February 28th, 2011
You know those things you come across from time to time that just make you say an inner ‘wow’?
Simple statements, thoughts or bits of trivia that are intriguing enough to fill in a blank, or put things into a perspective you just never thought of before.
They may make you smile or make you think. Perhaps make your day a little brighter, even make you feel a little smarter.
Welcome to Ruminations… the new home for all these neat, thought-provoking ideas ( that are now on pieces of paper on my desk…on the dresser…on stickies, attached to my mirrors…) and yes, your comments and contributions are welcome!
Did you know the 2010 Best Picture of The Year-The King’s Speech came from an un-rehearsed reading of an unpublished play?
In his acceptance speech, Tom Hooper, the film’s director, explained that in 2007 his mom was to meet friends for lunch and then attend this reading, to be given in a small town in her native Australia.
She did not find the subject matter appealing, or even of interest, and almost didn’t go.
She decided to go, and was struck by the telling of this heartfelt true story. On her return home, rang up Tom and said: “Son, I think I’ve found your next movie”.
Greatness is all around us…looking past hyperbole, we free up brain space so we can be open to new ideas and opportunities.
February 28th, 2011
Some people dislike, even dread their birthdays.
Especially as I collect more and more, each one is all the more reason to celebrate.
While I like to look for things to revel in, and be happy about most every day, on my birthday l am determined to squeeze all the fun, silliness and specialness out of the day that is possible.
Did you know- “The tradition of birthday parties started in Europe a long time ago.
It was feared that evil spirits were particularly attracted to people on their birthdays.
To protect them from harm, friends and family would to come be with the birthday person and bring good thoughts and wishes.
Giving gifts brought even more good cheer to ward off the evil spirits. This is how birthday parties began.
At first it was only kings who were recognized as important enough to have a birthday celebration (maybe this is how the tradition of birthday crowns began?).
As time went by, children became included in birthday celebrations. The first children’s birthday parties occurred in Germany and were called Kinderfeste.” Courtesy of Reference.com
When Robert, my oldest nephew first started to speak, his toddler shorthand for “Happy Birthday Aunt Marie” was “Happy to You, Aunt Re!”. Anyone else celebrating today? HAPPY TO YOU!!
February 26th, 2011
Fine for everything from toothpaste and cars, electronics, vacation destinations and upscale frozen food. Remember Carol Merrill from Let’s Make A Deal? Lawn mowers never looked better.
Your listing? Snort…giggle…blush…awkward silence…umm, not so much.
Generally, any extreme or over-personalized home décor gets panned by potential buyers, and it distracts buyers from seeing the space.
TV shows tackle the usual scenarios: exuberant color schemes, too much stuff, and funky or outdated themes; but how do you deal sellers’ décor that should require ID, or a parent or guardian?
Or a den that looks like a campaign headquarters? Homes whose cup doth runneth over with religious symbols/icons?
-Don’t over-think it, or get pulled into the emotional aspect
-Ask ‘Could/would/does ______ get in the way of selling this house?’ This desensitizes, and keeps it a business discussion
-Your official* line is anything that makes you think of anything besides buying and living in this house needs to be packed away
-*Corollary: Real Estate is hyper-local. It would be foolish to deny there are accepted differences in different markets
-Start with best-case suggestions. You may have to pick your battles, but you’re on the record, and can always re-visit
-Addressing all concerns with seller clearly and early on, is both kind and efficient Bringing things up after house has been on the market for 6 months is a bad fallback
-If the seller or agent is unsure or uncomfortable with any of this, PLEASE start the conversation with a Professional Stager first
(Good) Professional Stagers work with agents to create solutions that meet the clients needs and expectations, and support the agents’ marketing and pricing strategy. Because they believe in honoring the clients and their possessions, it is always done within a respectful relationship.
NEXT: Sniff, sniff-how many cats did you say you have??
February 22nd, 2011
Temps in the 40′s?
Seeing this morning’s sunrise?
Valentine’s Day just passed?
AND OHYES< My Birthday fast approaching???
Spring Training has started!
