Friday, March 28, 2014

Six of My Favorite Home Staging Props

There are a few staging props that really earn their keep. 

Home staging that knocks the socks off buyers counts on many things: curb appeal, cleanliness, perceived value, move-in-readiness.

But it’s often the details that make a home memorable.

That’s why I’ve compiled this list of the home decor accessories that ought to be in any home stager’s bag of tricks. Consider them your dependable details that make a difference. 

Sets of Books

While a bunch of books on a bookshelf can look splotchy and distracting, a set of matched volumes looks rich, coordinated and deliberate.

Generously-sized books are great, and leather bound ones are especially classy.

Books used as a staging accessory let you convey a sense of who lives in the home – interesting, educated people.

Buyers on home tours do browse book spines, so for this reason, stay away from controversial subjects or topics that aren’t mainstream (Chinese erotica, history of the occult…). Also avoid obviously dated sets like 1980’s World Book encyclopedias. But, don’t put out anything valuable or irreplaceable, either.  

Best source or stage-worthy volumes is at a local library sale. I recently helped sort books at my library’s annual sale and was surprised at the quality and selection of books – all topics and colors, just what a stager needs.

Bowl of Lemons

I love seeing a glass bowl of lemons on a kitchen countertop or island. Whether you use a ceramic platter, a wooden bowl or a wicker basket -- the pretty effect is the same.

Think of lemons as the default dining room centerpiece, the perfect prop for completing a staged beverage bar of glassware, or the easiest way to dress up a foyer tabletop.    

There are couple reasons why I rate lemons high for home staging. One is that nobody is tempted to try and eat them the way they would apples or pears. They’re clearly decorative. The other reason is that lemons represent freshness. They’re tangy and fragrant, and even if you’re staging with fake lemons, the message is the same: clean and fresh.

The only thing that adds more life to a room is plants. But I'm keeping my list to six! 

All these lemons are fake. Who's to know? Yellow lemons seem to compliment any color scheme.  

Plush Towels

New towels are a must for dressing up a bath. Face it -- towels age and although they work just fine for everyday use, when you’re aiming for that luxurious, boutique hotel look, you want fat and fluffy new ones. I always suggest white ones unless the entire bathroom is white. White towels will always work in your next home.

Although not every stager will agree, I don’t have a problem with tying decorative ribbon or cording around a towel, to let people on a home tour know that they aren’t to be used, especially if it is open house day. 

Large Landscape Paintings

This prop might be a tad more difficult to locate and afford, but the results are dynamic. A landscape painting literally opens up a room. The most economical sources are the usual second hand places we all love (eBay, thrift stores, garage sales), but you can also buy budget-friendly new artwork that works fine. Or you can create DIY art suitable for staging.

Your landscape could be a beach, forest, city, mountain or rural scene. Make it match the mood of your home -- abstract watercolor you create yourself, one of your own photos blown up big and framed, a kitschy paint-by-numbers scene, a colorful travel poster, or a sophisticated black and white photograph.

Buy frugally and plan to spend more on the framing than on the art, because the framing is what puts art over the top.  

A landscape this large becomes the focal point of the room. Nothing wrong with that!
Your landscape needn't be complicated, detailed, professionally done, expensive, or even
include images of land. Seascapes are "landscapes." Photo: Bonesteel Taylor Hall. 
Matched Table Lamps

This beautiful bedroom by Tobi Farley demonstrates
how important a set of tables lamps are for a balanced look.   
If you tour showhouses and study photos of professionally designed rooms, you’ll notice how often the savvy decorators who plan these rooms use pairs of lamps.

Anytime a pair of anything is used as a decorating prop, there’s a sense of order and quality. Rooms done on a shoestring from castoffs lack the cohesiveness that twosomes add to a space.

Although you might be home staging on a shoestring, the last thing you want is to look like money’s a problem. That's an important point to remember! Buyers' perceptions of your financial situation will influence the purchase price they offer you. Write that down!  

Look wealthy. Look generous. Look comfortable. Don't look needy or you'll attract "bottom feeders."

A pair of table lamps in the bedroom or living room will help you pull off mismatched nightstands or side tables.

Don’t approximate this look by using two lamps that resemble each other; they must be identical twins.

The lamps should be placed close enough so that they are both visible in a glance, such as on either side of a couch or bed. Their shades should match, and they should both be on the same level.

