Monday, August 30, 2010

Painting Your Home? Here's Advice About Dropcloths

Mr. Lucky likes to use a carpet scrap for a dropcloth.

If you are planning to paint your staged home, good for you! A DIY paint job done well brings terrific returns on your investment. The best part is that your investment is more time than money.   

When you pay for professional painting, most of what you are paying for is labor. So, if you can do the work, you can save the money. 

MESSES. A striking difference between the inexperienced and the professional painter is the amount of paint the beginner gets where paint is not supposed to be. That's what dropcloths are for -- protecting surfaces. They won't protect you, though. That's what gloves, a hat, long sleeves, and painters pants are for. But dressing for painting is a blog post for another day.

EDGES ONLY. When you are painting walls, it is not necessary to cover the entire room with dropcloths.  You want to protect the perimeter of the room and any raised surfaces that are fixed to the walls, like counter tops, built-in cabinets, or tub and toilets.  A small dropcloth in the center of the room will give you a safe surface where you can pour up paint and keep supplies.

WHAT SIZE. Around the room's perimeter, all you need is a dropcloth less than 2 feet wide. (Of course, any furniture will be pushed towards the middle of the room.) In the photo above, you see Mr. Lucky's preference -- an 18-inch wide piece of scrap carpeting. It works well because it lies flat and can easily be kicked or dragged along as he moves around the room. If you use this system, just be certain to keep the roller over the carpet scrap at all times.

WHAT KIND. Most people think of canvas dropcloths when they think of professional painters.  These cloths are good because they are impervious to paint and the cover all kinds of surfaces without shifting.  If you don't have a canvas dropcloth and don't want to buy one, I suggest a paper dropcloth designed to be used multiple times, but not forever. Some types are heavy, flexible paper, and some are plastic-backed.

SAVE MONEY. For a budget version of a handy dropcloth, look in second hand stores for vinyl-backed curtains and drapes. If you cut off the pleated top edge, you'll have a versatile dropcloth that's small enough to be washable but large enough to provide good protection.

DON'T DO THIS. If you plan to throw down plastic sheeting to protect floors, don't. Paint that splatters and drips onto plastic does not dry, and before you know it, you've stepped in drips and tracked paint onto carpets or flooring.   

Also do not use cardboard (too slippery), newspaper (too unreliable), or "contractor's" rosin paper (too stiff and shifty). In a pinch, an old sheet, folded to lay in two or three layers will sub for a dropcloth.

INVESTMENT. Painting is the one of the best real estate enhancements you can do yourself. Having the right supplies, like dropcloths that do what they are supposed to do, will help you do a cleaner job, and make your home on the market more appealing to buyers.

My eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, gives you plenty more tips to work efficiently and effectively when you prepare your home for sale. Why go it alone, when I can be holding your hand? 


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Good News for House Sellers

A walk-in shower is a definite upgrade for today's buyer.

I try to stay current with trends in real estate.

Not only do I have a home on the market, but I want to help you sell your home, so learning about what's happening to the U.S. economy and the housing market is part of my job.

Today I read an article from RISMEDIA, (the RIS stands for real estate information systems). In an item dated August 23, 2010, RIS summarized a recent report from two government agencies -- the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

These departments look closely at our nation's housing market, and pass their findings on to other government departments.

This report showed that in July, housing prices remained level after 30 straight months of decline. I see that as good news.

Also, the report noted, historic low interest rates continue to promote home affordability and refinancing options for Americans. That's more good news.

RIS pointed out that the housing market still remains fragile as evidenced by a slight increase in foreclosure starts and with serious delinquencies continuing to work through the pipeline.

What this news might mean to you is that you needn't assume your home will depreciate further.  Of course, in some markets, mostly large metro areas, values have not gone down.  I hope your home's value has been stable.

Something else I take away from these findings is that if you have a staged home you have an edge over the growing number of foreclosures on the market because typically, foreclosures are not staged.

