May 5th, 2013
Sure, we all have heard of Home Staging, but how does it work, and what is a Home Staging Consult? Welcome back to FAQs, the series where short and simple answers to your Decorating and Home Staging questions are the specialty of the house.
Home Staging-preparing your Westchester County property for a quick and rewarding sale-can unfold in many different ways, a Home Staging Consult is the best way to get started.
Once you’ve decided to sell, the questions about getting market-ready can be many: How does it work? What needs to be done, what can we do ourselves? What makes sense for our market, what will reinforce the price we want? Who will do what, and what will it cost?
The Refreshed Home believes sellers can do more than they might think they can, and offers Home Staging Consults as a platform for ideas, information and discussion that lead sellers to their own best answers. Interactive and collaborative: the sellers’ needs, goals and expectations are considered, resources are explored, while current/local market conditions and comps are discussed with the Realtor.
Home Staging Consults are up to two hours on the property, with refined and detailed notes emailed to all parties within 36 hours. It puts many tools in the sellers’ hands for $285.00. Even better, it adds peace of mind and a trusted advocate to your equation.
The Refreshed Home has been helping people make better sense of their space and their stuff since 1981. Whether your listing is languishing, or you are thinking of selling next year, it’s never too early-or too late-to start the conversation!
April 19th, 2013
Shortest FAQ answer in this series yet: YES. But perhaps you have a more burning question: Why would this be part of a discussion with a Home Stager?
Home Inspections-where a trained professional goes through a house checking and evaluating the systems and infrastructure of the house- are typically initiated by a buyer, most often after their offer has been accepted by the seller. But the number of sellers now choosing pre-sale inspections are increasing: one inspector, speaking at a local WCR meeting recently estimated it was 25% of his business now.
Financing still takes months, even for an above-average qualified buyer, so it’s in no one’s best interest to spend any time going down that road, only to find conditions that could derail the deal.
Properties that show a clean bill of health in from Day One stand out, and shine a little brighter in the eyes of a buyer. Sellers can also remedy any conditions found to need attention faster, and almost always for a bunch less money than a buyer will estimate. And in that vein, you are not training the buyer to look for problems.
Buyers will often pay to have their own separate inspection down the line, but that is a conversation best left to the principles, their attorney and their agent.
Still wondering how Pre-Sale seller inspections are part of this Westchester County Home Stager’s inital consult?
The Refreshed Home believes preparing a property for sale is a thoughtful strategy that considers ALL the circumstances. Homeowners and agents hire TRH to address and develop a plan where together, we examine and discuss what makes sense, as well as what looks good. Why spend time planning, why advise a seller to invest funds on anything of cosmetic or discretionary value if a buyer’s inspector is going to find there’s about 45 minutes of useful life left on the roof, or the basement has mold?
Sometimes Home Staging IS about adding the green flags that add visual appeal, but making sure the red and yellow flags are remedied have got to be a sellers’ first priority.
March 30th, 2013
Welcome back to FAQs, the series where quick and specific answers to your most-asked questions about Interior Decorating and Home Staging are the house specialty.
Selling your Westchester County house, coop or condo? Questions about renting things to make your property look its best have probably come up. Previously we looked at the IF and WHY of rental furniture, today HOW renting furniture works. .
Thanks to HGTV, many homeowners believe Home Staging must include renting furniture. This Westchester County Home Stager always seeks to work what is already owned, but with the caveat that it is the right choice, and puts the property in it’s best light.
Rental companies pretty much work in the same way: contracts are a minimum number of months, and a minimum monthly dollar amount. Additional costs are delivery and pick-up, damage waivers, sales tax and a refundable security deposit. Like loans, the longer the term, the lower the monthly rate…but the more you will end up paying net, it’s just in smaller, managable increments.
Most offer pre-chosen room ‘packages’, but also let you choose individual pieces, too, and in my experience there is no big price differential.
After 25+ years in the furniture industry, TRH knows this is a highly specialized service-inventorying, maintaining, storing and delivering-best left to other professionals, and insteads facillitates the process on behalf of the homeowner: First setting a strategy: editing, and choosing what stays and goes where, then what is needed to complete the look, and will yield the best net ROI for the homeowner.
While consumers can typically rent furniture themselves, directly from most rental companies, here are a few ways this Westchester County Home Stager will make the process painless and the results stellar:
Strategy: What stays, what goes (or goes into storage)? What can be borrowed, re-worked; would buying something-that you’ll take with you-be a better choice? Prioritizing rooms to be prepared that align with comps, and desired time/price benchmarks.
The Right Stuff: Considering not just what looks pretty online, but what will work with existing walls/floors/items-or coordinating new choices; what is the correct look and scale, and OHYES besides fitting in the space, will it get in the door, up the stairs, and around the corner?
Better Rates: Dealing with a known, professional Home Stager streamlines the process for the rental companies, they will pass these savings on the client.
Vetted Vendors: While the process is the same, the type and quality of furniture, the level of customer service has been road-tested.