First NYY game in the Grapefruit League is Saturday 2/26, 1:05 vs Philly; Opening Day for NY is Thurs 3/31 vs. Detroit.
John Fogarty’s “Centerfield”, anyone?
February 21st, 2011
Deciding to sell your home brings a barrage of new people and thought processes to the homeowner. There is talk about money, their lifestyle, their values, and ohyes, their stuff. Personal, and pretty invasive.
Staging a property can take many different routes, but successful projects always come down to a few basic points.
Good Stagers are not there to argue or judge; they are there to strategize and facilitate; create a solution as well as a vision.
Sometimes the decision to sell a property is not a happy or easy one; often there can be unhappy circumstances, like a death or divorce, or just the realization that time is, in fact, marching on.
Because you are dealing with people and their feelings, one of the most important tenets of the Accredited Staging Professional is to honor the client, and their possessions. In the end, it all has to come down to the question-could/would/does _____ get in the way of selling the house?
Here are a few of the things many of us have in our own lives, but are less than ideal in a property that’s being sold.
Proud Parents (Sigh) Yes, we’ve seen those houses…especially those refrigerators. Photo below, right shows two, in the same house! The macaroni art, the class pictures, the team practice schedules.
Those larger than life bulletin boards are handy for parents on the go, and there are magnetized plastic envelopes made especially for seniors, to hold their vital health info , to be placed on the fridge.
Fine if you are living there, but if your house is on the market, clean it off. It’s distracting, but it’s also a treasure trove of info to any person who goes strolling thru your house with intentions other than buying a house.
I ask balky parents-do you really want strangers knowing little Johnny is in Mrs. Smith’s class at Park School, plays on the Raider’s PeeWee league, or has a dentist appointment next Tuesday after school?
Similarly, buyers should have NO KNOWLEGE of a seller’s health status/issues. (And in that vein, take all prescriptions out of the medicine cabinet and put them out of sight, in a safe place, like a big Tupperware in the fridge).
Party Central Wine cellars can be a great feature in a home, and a small wine rack in the dining area is certainly appropriate. But elaborate displays of liquor and mass quantities of various stemware out in the open distract buyers, and add little to the value of the property.
Young families could find it off-putting, others could break, pocket, even tamper with an open container. If having a bar cart was key to creating a specific ambiance, put colored water in an empty booze bottle, and hit Pier One/etc for some inexpensive bar ware; otherwise, tuck it away.
NEXT: Yes, religion and sex!
February 21st, 2011
Staging is about people bonding with a space, by being able to see themselves living there.
There are a number of ways to make a connection with buyers, I like to add the unexpected. Nothing frightening or provocative, just not what people are used to seeing…I think that’s the thing they will ‘see’ the best, and perhaps cause them to linger.
A good visual is expected, it should be a given. The scent of baking cookies/pie/etc is more urban myth than reality I suspect, but warm brownies would certainly engage me and my olfactory glands.
I like buyers to be physically engaged in the property, so here is this week’s tip: PUZZLES and GAMES!
There’ll be smiles for sure, but I dare anyone, nay, double-dare them to walk past a game table with an in-progress puzzle on it, without attempting to find/place at least one piece.
Same thing with games…. set up checkers or chess, a few moves in; or a vintage kid’s game-is there anyone who doesn’t remember loving popping that Trouble bubble, or trying to avoid the red nose buzzing?
Of course you’d want to tailor your choice to the property and who you think they buyer may be; but simple and easy, they harken back to a prewired age. Easy to find very cheaply at tag sales if you are without.
Just one last tip- please, learn from my experience-DO NOT use Scrabble, you might find some pretty interesting messages on that board when you return!
February 13th, 2011
Grab your calendars, and your address book: your best justification for catching up with friends, having a new dining experience, while pumping up the local economy is coming!
The 5th Annual Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is returning, running March 14th thru the 27th…
OK, I know< technically, that’s 2 weeks, but all the more opportunities for yum-a-licious adventures, at great savings.
Simply, participating restaurants offer complete lunches for $20.00, dinners for $28.00. REALLY.