This week I also read an opinion piece from Allison Arieff.  For four years she has written a monthly column called "By Design" about housing, food and shelter for the New York Times, and formerly was editor of a magazine entitled "Dwell."  She knows about houses!

Ms. Arieff notes that 2009 showed a trend toward people building smaller homes.  Of course, the lousey economy is the major reason, but that fact doesn't change the statistic.  The point is Americans are learning that a well-designed, affordable home is preferable to a McMansion.  Here are some quotes from her NYTimes story: 

"Perhaps recognizing that they’ll be staying in their homes longer, buyers are starting to look for universal design, ranging from wheelchair-accessible bathrooms to single-story homes — options that will allow them to 'age in place' — in other words, move into a home they can grow old in. They want accessory dwellings (aka granny flats) to accommodate rising numbers of children moving home after college and aging parents needing care."

"So far, the market isn’t offering many of these, a lack one can chalk up somewhat to inertia but also to legitimate obstacles ranging from zoning and code restrictions to difficulties with financing."

You can read her entire article here
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/05/home-for-life/ 


Any time you can make your home be more barrier-free, you have a selling advantage.

What you can learn from these reports is that if you have the kind of home that can fit into today's changed  buying patterns, let your staging emphasize those qualities.

Make sure the basic systems to your home -- heating and cooling, roof, plumbing, electrical  -- are well maintained and as up-to-date as you can manage.

Make the most of the space you have. A room with a closet should be staged as a bedroom, especially if it is on the ground floor.

Educate yourself about zoning restrictions and other local ordinances if you have a "granny flat," like a room over a detached garage or a guest cottage. Look for ways that your home will appeal to people house hunting with an eye to the future, like raising your washer and dryer to a friendlier height, and enlarging narrow doorways.

Home staging means dressing your house to sell to today's home buyer, so understanding current trends gives you an advantage over sellers who are out-of-touch.

Be sure to download my $5 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar, to get more advice that will make your home staging effective, economical and easy!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tips for You If Your Home Is Staged But Vacant

Poor upkeep means this property will have a difficult time
attracting a buyer and getting a good offer.
When you do not live in the home you have staged to sell, you have advantages over those people who are living in their staged homes. You're not tucking away your toiletries and polishing faucets on a daily basis, but you have a separate set of challenges.

You'll want to keep your property from looking vacant.  Vandalism can be a problem in rural, suburban or urban settings.  On one hand, you don't want people to be able look in windows, but you also want people who tour the home to be able to see rooms flooded with as much natural light as possible.  Some sort of sheer curtains are a likely choice for window treatments.

I suggest investing in some programmable timers.  It's easy to set timers to make lights and radios come on and go off at various times to create the effect of people being in the home.  You can find one here for less than $10.  http://www.smarthome.com/2046/Programmable-Receptacle-Timer/p.aspx   

Obviously, the owners of the property pictured above didn't hire a reliable lawn service.  When a home's exterior shows neglect, a house hunter begins calculating just how low he can go if he decides to make an offer.  Many will just tell their realtor to drive on by.

But a lawn service company won't solve all exterior maintenance problems. If debris blows into the entranceway, mildew grows on the siding, cobwebs surround the door, and windows are getting dirty, the home is losing appeal, and that translates into dollars lost.  Some homeowners in this position ask a neighbor or pay a person to stop by on a regular basis and tend to their home's exterior.

Inside the home isn't safe from looking neglected.  Ideally, someone will walk through the property to check for things like dead bugs, stale air, and dirt brought in by people touring the property.  You cannot always count on a realtor to turn off every light, straighten chairs, plump pillows and close closet doors when necessary.  If you live too far away to check your property, someone else should.

Once you've staged your home for the real estate market, the game isn't quite over.  But the better-looking your home stays, the faster you'll see that offer to buy.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Does Your Outdoor Space Help Sell Your House?

Front yard, back yard -- they are both part of your home's package, and the way your outdoor spaces look gives buyers their first impressions of your home. 