NEXT: RE-personalize (instead of de-personalize)
January 29th, 2013
It’s been quite a year for Westchester County NY homeowners on the cusp of selling: many prognosticators were urging homeowners to be content with small but forward moves towards recovery, while some markets were quietly going from zero to 60.
Now the chatter is about wide-spread shortage of inventory, and sellers who are sitting back, waiting to see how high it can go.
SO-is now finally the best time to sell your Westchester County NY house?
Choosing when to list your house for sale is a decision best made with the counsel of a good Realtor. The Refreshed Home believes deciding to have your house READY, for when you’re ready-is a different choice entirely.
The act of pricing and listing a house is a relatively quick process; of making sure it is market-ready: ummm, not so much.
Doing whatever needs to be done to be ready to sell doesn’t just support a selling scenario: needed repairs and modest updates will enhance your quality of life should you decide to stay. A coat of fresh paint, some new bed linens, or clearing out closets, garages and the like never hurt anyone.
The point is: if your house is ready, you are. You hold all the cards: you’re free to decide, and make a fast move when it is your best time to sell your house. You’re poised to respond to demand-or take advantage of a great property you want to buy!-but also able to relax, wait and pick your time.
The Refreshed Home knows getting a property ready for sale is not just about a good visual, it’s just as much about the people and the process. If the thought of selling your Westchester County house has crossed your mind, this Westchester County Home Stager recommends separating out having the house ready from the myriad of all your other decisions. You’ll find your life will be easier, your mind will be eased, and your other decisions will be a lot easier to make.
January 26th, 2013
“How much do you charge?”–I can see, and read the thought bubbles over a potential new clients’ head, as we exchange initial pleasantries.
“What does Staging cost?”–asks the agent who I’ve met about 5.8 seconds earlier.
It’s a fair and important question…but not necessarily a simple one. Preparing a property for sale is a service, not a fixed commodity, and projects can unfold is so many different ways.
“Is Staging expensive?”–asks the potential seller, nonchalantly, after the ice has broken.
“Well, can you just give me a quick range?”–presses the agent.
“My house could use the help, but I can’t afford it”–states the homeowner.
The thing about Decorating, Home Staging, or anything else you’re not real familiar with…when you’re in new territory, you just want a snippet of information-just enough so if it’s not where you want to be, you can make a graceful exit. Exteraneous conversation feels like you’re being pitched.
But I learned a number alone never did it, because it doesn’t complete the equation-it’s just a number. The Refreshed Home had to present a complete picture: a specific number for an understandable product that would work in many scenarios, and be adaptable for the rest.
“Interactive in-house consults start at $285.00. That’s two hours in the house, with a detailed written report emailed within 36 hours.” –replies this Westchester County Decorator and Home Stager with a smile. ” And look how much more space we have now that the elephant in the room is already gone!”
January 21st, 2013
Home Staging is a popular topic in lifestyle and entertainment circles, as well as in the business and financial sector. So-that means we all understand what it is, how it works, and all it can be-right?
Home Staging solutions are as unique as each client, their property and circumstances are; and Home Stagers-how hey run their business- are just as diverse as the rest of the population.
Not that many years ago Home Staging was renting furniture for an empty property, and adding some (cliched) ’touches’. But with so many living in their house til closing, necessity dictates the focus be on the people and the process. And YES, that includes new toilets, CO2 detectors and on occasion, clever signage.
One of the things I love the most about working for myself is the ability to get things done, quickly; another is I get to say “YES”- a lot! Pre-2007, even as The Refreshed Home was being formed, it was always going to be an information and services-based company. I knew the style would be collaborative and flexible, and it’s strength would lie in sharing hands-on experience, and the names of good people who’d complete the task.
I know trade people who can restore, replace-even re-color!- funky 1960s bath tile, fix metal rails/furniture, and make~fix~alter wood furniture. Quasi-scientists who can wipe out mold, de-moss a roof, save trees, and rejuvenate lawns.
Artists who can make your old sofa new, create a year-round garden~or the exquisite window treatments to frame that view. Visionaries who create order from chaos-in closets, in desks, in kitchens. And a myriad of smart, kind professionals who can guide you through the necessary but mind-numbing financial details of home ownership, and of being a grownup.
Thinking back on some recent projects, here are some ideas/solutions we implemented, and tasks I oversaw to update, to help put a property’s best foot forward:
- Replaced (older, low) toilets
- Repaired windows w/ broken seals
- Add recessed lighting
- Recommended pre-sale home inspection
- Had a mantle built, and a front-door threshold replaced
- E-shopping ‘lessons’
- Selected new finishes-wood floors, interior and exterior paint, carpet
- Met contractors, got quotes, supervised work
- Provided a ‘shopping list’ of things sellers should buy or borrow to make house market-ready
- Replaced builders’ 1960′s wrought iron railing, updating a split
- Powerwashed home, patio furniture, added shutters
- Added birdhouses, bird bath to play up charm of yard
- Shopped for replacement appliances
- Installed clever signage to call buyers’ attention to unusual, semi-hidden features in a house
- Replaced asphalt walkway with pavers
- Bought reasonably priced, quality ready-made draperies and lighting fixtures from Big Box stores
- Replaced/added smoke and CO2 detectors
- Add fresh firewood/utensils to a fireplace, to reinforce ‘yes, it works’
- Arranged for donations and sale of household goods
- Provided quality linens, art, lighting and tschokes for rental
- Borrowed kids’ outdoor toys to show all a backyard could be.
