Tuesday, December 18, 2012

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Quick Tip

"As Seen on TV" DIY Home Decorating: Furniture Revitalized with Paint

Once again, we put the TV shows to the test. Is it really that easy to transform sturdy, but worn kitchen furniture with a can of paint? Yes! This is DIY home decorating at its easiest.

Paint is one of the best ways to update and refresh not just walls but furniture. A little black paint goes a long way to cover the chipped red paint on this metal-and-glass kitchen set.

The red vinyl seats are also given a whole new look using a staple gun to apply less than $15 worth of quality remnant fabric from a fabric store.

Notice also, the repositioning of the deck furniture. Now it draws the buyer to this outdoor eating area, which mirrors the indoor space.

Kitchen table – Before Staging 

Kitchen table – After Staging 

This is just one of many transformations that helps sell this home in 2 months after staging.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Home Seller Tips

Going for the Gold: Why Staging Your Home to Sell is Like Training for the Olympics

Selling your home is a competition, but it doesn’t have to be as challenging as the Olympics if you employ these 5 simple steps.

At age 12 my gym teacher suggested gymnastic lessons. My parents agreed, and what started as 1 hour a week at the gym, turned into more than 3 hours each day, 6 days a week.

Little did I know at the time that the ability to endlessly hold a handstand would teach me so many of life’s lessons—and all before leaving for college at the age of 18.

Like any athlete, I was just doing something I loved and was passionate about. And like many athletes, years later I still think back to the lessons gymnastics taught me.

As the credit card commercial says, you can place a price on the cost of a gymnastic lesson, the equipment, and even the coaching, but the lessons learned are priceless. So even if you’ve never participated in organized sports, there is no reason you can’t learn from the experiences of others.

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins in Personal Power! explains that people are driven to act by either inspiration or desperation. Or…people take action based on emotion.

Athletes have a passion for their sport and a desire to achieve, but have you stopped to think about what you are trying to achieve with the sale of your home? Is it to sell quickly or for the highest price possible? Or is it something more, something bigger, something only you can feel?

For example, will the sale of your home allow you to downsize to an easier condominium lifestyle, never having to mow the lawn or shovel snow again? Is your desire to help a loved one move to assisted living? Imagine your relief at knowing that someone will always be available to take care of him/her. Or, will a move give your children a better life, realized through quality schools and a safer neighborhood?
How will the sale of your home make you feel? These are the emotions that drive you to sell.

Now, what do you need to do—and what are you willing to do—to achieve this goal?

Step 1 – Hire a Coach

All Olympic athletes have a coach. Even Michael Phelps, after winning 21 Olympic medals, still depends on his coach to succeed. Sure, Phelps is the one who needs to perform, but without someone trained to properly direct his energy, how does he know he’s not just spinning his wheels?

When you’re selling your home, it’s a good idea to engage the services of a professional coach, also known as a home stager. Seek help from a professional who sees your home’s potential and will help you achieve a perfect score from critical home buyers.

A good coach will assess your home to help create a focused and realistic plan based on your budget and abilities. For some do-it-yourselfers, all they’ll need is a 2-to-4-hour consultation. Some will require a little more assistance; others will want it all done for them.

Step 2 – Set Realistic Goals

Once you know what needs to be done to properly prepare your home for sale, you’ll want to see how you can achieve these goals within your timeline and budget. A home stager will help you prioritize tasks and invest wisely in fix-ups and improvements.

Step 3 – Commit to Achieving Your Goals

This step seems simple—and it doesn’t take much time, sweat or money—but don’t be fooled. In sports, as in anything in life, commitment—or mental discipline—is often the most challenging aspect and what creates winners.

Step 4 – Get Psyched!

All athletes know that attitude is everything. As Gabby Douglas said after winning the all-around gold in gymnastics, “Hard days are where champions are made.” Selling your home is not going to be easy, but what worthwhile venture is?

Step 5 – Execute

This sounds like the hardest step, but with the plan you’ve created with your home stager, this should be the easiest—and working from a good plan will save time and money. Do as much as you can, focusing on the most important changes first.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Quick Tips

Worst Real Estate Listing Photos: Caught on Camera II

Today’s home buyer starts his/her search on the Internet.  When selling, make sure that pictures of your home flatter, not fail.

For fun – and awareness – we’ll periodically showcase some of the worst real estate listing photos found on the Web.  In addition, I will add my (slightly sarcastic) impressions, thoughts, and (serious) fixes for these (regretful) listing pictures.

Before staging, this Stratford, CT, home is listed for 5 months.

