10 Things Your Home Stager Did NOT Learn From HGTV
Thursday, February 5, 2015
We get it, you've watched all of the home renovation and home sale shows, read all of the online articles and tips regarding setting up your home to sell, and you have checked off everything on every home selling checklist you could find, so why would you need to hire a Professional Home Stager? We often hear homeowners say, “I don’t need a stager, I watch HGTV all the time, and I know that I need to remove the clutter and the personal items.”
These reality shows have really put the home staging industry in the spotlight over the last few years, and have helped homeowners to better understand the importance of preparing their home prior to listing it for sale. But, while these shows provide the basics of what this preparation involves, they don’t provide the full picture of what it really takes to properly style and STAGE your home in order to evoke the emotional connection that your prospective buyers are looking for.
Your home is one of a kind, and it should be treated as such! You want to stand out from the competition, so why would you use the same checklists as everyone else? Would you clean your own teeth, or would you choose to hire a trained professional to do this for you? Your home deserves the right attention with specific recommendations, geared towards your home, from an expert that specializes in doing just that, in order to highlight your home’s greatest features. So what are these articles and lists NOT telling you? As a Home Stager, these are just a few of the things that we have learned, through our professional training and many years of experience:
1. Where to place YOUR furniture so that the room remains open and inviting, while maintaining function and flow
This does not mean simply moving all of your furniture to the edges of the room. This means understanding proper traffic flow, as well as the latest furniture styling trends. We will evaluate what should stay, what should be removed, and where to properly position your furniture to optimize flow, eliminate awkward spaces, and highlight the best features of the room.
2. Shelf Styling
By far one of the trickiest decorating techniques to master, this is the art of filling the shelves to catch your eye, without diverting your attention from the room. This means selecting the right size and style of pieces to compliment the space and the shelving unit, and understanding the balance between too little and too much.
3. Paint Colour selection
Just because a colour is popular or trendy, does not mean that it’s the best one to use for your home. Colours are selected based on lighting, home style, and the colour of the finishes of the home. Sure, we have our favourites, but each colour is selected to best suit the home.
4. What local trades will provide you with the best services, at the best value prices
We have spent a great amount of our time forging valued relationships with highly skilled trades to ensure that you receive quality work, every time. We only work with professionals, and often these professionals will provide special discounts to our clients.
5. Where to shop for the final touches and accessories that your home needs
We spend more time than anyone shopping for home décor items and finding the best deals, and we can provide you with some direction on this to help you to avoid driving all around town looking for the perfect piece. Of course, you would save even more time if you hired us to provide you with the accessories and accent pieces that your home needs.
6. Which updates/upgrades will most benefit YOUR house in YOUR market, neighbourhood, and price range
We not only evaluate what upgrades and repairs would add to the value of your home, but we look at what will help to increase it’s overall sell-ability – upgrades are not worth much if they’re not the right ones to entice your specific buyers. We consulted on a home once that spent a great deal of money replacing their kitchen, but for their target market, their funds would have been better spent doing other repairs to the home and minor updates to the kitchen.
7. How to make a bed
Forget what your mother taught you – making your bed before work, and styling your bed to sell your home are completely different! I can’t tell you how often we see this common mistake in listing photos.
8. How to utilize a piece of furniture for an alternate purpose
This does not mean putting an end table in an office and calling it a desk. It’s about thinking outside of the box when it comes to finding the right piece, often within your home already, to fulfill a purpose for a room and help to clearly define the space.
9. How to enhance your curb appeal
Yes, cut the grass, trim the trees, and mulch the gardens, we know that you have that covered. But there’s likely more that you should be doing. If your buyers are not engaged with the home before they get to the front door, you could potentially lose out on that sale. We are property stylists, and we want to be sure to create an inviting space, inside and out.
10. How to maintain function and daily life, while living in a staged home
We understand that it’s not easy to maintain a show-ready home, but we have seen it all and are prepared to provide you with easily implementable solutions to help you to get through the day-to-day. Of course the best part is, in a professionally staged home, you won’t have to maintain it for long before it’s SOLD!
The checklists and tips you find online are a great step towards preparing your home, but a Professional Home Stager can provide you with the specific recommendations that will help you to bring in the buyers and sell your home.
With summer upon us, more and more buyers are looking at homes and are wearing sandals. While you may wear summer shoes in your home, buyers feel it’s rude to leave their shoes on in your home, so they take them off and are left with bare feet.
