September 23rd, 2015
Today’s post is a proverbial tip of the cap to #8 Yogi Berra. Writers write what they know about, and regular readers know I love baseball.
Have had this analogy in my mind for months, planning to run it for Yogi’s birthday in May. Today instead I join legions of heavy-hearted NY Yankee fans saying thank you for the memories.
Analogies can connect the dots, making the seemingly irrelevant relevant. Baseball might have little to do with Home Staging or Decorating, after three-plus decades of working with people in their homes, and with their stuff I can tell you nothing rings truer about the process than this Yogi-ism.
I came into the home furnishing business during the acquisition-driven status-seeking buying orgies of the early 1980s-I know, how do I really feel?! But the rest of my tenure helped incubate more mindful ideals, shaping my more organic beliefs about our spaces, and our possessions, leading to the launch of The Refreshed Home in 2007.
OF COURSE Home Staging is about how a property looks. But it’s a fatal error to consider Home Staging solely as a standardized process, or an aesthetically-centric deliverable.
Even in rarefied Westchester County (!!) getting a property to the closing table is chock-full of twists and turns. Why open this messy emotional can of worms? Another favorite Yogi-ism comes to mind-“If you don’t know where you’re going, you may wind up someplace else“. Ignore that 90%, that mental game at great risk of ending up someplace else.
Minimizing or dismissing seller issues will often come back to derail the process, manifested as cancelled showing appointments, spaces intentionally unkempt, and pulling out of deals at the 11th hour. Similarly, buyers will pass on or low-ball a naked, soul-less property.
Lessons of the last decade have shaped our mindset. Change, and economic uncertainty weigh on everyones mind. Home Staging may be really hard to explain, but how’s this for a definition you can get behind?
Home Staging is WHATEVER you can do to better the market position of a property, while easing the minds of all the parties. Done correctly, Home Staging will:
- Comfort and guide sellers, making sense for their market and goals
- Attract, engage and motivate buyers- making it easier for them to say YES
- Support asking price of correctly-priced properties
Picking the right color of paint, knowing where to put the furniture is the easy half of the game. It’s that 90%, that mental part of the game where The Refreshed Home shines. Whether planning for Spring Market, or need to get to the closing table by the end of the year, talk to me today about getting your property noticed, and SOLD!
Thanks Yogi, you were one of a kind, and will be missed terribly.
September 18th, 2015
One of the biggest surprises people have about being a Home Stager in Westchester County is the sense of loss that’s part of most every job. Sometimes in wistful threads, sometimes much more dramatically, but it’s almost always there.
One of the biggest surprises I find in others is their resistance or unwillingness to factor in the emotional component our space and our stuff plays in our lives.
Feelings of loss are not always logical. They can be perplexing. And it can sneak up on you in the most subtle, and confounding ways. Like when you really, really would like to be happy .
As I reflect on the last 96 hours of my life, all this, and Gene Siskal’s touchstone ‘what do you know for sure?’ query to Oprah Winfrey has been bouncing around in my brain….
- Five properties I prepared for sale either went to contract, or were at the closing table
- We celebrated a wonderful, warm and loving wedding with friends
- An interview I gave months ago appeared in its full glory in the Fall issue of the very prestigious Westchester Magazine HOME (print AND online!)
- And the neighbor I consider a sister I never had moved away
Not far. And it was a great move for her, the right thing to do. Had helped her get her place ready, and knew the agent she chose, so no surprises. And I handle these kind of feelings every day, for a living!!! So why did removing the turkey I had kept in her freezer, or the ‘last’ time I fed her cat STILL make me so feel so sad? Why did the sight of her welcome mat in the trash, or her name off the mailbox hit me so hard?
Waaay deep down, our cells know for sure that our relationships are our most precious entity, the most enduring testament of our time here on earth. Things are the tangible connections to relationships…so when they threaten to change, actually do or go away, our synapses connect the two, so we fear, and experience loss.
“Understanding”-or even being a Stager does not automatically lessen, or make these feelings disappear. Had written on this before, about parting with the outfit I wore the night Doug and I got engaged.
Clearing away personal things is a very real and necessary part of getting a property ready for sale. The Refreshed Home counsels agents, executors and family members that going through (not around) this issue is the way to get the job done. Acknowledging, and honoring the feelings moves you forward.
OK, as a Home Staging professional I knew all this…but this week brought it home, and reinforced what I really, really do know for sure.
September 15th, 2015
Used to be houses were on the market in Spring and Summer, buyers moved in the Fall, and everyone left standing reconciled themselves to ‘next year’.