Hiding Assets

This is the actual listing picture from a vacant home we staged back in 2008. It’s no wonder the owners were having trouble selling.

The best architectural feature in the home – the fireplace – is hidden behind what appears to be garbage. It begs the question, why would the photographer hide this room’s best feature behind clutter?

The Fix

This one is simple – and pretty obvious. Staging with furniture is ideal – and these clients do that as you’ll see below – but even without furniture, here are some simple fixes.
  1. Take a look at the photos during the photo shoot to be sure that there is at least one good picture of each space. Sometimes issues – especially clutter – are more noticeable in photos.
  2. Remove or hide all clutter from the room.
  3. Remove all dead plants. It’s obvious enough that the home is vacant, but we don’t want it to feel neglected too. Dead or dying plants will leave that impression.
  4. While we’re making simple fixes, how about taking down the window treatments – for an updated look – and to reveal the sliding glass doors, natural light and views.

After staging, home sells in first listing week.

What do you think?

Am I being too critical or not critical enough? Add your captions and comments by leaving a reply below.

If you come across an awful but fun listing picture, please email it to me for a future installment of Caught on Camera.  (All submissions will remain anonymous to protect the innocent.)

Home Seller Tips

Which Home Repairs Increase Your Home’s Resale Value Most?

Use HomeGain’s Home Sale Maximizer™ to determine which home repairs and improvements to make, the average cost, the expected increase in your home’s value, and the calculated return on investment.

Whether you’re planning to sell your home next week, next month or next year, get started preparing your home today!

Which repairs can increase your home's value?

HomeGain’s Home Sale Maximizer™ Online Home Improvement Tool is always available at www.AtWellStagedHome.com.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Home Seller Tips

Home Staging Savings Calculator

What is the cost of not staging? Now it’s easy to calculate.

Here’s all you need to do…

1. Click this button.

2. Enter your current mortgage amount.

3. Enter all of your current monthly carrying costs (i.e.: taxes, insurance, utilities, HOA dues).

4. Enter the months on market when unstaged – This is the average number of months homes stay on the market in your area (check with your agent to learn that number).

5. Enter the reduction in months when staged – Based on RESA’s most recent study, staged homes sell 73% faster than unstaged. Therefore, multiply the number entered in step 4 by .73 and place that value here.

6. Enter the total staging fees (accessories, rental furniture, stager fee).

7. Click Calculate.

The Results:

Cost to List Unstaged:

This is the amount of money you will be spending – on average – if you do not stage.

Savings When Staged First:

According to the RESA study, if you stage your home before putting it on the market, it is likely to sell 73% faster. Staging first could equate to this amount in savings.

After learning which home repairs pay, reviewing RESA’s Consumer’s Guide to Real Estate Staging, and using the Home Staging Savings Calculator, it’s easy to conclude that it always pays to stage.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Home Seller Tips

Consumer Guide to Home Staging

1. How home staging works

2. Staging benefits for sellers

3. Staging benefits for buyers

4. How home staging shortens the time your home spends on the market

5. How home staging increases your home’s resale value

6. Quick and easy tips to get your home ready for the market

7. Hiring a professional stager vs. doing it yourself

8. Key things to consider when hiring a professional stager

9. What to expect when working with a professional home stager

10. Helpful hints for showing your home

And much more…

Consumer Guide to Real Estate Staging from RESA

> Read and download the full report here.  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Home Seller Tips

HomeGain Releases 2012 National Home Improvement Survey Results

Home Staging Remains in the Top 5 of Recommended DIY Home Improvement Projects

 From their blog…

HomeGain.com…has released the results of its nationwide home improvement and home staging survey.

Past findings from the survey have been a guide for thousands of home sellers in preparing their homes for sale.

HomeGain recently surveyed nearly 500 real estate agents nationwide to determine the top 10 low-cost, do-it-yourself home improvements for people getting their home ready to sell.

The top five nationwide home improvements that real estate professionals recommend to home sellers, based on average cost and return on investment (ROI) to sellers, are:

1. Clean & declutter

2. Lighten & brighten

3. Repair electrical & plumbing

4. Landscaping

5. Staging

> To learn more, read the rest of this post at HomeGain’s blog.  

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Services Center

Using What You’ve Got

AtWell Staged Home specializes in redesign – using what the seller already owns – to decorate homes to sell or to dwell.

Using what the home owner already has is the key to quick, cost-effective transformations that sell homes fast. And in this economy, what could be better?

We save our clients’ money up-front, and make them even more money at closing. Positive ROI – return on investment – is our focus.

Whether you have a 10,000-square-foot home or a 1,000-square-foot condo, no one wants to spend a lot of money on a home that they are selling. AtWell Staged Home understands this.

