Posts Tagged ‘home selling’

Home Staging: One of the Three “PRs” to a Successful Sale of Your Home

November 1, 2012

Home staging New York

When selling your home, there are three key strategies to a successful sale of your home.

What is a successful sale? A successful sale achieves these two objectives:

  1. Selling your home quickly
  2. Selling your home for your desired sales price

What are the three key strategies?

  1. PRicing your home correctly
  2. PRomoting it properly
  3. PResenting it at its best

And, you cannot implement just one or two of the strategies without the other(s) and expect to achieve to sell your home quickly and for your desired sale price.

home stagingPRicing Your Home Correctly

Everyone wants to get the highest possible price for their home, though some approach setting the list price unrealistically.  They list it at what they want to get, not what the market will bear.  A home is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it.

The best thing you can do is to engage a real estate agent rather than trying to sell it on your own.  A professional real estate agent knows the local market and what similar properties have recently sold for.  They also know what properties in your condition have sold for.

What are the benefits of PRicing your home correctly?

  • It attracts more potential buyers, and attracts them early in the sales cycle
  • The more potential buyers, the greater the number of potential offers
  • The more offers, the more potential for a bidding war
  • Properties priced at their proper value make it easier for buyers to secure a mortgage
  • There is no need for price reductions (a.k.a. “chasing the market”), which make the seller appear desperate to sell and the buyer to question if it’s still overpriced since it wasn’t priced properly to begin with
  • It will sell more quickly than  if it was not properly priced from the beginning

Home Staging New York CityPRomoting It Properly

Over 90% of home buyers start their search on the Internet, so it’s important that your home be found, and once found, it is displayed attractively.

Again, using a professional real estate agent will increase the likelihood of both your home being found and that it is listed online in a way to attract buyers.  Be sure to ask them for their marketing plan, which should include more than how it is listed on the internet.

There are many, many things that an agent can do to promote your home, and this is not an exhaustive list:

  • Hiring a professional photographer who specializes in taking real estate listing photos
  • Preparing the listing information in a way to highlight the best aspects of your home and neighborhood
  • Holding open houses with fellow real estate agents and potential buyers, and knowing when to hold them
  • Using social media to promote your home
  • Mining their contacts to promote your home
  • Preparing property-specific sales materials, including brochures or one page handouts

PResenting It At Its Best

So, you’ve priced the home properly and your agent comes up with a great marketing plan.

But what is going to create that powerful emotional connection a buyer feels when they walk in the door and just have to have it?

What’s an emotional connection?

  • They picture themselves and their family living there.
  • They want to live the lifestyle you’ve portrayed in your home. Let’s face it, most buyers are trading up, not down.
  • This is where they want to live instead of just “this is a nice room”.

What’s an emotion you don’t want to evoke?

  • The “ick” factor because your home is cluttered, dirty, outdated, smelly and/or in disrepair

  • The feeling from the buyer that they are intruding on your personal space due to too many family photos, religious objects, trophies and collections

apartment staging

  • The knee-jerk reaction of offering a reduced sales price because the home needs repairs and updating
  • In a vacant home, NO emotional connection
  • In a vacant home, bewilderment as to where and if their furniture will fit

bedroom before home staging

  • In a vacant home, wondering what the room is used for

If your home doesn’t look good to begin with, the best photographer in the world is not going to be able to mask that.  And even if they can somehow enhance the appearance of your home with their photography, once a buyer steps in the door and sees it doesn’t look (or function) like what they saw in the photos, you will lose him or her.

A professional home stager knows how present your home in its best possible light by:

  • Eliminating the “ick” factor and your personal taste from the home (remember, your home is now a product to be marketed)

after staging

  • Knowing the target buyer market and appealing to that market through staging with the right furniture and decorative accessories

after home staging

  • Implementing inexpensive updates to enhance the home’s appeal without expensive renovations

Before Staging

Before Updates

After staging

After Painting and Replacing Light Fixtures

  • Properly using furniture and decorative accessories to define the rooms

After staging

  • Emphasizing the positive features of your home and downplaying the negative features

After staging

Furniture, decor and window sheers downplay the brick building out the window

Really, the sales process starts with home staging.  By staging your home (PResenting it at its best), your photos will look great online which will help get buyers in the door (PRomoting it properly).  Home staging can even increase the list price and ultimate sales price of the home (PRicing it properly).