Maybe you’re surprised, or maybe you just never thought about it, but this Westchester County Home Stager says Home Staging is anything that betters the market position of a property, while easing the minds of both seller and REALTOR. So yes, that includes new toilets and CO2 detectors, even clever signage-on occasion.
January 2nd, 2013
If you’re reading this, I want to thank you for your interest, and support in 2012.
It was five years ago this past weekend-December 31, 2007-that I became a small business owner, and registered The Refreshed Home with Westchester County. Yes. December. 2007.
Not sure if anyone really had any sense back then of how badly the economy was damaged, or how long the aftershocks would continue. Even if they did, it just didn’t fit into my timetable. Having given myself permission months earlier to make my escape from mediocrity at the end of that year, it’s doubtful even the Four Horsemen could have deterred me.
After the economy, the other thing I had under-estimated was all that’d be entailed in establishing my brand. Naively, I thought the aura of my past positions with pedigreed employers would linger-perhaps manifesting as a soft glow, accompanied by the gentle tinkling of windchimes?-automatically drawing clients to me, like children to an ice cream truck in July (sigh).
A major shout out to Rick Whelan, design and branding zen master, and founder of Ditto!Design! is in order. I came to him with the name of the company, a color scheme, a bag of trinkets and magazine photos that represented what I wanted others to know and sense about the business; and the rest is history. You’re the best Rick, thanks for getting me on the map, in such an appealing way!
2012 saw brisk demand for some specialty services: Accompanied Shopping, Accessory Rental and Remote Consults. A series of workshops led to some nice local press, and one of my stage properties was featured in the NYT over the summer. It was a strong year for The Refreshed Home in many ways that don’t end up on a ledger sheet-but here are some that did:
2012 saw 22 TRH properties close, with a combined selling price of $14,906,134.00
- $850K of that were two remotely staged properties
- Three were 7-figure properties, and one was just over $200K.
- Several had multiple offers, two went over list.
- Two needed to rent furniture, everyone else used what they had
- The average was $677,552.00; the median price slightly less, $655,000.00
Additionally, three more properties, with a combined selling price of just under $1.35M are in contract, scheduled to close early 2013.
Not too shabby! So again I say-if you are reading this, I thank you for 2012…2011…2010…2009…and 2008!
December 14th, 2012
Buying Upholstery Is A Lot Like Buying Underwear (Part One)
There are three ways to look at buying upholstery: How it’s made, and how it looks get the most press, but let’s discuss the third-how it fits.
Which is why buying upholstery is a lot like buying underwear: Simply-seriously-you spend a lot of time in it, and it needs to provide the right amount of function, intimate comfort and support to your unique body.
I will leave you to your own decisions on the former, but whether re-working, or replacing -helping clients have fun while making their own best decisions is what I do, so here is the first of two posts on how to road-test upholstery.
Close your eyes. Sit in it. Do not be distracted by the fabric, the toss pillow with weird fringe, the price tag (for now), or the argument the couple across the room is having. Sit all the way back.
For the record-women tend to be proportionally leggier, and men tend to be more torso in their height. But there are leggy men, and long-waisted women. And regardless of gender, leggy can be lower-leg leggy, or more-upper leg leggy. So listen to the Decorator.
If you are short-do your feet touch the ground? If you are taller-does the cushion hit the back of your knees? Ideally, your knees should form a right angle, showing the height and depth of the seat match your proportions.
Is your posterior at the same height as your knees? Teeny bit higher would be ok, but if it’s lower/severely angled, you will always struggle to overcome gravity and get yourself out of it.
Now lean back (still keeping your eyes closed). Now is the time to think about how you are going to use this: will you be reading, watching TV, napping (tell the truth, it’s for your own good-this Westchester County Decorator will already know the answer, anyway!) socializing, or all of the above?
How is the pitch? Are you comfortably upright (important for reading)? Can you relax, or is your midsection tensed, holding your torso upright?
Are your shoulders supported? Is the back wide enough? How about tall enough? Backs with steep pitches should be high enough to support your neck and head-especially if TV watching is high on your list.
Is it the right amount of cushy? Take more than .87 seconds to think about it, remember, there are no wrong answers!
Part Two: Arms, filling materials, ‘special’ circumstances, and sharing!!
October 8th, 2012
As the economic numbers slowly but surely continue to improve, the question about putting a house on the market this time of year looms large in the mind of many.
Data and anecdotes can support either position…. so “IF” and “WHEN” should be a decision you and your Realtor make together, based on your situation. But here is my point: the process of having a listing go live is relatively quick and easy. It’s getting ready to go live that takes the time.
