Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An Easy Way to Dress Up the Ordinary Office Chair

A home office is a selling feature when you stage to sell.

If you want your home to look more contemporary, and more accommodating in general, look for where you can tuck a home office into your house.

It needn't be large, just somewhere a person can sit and take care of business, a spot that’s not the dining table or the kitchen counter.   

Really, a home office can be staged in just one corner of a bedroom, family room, or living room.

Often there is a place for a small office on a stair landing, in a wide foyer, or in the unused space under a staircase. A table or desk, maybe some shelving or bookcase, and you’re there.

Choose a  Chair.

Ever since we brought home this ugly, hunter green office chair from Staples about 12 years ago, I’ve hated it. The  manufacturers may have spent money when they studied the ergonomics of the chair, but they sure ignored the glamour-omics.

Today, I decided to do something about it. I’m not the first one to pretty up an executive chair. Teresa at Cozy Cottage Slipcovers is a pro, and so is Kristi at Pink and Polka Dot. I covered my ugly chair in a couple of hours, doing very little actual sewing.

I have a glue gun, and I'm not afraid to use it. 

Here’s how I beautified my chair and how you can quickly and easily do the same to your ugly chair.

Get Fabric. 

One of my favorite activities is shopping for fabrics.
This chair makeover takes less than two yards, so remnants often work.
I found a piece of upholstery fabric in my fabric stash. I made sure there was enough to cover both sides of the back and generously wrap around the seat.

You should use something heavier than drapery weight or “dress weight,” to make sure you don’t end up with a mess o’ wrinkles after you’ve been sitting on it.

An upholstered look rather than a slipcovered look, will stay neater, which is better for home staging.

Make a Pattern.

I laid ugly chair on its back on a flattened sheet of newspaper. I traced a line about two inches out from the edge of the entire backrest, to allow for seaming and for the thickness. I set the chair upright again. I cut out the paper pattern. 

Cut Your Fabric.

I cut two layers of fabric using the newspaper pattern. Then I laid a square of fabric over the seat and cut a few inches out from the seat, so I could wrap it all the way to the bottom of the seat.

Pin the Back Cover Pieces.

I still didn’t know I was going to blog about this project, so I didn’t take pictures of these steps. I wrapped the backrest with the two back fabric pieces, inside out, and pinned them together, adjusting the seams so the new cover would fit snug, but loose enough for me to pull it off. I pulled it off, and sewed the front to back, turned it right side out, and pulled it back over the chair.

Stitch the Back Cover Closed.

I pinned the bottom edges of the back cover, and slip stitched the opening at the bottom closed. I didn’t fuss with this stitching because it won’t really be visible.

      This is the lower edge of the backrest, and I have pinned front to back, ready for slip stitching. 

Wrap the Bottom Piece.

I laid the other square of fabric on the seat, smoothed it, and pinned it  around the edges to hold it in place.

I flipped the chair over and started hot glueing the fabric to the bottom of the seat.

I set the seat of the chair on a tall, lidded kitchen garbage can to make it easier to work on. A stool would also serve. You can't put it on a large work surface because the arms and back get in the way.

You can see I have stuck pins around the seat edge to hold the fabric in place when I flip the chair.

To make the seat fit smoothly,  I first glued the seat in four places -- the center of each side. Then I glued small sections at a time, easing the fabric so there were no big puckers. 

Gradually, all the raw edges will be glued down. The edges can remain raw as long as the glue keeps loose threads out of sight. We're not talking heirloom quality here.


I set the chair upright, and I was done. Goodbye ugly, hello floral.

With a chair this pretty, that little home office you’re creating for staging looks inviting, and gets your message to buyers that this is a home that is loved and where they can be comfortable. 

If each  of these chairs didn’t cost about $100 and up at Staples, I would recommend buying and covering a set of four or six for a dining room staging. They would be comfortable and stylish. Usually by the time an office chair makes it to the thrift store, it's shot. And chances of finding more than one matching office chair second hand are slim.

But one for a home office? Perfect! 

Let Me Count Them. 

There are so many was I can think of to fluff up your home when you are ready to sell, that I put them into one place -- a book. You can download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar.

I’ll take you from start to finish of home staging. Why go it alone when I can hold your hand, encourage you, save you from mistakes, and show you how to save money? Downloading takes just a few clicks and you can begin preparing your own home for the real estate market today.                               