Walk through your home to make sure you haven’t separated a matched pair of lamps, and then reunite them for staging.  

Plump Pillows

This lovely arrangement by Laura Liess shows how having
 matched pillows puts a finishing touch on the grouping.   
Pillows are one of the absolute best ways to add another layer to a room’s decor.

I recommend pillows in colors that flow seamlessly with the color scheme of the room rather than oft-touted pops of color.

You can still have fun with geometrics, textural fabrics, dressmaker details, and animal prints.

What to avoid: Cute sayings on pillows, pillows flattened by age, stiff pillows that don’t look comfortable, and an excess of pillows on any bed, sofa or chair.

Pillows add the custom details that give a room some interest and make a room look finished. They also suggest hominess and comfort.

The Takeaway

How does your staged home rate for having these essential decorating props? None of them are break-the-bank investments, yet they will all add value to your home and make it more inviting to people shopping for a new home.

If you like these tips, check out my home staging eBooks. They’re written to help you get a better price for your home on the market. At $5, they’re great investments. Guaranteed!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Questions about Faucet Choices, Paint Colors, and Wicker Furniture

Q: We’re getting ready to sell our home. The faucets in both bathroom sinks match the faucets in the tub and shower stalls.

They all work and are in good condition, but they are shiny chrome, and dated. Should I invest in new ones that look more in step with the times? – Sarah H.

A: Spend your money somewhere else. There’s no sense removing and replacing this kind of hardware that is functioning just fine.

The fact that they are all the same style makes them appear new-ish, more like what you might find in a new house rather than an older one that’s had repairs over the years when things broke.

I would give the same advice to people with “dated” hinges and doorknobs, and even window locks. Working, and matching, keep them! When it comes to hardware like this, unless you want to purchase pricey top of the line stuff, most of what you buy today doesn't compare to the quality commonly available even a few decades ago.   

Q: I am planning to stage the condo we just moved out of. It’s vacant except for a dining set, some end tables, and lamps. I’d like to add some wicker furniture because that’s easy to find at reasonable prices here in Florida. What do you think of wicker?  -- Erica S.

A: As long as it is in good condition and comfortable, I would use wicker. Make sure any cushions look new and that the colors or patterns are not too bright or distracting. You’ll probably need a few pieces of contemporary or vintage upscale furniture (or what looks upscale) as well, so the condo doesn’t look too budget-conscious.

I don't recommend using outdoor wicker indoors. 

Wicker doesn't have to be white. But in a staged room it probably
shouldn't be neon pink and lime green either. These simple wicker headboards
got a style boost from black paint. Photo: Liz Williams Interiors

Q: All the rooms in my house are now different colors – mint green in the living room, a burnt orange in the family room, peach in one bedroom and blue in another. I want to paint all the rooms myself, and paint them all the same color. Doing one at a time, I know I can do it. My question is how do I figure out what color that will work with all the rooms?   -- Justine P.

A: Good for you for tackling the staging job yourself! 

You need to determine what elements in all your rooms will remain in the house and then find a color that works with these “fixed fixtures.” 

These fixtures could be the vinyl or tile in the bath, for example, or the carpet in the bedrooms. I would bring home from the paint store all the brochures that feature shades of neutrals and white, and find one color that has the undertones that harmonize with all your fixed fixtures. 

I've blogged about the details of how to choose a paint color. And, yes, white walls are fine for staging!

White walls make it easy for you to use the furnishings you already own,
and white walls make it easy for the new owner to postpone painting.
There's a reason museums and art galleries use white walls.
It  makes a great background color.
Q: Our home is for sale, and we have moved to a nearby town. The house is clean and empty. What can I do to make it sell fast?  Don’t say add furniture because there is no way I can afford that.  -- Keesha M.

A: I understand. Although I always recommend staging an empty home, my experience is that if a house is clean, in good repair, and priced right, you will find a buyer. 

Make sure there is no deferred maintenance (a home inspection would help). The walls and possibly the trim should be freshly painted or at least look like they have been recently painted. And if there is carpet, it should be new or appear new. These are investments that pay off with a faster sale. 

Good appliances, updated light fixtures, and extra-special curb appeal will sweeten the deal. Here are some other tips for selling an unoccupied home.

