July 28th, 2012
Welcome back to What’s Wrong with This Picture? where we tie a dollars and cents (sense!?) rationale to constructive comments made about actual listing photos.
Dialogue is encouraged, and as before-claim a photos as yours, and receive a complimentary interactive consult, valued up to $180.00.
This was the last photo, and as AR buds Carla, Tatyana and Debbie had commented, pointed out, it’s a flat and un-inspiring space. All true, but here is how I would present the good ideas they suggested:
Outside living space does not count towards square footage of house.
Iif listing photos demonstrate an attractive, functional deck or patio, this expanded living space is a BIG bonus to buyers who are comparing sq footage, or cost per square foot on similar properties.
“Color” in the furthest corners draws the eye-elevating, and visually stretching the space.
Here in NY metro area, it’s feasible to have this as usable living space at least 6 months of the year. Function translates into value for buyers, and I urge my clients to prepare any outdoor spaces to the max. A fresh net on the basketball backboard, or a boccie set is always a good idea.
Keep the grill clean, and maintain the landscape. Weather permitting, March is NOT too early to get the patio furniture out; and October is not too late to have it still showing activity. If space/location permits, a clay fire pit extends the use-cycle, and adds a lot of cozy-factor, for maybe two hundred dollars.
Here is our next candidate: OK< maybe it’s not ‘bad’-but pulled this one because it’d be so easy-and so valuable-to get to WOW!
How do you feel about this room?
What message does it send to buyers?
What would you advise the sellers to do, and why?
What’s Wrong with This Picture?
July 18th, 2012
- This photo courtesy of Flicka
Welcome back to my new series, What’s Wrong with This Picture?
In Home Staging, a pleasing visual is just the beginning. It’s not just about the stuff, it’s the people. Preparing a property for sale is a business decision, so to that end, it’s crucial to be able to de-sensitize any shortcomings, taking them out of the personal arena, and place them into a business context.
Seeing, and identifying with the issues comes first, but unless this Westchester C0unty Home Stager can then translate them to authentic and meaningful dollars-and-cents disadvantages to the seller, all they have are my (subjective) comments. Which, in the absence of any understanding, becomes a judgement, or a personal attack.
Here’s that first photo.
Had cross-posted this on the online real estate community ActiveRain, and these guys caught pretty much all the issues (click here to read comments).
The question I had posed to my workshop group last week was: is this a Master BR in a $795K, 5 BR house in lower Westchester-or the BR in a one BR $145K coop in older, garden apartment building. Many guessed right, but not after some serious reflection.
This is the Master BR of a five BR house. The poor photo quality tells me the agent lacks skill, and/or attention to detail-with could cost dearly in getting a sale to the closing table.
An unremarkable basic vanilla space demonstrates neither value or worth to a buyer. It is not motivating, there is nothing to ‘want’. Outdated aesthetics can lead buyers to infer the infrastructure of the house is also outdated. Or worse, it’s an estate sale that ‘needs’ to be sold quickly-inviting, low-ball offers.
OK, so keeping all that in mind, what’s wrong with this picture-and why will it not help get the property sold?
July 17th, 2012
photo courtesy of takomabibalot, via Flicka
If ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’…a good listing photo is worth ten-trilion-zillion thousand words. Maybe more. REALLY.
Listing photos are the number one tool homeowners, buyers, and their agents have. They work silently, and for free, 24/7….but whether they are working for you, or against you is totally up to you.
Welcome to my new interactive series where actual listing photos gone bad are shared, then pointed on the path to redemption. Some points will be obvious, others not so much; some rationale may even seem downright petty. But the point of each will be there is something that is not serving the best interests of the property, the seller, or the agent.
Diologue is encouraged! The idea being that for the moment, we can each ‘see’ a room for the first time; by constructively sharing reactions, thoughts and questions, each of us learns. What bothers you, and why? And what would you like to see differently?
This Westchester County Home Stager will weigh in shortly after, with the introduction of the next photo. And last, just to keep it a nice, and positive experience, anyone who can claim a photo as their own will receive a free interactive consult, value up to $180.00.
Last week during a workshop at the Mamaroneck Public Libray, I ran this photo in my presentation and asked ‘What’s Wrong with This Picture?’. Nearly the entire room was engaged…see, much easier to see/say what you don’t like in someone elses’ space! I was surprised by the speed of their responses, and also the range of what they came up with.
So what do you think-what’s wrong with this picture?
June 8th, 2012
Let’s Get Your House SOLD! Staging For The Average Homeowner
Remember the classic cereal commercial -where two older brothers did not want to try this new breakfast cereal-and instead, gave it to their younger brother, wanting him to go first? I get a similar reaction when I speak with sellers about how to prepare their property for sale: they want to see someone else make the first move.
“Thanks” to HGTV, most have their own idea of what Staging is, and kind-of how it might work, but it’s still perceived as dicey territory, or of questionable value.
Sellers will protest, their house is fine, they want to see some buyer interest first. Well,sorry, but if that was working for you, chances are you wouldn’t be reading this.
Agents-who are always being accosted to buy things, or sign up for the newest and latest-are understandably wary…they have invested much in establishing a good relationship with the seller, they don’t want anyone mucking things up. They are also very busy. Your agent might not have the time, or the eye to discern what needs to be done…or they might simply not know how to bring it up.
The Refreshed Home suggests considering Staging the proverbial third leg of a stool that supports getting a house sold quickly. It supports the seller who is genuinely willing and ready to do get their house sold, and the agent who prices and markets the property diligently.
