Monday, January 16, 2017

How to Jump Start Your Homestaging

When it's prime time to list a home, will your property be ready? 
Most real estate agents agree that spring is the busiest home-buying period. Families with children want to move as soon as school ends and others want to make a purchase early in the year for income tax reasons.

By March they say the home buying market cools. These stats mean that if you want to get your home listed in a friendly market, you want to get staging it now!

Don’t be overwhelmed. When you take homestaging step by step, you won’t waste time, you’ll keep the stress level in check, and you’ll sell your home soon at a price you like.

One: Dump the Junk

Getting rid of what doesn’t flatter your home should kick off your plans. It’s a great place to start because you won’t be spinning your wheels organizing and cleaning what we can consider clutter. I’ve already written tips to make decluttering easy.

Give yourself a deadline for having your home excess-free. Setting milestones along the way makes the process smoother. “By Thursday I’ll have the bedroom closets scaled down to essentials.”

If you need to store belongings off-site, now’s the time to locate a place.

Two:  Give Rooms Names

Buyers get confused when a room doesn’t appear to have a singular purpose. Each room in your home needs to shout its function. “I’m the master bedroom!” “I’m the home office.” “I’m the family room.”

So, if you are currently using your dining room as homework central, or your guest room as a crafting place, now’s the time to scale back and make it easy for buyers to see rooms for what they are.

At the same time, you might want to tuck a home management desk into a corner of the kitchen if there is space for it, or a reading spot in a large bedroom. Just make sure you aren’t crowding the space or going in too many directions with multi-purpose rooms.
 
Comfort and practicality are selling features that don't require much furniture. 
Three: Check the Traffic Flow

How you move through your home on a daily basis may be different from the way home buyers tour your home. Try this: enter from the front door. Look around. In what direction would a guest go first? Is the traffic pattern obvious and unobstructed? Does each room appear spacious? Do doors open wide? Are the selling points of the home sure to be part of even a quick tour?

If you need tips on rating your floor plan and traffic path, you’ll find them in my eBook, How to Arrange Furniture. The placement of furniture in your rooms will point people in the right direction and make your spaces feel both friendly and functional.

Four: Choose Your Furnishings

Now that you know how you want your rooms to function and how you want people to walk through them, you can decide which major pieces of furniture should stay and which have to go. Most of us own too much furniture. The pieces that need to be removed can be placed in storage (off-site is best), loaned to friends and family, or sold.

Choose the furnishings that convey the lifestyle most people aspire to – one of success and comfort. Ask yourself, “Does the furniture look like it belongs to a rich and happy person?” Sounds silly, I know, but isn’t this what most people aspire to?

Repair, recover, repaint or replace… Do whatever it takes to make your home look polished and desirable. For inspiration, thumb through shelter magazines and scan popular Pinterest rooms.

Five: Schedule Tasks

Put rehab money where it matters --baths, master suite, kitichen.  
No plan would be complete with a timeline. Now that you know what you want your rooms to look like, you can determine what needs to be done and give yourself some deadlines.

Make a schedule however you like – on paper, on a whiteboard, on a spreadsheet, or in your mind -- whatever works for you.
 
You may prefer to tackle your tasks room by room, or cluster your work by the tools they require. For example, I like to save all my spray painting projects for the perfect day. And I will clean all the ceiling light fixtures when I have a step ladder out. Plan ahead and think like an efficiency expert.

Six: Give Yourself a Budget

This can be tough. When you’re selling a home, your mind is often fixed on saving for a down payment and for the money to personalize your next home.

Homestaging can require a big chunk of money or it can be done on a shoestring. It depends on the condition of your home, the market for your home, and how it will be priced. Now would be a good time, if you haven’t already, to lock in a real estate agent who can estimate selling price.

Like many other projects, whether a vacation or wardrobe makeover, you might plan to splurge on a couple of major luxuries, and then let other homestaging “needs” stay as “good enough.” The golden rule here is that infrastructure comes first and cosmetics second. In other words, make sure roofing, plumbing, electrical and structural systems are sound before you buy a new living room sofa.

With a rough budget in mind, you can plan what needs to be purchased and what could be borrowed or rented. Factor in costs for necessary contractors such as a carpet cleaning service, handyman, plumber, landscaper, housepainter, handyman or electrician.

Seven: Have Some Fun

At this point, you can turn your attention to nitty gritty staging. I like to have a “staging area,” where I can collect what items I know will stay, where I can keep tools, fabric swatches, paint chips, lists, props and other accessories. 

It’s time to plan your color scheme -- one that will unify the whole house. If you are unsure about some decisions, ask a friend whose taste you trust or seek advice at a paint store. 

Your home is bound to continue to look increasing like a model home as you fine tune your furnishings and maybe continue to pare down your belongings. Before you know it, you’ll be ready for that initial showing. Next step: a purchase offer!

There’s much more advice on how to stage your own home in my eBook, DIY Homestaging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. The cost is a ridiculously low $4.99 for a 150-page PDF that you can download now and view on any device. 

All photos: Better Homes and Gardens   

Monday, January 2, 2017

Houseplants Even You Can't Kill

Every home needs some living plants!  

Plants breathe life into a room. I’m pretty sure most of us already know that greenery adds style to any d├ęcor. Their natural good looks add believability and freshness to a room.