Monday, March 28, 2011

How to Clean Your House Like a Professional

The pros use only what works.  What do they use? 
Home buyers love a clean home.

Yes, location.

Yes, price.

Yes, view.

Yes, square footage.

Yes, staged closets and uncluttered rooms!

But unless clean is in the mix, they won’t fall in love with your home on the market.

To discover what tricks I could learn about cleaning, I went to the pros. I went to the Cleaning Tips Forum on That Home Site. That's where I gathered up for you, my readers, the best professional tips to make cleaning your home easier. Because you already have enough (more fun) stuff to do to get your home staged to sell.
 
STAINLESS. To clean stainless steel surfaces. Use either Stainless Steel Magic or Zep foam. The professional cleaners and others appreciate that Zep clings to vertical surfaces and has a nice, citrus scent. Some people commented that Stainless Steel Magic helps repel fingerprints. That's welcome news.

SHOWER. To clean the area where glass shower doors overlap.  Use a small disposable, sponge paint brush. Almost any cleaning solution will work with the sponge. Rinse and store the brush where it can dry out between uses. Glass shower doors that ride in a track are easily removable if you have some muscle. Just lift up, and out. Even I can do it. Just make sure you have a handy place to set the door before you go yanking it.

TUB. To clean non-slip strips on the floor of a tub or shower. Use WD-40 and a stiff scrub brush. Also recommended is a product called TRR, which stands for toilet ring remover. You can find TRR in most drug stores or WalMart.
Choose spray, aerosol, or wipes.

MICROFIBER. To clean microfiber upholstered furniture pieces. Mix a 1/4 cup powdered oxygen cleaner in a bucket of very warm water. Wring out a cloth in this solution, and wipe the microfiber fabric with the cloth. As the cloth get dirty, use a new one. Allow the fabric to dry thoroughly, then take a soft brush, and brush the material to revive the nap. 

GROUT. To clean grout. Borrow or buy a steamer, also called a pressure steamer. There are no chemical fumes, it’s quick, and you don't need to lug a variety of solvents from room to room.

FLOOR. To clean asbestos floor tiles. Cover with a layer of commercial 3M floor stripper, available at janitorial supply stores, and let it work according to directions. Or you can apply straight 409 cleaner with a long-handled scrub brush, and let it sit until the dirt is loosened. Make sure you have adequate ventilation. Use a wet /dry shop vac to pick it up. All the old grime and wax will come up.  Wax it with a wax made for vinyl flooring.

GLUE. To remove sticky residue after peeling away self-sticking shelf liner. Apply rubbing alcohol on a cotton cloth to dissolve the glue. WD-40 also works on glues.

BOWL RING. To get rid of a persistent ring around inside the toilet bowl. Use a pumice stone, but be sure to keep it wet and rub gently to avoid scratching the porcelain surface. A black emery board or drywall sanding paper work the same way. Bar Keeper’s Friend is a good stain remover because it contains oxalic acid. Disinfect the bowl first with bleach or Lysol, and use rubber gloves.   

WINNER. Best Cleaning Procedure Tip: Start from the top when cleaning any room, and work down, whether dusting, vacuuming, or wiping.

WINNER. Best Cleaning Technique Tip: Always wipe surfaces first with a dry microfiber cloth. Then, clean them with the correct solution, sometimes water, sometimes degreasers, sometimes solutions that polish. Wetting a surface just turns whatever is there to mud. Loose dirt is easier to remove than mud.
Steam cleaners are popular 
because they clean green.


WINNER. Favorite Products and Tools of Professional Cleaners: Microfiber cloths (to catch and trap dirt and other loose particles), steam cleaners (to sanitize hard surfaces), Bar Keepers Friend (to remove organic stains), baking soda (for mild abrasion and deodorizing), Dawn dishwashing liquid (to cut grease), Magic Eraser (to clean smooth surfaces of almost anything), Bona floor cleaner (for wood floors), and WD-40 (for all kinds of things, as evidenced here).

The Cleaning Tips Forum is part of the Garden Web, an easy-to-use website that's part of  iVillage. You can search for particular answers, share information, or ask questions. Be sure to check out the Buying and Selling Homes Forum at That Home Site also. You can connect with other homeowners who are selling their homes, get encouragement, and research just about any topic related to real estate. 

At these forums, you'll see what other sellers are saying about clean homes. Clean homes feel good and they sell better. The best part is that cleaning is one of the least expensive DIY home improvement projects out there.