Many offer prix fix menus, along with the regular fare, and some may exclude certain days… to have your choice of destinations, go to the site now for listing of restaurants. Listed by county, in alphabetical order, so scroll all the way down for Westchester-easy to see menus, hours, locations, etc. Check it out, and make your reservations today!
February 13th, 2011
…truly I don’t, but have to ask: is it really part of your marketing plan to show your properties as estate sales? And if so, how’s that working for you?
Last week I was looking at the listings on a local agency’s web site. I know the agency, they are quality and successful, and I’ve done business with a number of agents there.
IMHOP, most of the listing photos looked sad- very, very sad: white-or overly bright-colors on the walls; small/underscale/old furniture-faded, and just placed wherever; no lamps, and-this is the worst-twin beds, in white chenille spreads.
It read-this is the detritus of what heirs did not want, and we’re just going to toss it when it sells. It was leftover Nanna furniture. I love, and miss all my Nannas very much, so these photos reminded me of a sad time, not a happy one.
Take a look at the photo above (not from afore-mentioned agency) Can you tell if it’s from a 1 BR coop in a pre-war building, listed at $145K, or the Master in a 4 BR single family home, currently being offered for $765K? Could your buyers? And is either scenerio motivating?
YES-Real Estate is hyper-local, there are very specific markets within even the same ZIP code. This agency is in a beautiful small town with reasonable average income per resident, and many unique properties. Many people live there well- FOREVER, so there is not a lot of turnover, until, well, you know…
I know of several communities where an inherited, old-money look is appealing; and there are agents-even other businesses that actively cultivate it, for many reasons. There is nothing wrong with that.
My concern is-is it a concious choice? Is it what buyers in your market expect, and most importantly, is it successful for you and your sellers?
Staging is a business decision. For sellers, it is about choosing to move forward. For buyers, it is about having a vision of what the future can hold, and often that future means moving up.
I am in the business of helping sellers and agents get their properties SOLD. If what you do works for you, that’s what matters. If it doesn’t work for you, call me and let’s find something that can does. Remember, if you are in charge of your space, you are in charge of your life!
February 11th, 2011
Need a boost? Or maybe the makings of a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner? This weekend there are 4 indoor Farmer’s Markets where you can make your inner foodie very happy:
Community Markets co-ordinates a network of local growers, bakers, and other purveyors year-round. This Saturday, February 12th from 9am to 1 pm there will be 3 markets:
-Briarcliff Congregational Church, North State Road, just off Pleasantville Road
-Mt. Kisco Boys and Girls Club, Main Street, near Northern Westchester Hospital
-Mamaroneck, St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, 168 Boston Post Road
Great website, click link above for more info, including scheduled vendors and entertainment, recipes, and FAQs about natural and organic foods.
Sunday February 13th is the date of the monthly Westchester-County-sponsored indoor market at the County Center in White Plains, from 10am til 3pm.
This month, my favorite radio station, 107.1 The Peak will be part of the fun. Follow link above for more info-but here’s a tip: use the commuter lot diagonally across the street, just feed the meter.
29 days til Daylight Savings kicks in, and only 36 days til Spring arrives-YAY!!!!
February 11th, 2011
Reality Check: Listing Photos Westchester Buyers Are Seeing 2.11.11
FACT: Online listing photos are today’s sellers #1 opportunity to draw in buyers.
FACT: Walls are the biggest surface in any room.
When you are looking at a space that is new to you, good-bad-or indifferent-it is almost impossible not to notice and react.
Here are some listing photos that Westchester buyers are seeing this week:
SORRY, but pastels are NOT in for main rooms, not even in South Beach. They minimize the importance -and value-of a room. Painting the fireplace the same pink as the wall just makes it disappear.
This room to the left is nicely co-ordinated…but not eveyrone likes-or has skin tone that is flattered by an all- pear green room.
The chest of drawers partially blocking a window tells the buyer there is not enough wall space, and no mirror on top of the dresser is a missed opportunity to add height, balance and light.