The more private areas of any property are where homeowners will feel most at home. Let's review what's essential in these back yards and side yards in order to win buyers' hearts and minds.

Paths make it easy for people on a home-buying tour to navigate your yard.
Paths are intriguing, especially if they lead to a visible destination, like seats. 
 
When people shop for a home, they like to imagine themselves relaxing outdoors, entertaining friends, and spending time with family there.  Don't ignore theses areas when you stage your property. Even small spaces can be selling points when staged appropriately.

To begin your outdoor staging work, consider how you've used your exterior spaces while you've lived in your home. Consider how new owners might want to use the same spaces.

Seating is essential. A patio or deck of any size should have a couple of outdoor chairs, and if possible, a table. Larger areas call for a four-seater table and chairs, or benches.

Having outdoor seating is so important that it doesn't matter if seats match.
Center seats around a fire pit or table to create a role for them to play in buyers minds. 
Every area of your property won't look its best all year long.  This quiet corner comes to
life in springtime. Each separate landscaped area can have its time when it peaks.  
Giving definition to a landscape with edging and mulch makes
the outdoors look tended and important. It's economical and simple to do.
Aim for comfort by adding cushions covered with weather-resistant fabric, and maybe a tantalizing lounge chair, sling chair, or swing. I once rented a house almost solely because I was captivated by the charming, old fashioned porch swing!

Your outdoors can be more colorful and busy than your indoor rooms, so don't be shy about adding elements like a firepit, grill, lighting, side tables, and a bar to convey the idea that your home is designed well for entertaining. 

Keep any lawn and landscaped areas lush and inviting. Make sure any flowers are looking tended. At this time of year in many parts of the country, gardens are winding down or overgrown.

Add color to outdoor areas. If you can't have blooming flowers,
you can paint furniture, or look for suitable cushions and other colorful accessories.   

Don't be afraid to toss plants that have lived their lives. You can simply put down fresh mulch in their place, or replant with seasonal color.

I love the sound of a fountain that greets people as they step outdoors.  Even a small fountain, one put together from a handsome container and a small submersible pump will provide the sound and sight of bubbling water. Wind chimes are another low cost addition that appeals to the senses.

These bright cushions are made from vinyl tablecloth fabric.  
Photo: Martha Stewart.


If you do not live in the home you are staging, it is not unusual for house hunters to check out a home's outside spaces, and even walk around the property. If that's a possibility with your home, it's even more important to stage the outside of your home to be as alluring as its interior.  It could be the thing that ropes in that buyer.

In my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, I offer lots helpful pointers and easy projects to make the your home look more appealing to buyers, including a 15-page section on staging your home's exterior. Order today, and start staging today! 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cleaning Products Every Home Stager Needs


Whenever I learn about a cleaning product that does a better job or a faster job, I try to pass the word along.

Last week the stars must have been aligned just so, because I learned new uses for a familiar product and discovered a new (to me) product.

First Up...

I've been loading and unloading dishwashers for over 35 years. Not that I'm counting.

Yet, I never knew that a monthly cleaning cycle with a special cleaning and disinfecting agent made a big difference in how the dishwasher and the dishes look.


Listen up, all you DIY home stagers! People who are out househunting look into cabinets, closets, vanities, ovens and ... dishwashers. 

You can make your dishwasher sparkle impressively with one treatment of Dishwasher Magic. It will cost about $5 and is effortless to use. Highly recommended.

Second Discovery

Somehow I stumbled on new uses for traditional smooth top stove cleaner. The brand I had on hand is Weiman Glass Cook Top Cleaner.

 It works like a polish and a cleaner. I found that it made faucets that I had already deemed shiny, shine even more. It cleans and then puts a finish on glass shower doors so they don't need constant wiping. It will put a smooth finish on all appliances. 

It does take a little buffing, but the results are remarkable.

It's the details like a sparkling faucet and a clean dishwasher that put a staged home over the top. One of the best investments you can make in home improvement is the time you spend cleaning. 

