Monday, July 21, 2014

Front Door Re-Paint: Six Steps to Choose a Color

Thinking of changing your front door color? Confused about the choices? There’s only a bazillion possibilities! Let’s take it one step at a time.

Look at Your Siding Color
Typically, your house siding is the resting spot for eyes, whether it is wood, vinyl, brick, stucco, cement board, stone, or some combination. Your front door should punctuate that space and be the focal point of your home, inviting people to approach. For a cohesive look that still attracts attention, choose a door color that has the same undertones as your siding. The undertones can be muddy, or clear or tints of yellow, grey, blue, red, or green.

If you're having trouble coordinating colors, talk to an experienced salesperson at a paint store (not a big box store). He can help harmonize colors for you based on what is recommended by the color experts at the company's corporate headquarters. A trained sales clerk can tell you the undertones because stores have the pigment formulas.    

Match the Style of Your Home
If your home is a charming cottage, go with a cheerful color like pale yellow or a mid-tone blue. If you own a brick home, stay with colors that don’t emphasize the orange tones, such as muted a green like the one shown above, or a warm grey. If you have a classically restored ranch, a Victorian, a Williamsburg-style, or a Craftsman home, stay true to the palettes that are historically correct.

Pick up one of brick's cool tones for a door. This Old House photo.
Go Bold, Not Crazy
Picture a realtor bringing her clients to your front door. There are those few seconds as the door is being unlocked. Expectations are high. This is your chance to set the tone. 

The most popular colors for doors are dark greens and olive greens, classic black, burgundy reds, all shades of grey, navy blues or aubergine, along with  yellows and creamy whites. 

When you move to your next home, you can go nuts with that taxi cab yellow or neon pink, but I advise sticking to front door colors anyone could love, just the way you do with interior colors when you are staging.          

Check Your Entryway
When guests (and prospective home buyers) enter your home through the front door, the first room they see is the entry. Whether it’s a tiny foyer, a grand staircase, or your whole studio apartment, the interior color should talk to the exterior color. They shouldn’t match, but they shouldn’t clash. 

Your home will seem bigger and more intentionally put together when there is a sense of flow. Big is good in the eyes of buyers.   

This blue is in the same family as the siding. This Old House Photo.
Study Your Neighborhood
I always suggest that people follow local traditions when staging their homes. It’s an opportunity to cash in on the appeal of local flavor, which is especially attractive to people house hunting because they are relocating from another area of the country. Why try to look like a Nantucket cottage if you live in the desert, or imitate an Iowa farmhouse if you live in New Orleans?         

Ideally, you’ll strike a happy balance between fitting in and standing out. Pick a color that is not identical to the homes immediately surrounding yours. If your home is not in sight of neighboring houses, you have more leeway. Remember that people are more comfortable buying a home from people they feel simpatico with, people they want to be like. 

So, don’t be the crazy lady with the multicolored front door. Sure, show some style, but don’t narrow your market.   

Stick to a Simple Palette
Choose a color that is not the same as the siding, trim, shutters, foundation, roof, steps, lattice, or window boxes. Consider your siding as color number one – the largest block of color. Color number two will be your roof, which should harmonize with your siding. Color three is your trim. Color four is your door. 

If you have shutters or other details, they should relate to one of these colors, a lighter or darker shade of the door, the trim, the roof, or the siding.   

Is a red door for you? See what Maria Killam says.
Let Me Just Add...
Did you know that some new (and even some not-so-new) homes still have just primer on the doors? Builders can, either through frugality or negligence, leave side doors and back doors without anything more than a factory prime. Often these doors are grey, but they can be white. Do any of your doors look like they received only a quick spray at the factory? Are they showing wear around the edges and knob? It’s time for a coat of paint. Side doors and back doors can match siding or trim. They should not be the same color as the front door.

If you have a storm or screen door, painting it to match the front door is one possibility that has worked for some. Others remove the storm or screen door while the home is on the market, for a cleaner look.