So-for this $350K condo, there wasn’t time to take the half-full cup of coffee off the table, push in the chair, and re-take the photo?
Or turn on some lights in this home?
Sellers: your property has about 8 seconds to make an impression with buyers, before they go “click” to the next listing. Do not get all cranky-pants, or personally offended when suggestions are made by trained professionals.
Agents: take the time to get good photos. They should be seasonal, well-lit and show the room-not the stuff. Not discussing the best way to get a property ready for market early on will cost you both time and money.
I do not sell paint, or have a relative who’s a painting contractor looking for work. And I am not in the business of trying to convince people of something they don’t want to do.
I am in the business of getting houses sold. And it is my fondest wish to work with people who feel the same way. So I will repeat my previous offer: Identify any of these photos as your own, and I will do a half-day of Staging your property, for free. REALLY>
February 8th, 2011
OK, we know closets aren’t really magical, but funny the power an attractively organized closet does have over us…we …just…want…them.
On the flip side, no matter how big they are, overflowing and unorganized closets tell buyers there is not enough closet space. It can also be taken as an indication of how the rest of the property has been maintained.
Buyers half-believe this power comes along with the property, and those that own these wondrous closets seem so gifted, and seem to have a lot of other things in life just to fall in place for them.
We’ve even lusted and laughed over them– remember the commercial where both men and women gasped and screeched at the beauty in their friends’ respective walk-in closets…hers was filled with finery, his with imported beer.
Selling or staying, having organized closets need not be thought of as an unattainable goal. Here are 5 easy ways to have the closets of your dreams.
1. Lest your home take on the atmosphere of a giant swap meet, do one closet at a time, and finish it completely before you start the next. You will keep perspective that way. Do something upbeat before starting-take a brisk walk, have a good breakfast.
2. Pack/Store out of season clothes. If you’re staying, you’ll be excited, all over again in a few months-NEW CLOTHES!! If you’re selling, think of it as a head start on your packing, because OF COURSE you will have your house sold, and be moved into your new home by the time you need them again!!
3. Make 3 piles of what remains: Gone, Negotiable, Staying. A recent study shows we only wear about 10% of what we own-ouch!
Anything that doesn’t fit, or you haven’t worn in a year goes into the first pile Negotiable needs repairs-or perhaps one more wearing to remember why you have not worn it in a while…ummm-perhaps orange isn’t your color after all? Staying is what you wear, and love-that 10% that you reach for all the time.
Be ruthless and quick; once something is in the gone pile, don’t re-think it. There are people and places that will gladly welcome and use what you have forgotten about, and is taking up valuable closet real estate.
4. Get good, matching hangers-your closet will feel so…civilized. Choose sturdy slimline hangers in a neutral color, with multi-features like built-in hooks and bars, or the ability to add on clips.
Some are covered in a flocked material; they’ll cut down on noise, and keep the slinky stuff from sliding off-but keep a few plastic ones around for anything damp (flocking can come off, onto wet clothes).
5. Put everything in color order, light to dark, even shoes. Seriously. Jest, even roll your eyes if you must, but then take a closer look at all the closets you’ve ogled…closets that gradually flow from one color to another are sleek and polished, and seem more spacious. Sometimes simple can be so effective!
February 7th, 2011
Saturday’s talk at the Ossining Library went really well: thank you to James Trapasso who schedules the programs, Edgar, who helped with the set up, and to all of you who made it there, and for your thoughtful questions.
Sunday’s 40 degree temps inspired a few email inquiries, so those getting a head start on Staging their home or their Spring Cleaning, here are some resources I like to recommend…
REALTORS: Please take SPECIAL NOTE-as your clients get closer to moving into-or out of a property, their usable, unwanted goods can make a world of difference to a local family in need. Please pass this around within your office.
Furniture Sharehouse takes your gently used, average-sized unwanted furniture, some furnishings, and working small appliances, and re-distributes them free to clients of 3 dozen Westchester agencies. Click here for link to site, and check donation and pick-up guidelines. Also here is video clip that was filmed as part of pitch to PBS.