Cleanliness breeds confidence, so make sure your home has that kind of clean! 


Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Staged Foyer Helps Sell Your House

Clean lines make this foyer's mood easy to duplicate.
The red, black and white colors add drama,
and the ornate mirror adds detail. Photo: DecorPad
It's no wonder the foyer is the most overlooked room of a house. 

It's just the room we pass as we come and go. But when your home is for sale, every room is important.   Especially the foyer.

The foyer welcomes guests to your home and gives visitors a glimpse of what's to come. It lets buyers have their first chance to judge the home's interior.

This is no place for "good enough." This is a place for "wow." Do something impressive.

Hang a large piece of colorful art. Lay a gorgeous rug there. How about a beautiful new light fixture?

Since the room is usually small (if it exists at all) you can afford to add some luxury touches.       

If you have no foyer, you can create a sense of entrance by placing an interesting chair or small table near the front door.

If space is too tight for a table, a shelf functions just as well to hold a pretty lamp, a silk floral arrangement, a simple sculpture, or a dish of peppermints.

Remember that the foyer can be the last room a house hunter sees (and tastes) as he goes on with his tour of homes. 

Lighting is important.  If there are sidelights next to the door, be sure they let in all the natural light they can. Use sheer instead of heavy curtains, or none at all if privacy's not an issue.

The foyer is one place you could leave a light on all day even in your absence and not have it look like you were trying to make you home look brighter for a showing. It just makes sense, as in, "We'll leave on light on for you."  .

Furniture's a must in the large foyer, and what fun you can have there. A rustic bench... a mirrored cabinet... a large black table holding books and flowers... whatever suits your house. If you use a rug, make it generous, no matter what the size of the room.


Is there anything you can copy from this big and bright entry 
designed by Jonathan Adler? 
Photo: Ngoc Minh Ngo for House Beautiful.
Rich woods and bold colors bring this foyer to life.  
It tells us the rest of the house will be exciting!  
Coastal Living photo by Deborah Whitlaw.
A mirror is perfect for the foyer, the bigger the better.  Ideally it will reflect from side to side, so no one is startled when he opens the door.

Of course you will make sure that everything is spotless -- the overhead light, the floor, any furniture, and of course, the door itself.

Don't forget scent.  A clever place to hide your scent mechanism in a small room is to lay an incense stick on the ledge over the door trim. You know, that little ledge you never dust.

The word foyer is derived from the French word for fire because in the late 1800's the foyer was the room to which theater audiences went for warmth between the acts.

Is your foyer staged to be warm and welcoming?

Ebook help. Download my eBook, DIY Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar for more ways to impress buyers and convince them that your home should be their home.
  

Monday, August 9, 2010

You Can Make Headboards from Recycled Stuff

This wall was painted in two colors and mirror was added for that headboard effect.   
Designer: Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz 

Budget home staging calls for creativity. Re-purposing is one way to get a jump start on creativity. Instead of pulling ideas out of thin air, you have something to start with. Love that!

To help you get creative with your DIY home staging, I'm posting photos of some ingenious headboards, ones made from materials that started life as something else.  

Empty picture frame hung over curtain.  
Photo: Do It Yourself Magazine
With little effort, two sets of shutters became a lovely headboard.  
Photo: Apartment Therapy
The bookcase as headboard and storage/display area is a winner. 
Photo: Apartment Therapy
A fabric remnant hung on a curtain rod stands in as an easy DIY headboard. 
Photo: Homes and Gardens
This large headboard is made from fabric squares and mattress topper foam. 
Tutorial at All Things Thrifty.com
For a beautiful wood look, try a headboard made of two lightweight luan closet doors.  
Photo: Apartment Therapy
Who would guess that a common garage door made this striking headboard? 
Photo: Mark Burstyn/Antonio Bellusci for Canadian House and Home
This handsome headboard is made from a fireplace surround and mantle. 
Photo: E. Spencer Toy and Sunset Magazine.
An impressive headboard can bring an ordinary bedroom to life. But the beautiful store-bought ones are expensive, so get creative with your frugal home staging, and try a DIY headboard from recycled materials.