If you are ready, you are driving the bus. And my experience in this market is If It’s Ready, They Will Come.
In our area, Fall Market was a defined, reasonably successful shoulder season, with buyers shutting down mid-November until maybe early February, coming out in force with the crocuses and forsythia. Today, not so much. Fall market goes as long as the weather holds, and Spring market is currently considered to start December 31.
Factor in buyers who need to first sell their house, a diverse population who might not observe many of the end of the year holidays, and an increasing number of people whose lives just do not hinge on the school calendar – you have serious buyers out looking, 24/7/365.
No matter what season you call it, EVERYTHING about your house will stand out more starkly in the next 6 months. If selling now is something you are considering, here are five easy ways you can make your house shine now:
Clean up the yard:
Feed the lawn, prune the trees, edge and mulch the garden
Plant YELLOW! A high-visibility, uplifting color-bright yellow mums now, plant daffodill and yellow tulip bulbs for spring
Remove all the seasonal decorations…faded garden flags, sunflower door mats, frog figurines in bathing suits
Moderate winter-your house is brighter, greener. Otherwise it’s neater as the snow melts, ready and colorful before anyone else in your neighborhood.
Clean up the exterior:
- Power-wash away any detritus on hard surfaces-the house, the walkway, driveway or deck.
- Clear out, inspect and secure the gutters and downspouts.
- Take a critical look at the paint-there are a few weeks remaining to have flaking/peeling paint remedied.
- Mossy roof? Joel Zdanoff-owner of Zdanoff Services in Pleasantville, and one of the most intuitively clever carpenters I have ever worked with-swears by zinc strips. Install them at the peak of the roof, moisture releases the zinc to travel down the roof, dissolving the moss over time.
WASH THE WINDOWS: Light-filled spaces are very attractive when the days are shorter. Make the most of what you have:
- Wash them inside and out, including the screens
- Vacuum out the dead bugs, cobwebs, etc that have accumulated between windows, and in crevices
- Don’t forget windows in the garage or basement
Clear out the garage and basement…or at least start: January 1st usually sees a spike in activity. I’ve yet to meet anyone who can marshall the focus to do this at the end of the year. Bulk pick-ups are easier to schedule, too.
Think about some updates: Take a critical look at your house. Better yet, drive around and take a critical look at other houses first-you’ll develop your ‘buyers’ eyes’ Then, with an unflinching eye, look at your house and ask:
- Is the mailbox faded, or look wobbly?
- House numbers still there from the last owners?
- Are the light fixtures dated, pitted or rusted?
- Any bare spots in the landscaping?
- Is the entry inviting, or just…there? If it could use some sprucing up-consider planter (s) with a small holly or evergreen
- If appropriate for the style of your house, think about adding shutters to the front, if not the sides as well
- And if you have a patio, leave the outdoor furniture out (or if you don’t have any, purchase a few chairs at an end of season sale) and get a fire pit. AWESOME way to add value by extending the season of your outside space
Bottom line-trust the ”WHEN” to your Realtor, but trust “HOW” to The Refreshed Home!
October 6th, 2012
Welcome back to Staging FAQs where the Home Staging experience is de-mystified TRH-style…that is you learn, smile, and get back to your life, all in 400 words or less.
The very short answer is “no”, this Westchester County Home Stager gets paid like any other contractor-a retainer at the start of a project, and in full at it’s conclusion.
YES, I do ask sellers to make decisions and spend money on my recommendations, but remember, Home Staging supports what a seller and their agent do; it’s just part of the equation of what it takes to get a property sold.
All sorts of other things depend on it closing escrow. Things I have no influence or control over, and should not be determining factors to if and when I get paid: Improperly priced or marketed property, poor listing photos; buyers who can’t sell their house, or whose financing falls apart; sellers who don’t maintain the property, turn down showings, are unreasonable during negotiations, or heck-just change their mind and decide not to sell after all.
And YES, I’ve been reminded that agents deal with these issues in every transaction..bottom line, I am not an agent.
September 1st, 2012
As the housing market continues to improve, more and more properties are hitting the market. One of the questions I’ve been getting a lot lately are about getting estate properties sold.
In this market, any property that does not look its best attracts either no interest, or rings the proverbial dinner bell, inviting time-wasting low-ball offers. If it’s obvious estate sale, the tour buses show up. Trouble is, the goal-selling it quickly for the best price-often conflict with the “As Is” mindset of the executor and the heirs.
Executors who can get the heirs on board with some fast and simple improvements will better the lot for all of them. In my interactive consults, my counsel is always: Do the best you can.
Preparing a property for sale is a very personal thing-solutions come from exploration of goals, expectations and the realities of the market. Instead of reacting to the word (“Staging”), instead of nattering back and forth about what can’t be done, or comparing to what you see on HGTV reruns, focus on what is the best you can do, and do it. The image above is a perfect example of what I mean. I could not figure out how to make a WordDoc into an image, so this is a dowloaded photo of my computer screen. Is it award-winning perfect? No. Does it get my message across? Am I getting on with my morning now? Yes, and YES!
