Home Staging’s Sweetest Fruit

July 27th, 2015

We picked raspberries in the early morning stillness today at Rockefeller Park.  IMAG1579

It was quiet, but steamy, and buggy. And most of the fruit closest to the trail had already been picked. But many fat, ruby-colored berries called to me from the middle of the brush. Others whispered, hiding behind clusters of leaves, while still more beckoned, further on down the trail.

As an industry, Home Staging is in it’s fourth decade, but it’s ever-evolving, so I always look for metaphors to explain what it is and how I work.

Here in Westchester County, Colonial is probably the most common floor plan you’ll see, followed by split levels. Buyers like them. They know what to expect, and are familiar with these plans. You’re not re-inventing the wheel, it’s easy to make people happy, these are great jobs!  In raspberry-picking parlance these projects would be called low-hanging fruit.

IMAG1582But back to those plump shiny raspberries that were out of immediate reach. Why were they so appealing? Could they possibly be any sweeter?  Or was it the challenge, the satisfaction of persevering and succeeding where others had passed by that just made it seem that way?

Working my way into the brush, there were thorns and poison ivy to watch out for.  The ground was uneven, so the angle of each approach had to be considered. Sweaty and buggy, I stretched and extended myself in different ways for each cluster.  It was hard work!  Do you see where I’m going here?

The Refreshed Home has found Home Stagings’ sweetest fruit to be the houses, circumstances, even relationships where others have passed, or given up on.

Home Staging speaks to the soul and spirit of each property, finding and celebrating what is special. That’s what buyers connect with…but support the sellers, and honor their process, it is divinely satisfying to know you are righting that one teensy part of the universe.

When you bring heart to a basic condo, or life to a vacant home, you also bring hope to the owners. Replace the warmth that illness, death or divorce has drained-you also fill, and lighten the hearts of the sellers. Taking cute to polished and cozy, making sense of funky renovations or that odd floor plan will put more money in a sellers pocket while easing their minds.

I love being a Home Stager. Yes, this is how I make a living but it’s also how I make a difference. These are Home Stagings’ sweetest fruits.  



Trends: Random and Arbitrary, or Purposeful and Predictable?

July 25th, 2015

Trends surround us, they influence and impact every part of our lives.

Whether you predict hemlines or housing, deal with wall colors or Wall Street, understanding where trends come from, what shapes and drives them will ease your mind, help you make the best decisions and put (or keep) more money in your pocket.

Trends don’t materialize out of thin air. No matter the segment-if you boil it down far enough, thereapecon_review (1) are two things that shape and drive trends.

First-real things going on in our world... ‘our world’ being as micro as our circle of friends, or as macro as-well, literally our world.

Second-the universal, yet infinitely unique human condition known as being bored.

We want to be entertained, and we want to stand out.  Perhaps the cavemen and cavewomen knew to look ahead as a survival skill, but in our lifetime, Madison Avenue trained us to expect greater things, more satisfaction from the next and newest thing. Translated-why we can buy Halloween decorations on July 4th, but bathing suits-not so much!

The percentages of each element will fluctuate in each scenario, but in the end, these are the drivers. It’s natural to feel the trends in the segments you like and understand are the most valid, with the ones you don’t like or  understand as being random or arbitrary, but ignore the latter group at your own peril.

 When you connect a concrete reason, or point of reference in someone’s world to what you are asking them to do, buy or believe- you level the playing field, and add value to their experience.

At The Refreshed Home you’d think it’s all about how something looks….and it kind of is. But my sellers’ properties sell more quickly and closer to list because we focus on who the buyer is, and what they crave.

My decorating clients sleep at night because they’re able to ‘see’ how things come together, and understand how one choice will serve them better than another.  Yes, this Westchester County Decorator and Home Stager considers her REAL stocks in trade largely intangible, and subjective: value, confidence, relief, peace of mind, balance, comfort, and happiness!

Heavy stuff– MUCH easier to think of me as a human Ouija board with a paint fan! But good designers-and good design-deal with what is missing, what is wrong or not working, and what is craved; then creates a solution that is to scale, and appropriate for the space, the client, and the circumstances.

NEXT:Latest Decorating and Home Staging Trends: What, and Why

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Marie Graham is an Interior Decorator, a Home Staging and Re-Design specialist, and photo stylist. Using her equally developed right and left brains she created The Refreshed Home in 2007 after 27 years of working for other people. Reach her directly marie@therefreshedhome.com or 914.607.2895


‘Eau’ (Not EWWWW!’) de Summer: Selling, and the Summertime Stinkies

July 15th, 2015

SO much to like about summer: long days, time outside, more casual clothing,  imagesCACWH6VSand OHYES really motivated buyers!

Yes, Westchester County’s summer selling season is upon us. Selling an occupied house in the summer presents certain challenges.  The Refreshed Home counsels that odors are a part of life…but high temps/humidity, paired with our keeping windows closed to keep the AC in can supercharge odors. The dog that got caught in the rain, this mornings gym gear, last nights’ grilled salmon-these will be the first things to greet a potential buyer.