Q: We are listing our home with a realtor. He took a photo of the house just after it snowed. It looks pretty but I don’t want people to think about problems like snow when they see the photo, which will be the featured photo in our MLS listing. The exterior won’t look great until spring. What can I do meanwhile? -- Rachael and Alex B.

A: There isn’t much you can do unless you have another photo of your house in another season. Most people don’t, so there is a lesson here for all home owners: Even if you are not thinking of selling your home immediately, having good pictures of your home in different seasons can come in handy in the future.

A photo of a snow covered property can be charming, but the profile photo
of your home on a listing should be current with the season so the home doesn't
appear to have been on the market for a long time.   

When your exterior gets some springtime color, you can substitute another photo. Meanwhile, just be glad your realtor didn’t photograph your house when the snow turned mushy, icy and dirty.  

Don't forget that you can get answers to the most common home staging questions, plus much, much more, in my $5 home staging eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

How To Stretch Your Home Staging Dollars

A DIY home stager needs to know her competition. Otherwise she
won't know if countertops should be granite and appliances
stainless, or whether laminate counters and white appliances
are just fine, as in this photo from Better Homes and Gardens. 
Are you worried about how much it will cost to stage your home? 

Do you dislike the thought of putting money into a home that you’ll be leaving?

I’ve learned that effective home staging doesn’t have to be expensive. Your home can attract good offers even if you don’t have a big staging budget. 

Or a mother-in-law who will loan you her antiques. 

Or an interior designer friend who will take your hand. 

Or a husband who loves fix-it projects and has the time to tackle them.

You can do your own staging and you can do it inexpensively. There are only two tricks to it.

Prioritize: Decide What’s Important

Maybe you’ve already made that list of what needs tweaking, cleaning, organizing, or dressing up. My first trick is to separate the Must-Do from the It-Would-Be-Nice-To-Do. Ask yourself:
  • Left undone, would this task or purchase give me black marks on an official home inspection?
  • Is this something I have wanted to do almost from the time I moved into my home?
  • Can this be accomplished without a reconfiguring of plumbing or electrical systems?
  • Is this something family members, visitors, and others also think is a good idea?
  • Is it a change I can take with me when I move?
  • Does it offer good return on my investment?
  • Do these changes represent features many buyers want, such as an eat-in kitchen, updated basement, or a modern outdoor living space ?
  • Do other homes in my market, at my price point, offer this kind of feature?
  • Does the improvement expand usable square footage?
  • Does the improvement make the home easier to maintain or conserve energy?

A home office is something most buyers want. If you can tuck one
 a narrow space, you'll be ahead of the game. If you can do it
on budget, you'll get good return on investment. Photo:LampsPlus
Now, look at your answers. Bump to the top of your prioritized list the tasks you answered “yes” to. 

These are the projects that should take your time and money. Either eliminate or place low on your to-do list those items to which you answered “no.”
But how much money should you spend? Real estate experts suggest spending one to two percent on improvements when you’re planning to sell your home. 

It’s always reassuring to know that statistically you’re within guidelines. That means if you plan to list your home for $250,000, your staging budget should be between $2,500 and 5,000.

You’ll want to spend it wisely. That’s where the second trick comes into play.

Source Right: Make Economical Purchases

Get Discounts. Always inquire about price reductions. Don’t demand, just ask. 

Ask people who do work for you if they give discounts for paying with cash, or if you pay an invoice within the first week of receiving it. 

The rocker is a thrifted deal find I painted white.
The side table is an old tv tray stand that
I upcycled by DIYing a mosaic top.
The planters are dollar store resin pots.
And the pansies are Walmart six-packs.
It all adds up to thrifty curb appeal.
Ask stores if they give discounts to military, ministerial, disability, AAA, students, or seniors if you qualify for those groups. 

Ask if the item is going to go on sale. Watch for sales. Print or clip and use coupons. Even if you don’t have a coupon for a store, ask the salesperson if you qualify for one. 

Stores will often discount the last item in a line of bedding, or the end of a bolt of fabric, or a chair that's been a floor sample, or a dishwasher missing a manual, or a lamp with a chip you'll never notice. But only if you ask! 

Shop where you have a discount or loyalty card, whether online or at brick and mortar stores. Shop discount stores and outlet stores.