Even with recent hopeful signs of recovery, buyers still have a lot of choices…and for many, one of those choices can be continuing to wait.
Staging-or preparing your property for the market is a business decision. It’s a commitment made by people who really want to sell-to attract the attention of, and engage serious buyers.
Yes, the goal is to make the house look as good as possible, but at The Refreshed Home, a good solution takes a number of things into consideration: the agents’ pricing and marketing strategy, the local market, and the sellers needs, goals and expectations.
If you have a property you want to-or need to- sell, come to my next interactive workshop at the Mamaroneck Public Library on Monday evening, July 9th at 6:30.
We’ll discuss this mysterious entity known as Staging, look at lots of before and after pictures, learn how to see a property through the eyes of a buyer, and send you home with things you can do to put your property’s best foot forward. Hope to see you there!
April 19th, 2012
No matter the ZIP code, the size, or style of the house, there are three design elements that throw homeowners. Last time we covered lighting, today let’s talk about window treatments.
Now before you roll your eyes and moan- I HATE DRAPES !! (And yes, I know you are doing that!!)-let me ask- did you actually read the word “DRAPES “? No, you did not. But this is where-and why-so many get stuck, so let’s understand this first.
Energy consciousness was not part of homes built prior to the 1970s, and aside from Scarlett O’Hara’s Plan B, “DRAPES” were the original climate control system.
Windows were made of wood frames, with a single pane of glass; perhaps with another, slide-down panel as a storm window. In the winter the wood contracted, causing drafts; while summertime light cooked rooms unmercifully, and fabric covering the window was the fix.
SO-while building materials and practices have improved greatly in the last 40 years, most people don’t think about their window coverings that often. So ”DRAPES”-what many of us grew up with-is the vision most revert to…but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Windows are a part of the walls, the biggest surface in any room. As such, they can be huge problem-solvers, but they also possess tremendous potential to change the chemistry of the rest of the room…which is why I am so passionate about giving them their due.
Most folks most make one of two mistakes: they are 100% focused on the color, trying to hit the exact shade of ___, or totally obsessed with function (PRIVACY! GLARE! etc). The best choices include both, but fabric and color choices abound, so here are some of the factors I consider first:
- Function: What is needed? Privacy, light filtering, or sound absorption? Temperature regulation? Or “just” frame a great view and add some drama?
- Size of windows/room: Like when you shop for clothes-you look at the overall proportions, and the right amount of fabric and detail to flatter your body; same thing for windows. A triple window should have more fabric around it than a single window; a valence could be perfect in a kitchen, but be totally under-whelming in a LR or DR.
- Natural Light: Amount, and direction-bright sunlight will fade blue and disintegrate silk in short order. Cool colors will do little for a room whose main exposure is northern.
- Surroundings: Are there radiators, baseboard elements or A/C units? Pets that will find new window coverings entertaining? Young children with potential safety issue to consider? Homes with heavy smokers, or enthusiastic cooks might do best with minimal fabrics, so as to not absorb/retain all the odors.
- Aesthetics: Need to add interest, offset the monolithic sectional, frame the view, or just have the luxury of being pretty?
- Budget: Impossible to adequately address in this venue* but a few things to consider: almost anything can be created and installed with the right people, but more and more the home stores are carrying really nice, ready-to-install options as well.
- What you like: Yes, that matters too!
Even in homes I’m preparing to sell, I always consider the windows. Counter-intuitive, yes. But fresh, basic, updated treatments already in place for a new owner is a problem solved, and value added. It elevates the value of a room…a dining area becomes a Dining Room.
And nothing says welcome to the 80′s like vertical blinds. I have two jobs going right now where we took them down, and replaced them with soft-pleated shades in a gentle off-white. Rooms are immediately livable, and easy enough for new owners to frame the window with a color/pattern of their choosing, at their leisure.
Here is another project I did last year.
After being on the market for almost a year with little traffic and no offers, the 2.0 version sold the first day it was back on the market.
Sure, we did other things, but the windows were huge, it was what faced you when you first walked in. I added the blue stationary panels to call attention to, and frame the view of the Hudson River. They also added definition and purpose to that end of the LR, presence and balance to the DR. Panels and hardware, both windows. about $250.00 at BBB. Did I mention it got a full asking?
While it doesn’t have to be a complicated process, it is a unique one, and difficult to address in the 500 word comfort level experts say blog readers prefer, but dear readers, I’m not going to leave you ‘hanging’ (sorry, couldn’t resist!!)
* IF you are still flummoxed, call me! (Yes, I do windows!) But if you wouldn’t mind your windows and situation being a blog topic at another time, still contact me directly and we’ll work it out. Meantime, hope this helps you see your windows more confidently, through new eyes.
April 12th, 2012
The last few weeks have got me caught up in, and really excited about the current mood in our market.
While buyers are still approaching this decision with caution, they want more than a price point. Things have evolved. They are daring to dream. They want to be happy. Simply, sellers who get that, and take the time to do their best in preparing their property for sale will get their properties noticed.
The Refreshed Home is budget-conscious, but not budget-driven; a big part of what I advise my sellers on today are easy and reasonable ways they can attract, and engage buyers.