I urge everyone who has their home for sale in the summer to do the barefoot test. Take a walk around your home like you are a potential buyer in your bare feet and make sure that nothing sticks to your feet, that your feet don’t stick to anything and that your home in general feels clean.
Areas that I commonly find to be a concern are front entrances, make sure that if you do wear your shoes in the house that you aren’t leaving sand and dirt particles at your front door, a barefoot visitor will grab these on their feet as their first and last impressions. Basements, all buyers go into the basement, even if you don’t go there a lot, so make sure even your furnace or utility room is clean. Another basement area that can feel very dirty to bare feet is a kitty litter area, I’ve often walked into a basement and ended up with kitty litter on my feet from little fluffy walking it around the basement. I would suggest a small carpet outside of your kitty litter box for fluffy to wipe his paws on before he treks it all over the basement.
Buyers will also step outside of your home, into the garage or onto the deck, so make sure those areas are swept up as well. All areas of your home, inside and out need your attention, not only in the summer, but all year round.
Another item that can set off barefoot buyers is sticky kitchen floors, if you have children I’m sure a spilled drink it common, but in a buyers mind, a sticky floor is dirty and a dirty floor can mean a dirty home which causes them to wonder what else has been left unattended.
Before your home is ready for sale, make sure all areas of your home are bare foot tested and ready for those summer buyers.
As Spring finally comes to us (We Hope) and the Spring home sales heat up we find a whole new set of criteria to help attract the elusive Buyer to your home. Never disregard the importance of first opinion both in the inside and on the outside of the home for sale. A few tips to consider and things you can do to help attract Buyers are listed below.
UNUSED THINGS: Put the snow shovels away in the shed, the snow blower and your snowmobiles.
LAWN: Rake it to get rid of the winter residue of branches and road dirt.
Fertilize it because like paint inside the home, a few dollars spent outside to make your lawn nice and green goes a long way. Keep it cut, more than you’re usual once a week or so.
GARDENS: Clean out the garbage and put on some new mulch. Plant some nice bright annuals.
SHRUBS: Trim them up nice, Remove their dead wood and remember they look great for many years, but they do get big and sometimes ugly so remove them if their time has past.
TREES: Keep them trimmed up and out of the way. If it’s fall rake the leaves to show your nice lawn.
FRONT DOOR: Clean the windows, and paint the door and the door frame. Sweep the porch and walkways. Remember while the Buyers are waiting for their Realtor to unlock the lockbox and open the door, they have nothing to do but stand there and look around at what’s close to them so get rid of those cobwebs!.
DRIVEWAY: Power wash it and give it a coat of sealer. If your car sinks into permanent indentations when you come home consider having it repaved.
SHINGLES: Is it time to replace them? A prospective buyer will want to knock off twice as much from the price of your home as the work is really worth. Better to bite the bullet and do it now while you are in control. Other wise get a reasonable quote and leave it out to prove the real worth of the job.
PAINT: Garage doors, Front doors and Window frames. A house with flaking and peeling paint indicates a home that’s not well maintained and starts the Buyer looking for other issues while looking at your home.
WINDOWS: An important factor when looking to buy a home, but expensive. If they need replaced and you aren’t going to do it then al least paint them up nicely and keep them clean.
WALKWAYS: Keep them clean, weed free and level. You don’t need a prospective Buyer to trip on your uneven walkway or loose step and sue you and then buy your house with the proceeds.
Remember its all about FIRST IMPRESSIONS. The outside of a well looked after home will attract Buyers eyes from the street. Welcome them and say, my owner loves me and takes care of me.
There’s a reason that your grandmother told you never to wallpaper with your partner. And, that marriage counselors recommend never undertaking any big home-improvement projects in your first year of marriage. Renovations are friggin’ stressful!
Even the simplest projects can go off the rails quickly -- with budgets and timelines stretching or the finished product not matching expectations. All of this leads to a lot of confusion, frustration and even anger. Add to these emotions physical chaos, a lot of dirt, sweat, tears and even blood and you start to understand what your grandma was talking about. Intentionally or unintentionally it’s easy to direct the stress of renovations at the person you love the most. So how do couples get through renovations and still want to live together? Here are a few tips to help you maintain sanity (and your marriage), even during the toughest projects.
