What are your listing photos saying to potential buyers? Listing photos are the first opportunity to grab the attention of a potential buyer so listen up! 95% of buyers see your listing on line before they decide to spend their valuable time to actually set foot inside. As a professional home stager, I spend hours each week surfing through listings and critiquing photos for areas of improvement. And let me tell you, there are plenty of them. Sellers often don’t even look at the photos that were taken of their home nor do they realize the impact photos have on the marketing efforts.
Preparing for the photo shoot is the Seller’s responsibility. Take time to prepare for the shoot and avoid staging mistakes. Here are some tips and insight from the buyer’s eye.
Still not sure? I’m here to help! Give me a call for a walk through consultation, redesign or full home staging in Michigan.
I've seen it many times. So has your Realtor. The eye roll. The heavy sigh. Hands thrown in the air. "What am I supposed to do with all this stuff?!"
Moving can be stressful and packing becomes overwhelming when you have accumulated years or even a lifetime of stuff. Today’s busy sellers have jobs, families and house hunting to juggle. Whether staging your home to sell or simply packing up to move, the maxim less is more always applies!
First, concentrate on one room at a time or even one space at a time, like a closet, built in cabinets, bathroom vanity or kitchen cupboards. The important thing is to negotiate your time so you can stop at any time and be DONE with that particular space. I like to work from the top of a home, down or start with the least used room like a guest room, den or basement so when that space is finished, you can close the door with at least some assurance that it will stay clean and organized while you turn your attention to other areas.
For instance, if you only have an hour or two to spare, don’t attempt the entire master bedroom. Focus on the closet or dressers as a smaller task so when you’re done, you’re done and can start in another area at another time. For the same reason, if you are setting aside an afternoon, concentrate on one room that can be accomplished in that time period. Don’t try to get the entire house done in one day because (A) it won’t get finished and (B) you will end up with piles and messes everywhere. Clutter creates stress for the mind so the goal is to have your work area cleaned up so you gain a true sense of accomplishment and peace.
More importantly, follow through at the end of each task by taking unwanted items to the trash, donation center, consignment or storage so accommodate for that time as well. So…”I have 1 hour to spare, I will clean out the dressers, decide what will be donated, re-sold, thrown away or put in storage and then move them there. Task accomplished! Tomorrow I will do more”.
If you are moving and have followed my advice, you might want to consider having a garage sale because you will most likely accumulate enough items to justify the time. Instead of placing items in tubs or boxes, simply move them straight to the garage and start setting up for your sale. Big ticket items like furniture sell quickly at garage sales. Home décor accessories also sell well. Stage your sale so it doesn’t feel like a flea market mess. Show buyers how well some items can go together by color or era. Price items to “sell” and negotiate willingly. Price items as a bundle so the buyer has to take all. Remember, you are trying to get rid of things so let them go!
Having a garage sale accomplishes 2 things. You get a few extra bucks and items are carried away by other people. In addition, when items don’t sell for cheap prices, you will feel better about letting them go to a donation center and writing it off on your taxes. I recently had my garage sale and made $600 the first day! I put that chunk in the bank and pocketed the money I made the second day. I don’t recommend a long 3 day weekend sale. Most garage salers won’t visit the second or third day because they think all the good stuff is gone. I held mine on Thursday and Friday. Friday was half off everything and I closed early to have the rest of my weekend off. It was easy cash and the donation center is picking everything else up. DONE!
This little gem was post flip. The owner completely remodeled the bathroom, kitchen and living room. Installed new windows, carpet and fresh paint throughout before renting it to a friend for a short time. New lighting and stainless steel appliances are just a few of the nice details that come with this home.
From a professional stagers point of view, I determined that the buyer demographic would range from a young family to a single woman. I designed the staging to reflect a convenient eat in kitchen, plenty of room to relax in the living room and a peaceful master with a bonus spot to read or escape without disturbing anyone.
Here are some before and after photos that show how staging allows potential buyers to envision themselves living in a home instead of just touring an empty space.
For the past year, I’ve been scouring real estate websites for a new home. Of course, as a professional home stager, I can hardly get past the dark, dingy photos. Unmade beds, dark brown paneling, cosmetic covered bathroom sinks and wallpaper. Oh, the wallpaper! No wonder they are selling.....they must be miserable there? And then there is the mysterious lonely vase of flowers in every room. The exact same vase of flowers, that is. I think it wanted some attention so it followed the photographer around.
