create a hurdle they can't always get past mentally.  

Even cleaning up your yard, pruning shrubs, adding mulch. and spending as little as 5% of your home's value on landscaping projects alone could yield a return on of as much as 150%. That's impressive!

Check Your Floors 

After cleanliness, the second thing home buyers will likely notice in your home is flooring. 

If your floors are old, mismatched, worn, or discolored, you won't get as much money as you would with better-looking ones. The fact that Americans spent $21.9 billion on flooring in 2017 indicates the importance people give to what's underfoot. 

Consider upgrading carpeted or vinyl flooring with bamboo or another hardwood. One Realtor I know just installed bamboo throughout her own home, with an eye to the future when she sells it. She told me it is more popular now with buyers than other hardwoods, carpet, or cork.

Another popular choice is what's called "luxury vinyl," the engineered planks that imitate the look of wood or stone. There is a wide range of prices, depending on thickness, quality, and patterns. Engineered vinyl is durable, water-resistant, and easy to install.

If your floors are in bad shape but you don't want to spring for a new flooring installation, you still have economical options. If your carpeting has seen better days, you can have it dyed, or have it professionally cleaned, or have budget-friendly, builder-grade carpet installed.

It's not a hand-knotted, silk rug from Asia worth 
thousands. But for about $100, it looks great,  
and is perfect for staging! Photo: Wayfair  
If your wood floors need an overhaul that you can't afford, you might be able to have them screened and top-coated, a simpler and cheaper process than refinishing.

Another possibility is to use rugs to cover the worst areas of wood flooring. Most buyers will peek under the rug, but first impressions will still have influence. My favorites, for now, are the new but distressed synthetic Persian and Oriental designs. They look convincingly rich but are inexpensive, just right for staging a mid-priced home.

Some people will criticize my suggestion to hide flooring that's not perfect. And I usually recommend that a seller never deliberately conceal problems in a home, but a rug is just a rug. It's temporary and easy to peel back. Certainly a home inspector is going to make note of serious floor deficiencies.

Make doors attractive  

Does your front door say hello with a smile? Is your garage door an asset? Doors issue an invitation and create curiosity. Make them part of your selling team.

Front doors are the visual focal points of your property from the street. If they don't add major points to your curb appeal score, give them some love. If they don't respond sufficiently to a good cleaning, you might want to paint them. 

I've already blogged about how easy it is to repaint your overhead garage door, and how anyone can paint a front door without removing it.  

Invest in Smart Stuff

Today's home buyers usually include some smart home features on their want lists. 

If you have an older home, upgrading your HVAC system will help buyers relax about the age of the structure. Replacing AC equipment components that are more than 15 years old can result in significant energy savings, but since buyers are entitled to learn what you are paying for utilities, the sooner you upgrade the system, the better your record will look to them.

Buyers are impressed with smart devices that will save them money or make their lives more convenient. If you have a Nest thermostat, programmable interior lighting, and an automated lawn watering system, make sure the agent showing the home understands and explains the savings they bring.

But if your new smart refrigerator has a touchscreen that creates shopping lists and lets you turn on the ice maker from your smartphone, don't list it with the MLS specs if it doesn't convey with the property. The same thing applies to features like security systems and your programmable outdoor grill.    

Freshen walls

This foyer sports a fresh coat of Benjamin Moore's 
Spring Sky. Photo: Meg Braff Interiors 
Unless you haven't lived in your home very long, your walls are likely ready for a fresh coat of paint. This is especially true if the colors vary from room to room, or if they are unusual, dated, dark, or saturated colors.

Painting gives you a better return on your money than any other DIY project.  

On this blog, I've passed along my best tips about how to paint like a pro, whether you are painting walls or furniture. 

Hire Good people 

Most of us need some work done by professionals, whether it's an electrician, an exterminator, plumber, house painter, or carpet cleaner.

My best advice to avoid substandard work is to get referrals from people or agencies you trust, and get quotes from two or three of them before making a hiring decision.

Minor renovations, as well as big upgrades, need to be quality work. If the home buyers don't notice shoddy workmanship, the home inspector they hire will. Work with local, professional contractors if necessary for larger projects, and be willing to put some time, effort, and skill into each remodeling project you begin.

Never pay for the entire project ahead of time. If a contractor does not have the capital to go buy the basic materials for your project, (paint, lumber, plumbing parts...) maybe he isn't the contractor for you. 

Stay in communication with people who do work for you. Politely let them know your preferences, your budget, your schedule. Show your appreciation for the work they do. I always buy the donuts for their first day on the job.