Do you want to make quick and easy work of giving your home that "open house sparkle" from top to bottom? In my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, I outline a simple, efficient and effective method to get your home clean and keep it that way. You can download the book now with just a few clicks. You'll find that it's packed with advice about DIY staging, it starts paying for itself immediately. I guarantee it!



Thursday, March 24, 2011

Staging Styles That Work: Scandinavian

Photo: TheSwedishFurniture.Com
If you want to stage to sell, steal some ideas from Scandinavia. These Nordic people know how to make a house look spacious, clean and charming.

Here is a list of the winning elements they use to get that effect:
  • Leggy furniture that shows off square footage.
  • A sophisticated, but friendly, color palette.
  • Simple or strong graphics that offend no one.
  • Smooth and natural wood finishes.
  • Painted and distressed furniture that makes a room feel lived in.
  • Crystals and mirrors that capture the light.
  • Textiles like smooth cottons and nubby linens.
  • Accessories where form follows function.
  • Affordable prices.
  • Furniture that mixes well with other styles.
It's no wonder that Danish modern, Swedish, and other Scandinavian styles are ideal for home staging.

I doubt that anyone will purchase all new furniture for staging, but if you own pieces that are Scandinavian-influenced, keep them in the mix. If you are shopping for additional elements to stage your home, here's a look to imitate because it's a timeless, elegant and fresh look that makes people feel welcome and at home. That's exactly the look of a well-staged home.

Scandinavian furniture and fabrics have an valid reputation for beautiful style. The countries of  Scandinavia -- Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Greenland-- share those honors.

From Sweden we get IKEA, Saab and Volvo, and the popular Gustavian style furniture (not to mention meatballs and Absolut vodka!).

From Denmark comes Danish modern furniture -- a style that's especially suitable for staging because it's handsome, lightweight, economical, and coincidentally scaled for most American homes.

Finland is home to famous Marimekko fabrics, loved by women from Jackie Kennedy's day to Carrie Bradshaw's time.

Are there any new ideas you can incorporate into your own home from the following collection of Scandinavian-influenced interiors?


Because there is scant natural lighting in winter months, Scandinavian design always welcomes sunshine. Surfaces are often reflective, windows are not covered in heavy treatments, and paint colors are light. Photo: TheSwedishFurniture.Com

Although it can look sparse, Scandinavian design is also charming because of its subtle combination of curves and straight lines. There is always a well-scrubbed feel to these classic rooms, a look worth aiming for in home staging. Photo: TheSwedishFurniture.Com 

Never have neutrals looked so inviting. What this kind of bedroom lacks in razzle dazzle, it makes up for in serenity. Decorating with subtle variations of one color, such as this bedding, wallcovering, and Gustavian styled headboard, contribute to a seamless look. Photo: Country Swedish.

Nothing needs to be new or top of the line pricey when you decorate Scandinavian style. 
Distressed case goods, simple textiles, and pastel paints are the kinds of 
things that treat your wallet well. Photo: Tone on Tone Antiques.
 
Swedish-inspired interior decor is especially attractive to women, the primary deciders when it comes to home purchases. In this room the subtle florals and the intimate seating group (the bench is typical Swedish style) are female-friendly without being too feminine. Photo: Indulge Decor

One of the advantages of staging Scandinavian style is that the furnishings work well with most homes. Even outdated elements of your home could become charming assets when a surrounded by simple pieces like this wooden bench, chair and bookcases. Indulge Decor and Jane Moore Interiors.

No discussion of Swedish design would be complete without mentioning the unique Gustavian clock. Although this photo shows a brick floor, I know there are homes out there with embossed brick vinyl floors that could be staged like this. Photo: Jon Monson and L. Langdon Ergmann.

Not all Scandinavian decor is built around antiques. Mid century modern design is part of the more recent tradition. It uses industrial elements and contemporary manufacturing techniques. I'll save Danish Modern furniture for another post. Photo:Scandinavian Designs via Apartment Therapy.

The universal appeal of Scandinavian style makes it worth copying when staging your home. If you just paint some of your dressers and tables soft greys and blues, hang some breezy white curtains, find some leggy seating to upholster in pastel checks, add gilded mirrors, and leave your wood floors bare, you're halfway there! 

For a lighthearted site all about Swedish design, visit http://www.viget.com/inspire/swedish-design-inspiration/.