In a previous post I answered the ‘why’ of Staging an estate property. In order of importance, here’s The Refreshed Home’s recommendations of what to do when time and money are of the essence.
- Clear out Sad, odd pieces of furniture scattered throughout a room/house do nothing to enhance the value. If there is truly no money to do anything, at least empty the space. Shabby upholstery and broken furniture is not an inspiring vision for buyers.
- CLEAN Buyers will ‘get’ old, they will not ‘get’ dirty. Kitchen, bathrooms, windows go to the top of the list. And not ‘broom clean’, but q-tips-to-clean-the-refrigerator-grill clean. Hire a service, it will be be the best money you will spend.
- Remove wallpaper and draperies/paint Walls are the biggest surface area in any room, the provide the most opportunity to make a statement to buyers; fresh walls make it easier for buyers to say yes. Old colors, faded/peeling wallpaper, dusty drapes are memories of the last owner, attached to the wall. Classic, neutral and easy on the eye is the rule.
- Remove wall to wall Floors are the next biggest surface in a room. Old carpet (stained, faded, with indentations or just in an outdated color) is a big pullback for many buyers. If the prior owner smoked, or had pets, you can bet buyers will smell it. Even if none of these conditions existed, SO many people have allergies or asthma-pile carpet a big red flag. Last-ohyes, people just don’t like carpet as much. Bottom line, unless it’s a classic neutral in super shape, pull it up.
- Refinish/update floors The floors may be in good shape, or they may not. Or they may just have plywood underneath. But removing fear of the unknown for buyers is Job One. If you can afford it, refinishing or adding a nice wood floor is money well spent. But DO NOT cheap out. If funds are low, discuss with your REALTOR. New, but badly or cheaply done creates a whole other obstacle.
- Small repairs Maintenance deferred raises questions, and makes buyers wonder about the big things. Repair leaky faucets and running toilets. Make sure windows open fix or replace appliances, clean the gutters, powerwash any surfaces collecting crud.
- Small cosmetic updates New hardware, new lighting fixtures in an old space can add a wealth of value. A traditional 50s grey and black tile wallpapered bathroom became retro for less than $125.00 with some paint, new black towels and this $50.00 lighting fixture.
September 1st, 2012
Welcome back to FAQs, the series where the “House” Specialty is short answers to your home decor, and Home Staging questions.
Properties being sold to settle an estate have distinct goals: usually to sell quickly, for the best price. But buyers always want a deal AND a good-looking space; elements usually at odds with the ”As Is” mindset of most heirs and executors. I suggest putting an estate propety’s best foot forward is a means to an end.
Two things happen with bad listing photos. They are ignored, or they ring the dinner bell, inviting lowball offers-neither condusive to moving forward. Good listing photos-with appropriate pricing-drives interest, and traffic…which will often drive quantity and quality of offers. And an executor with several offers gets to choose the price and terms will suit the heirs best.
Truth told, I can usually tell from the photos if a listing is an estate sale or not.
The decor is often quite dated, the furnishings usually sparse, often consisting of small, odd or mis-matched pieces that none of the heirs want. Wallpaper, complicated draperies, and wall to wall carpet abounds. here is rarely any lighting in the room…except for ”the” lamp, by “the” chair.
When it’s not apparent from the photos, buyers can tell when they’re there, in the space. The space is flat, and without any energy…perhaps maintenance has been deferred. The landscaping is brown-or overgrown, wall art may have been removed, leaving just nails. Often there is an stale odor, and there is almost always an outdated calendar in the kitchen, displaying a month-even year-long gone.
This sounds horrible, maudlin, I know. But I went through this myself, long before I created The Refreshed Home. My brothers and I lost our parents at an early age; I cleared out and got our family home sold while in my 20s, then a number of other family members’ homes since. I understand the goals, and issues on both sides.
Just like most projects, the visual solution comes easily; finding what works for the heirs, and executor is rarely as clear-cut. Often I have to deliver unpleasant news-the expectation of selling quickly, for the best prices still conflicts with the realities of today’s market, and the “as is” mindset of most heirs and executors, and they often need to make decisions.
My approach in interactive consults is always to talk it out, my counsel is always “Do the best you can”. Fresh, clean and clear trumps ‘stuff’ every day. In order of importance, here’s how to improve the position of an estate sale property (click here for details)
- Clear out
- Remove wallpaper and draperies/paint
- Remove wall to wall
- Refinish/update floors
- Small cosmetic updates
- Small repairs
August 25th, 2012
Faithful readers know this series is about snappy answers to questions everyone asks, or thinks about asking.
Today’s post is an epic departure, for two reasons. First-this question hasn’t actually come up before the other day, AND I didn’t have an answer handy that I liked when it did.
But it i,s a VERY good question. So have given it some thought, and here goes:
I do ponder this on my own from time to time…but instead, I write another blog post, or schedule another workshop. Or I’ll stop in at some RE offices to check in with ‘my’ agents, take another CE class. or….ohyes-there are the clients, too!