As a bonus to homestagers, living plants are natural mood elevators, a fact that homesellers can use to make buyers feel good when they are touring a home on the market.
  
Not only do houseplants make a room look and feel fresher, they actually clean the air because they take in carbon dioxide and process it into oxygen. Meanwhile, they absorb harmful, common air pollutants that outgas from synthetic finishes and cleaning products. 

And yet, some of us are resistant to make houseplants part of our homestaging package. With valid reason. You have to take care of them!

The good news is that there are plants that don’t ask much in the way of care. They are the goof-proof house plants that seem to thrive on neglect. Here is my list of favorites.

Snake Plant Tops the List 

You say you have a brown thumb? Not a problem
if you stage with a snake plant like this
It’s also known as mother-in-law’s tongue but technically it’s called Sansevieria trifasciata, and that’s a mouthful of Latin! 

The beauty of these plants is that, well, they are beautiful, with their strong upright structure and bands of dark greens.

The snake plant lets you get away with minimal watering.  It doesn’t ask for much sunlight, so it can sit in a low-light corner and still be happy.


Add Fluff with Ferns

Ferns are one of my favorite plants, an opinion shared by many. They are graceful and versatile. Because they are tropical plants they want more water than a snake plant, so keep them where they will not damage any surface in case your container sweats or could leak. Ferns are happiest in bright or filtered or indirect sun.

Whatever your personal taste or decor style, you'll find a fern variety that  fits the bill. 
I like to give fern plants a cleaning in the shower to provide the humidity they prefer and to get any dust off the fronds. Let them soak up the water and then drain well before putting them back in place. Rotating a fern occasionally will keep the growth balanced for a better appearance. 

Ferns are perfect space fillers for almost any room in the house – a home office, kitchen, bedroom, bath, or communal living areas. Kept watered, they will not shed, wither or discolor. When a home is staged to sell, a plant making a mess or looking unhealthy can hint that the home itself has not been cared for. Tidy wins the day. 

My aglaonema plant grows slowly and never gets bugs or diseases. Perfect!  
Chinese Evergreen Plant Asks for Almost Nothing

I have an aglaonema plant, also called Chinese evergreen, that I admit to forgetting about for a couple weeks at a stretch. And it forgives me every time, bouncing back after a soak in the sink and a little pruning of any yellowed leaves.

This ability to live without much attention makes the Chinese evergreen plant a good one to place in an unoccupied, staged home.

Chinese evergreens are content with indirect light so they can sit in an unsunny room. One of the worst places you can put any plant is next to a window because light enters the window but light rays do not bend to reach sideways. 

Don't Sneer at Philodendron

We've all seen these rangy plants in stores and offices, with their heart-shaped leaves spaced along dangling stems. However, a philodendron that is well cared for is compact and handsome. Its glossy leaves and tolerant manner make it one of the most common indoor plants, one that is currently enjoying a return to popularity.   
Philodendron plants are at home in almost any setting and unlike some
houseplants, don't mind if you move them from one place to another. 

There are many varieties of philodendron. Some fruit or flower. Some vine and need a support and some are content to stay in their pot. Some have huge leaves and others appear less jungle-like. They all prefer medium light but will tolerate low light. You can't go wrong with a philodendron! 

Dracaena Looks Architectural

Called the corn plant, this one could be the easiest one on our list to grow. Shown in the top photo, dracaena look like a small tree with sword-shaped dark green leaves accented with a creamy middle stripe. They prefer bright light but will tolerate low light.

The corn plant can add an upright form to a room that lacks architectural interest. They are good space-fillers useful for staging a home that doesn’t have quite enough furniture. Because they don’t require bright light, they could be the right plant for an entry or hall that doesn’t receive much natural light.

Big or small, alone or in groupings, prickly or
smooth, cactus plants love you back.
 
The Cactus Family Tops My List  

I’ve written before about how handy faux cacti and other succulents can be when you are staging a home. All the real ones ask for is bright light and dry conditions. 

The easiest to tend -- if you can call it that --  are the dessert cacti. An added bonus to these varieties is that they usually have interesting shapes and textures. They especially look good clustered in an interesting planter. Even in winter, while all cacti are dormant and require even less water and feeding, they still add some pizazz to the home staging environment.  

Basic Care for These Easy-Care Plants

All these easy care plants benefit from a mild fertilizer in spring and summer and less water in the winter than the rest of the year. They need to be kept away from drafts and direct heat. Use a good potting soil that lets their roots spread out and that drains well.   

None of the plants described here are expensive to buy or difficult to find. Big box home improvement centers stock them year round. If you want to leave them in a plastic pot it’s easy to place that pot in a larger, more impressive container as long as the plastic one doesn’t show because that just looks amateurish. You can use sphagnum moss or rocks to cover the soil surface and disguise the gap between the two pots. 

Make sure your plants are not root bound. Just press them or pop them out of their containers to check for signs that the roots are crowded. 

Some houseplants are fussy. But the economical and forgiving ones I've described here are no-brainers. And they really liven up a room. Why not put their almost magical powers to use in your homestaging?

Want more tips on how to sell your home faster for more money? Download my $4.99 homestaging eBooks today and start staging your own home! 


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