Needless to say, though the home may have had the right amount of bedrooms, a decent size kitchen and the coveted storage space I desire…..I just can’t get excited about any of them. I feel the dread of disappointment just from knowing that there will be too much work to do. And why would I pay that price for the opportunity to work my butt off for the next few months before I can or would want to move in?!! Recently updated kitchen, it says! Sorry, but I don’t consider 2010 as recent. That just means that it will need to be updated again in the next couple of years and there is 7 years of gook in the corners of those cabinets.
Now, I’m a professional home stager, right? I have vision so I can see past the clutter but as a potential buyer, I need to make some kind of emotional connection with the space. Like most buyers, I’m looking to upgrade, not go backwards.
Then the day came, when I got a tip that a couple in the area was thinking about selling. I scooted over there to look. Hmm, it appears to be the right size. It has extra out building storage. The lawn is manicured and lush. The curb appeal was excellent so of course, being me, I waltzed up and knocked on the door. I was greeted by a smiling couple and explained the circumstances. They happily gave me the tour, apologizing that they were not expecting company so the house was not as clean as it would be for a showing. I beg to differ….the house was immaculate!
Right away I noticed tall ceilings and a gas fireplace. Bonus! The tour went on to reveal an all seasons party spot, more bedrooms than I had hoped for and a large kitchen. Each room was neat and tidy, beds made, counters clear and her taste was equivalent to mine. The traffic flow was perfect and focal points were highlighted. This lady had a talent for decorating. One room had been set up with bunk beds for grand kids and I could see my future grand kids there. I could literally see them and they aren’t even born yet! The kitchen table was positioned perfectly in front of the sliding doors that led to the deck and I could see dinner gatherings taking place. I could see myself cooking in that kitchen. I could see all of this so well that I became a little emotional inside. The bedrooms are a little small and I didn’t even look at the closets but I didn’t care. The staging had connected with me emotionally and allowed me to see what life could be like living there.
This is it! I’m in love! We exchanged contact information and I’m prepared to make an offer. The next day I woke up and thought, wait a minute…her staging worked on me! And I’m a stager!
Whether you need an entire vacant home staged with luxurious decor or your occupied listing needs some styling in order to emotionally connect with buyers, I can help and I love doing it!
There’s an old saying in the real estate biz that goes like this…..
”If it smells, it won’t sell”. It was true when you bought the home and it's true now. Have you ever walked into a home and instantly picked up on odors? Did you realize that there was a pet residing there before you actually saw it or gained a sense fish was on the menu last night? Potential home buyers are even more intuitive because they are contemplating spending money and and can quickly be turned off by mystery odors. Here are a few tips for those that already have a home on the market or are considering selling your home in the future because mystery odors can be death to a sale.
I have written about the importance of preparing and staging a home for sale. Realtors and Home Stagers fully understand the strategy behind it and we can push our client’s pretty hard because we want the best for them. We want them to reach their goals and get the highest return on their investment. Today, I felt it was important to remind ourselves that a home can be more than a monetary investment. For a seller, it may also be an emotional investment. A home holds memories of life gone by, hard work and a sense of security in the world. The process of letting go can bring excitement about the future but it can also bring a sense of sadness and loss. There are lots of reasons for selling a home like, moving up, a growing family or a new job! But, there are also reasons that aren’t so exciting. You see, I know, because I’ve experienced them first hand.
My “marriage” home was a fixer upper. I poured my heart and soul into it. I brought my babies home to it. I learned how to garden, raised pets, buried pets, loved, lived and thought I would die there. It was never meant to be a starter home and although it was the first, it was a forever home. So when I got a divorce and had to leave, it was like cutting off an arm.
Last year, I experienced selling my childhood home. My parents had built that house and raised 4 daughters there. Though I had grown up and moved away, I always knew where “home” was and I visited my mother often. There were memories in every corner. I couldn’t walk down the hall without remembering our cat always had her kittens in that closet. The Christmas tree was always in the same corner. Many holiday parties and I could still see my family gathered in the kitchen. When mom passed, friends and neighbors stopped in to talk about the old days. The house held memories for them too. As the trustee and a professional home stager (thank god), I carried out my duties and knew what had to be done. The packing, donating, sorting, painting, fixing and staging was stressful enough. Each step of the process felt like I was erasing an entire era. It felt like I was betraying my memories. The loss of a parent and then the family home was, at times, unbearable. It was difficult just to call a Realtor. By the time I found myself at the closing table, I was numb.
I think it was a survival tactic put forth by my brain.
Next week I get to do it again. Ugh. This time it’s my aunt’s home that my mother had inherited. Although I didn’t grow up there, it still holds memories and a nostalgic tie to family and the past. It also represents pleasant and exciting dreams of the future. I tried to keep it. I wanted to own it and retire in that warm place with tropical breezes. But alas, it’s not in the cards. The trip will be bitter sweet. I will say my goodbye’s and there will again be tears.
