April 13th, 2014

larson_what_dogs_hear“What do you know about Staging?” is how I begin my Home Staging workshops.

After a moment of hesitation, someone will tentatively offer- ‘de-personalize, de-clutter’.

My next question-”OK, why?”- elicits a few responses that start off strong, parroting some more buzz words, but trail off, ending as questions.

Popular media explains it’s so a buyer can more easily see themselves in the space. Vanilla, un-offensive and palatable.  Not un-true, but then why does the topic of Home Staging [still] incite such pushback, even rage? Written almost 2 years ago,  I find  the comments  from a  NYT article “Ruthless Came the Stager” to still be indicative of the misconceptions of many (mine is #50-ish, Marie from White Plains).

As so cleverly illustrated in Gary Larsens’ infamous “Ginger” cartoon, we hear what we want to hear, what we deem important.   Amateur Stagers know to say ‘de-personalize’, but don’t get what sellers “hear”: You think I’m a slob, that I have bad taste and my kids are ugly.

With millions of dollars of Staged (and sold!) properties behind me, The Refreshed Home knows the key to a successful Staging experience is to first address, then drill down past the icky, messy negative brain-stuff, and look at the logical, DE-PERSONALIZED rationale of de-personalizing your Westchester County property before you sell.

Understand first being immediately drawn to color and light is a prehistoric survival skill, we’re  just hard-wired that way.  Also remember Buyers are inherently curious people, scared to death about missing the right house, or choosing the wrong one, and look for all the clues they can. Take it from this Westchester County Stager-if your space is too personal:

  • They will get distracted. No matter if they love it or hate it, if they’re engaged by your stuff, they’re not seeing the space, period.
  • They could use it against you. If you need to sell your 2 BR coop, why leave family pics of you and your 4 kids out for the world to see? Calendars with appointments, even books in your bookcase will tell your story to whoever comes to your house.  Your copy of “Living with(fill in a serious health  issue)” might have been purchased to help support a friend, but could lead them to believe you need to sell, leading them to throw you a lowball offer.
  • Security. Sometimes even really nice Stagers need to play hardball. Parents, convinced their progeny possess super-talent, and resist removing their photos, or clearing off the fridge. Hunters who choose to showcase their prowess with firearms by keeping dead animals on the walls, even professional diplomas, certificates or uniforms. Bottom line, you never know who will be walking through your house. Do you really want strangers to know the name of your 7 year-old’s soccer team? That you may have guns in the house? Or what information you might have professional access to?

Getting your Westchester County property ready for market is a uniquely personal process that goes way beyond the aesthetics….OR  ’de-personalizing’.  It’s a business move, and you need a strategy; The Refreshed Home knows experience matters and kindness counts as much as results.  No matter if your current listing is under-performing, or you’re planning for next year: talk to me today about how we can get your house noticed, and SOLD!

Staging FAQs: What About Virtual Staging?

March 20th, 2014

imagesCASOPC3VStaging FAQs-it’s b-a-a-a-c-k! Snappy answers to your most pressing questions about preparing your property for sale, Virtual Staging has been a hot topic lately.

Essentially photo-shopping furniture/furnishings into shots of an empty room, TRH takes the position that if Virtual Staging is done well, it can work. But to clarify: “done well” isn’t about technical perfection-it means that your buyers will “get it”. And “it works” means you’ll get traffic AND solid offers.

Probably a big surprise to those who see Home Stagers as midwives for the rental furniture industry…but today, Home Staging in Westchester County is as much a strategy as an aesthetic. The Refreshed Home believes effective Home Staging is anything you can do to better the market position of your property, while easing the minds of buyers, sellers and their agents.