© Copyright 2012 Designed to Appeal, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

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About the Author: Donna Dazzo is president and owner of Designed to Appeal, a home staging company serving New York City and the Hamptons. Designed to Appeal helps homeowners and real estate agents sell homes quickly and profitably, by expertly creating an environment that buyers want to live in. Designed to Appeal also helps homeowners not looking to sell with interior redesign, which involves using mostly what the homeowner already has. Donna writes frequently on home staging and interior decorating and design topics.
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How to Make a Bathroom Show Better Without a Renovation

June 19, 2012

Are there inexpensive ways to make a bathroom show better when you are selling your home, without a renovation?

The answer is a resounding YES!

In fact, when someone is selling their apartment or house, I don’t recommend a renovation as the buyers would more likely want to renovate for their own tastes and preferences.

So the objective becomes removing the “ick” factor.  What can we do to spruce up and update this space so that the condition and datedness don’t turn off a buyer?  We want to get past the buyer turn-off and at least get the bathroom to a condition where the buyer can move in and live with the way it looks for a few months before they tackle the renovation.

First of all, bathrooms should be CLEAN.  I always tell my sellers to envision a hotel bathroom:  it should be sparkling clean and free of any personal toiletries, shampoos, children’s bath toys, etc. when showing the home.

The biggest impact in updating a bathroom but at a reasonable cost is changing out outdated and/or poor condition:

  • Lighting fixtures
  • Faucets and, if possible, tub and shower fixtures (a friend of mine spray painted her brass fixtures a brushed silver and they looked great and are still holding up two years later)
  • Cabinet door and drawer handles (this same friend spray painted these, including the hinges on the doors)

You don’t have to shop at high-end specialty stores for these items.  Try a Home Depot or Lowe’s.


Bathroom Before Updating


 Bathroom After Updating

(tiles regrouted, tub recaulked, walls painted, new accessories added)

The next biggest impact is to paint the walls.  Paint always freshens up any space.  But if the tiles are white, don’t paint the wall white. Choose a color that will add some contrast but is neutral such as pale gray or warm beige. And it there is wallpaper, remove it.

And if you are going to paint the walls, consider removing those large, frameless mirrors that span the length of the vanity.  These are dated, and smaller framed mirrors are more in fashion these days.

And if you’re not painting the walls and don’t want to remove the mirror, it can be updated by placing trim around it to give the appearance of being framed.

Then tackle the tub area.  If the tub is in poor condition, or of a dated color, it can be re-glazed by a professional for $400 to $500, much cheaper than removing and replacing the tub.  Often the grout between the tiles surrounding the tub is mildewed or crumbling.  A re-grouting can do wonders and make this area look like you just had new tile installed.  Also, removing old and moldy caulking at the top of the tub where it meets the tile, as well as where it meets the floor and re-caulking can give a fresh and clean appearance.

The sink, vanity and vanity top are additional areas to consider having a big impact if they are dated.  Depending upon the price point of the home you are selling, at the low end you can replace the entire unit for about $500 by buying one at the big box home improvement stores.

Or if you have an outdated oak vanity, painting it in a darker color with a semi-gloss finish, and affixing new hardware will go miles towards an updated look. 

Bathroom Before Updating


 Bathroom After Updating

(outdated wallpaper and brass towel bar removed, walls painted, new accessories added)

You can also just replace the vanity top, some of which come with a sink, for a few hundred dollars.

No need to replace the toilet usually, however replacing a well-worn toilet seat is a must!

In some cases where towel bars and toilet paper holders are affixed to drywall, rather than to the tile, these can be changed out as well.

Then of course there are the finishing touches:  new shower curtain and hooks, bath rug, and fluffy bath towels; artwork; matching accessories such as soap dishes and wastebasket; bath oils and soaps placed strategically in a tray or basket with rolled up towels and a loofah or back brush; and a potted fake orchid.  You want buyers to feel like they’ve walked into the closest thing to a spa and imagine themselves enjoying that space.

And before the open house or other showings, make sure:

  • Toiletries, shampoos, used bars of soap are stored away
  • Wastebasket is emptied
  • Toilet seat lid is down
  • Fluffy new towels are out and used towels are in the laundry

© Copyright 2012 Designed to Appeal, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

About the Author: Donna Dazzo is president and owner of Designed to Appeal, a home staging company serving New York City and the Hamptons. Designed to Appeal helps homeowners and real estate agents sell homes quickly and profitably, by expertly creating an environment that buyers want to live in. Designed to Appeal also helps homeowners not looking to sell with interior redesign, which involves using mostly what the homeowner already has. Donna writes frequently on home staging and interior decorating and design topics.