Buy Direct. Patronize the local stoneyard for granite. Hire a handyman from your own hometown or neighborhood. Visit the largest area discount nursery for landscape shrubbery. Use online companies like Dalton for carpets. 

Sometimes buying direct means buying local, and sometimes it means shopping nationwide for the best deal. 
Buy Second Hand. Don’t turn up your nose at these kinds of outlets. Often you can find second hand places that sell appliances and furniture that look brand new. This could be scratch and dent merchandise, very slightly used, or come from a model home or manufacturer’s closeout.

Furniture from places like Salvation Army and ReStore have frequently been donated by people with money and taste. Garage sales are a source of deeply discounted furniture, appliances and accessories for staging because sellers are usually motivated. Your purchases may need minor repairs or just a coat of paint to make them perfect for staging your home.
Mike Row has personally spoken to Congress and
trade associations about his mission to change
perceptions of blue collar work. His foundation
awards trade school scholarships to people
willing to pursue a trade. Photo:Listal.    
Do Things Yourself. Know when to say yes to DIY. If you clean your own home as though you were detailing your car, if you paint your walls like a pro, if you mulch and prune your own landscaping, if you declutter and organize your own closets, you’ve put money in your pocket.

When I first began studying real estate, one of my teachers used to tell the class, “If you will do what others are not willing to do, you will have what others do not have.” It was just a new way of saying, “Work hard.” Or as Mike Rowe, one of my heroes, likes to say, “Work smart AND hard.”

But there are also times when not hiring a professional or a qualified tradesperson is shortsighted (or illegal according to building codes and local ordinances). If you decide to lay ceramic tile in your bathroom and you’ve never laid tile before, the results could actually detract from the value of your home.

Plan Ahead. Most trades and products have a downtime, a period when their cost is lower than usual. Although it may be difficult to plan much in advance when you are staging your home, and you don’t know how long you’ll be living in your home, this scheduling approach is still worth considering. 

For example, buy heating fuel in the summer. Buy patio furniture and grills in October. And hire the heating and cooling guy in the spring or fall.

The Lessons

Remember that if you spend $5,000, you can’t expect to raise your asking price $5,000. But you might sell your home faster, so fast that you’ll save more than $5,000 in carrying costs like insurance, mortgage interest, taxes and utilities.

Keep the big picture in mind, and don’t expect to make a huge profit by selling your home.

Selling a home is like running a small business, so think like an entrepreneur and make all your staging decisions cost effective ones. Time and money both have to be budgeted if you’re going to stay sane and get the job done. These are the simple techniques I’ve used and I’ve seen others use to make home staging cost effective, and you can do it, too.

There's more of this kind of sanity-saving advice in my home staging eBooks. You can download them instantly and begin staging your own home today. They’re only $5 each!     

Top Photo: BHG

Friday, January 10, 2014

Getting Real About Getting Organized

Every January we’re deluged with articles, posts, and interviews about how we all need to get organized.

Magazines and blogs feature photos of sparse, tidied closets and pantries like none of us owns. Pinterest boards swell with ingenious ways to hide cables, hang scarves, store coupons, and label jars.

Enough already.

What we really need is a way to get organized about getting organized. Sounds complicated, but what I’m really saying is, “Let’s step back and look at the big picture.”  

There are only two reasons to organize your home:
  • Save time
  • Save space 
Both of which are important to people with a home on the market.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that everything I learned about getting and staying organized I learned from a little paperback book that somehow fell into my hands years ago. Let’s just say that the name I wrote on the inside cover of this book was my name before I married Mr. Lucky, and we've been married almost 22 years. 

In a nutshell, Simply Organized, my bible for organization, stresses that getting organized is a two step process:
  • Simplify
  • Systematize
We all know about methods to sort through our belongings and declutter our spaces. My home staging eBook gives you all the tips you need to do it effectively and efficiently.

The beauty of what Simply Organized recommends is – not surprisingly – its simplicity. It’s an idea you don’t see in all the colorful ads for clothes hangers, storage containers, labeling systems, and shelving units, but it has made all the difference to me in the way I look at organization.

The advice in this book has helped me stay on top of things, minimize frustration, save time, feel in control, and make routines that are easy to turn into habits. Isn’t that what we all want and need?

