7 New Jersey Home Staging Tips

21903424_361290f88fWhen you are preparing your house to sell, follow these 7 Simple Steps:
1) Clean it thoroughly or better yet, have it professionally cleaned. A clean home, just like a clean hotel room, is critical to impressing buyers! Don’t forget to clean carpeting and floors as well as around faucets and tile grout and around all light fixtures and window sills.
2) De-clutter your home of all knick-knacks, papers, toiletries, small items on floors — including shoes, baskets, dog beds, dog toys, fish tanks, excess items on countertops.
3) Remove excess furniture and/or re-arrange furniture to highlight the best features of your home (large windows and fireplaces, for one). Especially be sure not to block those selling features with furniture, treadmills, large lamps, etc.
4) Remove fussy, frilly, dark, floral drapes and valances or any other heavy window treatments. The only fabric window treatments that are in vogue these days when selling are simple to-the-floor lightweight panel drapes pushed to the sides of windows to let in as much light as possible.
5) De-personalize both your decor and your paint colors. Stagers know what colors are currently popular and neutral enough for buyers AND which ones will work best with your home’s finishes (floors, cabinetry, countertops, tile, and all the non-movable items). Eliminate themed decor, such as western, country, beach, tropical, southwest, etc.
6) Update light fixtures, hardware, bathroom fixtures, appliances where needed (stainless steel is still very popular in kitchens, and brushed nickel or chrome are still the leaders in bathroom faucets). If your competitors’ houses all have granite or marble countertops instead of formica or Corian, then yours should too!
7) Last but actually FIRST to buyers who drive by your home is to spruce up the curb appeal! Paint or clean the front door and trim as needed. Adding a new large door mat, new house numbers, mailbox and large pot(s) of either evergreens in winter in New Jersey or flowering annuals in the summer will attract buyers’ eyes and make a great first impression!

Easy Decorating Tips that Add Winter Warmth

6b48d__living-room-with-orange-tan-and-white-accents

Warm colors and layered bedding create a cozier look.

Warm colors and layered bedding create a cozier look.

 

Brown accents and layered bedding create a beautiful, warm-looking bedroom

Brown accents and layered bedding create a beautiful, warm-looking bedroom

 

Persimmon-colored drapes and pillows

Persimmon-colored drapes and pillows

Winter got you down? When New Jersey temperatures hit the single digits and the chore of digging out from repeated snowfalls are making you crave moving to Florida or the Caribbean – but you really don’t have that option! – turn up the visual “heat” in your home instead. Just bring in shots of warm tropical colors, such as pink, red, orange, yellow and even comforting chocolate brown, in pillows, blankets, comforters, and window treatments. Inexpensive items such as pillows or pillow covers (try Bed, Bath and Beyond and West Elm or Etsy, Wayfair, or Overstock.com), decorative red, yellow, or orange accent vases or art, and higher-wattage bulbs and/or an additional lamp or two can all make your home more inviting and cozy for those long winter months spent mostly indoors.
Another tip: layer multiple blankets and decorative pillows or invest in a set of heavier bedding and velvet panel drapes that can be swapped out in the spring and summer for lighter-weight alternatives. Layering and heavier-weight fabrics even in cool colors make homes look warmer.  Not only can these small changes make a big change in your environment and mood, they can also make your home a more interesting and fun place to live year-round that is reflective of our changing seasons.

Update and Repair Before Listing Your Home For Sale!

When listing an out-dated older home (anything older than about 10 years) for sale, you can’t expect that furniture re-arranging, de-cluttering, and cleaning are enough to prepare your home for the market. That’s like putting icing on a half-baked cake or lipstick on a pig! The underlying more critical problems and issues need to be addressed first, or the rest is not going to make much of a difference.

Eliminate old flooring prior to selling

Eliminate old flooring prior to selling

Metallic patterned wallpaper scares off buyers! Too personal in taste, too old.

Metallic patterned wallpaper scares off buyers! Too personal in taste, too old.

Buyers don't want to have to paint; it's a simple, cheap fix to avoid scaring them off.

Buyers don’t want to have to paint; it’s a simple, cheap fix to avoid scaring them off.

Room needs paint and neutral carpeting

Room needs paint and neutral carpeting

Too Much Pattern

Too Much Pattern

Old Light, Wallpaper, Carpet

Old Light, Wallpaper, Carpet

Pink Won't Sell!

Pink Won’t Sell!