Yesterday I wrote about how to best prepare a vacant property for sale. Just about all of that-including the seller having the right mindset!- applies to properties that are occupied, so please read, and use those points to build on. Here are some other easy, low-cost, high-ROI ways I use to amp up an occupied space:
- CLEAN. Sorry, just can’t say that enough. Everything starts after CLEAN.
- Have the right attitude OK, this also bears repeating. The last few years have been difficult for most everyone. But make the decision to put your story aside, and create the most welcoming atmosphere you can. Accept you have this responsibility. Keep the focus on what you can do, and do the best you can. Buyers will pick up on it all
- Hang some appropriate art on the walls. No more bare walls! Borrow art if you have to. And stop fretting about the walls. PLEASE! Repairing and repainting a few holes in the wall when you sell should be the least of your troubles.
- Let there be light! Ceiling light is diffused within 2-3 feet of it’s source, buy tabletop/end- table lighting to creates a warmer, more inviting atmosphere. A well-lit room seems bigger. All BIG PLUSES for those who have years of deferred entertaining plans. A deductible expense* against profit when you sell, AND you get to take them with you! *Consult your tax professional to see what is applicable in your situation.
- Get them outside. If you have any outdoor space at all, you are losing money by not playing it up. Colorful annuals on the deck, a bocce set on the lawn, a new net in the existing basketball hoop-with an inflated ball nearby!-will draw, and engage buyers. If you’re doing an Open House, set up snacks and cold drinks OUTSIDE if possible.
- Bring in some life. An airy fern in the bathroom, or stir someone’s romantic inner chef with several small pots of herbs growing on the kitchen windowsill. Force some bulbs as a fresh centerpiece, be the first one on your block to have those pansies out. And a goldfish makes everyone smile.
- Don’t forget the bookcases. Being well-read is a an appealing luxury, and the physical presence of books bring soul into a space. Hit a thrift store, or an upcoming Book Sale at the local library, and load up on some noteworthy tomes. Biographies of interesting people, exotic travel, and the classics are always good choices.
Every market, every property, and every seller has their own circumstances. Projects are successful when they are maintained, and involve a project that is priced and marketed by a knowlegable REALTOR. Need more ideas-or help implementing them? Call or email today-I would love for you to be my next success story!
The Refreshed Home-Where Experience Matters, and Kindness Counts
March 9th, 2012
What’s New In My Staging Kit?
We know that buyers typically know in less than a minute if a property is going to be on their short list or not.
And here in Westchester, there have been anywhere from 41 to 65 newly listed single-family homes each day this week. That’s a lot of homes to sort through and preview, for both agents and buyers.
Not ‘new’, but forgotten, or ignored; this week I want to share something with you that will shine in your listing photos, and boost both quality and quantity of traffic at your Open Houses this weekend.
That will set the tone as buyers drive up.
That will elevate their mood, and most oimportantly, embed this property firmly in their mind.
That will cost you $30.00, maybe less.
Are you ready??
Forget the insipid bunch of mixed flowers on the kitchen counter.
Little things can stand out in the eyes of a buyer. Finding fresh, memorable and reasonable ways to grab their attention and engage them is one of specialties of the refreshed home.
Here in the NE, most of us crave the change of seasons. Even though it’s been a very mild winter, this week, it’s all about yellow pansies.
Yellow is the color of change and optimism.
It also has fabulous visibility, especially against the brown, bare landscapes we see now.
Pansies are happy, vibrant, resilliant flowers-they survive snow!
Place a few in a pot where you want buyers’ eyes to linger, like on a deck, to encourage thoughts of summer BBQs.
Frame the front door, or walkway; a few in a pot at the edge of the driveway, out by the mailbox or plant them in a bowl on the kitchen table.
Be the first house on the block to have these spring beauties out, you won’t be disappointed.
February 21st, 2012
2011 was a tough year if you needed to sell your Westchester County condo. According to WPAR stats, annual number of sales were down by almost 11% in 2010 (from 937 sold in 2010 to 835 sold in 2011); and by nearly 17% since 2008, where 1005 condos in Westchester got sold.
Many seemed to be resigned to having to stay put; year-end also found inventory to be it’s lowest in years, 705 active listings, down from 795 in 2010.
But what if you really really want to sell?
Last year I was brought into a property here in White Plains that had a lot going for it, condo-wise. Very convenient, but uber-private. Great light, generous space, and all the important amenities.
The owner was an exuberant sort, loving life, and had traveled much of the world in order to embrace it first-hand. But he also brought a lot of it back with him.
His love of family and friends only slightly eclipsed his wanderlust, so the walls were filled with beautiful original and exotic artwork, and photos of those near and dear.
The walls were shockingly bright, and bore great testimony to these passions, but did little to enhance the key selling points: space, great natural light, and the fireplace. As referenced below, he was NOT PLEASED at my recommendations-pack art, repaint, move some furniture… but he wanted to move into his new place more than he wanted to be right, so that’s how it went. Here are some of the B&As:
Got this email today…not sure yet which is my favorite part…
You know I loved the look of the apartment I lived in for 26 years.
When you suggested these changes I resisted, but reluctantly I made them.
The result were raves from potential buyers, agents, and most importantly a sale.
If you have a property that no one is looking at, or making offers on, there is a reason.
Talk to me now, I do remote consults via phone, email and Skype.
Let’s get that property sold so we can all get on with our life.
February 19th, 2012
Get Your Vacant Westchester Co-Op Noticed And SOLD!
Westchester County real estate has a lot of range and variety, but some markets are pretty saturated right now. In our market, co-op apartments are probably in the toughest segment of all.