If you live where your neighborhood association or HOA dictates or limits your color selection, make the best of it by keeping your door in excellent repair and clean. That includes the area around your doorway. Cobwebs and debris seem to find a way to accumulate there overnight. Make sure you have something seasonal to dress up the area and to make the entrance feel fresh and friendly.   

Don’t plant flowers or shrubs that will fight for attention with your front door. Keep it simple and make the door the magnet that draws buyers.

Don't ignore brown, white or grey as possible colors. House and Home Photo.
If you own a home with vinyl siding and you and everyone else hates the color, it can be painted. There are paints formulated just for vinyl. I once knew a spec home that was sided with sky blue vinyl. It sat on the market for two years. Finally the desperate builder had the siding repainted a warm, light yellow. The house sold in a matter of weeks. Along the same lines, I once owned a home with aluminum siding that had dulled over time. I was able to brush on a new coat of paint in a fresh color that brought it back to life. Although most people consider vinyl and aluminum siding a plus because it is low maintenance and painting it will require a repaint in years ahead, you might decide painting is necessary to attract a buyer.

Avoid high gloss paint finishes. A low-luster stain or semi-gloss will wear well and hide any imperfections. If you are sold on a glossy door, your door should be in prime condition.    

If you want an inclusive, fun post about paint colors in American history, I recommend reading what Joe Davis writes.

Your front door is the centerpiece of that all-important view from the street. Painting it yourself is an economical and simple improvement. These guidelines should help you decide on the perfect color. For more tips on boosting your home's value for the real estate market, read my $5 eBooks.  

Top photo: National Builders Supply.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Staging Your Home for the Summer Months

When people purchase a home they buy a vision of their future. And most people's vision of summer is a happy one.  

Now that summertime is here, it's the time to double-check your homestaging. Does it capitalize on the happy vibes of the season?

I've collected a series of photos that I think captures the spirit of summer, one of the busiest home-buying times of the year.

I hope you'll take inspiration and ideas from these images, and make the most of summer staging so you'll land a purchase offer you love!

Summertime staging can incorporate a little whimsy without looking goofy. Try some humorous or nostalgic touches in small spaces or outdoors. How about some silly sayings on your guest bath towels? Or vintage beach scenes framed in the hallway? Maybe some  whirligigs outside a colorful garden shed?

A summer wreath of fabric, shells, or bright summer flowers on the front door welcomes people touring your home. Pots of blooming plants near your entrance are a must if you're working on boosting your curb appeal. You can take potted plants with you when you move, so splurge on pretty containers and interesting plants. 

Look for props that spell summer fun, especially if you live near a summer destination like a pool, lake or beach. Incorporate fun things like picnic baskets, sand pails and flip flops, seaside relics like coral, rope and shells, or souvenirs like framed art from a vacation destination.
Every outdoor space needs seating, and it doesn't have to be pricey or trendy. Find a shady corner to stage   a relaxing setting. Photo: Fine Gardening. 
Turning a porch into an outdoor eating and entertaining area is like adding a room. Photo: Sunset.
A backyard fire pit is a plus, and a simple fire ring is a do-able DIY project. Photo: HGTV.


Summer months are gardening time, and everyone wants homegrown tomatoes. Add some pots to the yard, balcony, deck or patio that remind buyers of summer meals.

Indoors, collections can remind buyers of the local sights and pleasures. Photo: HGTV
Seasonal color schemes focus on cool pastels or crisp blues and white. Photo: BHG
White slipcovers and summer are a tight twosome. Easy-care furnishings will give your home a casual. lived-in feeling that is attractive to all home buyers. Loft and Cottage BlogSpot.
Even if your home is nowhere near the coast, driftwood and other natural elements add that touch of nature that is part of summer's lifestyle. Photo via Completely Coastal.
Nautical, beachy or tropical artwork is perfect for summer staging. Photo: House Beautiful. 
A master bedroom can suggest an exotic retreat or vacation spot. Photo: Coastal Living
Even formal settings benefit in summer from some laid back furnishings like sisal rugs and painted furniture. Photo: Vanessa Francis Design, K West Images
A fireplace mantel can reflect the mood of summer even though the fireplace is "closed for the season." Photo: Centsational  Girl.