If your home has any of these problems, your investment in fixing or replacing and updating them will more than pay for itself in a higher market value when it’s time to sell:

1) Look down: Out-dated flooring, such as vinyl (even worse, strongly patterned vinyl), or chipped and damaged or stained ceramic or wood flooring. Buyers want clean, repaired or replaced ceramic or wood floors in kitchens and ceramic tile floors in bathrooms. Call a hardwood flooring specialist to fix, replace, or sand and refinish stained or scratched hardwood floors, which are a huge draw to buyers in the mid-Atlantic (and other) areas of the country.
2) Carpeting needs to be at the very least cleaned, if not replaced, depending on condition. If there are hardwood floors hidden underneath, rip out the carpeting and refinish the floors instead.
3) Look up: out-dated light fixtures – anything shiny brass, plastic, small-scale in a large ceiling, or older than about 8-10 years, tells buyers the home is older and makes them mentally downgrade their offer price.
4) Vanities and toilets and tubs in any color other than white or “biscuit” (off-white) are a negative when selling your home. Vanities and toilets are only a few hundred dollars to replace, plus labor, if you shop at the big-box stores in particular. Tubs can be re-glazed white for just a few hundred dollars as well.
5) Ceramic tile can also be painted or re-glazed inexpensively, so if yours is an old-fashioned color like pink, yellow, blue, or green, change it to white to look clean and universally appealing.
6) Wallpaper: Although wallpaper is starting to trend back in style in dining rooms and sometimes master bedrooms or children’s bedrooms, it is a highly personal décor taste, and I have yet to ever stage a home with trendy new wallpaper! All the wallpaper I see is decades old and holds no appeal to today’s buyer: it just screams “old”! So remove the wallpaper and paint an appropriate color.
7) Now that we’ve mentioned paint, be sure to avoid listing a home with any strong, bright, dark, dramatic colors. Painting is one of the cheapest ways to give your home a beautiful and modern face-lift and make it look clean and refreshed at the same time. Use neutrals that coordinate with the flooring and furniture finishes in your main living areas, and choose softer blue-grays, greens, yellows, gray, or beige for bedrooms, making sure the color you choose complements your new updated bedding! Most stagers have taken at least one, if not more, color classes, and are experts at color consulting so that the colors you choose will wow your buyers!
8) Out-dated kitchen cabinets and appliances: What color and style are your kitchen cabinets? If they have arches, they’re out-dated! If they are knotty pine, they’re out-dated, unless perhaps you live in a cabin in the woods or on a mountain. If they are bright red or orange or blue laminate, they probably won’t fly with buyers in any place other than trendy and modern NYC lofts. Darker stains are still a popular choice on the East Coast. Ivory, white, and gray cabinets are generally popular too, depending on the style of your home, its neighborhood, demographic, and the other finishes in your home. Black and sage green are less popular, but can work in some homes.
9) Wood paneling: PLEASE take your stager’s or decorator’s advice and eliminate your knotty pine or wood paneling, unless it’s teak or mahogany! Whether it’s faux wood or real wood, it is out of favor for many decades now unless it’s been painted white, off-white, or pale gray! Dark wood paneling screams “old” and “dated” and makes rooms dark as well. I can’t ever say it enough: light, bright rooms (that means leaving every light on during showings and all blinds pulled up and drapes removed or pulled completely aside) SELL houses! I went to an open house last weekend and the room was so dark with all the drapes drawn, I had to ask the seller to turn on the lights so I could see it!
10) Brass trim around showers, brass faucets, toilet levers, etc.: Eliminate the shiny brass trim that is a tell-tale sign of the 80s. If it’s too expensive to replace tub and shower trim, it can be dulled down or painted using specialty paints — at least a temporary fix to get more money when you sell. Ask your paint specialist or your stager for more info!

NOW your house is ready for the furniture re-arranging and trendy “icing on the cake” accessorizing that will prepare it for those close-up MLS photo shots that will woo buyers!

Taste-Specific Decor Scares Away Buyers!

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imagesl8f441f44-w10oIf you want to attract the most buyers possible when selling your home,
you need to present it to appeal to the masses by adopting at least some popular trends and eliminating taste-specific décor. In my 3-plus years of staging, I’ve come across some homes and seen countless photos on-line of many more that languish for many months or even years because they showcase out-dated colors, materials, finishes, or unusual décor, artwork, and collections that apparently no agent advised them to put away or change. About 95% of the time, homes have too much furniture that makes them look cluttered, cramped, or worn and tired! I find it hard to believe that any seller who truly wants to get top dollar for their home and move on would choose to waste months of time trying to sell a property that isn’t competitive in the marketplace.

