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 real estate agents.

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? 

Quirkiness

"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: reddoor-re.com

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 year ahead, when your home will sell and you’ll find another home that your love. 

Be sure to download my $4.99 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: http://www.theredheadbaker.com

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 $4.99 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. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

How Scents are Messing with Your Health

Do you know what's in your home fragrances?
It's fun, frugal, and healthier to make your own. Try a scented spray,
a lime pomander, your own diffuser, and my citrus and salt potpourri. 

If your home is for sale, it better smell good!

I’ve blogged about how important it is to eliminate smells from pets, mold, or cooking. 

Sanitation and ventilation usually take care of these problems. But most of us like to add another fragrance, whether it's an air freshener, a room atomizer, or scented candles. Department stores develop their own signature fragrances to get you in the mood for buying, so why not you?    

The problem is almost all these manufactured scents create health problems. 

Artificially scented products like the ones I mentioned, as well as soaps, laundry detergents, spray cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, pesticides, preservatives, plastics, and a  host of other ordinary items, contain what’s called endocrine disruptors.

An endocrine disruptor is a naturally occurring or man-made chemical that either acts like or blocks the hormones of your internal endocrine system. These false hormones are called xenoestrogens and the list of conditions they create is long: early puberty, lessened female fertility, endometriosis, cancer, and other disturbances to your nervous system, immune system and reproductive system. 
You can see why it’s important to know where you’ll run across these pretender hormones. They can enter our bodies through our skin, the air we breath, and the foods we eat.

You may already know about these ingredients and their effects on the body. If so, please help me spread the word. Rather than fostering paranoia, let’s all look for ways to rid our lives of these toxic chemicals. It’s important.
It’s especially important if you are a woman. And even more so if you are pregnant or could become pregnant. 

On the left -- some of the cleaners that contain xenoestrogens. Yes, even Mrs. Meyer's
stuff contains artificial fragrances. On the right are harmless,economical
 substitutes that do the same work -- baking soda, vinegar, microfiber
cloths and essential oils (not to be confused with fragrance oils).    

Here’s How to Start
  • Read labels. Check for fragrance ingredients. Manufacturers are not required to list all chemical additives by name. The only acceptable fragrance should be “essential oil.”
  • Avoid plastics. Store and cook food in glass or stainless. Avoid non-stick cookware. Microwave in glass or ceramic. Use a fabric instead of a plastic shower curtain. Don't handle new plastic products that have a strong chemical aroma. 
  • Don't touch. Don’t handle the thermal receipt a store gives you. Instead, ask the cashier to place it in your shopping bag. Wash your hands after handling one. 
  • Skip the canned goods. Buy fresh or frozen foods so you can limit exposure to BPA in can linings. Favor organic foods.
  • Filter water. It’s better than drinking spring water that’s been stored in plastic bottles. 
  • Go natural. Use natural insecticides. Purchase unscented bath, beauty, laundry and cleaning products. Do it yourself. Make your own air fresheners and cleaners.     
No one loves a deliciously scented soap more than I do. Check those labels.
You'll find that almost all supermarket soaps are not really soaps,
but "beauty bars" or "deodorant bars," whatever that is!
If you buy locally produced soaps,  you'll fare much better.
Yardley soaps and Dr. Bronners are good.
You can also create your own bath scrubs and skin care products.
I wash my face once a week with a teaspoon of sugar for an exfoliant.


Easy Formulas

Yes, you can create home remedies to replace the nasty but necessary home care products you count on. Read labels of "green products," and if you still don't like what you see, turn to DIY.    

Natural air freshener: Cut orange in half. Scoop out pulp (the part you would eat), and reserve the pulp and the remaining half orange for another use. Rub inside of empty orange half with 2 teaspoons salt. Place in pretty bowl and set where it will scent the room.

Natural oil diffuser: Combine 3 parts mineral oil, 2 parts vodka or gin, and 1 part essential oil of your choice. Pour into container with narrow neck (the neck reduces evaporation). Insert reeds and invert the reeds every few days. Use the same formula minus the mineral oil to make an air freshener spray.  

It's not true that natural essential oils won't bother chemically sensitive people -- people who might be coming to view your home on the market. To be safe, keep the scents in your home on the light side, never overwhelming.       

Fabric softener sheets and liquids are prime offenders. So are the aerosols that claim to
"freshen the air." Below I've given you websites that will hook you up to
directions for making heavenly and user-friendly aroma sources, including sprays and
diffusers.  I love the "candles" that operate on batteries.
They don' t have any fragrance,  but they glow and flicker convincingly.   

Call to Action
     
This post is not a go-green-or-die proclamation. Instead it’s a call to increase our awareness of environmental toxins, so that we can make changes to improve and protect our own and our family’s health.

Will I still bring out the Bar Keeper’s Friend to treat a rust spot that nothing else can tackle? And resort to Lime-Away to deal when hard water stains build up?  Probably. But I’ll limit my exposure as much as possible. I’ll ventilate, wear gloves, use sparingly, and continue to search for substitutes

Manicures. Will this be the one that's hard to give up?
Try the nail buffer for an alternative to chemical polishes and glues. I use one and I love it.
Natural, healthy-looking, shiny nails can be sexy, too!   


Links That Help

My research unearthed numerous support sources. We are not alone! Here are some sites that will give you details and encouragement.

If you majored in chemistry, check the Wikipedia listing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endocrine_disruptor
If you’d like a quick overview specifying the dangers of endocrine disruptors and what you can do to avoid them, go to http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/qendoc.asp
If you want a quick list to the dirty dozen endocrine disruptors check http://www.ewg.org/research/dirty-dozen-list-endocrine-disruptors
If you need a list of health ratings for common health and beauty products, the best one is http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
If you want concise recipes for making your own cleaning products, visit http://eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_solutions.htm
If you want to read what Glamour Magazine told women to do, read
If you are into making your own bath and beauty products (great as gifts!) you’ll find recipes here http://wellnessmama.com/5801/7-ingredients-20-diy-beauty-recipes/
If you like making your own air fresheners, try those at
http://www.designsponge.com/2012/11/small-measures-natural-room-spritz.html
If you want to know the post I like best for making diy air fresheners, it’s http://www.thankyourbody.com/homemade-air-freshener/
If you want to buy reed diffuser sticks, you can get them from Yankee Candle  http://www.yankeecandle.com/flameless/reed-diffuser/reed-sticks
And from Amazon
If you want to choose from a major list of quality essential oils, order from http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/index2.php

What's Your Story?   

In today’s world we can’t eliminate all the things that compromise our health, but we can certainly reduce our exposure to them. I’m renewing a pledge to myself to substitute real fragrances and fresh air for chemical derivatives. I hope you’ll join me. 

What will be the artificially scented product most difficult for you to give up? And how can you find an acceptable replacement?

Don't forget to order my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. If you are selling a home, it will take you through the steps that make a difference!

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