Take turns taking the lead.
Most projects don’t work well with two head honchos. Realistically assess your skills and interests and figure out who is going to lead during the various steps in the project. It’s ok to do this on the fly, but it’s important to respect the role AND (in my opinion) for everyone to take a turn. Swapping the lead shows that you respect and recognize each other’s strengths and keeps contrasting opinions from halting the project – when we disagree about how something should be done, the lead gets to make the final call. Because we both lead at various points, we each make concessions and no one feels bulldozed; plus we both have a sense of ownership over the final product. Win-win!
Take a break.
When tensions hit a peak, just take a break. If you work when you’re frustrated, the quality of what you’re doing is going to suffer. Truly. During our bathroom renovation, we both had points where we had to say, “I’m frustrated. I’m going to go for a walk.” Getting out of the renovation zone helps clear your head and cool your frustration. For big projects, I think it’s even OK to take a weekend or two off. Don’t let all of your home-time become frustration-inducing renovation time. Do things you enjoy that don’t involve power tools. It’s good for your mental health. That said, I often find that the weight of procrastination is worse than the work itself. Once you’re calm, carry on.
Keep your sense of humor.
"I’m going out for cigarettes!” This is our running renovation joke as two non-smokers. When things aren’t going our way, one of us usually makes this comment – the subtext, of course, being that we’re going to start driving and never come back. It’s ok if your sense of humor doesn’t lean that way (I know, we’re weird people), but try to remember to laugh when simple things get messed up. It’s going to happen. Better to shrug, crack a joke, and try something else than blow up in a fit of anger.
Appreciate what you’ve accomplished
There are going to be points in your project where all you can see if the unfinished mess in front of you. Take some time to remember what you’ve already accomplished and latch on to these thoughts for precious life. This is one of the reasons that taking a lot of photos before, during and after renovations is great -- you get a chance to see precisely how far you’ve come. Way to go, you!
Hopefully, once the project is finished, your relationship will be even stronger than when you started. Or, you actually went out for some cigarettes and are now basking in the Mexican sun with your demolished house (kitchen, bathroom, basement) a distant memory. Feels good doesn’t it?
Got tips for renovating with your beau? Send them my way! And, check out everything we've been DIYing (together!) over on our blog moreofeverything.ca
We’ve all heard that your home needs to be devoid of personal photos when your home is for sale, but do you know why? There are lots of reasons why your personal photos can affect the sale of your property. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen buyers more interested in the family photos on the wall then in the space of your home. I often hear comments such as “oh I think I know them” or “Look at that Mullet! Come here honey and look!” Not only are they distracting themselves, but their spouse as well and now neither of them is looking at the home. I can tell you that I’ve been guilty of the exact same thing with funny family photos, but when I ask a client later what they thought of a certain home; they almost always forget what the features were of the homes with the photos.
Your photos may not only be distracting but can give away your motivation for moving, possibly you were just married and there is only one person on title of the home. As a real estate agent/Investigator, I’m able to determine that most likely this home is not the preferred home of the recently married spouse and that he/she is motivated to sell this house to get into a home that belongs to both of them to start their newly married life. Some family photos can show how many kids you have and how old they are, from that I can tell if a family needs to move since they no longer fit in the home. Even if they have done a great job de-cluttering to make the home look spacious, the number of people in a home can tell me they are motivated to move for extra space.
A handful of times I have found art to be just as distracting. In those times, it has been extreme. For example I was in a home where to artist was the owner and every square inch of the walls was covered in her art and self-portraits, while the art was well done, it was too much and we ended up counting the number of art pieces in the home which totaled over 70 on the walls.
Another distraction can be the family calendar, some families write very detailed items on their calendars, often very personal details. I would suggest that all personal items be put away, photos, calendars, artwork and anything else that may distract the buyers or give any insight as to your motivation to move.
Everyone knows that when they list their home for sale that they have to de-clutter and keep their home cleaner than usual. Vacuum twice as often, fluff the pillows, make sure your bedroom is bright and beautiful. But does your home show that you are always that clean or that you just rushed around and make it extra clean on the surface for the sale. Some telltale signs that I look for when showing a home can give a lot of insight as to what goes on in the home usually and how clean the owners truly are. The following is a list of what I check for when a buyer is concerned with a clean home.