Staging can transform an empty house into a cozy home, or redesign an occupied home using just what the home owner already has. Stage Every Listing Letter (S.E.L.L.) isn’t just a catchy phrase; we truly believe that every home – in every price range – can be staged, and we will work hard to meet our clients’ financial situation. 

Before Staging
Bonus room in this 4-bedroom 5,000 square-foot Katonah, NY, home is being used as a bedroom when listed the first time. After several months and no sale, sellers switch agents. The new agent recommends home staging. As an extra incentive, the agent reimburses the cost of the consultation at closing.

After Staging
For $0, sellers convert this room back to a multipurpose bonus room. Now there is an area for exercise, study, game playing or TV watching. The room has better flow and appears larger. Thanks to a great agent, dedicated home sellers, and staging, this home sells second time around.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Well Staged Home

Fast & Furious Path to a Sale

Home sales don’t go much faster than this. In just 2 weeks the home is listed, staged, and sold for full price.

Due to a job relocation, sellers are anxious to list their Brewster, NY, townhouse as soon as possible. Here’s the fast and furious timeline.

Friday – Agents meet with clients
Clients decide to list the same day. Agents work furiously to rearrange each room to take listing pictures that are as clutter free as possible.
Friday afternoon – AtWell Staged Home is called
AtWell Staged Home reviews the listing pictures that evening and is ready to stage on Saturday afternoon.
Saturday – 3-hour “working” consultation
In just 3 hours – averaging about 15 minutes per room – this home is prepared for its first showing, which is scheduled for Sunday!
That initial showing garners the first of three offers. The home sells in two weeks – at full asking price.

Agents feel the home staging has a lot to do with the speed of the sale.

It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you hire a professional home stager for 3 hours. Total budget for this project – $0.

Loft / Bonus Room – before staging

Loft / Bonus Room – after staging
Initial walk-through identifies this bonus room as underutilized. It feels sad and neglected compared with other rooms in the house. Moving more furniture into this space achieves a consistent feel throughout the home.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Well Staged Home

Revealing Revenue
Retro Style

Agent-initiated home staging reveals the best this home has to offer – hardwood floors, walls of windows, high beamed ceilings, large fireplaces, extensive outdoor living spaces – and sells in less than 2 months.

First things first, this home needs to be decluttered. Lucky for us the home owner’s daughter-in-law is a professional organizer. Unlucky for us, she lives in Maine.

She makes a few trips down and leaves us with the furniture, accessories, and bedding we need to keep staging expenses low.

This 1960s home has the original bathrooms, kitchen, and shag carpet. Now that the home is clutter free, how do we keep from going overboard? Where do we draw the line between adding value and creating a money pit?

We could spend thousands on renovations, updates and new furniture, but that could take months, and we have only weeks.

The location, price and structure of this home are perfect for a buyer looking for a diamond-in-the-rough, a clean slate for their creative vision, a move-in ready home that, over time, will become their own.

We choose to remove the distractions and highlight the home’s best features, unleashing its potential for everyone to see.

As predicted, a creative individual – an architect – purchases the home. Mission accomplished.

The privacy of a grown-up tree house, this home offers a great escape from New York City – or artist’s retreat – in Katonah, NY.

Here is just a sampling of the transformed spaces…

(Click images to enlarge)

Entry – Before Staging 

First impressions start here, standing at the front door. A few things stick out – lights that are too low, shag carpeting, clutter, paneling and no sense of a formal entry. 

 Entry – After Staging

It’s critical that this space feel fresh, new, bright and inviting. Therefore, the bulk of the budget is spent here, setting the stage for what follows. The obstacle course is removed by adding new light fixtures at an appropriate height. A simple Berber rug covers linoleum floors…doors and paneling are neutralized with paint…and use of existing furniture and accessories creates a sense of entry.

“I fought her every step of the way…” 

My favorite part of the project is getting to know the home owner. He is so proud of the results, that on the final staging day he is already escorting neighbors through the home to show off the transformation. 

The neighbors are impressed, noticing all the updates and changes, and as they “ooh” and “ah,” the owner jokes, “I fought Susan every step of the way!”

Bedroom – Before Staging 

Bedroom – After Staging

Furniture, bedding, and a lamp are reused from other spaces. Paneling is painted, wall fixture (not shown here) is updated, and blue shag carpeting is replaced. The same neutral Berber from the entry now extends into this space to visually expand the size of this tiny bedroom. Window treatments are removed for a modern look and to showcase the private setting.