I hope you'll find small and not-so-small ways to showcase the joys of summer for househunters. No matter where you live or what size, style or age your home is, there's always opportunities to "summarize" it. Doing so will help buyers imagine their summer cookouts, staycations, and celebrations at your house once they've bought it!

If you are staging your own home (or someone elses!) my $5 homestaging eBooks make it easy. I've been there, and I share all my tips for making a house the one buyers want.   

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Living in Your Staged Home and Loving It. Or Not.

Keeping your home on the market show-ready can be tricky.
You want to sell your home quickly at a price that makes you feel great.

So you’ve staged it to impress buyers.  Now you get to live in your beautifully staged home.

How’s that working for you?

Having a hard time keeping clutter under control?

Tired of Swiffering every day?

Wish you could leave dishes soaking in the sink every morning? 

Miss having your collections and family photos on display?

Going crazy keeping the fluffy towels on display in the bathroom?

I’ve lived in staged homes, and I’ve talked to plenty of people who have done the same. I know it can be difficult and stressful. Here are some of the solutions to problems that go along with waiting for that serious buyer.

Remember it’s temporary.

Look at this period of your life as the time you are running your own business.

Prepping a home for the real estate market and maintaining it so buyers swoon is your mission now. Done right, it will be a financial success, so consider it a job. It may feel overwhelming at times (what job doesn’t?) but the unavoidable truth is the better your home looks, the faster it will sell and the more money will go in your pocket.   

Embrace the Simplicity.

House hunters don't expect sterile perfection, but neatness counts. Photo: BHG.
It’s common for homeowners who have staged their homes to say, “Why didn’t we do this sooner? I love how my home looks!”

With all the stress of selling a home and moving, you deserve a serene, uncluttered living environment.   
To get to that point, you’ll need to look at your home with fresh eyes. Re-examine all the items on your kitchen counters and bath vanities and bookshelves and desks and tabletops. Ask yourself how often you use that blender or bread maker. Find places to file your coupons and bills. Stash all your cosmetics in one tote that fits under the sink. Whittle down your wardrobe. Get rid of things you don’t need or like any more. In some cases, you might decide seldom used stuff can be completely eliminated or else packed into storage. 

This kind of pared down living can be habit-forming. If you're like most people, you’ll feel more in control of your life, less overwhelmed by excess and unfinished business.

Choreograph routines.

There’s a reason factories put products together assembly line style. The same steps are repeated at regular intervals by the same people. It’s a method that saves time because there’s no wasted motion or steep learning curve.

What efficient routines can you establish? Making beds, throwing away papers and junk mail, and getting dishes out of sight every day could be three typical routines. Clothes go immediately to the hamper, not the floor. Dishes go to the dishwasher, not the sink. The toilet lid and seat goes down after every use. Front steps and walkways get swept daily. Toys are picked up every evening.

If you can assign each person in your household a specific room or set of tasks, you've made a move towards more efficient household management.Think like a factory manager and streamline as many chores as practical to save time and trouble.    

Call for backup.

A room without lots of small things is easier to clean. Photo:Eric Roseff Design.
Maybe you can’t afford to hire a housecleaning service or lawn maintenance service, but if you have family, everyone should have a daily task to keep the house looking good. After you've deep cleaned and de-cluttered your home, maintenance jobs are doable by the unskilled, and I am not mentioning any age groups or genders here, to be diplomatic.

Have a pre-showing checklist and assign jobs from that. Tell yourself and your children that learning and implementing these simple housekeeping strategies will help develop habits that improve ordinary life long after the house is sold.

Confine Activity.

If you have rooms that get minimal use – a game room, a guest room or bath, a formal dining room, or a bonus room -- consider staging it and then closing the door. In effect, you are placing it off-limits.

With minimal traffic and usage in one area, cleaning there is a breeze and tidying up should be a thing of the past.