My business is fluid, am always evaluating, and re-evaluating how I run things. Are my choices predicated on their efficacy, or my personal preferences? I don’t know…but since “I am” my business… who knows?
As a service and information business, much of the value The Refreshed Home brings is intangible. So without too much over-rationalization, I present my virtual portfolio:
The Refreshed Home is interactive and personal. We play well with others, and can smoothly, quickly slip into the mindset of a potential client-and any of the other players. Demonstrating my abilities on the fly at our first meeting is what I enjoy, and it seems to make others happy, and comfortable in hiring me.
The Refreshed Home is people-centric. A pleasing aesthetic is important, but it’s just a starting point. Decorating and Home Staging is about the people and the process as well as the stuff, and the visual result. Defining and managing client expectations is as much a part of the scope of my work as picking paint, or creating a floor plan.
The Refreshed Home specializes in niches. And niche not meaning a price point or ZIP code. I have the training to make the best of most any space, and the practical experience to deal with most any circumstance. I am a critical thinker, and a creative problem solver. Whether Staging or Decorating-my specialties include smaller, older, unusual, unexpected or unremarkable spaces.
I’m curious-what is the current thinking? What is its’ overall importance in the scheme of confidence-building and decision-making? Does it confirm a decision, or have a stronger role?
A more formal presentation of my body of work is not a bad idea. Whether it will ultimately end up in a big black carrying case, on a website, a PowerPoint on a tablet or a CD remains to be seen. But for now, the reality is my portfolio consists of happy people who’ve been empowered to make good plans and wise decisions, and are now enjoying their new spaces.
August 9th, 2012
Welcome back to FAQs-the series where the specialty is snappy answers to your most burning questions on home decor, and home selling.
“SO-what’s WRONG with my wallpaper??” is a big, big question these days. And the short answer is usually nothing is wrong with your wallpaper…per se. But this is not a logical question, it’s an emotional one.
See, when you live in your home, any decor you are fond of-and doesn’t violate any local ordinances pretty much works. However, when you want to sell the house, you want a warm and welcoming vibe, so many people to like your house, and be able to see themselves in it.
Walls make up the largest space in any room, and have the most potential to make the biggest statement. Very distinctive wall color is a big personal stamp. Besides that it will often be what potential buyers remember most about your property-instead of the property itself-it tells buyers that HEY! you are still there! Worse, they could think that maybe you are harboring a secret desire to not really move, after all! And with all the houses for them to choose from, why on earth would they bother with yours?
As bad as vivid-colored walls usually are, wallpaper is many times worse…it is color AND pattern AND your personality, all literally glued to the wall. Something that took great several steps and great forethought to put up, and will take time and effort to take it down.
OLD wallpaper is even worse…very little says ‘we stopped caring about this house a while ago’ than seams that are separating, corners that are curling, or that mauve and blue (or, peach and green) color scheme that was so popular …way too long ago.
Logically we all know it’s not like dis-assembling the pyramids or anything, but it is still you, marking your territory, and like it or not, buyers today simply do not want that vibe.
So the longer answer is nothing is wrong with your wallpaper in your HOME, but if you want to sell your HOUSE, this Westchester County Home Stager says: take the wallpaper down and paint!
July 27th, 2012
Welcome back to FAQs, where maybe a minutes’ worth of reading gets your most often-asked questions answered.
Easy to see why this one comes up a lot, there are a lot of commonalities:
- Arenas-aesthetic concerns, personal tastes and values
- Skill set- creativity and visualization
- Concerns-spending money, subjective solutions
What they do not share-indeed, where they could not be more opposite- are their goals, and results.
Decorating makes a space work better for the people in it. It could include purchases or re-purposing, space planning, finishes or colors; the status or the function. It is personal. Clients make choices that will make them happy. Solutions are tailored to the their circumstances-their wants and needs, their motivations and values. You ask a lot of questions: what do you think, how do you feel about ______? What works, what doesn’t, and where have things fallen down or gotten stuck?
The goal is to have the client even more snugly ensconced in their space, and this Westchester County Decorator aims for results to fit both the needs, and dreams of my clients. In the end, good ROI is judged by the client, it’s more anecdotal than quantifiable.
Staging- preparing a property for sale-is about getting it sold quickly, and for the best price. “A” solution is created to serve all the players-property owners, buyers, and agents. A property is made to be more universally appealing so buyers are both attracted to it, and can see themselves living there. Decor is neutral but current, engaging but not distracting.
Also factored in a whole lot of other information-what will the property list for, what is the competition like? Who will look and buy here, what makes this neighborhood special?
Great listings photos that show the best side of the property are the number one priority. Recent NAR stats report that 90% of potential buyers troll through online listings before they do anything else. Well-lit, and attractive photos engage buyers, and convert online traffic to in-person showings.
Good ROI comes on both levels, on both personal/peace of mind levels (selling a house quickly) and more measurable standards (more traffic, more offers, better offers, qualified buyers, fewer DOM).