Monday, August 2, 2010

What to Do with Your Pet When Your Home is For Sale


If you have a cat or dog or bird, and you have a home for sale you probably face some kind of dilemma. Either the pet is traumatized by strangers, or strangers are traumatized by your pet. Or you can't get rid of the carpet stains Snowball created when he was a puppy, or you don't know where to hide Tiger's litter box. Maybe you are worried that house hunters will let Mr.Wrinkles get outside.

These and other challenges are all common concerns for people listing their homes for sale. Let's tackle them one at a time.

Probably the most common problem pet owners face is off-putting scents.  If your home has any pet aromas, you need to deal with the source instead of covering it up with air fresheners and fragrance plug-ins.

If the smells are residual, such as in the carpet or padding, having the carpet replaced may unfortunately be the only solution. Sometimes just professional shampooing will do the job. Perhaps simple DIY treatment of stains will be sufficient.

Two products that I've used with good results are Oxi-Clean Laundry and Stain Remover spray, and Woolite Carpet and Upholstery Pet Stain and Odor Remover.

If you must remove carpet or vinyl to treat the problem, I recommend painting the subfloor, whether it is concrete, plywood or particle board, with Kilz stain blocker. The oil-based version works best, but is itself pretty stinky until it dries, so make sure you have good ventilation.

What to do about the litter box ranks as the number two problem. If you'll be gone all day and a showing could happen at any time, Princess can't be inconvenienced and you need to have it available. Laundry rooms and closets with the door left ajar are the usual locations.

Make sure the door will stay ajar after the home is toured by positioning the box or something else so that the door can't completely close. It's best to stay on top of keeping the litter box clean on a daily basis. You never know when The Buyer, the one with the super-sensitive nose, will come wandering through.

Some sellers remove all signs of pets, leaving no toys, feeding bowls, gates, crates, beds or litter boxes behind whenever there's a showing.

This approach can be exhausting, and probably not necessary. One good reason to not take this route is that some buyers will have allergies and need to know if there have been pets in the home. Savvy sellers will keep the clutter of pet paraphernalia under control, though.

If you are worried about your pet escaping the home or freaking out house hunters during a showing when you are not present, there are a number of remedies. One is to leave a note explaining that typically the pet is friendly, or shy, or nervous.

Notes on exit doors are common. One woman wrote this note: "Despite what they may tell you, the cats are not allowed outside." Any special considerations about an unfriendly dog should be noted in the MLS listing. The last thing you need is a law suit, and people will sue about anything, like falling down a flight of stairs because they were distracted by a dog (it happened).  

Many people have pets of their own, and will take it all in stride. Others will be inconvenienced. Your job is to minimize the inconvenience.

My dog Misty was not a problem for us when we listed our house 
because the first looker bought it.  The house, not the dog.


Do not place any room off limits, not a spare room, not a garage. Work with your realtor to schedule appointments that work for everyone, Rex and Flicker included.

If you are present in the property when a showing is pending, I hope you can get Fluffy or Fido into the car for a ride.

If you are absent during the day, you have a few choices. One is to board the pet at a kennel until the house sells, but that is not something most pet owners or pets want to do. Another is the less costly day care solution.

If you are fortunate, you will have a neighbor who is always home, someone you can call when your realtor calls you, someone your Angel or Prince loves, someone who will come and take Rover for a walk during a showing. If you are not that fortunate, do you have a friend or relative who would be a foster care parent for your Midnight until you receive that purchase offer?

No question, pet owners who are house sellers face some complications. But none of us can imagine life without our beloved pets, so we all do whatever it takes to keep pets and house hunters happy.

For solutions to other common problems facing anyone with a home on the market, download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. You'll get answers to questions you didn't know you had!


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