And for more ideas and inspiration to help you prepare your home for the real estate market, download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. You'll get more than 150 pages of sound advice, including window treatments, pillows, mantel staging, budget baths, landscaping, organizing, furniture arranging, lighting, rugs, artwork, and so much more.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Negotiating 101: How to Get What You Want


Real estate negotiations: Make them an  offer they can't refuse.
Your listing agent calls, and says the words that make your heart beat faster. "We have an offer."

Knowing how to respond to an offer to purchase your home makes a difference. In dollars. To quote the Turbo Tax software, "We want to make sure you get all the money that's coming to you."

It's interesting, at least to me, that plenty of guidance is available online, in the media, and in books about buying smart.

But about selling smart, not so much. Let's balance that scale a bit, right here and now.

Here are my tips based on what I have learned from buying and selling homes, and on what I have learned from others and from my studies.

Tip #1
Always Counter. Opening offers are just that. Most buyers expect they will have to increase their initial figure. To not come back with your offer -- any offer --  makes you a greedy bad guy. You never know where the talks will wind up if you don't counter.

If you accept an offer without discussing other figures or contingencies, your buyers will always wonder how low they could have gone and walked away with your property. A prime principle of successful negotiating is that when it's over, all parties feel they got what they wanted.   

In fact, the more times initialed papers go back and forth, the more committed emotionally the buyer is to having the deal go through. It doesn't take long for buyers to begin planning on where they will set up their big plasma screen, and how many people they will invite to their housewarming party, even though the negotiating ball is still in the air. Keep the ball in the air.

I wrote here about how staging helped us to not act too quickly when we received an opening, low offer on the condo we sold last year.

Clint's characters always know how to
get exactly what they want.

Tip #2
Know Your Bottom Line. Have you done your homework? You should know how much it costs each month you stay in your home.

Know the realistic value of your home in today's market, not based on what you paid for it, what you have to get to pay off credit cards, or how much you love your home.

Spring for an appraisal. The bank won't loan Mr. Buyer any more than appraised value. Note: A real estate broker's market analysis is not as accurate as a full-fledged appraisal and holds no weight with banks. Having a recent, professional appraisal is a powerful tool to have in your hands.

Your bottom line will be influenced by deadlines in your life. Your Realtor will be able to give you typical days on market figures for comparable properties in your locale. If you need or want to relocate fast, your price can reflect that.  

Tip #3
Have Backup Options. It's not fun to think about, but it will strengthen your position during negotiations to have some plans in case you are on the market longer than you like. Patience is an asset when it comes to dealing. Not only do you not want to feel desperate, you don't want the buyer to think you are desperate.

If your carrying costs are really high, you may choose to vacate your prettily staged home, and become a renter in a smaller, more economical place. Some creative sellers live in an RV, or with relatives until they get a price they like. It's just temporary.

Staging your home helps convey the message to buyers that you are comfortable and not ready to accept whatever comes along. Don't have piles of packed boxes in the garage, shed, or guest room. Get them off-site, even if it means your Dad's garage.

Tip #4
Be the Mystery Seller. The more a buyer knows about you, the more leverage he has. This is especially true if you are near foreclosure or bankruptcy, if one spouse has already relocated, if you are selling an inherited property, if you are a professional house flipper, or if you have not had any offers.

At the same time, it's just smart negotiating to learn as much as you can about the prospective buyer. If he is relocating from a state where property values are high, your place may seem like a bargain, and you can anticipate an easier road to an agreed upon price. If he has been house hunting for two years, he is either very choosy or not a serious buyer, and you can let the drama just play out without getting yourself in knots. If he is a professional rehabber, he'll be giving you bottom-feeder prices. If he is shopping for a second home, money is probably not as big a problem as with a young, first-time home buyer, and you shouldn't have to compromise.

If you are a FSBO seller, the rules change, and sitting face to face with a buyer calls for a different set of tactics. I'll blog about negotiating as a FSBO at another time.
  
In her first movie, The Group, Candice Bergman (right) plays a mysterious woman
who turns out to be the strongest character in the dynamic plot.

Tip #5
Fiddle with Contingencies. Be imaginative. You can say, "I won't come down another $20,000, but I will leave the piano for you,"( the one you didn't want to move anyway). Let them keep some of your staging furniture. Throw in the patio furniture and the riding mower. 

If you can't give in on the big things -- the money -- negotiate minor points. Delay the closing to meet their schedule, or move the closing up to make them happy. This tactic makes buyers feel like they are getting things for nothing.