Tubs – I always check the tub, it’s one of the hardest areas to get clean if you don’t keep it clean on a regular basis, a sparkling tub says that the home owner is clean or just replaced the tub. Discolouration, peeling or damaged caulk are all signs that your tub is not a first priority.
The Furnace – I know it’s a weird spot to check, but a clean furnace can say a lot about the home owner. Most people let dust pile up on their furnace, this amount of dust can make the furnace look older than it really is, so take a duster to your furnace and give it some new life. Don’t forget to change that furnace filter too.
Windows – I don’t only look to see if the glass has been cleaned both inside and out, but the tracks. A home that has been neglected will often have tracks full of black dirt or dust, a toothbrush and some patience can take care of this issue and make your windows look newer and the buyer is less likely to mention they need to be replaced.
Dishwashers – Appliances that are built in stay with the home, so I check them. A person who keeps their home in tip top shape will not only wipe the outside of these appliances, but they will also make sure the inside is clean too. I check the outside edges and if visible I look in the trap. This cleaning is another quick tip to make your home look like it’s in tip top shape. Even if the appliance is not staying, check ovens and washing machines, they can also be areas that show home neglect.
Trim, crown molding and ceilings – buyers are look for your home to clean from top to bottom, that means dusting or washing your trim, crown moldings and ceilings. If you have to repaint some areas that are bit grungier, you should, this quick job will give your home the shine it needs. You'll also be surprised how much cleaner a fresh coat of ceiling paint can make your home look, give it a try one weekend, you'll be happy you did.
If you really want your home to show well, make sure to touch on these spots that I often find are missed in a quick cleanup. Most home owners are so focused on removing items that they aren’t seeing what’s right in front of them. If you have to hire a professional cleaner to make these items shine, it’s well worth the money and they can make sure all these spots are clean quickly and your home will be ready to be placed on the market.
People move for so many reasons and often it’s a growth in the family, job change or affordability. Even if it is obvious why they are moving, maybe a baby on the way in an already full house, I always ask why they love their house. Often those owners think back to the time when they first purchased the house and talk about the yard, the open concept, location and various other great factors about the house. I want to make sure that when selling the house that those reasons for falling in love with this home in the first place are front a centre when the house is listed.
To highlight those areas, often I will ask clients to pack up a large portion of their items and make the house feel like it did when they first saw it. Life can take over and make those features that you originally loved about a house a little lack luster. If the client is willing I can also advertise the property in a unique way to include a little about the house and it’s history including what it has meant to you and your family. This often works best in a home that has been owned by a family for quite some time and they have seen some life events in the home, weddings, babies and any other important events that would make a potential buyer feel more connected to the house. I recently read an article about a realtor that listed a house that the owners called The Mint House due to its mint green exterior; this theme was used throughout the advertising and even the staging in the home.
Bring back the shine of your house again when you list it for sale, let your realtor know what makes your home unique and interesting , so those potential buyers can fall in love with your house, just like you did when you first bought it. Who knows you might even get to enjoy that feeling in your last few months in your house too!
Sometimes the scope of work involved in a fixer-upper home becomes a lot clearer once you’ve finally moved in. All of those “easy-fixes” that you noticed during the inspection suddenly become a very long, intimidating list of “to-dos.” It’s easy to get overwhelmed!
Our house if caulk-full of projects. Some are big, costly and complicated while others are minor, cheap and cosmetic. It’s precisely this variance that makes prioritizing so tricky. I hate the colour of the kitchen cabinets, the downstairs toilet needs to be replaced, and I’d love to add crown molding to the bedroom. What takes priority?
I’ve noticed over the years that some people jump right in, starting multiple projects in a crazed fit of productivity, but never really end up finishing anything. Others get paralyzed and don’t start any projects, anticipating of a “major overhaul” in the future.
In my experience, striking a balance between needs and wants, acceptance and intolerance can go a long way in making the ownership of a fixer-upper less stressful – I might even go as far as to say enjoyable (especially as projects start to get crossed off the list!).
So, here are my top tips for making your project list more digestible (and actionable!):
Function Over Form. Looking over your list, consider what is actually broken vs. what simply doesn’t look good. Fixing a leaking drain pipe should take priority over painting the ugly cabinet that it’s hiding inside. Start with the functionality of the things you use on a day-to-day basis or problems that are causing further damage by not being mended – you don’t want your list getting even longer!