Being organized means you have the supplies and tools you need for an
oft-repeated routine all in one place. When it's time for tea, I'm ready.    

In a nutshell, to systematize you need to think in terms of categories. You probably already have systems in place for some routines like setting the table, packing lunches, cleaning the car, and styling your hair. Ask yourself if these "kits" are complete and if they easy to get to and easy to put away again.

It's more important to locate your systems where they are easy to put away than it is to locate them where they are easy to get to. Think about it: when you are looking for your hot glue sticks, you're motivated to find them fast, but not so motivated to put them back where they belong.

Making stuff easy to return to your system makes it easy to stay organized. After all, what good is getting organized if you can't stay organized?

What Makes this Book Special?

After reading Simply Organized, I started making systems for repetitive tasks. Over the years, my responsibilities and interests have evolved, but I haven't forgotten what I took from that book. I'm not by nature a compulsively organized individual, but I'm always looking for easy ways to be tidy and efficient.

These are some of the systems I set up and use regularly:
My picnic kit sits in our coat closet.
I can grab it, fill a cooler, and go. 

A baking system that isolates all the ingredients I need for making bread, cakes, and cookies -- flours, cocoa powder, buttermilk powder, leavenings, extracts, sifter, measuring cups, mixing bowls. 

A sewing system that gathers all my fabrics, supplies, and equipment on one side of my studio. My jewelry making supplies live in a dresser against another wall.  

An exercise system that clusters in one corner of my bedroom everything (except workout wear) to help me keep fit and motivated, including my scale, journal, hand weights, yoga mat, and treadmill. 

A gift wrapping system that consolidates paper, ribbon, tape, tags and gift bags in one bin that fits in a closet.

A first aid system that holds most of what anyone needs for cuts, burns, splinters, and sprains. Another plastic shoe box holds remedies for aches, pains, cold and flu. 

A pet care system with all Misty needs in the way of medications and grooming essentials.

A mail system that makes dealing with the mail effortless. In addition I have a separate mailing system in a dresser drawer where I store bubble wrap, padded envelopes, a scale, marking pen, and packaging tape.

I've also built systems for flower arranging, shoe care, seed starting, bathroom cleaning, picture hanging, stain removal, and…well, you get the idea. Logical essentials grouped together that have a logical place to live.

If you keep party supplies all together, impromptu birthday celebrations are easy.
If my home were on the market, I would use a covered box for a clean look.   

Some Things are Timeless 

The interesting thing is that Simply Organized was written in 1986, and you know what that means: pre-computer! Today we all have our favorite systems for records-keeping, but the book is still a valuable source of concise advice and encouragement for household management of the bulkier things – the cookware, food, clothing, sports equipment, toiletries, crafts, toys, tools, and the rest of it.

Although their focus is slightly outdated, the authors will still help you get a grip on the stuff you need to either eliminate or organize when it’s time to sell your home. That’s why I’m telling you about it. I don't make money if you buy a copy. I just want you to stage and sell your home.    

I once read that a major indicator of intelligence is the ability to see the similarities and differences in a group of items. Think of those tests you took at various stages of your education, starting with Sesame Street, when you were asked to find “which of these things is not like the others.” So, yes, it takes intelligence to establish systems, but simplifying your life will make you work smarter and live smarter.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Year in Review: Helping You Look Ahead

Now that all the ho-ho-hoing is behind us, it's time to jump into 2014 with fresh goals and sweet expectations. A popular inspirational quote on Pinterest now advises: "Don't follow your dreams, chase them!"  Maybe you have dreams of selling your home.

My blog is supposed to help you stage your home.
It's 2014. How am I doing?  
With that possibility in mind, I've gathered the posts from this blog that more people read in 2013, the posts they liked and shared on Facebook, commented on, and pinned on Pinterest.

To this list, I've added the posts I personally think will help you the most when you are staging a home for sale.

To kick things off, in January I blogged about assessing your own staging efforts. Most people have difficulty judging their own work. I devised a simple test to see if your home staging tricks are all that they can be. Just answer the questions and you'll know if what you've done to get your home sold is on track.

Some readers and Facebook friends told me I was giving away too many secrets when I wrote about the pros and cons of tackling DIY staging, but I like readers to make their own choices. Here's what to read if you are wondering if you should stage your own home or hire a stager.