This room-quarantine method doesn’t work for everyone. If you’re moving in order to give your family more square footage, I’m guessing that closing off some spaces won’t work in your present house. However there may be smaller versions of the same principal that will work now. Some home sellers switch to a shoeless home when they are selling. Others move their pets to a friend’s house. Are there small changes you can institute that will make living the staged life feel easier?  

While these suggestions may not reflect the way you usually enjoy your home, you’ve made the right decision to stage your property. Soon your efforts will be rewarded with a generous purchase offer.

Reminder: Download my staging eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. It's an essential guidebook that will let you save money by staging your own home like a pro!

Top Photo: Andreas Trauttmansdorff Photography

Monday, April 21, 2014

How to Stage Children's Rooms

Can we talk about staging children’s bedrooms? I recently received an email from Sarah asking for advice in this department.

I wrote about staging when you have children on this blog and in my home staging eBook, but I want to emphasize some points about staging kids’ bedrooms.   

When your home is for sale and you have children living there, you’re forced to walk a delicate balance between maintaining a consistent home environment for your little ones and keeping the home irresistibly show-ready for a variety of demographic buyers.

Gee, talk about a challenge!

Don’t hate me for asking for the impossible.  I’m a mom and grandmother and I know what little people need, and how their spaces can look. Yeah, disaster areas. 

So, please remember, I’m offering advice, I'm  not casting rules in stone. Your family comes first … and usually the budget a close second.

Home staging and parenting share a common denominator: We do the best we can and that is good enough!  

What I Told Sarah

Your home has just so much square footage. Every buyer wants space. The more usable space your home appears to have, the more valuable it looks to a buyer. Your goal, just as in every other room, is to make as many buyers as practical envision themselves comfortably, effortlessly living in your home and using every available square foot.

You know where I’m going with this. Make your rooms look roomy and generic. Not dull, not boring … just not so specific in function or decor that buyers write off the space.

Here are my best tips for staging children's rooms, based on the most common mistakes parents make when selling a home where kids live. 
Help your children keep their room tidy by temporarily minimizing belongings 
and providing places to stash stuff. Photo: Sawyer Berson via Decorpad.  

Ditch Little Mermaid and Friends. Ditto sports teams, pirates, cowboys, and rainbows. Don’t create a themed room. This isn't your chance to have fun. It's your chance to get a  good price for your home. Don't alienate any buyers. Instead, make the room look as much like a bedroom anyone would be comfortable staying in. Ask yourself, “Would this function as a guest room, the way it looks now?” 

Cancel Handwriting on the Wall. Don’t paint murals on the walls or ceilings. Whether it’s a professionally hand-painted masterpiece or a wallpaper border, what are the chances Mr. House-Hunter will love it as much as your children and you do? Why risk souring a potential purchaser who wants move-in ready without any painting or paper-stripping on his part?  For the same reason, I also discourage chalkboard walls

Skip Customized Cabinetry. Don’t create built-ins that limit the use of the floor’s square footage the way bunk beds, cubbies, and custom play areas like cars or castles would. A trundle bed, sleeper sofa, or convertible day bed is a good alternative if you need to sleep two. Once again, we do the best we can, given our lifestyle and budget.

I realize you're not going to rip out built-in shelving and play tables, and that's rational. But if you've just spent $200 on two sets of Disney bedspreads, blankets, and sheets, you could pack them away for now and replace them with bedding that doesn't shout, "Look at Me!"  

A realtor once told me that bunk beds were a sign to buyers that the home was short of space. Food for thought.  

Eliminate Girly or Oh, Boy! Don’t decorate exclusively to one gender. Not all pink ruffles but not all camo either. You’ve staged your other rooms to appeal to the masses so repeat the formula here. Go with a wall color that flows with the rest of your home. Make it easy for the buyer to envision this room as an office, craft room, or a bedroom for anyone regardless of gender or age.
I like to think that making a room look
grown-up will encourage grown-up behavior.
Photo: Phillip House NYC via Decorpad. 

You almost have to think politically correct! 