While Virtual Staging is certainly a less costly alternative to bringing in rental furniture- is it best for your property, and will it get you the offer you want? Your Realtor is your best guide, as it really depends on the situation: your property, your market,  who your buyer is, and your expectations

  • Buyers making a lateral move,  looking at common/familiar floor plans like a Colonial or Ranch can generally more easily see themselves in these spaces. BUT  buyers still want to be wowed…especially if they’re spending a lot of money. If you’ve got a mega house with lots of extras, will your buyers be persuaded of its value by pictures, or just a few basics?
  • First time buyers, or those making a dramatic move (up-sizing or down-sizing) will usually have a more difficult time of things, especially in spaces with unique layouts or proportions. Seeing and touching real live furniture in the soaring or angular space of a contemporary house, or in the irregular space of a Tudor might more quickly ease a buyers mind more than an aesthetically pleasing online picture.

Two points to consider:

Technologically perfect can look too real in photos, confusing or alienating buyers when they get to the house. Confused or alienated buyers do not make offers. One of the more successful techniques I’ve seen shows the reasonably obviously virtually staged room listing photo immediately after one of the empty, non-staged room photo. 

Virtual Staging is not an alternative to a house being clean and in good repair. If there is faded or peeling paint, a dirty kitchen, an overgrown yard, worn or shabby floors, it’s the last thing a seller should spend time thinking about. Period. It’s a big mistake to ask  buyers to trust what they don’t see AND not to trust what they do see. 

Listings always attract the most attention the first few weeks on the market, so it’s imperative that whatever you can do, it be the best you can do, from Day One.

Listing soon-or live, but no results? Talk to me today-or come to one of my upcoming Home Staging  Classes at Bronxville Adult School, (3/27) or Yorktown’s  John Hart Memorial Library (4/3) to learn how you can get your house noticed, and SOLD! 

Marie Graham is an Interior Decorator, an Accredited Home Stager, and owner of The Refreshed Home. Bringing a thoughtful approach to the creative process, contact her directly 914.607.2895 or 

The Refreshed Home: Good Cop or Bad Cop?

January 15th, 2014

Good Cop/Bad Cop is a time-honored cliche, a tool used to shake up the equilibrium, and prod someone into action. The Good Cop is supportive, looking out for you; the Bad Cop says the tough things that need to be said.imagesCA2KSV7E

Home Stagers often wear many hats during the course of even a consult (figuratively, of course-I hate hats in real life!)- Bad Cop is one of them…but Good Cop is another.

The Refreshed Home functions as the client advocate, only and always. My success depends on your success. If I can smell cigarette smoke, teen age boy or litter boxes;  if I see old bed or bath linens and sad wall colors, I will tell you.

On the other hand, I understand the struggles and conflicts that are part of the selling/moving process. There is no judgement…TRUST ME, we ALL have some equivilant of stinky, messy or outdated in our lives or spaces- my job is to help get you, and your property past it all, so buyers will quickly and easily decide your property is worth every penny.

Preparing a property for sale, and keeping it ready to show is a discipline…but like any good cop show, what seems baffling and  uncertain early on can also be quickly wrapped up with some focus, and hard work.( Just no real hats!)

If your Westchester County listing is…well, listless, or if you’re getting ready to sell, be sure you’re putting its best foot forward:  Have a five minute conversation with me about how The Refreshed Home can help get it noticed, and SOLD!


The Refreshed Home: Reflections and Numbers From 2013

January 11th, 2014

Westchester County Real Estate in 2013 was a mixed bag. While recovery is still due for some, it certainly brought solid  improvement for many. imagesCAN2DHIF

While I love what I do anyway, 2013 affirmed much of what I believed in, and hoped for when I started The Refreshed Home in 2007.

Every category and number on my radar was up from 2012. Very proud, very very grateful.  Thank you, and OHYES, congratulations to the brokers, agents and sellers who believed in me, and with me.

  • The Refreshed Home had a hand in $43.6M worth of new residential listings in 2013.
  • 28 listings sold for a combined priced of $19,417,550.  Nine were at, or over ask.
  • Average sold property was $693,484. Six solds were seven-figure properties;  two were $160K coops.
  • Additionally, 7  more- total listing value of $7.138M are in contract, due to close in the weeks to come.
  • 8 new properties are preparing themselves at this moment, due to come on by February 1st.

