Monday, May 9, 2011

When Not to Stage Your Home

"Why didn’t we do this sooner?” That’s what many people ask after they have staged their homes for the real estate market.

Living in a staged home does have benefits. Housecleaning is easier and faster. The interior feels larger and brighter. Your decor is more stylish.

But I can also think of three very good reasons why making your home a showplace isn’t smart unless you plan to sell soon.   

1. Fight to Preserve Your Sanity

Living in a staged home can make you nutsy.

Your kids don’t have all their toys. Your luggage is at the storage unit. You loaned your husband’s recliner to your brother. In your pretty, staged kitchen you don’t dare leave dishes in the sink. In your luxurious master bedroom you won't leave a pile of unfolded laundry on the bed. You start to feel like your homelife is on constant alert because the realtor may call and want to show the house.

If you’re not focused on the goal of selling your home, it doesn’t make sense to put your household through this routine. Not everyone is habituated to putting away toiletries and making the bed perfectly on a daily basis. We won’t even talk about glass shower doors.

That's one reason you "didn't do this sooner." 

2. Kiss Goodbye to Personal Style
You love your bath. But will others take a liking to your black tiles?
Photo by James Waddell via Domino 

Decorating to stage stifles self expression. It's been said that staging makes a home a house.

When you decorate to sell, you decorate for others. Staging removes that unique personality you’ve given your house over time, and replaces it with a  more generic look.

Staging also removes the personal, private and valuable items for the sake of safety, and to help the buyer concentrate on the property, not on who lives there.

Do you want to live in a home stripped of cherished mementos, family photos, and all the quirky artifacts of a life happily lived? Probably not!

But if you are motivated to sell, then you have a bigger picture in mind --- the picture of moving on, so the sacrifice is one you are willing to make. 

3. Spend Money for the Wrong Reasons

If you don't plan on listing your home soon, spending fix-up money now might mean you are throwing money away.

It’s a bad investment to choose things like paint colors, vinyl patterns, backsplash/sink/countertop/cabinet styles, and even a hardwood flooring stain based on what's fashionable now, but mark your home as dated in the years ahead.

Medium flooring tones, not dark like this, are preferable.
Also, you could be wasting money if you improve the wrong parts of your home.

Ask yourself what is typical for your market, your neighborhood, and your home style. Then, don't over-fix unless you are willing to pay big time for the things you can't live without before selling.

The cash you save when you rein in your home improvements, could be the down payment on your future dream home.

Mistakes and Solutions

So, what can smart and ambitious homeowners do if they want to improve their homes? The answer is, make the right choices.

Based on my experience and my conversations with Realtors, here are some common mistakes over-zealous rehabbing homeowners make.
  • Combine two bedrooms to make one larger one. Every bedroom, irregardless of size, adds value to your home.
  • Convert a closet irreversibly into a bookcase, mini office, hobby workshop, media center or sleeping alcove. No one ever has too many closets.
  • Make fairly permanent changes that won't appeal to everyone. Examples might be building a wall of narrow shelving to accommodate a specific collection, or connecting a woodstove into a fireplace.
How to Choose Your Projects

A bidet. Good idea or bad?
Instead, put your money where it matters, adding upgrades that almost anyone will love.

Make choices based not on trends but timeless classics. It’s foolish to spend big bucks on things that aren’t nailed down. In other words, make those homey touches that express who you are, the things that you can carry with you to your next home.

A room doesn’t necessarily get its personality from expensive crown moulding, custom bookshelves, and a fancy fireplace surround. You can get an equal amount of charm from the same amount of money spent on beautiful draperies, a sofa you love, and an area rug to die for!

Energy efficient windows, energy efficient appliances, comfortable outdoor living spaces, modern kitchen and baths, low maintenance landscape, and better curb appeal – these are features home buyers are willing to pay for, and that you can enjoy whether you sell or not.

When you’re making home improvement decisions, steer clear of the trendy stuff, and you’ll be safe whenever your home does hit the market.

Make changes that have quality built in, so they will stand up over time and still be valuable when you do sell. If you like cutting edge decor, limit your choices to changeable items like paint color and accessories, not aqua countertops, a wine storage room, and a bidet in the bathroom.

Be Realistic about Your Skills 

Use professionals where it matters. It's economical to tackle repairs and remodels yourself. But if the end result doesn't look professional, it will come back and bite you at selling time. We call this bootleg renovations.

Examples would be adding an outside shower by running plumbing out the basement window from the laundry sink there. Or building a porch without proper supports, or a patio that doesn’t drain away from the house. I have seen “homeowners specials” like a garden shed that got its electricity from an extension cord buried six inches underground. Or a washing machine that dumped its wastewater onto the vacant lot next door.

When it comes to projects that call for wiring, plumbing, HVAC, framing, and roofing, go with the building codes. Yes, you’ll have to get a building permit in most cases, but at least you will know that what you are doing is safe and will pass inspection not only now but when the home sells.

Style Your Rehabbing to the House

Make improvements match the rest of your home. Whether we’re talking about adding a sunroom, replacing a window with French doors, building some custom shelving and cabinetry, or upgrading the flooring, make the changes harmonious with the style and quality of the rest of your home.

A new window should be trimmed to match the other windows in the house. An unattractive roof line will devalue your home if it looks too much like an add-on. A small  house with a different colored carpet in each room is not money well spent. Two mismatched, detached garages don't say "classy."

An add-on gone wrong, like from the start. visit here for more redneck renovation photos.

Here's the Take-Home

Even though selling your home may not be in your plans now, no one knows what’s down the road. Most people think they will stay nearly forever in a home once they move in. But statistics indicate that the average American homeowner moves every seven years.

A job change, a pregnancy, natural disaster, unplanned major expenses, sickness or an accident, downsizing for retirement, a death or divorce, a neighbor from hell, or even a windfall of money from an unexpected source, can all be reasons to decide to sell your home. 

That will be the time to declutter, depersonalize, and decorate to please prospective buyers.  Until then, enjoy your home. It’s your castle.

I offer lots more pointers to help guide you through the home staging and selling process in my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. It comes with my money back guarantee.

Top Photo: Natural Living Magazine

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