July 7th, 2012
Last year I wrote a post called Raise Your Hand If You’ve Never Worked With A Home Stager (Then, Please Tell Me Why). Published in a national Real Estate online community, it got a lot of attention, and some surprising answers.
Top answers were expected: anticipated costs, and personality mash-ups(topics for another time). But roughly one-third of the agents who responded had never worked with a Home Stager simply because there wasn’t one near them. Here, in the NYC-Metro area where there is at least one of everything in easy reach I was stunned: What do you mean, there wasn’t one near you??
Remote Consults have been a part of my Decorating and Home Staging business for awhile. Necessity being the true mother of invention, it was the original ‘how’ for my over-scheduled clients, but it’s become a good option for many different sets of circumstances.
A Remote Consult is like any other specialized service-first, it’s not for everyone. And *NOT* to be confused with Virtual Decorating/Staging (which I have a passing familiarity with, but dislike it intensely nonetheless). Remote Consults are basically my connecting with, and getting to know you-your space, and your stuff-through the magic of technology. It gets you started, even done if you are handy.
Using photos or video you provide, we simply ‘walk’ through your room(s)
online, discussing in as much detail as you’d like the what and why of how to treat the space, via conference call or SKYPE. As with all my consults, clients end up not just with ideas, but a solid understanding of how to critically think things through.
The Refreshed Home has always had a collaborative style, so it’s not a stretch. Window treatments can be designed, paint colors selected (with free samples ordered to confirm), and artwork can be re-positioned. We can create floor plans, wrestle with questions like re-upholster or replace, and peruse furniture websites for shopping, or to develop your eye so you can shop and make your own best decisions…in your time, at your local stores.
As with my ‘regular’ Decorating and Home Staging clients-we’d need a good fit. Before we book an appointment, we speak about how you see it working (the project, and the relationship), and what you want to achieve.
Very well-suited for DIYers, it’s a choice that could appeal to many:
- Productive for the time-challenged
- Logistics solved for groups whose decision-makers or influencers are scattered/numerous: Offices, adult children and their parents, estate sales
- Prudent for the thrifty
- A low-risk commitment for the cautious.
Remote Consults are one option, but bottom line, if there is a will, we can find a way. All you have to do is start the conversation!
July 7th, 2012
FAQs is a series that gives quick and simple answers to the questions I hear the most often (click here to read others)
Love this question. In my years of retail, lack of transparency in the cost structure of working with a private Decorator was the #1 complaint I heard from my clients. In creating my own business, having a simple compensation structure was a must.
There is nothing inherently wrong, or even remotely suspect about being paid by sales commissions or bonuses, but knowing they were paying a Decorators’s markup, in addition to a presumably fair rate rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. It’s understood no one works for free…but no one wants to feel like a chump, either.
So the answer is no. This Westchester County Interior Decorator gets paid only for time, and rentals on art, lighting, linens and other accessories we inventory. Because my position is one of advocacy, any referrals or recommendations are made solely for the client’s best interest, and no bonuses, incentives, or commissions are sought, or accepted from vendors.
Many major retailers have moved to embrace outside decorators, and now have incentive/loyalty programs; vendors and trades often offer a professional discount as well. One of the things that makes The Refreshed Home really special, is that whatever pricing discounts are extended to me get passed on directly to my clients, in the form of a lower price.
Recently I saved one client 15% off about $2500.00 worth of furniture she bought to stage her vacant condo. Instead of renting, she decided to buy things she liked herself, for after it sold. She also got a few hundred dollars in bonus gift cards from a program they were having at the time…but she didn’t get to keep the furniture-the new buyer loved it and bought it from her!
Another client had picked out a leather sofa from a major lifestyle store, it was just under $3000.00. He knew he wanted “brown”, but they had lots of browns, and different types of leather. He wanted my advice on which leather, and then a paint color to go with it. We nailed it in about 30 minutes; and even after paying me, he still netted about $200.00 in savings working through me.
July 6th, 2012
FAQs is an on-going series that answers the questions I hear most often. USUALLY in 4oo words or less, but this is really a two-fer, so loosening up on that part. Last post asked why buyers don’t use their imaginations- got me a lot of feedback with my pals on Active Rain, and it’s a great segue to this next question.
That buyers should be able to use their imagination when looking at a unremarkable, or unprepared property is a lose-lose supposition. My first point was that sellers lose out on 95% of their market out of the gate; but let’s talk about the buyers’s perspective here.
Buying and selling a home is not a simple transaction. You are not trading a standardized commodity, there are all sorts of emotional elements-(carbon-based obstacles, in you will!)- that will factor into how it will eventually all end up.
Staging a property helps to remove removes obstacles in the path between FOR SALE and SOLD. Most ballyhooed are the external (shabby, clutter, bad smells, etc) but this Westchester County Home Stager’s specialty is recognizing, understanding and addressing those inner (yes, carbon-based!) obstacles.