Good listing photos get buyers to the house, but engaged buyers are the ones who linger, and make offers. Properties need to SMELL as good as it LOOKS, so here’s some tips to keep your buyers smiling and interested:

  • Keep the dog, fish tank, and gerbil cage clean, and the litter box emptied
  • Take the garbage out every night
  • Change/launder bedding and bath towels more frequently-fresh crisp linens are a real upper
  • Overall, do laundry more often, and keep dirty laundry in the washer in-between loads (not in hampers in the bedroom or bathroom
  • Keep any used sports gear-sneakers, bicycle helmets, etc-outside the house like the garage or out on the patio
  • Keep wet towels where they can dry quickly-back of the bathroom door just does not work
  • Open the windows when you can, look to cross-ventilate the house. Use an attic fan if you have one.
  •  1/2 c baking soda down a drain, followed by 2 c white vinegar will clear AND freshen up stinky drains
  • To clean out a microwave, put a sliced lemon in a glass bowl with water, and hit HIGH for a few minutes

Plug-in oil diffusers or many spray remedies are obvious, and often too heavy. They can be a red flag and aggravate respiratory issues.

Smokers in the house? 

  • Don’t smoke anywhere in or near house, that includes patio, deck, garage, mechanical room or basement
  • Fibers absorb and retain odor, look into having carpets, draperies and upholstery professionally cleaned
  • So do walls. A fresh coat of paint is a two-fer: a good look, and it knocks out most smoking odor

Damp basement? Who’s isn’t this time of year? But buyers can be skittish…

  • Try an easily available desiccant like Damp Rid first, just be sure to keep it away from pets and kids
  • A fan can move around stale air
  • If you have a dehumidifier, empty it frequently. Make sure it looks clean and operates smoothly. A dusty, wheezing, drippy de-humidifier is pretty gross.

We all can be immune to our own immediate environment. So last, when in doubt, ask a good friend. They understand being kind and being direct are not contradictory.

Thinking of selling? Old or under-performing listing? Talk to me TODAY about getting your property noticed, and SOLD!

Staging FAQs: What If My Property Becomes a Tear-Down?

March 30th, 2015

Welcome back to The Refreshed Homes’s Staging FAQs where pertinent Demolition of an old house with power shovelquestions of the day are answered in 400 words or less.

“What if my property becomes a tear-down?” has come up a lot lately. My response is, “Ok, what if it does?”.  Annoying, but it gets us to an underlying issue.

Westchester County is a desirable location, and decidedly an upwardly mobile market…yet close to half the single family homes here were built before the late 1950’s.  Today’s reality? Even if a structure is clean, maintained and perfectly functional for the current owners, buyers want what they want.  The location is a given, the structure is not.

Most recent numbers regarding frequency of selling/moving are somewhere in the vicinity of every 7 or 8 years. But as our market recovers, many Westchester County homeowners are downsizing, and approaching the selling pool for the first time in decades. Some are stunned to learn their property is considered worth more than the structure.

Even under “OK” circumstances Staging can seem arbitrary and feel invasive; feelings of loss, even grief are part of many sellers’ process. Thinking something so much a part of your life potentially reduced to rubble, then carted off will do that to a person.

The Refreshed Home defines Home Staging as anything that improves the market position of your property, while easing your mind. Selling quickly and well is goal, but negate the emotional part of the process at your own risk. Getting a house to look its best can easily come undone if the seller is anguished, not genuinely ready or willing to sell.

Being kind, and being direct are not mutually exclusive attributes. So early in the consult we talk about why they’re selling, who their buyer will be (and why), their expected price point and how they see that in their market.

“What if my property becomes a teardown?”  is a welcome question; really, several questions in one.  It’s a vehicle to define the scope of the job, help both of us address their concerns, and clarify/reinforce  their motivation and priorities now, upping the odds for an overall  smoother process.

You never know who the buyer will be, but helping prepare the seller is one way The Refreshed Home brings a thoughtful approach to the creative process. 

Want to sell? Need to sell?  Ready to sell? Talk to me TODAY about getting your listing noticed, and SOLD!

Get it Noticed, and SOLD!! Free Home Staging Workshops in Westchester County

February 20th, 2015

Preparing a property for sale is a very personal experience, there is not one abLet's Get Your House Noticed, and SOLD!solute standard.  It’s a collection of decisions that correlate to, and support your needs, goals, and expectations.

Further complicating things-most everything  you hold dear in this world is on the table: Family, your values and relationships, money and time, your hopes, dreams and fears.  All this considered, critical thinking skills are essential, which is why I started running free Home Staging workshops a few years ago.

Free*, interactive and open to the public, The Refreshed Home is pleased and excited to share the Spring 2015 schedule of upcoming Get Your House Noticed and SOLD! events.

* As part of their Adult Ed program, Bronxville Adult School charges a nominal fee for this class, and space limited to 25.

My presentations are geared to the hands-on home seller: interactive and flexible, combining Q&A, easy ideas most everyone can implement on their own, and a slide presentation-including the perennial crowd favorite-BEFORE and AFTER photos!

While the optimism (and stability) continues to grow in the Westchester County real estate market, that’s no reason to assume buyers will  be taking their house-shopping any less seriously. AND they will have a lot to look at! Preparing a home for sale engages buyers, lets them see the value in the property, and makes it easier for them to say YES.

Properties that are priced right, and have been thoughtfully prepared for market garner the most buzz early on. They also attract the most serious, and best qualified buyers, and bring in the best offers, sooner. Through 3Q 2014  the average Days on Market for single family homes in Westchester County was 126 days. TRH’s Staged properties averaged 30.5 days. And received 99.7% of original list price.

Above links will bring you to each venue’s site.  Mark you calendars, tell your friends, and bring your questions. Hope to see you there!