Again, overwhelmingly, projects were for occupied spaces. Most used what they had/could otherwise procure on their own. Two rented furniture, some others were vacant, but left in good repair, clean and pristine with minor updates.

The Refreshed Home’s specialty is…specialties. Other trends emerged, and specialty services continued to evolve:

  • Two projects were single family homes that were rented.
  • Three sellers became very surprised buyers when their Staged property sold much more quickly than anticipated (!!).  TRH  transitioned two downsizing , and one upsizing family into their new spaces
  • Live listing photo styling, working with the photographer got more versions of spaces, quicker for several oversize and tricky spaces
  • Accessory Rental took off, necessitating taking a warehouse space in the spring to house my inventory of cool art, linens, lighting and tabletop
  • Several sellers who liked my take/taste on all of the above decided to work with me and purchase items instead of renting

Staging your Westchester County property to get it noticed and sold is of course about how it looks. But it is also about the people, and the process, the relationships. Effective solutions start with a conversation to determine what will be done, and by whom.  The right solutions, combined with the right person will put more money in your pocket faster, and also ease your mind.

The Refreshed Home works with nice people, who want to work with me, and want to get thing done. If this sounds like your style, talk to me today about how we can get your property noticed, and sold.

And no QUINOA BURGERS or beards- that’d be just be weird.


”It’s Only Weird if it Doesn`t Work”

January 11th, 2014

imagesCAZP6PH9“It’s Only Weird if it Doesn’t Work”. This has been the second NFL season this tag line has been reverberating through millions of homes.

Mis-matched socks, assorted rituals and talismans, and let’s not forget the dreaded QUINOA BURGER.  And this summer  ”Fear the Beard” was the mantra as the un-shaven Boston Red Sox rolled on to win the 2013 World Series.

Sports superstitions-actions and practices born from back against the wall circumstances, fueled by fervent hope and anecdotal stories of success-makes total sense to the people practicing/believing them, “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work” is the perfect justification of the illogical, to non-believers.

DAMN>why didn’t Home Stagers think of this line first??

Under reasonable circumstances, Real Estate is still a gamble; but the last few years…HA!

When The Refreshed Home first launched in 2007  Home Staging was largely a faraway concept in the Westchester County NY real estate  market; more entertainment, on cable. This market was hot, and the romance of fixer-uppers had not totally faded.

The  housing bubble burst shortly afterward, and the tide changed swiftly. The learning curve was steep, the naysayers were loud and cranky, and “weird” was one of their nicer characterizations… but it was a great time to listen and learn, meet people and define this new frontier of a business. ‘It’s only weird if it doesn’t work’ certainly was, and still is my attitude, just never put into so many words.

That was seven years ago. There are still skeptics out there…comments to a July 2012 NYT piece, Ruthless Came the Stager pretty much rang the dinner bell.  If you hadn’t read the article first, you’d think animal sacrifices under the light of a full moon were one of the recommendations. And OHYES, I still delight in pointing out that not a single solitary dismissive or angry villager shared that they actually had ever worked with a Stager…yet every single  commentator who shared they HAD worked with a professional Home Stager had something good to say. HA!

I will admit to owning Lucky Socks (literally, they say ‘My Lucky Socks’-how could I resist?) but everything  I do (say, suggest, warn, or nudge someone on) is rooted in training, instinct, and experience; but most importantly, from seeing what works, what has put money in other sellers’ and agents’ pockets.

If you are thinking about selling your Westchester County house in 2014…or have had mixed or bad results with a listing already on the market, turn off  HGTV, and let’s talk about what you can do to better the market position of your property. I promise you, no Quinoa burgers! 

NEXT: The Refreshed Home: Numbers, and Reflections from 2013