Most people believe they ‘should’ be able to see beyond what is in front of them; the reality that 95% of them can’t creates obstacles that translate into inaction, or regrettable decisions and bad feelings about it all: “Why can’t I…I should be able to…Everyone else can…” thinking is NOT productive.
Buyer’s Consults are an antidote to an un-staged, outdated or otherwise un-inspiring home. Years of very busy retail developed my ability to walk a space with a client, while assessing their needs, and weighing it against the confines of the space.
Buyer’s Consults-like Remote Consults-are not for everyone, but best framed as an exploration. When things have gone as far as they can, and buyers are stuck, we walk through, play with some ideas and ask a lot of ‘what ifs’. Casual, fluid, and conceptual, we’re not picking paint colors, and I’m not selling the property, just sharing information and ideas, so buyers ’see’ where they are, and can make their own best decisions.
Where (specifically) the TV goes, what size dining room table will fit, how to lay out the LR or add light to a dark room are typical topics, and, at about an hour, it stays light, fun and helpful. But it’s a process, and often, eliminating options becomes decision-making’s wing-man.
Last year I met with a professional couple with no time and active young children. They were earnestly trying to make a decision between 3 options: an almost-new, move-in ready house they were not emotionally drawn to, and much older house that was oozing charm and character, but needed some big changes-updates and maintenance; or staying in, and expanding/updating their current house that they loved but were outgrowing.
Money vs. hassle vs. having a space they were drawn to and comforted by-they were going round and round in the hamster wheel. Spending time they did not have , and feeling increasingly lousy about the whole thing.
While I don’t think they’ve committed to updating their current house yet, our time together led them to eliminate both the other houses. For what they wanted their home to mean, and to feel like, they decided convenience alone of the new house was not enough. The basement of the older house took that one off the table: low ceilings, and lots of smaller rooms whose stone walls were structural elements-were not possible to re-work it into a non-scary, more open space for the kids to play in.
Bottom line-Home Staging is about removing obstacles, helping people make good plans and wise decisions, so they can get on with their life. If you are stuck: your listing is not moving, or you can’t find what you are looking for-call me today and start the conversation-together, we’ll get you un-stuck. REALLY>
July 4th, 2012
Welcome back to FAQs, an on-going series that answers the questions I hear most, in 400 words or less.
This questions comes up whenever a seller does not like, or does not want to do what I recommend to help get their house sold.
It is probably the quickest and easiest to answer.
Buyers DON’T use their imagination because largely they CAN’T use their imagination.
Visualizing spacial potential, carrying colors in your head, being able to project change onto a static space is like being able to ice skate, do math, or having freckles: it is a gift, something you are born with.
Like any of the above, it doesn’t make you an inherently better person, it just is-or isn’t.
Studies vary, but it’s estimated that less than 5% of the population can imagine spacial change. About HALF the number of left-handers (10% of the population), those in this world born with blue eyes, or men who are colorblind (both 7 to 8%). Or about the same number of people born with extra ribs (I know, WEIRD-right??)
Real Estate is all about numbers, and buyers have a lot to think about. They also have a lot of choices.
Bottom line if you are putting off making your house look its best, believing that buyers should be able to use their imagination, statistically you are putting 95% of the population off in the first pass through. Before you subtract those that are cranky or stressed by the home-buying process, who are not serious buyers, or financially unable to buy your house.
SO-SERIOUSLY-tell me again, why don’t you want to paint?
Photo courtesy of Flicka
July 1st, 2012
FAQs is an ongoing-series that revisits, and answers questions I hear most often, in 400 words or less (click here to read others)
At face value, Decorating and Staging are visual entities. But trust this Westchester County Home Stager and Decorator: they deal with a lot more intangibles than you may think. Helping my clients untangle and clarify the difference between COST, VALUE and WORTH adds perspective and confidence to their decision process.
Let me first share one of my favorite quotes from Albert Einstein: “Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted counts.”
I suggest my clients think of COST as something they actually choose to part with, to get something else. You make a trade that you think will benefit you. It’s temporary, a means to an end. COST could be money to pay for something, time or energy you give up to get something done. It’s qualities like privacy and freedom, in exchange for getting your house sold; or peace and quiet while you go through renovations, or updates in your house.
VALUE and WORTH are similar: both very personal, but different in degrees.
In my mind, VALUE is an advantage…a perception, a characteristic, it’s what makes something a good-or better choice. VALUE is the fufillment of a need, or a wish.
It can motivate, clarify a decision, or be the hoped-for result when COST is involved. Homeowners will remodel, or update their space so they can use or enjoy it more. Sellers understanding their potential buyer pool will highlight features that will appeal to the needs-or dreams these types of buyers will have.
WORTH, on the other hand is really a conclusion, even an action. WORTH takes value a step further, it’s a decision about COST vs. VALUE.
For example-a serious buyer would find WORTH, and choose to pay more for a home that was freshly painted over a similar home in need of a paint job…or the COST of an air conditioner -weighed against the VALUE of a good nights’ sleep on a steamy summer night would lead many to conclude it’s WORTH (like the credit card) was just PRICELESS!