Lately, I’ve been very surprised to see some photos of vacant house stagings in NJ that show shabby-chic, traditional, too-large, or ornate fringed furniture. Frankly, some of it looks like it came from garage sales or from the 1990s! If you’re hiring a stager to either shop for new bedding, carpeting, light fixtures, etc. to update and upgrade your home, or especially for providing furniture and accessories for your home, you may not be aware of what the current trends are, but your stager MUST be for the staging to be worth the money you spend. Traditional furniture doesn’t work for most properties (outside of homes for the elderly), and in our NJ market, very modern furniture doesn’t work either, except in some newer, smaller condos along the Hudson River. Transitional furniture — which falls in between traditional and modern furniture styles — is by far the most popular style today, with its clean, un-fussy lines that buyers prefer. (Check out my vacant staging portfolio to see transitional furniture.) The size and scale of the furniture is also vitally important to enhancing rooms, especially the typically smaller rooms seen in many newer “flip” properties or townhouses and condos. Large, over-stuffed furniture makes rooms look cramped, out-dated, and generally unappealing. Colors matter too — black, red, green, and brown upholstery is mostly out-dated, while gray, white, beige or light gold are much trendier choices that buyers will relate much better to. Shots of either soft, spa-like or brighter colors — teal, all shades of blue, light to jewel-toned greens, orange, even navy — or metallics (silver, gold, bronze) in pillows and accessories are also trendy looks that can help your home look up-scale and current. Again, your stager should be matching the color choices not only to the rugs and furniture but to the wall colors and finishes (hardwood floors, cabinetry, countertops, light fixtures) in the room or adjacent rooms. So be sure the stager you use knows what works in today’s market, your area, and for your demographic. Staging is an investment that will only pay off if the end result is effective!
Do you have empty rooms or rooms with old or shabby furniture? You can rent furniture and accessories through a furniture rental company that will significantly update the look and appeal of your home, especially if you have furniture more than 6 or 7 years old.
If you don’t want to pay a stager to spend several hours in your home bringing in and styling their own accessories, bedding, lamps, florals, towels, and decorative items, but you want help figuring out what furniture and/or accessories to rent and where and how to place them in your home, call me at 201-390-4649. For a $100 consultation for 4-5 rooms, I take all needed measurements as well as photos of existing wall colors, carpeting, columns, angled walls, etc. so that I know what size, upholstery choices, and number of pieces will work best in each room.
For just $50 extra per room, I can provide you with a specific list and photos of furniture, area rug and accessory recommendations from one of 2 or 3 local furniture rental companies. I can even make the initial contact and arrangements with them, if you wish, or you can contact them directly, but you will sign the contract with them and take delivery and direct the furniture placement.
When 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!
Using Rental Furniture To Showcase Your Home
One of the most common questions I get asked is “How much does it cost to rent furniture?” Usually callers are asking about having me choose the furniture for 4-5 main rooms – occasionally all of the rooms — in a vacant house, but sometimes they want me to select just a few pieces for an occupied home to replace shabbier or outdated furniture or fill in an empty room.
So here’s the rundown for typical rental costs based on a typical 3-month rental period:
Room Typical monthly cost
Dining room $100 – 150
Living room $200 – 350
Family room $200 – 300
Master bedroom $250 – 300
Extra bedrooms $150
Although rental companies WILL lease for one or two-months, the higher cost they charge for such short-term leases is the same as the cost of a 3-month rental. That time frame actually works out well when selling your home because even if a staged property gets an offer in the first week or two – which often happens – the attorney review, inspection, mortgage process, etc. typically takes another 2 months anyway. I always recommend keeping furniture (and my accessories) in place until as close to closing as possible, just in case a deal falls through at the last minute.
Furniture companies also charge a one-time delivery fee of about $260, and a one-month security deposit, refundable at the end of the lease.
Of course, you can rent furniture on your own, just keep in mind that:
A) As part of every vacant staging consultation ($100 credited back upon hire for staging), I photograph and measure the rooms to figure out the best placement for furniture for making rooms look spacious and inviting.
B) it’s time-consuming to browse websites or visit stores to select quality furniture within a specific budget.
C) You need to make sure you select the right style for your target demographic (buyers likely to be interested in your property).
E) You also need to consider colors and patterns that are on-trend AND work with the paint colors, cabinetry, countertops, flooring and other finishes in your home.
F) Because of my 5-year relationship with the two large furniture rental companies in northern NJ, I get discounts or can negotiate for better pricing that I pass along to my clients to save them money.
G) In addition to furniture, every home needs accessories such as art, lamps, rugs, pillows, throws, bedding, towels, and decorative items such as bowls, florals, vases, trays, etc. I carry hundreds of accessories that add warmth and create emotional appeal to make buyers connect with your property.