Since many sellers don’t spend hundreds of hours a year keeping up with décor trends and they don’t have an eye for design, or know what sells, your best bet is to hire a stager to consult with you on how to present your home in order to market it effectively. Staging is a critical part of any home’s marketing plan, just like grooming yourself and dressing up in a conservative suit or dress is a part of a job interview in order to make a good first impression. A good stager will tell you much more than just what and how to de-clutter and what should be cleaned (OK, that’s easy, everything!). Stagers advise you on:
• What décor needs to be changed in order to capture many more prospects, 90% of whom troll the internet to decide on the homes they want to see: things like 1980s mauve and green carpeting, bright or out-dated paint colors, wallpaper, for instance, or bathroom fixtures and appliances in anything other than neutral colors, knotty pine paneling, old laminate kitchen cabinets, outdated lighting and hardware, Hollywood lightbulbs around bathroom mirrors (this is endemic in northern New Jersey, for some unknown reason), etc.
• How to enhance curb appeal, both for daytime and nighttime (think good lighting for pathways and the front door, even inexpensive uplighting for trees)
• Why and how much to pare down personal collections that will distract buyers from the selling features of your home and prevent them from seeing themselves living in it; I’ve seen gun collections, doll collections, old toy collections, deer heads on walls, stained glass “art” throughout a home, etc. These items are way too personal and can even be offensive to the vast majority of buyers.
• Eliminating family photos, pet paraphernalia, grandma’s crocheted afghans, doilies, etc. , and anything else that screams “this house is someone else’s home, I can’t see myself living here.”
• What repairs to make, if they are obvious to a critical eye: thinks like broken steps, doorknobs, missing tiles, mildewed grout, cracked walls or outdoor foundations, etc.
• What to stow away, such as garbage cans and personal hygiene items or cleaning supplies.
• What furniture should be removed, re-arranged, slipcovered to neutralize outdated patterns and colors or cover up stains, and generally positioned to maximize both space and your home’s selling features, such as fireplaces, views, nooks, etc.
• How to visually expand spaces by getting rid of scatter rugs, rugs that are too small for rooms, exposing hardwood floors, removing curtains, changing paint colors or adding mirrors in dark rooms.
• How, where, and what size artwork to hang to bring color and life into a room as well as to emphasize features
• And more . . . just too much to cover in this blog post!

The return on investment for staging is anywhere from 200% to 600%, according to HomeGain’s annual surveys on improvements that sell homes. I never make recommendations that won’t, in my experience, at least return their cost for that home’s location, and most improvements are inexpensive. Also keep in mind that buyers tend to over-estimate the cost of repairs, many don’t know who to turn to to get those improvements done, or don’t have the time to make those repairs and updates. They just know they want to live in homes like the ones they see on TV and in magazines, and sellers that give them what they are looking for are the ones who get more buyers and competitive bids and sell for higher prices!

Enliven Your Rooms With Color For Drama and Warmth!

Color in homes tends to make them more joyful and interesting! Pastel colors are coming back, but what matters in your home is what makes YOU feel happy. Color is such a personal choice and we all respond differently to different colors. To figure out what colors are right for you, think about what accessories, bedding, clothing colors, or even vacation spots you are drawn to and find pleasing. Do you love the ocean or lakes? Then blue or blue/green might well be a color you’d enjoy in your home. Are you drawn to the Southwest? You likely will prefer bold warm colors, such as orange, yellow, or red in your decor. You also need to consider the main purpose of each room (relaxing, entertaining, studying, sleeping); the amount and quality (north, south, east, west) of your light (natural and artificial); cohesiveness with existing hard-to-change finishes such as flooring, tile, cabinetry, granite, even expensive furniture you own; and your partner’s color preferences as well, if you to both live in something akin to harmony! Don’t be afraid to go bold, but when you do, keep colors limited to 2, maybe 3, combinations, and be sure to have one or two neutrals mixed in to get a color palette that works and won’t make you dizzy or overwhelmed! Or call me for a color consult and to discuss what will work in your home for the mood and results you want!

Luxurious bathroom

Luxurious bathroom

The Difference Paint Can Make!

The Difference Paint Can Make!

