All articles have been provided by The National Association of Realtors.
By Amalie Drury, guest contributor
A great outdoor space is at the top of many home buyers’ checklists. So even if your listing doesn’t include a large lawn or an over-the-top patio, it’s important to show buyers that the home still offers the perks of an indoor-outdoor lifestyle. Be sure to avoid these common outdoor staging mistakes.
1. Overgrown Landscaping
Banish the weeds, and trim the bushes. Nothing makes a house look unloved faster than an overgrown lawn or a patio with dandelions poking through every crack. If the home’s current owners aren’t around to keep the landscaping in check, encourage them to hire a weekly service for the duration of the listing.
2. Lack of Furniture
It’s hard to imagine reading on the porch or serving dinner on the patio when there’s no furniture around. On the other hand, if buyers see a dining table with a festive umbrella or a pair of cushioned lounge chairs with a side table for drinks, they’ll perceive the space as valuable additional square footage where they can unwind with family or entertain.
3. Dust and Dirt
When patios and walkways go unused, they collect a layer of grime that should be removed when staging the home. Consider pressure washing surfaces and pay special attention when sweeping and dusting spots like exterior window ledges, thresholds, and basement stairwells.
To the buyer’s eye, certain items your sellers are used to seeing in their yard or on their patio can look like unwanted junk. Encourage your sellers to clear the clutter. Plastic storage boxes, toys (except for nice swing sets, which can be appealing in family neighborhoods), tools, faded furniture cushions, dated lawn sculptures, rusty grills … all must go.
5. No Flowers
In the right season, colorful blooms in containers, window boxes, or beds can greatly improve the perception of a home’s exterior and outdoor space. Even in winter, you can fill planters with greenery and berries to welcome potential buyers and make the home appear cozy and well tended.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amalie Drury is an expert on home design and furniture trends, writing on behalf of Crate and Barrel. She has covered related topics as a senior editor for magazine publisher Modern Luxury and as a city editor for women’s lifestyle site PureWow. She has also written for Time Out, the Chicago Tribune, and Sophisticated Living.
By Julea Joseph, guest contributor
Make sure you show off the living room in your listings. Here are some simple lessons in staging your living room to give a great impression.
Choose an on trend color palette that will appeal to buyers and showcase your home’s amenities. Tone on tone creates flow and space.
A simple, opened room arrangement explains the room’s purpose, and also sells square footage.
Add lifestyle defining accessories to create a story of how one could use the room. Create layers to give the space warmth and character.
Make sure to update, uncomplicate and unify interior decorating selections, such as window treatments and hardware.
Abbreviated doesn’t have to be boring.
These simple lessons in home staging should inspire a vision of the art of home staging. There is always the smart choice of hiring a home staging professional who can provide you with expert vision, those desired on trend ideas, and proper packaging of a home.
This post originally appeared at Tales of an Interior Stylist. Reprinted with permissions. Copyright 2017.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julea Joseph is the owner and lead designer at Reinventing Space in Chicago. Visit her website and blog at Julea.com.
By Patti Stern, PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating
This spring has been one of our busiest home staging seasons with many sellers enjoying the benefits of preparing their homes early and marketing to targeted buyers – boosting the value of their property and selling quickly. However, there are sellers who are hesitant and still need convincing that home staging – whether occupied or vacant – is a worthwhile investment, even in a hot market. Several key points can help overcome sellers’ uncertainty and assure them that staging before listing is a win-win decision.
1. Basic updates boost perceived value
Today’s buyers are looking for an updated home in move-in ready condition and will usually pay more if they feel good about it. Simple updates such as freshly painted walls in universally appealing neutral colors, modern lighting, and polished hardwood floors make an immediate statement online and in person and will ultimately yield a quicker sale for top dollar.
2. Helps buyers connect
Some buyers can be turned off by the cold feeling of an empty room or distracted by dated furnishings that suggest the home is old and neglected. According to the Real Estate Staging Association, a vacant property can take up to 78 percent more time to sell than comparable furnished homes. And with 95 percent of vacant or occupied staged homes selling in 11 days or less, there is no question that adding inviting style with modern furnishings helps buyers envision living in a space and get a better idea how a room can be used to fit their lifestyle.
3. Enhances key features
Buyers who can’t look passed dated carpeting or clutter that hides key features will most likely walk away immediately. Choosing a neutral palette with the right furniture arrangement and simple, elegant accents will allow architectural features to become a focal point, increase the perceived size of rooms and improve overall flow and ultimately make the property more memorable.
4. Bedrooms are valuable real estate
Every decision that is made when marketing a home to sell should focus on the targeted buyer’s lifestyle and needs. An experienced stager will provide recommendations for what style furnishings and décor will be appropriate based on the demographics you want to attract to the property. For example, an extra bedroom that is now serving as an office, hobby room, or gym should be converted back into a bedroom to appeal to millennials with young kids (see photo above).
5. Less stress
A professional stager will eliminate stress by making the home selling process turnkey for clients. They will manage the entire process to make a property market-ready — from paint color selection, lighting updates, window treatments, floor refinishing, furniture rentals to packing and organizing services. They will do whatever it takes to appeal to as many buyers as possible and get the property sold quickly and for top dollar.