Offering to pay the buyer's closing costs doesn't sound like a big deal, but it is. Most buyers are stretched and need to finance most of their purchase. If they don't have to roll in the closing costs to their mortgage, it means more to them than the actual closing costs amount. You have saved them a boatload of interest money.

Offer to finance part of their down payment for them if you can. You'll make money instead of the banks making it. A lawyer can draft the paper work.

All these things indicate that you want the deal to go through. The buyer feels like you are on his side rather than fighting him.

In their roles in Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts and Richard Gere come to an agreement about 
their relationship by discussing contingencies, but each maintain their own sense of integrity. 

Tip #6
Build a Relationship on Integrity. Always take the high road. The usual vibe of real estate negotiating is adversarial. Buyers and sellers always assume it is a competition. That's wrong.

Assume the best of your buyer, and behave in a way that shows you are willing to work with him. Working with a Realtor, especially an experienced, hard-nosed negotiator (not necessarily Ms Nice Gal), will assure that you are not taken advantage of. In a FSBO transaction, it's even more important for buyers and sellers to trust each other. 

One false step and you've destroyed credibility and trust. Example of missteps might be: speaking negatively to your listing agent about the buyer, withholding facts about the condition of your property, or attempting to skirt the laws or ethics of real estate sales.

One of the earliest homes Mr. Lucky and I bought we bought from a man who, when he arrived at the closing, asked the lawyer to transfer the money to his brother rather than himself. He was either avoiding taxes or avoiding having to pay his estranged wife her share. The lawyer closed his book and said, "Come back when you want to do this right." It made the seller look like a snake in the grass, didn't endear him to us, and clued us to be extra vigilant in the deal.

Tip #7
Get Outside Support. Whenever negotiating seems to be deadlocked, refer to a third party. It's like deferring to the umpire or referee to make a call. A third party can justify your position with facts and figures. An impartial third party can diffuse an emotional situation or clear up a deadlock.

Take your lessons from the Big Boys. International peace talks and labor union disputes are usually conducted with help from an arbitrator. If you are FSBO, you can pay a real estate agent to represent you. 

Your third party could be a home inspector or an appraiser. Or it could be paperwork that substantiates your position, like documentation for things like repairs or warranties. Specifics like tax statements, electric bills and co-op or homeowner association records, can build your case for why you are firm on your last offer. 

Tip #8
Let Realtors Be Buffers. But let your own Realtor convey the image of you as a regular guy, not a fast-talking wheeler dealer. Take your time considering the offers. A written offer usually has a 24-hour shelf life, meaning you must respond or the offer becomes void. People like to do business with people who are like them, and likable, so give all offers the courteous attention and time they deserve.

Your Realtor is here to run interference for you and keep the business of negotiating businesslike, not personal. She will shield you from giving away too much information about your position, and too much money. A good Realtor will offer constructive advice on how to proceed.

Tom Cruise and his team of military lawyers pursued a vigorous defense for the men 
they represented in court, in A Few Good Men. You want a realtor with that kind of tenacity.

Tip #9
Be Flexible. Don't walk away over a small difference. Keep the big picture in mind. If you and your prospective buyer are just 2% of your asking price apart, examine how much it could cost you to reject the offer. Review your negotiating options. Or, stick to your price, but ask them for additional favors or contingencies.

At the same time, know when to hold. We once signed with a realtor to sell a house, and had an offer as soon as a neighbor told some friends about it, even before the MLS listing went live. We settled on a price just token amount below our asking price because the house was so new to the market and we knew there would be other interested buyers.

Sometimes holding to a predetermined price point lets buyers know you're in a strong position. It all depends on how motivated you are to sell fast.

Follow your Realtor's advice. You're paying her for it. Real estate brokers are working for both parties and they want to see a deal happen, so they will continue to negotiate until it's obvious nothing is going to happen, or else there is agreement, and a sale!

I'm not a movie star, but I've staged many homes and I can help you stage yours. 

Do you need staging suggestions to make your home irresistible? A staged home sells faster and for more money, so there's less chance that buyers will try to grind away at your selling price. My $5 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, helps you do all the right things to attract buyers and keep them interested. You can go to my eBook page and download your copy now.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

You Know Your Home Is Staged When ...