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Taking Home Staging to the Next Level: Lifestyle Merchandising

April 3, 2011

Did you know that home staging is all about “lifestyle merchandising“? Yes, when you are selling your home, you are actually merchandising a lifestyle to potential buyers.

Recently I graduated from an advanced staging course given by Matthew Finlason, host of HGTV’s “The Stagers”. It was an intense, two-day course attended by only a handful of New York City area home stagers. 

What I learned will be put to good use and will differentiate me from most of the other stagers out there: 

  • Casting a “wide net” with staging in order to attract the broad range of buyers is a thing of the past.


  • Crafting a “perfect lure” to attract the right buyer with staging represents a paradigm shift.
  • While it’s fine to neutralize a home of its occupant’s personality, don’t sterilize it.
  • Home staging is now known as Target Staging.
  • Before you stage, it’s important to first learn the demographics of the potential buyer (age, income, marital status, etc.).
  • It’s also important to focus on the psychographics of the buyer (the industry they’re in, their leisure time activities and interests, the profile of retailers in the area which will be an indicator of  the profile of the residents).
  • Stage this buyer’s dream house with colors, shapes, textures, objects and artwork that will make them emotionally connect with the space.

  • Stage in order to “tell stories” based upon the buyer’s profile.

  • Staging is “lifestyle merchandising” and “dialing in the buyer”.
  • Stage to create a life that buyers can aspire to and relate to.
  • Stage so that your company aesthetic shines through and every staging doesn’t look like every other staging you do.

© Copyright 2011 Designed to Appeal, LLC.  All Rights Reserved. 

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About the AuthorDonna Dazzo is president and owner of Designed to Appeal, a home staging company serving New York City and the Hamptons.  Designed to Appeal helps homeowners and real estate agents sell homes quickly and profitably, by expertly creating an environment that buyers want to live in. Designed to Appeal also helps homeowners not looking to sell with interior redesign, which involves using mostly what the homeowner already has.  Donna writes frequently on home staging and interior decorating and design topics.

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Tips for Living in a Staged Home

February 12, 2011

So you’ve had a professional home stager come to your home that’s for sale and you’ve implemented everything that he or she recommended to get your home sold fast and for top dollar.

You’ve removed your family photos so that buyers can imagine themselves living there rather than feeling they are encroaching on your private space.

You’ve decluttered and have discarded, donated, given away or stored off-season clothing, extra furniture, toys, files, papers, books, magazines and other items so that buyers will feel like there’s adequate storage in your home.

You’ve organized your kitchen cabinets and closets so that buyers will get the impression that you are a homeowner who really takes care of the home.

But now what?  You’re thinking “We live here.  How can our home possibly continue to look like it’s show-ready all the time?”

Well, relax, it doesn’t have to look show-ready ALL the time, but there are some things you can easily implement so that you can become show-ready at the last minute.

  • Now that you’ve pared down to what is necessary for living in your home for the next few months, this is not the time to be buying more toys and kitchen and electronic gadgets, etc.

  • Don’t shove everything you don’t want to be visible into kitchen cabinets and closets at the last minute.  Buyers will open every drawer and door unless it’s a piece of furniture.  Remember, we want buyers to think that there is adequate storage and you are an organized homeowner.
  • Purchase a basket or box with a lid that you can put keys, today’s mail, bills, calendars, unread newspapers, etc. into and keep it in an out-of-the way place such as a shelf in a closet, or in an appropriate place, like on a desk.  Besides eliminating a cluttered appearance, doing this will also protect your privacy.

  • Buyers don’t want to see your toiletries or hairdryer on the sink vanity in the bathroom.  If you don’t have a closed cabinet under the sink in which to store these, purchase baskets to store these items.

  • Buyers also don’t want to see your half-used bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash and soap bars in the shower or bathtub.  Think “hotel”.  Would you want to check into a hotel room and find that? Purchase one or two of those plastic or metal shower totes with a handle so that you can easily put all of these items into it and store away under the sink or in a linen closet.
  • Your home stager most likely recommended that nice, new and fluffy towels be displayed during showings (remember, think “hotel”). So, you have two options:

                      – Keep the “nice” towels, neatly folded, on the towel bars, and hang your towels on a hook or hooks on the back of the door. Remove the latter and put in the washing machine or laundry bin prior to a showing.