So Realtors and Home Stagers alike….remember, the house you are excited to get your hands on, can hold a lot for the seller. At times, they might seem difficult to work with. At times your meeting may seem like a counseling session when all you want to do is paint and replace that hideous tile or get your sign in the front yard. Be there for them! Be gentle, be kind and respectful. Listen and understand that detaching can be like letting go of a life, love or dream.
©Staging Consultants, LLC 2017
As the Realtor fumbles with the lock box, a couple stands on the porch closely examining everything around them. The door, the frame, the home’s exterior and the porch beneath their feet. They begin to notice the generations of bugs that have lived and died in the spider webs that cling above their heads.
BINGO! The door is open and they can’t wait to get inside before they too become dinner. They were wondering if creepy crawly creatures live inside too? As they land on the cracked tile of the vestibule, their wonderment is interrupted by the lingering aroma of air fresheners, pets and your last dinner. Is that fish or pizza, they silently ask each other with a mere glance from above a turned up nose? As they remove their shoes, with socks sticking to the floor, they begin the showing and the Realtor begins the story….3 bedrooms, 2 ½ baths with the big back yard you are looking for! With anticipation the group begins to make their way through your home. The pre-approved couple had been anticipating the showing. They had seen a few listings that day but nothing seemed to fit the bill. You see, the dog just had puppies, little Jimmy will be going to school soon and has a sister on the way. They had been working hard to get their starter home ready for the market and mom is in nesting mode so the new home has got to be move-in-ready. They aren’t too picky but they are not interested in painting, shopping for flooring or living in a construction zone. Nor do they want an allowance for these items just because you didn’t want to deal with it either. Unfortunately, despite the good advice you’ve been given from both your Realtor and Professional Home Stager, you decided the buyer’s would pay top dollar and look forward to making this home their own. You came to this conclusion right after you told your Realtor that you also wanted to look at move-in-ready homes. As the couple is repeatedly underwhelmed with empty room after empty room, old wall to wall flooring, they begin to worry about how their furniture will fit in the room or go with the 1980’s mint green walls? Mom notices layers of dust on the funeral parlor curtains you so generously left behind and wonders if she can muster enough relatives to help her clean the entire place? Dad can feel the weight of the “honey do” list compiling in mom’s mind and that’s going to conflict with his hunting season around the corner. Standing between them and the big back yard of their dreams is the kitchen from hell. The on-line photos did not do it justice. From floor to lighting, appliances to counter tops, this is not the home for them. They had actually made up their minds when their feet hit the sticky tile floor but didn’t want to be rude to the Realtor. At this point, the Realtor is working hard to sell the allowance and how easy it would be to take out that wall! They’re out! A back yard resembling the grounds of Graceland wouldn’t be convincing enough.
Eventually you get the feedback that the home needed too much work. Again and again. Eventually you lower the price. Again and again. The investment you were originally advised to make in preparing and staging your home seems small now compared to the painful hit you are taking on the price.
Why would I fix up a home I’m going to sell, you had argued in the beginning. Now you know why.
As a professional home stager and real estate enthusiast, like 90% of potential buyers, I spend a lot of time on real estate websites to see what the market has to offer. Often I see listing photos that just make me scratch my head. I’m talking about the empty room with one lone table or chair. A living room with a valuable fire place and not so valuable lone plant or grandmas sofa that the sellers gladly left behind. Apparently the local donation center didn’t want these items or they wouldn’t sell so my question is, “why did you think the buyer would want them?” Or, “perhaps the seller thought this was an attempt at staging?”
Despite the best of intensions, 2 plates on a counter or a couple of wall art pieces on the floor aren’t doing the space any favors. My favorite is the vase of fresh flowers but the rest of the home is empty. Is it the home’s birthday?
Now, I understand that sellers may be on a tight budget and think that a few pieces of left over furniture is better than nothing and I also understand that Realtors only have good intensions when they keep a few items in their car for a quick staging but here’s the thing…..No furniture is better than abandoned furniture and no décor is better than a few scattered pieces of donated décor. Here’s what you didn’t know until now. Both of these scenarios can distract and turn potential buyers off in many ways. First, the photo. The listing photo is the first opportunity to attract the buyer. Professional staging is marketing to both the camera and the buyer. Professional stagers know that they need to stage for the camera. A few pieces of scattered décor isn’t staging and does nothing for a listing photo.