  • You've discovered -- surprise!--that making your bed takes just 60 seconds.
  • Your friends come by and say, "Wow, the place looks terrific." (You wonder what they thought of it before.)
  • The default answer to your most of your kid's questions is, "It's in the storage unit."
  • Neighbors slow down when they drive by, just to admire your spruced up curb appeal. You hope they are motivated to spruce up their own, especially...well, never mind...
  • You love coming home after being away. Sometimes you go outside, just to come back in!
  • Cleaning the house is SO much easier. You're kicking yourself for waiting to declutter.
  • You never knew how gorgeous -- and convincing -- silk flowers could be.  
  • Once in a while you actually rethink the whole selling and moving decision.
  • Your realtor can't stop thanking you enough for making her job easy. Maybe she'll share the commission. Yeah, right!
Photo: Glory Road
  • Your dog doesn't understand why you sometimes hustle him into the car, and then ride leisurely around the neighborhood. But he doesn't care.
  • You feel like your house has 50% more square footage than before.
  • Whenever the phone rings, the first thing you ask yourself is, "How many stacks of unsorted laundry do I have to find hiding places for? Fast."
  • Your husband says about the bathroom, "I feel like we've just checked into a high end hotel." But he also asks every day, "Do I really need to hide my toothbrush and razor?" Answer: yes.
  • You promise yourself you'll never bring thin towels back to the bath. Ever. You'll recycle them for drying the dog's paws.
  • You've stopped cooking with garlic because you want the house to smell like gardenias until it sells. 
  • Paint is your new best friend. Better, your new lover.
Photo: TheFrameStudio.com
  • You kind of miss the refrigerator art show, but you're loving the kid art you've framed as expensive Soho gallery abstracts.
  • You know your deceased ancestors are looking kindly at your fluffed up home, instead of asking, from heaven, "Why did she pack our photos away?"
  • You have at least one chair that no one is allowed to sit in. Until after the closing.
  • You realize that the furniture you've recovered and painted is going to look beautiful in your new home too. If it's not a prefect match, you know now how easy it is to recover and repaint.
  • You' re entertaining more, because you're proud of your house. And you like making people jealous. And because your guests might know someone shopping for a home like yours.
  • Your mother says, "It's about time you fixed your place up." Bless her heart.
If you want to make your dog happy, impress your friends, and learn the techniques that make your home look more spacious, download. my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. If you have a home on the market, I promise my book will easily pay for itself over and over. I guarantee it.

Top photo: Chester Jones via Desire To Inspire.

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Seven Essentials for Home Staging


    If you're staging a home, the sooner you get your ducks in a row, the better. Here's my short list of what those ducks should look like. These are the tools and techniques that work for me.

    • Binder for organizing your project. I don't care if it is are old school. I love a good ole looseleaf notebook with some pockets to hold receipts that will help with record keeping and at tax time, and in case I have returns. I usually set up one section for the budget, adding update pages as the project progresses. I keep a ledger-like section for itemizing actual expenses. I like a section of blank pages for sketching ideas whenever they come to me, and for taping pieces of fabric, color samples, catalog pages, and tear sheets from magazines. Finally, I keep plenty of lined paper for to-do lists.
    • Space for getting your stuff together. Never has the phrase "Staging Area," seemed more fitting. I want to be able to see samples and acquisitions at a glance. You can call it a life-size sample board. Sometimes it seems there isn't room for storing all that's necessary until the time is right to begin actual staging. I always try to make room. It's only a temporary mess. 

    • Shopping kit. Doesn't that sound like fun? I keep a notebook in my purse for shopping lists as the project moves along, and I keep a thrifting list of what I need to look for when I am at second hand stores. The notebook includes measurements of rooms and windows. The kit should always contain small bills and coins. When you show up at an early morning tag sale with just a check book and credit card, you are not making friends with the seller. Second hand sales often require cash. A tape measure is also an essential. You never know when you'll have to decide if curtains on sale are long enough, that lampshade is the perfect height, or a table is going to crowd your dining room.

    • Fabric in your colors. One of the reasons I like to paint a house on the market all one color on interior walls is that furnishings are interchangeable from room to room. Sometimes a shower curtain becomes fabric for pillow covers, or a blanket morphs into draperies. Placing fabric remnants, towels, curtains and other soft furnishings in one place keeps me on track, reminds me what's missing, and spurs creative uses for them. Keeping the fabrics near the staging area is ideal.

    • Color chips in the palette of the moment. These are my references when I'm out in the world. No one can remember colors exactly. If you match a color chip to a countertop or flooring material, you will then have a portable sample of these immovable items with you at all times.