                     – Fold the “nice” towels neatly and then roll them up.  Store them in a linen closet or under the sink.  Then prior to the showing, remove your daily towels from the towels bars; then unroll and hang up the display towels.

  • Since children only play with probably 20% of their toys, and you’ve pared them down (the toys not the children) at the suggestion of your home stager, make sure you have storage bins or chests in which to put these items.  They make for a much neater appearance.

  • Whether you’re selling your home yourself, or have enlisted a real estate agent, pets and all evidence of pets, need to be removed before a showing. Not every buyer is a pet lover, and some are allergic to pets, so for these and other reasons, take the pet and food bowls, leashes, beds, litter box, toys, cages, etc with you if possible or bring to a neighbor’s, friend’s or family members’ home while yours is being shown. 
  • If you make the beds and fluff up the pillows every day, you don’t have to scramble at the last minute in case you get a call that someone wants to see your house.
  • If you and your family get in the habit of putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher immediately after using them, this makes for a much quicker last minute clean up of the kitchen.
  • Another suggestion is to take a laundry basket and walk through the home and put everything in there that you don’t have room to store away.  This works best for a home in the suburbs rather than for a city apartment. The laundry basket can be stored in the basement or garage.

There are many other things that should be done prior to showing your home.  Keep an open house checklist handy so that you know exactly what to do.

© Copyright 2011 Designed to Appeal, LLC.  All Rights Reserved. 

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About the AuthorDonna Dazzo is president and owner of Designed to Appeal, a home staging company serving New York City and the Hamptons.  Designed to Appeal helps homeowners and real estate agents sell homes quickly and profitably, by expertly creating an environment that buyers want to live in. Designed to Appeal also helps homeowners not looking to sell with interior redesign, which involves using mostly what the homeowner already has.  Donna writes frequently on home staging and interior decorating and design topics.

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DIY Home Staging Returns 299% of Your Investment

January 18, 2011

Low cost, do-it-yourself home improvements produce a significant return on investment when a home is sold.

HomeGain just released the findings of their survey of 600 real estate agents nationwide to determine the top 10 low-cost (less than $5,000), do-it-yourself  home improvements for people getting their home ready to sell.

Based upon return on investment (ROI), Home Staging ranked 3rd as the most profitable improvement that can be made to a home, yielding a 299% ROI.  An average investment in home staging of $550 produced a $2,194 price increase.

Home staging as defined by the survey includes adding fresh flowers; removing personal items; reducing clutter; rearranging furniture; adding new props or furniture to enhance room/s; playing soft music; and hanging artwork on walls.  A home staging checklist compiled by HomeGain offers more tips for making the home attractive to buyers so that they can envision themselves living there.

Cleaning and Decluttering ranked number 1, with a 586% ROI.  Almost every real estate agent (99%) recommended this in the survey.

Cleaning and decluttering was followed by Lightening and Brightening which produced a 313% ROI.  Lightening and Brightening include opening windows; cleaning windows and skylights inside and outside; replacing old curtains or removing curtains; removing other obstacles from windows blocking light; repairing lighting fixtures; and making sure windows open easily. 97% of real estate agents recommend this step.

80% of agents surveyed recommended home staging to their clients.  Here are what a few had to say:

“We believe staging is so critical. We own our own staging company and provide a $3,000 staging for free as a part of our listing package.” – Carl Medford, California Prudential Realty, Castro Valley, California

“Staging, I think, is the most important item when selling a home. I usually give my clients a free consultation, so no need to hire anyone. But if they hire someone, I think it’s the best money they will ever spend. You need a neutral party who knows what homebuyers focus on when looking at homes.” – Harry Martin, RE/MAX United, Escondido, California

“Homes that are “Priced to Sell” and “Staged” to look better than all other competitive listings are the homes that are selling in this challenging housing market.” – David Jaffe, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Arlington Heights, Illinois

“I always tell clients to stage. It’s more effective than price reductions and usually costs less in the long run.” – Edward Sullivan, Massachusetts

Here are the full results of the survey:

For more information on this survey, as well as for definitions and homeowner checklists for each improvement, click here.

