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Provided by Principal Homebuyers

Staging your home on a budget for a fast sale


Author: Blog Contributor
Posted: May 22, 2017, 7:00 am

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Wood paneling is back, but we’re not talking about he 1960s version that you may still be peeling down from some of your listings.

Instead, today’s wood paneling trend is being used as an accent wall, instead of a complete cover of an entire room. For example, wood panels in walnut may be used as an accent wall behind the bed in the master bedroom. Or, maybe one wall will be covered in white distressed shiplap, a trend popularized by HGTV “Fixer Upper” hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines.

Wood in all finishes, whether clear stain or in its natural form, are being used to create sophisticated, sleek accent walls. You may even find wood panels in the closets, such as cedar-covered closet walls  (with added bonuses of having a distinctive smell and being a natural repellant to insects, like moths, too).® reports on the trend: “Knotty pieces of wood bring a very organic look, while painted varieties are classic and always popular with homeowners and potential buyers.”

Designers are certainly proving you dress up and modernize any space with wood panels. See a few examples from Houzz.

Author: Melissa Tracey
Posted: May 15, 2017, 7:00 am

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

“The home needs more storage!” It’s a common gripe heard from homeowners and buyers. A home can never have too many shelves or closets.

Indeed, a majority of about 1,000 survey respondents said their number-one biggest annoyance about their home: “The lack of storage,” according to the 2015 survey. Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents put the lack of storage as one of their top five annoyances about their home.

In all your listings, showing off the storage potential should be one of the top items on your to-do showing prep list.

And that obviously first brings you to decluttering. Not surprising, the less clutter, the bigger the space will appear. So that means hauling away most of what is cluttering those closets, pantries, and shelves so that homebuyers can see the space, the floor, and the wall.

Here are some ideas for showing off the storage in a home:

Add a mudroom.

Stage a mudroom in your listing next to an entry door or even in the garage. The “drop zone” area is appealing to buyers who seek a place to store shoes, coats, bags, and anything else as they enter the home. These can be small areas, consisting of just cubbies, hooks, and a mat for shoes.

Invest in wicker baskets.

These are a stagers’ best friends. Add them to open shelving in the bathroom or living room to make the area look organized and added drop zones for belongings.


Designer: Leslie Lamarre; Co-designer: Erika Shjeflo
Photo by: Bernard Andre

Add baskets galore in the closets.

Take a look at the photo below with all the baskets lining the wire shelves. Adding a line of baskets puts the storage potential center stage.

Clean out the closets.

Remove a majority of the clothes hanging in the closet and leave only a few on wooden hangers. The storage space will look less cluttered.


Stock the pantry in containers.

An overly cluttered pantry will look smaller. Enlarge the space by using containers for foods and lining items in a row to look organized.



Author: Melissa Tracey
Posted: May 8, 2017, 7:00 am

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Vinyl can get a bad rap. Often it’s confused with linoleum and conjures up memories of outdated, cheap 1980s flooring rolled out in sheets. But lately, vinyl is showing itself as anything but “cheap” looking. It can be laid out in planks, tiles, and sheets and it’s getting some trendy looks.

The vinyl flooring industry is booming as new designs resemble the look of real hardwoods, but without the high maintenance. Vinyl is known for being scratch-proof and even waterproof, which is making them especially appealing in the kitchen and bathroom. Plus, vinyl is known for being more pet-friendly and that’s increasingly important nowadays. (Consider, 61 percent of households own a pet or plan to soon, according to an NAR pet study. As such, pet-friendly flooring is proving to be a growing motivator in home remodeling decisions).

Vinyl flooring options are now available in styles that mimic current wood styles, in everything from oak, pine and walnut to even hand-scraped options.

You have several color choices with vinyl too, from gray to espresso and white.



And vinyl isn’t just for resembling the look of hardwoods. You can also get vinyl that resembles tile, marble, and cement too.



The installation of vinyl is also getting more trendy. You can install it in a herringbone pattern on the floor or diagonal. Wide plank vinyl is one of the trendiest and some designers even say it can make your room look larger too.


Read more about “2017 Vinyl Flooring Trends” at

Author: Melissa Tracey
Posted: May 1, 2017, 7:00 am

By Justin M. Riordan, Spade and Archer Design Agency

When selling a house, small rooms can lead to big problems. Staging can be the key to making a small room look functional and help entice buyers to put an offer on your property.