Ideally, you should rent furniture BEFORE listing your house and before the real estate agent has professional photos taken of your home . Placing appropriately-sized and styled furniture shows buyers the best use of rooms, adds warmth, makes rooms actually look MORE spacious, highlights the best features like fireplaces, windows, and built-ins, and generally makes a house irresistible to buyers so you will get the highest offers and the most money out of your home as possible!
Does your home make you happy every time you walk in the door? Would you like a beautiful space to come home to and enjoy every day? If you need help with space planning, furnishing and accessorizing a single room, a bachelor pad, a vacation home or a whole house, we can help!
Our environments can have a profound impact on how we feel: calm and serene, upbeat and energetic, focused and organized. Looking for a cozy man-cave, an elegant woman’s office, a rustic lodge, classic luxury? Whether your budget is IKEA, Ethan Allen or to-the-trade design houses that offer custom-made quality furniture, custom rugs and window treatments, I can help you achieve the look you want – from traditional to transitional, mid-century modern, Hollywood glamour, or New York penthouse contemporary. I can incorporate elements and pieces you already have or have seen, and I can suggest furniture, room arrangements, floor plans, built-ins, and fabrics and even looks you may never have thought of. My goal is to help you create a beautiful and functional home you will love to be in – with a lot or a little input from me, and in a timely fashion. I know and can work with to-the-trade design houses to choose special pieces for a unique and custom look (and you might be pleasantly surprised that when I pass on my discounts their products can be quite affordable).
Great Impressions Interiors offers initial two or three-hour consultations tailor-made to fit your home and lifestyle needs AND budget for just $200 to $300. We assess your living and lifestyle/entertaining needs, style, color preferences, budget, storage/space issues, and design focal points. From there, we start making suggestions, take measurements and photos as needed, and go home to create one, two, or five on-line style boards of furniture, rugs, window treatments and accessories for just $75/hour until we create the perfect design for you. You can then use that style board listing all the products and where to buy them to make purchases on your own, or you can hire us to complete all the shopping and handle the shipping and other install details. However you want us to help you, we will work with you to give you a more perfect home!
To schedule a design consultation or to find out more about how I might be able to help you, call Amy at 201-390-4649.
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.
Lately I’ve had many inquiries about the cost of staging vacant houses, but once callers such as real estate agents, investors, and sellers hear the cost of furniture rental (which I arrange through outside rental companies) their first reaction is to balk. But at around $200 – $300 per room per month (depending on style and price point of furniture as well as number of pieces required for each room), the cost is actually very reasonable considering:
*Furniture rental when selected by a professional stager or decorator is a very smart investment that will easily return anywhere from 2 to almost 6 times the cost (source: HomeGain) in a higher selling price and quicker sale that will save owners money on monthly maintenance, mortgage, property taxes, and other carrying costs
* The cost is always less than a typical price reduction on a property
* Renting furniture is a smart and critical move to creating a warm and welcoming environment for buyers that helps them envision their ideal lifestyle
* Using the services of a design expert such as a stager or interior decorator to place furniture in an empty home shows buyers how to use spaces most effectively, resolves questions about seating, watching TV, reading areas, eating areas, the number of people that can comfortably use a room, too-large or too-small spaces, what to do with awkward angles, oddly-placed fireplaces, etc.
* Using rental furniture from professional rental companies insures all furniture is sanitized, professionally wrapped, delivered, and set-up, and that the inventory is frequently turned over (i.e. updated) to reflect current design trends.
*Stagers/decorators can often negotiate lower rental prices, sometimes get insurance waivers removed, and generally arrange better terms with furniture companies since they know we bring them repeat business and they value their relationships with us.
So while the cost may seem high at first glance, the benefits of renting new, trendy pieces to create the look that appeals to buyers far outweigh the initial cost of around $3-5,000 to furnish 4-7 main rooms in a house over the standard 3-month rental period.
One of the main benefits of consulting with a home stager is the emotional connection she or he is able to create with buyers for your home. Buyers tend to buy with their hearts, not their heads, as much as they think they are using rational decision-making!
Many factors contribute to buyers’ perception of value when looking at a home:
Landscaping, paint colors, materials and finishes such as hardwood floors and granite countertops, fixtures such as stainless steel appliances, updated vanities, modern light fixtures, and even non-attached elements such as furniture and accessories. The vast majority of buyers who see older, overdone, mismatched, or even minimal décor will not find the home appealing and will de-value it or pass it by completely. There are many easy fixes that stagers can suggest to get offers for homes that are stagnating on the market because of older décor. Stagers can also psychologically “fix” poor lay-outs simply by re-arranging furniture and art.
Even dark or out-dated paint colors will reduce the value of a home, although having rooms repainted is an easy and relatively inexpensive fix. Unfortunately most buyers don’t know that and even if they do, they don’t want to deal with doing the work. Buyers will pay more money for move-in ready homes than out-dated ones or fixer-uppers (which is why investors seek the low-value, low-price homes that need work). Stagers advise their clients on the specific items that should be changed or replaced in their home in order to raise the value of the home over and above the expense involved!
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.
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!
If 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!