In May I waxed all nostalgic about my love affair with porches. Porches add value to a home, but even if your house doesn't have a real porch, decks and patios can be just as charming to buyers. Learn how to stage a front porch and your curb appeal can skyrocket. Stage any porch and you've added usable square footage to your home.  

I recently viewed a home and was asked what to change about the decor. The single mistake that stood out was a lack of pattern. All walls, all draperies, all upholstery and all flooring were solid colors. If you are afraid of adding pattern, you need to get over it! Please read this post to learn how to mix patterns.

Bedroom and living room furniture define the lifestyle a home portrays. Find out why
mid century modern furniture is ideal for staging. Photo: Bryght Modern Furniture.    

Since I think mid century modern furniture is beautiful, I'm glad many readers agreed. You don't need to live in a 1950's ranch house to make the most of this style's clean lines and classic textiles. Discover all the reasons why MCM designs are safe choices for effective home staging.

Who doesn't love a makeover? I kept the chair my friend Rhys wanted to throw out because I knew I wanted to experiment with painting fabric. It was one DIY project that received a good number of Pins, and a makeover I really had some fun with. Go visit my microfiber chair repaint.

My husband is a rock star to my mind.
He taught me all his professional
painting secrets. 
But this tutorial on painting an overhead garage door received even more views and Pins. If you are not a blogger yourself, you may not realize all the planning and details that go into making a good tutorial. When someone else is doing the work -- my own Mr. Lucky in this case -- and I am the photographer and note-taker, a tutorial is a whole lot easier to put together.

I wrote a few posts about how to stage a mantel, but this one seems to have the best advice, all in a nutshell. Learning how to put together a pretty mantel is an excellent exercise to hone your skills for tablescaping and accessorizing any room. The same rules apply. Check 'em out.

People who know me know I am happiest when I'm fooling around with plants. Whether you are a gardener or not, your home will benefit from a few strategically placed potted plants. Here's the skinny on how to choose containers for container plants. 

It's common knowledge that painting a room is one of the best ways to spend time and money when you're selling a house. As a professional housepainter, it drives me a little batsy to see people do it wrong, wasting energy or getting poor results. Please don't let that be you. Do yourself a favor and follow my simple room-painting pointers.

Those are my Top Ten. If putting your home on the market is part of the plans you have for 2014, I sincerely hope that these posts and my blog and eBooks help you reach your goals.

I am looking forward to an exciting year ahead as my blog continues to grow, thanks to readers like you. I value each one of you, and hope you'll continue following my home staging adventures in the coming months. I have so many ideas and projects to share with you!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Why Hasn't My Home Sold?

Delicious house, but no one's biting? 
Are you getting antsy to move? Has your home been on the market and not getting the showings or offers you expected?

If so, here are some questions you can ask yourself to test possible reasons. 

Money, Honey  

"Is my price fair?" 

Unrealistic expectations or an over-zealous listing agent can cause poor pricing. Work with your realtor to list your home’s assets and liabilities, then do the comps to see if your price is on target. An inflated price is usually the cause of a home that sits too long.    

Your Point Person

"Do I have the wrong listing agent?" 

Re-examine your realtor. If FSBO, consider calling a real estate company and discussing the commission and other conditions.

Look closely at the way your home is being marketed. The online listing should be tempting and accurate. The MLS photos should be clear and complete without being repetitive. Today’s homes need to be marketed in a variety of ways – the front yard sign, yes, but also flyers, Internet sites, open house showings, email blitzes, communications with other realtors.

Choosing a realtor is an important decision. Choose one with whom you have good rapport. Your listing agent has to be well-connected with other agents, not a loner or someone unpopular in the industry. If you have qualms about your agent, talk to the firm’s broker or owner. 

Problem Attitude

"Am I being cooperative enough? "

Make sure your home is easy to show. There should be a lock box on your property to make showing easy for all area agents. If your realtor has to give unrealistic advance notice to show your property, because you have pets or medical problems, or the house isn’t always tidy enough, then find a way around the problem.

A lock box won't ruin your curb appeal when your entrance is this pretty.   

Have a frank talk with your realtor and ask for feedback. You could also solicit advice from a friend with good decorating sense or a home stager. Double check your motivation and reasons for selling. Are you a foot-dragging, reluctant seller? 


"Is there something off-putting about my home?" 