Spring green and raspberry pink add modern flair

Spring green and raspberry pink add modern flair

Purple-pink bedroom

Purple-pink bedroom

How I Help You Find Your Design Style

A design client just told me that when her sister-in-law came over to see her finished home, she was amazed with how well my furniture and accessory selections matched her style. That’s not an accident or a lucky guess (well, maybe once in a while!). But before I even meet with a client for an initial consult, I email a design questionnaire that helps to pinpoint their preferred style. Then when I visit their home, I ask questions about what rooms they like best, least, what colors they prefer or more importantly, DON’T like at all. If they’re not sure what their style is (and many people aren’t), I look for other clues, such as their taste in clothes, scenes in family photos, interior design photos they’ve pulled or pictures I show them, what their favorite stores are (home stores or even fashion stores), how they like to entertain (IF they like to entertain!). I also do a fun “design quiz” using a paint color deck to see what colors clients are drawn to.
This forms the basic “style recipe” that serves as the starting point for putting together design boards and furniture selection. As a decorator, I then add in a little “spice” to the mix with creative and new selections available from to-the-trade stores to see how a client responds to something a bit out-of-the-box for that “wow” factor. The goal is design that makes clients happy!

Choosing Finishes: A Designer Saves $$ By Preventing Mistakes!

Lots of people consider hiring a designer a luxury they can’t afford. But consider what happens if you choose a finish, such as countertops, backsplashes, tile or wood floors, cabinets, even paint colors that cost $1,000/room to paint, that don’t work with the color of the other finishes/furniture/fixed items like flooring in the room. Do you know how to analyze undertones in colors so that you don’t end up mixing clear with “muddy” colors? Can you choose a color scheme that will not only work together well but truly make you feel good every time you walk in — and spend time —  in that room? This week, I have a client who needs me to pick a paint color to go with a green chair she has in her master bedroom — if it is a sage or olive-green, I will look for a muddy-toned complementary color, such as a beige-yellow, instead of a clear yellow that would clash with it. A kitchen design client needed me to pick a color for her very small kitchen, with existing white cabinets, rust red tile floors, and rusty red granite counters, that would fit her desire for a calm and sophisticated look. With her input, I chose Aloof Gray, a Sherwin Williams color with a slight green undertone that works well with the red.

I also stay up-to-date on trends in finishes, so I know oil-rubbed bronze light fixtures (followed by satin nickel or chrome) are popular now, as are ebony wood floors and chevron, Moroccon or Ikat fabrics and drapes. If you are an investor, knowing the trends in YOUR area are particularly important for rehabbing and staging properties that appeal to your target buyers. Spending a few hundred dollars on a consult with a stager/decorator — or a few thousand to furnish and accessorize your property — is an investment that likely more than pays itself back in a quick sale for more money.

Using Accessories For Interest and Impact

Here are some examples of how I used accessories in a model home staging project. My goal was to appeal to buyer’s emotions and create an upscale lifestyle look with touches of nature for this development in a country setting.

staged kitchen, kitchen accessories

Kitchen accessories

Model home living room

Model home living room

Family room conversation area

Conversation area

Hallway in model home

Florals add warmth

bedroom accessories

bedroom accessories

Re-Use, Re-Fresh with One-Day Makeovers

If you’re looking for an inexpensive and easy way to refresh and revive your home to make the most of your space, a one-day makeover is a great solution! First, I’ll interview you by phone about your goals, style, favorite colors, and anything that bugs you about your space, and then make an appointment to come see your house and assess it in person. Depending on what we discuss and decide about your space, I will give you a list of suggestions such as new paint colors or adding crown moldings, new drapes, slip-covers, bedding, etc., and/or I can start re-arranging furniture, art, accessories, rugs, etc. right on the spot to make your home “feel” better. This is a great, inexpensive option that typically costs less than a nice weekend away and results in a house you’ll be happy to show off AND come home to!

 

Does Your House Leave Buyers Feeling “Cold”?

I’ve seen too many modern houses — and some not-so-modern — that are painted all-white, have loads of white cabinets, white ceramic floors, and the only other colors tend to be stark black cabinets or furniture, or pink-veined countertops or bathroom tile. While neutralizing colors can be a very good thing, when you go the other direction with huge expanses of stark white walls and floors, the effect leaves most buyers out in the cold. In this case, I recommend warming up a few select rooms, such as the living room, kitchen, and master bedroom, with warm or cool tones chosen to coordinate with any other existing colors or features (brick or stone fireplace walls, for instance) or furniture. Beiges, gray-greens, toned-down soft yellows, or the currently popular pale gray colors often work well, depending on other elements in the room. Part of my role as a stager is to bring fan decks and help you, the seller, choose the “right” colors that appeal to buyers and work in your home and lighting.
Warmth can also be increased with the right lighting choices, as well as adding colorful textiles, such as area rugs and accent pieces, including pillows, throws, florals, vases, candles and holders, and other decorative items, which I can purchase for you, with you, or you can rent from my inventory on a monthly basis.
Here’s to creating a warm, inviting home that makes buyers feel at home!