Working with the home seller and agent, AtWell Staged Home’s focus on return-on-investment gets this home ready to sell without breaking the bank. 

Each project is unique.

The amount of staging is based on the starting condition of the home, budget, and willingness of the owner to participate in the process. 

Having the support and trust of the home seller – and agent – are the keys to success.

Basement Bonus Room – Before Staging

What do you do with a room that is long and narrow – like a bowling alley – and the built-in furniture faces a blank wall?

Basement Bonus Room – After Staging

For two days I struggle to make sense of the bonus room. The built-in furniture offers yet another challenge, since removing it could open a can of worms. 

Finally, inspiration. There is a very large flat-screen TV in the adjacent den. This bonus room becomes a theater and the den – with its huge fireplace and wall of windows – becomes a cozy reading room. 

The new theater is now a great room for entertaining as it also leads to a large patio. The home owner’s extensive DVD collection is used to decorate the bookcase and back shelf, helping to reinforce the theme. 

Only items purchased are 2 large pillows for the couches at just $20 each.

View more dramatic before and after pictures below…

Basement Den – Before Staging

Basement Den – After Staging

TV, beds, clothing rack and window treatments are all removed. Paint is considered for the fireplace, but all agree it will be easier for the new owner to add stone or glass tile, if applied directly to the cinder block. So we choose a large, colorful piece of art for less than $75 to warm the cold gray wall. Now this multipurpose room is a cozy den for reading, relaxing, and escaping at the end of the day.

Living Area – Before Staging 

Living Area – After Staging

Since this is the main living area, we need to show a full-size couch. For $450 a couch is purchased. The owner loves it and will take it to his next home. Only other items purchased are the fireplace art, throw and matching pillow all for under $100. Window treatments are eliminated, and the shag carpeting is taken up to reveal hardwood floors.

Dining Area – Before Staging

Dining Area – After Staging

The living room armchair – featured above  inspires the color palette. In addition to the 2 armchairs found in the home, 4 side chairs – in perfect condition – are discovered in the storage shed. Owner’s art coordinates perfectly and replaces the damaged hutch. 

Mirror wall tiles remain to keep expenses low. Not ideal, but they do brighten and enlarge the space. 

Only item purchased is a glass bowl for less than $10.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Home Seller Tips

An Inconvenient Truth about Selling Your Home

Truth is few things are more inconvenient than having your home on the market.

Imagine a bad reality show, where you are forced to live in Macy’s window for weeks on end. Your personal items, your life, constantly exposed to strangers and their criticisms – with no end in sight.

If your home is currently on the market, or going on the market soon, you may already feel this way. So what’s the best way to get out from under the microscope? Sell fast. Well, that sounds easy – and obvious – but how do you sell fast?

In addition to the right price and a good real estate agent, the winning combination also includes home staging, effort, and a willingness to be inconvenienced while your home is on the market. The following questions will help you understand if you are ready, willing, and able to do what it takes to sell a home in this market?

  1. Are you willing to detach yourself emotionally from this home and view it as a product or commodity?
  2. Are you willing to let go of your personal style and decorate to appeal to the widest variety of buyers?
  3. Are you willing to pack up anything you won’t need for the next few months – even if it includes children’s toys, personal photos and keepsakes?
  4. Are you willing to eliminate or hide TVs, computers or other electronic devices?
  5. Are you willing to send your pets away when the home is being shown? Are you willing to furnish an unfurnished home so that it is warm, inviting, and spacious?
  6. Are you willing to clean like you’ve never cleaned before?
  7. Are you willing to establish a budget of no more than 3% of the price of the home for repairs, upgrades and updates?

If you answered “yes” to most, or all of these questions, then you are probably ready.

More than ever, home buyers are looking for move-in ready homes that feel fresh, spacious and up-to-date. On the Web, buyers may like the price, pictures and attributes your home has to offer, but that’s not always enough. They need to be impressed the minute they walk through the door. Showcasing every space will make them fall in love at first sight. It’s this positive emotional response that can lead to an offer and hopefully a sale.

With the inventory of available homes historically high, here are a few tips to meet buyers’ demands, “up” your game, and beat the competition. At the same time, you’ll reduce the amount of time your home is on the market and consequently the amount of time that you will be inconvenienced.

Be prepared. The hardest part of living in a home that is on the market is constantly being prepared to show your home. But you must be ready at a moment’s notice. You never know when your perfect buyer will walk through the door. This is not a good time to entertain or have guests.