Living Rooms – Proving your living room can fit a full size sofa is of upmost importance. A love seat is an immediate red flag for most buyers as one cannot lie down on a love seat. To make a full size sofa fit in your small space opt out of using end tables. Instead consider floor lamps, which can be pressed right up against the side or back of the sofa. By removing the end tables, you can reduce the overall space needed for the sofa set-up by up to 48 inches.


Photo credit: Spade and Archer

Bedrooms – Scale is the key here. Use the largest bed possible that still allows all the doors in the room to swing freely. Avoid pressing the side of the bed up against the wall. Instead, opt for a nightstand on each side of the bed. Use a “Hollywood” metal frame under the mattress with a wall-mounted headboard. By eliminating the footboard and side rails, the overall size of the bed is greatly reduced while still providing a good reference point on the scale of the room. A bedroom that could fit a full size bed with a bulky frame headboard and footboard can easily fit a queen with a metal frame and wall-mounted headboard.


Photo credit: Urban Outfitters

Never, ever use a platform bed in a small room. By lowering the bed and adding the platform, you actually can end up making the room feel smaller. This is most certainly not what we are looking for here.

Dining Rooms – We all know the kitchen is the heart of the house. If that is true, then dining rooms are the lungs. The kitchen is useless if there is no place to sit down and eat the wonderful food made there. The staging of the dining room is highly dependent on the size of the house. If a house has three bedrooms, you must include an eating area for a minimum of six people. Look at it this way: With three bedrooms, the potential buying family will have two adults and two children. They will also want to be able to entertain at least two other people at a time. Two kids plus two parents plus two guests equals six seats.


Photo credit: Spade and Archer

The key here is using a dining set that is small enough so that people can walk around the set once it is in place. Using armless dining chairs makes this issue easier to deal with. Armless chairs can be placed three on one side and three on the other verses two on each long side and one captain at each short side. A larger piece of art can be placed on the wall over the table to anchor the dining set. This set-up would be similar to a booth layout in a restaurant.

Bathrooms – Most bathrooms are small. It is the very nature of bathrooms. They tend to be the smallest rooms in the house. The least expensive way to deal with a small bathroom is to paint the entire bathroom white with white fixtures, linens, and accessories. By removing contrasts from the room, it simply appears clean and functional. A single piece of colorful art placed preferably above the toilet can add a single focal point for the room and thus pull the eye away from the size of the bathroom and toward the art. Adding lots of color and contrast to any bathroom will serve to make it feel smaller and dirtier. Do not, ever, paint any bathroom green, yellow, brown or red. (Trigger warning… this is gross.) These are the colors of mold, urine, feces and blood, not the things we want to think about when we are shopping for our new bathroom in our new home.

headshot_JustinRiordanABOUT THE AUTHOR: Justin Riordan, LEED AP, is founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency based in Portland, Ore. As the creative energy behind Spade and Archer, Riordan fuses his formal training as an architect with his natural design savvy to create beautiful and authentic spaces for clients. Prior to opening Spade and Archer in 2009, Riordan practiced interior architecture and interior construction for 12 years, bringing an esteemed skillset and diverse background to home staging. Since founding Spade and Archer, he has personally prepared more than 2,100 homes for market.

Author: Blog Contributor
Posted: April 24, 2017, 7:00 am

By Caroline M. Carter, guest contributor

You’ll want to leave potential buyers with a great impression of your listing’s exterior, that is if you want to motivate them to want to see more.

But what do you do if the front entrance to a house looks dated, insubstantial and unwelcoming?

Change it.


Photo courtesy: Caroline M. Carter/Done in a Day Inc.

What impression does this front door create for the potential buyer? Does it communicate value to the buyer? Is it worth their time to schedule a showing?

No. The front door currently presents as an unimpressive–utilitarian front door with a tarnished, pitted brass doorknob and mail slot.

With a quick trip to the nearest home improvement store, the updated entrance goes from drab to fab. A critical investment of $300 for new black paint and polished brass handset, knocker, mail slot and kick plate transformed this entrance and creates value in the mind of the buyer. It now presents as more polished and welcoming. It’s substantial, safe, secure and well-maintained.