Does it have too much personality, or problems that are a turn-off? Does it smell of untended litter boxes? I’ve seen homes with paint colors only an aging hippie could love and a back yard that only a pack of dogs could love. 

When people see a group of homes, yours may be remembered as the one with poor lighting or the pool with stagnant green water or low ceilings or 1970’s shag carpeting. Find solutions to these problems or expect low ball offers or no offers. People want homes ready to move into. 

If you decide to make major changes to your property, remove it from the market, do the repairs, cleaning and staging, and then relist. New listings get attention.  

No Temptations

"Have I done what I can to make the house desirable?"

Buyers should feel like they are entering a boutique hotel suite when they enter your home. If you haven’t been able to deep clean the house, consider hiring a cleaning service. A house can’t be too clean! Make sure all small and distracting décor items have been replaced with open space or attractive accessories.

Clean, functional and luxurious -- that's what buyers want in a bath. Photo: BHG

If necessary, update some of the fixtures like lights, faucets, shower heads, window treatments. Study my Pinterest boards to see what décor trends make sense for home staging.
The Economy

"Is my market too sluggish?" 

Major metropolitan areas are bouncing back from the recession. Other areas, not so much. If your area has way too many homes for sale and not enough buyers, your response might be patience. wait for a better season ahead. You can always rent your home until the market improves. 

If you just want to move on, lower your price to counteract the cold market. Calculate the costs of staying put -- your taxes, mortgage interest, maintenance, and utilities, then factor them into your price considerations. 

Buyers often won’t mention price as an obstacle to making an offer because they don’t want to appear cheap, rude or unappreciative. Instead they will say, “The bedrooms are too small,” or “I didn’t like the neighborhood,” something that can’t be changed. A low price compensates for all kinds of things, including obstacles like dated appliances, ugly flooring, poor curb appeal, or a bad view. 

Meanwhile, make your home irresistible. You can encourage buyers to make an offer by helping with closing costs, owner financing part of the price, or letting things like window treatments, big televisions, outdoor furniture, and laundry appliances convey with the sale.

Motivated buyers will find a way to justify your asking price. Photo:

Looking Ahead

It’s an introspective time of year, a time when most of us review the hits and misses of the past 365 days and sets some goals for the year ahead. So, it’s a natural time to examine why your house hasn’t sold. Here’s to a prosperous 2014, when your home will sell and you’ll find another home that your love. 

Be sure to download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. I've helped hundreds of people stage their own homes to make them sell faster. My book tells you how to ready your home for a quick and profitable sale, no matter where you live or what kind of home you have.  

Top Photo:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Make This Festive Felt Wreath

What’s not to love about a wreath? Like Santa himself, it’s round and plump and comes with interesting little surprises. You can hang a wreath on a wall or a door, or lay it flat on a table. Heck, you can even hook one on a chair, a garden gate, or a newel post.

The best ones are homemade. Try it. Let a wreath express the personality of your home – modern and glitzy, old fashioned and charming, historically accurate, or cutting edge creative. What’s your style? How can your wreath emphasize your home's special-ness?

Starting Point

Years ago, it took me a few seasons of cranking out disappointing DIY wreaths before I realized, “It’s the base, stupid.”

The way you begin the wreath is the most important element in its design. A wreath base needs to be a sturdy framework, and a good background that is handsome enough to stand alone. No skimpy grapevine circles or pine branches tied to a wire coat hanger. Give it some body.      

That’s why I love to use forms made of either foam or straw. Either one can be the start for this wreath made from strips of felt. It’s similar to the rag wreath I made for Spring.

Gather Supplies

Here’s what you’ll need: 
  • Wreath form
  • Felt
  • Ribbon
  • Decorative clusters 
The amount of felt you’ll need depends on the size of your wreath and how fluffy you want it to be.

One thing’s for certain: it’s cheaper to purchase felt by the yard than by the “craft square.” I know your color selection will be limited because craft stores sell more felt colors than fabric stores sell. I wanted a white background for this Christmas or Hanukkah wreath. 

I’ve also made felt wreaths using a combination of felt colors (see below). Felt is easy to work with because it’s so well behaved. It’s a “pressed” rather than “woven” fabric, so it doesn’t unravel and doesn’t need hemming. I chose to cut this version with pinking shears for added interest.

