How to stage a home for sale — your 10-point checklist

September 19, 2012 — Almost daily I’m asked by clients, friends and/or neighbors about staging a home for sale. First, remember how we live in our homes is very different than living in a home staged to appeal to a wide range of buyers. So many times I see a home that sellers consider ready for the market. They watched HGTV and decided to fix up their home. I’ve seen some interesting attempts. Ha!

According to data from StagedHomes.com, staged houses sell for 7% more and in one-half the time. That is $56,000 more on an $800,000 home.

Below I share my lessons-learned from staging homes during 25+ years as a Realtor

The 10 most important things you should know about staging a home

1. Create inviting curb appeal. Walk outside your home and think: would I guy this home? Hmmmm. How’s the curb appeal? Are my yard and bushes and/or trees trimmed? Is the trim around the windows and doors fresh-looking? Now walk up to the front door / entryway; does it ‘say’ come inside? Does it have enough light during Fall and Winter early evenings?

2. Get rid of any clutter. It’s time toss what you don’t need or at least pack it away while you’re home is on the market. This might include some furnishings. Why? Because a more open home feels like a bigger home. You might consider renting a storage bay if you absolutely must keep items that may complicate the marketing of your home.

3. There’s $$$ in a fresh — neutral — coat of paint. Painting a living room a fresh neutral color helps tone down any dated finishes in the space.  These days, the definition of neutral extends way beyond beige, from warm tans and honeys to buttery yellows. As for bold wall colors, they have a way of reducing offers, so go with neutrals in large spaces. Giving adjacent rooms the same neutral color makes them appear like one big space. That said, don’t be afraid to use dark paint in a powder room, dining room or bedroom. A deep tone on the walls can make the space more intimate, dramatic and cozy.

Take a close look at this typical living room makeover (CREDIT: HGTV’s “The Stagers”) and compare it to . . . .

. . . how this same living room looked AFTER staging. (CREDIT: HGTV’s “The Stagers”)

4. Position furniture for eye-pleasing traffic flow, especially in big rooms. Reposition sofas and chairs into cozy conversational groups, and place pieces so that the traffic flow in a room is obvious. Not only will this make the space more user-friendly, but it will open up the room and make it seem larger

5. Transform dormant space into something useful. Think about re-purposing a room, or even one area of  large space (e.g. in the basement) into something that will add to the value of your home. Adding a comfortable armchair, a small table and/or a lamp in a stairwell nook could transform it into a cozy reading spot. How about a yoga studio somewhere?

6. More — and useful — lighting is more inviting. This is especially true from October through March when sunlight is at a premium. Some homes I’ve visited as a buyer’s agent lack enough lighting. Aim for 100 watts for each 50 square feet.  Don’t depend on just one or two fixtures per room, either. Make sure you have three types of lighting: ambient (general or overhead), task (pendant, under-cabinet or reading) and accent (table and wall).

7. New ‘faces’ in the kitchen.  If you can’t afford new cabinets, consider new doors and drawer fronts. Then paint everything to match. It will help if your appliances match. Instead of replacing the entire dishwasher, you may be able to get a new front panel. Check with the manufacturer to see if replacements are available for your model. (See my previous blog post in this category on “New trends in kitchen appliances.”)

8. Finish those UNfinished repairs! Not only will something wrong or that’s not working in your home scare off potential buyers, it most certainly will cost you to make a deal work, either after a home inspection and/or at the settlement table.

9. Is it time to update your master bathroom?  Just how old is that vanity? If practical, envision a pedastal sink because it shows off square footage in small bathrooms beautifully. Plus, buyers will see how much floor space your bathroom has.

You can provide a feeling of spa along with water- cost-saving items such as modern toilets which use markedly less water than even a few years ago. (Get this: they don’t ever get ‘plugged’ either!) Consider painting you tile to help it look brand new. Doesn’t hurt to accessorize with rolled-up towels, decorative baskets and candles.

10. Show your walls’ dexterity by varying wall hangings. Placing your pictures, paintings and prints in such stereotypical spots can render them almost invisible. Art displayed creatively makes it stand out and shows off your space. So break up that line and vary the patterning and grouping.

BONUS! 11.Create serene bedrooms. Using soft colors luxurious-looking linens can make a potential homebuyer want to sit back and relax. Tip: If you don’t have the money to buy a new bed, just get the frame then buy an inexpensive air mattress and dress it up with neutral-patterned bedding.

Next trend in kitchen appliances after stainless steel? How about ice, glass or slate?

September 5, 2012 — “Stainless fatigue” is what The Wall Street Journal this week called what may be a new design phase for kitchen appliances.

If you’re planning on a kitchen makeover, which ad the privilege of working on for some of my clients moving into their next homes, you may want to heed the proclaimed end of stainless steel’s 25-year reign. That said, there does not appear to be clear successor in place.

Here is how The Wall Street Journal sums up the looming challenge to stainless steel.

How does ice, slate or glass strike you?

What began when Viking Range Corp. launched its iconic stainless-steel open-burner range in 1987, now is motivating GE Appliances, Wolf Appliance and Whirlpool to manufacture and market the next ‘big thing’ for the maturing foodie culture in the U.S.

Whirlpool, from a recent press release, wants shoppers to believe that “white is the new stainless.”

Huh?

Wolf disagrees: “Black is the new stainless steel.”

Haven’t we ‘been there and done that’?

GE is playing its cards close to the vest. While “slate” is the new moniker for its appliances, a spokesperson would only tell the Journal its refrigerators, ovens and dishwashers would have muted gray design and a “metallic matte” finish.

A common strategy may be to make appliances blend in in a tasteful way rather than stand out as trophies. Also, for more people, entertaining begins in the kitchen and increasingly never leaves it.

Victoria Matranga, an industrial design historian quoted by the Journal, asserted “there’s a movement to get people together again, in the kitchen.”

In my home, the focus of entertainment rarely leaves the kitchen except on family holiday gatherings and Super Bowl parties.

Maybe our beloved magnets will stick to the front of these new appliances, not just the single side that typically faces the counter. Early on that was communications-central in my kitchen.

FYI: LG, for one, is sticking with stainless steel.