Monday, February 24, 2014

Questions about Faucet Choices, Paint Colors, and Wicker Furniture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don't recommend using outdoor wicker indoors. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't forget that you can get answers to the most common home staging questions, plus much, much more, in my $4.99 home staging eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. 


Monday, February 3, 2014

How To Stretch Your Home Staging Dollars

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

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

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

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

Or an interior designer friend who will take your hand. 

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

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

Prioritize: Decide What’s Important

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

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

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

It’s always reassuring to know that statistically you’re within guidelines. That means if you plan to list your home for $250,000, your staging budget should be between $2,500 and 5,000. You’ll want to spend it wisely. That’s where the second trick comes into play.

Source Right: Make Economical Purchases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Lessons

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

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

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

There's more of this kind of sanity-saving advice in my home staging eBooks. You can download them instantly and begin staging your own home today. They’re only $4.99 each!     


Top Photo: BHG

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