Another thing is for certain: a wreath like this is a whole lot easier than the felt topiaries I made two years ago.  

Cut the white felt into strips that measure at least twice the circumference of your wreath form. Mine measured about 1.5 inches by 18 inches.

If you don't have pinking shears, no problem. Your wreath will still look pretty.
These babies are fairly goof-proof.  
Three Layers

The first layer on this wreath is made of quilt batting. You don’t want any of the base material showing. I liked the fluffy white background in case there were any gaps between felt ties. The batting is rather snowlike, too.

There’s no need to secure the batting. The felt ties will hold it in place. Begin by tying one piece of felt, locating the knot slightly off center. Tie the next one snug up close to the first, with the knot slightly off center in the opposite direction. Alternating between these two knot positions makes the wreath look fuller.

This is the kind of work you can do while you watch your favorite Christmas movie. I doubt that you can mess it up, and if you do, the knot tying is reversible and tweak-able.

Whether your base is straw or foam, covering it with a background material
is always a good start towards producing a really finished look. However, if your base is 

a color similar to your felt and your ties are close together, a covering may be optional.  

Off-set each knot so that they don't line up around the center of the wreath.
Place the Bow

Once you’ve gone around the full wreath circle with felt ties, tie on a ribbon. You can make one simple loop for hanging, or tie a single bow, or a full multi-loop bow. I like the bow tying tutorial Kristi gave on her site, Addicted 2 Decorating.

I always place one big bow before adding everything else, even though I know some designers add the bow last. I figure it's the focal point, so why tack  it on like an afterthought?

I prefer wired ribbon over grosgrain or satin ones because the wired edges make it look perky and stay perky.

Next, I add decorative picks that I’ve either made myself or bought. Here's your chance to get as quirky, sophisticated, artsy, or funky as you like. Just remember that you don't want to add anything too valuable or too distracting. 

About Picks

I wrote last winter about how to wire a pick with natural trimmings. Wooden picks aren’t the best way to go with felt wreaths because they don’t pierce the felt.

Instead, you can use a variety of other methods for those finishing details. You can sew on decorations (like smaller bows, buttons, ornaments, and jewelry). I like the sewing method when I plan to dis-assemble and reclaim the decorations later.

I like to hot glue decorations like tiny toys and silk flowers onto the felt wreath when I know the wreath won’t be recycled. If you glue and want to recycle the wreath for another seasonal holiday, you can just remove the felt strip that has chunks of glue on it, and go on from there.

Thirdly, you can use straight dressmaker pins to attach decorations to the felt wreath. This method makes sense when the attachments are lightweight and would show glue or stitches. Pins hold firmly in foam, but not so well in straw. 

The blue and white winter wreath I made this year features silver ornaments and glittery snowflakes that I stitched on, pine cones and magnolia cones that I painted and glued on, and bows that I pinned on.  

Finally, use scissors to give your wreath a little styling, just the way your hair stylist finishes your haircut. Snip, fluff, and you’re done.

Hang It Up

Because felt isn’t exactly all-weather fabric, if you want to use this wreath outdoors, it needs to be in a protected area, like a porch, or on a door with a wide overhang above it.  I usually hang it on a wide plastic or metal hook, but if you are hanging it on a small nail, you might want to make a loop of fishing line on the wreath.

Hang your wreath where it will call attention to a desirable feature of your home, or perhaps dress up an empty area in a foyer or hallway, or even a decluttered bathroom.

I like to randomly mix three shades of green for a felt wreath
that looks like holly. Sort of. The "berries" are wooden beads sewn on.   
If you have a  rotary cutter, a cutting mat, and a metal T-square, cutting felt strips 
for wreaths goes lickety split. These strips were cut from 9- x 12-inch felt squares.

Given a choice I’ll choose a wreath over a garland, banner, or other holiday dress-up. Felt wreaths and rag wreaths are especially easy, economical, and fun to make. That’s the kind of project that calls out to me. You too? 

Remember that a staged home – complete with a seasonal wreath welcoming visitors and prospective buyers – looks like a loved home, a well-maintained home. You can get more house-selling tips in my $5 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar

I hope you’ll try your hand at one of these hardy, all-purpose wreaths. If so, please share your results with us here in the comments, or on our Facebook Group Page. 

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