Consider Safety First. Creeps are everywhere. Don’t announce your children’s names on signs, pillows, and toys. I cringe when I see children wearing clothing or carrying backpacks with their name for all to read, making it easy for a child predator to use the "I know you" trick.  Never forget that strangers will be touring your home. They know where you live. Don't give them your children's names.  

DeClutter. Again. Not knowing how long your home will be on the market complicates the issue of where to store toys, books, sports equipment, mementos, awards, and other childhood paraphernalia. You can usually find storage areas in your home where you can rotate out some cartons of toys and clothing.

It‘s impossible for very young children to understand why toys and clothes need to be put away regularly. Storage like low chests and large, lidded baskets will look attractive and make daily pickups go more smoothly.

Your outdoors areas should be as tidy as the indoor areas. That means no collection of old wagons and strollers, no play equipment that doesn't get used but is still stored in the garage or attic. 

A playroom is a playroom and can be staged as one, as long as it can be visualized as having another function -- game room, family room or bonus room. Never give up a bedroom. Bedrooms translate as money. If your playroom is a bedroom, make sure there is a bed in there.        

Marketing Your Home

Look for what families need that overlaps with what everyone needs – things like plenty of storage space, comfortable congregating areas, areas for privacy, and easy home maintenance features.  Emphasize these qualities with your staging and in your listing.

Are there special features in your town or neighborhood that make it attractive to families? Attractions like exceptional schools, parks, hiking trails, swimming pools, summer programs, museums, and sports programs can be listed on your sales literature.
There's plenty of hidden storage in this nursery.
And the quilt and butterflies are a better
decorating option than paint or wallpaper because
they are easily removable. This photo and top photo: Domino

Of course, if you decide that the target market for your home is families, you might decide to stage your child’s room the way blogger Kim Six did. She made some smart decisions that balanced her family’s lifestyle with the demands of staging to sell.

Incidentally, I never recommend deciding who your target market is because I think it minimizes chances you will appeal to those outside your market.

Whichever way you decide to go, contain as best you can children’s essentials to limited areas where they make staging-sense. By this I mean no bins of toy boats and rubber ducks in the bath, no gallery wall of finger-painted works of art in the kitchen, and no parade of strollers, wagons and scooters in the front entryway.   

It’s just temporary.       

If you look at the Pinterest Board for children’s rooms that Barb Schwartz, home staging’s pioneer, created, it shows everything I am telling you not to do. Yes, I said that!

I’d be curious to hear comments from readers what their opinions and problems are regarding staging kids’ rooms. Since I’ve permanently turned off my blog’s comments section to thwart hackers and spammers, you can comment on my home staging Facebook group page.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Six of My Favorite Home Staging Props

There are a few staging props that really earn their keep. 

Home staging that knocks the socks off buyers counts on many things: curb appeal, cleanliness, perceived value, move-in-readiness.

But it’s often the details that make a home memorable.

That’s why I’ve compiled this list of the home decor accessories that ought to be in any home stager’s bag of tricks. Consider them your dependable details that make a difference. 

Sets of Books

While a bunch of books on a bookshelf can look splotchy and distracting, a set of matched volumes looks rich, coordinated and deliberate.

Generously-sized books are great, and leather bound ones are especially classy.

Books used as a staging accessory let you convey a sense of who lives in the home – interesting, educated people.

Buyers on home tours do browse book spines, so for this reason, stay away from controversial subjects or topics that aren’t mainstream (Chinese erotica, history of the occult…). Also avoid obviously dated sets like 1980’s World Book encyclopedias. But, don’t put out anything valuable or irreplaceable, either.  

Best source or stage-worthy volumes is at a local library sale. I recently helped sort books at my library’s annual sale and was surprised at the quality and selection of books – all topics and colors, just what a stager needs.

Bowl of Lemons

I love seeing a glass bowl of lemons on a kitchen countertop or island. Whether you use a ceramic platter, a wooden bowl or a wicker basket -- the pretty effect is the same.