Photo courtesy: Caroline M. Carter/Done in a Day Inc.

As a result of this quick fix, the buyer will now assume that the interior of the house is worth their time to schedule a showing.

But wait, not so fast.

All doors are important. The basement door facing the main street of this same house is unsightly, insubstantial and creates confusion in the eyes of the buyer–where is the front entrance? What is this door and where does it go?


Photo courtesy: Caroline M. Carter/Done in a Day Inc.

 A simple black painted lattice framed outer door with no handle creates a more artistic and secure looking distraction so the buyer instantly knows that it is not the main entrance.


Photo courtesy: Caroline M. Carter/Done in a Day Inc.

 Here’s another simple, inexpensive way to spruce up the curb: Update the house numbers. In the photo below, we added a newly installed black plaque with 4” house numbers on the stone wall closest to the stairs to the main entrance. It’s visible from the street and leads buyers to the actual front entrance.


Photo courtesy: Caroline M. Carter/Done in a Day Inc.

So, view your entrance and front door with a more critical buyer’s eye. Does it create a positive impression of perceived value? Does it compel the buyer to make time to schedule a showing? If not, it’s time to enhance it. First impressions count.

CarterABOUT THE AUTHOR: Caroline Carter is founder of Done In A Day, a full service home transition company in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Since 2005, her company has created The Perfect Listing® to stage the areas upper bracket houses to sell. She is recognized by the area’s top real estate professionals and educated sellers to be a leading resource to successfully navigating the transition process from house to home. To learn more about Carter, visit her website at, or follow her teams projects on Facebook, Instagram, Houzz, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.


Author: Blog Contributor
Posted: April 17, 2017, 7:00 am

By Julea Joseph, guest contributor

JuleaAs a home stager, I hear weekly this song from people getting ready to sell their occupied home:

“My closets are stuffed, I hate my living room sofa, Grandma’s old dinette set looks shoddy, and those oak cabinets in the kitchen are not going to fly with the younger buying bunch. Sure, you wish for a home that looks like the ‘AFTER’ reveal of your favorite HGTV show. A house where everything is perfectly in place–plump pillows perking up your living room sofa, stylish accessories adoring your lovely kitchen, and all your closets looking like Martha Stewart spent the weekend in there.”

It can be done! The majority of homes on the market have people living in them, have well used furniture, and spaces not recently remodeled.  You just need a professional plan, to make smart updates and changes, and have the emotional resolve to understand that your home becomes a stylish exhibit in a real estate professional’s advertising campaign for a cute couple to fall in love with.

How do you pull off this feat? A home stager can be your ace in the hole to tell you what stays and goes, what to pack up, and what needs to be improved.  Once you get done packing and improving, the stager also will swing back in and up-styled your home using your furnishings and accessories to their best advantage. That includes everything from choosing a perfect color palette to styling each room to make that cute couple gush.

Let’s walk through the process. Home stagers start with an evaluation in which they’ll review your home from curbside to back fence offering a list of instructions and suggested enhancements, changes and upgrades for you to get done.

PACK.  You are moving, so pack it up. Start in the main living areas of your home, then bedrooms, then finally basement/storage and garage.  Pack your home like a potential buyer would walk through your home: Foyer, guest closet, living room, dining room, etc. The goal of packing is to showcase every space of your home from guest closet to porch, and to not distract the buyer with your stuff.  And yes, especially those closets … after all, people move because they are out of room at their old house.  Sell them their dream!

Living in a staged home TIP:  Purchase flip top bins for each room of your home that you can use to organize yourself if the phone rings for a showing. Label each bin with the room.  Pop the bins in the garage or storage for showings.

IMPROVE.  Make smart, cost effective, return-on-your-investment updates and improvements.  From a fresh coat of paint, walls and maybe your front door, swapping out your light fixtures both outside and in, refinishing or replacing flooring, to more involved projects such as painting kitchen cabinets. Smart updates can offer a great return. Sure, they require a bit of cash to make these improvements, but the goal is a turnkey home, no buyer today wants a long list of things to do prior to moving in. The days of a “carpet allowance” are long gone–eliminate as many negative reactions to your home as possible.