High Traffic Areas. If the basic functions of your home are in order, I like to start with projects that fall into high traffic or public facing areas. Consider where you spend most of your time and prioritize projects that improve the functionality and enjoyment of these spaces. A fresh coat of paint in the living room is often an easy place to start.
I Hate It! Your home should be a place where you feel at ease. If you walk in everyday loathing one particular thing, bump that project up your list and change it as soon as you can. That said, it’s a fact that there are going to be areas of your home that you’ll have to accept as they are for some time; so don’t play the “I hate it” trump card too early or too often.
Longevity & Resale. Likely resale isn’t the first thing on your mind if you’ve just moved in, but you shouldn’t disregard the ongoing value of your home as you pick your renovation projects. Sinking $15K into a media room is enticing, but tackling a really outdated bathroom first might be smarter in terms of your home’s value. When investing in projects, don’t forget to consider how long the project is intended to last and budget accordingly -- is this a temporary fix or a permanent solution?
Budget & Skill. While it might be nice to tackle our entire to-do list in one foul swoop, in reality it usually takes time to save up and get the work done. Consider which items on your list require more savings and skills (like a kitchen remodel) and start saving now! As you work toward these bigger projects, keep up your motivation and develop new skills by crossing a few of the smaller, less expensive projects (like painting or small repairs) from your list one at a time. Small projects really do add up over time -- trust me!
What’s the first project you tackled or hope to tackle in your new home? What’s the one thing you wish you could change right now?
I am a firm believer in Home Inspections, the Buyers Right to have a Home inspection and the value of a Good Knowledgeable Home Inspector. It is the Buyers right to choose their own Home Inspector.
However most home buyers do not know that currently in Ontario, anyone can call themselves a home inspector. This could pose a problem for Buyers who might base their decision to buy or sell a home on information they receive from an unregulated, unlicensed home inspector.
Home inspectors play an important role in the home buying and selling process. Professionals with this much influence should be licensed and have proper training to ensure consumers receive a consistent and standardized service.
The Ontario Real Estate Association is working with the Ministry of Consumer Services to improve consumer protection in the real estate marketplace by encouraging efforts to regulate the home inspection industry. In August 2013, a volunteer panel of experts reviewed home inspector qualifications in Ontario. The panel, comprised of members from home inspection associations, consumer advocates and real estate industry representatives, developed a report with 35 recommendations for the home inspection industry.
One of the main recommendations was to establish parameters for licensing the industry. Regulating the industry will help ensure homebuyers and sellers receive reliable, informative and professional advice when making one of the largest decisions of their lives.
It will take time for the Ministry to review the recommendations of the panel and decide if and how to bring forward legislation to establish qualifications for Home inspectors.
In the meantime, please ask your Trusted Realtor to suggest a few Home Inspectors that they have worked with in the past, and have been satisfied with their level of service and knowledge as well as their ability to communicate well any issues that may arise during the inspection of the home to the Buyers.
Packing, Cleaning, Freshening and Staging. There is a lot of work involved in getting your home ready for sale. I often have clients tell me after they’ve gone through the list of work to be done for their home that they are so much happier in the home they are looking to sell. Instead of rushing around last minute to do all the work to give your home to someone else, do those items ahead of time and for yourself to enjoy!
Everyone knows what needs to be done to their home and any homeowner can name a list as long as their arm of things in their home that bother them. If those small items bother you, it will bother the buyer of your home as well. So do those small jobs now, you’ll be surprised how much better you feel about your home and how quick it was to do it. Doing these small jobs as you go along also save you some time when you are actually ready to list your property, you can focus more on the staging and less on the little jobs that you know should have been done months or even years earlier.
Some examples of small jobs include: painting scuffed baseboards, caulking countertops and tubs, painting the ceiling, cleaning eavesthrophs both inside and out, straightening kitchen cupboards, replacing taps, laundry hoses, updating lighting, replacing or cleaning older and stained carpet , updating bathroom and kitchen flooring, and anything else that you notice on a daily basis that needs updating or repair.
Take the time to show your home the love it deserves and the love that you had for it originally by maintaining it well now so when you are ready to list your property you can focus on the cleanup and staging and less on the small jobs, and you’ll be able to enjoy your home more when the list isn’t getting longer and longer until it becomes a burden. Complete those items for you and your family to enjoy now instead of working hard in the month before you sell your home to let someone else enjoy all your work.