For more examples of interior decorating and home staging, visit www.pjstagingdecorating.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patti Stern, principal, interior decorator and professional stager of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating, has been decorating and staging homes since 2005. She and her team provide turnkey, full service home staging and interior decorating to clients across Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. She also developed an award winning staging program for luxury homebuilder, Toll Brothers. Her company has received Houzz 2015 and 2016 Awards for Customer Service. Stern has been featured in Connecticut Magazine, the Hartford Courant, Danbury News-Times and on NBC Connecticut and FOX TV. She is a regular contributor to REALTOR® Magazine’s Styled, Staged and Sold. For more information, contact Patti Stern at 203-640-3762 or email@example.com
By Michele DiGirolamo, Guest Contributor from MoneyGeek.com
If you’re in the market for a new home, there’s a way to save the environment and some cash at the same time: Consider a “green” mortgage.
An energy-efficient mortgage (EEM), the umbrella term for these types of loans, allows buyers to fold expenses for energy-saving home improvements into their mortgage.
EEMs are an option if you’re buying or building a home and you want to add energy-efficient features, if you’re refinancing a mortgage for a home you already own and want to add energy-efficient renovations, or if you’re buying a new home that is already energy-efficient.
The idea is that, in the long run, the money saved on monthly utility bills will offset the higher mortgage payment. The projected energy savings from the lower bills could also qualify buyers for a larger loan amount and a better, more energy-efficient home.
And at the point of resale, homeowners will likely benefit again, as the energy upgrades can boost the home’s value and attract buyers in a competitive market.
Improving Your Home’s Energy Efficiency
Green mortgages can be used to finance a range of energy-efficient upgrades, from weather stripping to new heating and cooling systems to double-pane windows and solar panels.
A required home energy audit provides recommendations for energy-saving improvements and estimates of the costs and savings of those improvements. Lenders use this information to determine how much you’ll save in energy costs with each improvement.
Fannie Mae, the Federal Housing Administration, and the Department of Veterans Affairs all offer a version of EEMs. The amount of energy improvements a borrower can finance varies by program, ranging from about 5 percent of the value of the property through an FHA loan to around 15 percent with a conventional mortgage. A VA EEM, available to military personnel, caps energy improvements at $3,000 to $6,000.
Understanding the Green Mortgage Lending Process
While securing an EEM can be fairly simple for the borrower, it can be cumbersome for lenders unaccustomed to the process of managing the “work flow” of the energy improvements, says Tonya Todd, senior vice president of strategic products at Mountain West Financial in Redlands, California. This may be why they aren’t more common.
“The loan itself is easy; it’s the facilitation that takes some work,” Todd says. “Lenders that are successful at this will find a local energy-efficient mortgage facilitator. The facilitator handles everything from A to Z to ensure a smooth and timely process for all parties.”
The facilitator works with the buyer, the energy rater, the contractor, the realtor and the lender to keep everything moving to avoid delays.
“After closing, the facilitator will ensure the installation of the energy improvements are completed,” she adds. “It just makes everything much smoother.”
So, if you’re interested in pursuing an EEM, go for it — just be aware you may have to put some effort into finding a lender.
“Niche lenders do offer these programs and do them well,” Todd says. “However, a lot of lenders do not offer them because they do not understand the operational component, or they don’t have the support system internally.”
More Homeowners Are Going Green
While they’ve been around in some form since the 1990s, eco-friendly mortgages even today are not particularly well-known. But that could be changing, Todd says.
“Energy-efficient measures are becoming more popular especially as homeowners are purchasing older homes that may not be so environmentally friendly,” Todd adds. “People are more aware of being green. That’s why homeowners are looking for features that will help them save energy.”
The average household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills, with nearly half of that going to heating and cooling costs, according to the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection’s Energy Star program. There are significant savings to be had by improving a home’s energy efficiency.
Other Ways to ‘Green’ Your Home
Even if you’re not in the market for a green mortgage, there are measures you can take around your house to save energy and reduce your utility bills. The following are some tips — some simple, some more involved — from the Energy Star program and other experts:
- Turn your hot water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep your refrigerator at 37-40 degrees and freezer at 5 degrees.
- Install and properly use a programmable thermostat (this can save about $180 annually).
- Install low-flow fixtures.
- Do only full loads in the washer and dishwasher.
- Fix any leaky faucets, toilets, pipes, and your roof.
- Seal heating and cooling ducts (in the typical house, about 20 percent of the air in a duct system is lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts).
- Seal the “envelope” of your home – the outer walls, ceiling, windows, and floor (this can save 20 percent on heating and cooling costs).
- Replace the filters on your air conditioning unit, dryer, and furnace.
- Turn off ceiling fans when you’re not home.
- Set ceiling fans counter-clockwise in the summer to draw cooler air upward.
- Dust your refrigerator coils.
- Plant shade trees to cool your home.
- Request a home energy audit for more tips and advice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michele DiGirolamo is a former longtime reporter for United Press International and a freelance writer for MoneyGeek.com.
Provided by Principal Homebuyers
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).
Realtor.com® 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.
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 HSH.com 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.
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.
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 FlooringInc.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
ABOUT 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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
ABOUT 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 doneinaday.com, or follow her teams projects on Facebook, Instagram, Houzz, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.