Previously I have written about the misconceptions of what staging is, and what preparing a property for sale or lease is REALLY about, but vacant co-ops are a breed unto themselves. Because there are generally fewer dollars laying around, your own success is literally in your hands.
If YOU are the owner of a vacant co-op apartment YOU want to sell, the question becomes do YOU choose to stay between a rock and a hard place, or do YOU focus on what YOU can do to change YOUR situation?
This post is longer than most, with interactive solutions…notice how YOU/YOUR have made up about 11% of the words in this post so far?
First I must be blunt. If you have neither funds, ability to make changes or a desire to find a way, this post is not your silver bullet… but it might make your decision easier.
Do nothing and wait-your choice will be taken away. You will drift wherever the market takes you, either eventually accepting a lower price than you want/need, or slowly bleeding out any equity you might have via maintenance and carrying costs. I see this in the case of a lot of estate sales, with heirs that want to be right, instead of at closing. Aggressively pricing it from the get-go might be your best answer. Hire an experienced Realtor who knows the local market to best advise you.
Vacant spaces do not photograph well, or typically woo buyers, unless the view, history or architecture is so outstanding. Which is typically not the case for most co-op apartments. Because of their price point, there are proportionally fewer dollars laying around.
But if you are in a position to make something happen, here- in ascending order of effort and effectiveness and mostly cost-are what YOU can do to get YOUR vacant Westchester co-op apartment noticed and SOLD:
1. The apartment must be clean. Not just swept clean and vacuumed, but Q-tip-around-the-faucets, in the refrigerator grill, and in the corners of the window clean. No ifs ands and buts. Just do it, or stop reading right now.
2. Repair, prepare and paint the walls. TRUST ME white walls are the kiss of death. There is nothing special about them. They photograph horribly, and in the buyers’ eyes only underscore the space is vacant, probably neglected, too.
Very cheaply, color fills up a room, adds personality, and engages buyers. Resist the temptation to put your own stamp on it…you can do that in your own place, with the proceeds from the sale.
Filling, sanding and priming is tedious work, but necessary. Quality buyers will pass on shoddy work. USE PAINTER’S TAPE to create straight lines, and spring for the extra $20.00 +/-, use semi-gloss white for trim work, mouldings and doors. The contrast color and finish calls attention to detail lost in a big vanilla space.
Warm, classic, easy on the eye colors create a pleasing canvas while defining the space. I like Benjamin Moore Historical Colors. Lighter colors are not frothy pastels, and the deeper colors are not harsh. HC-32 Standish White, HC-33 Montgomery White and HC-39 Putnam Ivory are my current favorites.
Because these rooms are typically modest, and might not get a lot of light, visually stretch the space by choosing a color that will reflect light, almost ’glow’. BM #922 Antique Lace is good for that as well.
3. Get rid of old carpet. PERIOD. Gleaming hardwood floors are preferred in this market, but tend to cost more. HOWEVER, in an empty space, with no furniture to move/store, it might not be that much of a difference. Price out your options, but ONE CAVEAT: get a good re-finisher, and clear the power requirements and source with the super, so the building doesn’t short out.
4. Change out knobs and dated lighting fixtures. Yes, really. Old spaces with old fixtures and hardware are just old and neglected. Sleek new fixtures and hardware, are ’retro’, they say someone has been paying attention to this space. $200.00 at a big-box store here will put that much-if not more-back in your pocket real quick.
5. Add mouldings. Charm per linear foot, cove (ceiling) mouldings create desire, and elevate the space above much of what else is on the market.
6. Last, if buyers just can’t ‘see’ what the space could be, I have had success with providing scale drawings of the rooms as a take-away for the agents…
and also, sellers buying furniture they wouldn’t mind owning.
GOOD LUCK!!! Hope this has been helpful and inspiring. And please, take B&A pics, write me back and share YOUR success story!!
January 2nd, 2012
Ossining Cape Cod style houses-just like any other type of property-have history and character that makes them unique. In this series, we discuss specific types of properties, and develop a selling strategy based on understanding what is appealing to who, and why-and how to use that to get that type of property noticed and SOLD.
In this market, funky or cute will not get a Cape Cod house sold. Safe, traditional, and expected will. Being true to the authentic style, showing what is appropriate is what will put more dollars in your pocket.
Cape Cod style houses started as cottages in England in the mid-1600s, but were only named as such here in the early 1800s. Every element was designed to withstand and protect a family from harsh and stormy weather: low, but wide-framed buildings, usually 1-1/2 stories tall, and for maximum natural light, were often built facing south.
Steep roofs kept snow from accumulating, low ceilings kept the heat in, and shutters were functional. Mirroring the lifestyle and resources of it’s inhabitants, they were practical, without a lot of ornamentation, and the rooms were utilitarian. Originally built in areas of natural wildlife, they were designed to blend into the landscape.
Seen as less desirable in the late 1800s, they became popular again post-depression when affordable housing was in great demand, and when updates were made, like adding dormers and garages, and opening up the stairway, to visually enlarge the LR. Having spent the first 18 years of my life in an Ossining Cape Cod style house-Susquehanna Road, in Indian Village, to be precise!-I can speak confidently about this style house.
These were houses built not knowing about sectionals, or flat-screen TVs, Master Suites, home offices or exercise rooms. In a crowded buyers’ market, it does not seem there is a lot that matches up with what today’s buyers are looking for.