There were many reasons for this, all valid at the time. But little has been consistent, or even predictable about market cycles and ‘typical’ selling seasons of late. While there’s a good amount of pent-up demand, recovery in the Westchester market has been nicely steady, and I see people make moves when they are ready.
Most arguments ‘for’ Fall and Winter selling seasons fall into 2 categories: houses can look very appealing during holiday seasons, and (for sellers) there is less on the market for serious buyers to see.
School schedules, year-end holidays, and physical ease of moving typically drove this timetable. SURE we can still have lousy winter weather here in the northeast, but:
- Not all buyers/sellers have children, or are beholden to a school schedule.
- Nor do all buyers/sellers observe Fall holiday calendars
- Constantly updated information, available 24/7 has leveled the field-anyone can be looking, anytime
With all the conditions buyers/sellers have to handle and coordinate, finding the right house, or right buyer/offer is paramount, everything else is a nice to have. And yes, spring season is a really nice to have, but The Refreshed Home suggests that the best time to sell your Westchester County property is when you-and your property-are market-ready.
And separate out being market-ready from being listed. Being ready means you hold all the cards. Mortgage rates go up? Unseasonably warm February? You find your new dream house? You’re ready to act. Actually going live-signing the listing agreement, scheduling the photos-these can be done in hours. Clearing out impacted closets, getting the roof repaired or even just adding fresh coat of paint-not so much.
So what’s this Westchester County Home Stagers’ two cents’?
- It’s never to early to START the process of getting a property ready for sale
- There is still time to get to the closing table by the end of the year
- Move-in ready is GOLD
People are looking 24/7. At home in their bunny slippers, or on their phone while pumping gas or waiting for their sandwich at the deli. Put what works for you, and what will best attract your buyer ahead of the calendar. And if you need someone to help you get focused and prioritize, you know who to call, right?
September 13th, 2015
As a green-minded citizen of the world, I get all the reasons ceiling fans make sense. And they are great if you have big rooms with tall ceilings and are not selling your house. But as a Westchester County Home Stager I find they are usually listing photo poison; an absolute kiss of death if they are lighted ceiling fans.
It’s nothing personal…and The Refreshed Home is not part of any anti-ceiling fan cabal, it’s just science and math:
The eye is immediately, intrinsically, inescapably drawn to color and light. The more decorative the fan, the more it becomes the focal point of a listing photo>not the space itself>you know, what buyers are actually buying. And even with the best photographic equipment, they still visually skew a room’s proportions.
Average rooms are 8 feet tall; even low profile fans can protrude 8, even 10″ into a room, shrinking that dimension by roughly 12%. Add on a light fixture, you’ve got up to 18″ of visual real estate gobbled up; more if there are ‘decorative pull chains’ to contend with.
On paper, generous sized lighted ceiling fans seem a good bet with homeowners who have older houses with smaller rooms, fewer outlets and no central air, but they pay the highest price when it’s time for listing photos.
These prop plane nosecone look-alikes immediately communicate all the above-mentioned shortfalls, create glare and hot spots in the photos, while causing a viewer to wonder if a small plane missed a local runway.
Don’t put fear in taller, or high-heel wearing buyers. If you must have a ceiling fan-swap your tricked-out one for a simple low profile non-lighted one in white, so it disappears into the ceiling.
If you need to add light, one big honking fixture with 4-100 watt bulbs is not the way to go. Get several real lamps. Use them to define different areas, and draw viewers’ eyes to the further back corners of the room, adding oomph and balance to your listing photos.
September 10th, 2015
It’s accepted wisdom that listing photos are what drive traffic to a property. Good listing photos show spaces that are clean, uncluttered, well-lit and more neutral than not. GREAT listing photos engage buyers emotionally. They can make you remember, smile, and even dream about a property.
I look at a LOT of listing photos. And no matter the price point, if you look at enough of the same thing long enough, you just don’t see it anymore.
Getting a property market-ready doesn’t mean denuding a space. You want photos with some personality shining through, just more universal, not so specific to you. Personally, I aim for a light touch in the photos I style. The Refreshed Home believes clever and whimsy will trump pricey any day.
Before styling, this outdoor shower looked like a shed. Add a few props and VOILA!
Buying is about aspirations. Happier days, dreams realized. I never met a workbench, or an enclosed garden bed I didn’t love in the listing photos.
To reach your buyers you first need to know who they are, and what drives then.
- Young family with small children? A pile of board games, a new net and inflated basketball left by the hoop in the driveway…or a pot with seedlings on the kitchen window sill.
- Downsizers? Try books-biographies, as well as cook books. A guitar on a stand. And some toys in the guest room, or a colorful stool in the bathroom for visiting grandchildren!
- First-time buyers? I like photos like this that remind sellers what their friends and family will see, shots that say Welcome Home!