Northern Westchester Shelter, also known as Hope’s Door has been providing safety and support to survivors of domestic abuse since 1980. Their space is small, and their needs change from week to week, but new to gently -used clothing (all different sizes) and baby items are usually high on their priority list.
Please email them or give them a call 914.747.0828 to check and see (they also keep an email list for when there are multiple, or especially great specific needs, if you’d like to subscribe)
Pets Alive Westchester (click here) in Elmsford, and SPCA in Briarcliff (click here) are both no-kill animal shelters that welcome towels and bed linens to make their animals’ lives easier, softer, and warmer. Check sites for guidelines of other needs.
No matter where you live, there are thrift shops that use your donations to raise funds for good causes; and any 501c3 charity will give you a donor receipt for your taxes.
Even though tossing may be the quickest/easiest thing to do, your donation could make a real impact by considering taking this extra step. Check the phone book, google around, or call me if you are stuck/in need of a good recommendation-and thank you!!
February 5th, 2011
Buyers are curious folks…which is ok, as when they buy your house, they will be buying it all: the closets, the plumbing, the attic, etc. But books and bookcases seem to hold a special attraction for them…which is why I pay special attention to the bookcases!
Books have soul, they add presence and character. Classic, but not cliched is the way I like to go. In a space where you want to send a message, the right ones can transport you and elevate the process; the wrong ones (defined as anything that could distract buyers) (and fodder for a future post!) are like a bad musical note; both jarring and lingering.
So pre-owned (pre-loved!) books are something I inventory, seriously shop for, and consider when Staging a project. A little unexpected can be quite engaging!
Rosemary Wells’ Max and Ruby books-are one of my favorites for kid’s rooms. Olive, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and of course, Goodnight Moon are some of the others.
Cookbooks also trend classic: Joy of Cooking, Silver Palate, James Beard; but also have a few Ina Garten a.k.a The Barefoot Contessa, and Moosewood Restaurant books as well.
Recently I completed a new project, a funeral home. Clients from years ago, this was a brand new project, existing space gutted and re-worked. Although the business has changed a bit, what people want at this time in their life has not; the only books I used were Reader’s Digest (hardcover) condensed books.
Westchester County was home to Reader’s Digest, you would have to ask a lot of people to find someone who did not have any connection. Paper covers off, they are quite lovely, and everyone had them, it gave a very nostalgic feel.
While no one would consciously buy a home because of the books in the bookcase, they certainly set the mood, and reinforces the vision of how they see themselves living in this space…where they can ultimately unpack and shelve their own copies of Danielle Steele!!
February 2nd, 2011
Why, I’m talking about your brain, OF COURSE!
While these days find it ohsotempting to be one with the sofa, while decked out in comfy-cozies, I find too much ‘relaxing’ dulls the gray matter.
Exploring new horizons, meeting different people, engaging in something new doesn’t just make the time pass quickly. It builds new brain synapses, and is a great quick-start to your creativity. You will feel empowered, inspired, and well, refreshed.
Here are three quick, easy and cheap-to-free ways to keep you in top form, you know, for when it finally stops snowing…
1. Go to a bookstore, or the local library and browse through the new titles. There is a lot to know/see/think about in this world of ours, the new releases will span a broad spectrum of topics, great food for thought, and for those ‘small talk’ occassions that seem to sneak right up on you.
2. Go to a museum. PLEASE. I can’t say this enough (or keep writing about it!!) No matter where you live, I can almost guarantee that there are a handful of places you have never visited within a half-hours drive, and many have free or reduced admission at certain times. Learn something new, see something from another’s point of view.
3. Take a class, or attend a talk. This is ‘High Season’ for Adult/Continuing Education in most local school districts or community colleges.
I took scuba diving at the Y this time of year once. While it wasn’t a hobby I ultimately pursued, I completed the course, and got my certificate, and for 6 weeks, got out of the house doing something different one night a week.
Dining Etiquette, Cartooning, All About Pearls-all part of our own WCC’s veritable smorgorsboard (orgasboard-orgasboard) of a line up. Check it out and have fun. Your sofa could use a night off.