SO-without undertaking a major renovation, how do you attract buyers to your Cape house, and get it sold? Know your audience, and play to the houses’ inherent strengths.
Historically Cape Cod style homes have thrived durning economic downturns. They are great starter houses, show it as a younger couple would use it: Make the Master BR on the first floor the best it can be, and then the upstairs-children’s-bedrooms-simple: neat, clean, cheerful and bright.
Emphasize the positive: Fireplace, crown/other mouldings, hardwood floors, natural light.
- Painting mouldings white make what they are framing-windows, fireplaces-bigger and more important.
- Get rid of wall to wall, show off those hardwood floors
- Wash the windows, including the screens. Take down heavy or fussy window treatments.
Add interest outside: There are few house styles where it is easier to bump up the charm than Capes…just keep it real, don’t muck it up:
- Add a fence: split-rail or white picket, maybe even an arbor over the walkway. Windowboxes are big, too.
- Holly and other plantings that add year-round color; hydrangeas and rosebushes are expected, and all soften the austere lines of the house.
- Bird feeder, birdbath yes: statuary-no.
- Most Capes have an unpainted shingle or clapboard exterior. If yours is painted, or has a brick face (popular updates in the 70′s) bring it back to its’ roots: get rid of the vivid blues, pastel greens, vibrant golds or flat heavy browns, take down aluminum awnings.
- Taking the roof color into consideration, think white, cream, or some of the historic colors like grey, barn red or a slate blue , and consider painting the brick.
- Bright, even unusual color front door, with knocker of interest is a signature touch in Capes.
Clutter is out: It eats up visual space, making a small room feel even smaller.
- Keep hotizontal surfaces clear
- Use a minimum of wall decor
- Keep scale of furniture in line with rest of space. Store-sell-donate anything oversize.
Think CHARM, not CUTE: In a buyer’s mind, “cute” = “small”. Buyers don’t want to pay money for ”small”. “Charming”, on the other hand, has a much-more grown up feel…and is called “cozy”.
- Anything pink and blue, with flowers or other mini-prints, folksy or diminutive, like ducks or bunnies must go.
- Take down wallpaper, and instead paint in warmer, historic colors-with white mouldings and trims for a cleaner, updated, more sophisticated feel.
- Edit out anything harsh, striking, new/shiny/glossy. Instead think fine detail, simple, even primitive, natural or organic for aesthetic updates
It’s important that sellers are committed to doing the best they can. No matter the price point, this Westchester County Home Stager maintains that buying should be a step up. Keeping the focus on helping buyers realizing their new dream is one of the best ways to get your Ossining Cape Cod style house noticed, and SOLD!
December 27th, 2011
Welcome back to my latest series, Give Yourself A Gift in 2012: good ideas and smart people who can help you enter the new year purposefully, with a clear head and lighter heart.
When comedian George Carlin first debuted his routine on “Stuff” in 1981, he observed that sometimes we have so much stuff, that we pay to store some of our stuff…’ IMAGINE< an entire industry based on keeping an eye on your stuff!! ’ The audience was hysterical-what a concept!
Several years earlier, Business Week made some predictions about business in the future, one was the computer would render us to be a paperless society. HA! A lesser-known-but correct prediction was our having a computer on every desk, but it has been ‘paperless society’ that we remember. (Fact is, the boom of affordable desktop copiers-and consumer-oriented retail stores that sell them- helped to more than DOUBLE the worldwide use of paper from 1980 to 2000!)
What was out there and funny then is all too real now. There are a number of things that have brought us to this glut of stuff, but one big question-how to deal with it?
At the least, excess stuff is annoying and inconvienent. It weighs us down, affecting our concentration and productivity; in more severe situations, it can be unhealthy, even life-threatening….sadly, three Westchester residents lost their lives in recent years when fires started in their over-loaded homes…they couldn’t get out, and firemen couldn’t get in.
As our lifestyles have changed, businesses have grown to meet these needs and provide solutions for for these issues. Organizing is one of those services.
Marcia Sloman was one of the first professional organizers in our area, and her company Under Control Organizing has been helping Westchester get organized since 1992. I’ve known of Marcia for years, but it was only after a series of phone calls and emails that we finally, recently met. Minutes into the conversation, it’s easy to see why she has been so successful: she is warm and friendly, precise and very focused, but with a light touch.
Numbers on how much time we spend looking for things vary, but all of them give pause: Online I found surveys quoting anywhere from 16 minutes a day (or approximately 1 year of your life) to 55 minutes a day (a mind-numbing almost 14 years of your life!).
Even at the lower end, it’s still a lot of time lost…wouldn’t that be a great burden to have lifted from your shoulders in the New Year? Getting cleared out and organized not only will save you time and energy, again, you re-claim some valuable real estate in your home. Marcia’s services run the gamut, but some of her specialties are managing paper and stuff, and making the most of two finite entities: time, and spaces.
Solutions or systems mean little if they’re unrealistic, or, frankly if you don’t trust or respect the person coming up with them…it’s that way with Staging, too…one great, very user-friendly mindset Marcia recommends to deal with a big project: Divide things into the following groups: Trash, Recycle, Sell, Give Away or Donate.
Organizing styles-especially as far as paper is concerned-also figure strongly into her approach. Marcia creates filing systems for the “In-nies”-those who need stuff to be out of sight, but easily accessible; and can have specialized storage spaces made for those “Out-ies”-folks who need an open, visual display to keep things orderly and find-able.