Clean sells. All homes should be thoroughly cleaned prior to listing. Daily touch-ups may be necessary for occupied homes, but vacant homes can become surprisingly dirty as well. Dust on surfaces, cobwebs in corners, stains in stagnant toilets, fingerprints on windows and appliances —all of these areas need to be inspected and cleaned regularly. Occupied or vacant, consider hiring a professional cleaning service during the period your home is on the market.

Pack it up. Pack up and store anything you won’t need while your home is on the market. Packing sooner, rather than later, will make the transition easier. Many moving companies offer storage options for those staging their homes to sell.

Stick to the essentials. Too much or no furniture can make a home feel small. Cluttered homes are distracting, while vacant homes can leave a buyer cold. Either way, buyers will have trouble picturing their furniture in these spaces. Define each space to have a single purpose, minimize clutter, and make sure there is plenty of light.

The more you do in advance of listing your home for sale, the faster it will sell, and the sooner you can return to a normal life. Showcasing or staging your home will help to minimize the stress and inconvenience that comes with selling. The truth is that you will be inconvenienced, but it will be well worth it, and your efforts will be rewarded, when your home sells fast and for top dollar.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Home Seller Tips

Vertical Blinds – A Love-Hate Relationship

During a recent home staging consultation I was accused of being biased – against vertical blinds. I must admit, I’m guilty as charged!

Donna Freeman from HGTV’s Secrets that Sell and Designed to Sell once said, “If I were President, I would outlaw vertical blinds.” (Now that’s a presidential campaign I could support.)

All of this made me think, How do people feel about vertical blinds?

Just for fun, I decided to find out who loves or hates vertical blinds. And I do believe it is a love-hate relationship. So I Googled, "I hate vertical blinds" and "I love vertical blinds," picking these phrases as the two most extreme emotions. Here's what I found.

Only 4 pages of results are returned for those “loving” vertical blinds, while four times as many pages – 16 in total – are returned for the “haters” of vertical blinds. Or, simply put, 25% love and 75% hate vertical blinds.

Not the most scientific study, but it did give me a better idea to which camp I belonged.

So maybe, if you’ve got older vertical blinds in your home, it’s time to consider if they are adding or taking away from the appeal of your home. Try looking at them with fresh eyes, and ask if they appear dated or new, flat or fresh? Do they showcase the window or are they distracting?

Removing old vertical blinds is like taking off that 70s polyester leisure suit. Easy to do, for little or no cost, and makes your home appeal to a much larger audience of home buyers.

In which “camp” do you belong? Please share your thoughts and feelings – serious or sarcastic – below.

French doors with vertical blinds – The eye is drawn to, and tends to stop at the blinds, as opposed to looking through the window to the large deck and backyard.

Vertical blinds removed – Now the buyer’s eye does not stop at the window treatments, but instead continues out to the deck and yard. (Notice also that a soft sheer replaces the vertical blind on the adjacent picture window.)

Dramatic windows and a great view are hidden by dated vertical blinds.

Show off the views and windows – at no cost – by simply removing the visual barrier.

The best feature in this living room is the large picture window, but dark vertical blinds are a distraction.
A deep, neutral wall color is used to frame the window. Fresh paint is a great investment with a high return.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Services Center

AtWell Staged Home’s Favorite Home Staging Success Story of 2011

Agent-paid 2-hour consultation leads to accepted offer in first listing week. It could happen to you too!

Think you can’t sell in this market? Think your home has to look like a Pottery Barn catalog before listing? Think again.

A Mount Kisco, New York, family is desperate to sell quickly due to relocation. To limit commuting from New York to Florida, clients use just what they have to quickly stage their home to sell.

Unsure if staging would work for them, these home sellers are now staging believers, after the agent-paid 2-hour consultation leads to an accepted offer in the first listing week.

It can happen to you too, when you stage, price it right, and have the support and marketing skills of a great agent.

Before Staging

After Staging
No time or budget to remove dated light fixtures or window treatments so instead the focus is put on cleaning, decluttering, furniture placement and accessorizing to define and showcase the large, bright open spaces.

Author’s Note: It was difficult choosing a favorite home staging success story for 2011, but this particular project proves that even in a bad economy and with no time or budget for updates, a home can still sell quickly when everyone involved gives it their all.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Home Seller Tips

Pretty Planters for the Winter

Keep flower pots full of life, even during the nongrowing season.

In the winter, outdoor planters are often neglected and can come across as pots of dirt. Never a good first impression – especially when your home is on the market.

Keeping planters out year-round is easy when you change with the seasons – flowering plants in the spring and summer, mums in the fall, but what about winter?

Try this simple trick. Add evergreen, holly, pine cones, sticks and any other colorful cuttings found outside and around your home. Have fun and be creative while waiting for spring to return.