  • Living in a staged home TIP: If you are painting your rooms, plan on having the replacement lighting done at the same time. The ladders are all there and no need to circle back to touch up where the new fixture went in.

Photo: Julea/Reinventing Space/Portraits of Home

CLEAN.  Clean so your home glows, from the walls inside of closets to the windows outside.  During the selling period, you have carte blanche to have a cleaning crew in scour your home every few weeks. It frees up time for you to do other things and keep the stress of selling in bay.  The goal is a super clean home that translates to the buyer that the homeowners care, maintain, and love their home–and so will the buyers.

  • Living in a staged home TIP: Try using only one bathroom for showering when selling our home. This way the other baths stay in “model” condition. Always replace wet towels with dry ones if showing your home.

ROOM STYLING.  Each space has to be styled to give the room its best selling advantage. This is where home stagers are best utilized. Our interior arrangement and design know-how can expertly arrange, style ,and revamp each of your spaces to showcase the room without any emotional connection. We are masters at making each room visually and emotionally fabulous for that ideal buyer.  We’ll use what you have by shopping your home, perhaps using pieces found in other rooms, and reinvent the setting for selling, rather than dwelling.

If pieces are off scale or are not appealing for the prospective buyer, we can swap them out with rental or purchased items. Home stagers are a one-stop shop to getting your home styled for that targeted buyer. The goal is that the buyer understands how to use each space and connects with the home and pictures themselves living there.

  • Living in a staged home TIP:  Your furniture placement may be adjusted to visually invite buyers in and allow them to walk freely in the room and then pass to the next space. It may not be the layout you are use to, but you’ll have to make allowance during the selling period.

Photo: Julea/Reinventing Space/Portraits of Home

This post originally appeared at Tales of an Interior Stylist. Copyright 2017.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julea Joseph is the owner and lead designer at Reinventing Space in Chicago. Visit her website and blog at

Author: Blog Contributor
Posted: April 10, 2017, 7:00 am

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Move over traditional styles. Contemporary and transitional-styled bathrooms are overtaking traditional in design preferences, according to the 2017 Kitchen & Bath Design Trends Report by the National Kitchen & Bath Association. The member survey reveals some of the following bathroom trends this year:

Most popular color schemes: Whites, off/whites, and gray

Also, young design professionals are showing greater preferences for incorporating violets and purples.

Most commonly used bathroom storage solutions: Linen storage cabinets and wood vanities

Floating vanities and open shelving are catching on, while the use of toilet topper cabinets are fading. Also, more bathroom remodels are adding in power outlets directly inside drawers or vanity cabinets for powering up hair dryers, curling irons, and shavers.


Designer: Leslie Lamarre; Co-designer: Erika Shjeflo
Photo by: Bernard Andre

Most popular flooring: Ceramic tile

High-quality vinyl flooring also is inching up in popularity.


Designer: Leslie Lamarre; Co-designer: J. Michael McGinn
Photo by: Bernard Andre

Most popular bathroom sinks: Undermount sinks

Requests for vessel sinks are starting to wane, as well as pedestal sinks. Trough sinks are gaining more popularity, NKBA notes.


Designer: Gladys Schanstra
Photo by: Eric Hausman

Fixture style on-the-rise: White

White fixtures are growing in popularity. Also, watch out for brushed brass and gold as well as designer faucet colors. Bone and bisque colored fixtures, meanwhile, are losing favor with homeowners.

Lori 27

Designer: Lori Carroll; Co-designer: Alex Burch
Photo by: John Mancuso

Most popular amenity solutions: Safety and comfort first, such as comfort heights, shower seats, lighting in showers, and no-threshold showers.

Water-saving toilets and faucets are becoming more mainstream too. Further, smart toilet, music in the shower, easy maintenance features, and radiant floor heating are growing in demand.

Most pronounced fading fad: Tub or whirlpool.

More than half of National Kitchen and Bath Association members say they have eliminated a tub or whirlpool in a bathroom remodel over the past year. A freestanding tub, however, seems to be more of homeowners’ preference nowadays.

Molly 26

Designer and photo by: Molly Hustoft

Most popular bathroom style: Contemporary and transitional.

Contemporary and transitional-styled bathrooms have dethroned traditional style preferences. Shaker style is gaining popularity, as well as mid-century modern. Asian Fusion is still a niche design, but also getting more attention in remodels.