Bottom line-while having someone help you clean out your closets, your garage, or set up your office might seem like an indulgence, ask yourself: so how’s doing it yourself working out for you?
If the answer is not so good, start a conversation, give yourself a gift, and get on with your life!
December 10th, 2011
Over the summer I got a call from someone who found me online from my blogging here, and on ActiveRain. Her empty condo had been languishing on the market, a year with little traffic and no offers, how would this thing called Staging work for her?
We spoke, and agreed to meet and see the space. Unusual space: old hotel converted into condos in recent years. New kitchen/baths, newish neutral carpet. Nice space, good light, but not a standard or expected floor plan. It had also been recently painted linen white, top to bottom.
Paint a color, and bring furniture in to demonstrate how this unusual space could be used was my recommendation.
Getting furniture was not an unexpected suggestion, but PAINT??? That made no sense, it was just painted!
I was ‘stubborn’ and insisted, and in the end we ‘negotiated’ getting the open kitchen/LR/Dining area and Master BR painted.
Used BM Affinity #AF-90, Harmony. It’s a warmer pinky-beige that tonally agreed with the carpet, as well as the background colors of the counter top.
After comparing pricing… and level of hassle, my client actually bought it furniture she wouldn’t mind owning, but wouldn’t mind selling to the new owner, either. I did the floor plan, chose the pieces; we went shopping and she got my trade discount. Here are the new pics.
I knew the house got an AO shortly after in went on the market, but was waiting on my client to be in touch next.
Got this testimonial for my site update along with the good news by email this morning:
The Refreshed Home and Marie Graham helped me sell my condo in 3 weeks. It had been on the market for a year with little activity. Three weeks after it was fully staged I had an accepted offer and we closed 6 weeks later.
Marie was easy and cheerful to work with. She was able to guide me with paint colors, selection, proportion and layout of furniture for a small challenging space.
Her ability to pull several elements of a room together and be thoughtful about my budget was invaluable.
Thank you so much for your creativity and excellent service Marie!
~ Robin O.
WOO-HOO! How neat is that, to be able to go into the holiday season with this behind you, and start the new year fresh??
This is what I do, help properties stand out and get sold. If you have a listless listing, let’s talk soon. Life is too short to just be waiting around for things to happen!
December 7th, 2011
Last week we all took the Scout oath…. swearing we understood that Staging a property DID NOT involve
- Lingerie, fancy bath salts or a breakfast tray in the Master Suite
- Plug-in air fresheners or fake flowers
- Convoluted, budget-driven DIY projects
- Naked walls, or white/off-white walls
THEN we brought up some of the value a professional Stager could bring to your transaction, here are a few more.
Keep in mind, none of these are absolutes. No 30-day money-back guarantee-not even a set of Ginsu steak knives. Just sharing what I’ve seen, hoping it’ll help someone else start the conversation and find a way to make this Staging thing work for them…and OK, maybe hoping a little harder that some of you live in the refreshed home’s area!
3. Professionally staged properties increase curiosity about, and elevate interest in the listing
Russel Ray, a Home Inspector in San Diego recently wrote about a Less is More approach to marketing.
Observing that humans, just like cats, are naturally curious creatures, Russel’s premise was that in our 24/7 over-stimulated world, if you can catch someone’s attention in a simple and unexpected way, they will be drawn to find out more on their own.
Staging in our area is still this semi-mysterious entity. Word of a professionally Staged property? Buyer (AND agent) nip!!
4. Consulting with a professional Stager could help your short sale property as well
I do a lot of work with one agent on her short sales. NOT the pipes-ripped-out-of-the-wall type of distressed properties, but average house/ house is underwater/deferred maintenance/sellers have to sell type of properties.
She gets the sellers into the right mind frame- the past is past, this is what they need to do if they want to get on with their life. We meet, set a strategy, they get a written plan and do the work themselves/arrange to have it done. At this writing, this agent has put together, and gotten approval on 45 short sale deals this year.
No illusions on my part, I know there is a LOT more involved, but she says the work, and my designation on the paperwork help lenders fast-track the deal…. so I’m just sayin’…
5. THIS Professional Stager works with Buyers, too!
An un-staged property is really just the before of a Staged property. Knowing what needs to be done, or seeing what is possible is one thing, but being able to explain it clearly, and on the fly to buyers is another.
Before launching my business in 2007, I had 25 years of working busy retail floors. Back in the 80′s and 90′s, busy, crazy times, when people couldn’t spend money fast enough.
When the door opened, and it was your turn, you were walking, talking, listening, thinking-figuring out where the customer was coming from, what they needed, and how you could help them to see it. Exactly the same skill set I use to help buyers see potential in a property they are considering.
Prep for listing photos/open houses, referrals to any needed vendors, client support, the list goes on and on. Point being-consider most of what you see on TV as a starting point. What are your needs? Get past de-clutter, de-personalize, yada, yada, yada. Call a professional Stager today, and just start the conversation.
October 5th, 2011
Beat The Odds: Five Easy Tips For A Better-Showing House This Fall
Many people think the housing market shuts down Thanksgiving til December 31st.
The reality of school schedules, and the pressures of these falls holidays are the most common reasons behind the mindset. While activity levels might have a steep drop off, I do not belive people stop thinking about it, or that buyers stop looking, either. In our market, different cultures abound: not everyone has kids, or observes the Hallmark holidays.