© Copyright 2011 Designed to Appeal, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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About the Author: Donna Dazzo is president and owner of Designed to Appeal, a home staging company serving New York City and the Hamptons. Designed to Appeal helps homeowners and real estate agents sell homes quickly and profitably, by expertly creating an environment that buyers want to live in. Designed to Appeal also helps homeowners not looking to sell with interior redesign, which involves using mostly what the homeowner already has. Donna writes frequently on home staging and interior decorating and design topics.

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Choosing a Home Stager: 10 Things You Should Consider

January 12, 2011

While not every home seller and real estate agent believes in the power of home staging when selling a home, there are those who do, thanks to the proliferation of shows on television and real life success stories.

So, if you have made the decision to hire a professional (and that is a key word, “professional”) home stager, then what should you be looking for?

There are a number of things you should consider:

1.  Portfolio – every home stager should have a website (this in itself is something you should look for) where you can view his or her portfolio of homes they have staged.  There should be before and after photos for occupied homes and at least the after photos for vacant homes.

And make sure it IS their portfolio, not some stock photos they purchased, or worse, photos they have stolen from another home stager’s website (this has been known to happen).  While it may be difficult to prove the photos are really the stager’s, one way you might be able to tell is if some of the photos look amateurish and others look totally professional and expensive. 

You can also meet with the stager and ask to see their printed portfolio of before and after photos.  And in particular, ask to see pictures of homes that are in a similar market and style as yours.

2.  Experience – This goes hand-in-hand with number one.  While every newbie deserves a break, experience and longevity should be given high consideration.  All things being equal, it is better to go with someone who has been a home stager for awhile and has the portfolio to prove it as they have more experience dealing with any stumbling blocks. Also, think “survival of the fittest”.

3. Decorative Style  –  one of the goals of staging a home is to make it less taste-specific and less personal, and instead make it appeal to the broad range of buyers.  Having said that, every stager usually has some unique decorative style. 

However, what you want to make sure of is not every home they stage looks just like every other home they stage.  Each should be decorated and accessorized for the type of home it is, the location and the profile of the buyer for this type of home. 

Some stagers have their own inventory of furniture and others use a furniture rental company. The advantage of using a furniture rental company is that there is a wide selection in terms of both price and style. 

However, some home stagers are forced to use their own furniture because there are no furniture rental companies in their area.  So make sure they have an extensive inventory.

Lesson: Beware of the cookie-cutter stager.

Also beware of the home stager who seems to do primarily small vignettes, such as a totally empty room save for a corner with a chair, lamp, artwork and tiny rug.   This accomplishes nothing in getting a buyer to fall in love with the home and want to live there. 

4.  Education and training – home staging as a profession has a low barrier to entry, meaning that anyone can call themselves a home stager.  And don’t be fooled by those home stagers saying they are “certified”.  There is no universal certification or licensing of home stagers.  One thing you do want to see however, is that they did take some interior decorating or design and/or home staging education as this shows seriousness on their part and a commitment to this profession.

Beware of the home staging hobbyist, e.g., the wife of a friend of yours who likes to decorate.  Staging involves much more than that.  It’s about downplaying the negative features and emphasizing the positive features of a property.  It’s about emphasizing the focal point of the room and making sure there is proper flow within a room and between rooms so it’s easy for buyers to navigate.

5.  Testimonials and Referrals – some home stagers’ websites have testimonials from homeowners and real estate agents, but go beyond just reading them.  Ask for the names and contact information of their past clients who are not listed on the website. 

Contact them and ask them these questions:

  • How did you like working with_________?
  • What do you think he or she did best?
  • What are some of the things you feel he or she could have done better?
  • Was he or she responsive, professional and reliable?
  • Was the project completed in a timely manner?
  • Were you pleased with the results?
  • Overall, how satisfied were you?
  • Any advice for me in working with_____?

6.  Feesdon’t choose a home stager because they are the cheapest of the ones you have called.  Seriously consider all of the things listed here.  And don’t think that the one with the highest fee also means he or she is must be a great home stager. It could just mean that they have found they can charge this price and only deal with a certain clientele. 

If they offer free consultations, you have to ask yourself, why would they want to give away advice for free?  Is it because they are desperate for business, or are you really going to be getting any good advice?

If their bid for a vacant or occupied staging comes in much lower than others, it may be because they will be using inexpensive accessories or furniture or cutting corners to cut their time in the project.

7.  Insurance – make sure your home stager has insurance.  They should at least have general business liability insurance.  Some even have professional liability insurance, also more commonly known as errors and omissions insurance.  Those companies that have employees should have workmen’s compensation insurance.  Ask for a copy of their insurance certificate(s).