Designer: Leslie Lamarre; Co-designer: J. Michael McGinn
Photo by: Bernard Andre

Author: Melissa Tracey
Posted: April 3, 2017, 7:00 am

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

A home with a mix of chrome, nickel, brass, and bronze fixtures may prompt some home buyers to pause. But such mismatches are actually on trend. (Good news to those remodelers who may not have gotten around quite yet to updating all of those fixtures to the same color!)

That means pretty much anything goes for plumbing, lighting, cabinet hardware, and appliances these days. Sure, there are some clear favorites emerging this year: Black steel and burnt-colored metals, such as oiled bronze and wrought iron. Brass is gaining more popularity, and copper fixtures are holding strong.

Regardless, “homeowners no longer have to worry about matching all the fixtures in a home,” Elizabeth Hagie, regional vice president of sales for the North Carolina office of Builders Design, told BUILDER in a recent interview on the trend. “In fact, embracing this trend can give personality and depth to the space allowing the character of a home to shine. This universal trend can be incorporated into any style, from contemporary to traditional depending on the main hue.”

For example Hagie says using warm gold tones can compliment a more traditional home and layered easily with cool accents. On the other hand, cooler hues, which tend to be more contemporary, can be accented with warmer gold and copper tones to add depth to a room.

OK, hold on … before you start out swapping every fixture to a different shade.

“You certainly want to take the size of your room into consideration and try to limit yourself to four hues while deciding which you prefer to be main finishes and which can be accents to the space,” Hagie says. “As you select your metal accents, consider blending warm and cool tones. Warm-toned metals, like brass and bronze, add an eye-catching accent of color and when used in conjunction with cool toned metals like stainless steel and aluminum. This opposition is what maxes mixing metals impactful within your space.”

See more of Hagie’s tips as well as examples at BUILDER online.

Also, view two good examples we found of the mismatched metals from designers featured on Houzz.


Author: Melissa Tracey
Posted: March 27, 2017, 7:00 am

Photo courtesy Paint Quality Institute

Many do-it-yourself painters spend hours selecting the perfect paint colors, but give far less thought to the sheen they’ll use.  That’s short sighted, according to Debbie Zimmer, spokesperson for the Paint Quality Institute.

“Paint sheen affects not only the initial appearance of a paint job, but also its long-term performance,” says Zimmer.  “So, it’s important to carefully consider your options when choosing a paint.”

Leading paint brands come in as many as six different levels of sheen, which is basically a measure of the reflectivity of the paint once it’s applied.

Flat paint is the least reflective, followed by increasingly “shiny” options like matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss and–shiniest of all–high gloss.

The Deciding Factors

If the condition of your walls is impeccable, you can choose any level of sheen your eye desires. But if you have sloppy sheetrock, uneven surfaces, or otherwise imperfect walls, be aware that paint with a higher sheen will make these defects more apparent, while a coating with less sheen will help conceal them.

There’s another aesthetic aspect of sheen: The shinier the paint, the more it will reflect light, rather than absorb it. So, if you want to brighten your surroundings without inflating your electric bill, consider using wall paint with some significant sheen–trading up from a flat paint to, say, a semi-gloss coating. The difference will be apparent.

Some of the reasons sheen level is important have to do not just with the appearance of your paint on day one, but rather, the way it will look years later.

“Paints with higher sheen are tougher, more durable, more mildew resistant, and more stain-resistant than those with a flat or matte finish,” says Zimmer. “They’ll hold up better over time.  If the room you are painting is heavily used, it’s wise to select a wall paint from the glossier side of the spectrum.”

Kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms are clearly candidates for semi-gloss, or even high gloss wall paint; so, too, are rooms that are frequented by guests, children, or pets. On the other hand, walls in lesser-used spaces such as entranceways or spare bedrooms will likely hold up well even with flat or low-sheen paint.

Should they ever become soiled, glossier paints are much easier to clean too. High gloss and semi-gloss paints, in particular, will easily give up fingerprints and many other common stains with just light scrubbing. As a result, they’re ideal for use not just on walls, but also on windows, doors, and baseboards.

Author: Blog Contributor
Posted: March 20, 2017, 7:00 am