There are several advantages to being ready to show in the fall. There are not as many properties on the market, so motivated sellers who have their house on the market-clean and ready to show will have the full attention of agents, and motivated buyers. I like the sound of that, don’t you?
Mortgage rates are still low, and the atmosphere is a little less super-charged. Again, this could bode well on many levels. But you have to be ready.
Staging should never be considered a silver bullet. There are too many things beyond a stagers’ control that would factor into getting your house sold (pricing, marketing, pricing, qualifying buyers, pricing, maintaining a showable house), but your house being ready counts for a lot.
While we still have some nice days in front of us, here are five quick, simple, easy and inexpensive things you can do now so your house will show well this fall:
1. Buy a simple, classic new welcome mat. Nothing cute, or overly personal. WELCOME works fine. Also-paint the front door. In this area, deep barn red is very popular. I may be prejudiced (I love purple) but I think it goes great in this photo-fresh and contemporary. ALWAYS work with what goes with the house. Look around your neighborhood, and when in doubt go classic.
2. New bulbs in fixtures. Especially outdoor. Up the wattage, make sure they are new, of matching wattage, and of the same type of light -i.e. just because you have them in the house, don’t have a mix of soft white and bright white.
3. Add seasonal color. Even the most amazing bunch of impatience is oddly inappropriate after Labor Day. Clear them out-brightly colored mums and ornamental cabbage is the way to go.
4. Keep yard maintained. Just because prime growing season is over, don’t slack off. Keep walkway clear, lawn mowed, beds edged and leaves raked. Have the house with the lush, emerald green lawn showing.
5. Remove all the detrius of summer: Cobwebs, sticks on the roof, things growing out of gutters. Make sure gutters are attached to roof securely, and clear.
Fall can turn into winter quickly in this area. Clogged, and badly attached gutters become heavy with wet leaves, then frozen solid when the temperature drops. “BEST” case they can pull away from the house, “WORST” case they can lead to the formation of ice dams, and cause internal leaks/damage. Either way, you do not want to mess with this in November.
TOMORROW: The other 5 things you can do…next weekend!
September 23rd, 2011
Let’s Get Your House SOLD! Staging For The Average Homeowner
The classic cereal commercial -where two older brothers did not want to try this new breakfast cereal-and instead, gave it to their younger brother, wanting him to go first-reminds me of the reaction I get when it’s time to talk about preparing a house for the market.
Sellers and agents each have their ideas of what it is, and how it works, but it’s still perceived as this dicey territory, and many seem to want to see some buyer interest first….well, if that was working out for you, chances are you wouldn’t be reading this post.
Buyers have a lot to choose from out there. Staging-or preparing your property for the market is a business decision, and a commitment made by people who really want to sell.
Yes, the goal is to make the house look as good as possible, but at the refreshed home, a good solution takes a number of things into consideration: the agents’ pricing and marketing strategy, the local market, and the sellers needs, goals and expectations.
If you have a property you want to -or need to sell-come to the John C. Hart Library on Thursday October 6th, at 7PM. We’ll discuss this mysterious entity known as Staging, learn how to see a property through the eyes of a buyer, and send you home with things you can do to put your property’s best foot forward. Hope to see you there!
August 24th, 2011
How to Clean Soot Off A Fireplace Surround
Sooty fireplaces are yucky.
If you are staying, at summer’s end, many homeowners find themselves looking at their home interiors with new eyes, as they make plans for spending more time indoors.
If you are selling, obvious, deferred maintenance will always set off alarm bells for buyers: ‘what else did they neglect that maybe I can’t see?’
Fireplaces are often a prominant feature in a front room, and a big selling point in almost all markets. A clean, sootless fireplace surround pays big dividends: Great listing photos to bring buyers in, and uninterrupted romantic reverie, once they are there.
HUGE BONUS-cleaning soot off a fireplace surround it is one of the easiest DIY projects you can possible imagine. REALLY.
Today’s post comes from channeling my one and only HGTV fav, Sabrina Sota, of Get It Sold…I always learn something from her shows.
You can use any generic spray cleaner (I just have a thing for the bubble creatures), and just so simple…cover the floor, then spray the brick or stone, and grout.
Let it sit for a minute or two, then distribute foam evenly by using one wet sponge, and after it’s foamed up for another minute or so, wipe off using another, clean sponge, and a clean bucket of water.
If build up is extensive, you may have to repeat. Only word of caution is if brick is painted, you may want to test out first on a small, innocuous area.
August 14th, 2011
SCSP seeks UCRw/D
SCSP (smart, creative Staging professional) (that would be me) seeks UCRw/D (upbeat, confident Realtor w/ Designations) (hopefully, that is YOU) OBJECT: cooperative and content clients, more time on your hands, fabulous listing photos, and selling lots of properties quickly, and for the best price
YOU: Positive attitude, reality-based, open-minded, straightforward and direct, good communication skills. Value education and running a customer-service based business. And ohyes, have the desire to sell lots of properties.
ME: All of the above, and passionate about it; kind, adaptable, supportive, quick-witted, able to manage both projects and sellers.
Turn-offs: Cranky, jaded, complacent or rude whiners; hobbyists; over-priced listings
Remote Staging and phone consults do-able. Sense of humor a must, GRI, CBR, or CDPE preferred.
I am Marie Graham, owner of the refreshed home. I can bringing life and light into lives, listings, and living spaces. All you need to do is start the conversation!