    • Large picture frames that I can fill. I keep these all in one place. They wait there for the day when they can be matched with the right artwork. I always have a selection of simple and ornate frames.
    • Camera and /or smartphone. Where would we be without our cameras? Sometimes inspiration strikes when I see a particular retail display or someone's garden. I might see an idea worth hacking in a store or home. Photographing a room helps you see what needs tweaking. And taking photos will help you see how your home will appear in your MLS listing. Your photos might be better than your realtor's, in which case you can ask that they be used in your listing.

    Arm yourself with the appropriate tools and you'll not only do a more creative and thorough job of staging your home, but you're more likely to be on schedule, and within budget. You might even have fun!

    To make the task of staging your own home more rewarding and less stressful, download my $5 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips To Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. It comes with my money back guarantee.


    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Seduce Home Buyers with Springtime Staging

    Springtime means we're coming into prime house hunting season.
    After what has been for many folks a winter buried in snow, spring seems even more delightful than usual this year. You may still have snow on the ground around your house, but that should not stop you from staging your home to render home buyers silly with spring fever. Here are my tips to give your home a breath of fresh air.




    Introduce some outdoor furniture to your indoor rooms. The look is casual and garden-like, no matter what 
    the weather is outside. Buyers will be charmed by a bistro chair, or a wooden bench, some wicker furniture, an iron plant stand, or a rocking chair that you'd expect to find on the front porch. Photo: Coastal Living. 







    Even an unheated space like this 
    can be staged to remind buyers that soon they'll be enjoying pleasant weather again. These spaces are perfect candidates for staging as places to relax, enjoy 
    hobbies, or entertain. Photo: House Beautiful.





    If you have outdoor furniture hiding in the garage or shed, go ahead and bring it out, clean it off, arrange it, and add colorful accents. Make it easy for buyers to envision themselves 
    kicking back in their new home, even though it's still cold outside. Photo: House Beautiful. 
    Introduce the colors of spring -- pastel greens, pale yellows, lilac, light blues, and white. Cover your existing toss pillows with DIY covers in these colors. Maybe paint some lamps or end tables 
    a lighter hue. Switch your lampshades for white ones. Design: Ann Grafton.
    If you have a front porch, make sure it is "company ready." Are the snow shovels, rock salt, and boots hidden? Cobwebs swept away? Give your curbside appearance the look of spring. 
    Do your online photos show an exterior that is inviting and seasonally appropriate?






    When it's time to put the fireplace to sleep for the year, stage it for spring. Clean it, and stack it with attractive logs, or else cover it completely to avoid the black hole effect. A pretty screen like this one, a decorative painted screen, or a large, colorful fan are all great choices. Botanical prints drive the message home as well. Photo: Inviting
    Home.com Photo:InvitingHome.com.
    Add some floral fabrics. Pack up the flannel sheets and bring in the crisp cottons. Animal prints, tapestries, and dark textiles might be cozy, but now's the time for a light and breezy look. Buying a home signifies a new beginning, and house hunters will love what looks new. Photo:Meredith Corp.
     
    These are just some of the ways that you can welcome the new season, the best time of year to have a home on the market. Staged to make buyers swoon, you'll soon see that purchase offer. 

    I write about other ways to give buyers what they want by staging your home yourself, in my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar.

    Don't let prime selling season pass you by. Download today and start staging today to set your property apart form the comparables.

    Monday, March 7, 2011

    Finishing Touches Department: Where to Look for Cheap Staging Props

    Staging your home can cost major bucks.

    Or not.

    One way to stretch the home staging budget is to accessorize on the cheap. Without it looking cheap.

    Here are some suggestions for where to go when you want props that cost almost nothing.

    Salvage Your Junk.

    Everyone has stuff just a little too good to get rid of. Maybe nostalgia gets in the way, it was a gift, or you overpaid and can't bear to discard it.

    Things like a clunker bike, an orphan boot, and clothing that's seen better days can be put to use while you are staging your home.

    The tray pictured here was made from such castoffs. An unused cookie sheet, a shirt that somehow got too small for Mr. Lucky, and some white glue, are all it took to make a stylish tray that could add a touch of color to any room where the colors are going to be repeated elsewhere in the room.

    Here's the thing about re-purposing cheap objects when you are staging: They can't look inexpensive. That's important. Frugal-looking  accessories will cheapen your home. And the whole point of home staging is to add perceived value to your home.