Think of lemons as the default dining room centerpiece, the perfect prop for completing a staged beverage bar of glassware, or the easiest way to dress up a foyer tabletop.    

There are couple reasons why I rate lemons high for home staging. One is that nobody is tempted to try and eat them the way they would apples or pears. They’re clearly decorative. The other reason is that lemons represent freshness. They’re tangy and fragrant, and even if you’re staging with fake lemons, the message is the same: clean and fresh.

The only thing that adds more life to a room is plants. But I'm keeping my list to six! 

All these lemons are fake. Who's to know? Yellow lemons seem to compliment any color scheme.  

Plush Towels

New towels are a must for dressing up a bath. Face it -- towels age and although they work just fine for everyday use, when you’re aiming for that luxurious, boutique hotel look, you want fat and fluffy new ones. I always suggest white ones unless the entire bathroom is white. White towels will always work in your next home.

Although not every stager will agree, I don’t have a problem with tying decorative ribbon or cording around a towel, to let people on a home tour know that they aren’t to be used, especially if it is open house day. 

Large Landscape Paintings

This prop might be a tad more difficult to locate and afford, but the results are dynamic. A landscape painting literally opens up a room. The most economical sources are the usual second hand places we all love (eBay, thrift stores, garage sales), but you can also buy budget-friendly new artwork that works fine. Or you can create DIY art suitable for staging.

Your landscape could be a beach, forest, city, mountain or rural scene. Make it match the mood of your home -- abstract watercolor you create yourself, one of your own photos blown up big and framed, a kitschy paint-by-numbers scene, a colorful travel poster, or a sophisticated black and white photograph.

Buy frugally and plan to spend more on the framing than on the art, because the framing is what puts art over the top.  

A landscape this large becomes the focal point of the room. Nothing wrong with that!
Your landscape needn't be complicated, detailed, professionally done, expensive, or even
include images of land. Seascapes are "landscapes." Photo: Bonesteel Taylor Hall. 
Matched Table Lamps

This beautiful bedroom by Tobi Farley demonstrates
how important a set of tables lamps are for a balanced look.   
If you tour showhouses and study photos of professionally designed rooms, you’ll notice how often the savvy decorators who plan these rooms use pairs of lamps.

Anytime a pair of anything is used as a decorating prop, there’s a sense of order and quality. Rooms done on a shoestring from castoffs lack the cohesiveness that twosomes add to a space.

Although you might be home staging on a shoestring, the last thing you want is to look like money’s a problem. That's an important point to remember! Buyers' perceptions of your financial situation will influence the purchase price they offer you. Write that down!  

Look wealthy. Look generous. Look comfortable. Don't look needy or you'll attract "bottom feeders."

A pair of table lamps in the bedroom or living room will help you pull off mismatched nightstands or side tables.

Don’t approximate this look by using two lamps that resemble each other; they must be identical twins.

The lamps should be placed close enough so that they are both visible in a glance, such as on either side of a couch or bed. Their shades should match, and they should both be on the same level.

Walk through your home to make sure you haven’t separated a matched pair of lamps, and then reunite them for staging.  

Plump Pillows

This lovely arrangement by Laura Liess shows how having
 matched pillows puts a finishing touch on the grouping.   
Pillows are one of the absolute best ways to add another layer to a room’s decor.

I recommend pillows in colors that flow seamlessly with the color scheme of the room rather than oft-touted pops of color.

You can still have fun with geometrics, textural fabrics, dressmaker details, and animal prints.

What to avoid: Cute sayings on pillows, pillows flattened by age, stiff pillows that don’t look comfortable, and an excess of pillows on any bed, sofa or chair.

Pillows add the custom details that give a room some interest and make a room look finished. They also suggest hominess and comfort.

The Takeaway

How does your staged home rate for having these essential decorating props? None of them are break-the-bank investments, yet they will all add value to your home and make it more inviting to people shopping for a new home.

If you like these tips, check out my home staging eBooks. They’re written to help you get a better price for your home on the market. At $5, they’re great investments. Guaranteed!

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