Second, left over furniture can leave a buyer feeling anxious, sad, confused and full of questions during a showing. Buying a home can be stressful under the best of circumstances so why contribute to the stress? Buyers will wonder even if they don’t say it out loud, will that old sofa be here when we move in? Are we responsible for getting rid of it? Why was it left behind? Did the donation center reject it too? Are we going to have to have a garage sale just to get rid of this stuff? How many people or pets have been on that chair? Ewe! Homes will be shown by many agents and most won’t know why items were left behind so they can’t answer these questions.
Real Estate Agents with good intensions will tote a small collection of items that they donate to the staging cause. Unfortunately, this collection usually consists of items they no longer use in their own home so it’s not typically the latest in style or trend. In addition, a few scattered pieces of décor isn’t staging with a purpose. Again, professional staging is marketing of a lifestyle and is directed at the demographics of the most likely buyer. 2 plates, a plant and a couple of pieces of wall art do not contribute or accomplish this goal. In fact, it’s just distracting for a buyer’s view to be interrupted by these items or left over furniture instead of focusing on the valuable attributes of the home. At the end of the day, don’t hinder the sale of the home with poor attempts at staging. Hire a professional stager or leave the home completely empty.
So you’ve decided to sell your home. News flash, nobody wants to pay for old dirt. As buyers tour, they need to gain a sense that the home is well maintained and move-in-ready clean. Not the average spring cleaning but a detailed, every nook and cranny, I can move right in and submerge myself in the bath tub on day one clean! Every drawer, every cupboard, every shelf, every handle, everything! Your goal is to return everything to as “new” condition and shine as possible. From experience I can testify that the process can take days and be back breaking so here are some tips to help your efforts. First, hire out the big jobs like washing windows. Professionals have the crew and equipment to get the job done in just hours when it could take a home seller a day or two. Windows should be done last. Just before the listing sign goes up. The same goes for floors and carpet cleaning. Second, start with rooms/spaces that are least used so they stay clean when you’re working elsewhere. Basements and guest bedroom/bath is usually a good start. Third, arm yourself with the right tools and products in a tote. Include a toothbrush for tight spaces and single edge razor blade for tough, stuck-on grime. Rubber gloves and a light mask help avoid harsh chemicals. Fourth, Pay attention to details like that space around the door handles, window and door tracks, switch plates, baseboards, tile grout, registers and door trim. Also, look up! Are there dead bugs in light fixtures? Cob webs? Dirty ceiling fan blades? You can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to fingerprints, dust and dirt accumulation. Lastly, don’t forget the outside. Walkways, patios, driveways and siding will brighten up significantly with a good power wash. Many window washing companies offer this service as well. All listings need a deep, move-in-ready cleaning but especially a vacant listing because buyers have nothing else to look at but the finishes. Your home is competing with others and will leave a good lasting impression if it’s the clean one!
©Staging Consultants, LLC 2017
An investment in staging can pay off big in terms of higher offers and a shorter sale cycle. Typically a professional stager is called to consult or bring in luxurious furniture and decor to a vacant home. If you’re occupying the home, there are a few low or no cost DIY steps you can take to improve the outcome of showings and listing photos.
One, hang window curtains high and wide to create the illusion of taller ceilings and larger windows. Instead of placing rods at the top of the trim and ending at the trim on either side, hang rods higher (depending on curtain length) and wider. Usually an extra foot on either side is a good start. You may need to un-hem existing curtains to gain the extra height.
Two, swap out the short shower curtain for a long window panel to add drama. Using a longer window panel and a tension rod, hang the panel as high as you can. (depending on the length of the panel) To the ceiling, if possible! Grommet curtains work well.
Three, cut fresh flowers and greenery from your own garden for a welcoming, colorful centerpiece.
Four, shop in your own home to gather items of a like color for styling one or more rooms. For instance, you might be surprised how many Red items you have scattered around your home. Candles, pillows, books, vases and wall art are all good candidates. Try to repeat the same color at least 3 times in a room.
Five, look up! Are there dated ceiling fans and light fixtures that have probably been there since you originally bought the house? Replace them with modern flush mount lights. A box of 2 can be purchased at most big box stores for around $15.
Lastly, simply eliminating a dated, damaged or tired item will help update a space and it doesn’t cost anything to get rid of it. Tired, dirty or dated window treatments? Simply take them down. Damaged furniture? Get rid of it or move it into storage. Has your front storm door seen better days? Take it down. An entry without a storm door is actually more inviting to buyers. Not to mention that it costs all of $5 to paint your main front door with a sample can of fresh paint for a pop of color that will improve curb appeal.
I have been helping sellers prepare their homes for sale for 10 years. Even if you’re on a tight budget, make every effort you can to improve the marketability of your home.
© Staging Consultants 2017