    Two Tricks.

    There are a couple ways to make sure that frugal props don't look tacky. One is to keep them to a minimum. You can't stage a whole room with rejects and junk.

    But you can start with rejects and junk, and turn them into beauties.

    Make your crafting stylish.

    Make it neat.

    Practice, and have a finished product in mind.

    To avoid the look that you've decorated with crafts made in summer camp by eight-year olds, surround your re-purposed props with more finished objects and accessories with pedigree. If your salvaged objet d'art has some class, feel free to combine it with more casual or quirky materials.  Like rubber ducks.


    What looks like a sterling silver compote in this bathroom setup is really two thrifted silverplate items glued together. The top piece is from an old juicer and has a hole in the bottom for attaching to an electric mixer.

    The bottom piece is an trophy cup I inverted. Alone, they aren't much. But, together, they make a nest for bath toys. That's what staging with junk is all about.

    Why not make a garden planter, or even an indoor vase, of shoes or boots that you would otherwise toss? Give it a drainage hole in the bottom if the plants are real.

    I've planted and arranged flowers in old workboots, cowboy boots, snow galooshes, fishing boots, and children's wellies. This is not the look to go for if your house tends to be traditional, but suitable if you are selling a cottage, ranch, or rural home. Of course, you'll use moderation, one pair of boots or shoes at the most.

        

    Old toys can be an excellent source of items to re-purpose as staging props. I'm thinking of a display of old fashioned alphabet blocks, a classic teddy bear in a child's room, or a metal wagon used as a planter in the garden.

    Pages from illustrated children's books are ideal for framed artwork, even in a sophisticated loft, where they can contribute to the eclecticism.

    Trick #2

    Another way to keep thrifty props from looking sad is to stay on trend and stay with the seasons.

    Avoid colors like hunter green and burgundy popular in the 80's.

    Change your accessories when the seasons change if they are obviously seasonal.

    On impulse, I grabbed a derelict Christmas decoration, and then spray painted it yellow. With a fresh bow, it took on a new life as a springtime outdoor wreath, one that greets home buyers and gives them the message that this house is loved by its attentive owners.

    Get Out of Doors.

    Shop Mother Nature for free decor.

     There are rocks, branches, fresh greenery, shells, birds nests, pinecones, moss, and other goodies, depending on where you live. 

    Granted, it's tough if you live in a big city, but, hey, big city people can get more things curbside, so let's not have any jealousies.

    One of the thriftiest ways to bring a dose of the outdoors inside is with tree branches. Paint them or leave them natural, and set them in a generously sized vase or tub.


    Hunt for whatever nature has designed, and you can't go wrong. I have a thing for rocks, and I've been known to bring them home from my travels.

    If there are rocks where you live, make them part of your decorating. I think these smooth river rocks add a handsome touch to a tabletop vignette. 


    Except for the hot glue and the spray paints, this wreath is made from what was brought home from the woods and beach. I cut the bottoms off pine cones with wire snips to make the flowers.

    I encourage you to try your hand at embellishing a vine wreath with found objects. The out of doors is the ultimate free warehouse of arts and craft supplies.

    Check Your Recycle Bin. 

    Look again at what you are throwing away, and use your imagination. Enlist items like tin cans, bottles, paper, and cardboard to become part of your home staging.  



    A gift-wrapped box is a perfect staging prop. Who doesn't have a positive reaction to a present? The empty box is free. I used a wallpaper sample to wrap this box and tied it with leftover Christmas ribbon.

    Did you know that the wallpaper sample books at paint stores have to be recycled at some point? Ask nicely and you're likely to score your choice of these fat and handy packs of paper.

    I use wallpaper samples to cover lamp shades, boxes, trays, tin cans, jars, vases, and mats for framing.


    Sometimes a can is just a can. They can be so darn decorative, why not put them to work as containers for whatever you want to display to capture the imagination of a buyer?


    I made this paper mache bowl made from the pages of last year's telephone book. After painting it, I decorated it with a marking pen. If you make your bowl pretty enough, it can stand alone, but I added something most of us have on hand.


    Sure, they've just funky, tissue paper flowers, but they are sitting in a crystal decanter. Some staging props are one step away from the wastebasket, but pairing them with items of provenance makes them legitimate.  

    There's no shortage of DIY projects that improve the look, the feel and the value of your home, in my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. Download now and let the fun begin!

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