July 22nd, 2011
Will Buyers Remember YOUR House??
When preparing a house for sale, some projects involve getting rid of the red flags-the immediate and obvious turn-offs no buyer wants to see.
But more and more I am seeing projects in need of green flags.
Whether it’s an HGTV-obsession, sellers trying to save money and pre-stage before they call a real Stager, or over-zealous but well-meaning agents, friends or neighbors- there are lots of neat, clean, sanitized and B-O-R-I-N-G properties out there.
Nothing stands out, nothing engages, nothing inspires. Nothing to cause a buyer to remember a house.
That may see like a contradiction of the ‘de-clutter, de-personalize’ mantra that many chant, but de-personalizing a space does not mean stripping away all personality.
YES-preparing a house for sale means packing away what is unsuitable, distracting, inappropriate. ANYTHING that will otherwise get in the way of the seller getting the most traffic (online, AND foot) and the best price for their property, in the shortest time.
Depending on the market, your goals and expectations, it can also mean making changes, or bringing things in that will make the property shine, and catch a buyer’s eye.
Now that lenders are loosening some of the thumb-screws, and balance has been creeping back into the market- a property buyers WANT will be the property that gets SOLD.
It’s not enough for buyers just to be able to see themselves in it, there needs to be BUYER LUST. They want it, gotta have it, can’t stop thinking about it. There are workable solutions at almost every level of the market, which is why you want to talk to me.
So-so showings, low-ball offers, no online traffic? Your life on hold, waiting for your property to sell? Well, you know what hasn’t worked….
Help buyers remember your house. Now is the time to start the conversation. Better the space, sell your house, and get on with your life.
July 16th, 2011
Reality Check: Listing Photos Buyers In Westchester County Will See This Week-Bad Walls
Walls are the largest surface area in any room, so besides paint color, whatever else you may put on the walls is a very important decision.
Art, properly placed, can make a small room feel bigger, and make big furniture seem smaller.
It can help balance a room, influence traffic flow, create interest where none exists, or call more attention to something you really want to highlight.
Poorly placed, or in poor taste, it can be all buyers will remember about a space. Here are some examples of what Westchester buyers will see this week.
This art does little to enhance the room, these pieces are too dominant, and compete for attention. It makes the ceiling seem low, and the room feel claustrophobic.
There is little chance a buyer will remember a thing about this house other than it’s the one with the giant contemporary eyeball over the sofa.
These are not groupings, they’re just a bunch of stuff hung on the walls over a period of time.
Groupings are not an add-as-you-go project.
Instead, they are best planned and installed at once, tightly spaced and balanced, and centered on a wall space, or over a piece of furniture.
Ideally there is some empty wall space all around it, to give it a neat and important look.
Am I the only person that finds this picture disturbing?
All this aggressive personality is very territorial, and has no place in a listing photo.
That it is here, and taking up valuable space on MLS says there are larger issues that need to be addressed with both parties before this house can ever hope to be sold.
Home Stagers create great visuals, as well as great relationships to support both seller and agent during the selling process.
I am here to help you sell your house, which is why I run this series, and continue to make this offer: Claim any of these phtos as your own…yes (sigh) even the last one…and I will Stage your house for up to a half-day for FREE> REALLY.
July 5th, 2011
Reality Check: Listing Photos Westchester Buyers Are Seeing 7.5.11
It would appear the pendulum has swung all the way over for some Westchester sellers regarding the need for walls to have color. YES< all the way over.
Using 2 or more different colors on the walls in a space is a highly personal decision. It could work to add value in a Staging situation…here is a job from a few years ago…$$$ condo in a big building with lots of competition. The owners never painted, it was one big vanilla room.
These photos taken from the LR, looking towards the entry(where painter started cutting in) and the kitchen, on the right side of the room.
Two gender-friendly, complimentary colors added value by defining separate areas-BM # HC 95 Sag Harbor Gray in entry and common space, HC# 113 Louisberg Green in kitchen; they also made the testosterone-infused black leather upholstery seem more manageable.
Color, when used well, guides, directs and influences us. Decisions on which wall and what colors should address a larger issue-like echoing a floor plan, or bringing balance to an unbalanced or over-furnished space. Chosen badly, the result is…well, these rooms.
Doors and surrounding trim make up about 20 square feet of a wall, so that’s significant. These sellers are loosing dollars because vibrant yellow doors against sky blue walls chop up and visually reduce a space substantially.
It’s very hard to see this room as anything other than a nursery, which means SMALL and cute to most people.
How many colors do you count here? Gotta wonder, what was the intent? It’s very disruptive, like being in a kindergarten class with all the kids screaming LOOK AT ME!!
As we spoke of last week, the sky blue is outdated and should go anyway, but a better decision would have been to have the far right wall and the adjacent wall going up the stairs be the same, so it’s a more gentle transition.
The coice of walls and the sharp contrast of colors contradict what you want to establish in this room.
The impact of big bright windows is lost, and by using different colors in back of 2 pieces of furniture that match, a generous space holding the main conversation area is trivialized, and value is lost.
Neutral colors that complimented the furniture would have been a better choice.
Sellers and Agents: Walls are a room’s biggest surface area, and present the most opportunity to set the tone. They are the canvas buyers see in listing photos.
I am in the business of helping Sellers and Agents getting their properties sold. To that end, my offer stands: if you claim any of these properties as your own, I will spend up to a half-day Staging your property, for free. REALLY.