Get the look. Get the book.

Since you're about to start a new chapter in your life, it's time to profit as much as possible from your home investment. You don't want repairs and upgrades and home staging to end up costing you money that doesn't return to you in the form of a quicker sale at a better price. Do the homework and you'll be able to decide which property improvements will add value.

For more tips on how to prepare your home for sale, no matter what style, age or condition of your home, download my $4.99 home staging ebooks and get ready to attract buyers!

How to Stage Focal Points

Tuesday, January 08, 2019
I won't lie. It took me a few years to figure out how to determine and then stage around the focal point of every room.

The book definition of a focal point wasn't much help: "The center of interest or activity; the point at which all elements or aspects converge."

Eventually, I established a set of guidelines that helped me make the most of a room's focal point. Here's what I learned by trial and error, by observing rooms I liked, and by listening to professional designers.

Decor Definition

For staging purposes, your focal point of any room is going to be what is most inviting about the space, what makes a prospective buyer want to live there. It helps if the focal point is also large, attractive, and obvious to anyone entering the room.

Most built-in features, like this loft bed make excellent
focal points. Photo: Ash Street Interiors 
Examples are --

A stunning view of outdoors.

The largest piece of furniture in the room, and it better not be an old recliner.

Beautiful or rare architectural features, like a staircase, vaulted ceilings, intricate millwork trim, or a fireplace.

Built-ins, like bookcases, bunk beds, breakfast benches, or window seats.

A feature or furnishing that clearly demonstrates at a glance the purpose of the room, such as a desk in the home office, a billiard table in the game room, or storage bench in the mudroom.

Dual Confusion

A room's focal point gives the viewer a point of reference, a place to rest the eye and let the brain know there is a sense of order and purpose to the space, that it's not just a room housing an assortment of furniture and other stuff.

Some larger rooms can have more than one focal point. That fact seemed to fly in the face of the very definition. How can there be two centers? Turns out, one focal point is going to dominate.

Your best approach is to choose one focal point for each room. Make it easy for the buyer to quickly survey the room and respond positively, viscerally, immediately.

How to select

If you are uncertain what the focal point of a room is, ask yourself, "What's the first thing a prospective buyer will notice when she enters the room?" Then ask yourself if that thing is a selling point.

Don't assume a focal point has to be something that conveys with your home when it sells. If your gorgeous velvet sofa is the one thing what makes your living room look special, and your other living room furnishings revolve around it, let that sofa be your room's anchor and focal point. 

A grouping of furniture that function well together
qualifies as a focal point. Photo: bella mancini design
If the room's focal point is an architectural feature and you would rather not highlight it, consider a way to upstage it. 

In one older home I staged, the obvious focal point was the fireplace. But since it was no longer functional and there were large windows overlooking a woodland setting, we staged the room to call attention to the windows and the view. 

If the room has nothing distinctive architecturally, it will be up to you to create a focal point. 

When there is nothing large like a bed, couch, or dining table, you may be able to arrange a few pieces of furniture in a grouping to imitate the visual weight of an important focal point. An example would be two matching chairs, one on either side of a bookcase or table. 

Play It Up

To make sure your focal points are immediately visible and inviting, don't bury them in clutter. You may have to a rearrange all the furniture before you achieve the look you want. Your goal is to make the focal point both obvious and something that makes the room approachable and friendly.

Color is one way to accent a focal point. If the jumbo fireplace mantel or granite-topped kitchen island is the same color as its surroundings, it may not get noticed. Add a colorful accessory, or a prop that's oversized or unique to bring attention to it.

Look for dramatic pieces like this flroal display and mirror to help
you introduce a focal point to a space that lacks one. Photo: aji  co. 
For example, sometimes all it takes is a large floral arrangement (silks are okay) on an ordinary table in a foyer to create an impressive entrance. Other additions that will draw attention are large lamps or mirrors.

Experiment with what you have, or shop for some decor pieces that make a statement. Places like TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, eBay, World Market, Tuesday Morning, Overstock, and thrift stores are economical sources.

To make a less-than-ideal focal feature worthy of its role, make sure it is immaculate and well-maintained. Clean those windows if the view is important. Repaint that old bookcase if that's what centers the room. Slipcover that sofa if it is the focal point and needs to some spiffing.

Once you get the knack of staging your home's focal points, you'll see a big difference in how your rooms look and feel. And buyers will respond favorably!

For more advice on staging your own home, be sure to download my homestaging $4.99 eBooks. I guarantee you'll get all the tips and encouragement you need to get your home sold sooner for more money.

Top Photo: Lucy and Company

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