8. Personality and Traits- Whether you’re a homeowner or a real estate agent, you want to make sure you will be able to work with the home stager.

  • Do they have the type of personality you would get along with or one that might annoy you? 
  • Do they appear to be professional and serious?
  • Have they been responsive to you so far?  Did they return calls and emails promptly?
  • Do they seem organized?
  • Are they a good listener?
  • If you are a real estate agent, how do you think they might talk to your clients when it comes to providing advice on sensitive things they need to change in order to get the home sold?

9.  Written Agreement – an agreement in writing between the homeowner and the client will protect both parties.  And it also points to the professionalism and seriousness of the home stager.

10.   Resources – particularly if you have an older home that needs to be sold and particularly if you don’t have your own resources, a home stager who knows good house painters, handymen, landscapers etc. can be very valuable.


Do you have anything you’d like to add to the list?  Are there any points you disagree with?

© Copyright 2011 Designed to Appeal, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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About the Author: Donna Dazzo is president and owner of Designed to Appeal, a home staging company serving New York City and the Hamptons. Designed to Appeal helps homeowners and real estate agents sell homes quickly and profitably, by expertly creating an environment that buyers want to live in. Designed to Appeal also helps homeowners not looking to sell with interior redesign, which involves using mostly what the homeowner already has. Donna writes frequently on home staging and interior decorating and design topics.

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Home Staging New York: You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover – Or Maybe You Can

December 22, 2010

BooksThere it was  —  among the stacks of new fiction books on the table.  I was immediately drawn to it by its cover.  I could tell that it might just be my kind of book.  So I picked it up and started reading the jacket.

A recent segment on CBS’s Sunday Morning Show got me thinking about how staging a home for sale is like the careful thought and preparation publishers go into when designing a book cover.

In the segment, “Judging Books by Their Covers”, publisher Jamie Raab said:

Book covers are important. You go into a bookstore and what do you see? You see covers. The bookstore experience is about the design, the color, the shape, the feel.  I mean when you walk into a bookstore, sometimes you’re overwhelmed. But aren’t you stimulated by the art? And it is art. “

I have always said that staging is the art and science of successfully selling a home.

Staging a home for sale with the right furniture, decorative accessories and artwork is also about creating an experience for the buyer.  The goal is to connect to the buyer emotionally.  You want the home to portray a lifestyle that the buyer is aspiring to.

Just as publishers invest a great deal of time and money in developing the right book cover, home staging is an investment of the home seller’s time and money to properly position the property to the market in which it is selling.

“A good cover tells you what kind of book it is…but ultimately”, says Raab, “it comes down to what sort of statement the book makes.”

And that is the goal of staging a home – to make a statement or statements to the potential buyer:

  • You too can live like this if you bought me
  • I can fulfill your dream
  • The homeowner takes such good care of me
  • I may not have everything on your list, but does it really matter when it feels so good just being here?

In the Sunday Morning segment, Peter Mendelsund who designs book jackets for the publisher Knopf, refers to a book jacket as a billboard.

“They’re like carnival barkers,” Mendelsund said. “Someone comes into a bookstore and all the books are shouting, you know, ‘READ ME!’ ‘READ ME!’  And you hope that yours either shouts the loudest or entices in the most intriguing way!”

It’s the same with homes that are for sale.  They are all shouting “BUY ME! BUY ME!” when a buyer looks online, but the home that looks the best is the one that is going to be seen. Staging a home will make it stand out from all of the others that are on the market in the same  price range and neighborhood.

“You’re designing covers so that someone is drawn to it will pick it up,” said Mendelsund, “read it and then maybe buy it.”

© Copyright 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

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Home Staging New York: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

December 8, 2010

Here we go again!

I was reviewing the New York Times weekly online  feature, “On the Market in New York City” showing apartments for sale, as I always do each weekend, and once again found many examples of how these listings can benefit greatly by some expert and professional home staging advice.

I know we have all probably seen worse photos of homes for sale, but after all, these are featured properties in the Sunday New York Times!

Here is what I, a professional home stager, have to say:

The artwork in this kitchen (below) is so HUGE, both in terms of the size of the piece of art as well as its subject, a pair of hands, that a buyer’s eyes will immediately go towards it, rather than the kitchen.  This is such a huge distraction. 

Also, the counters have too much clutter:  Pare down the knickknacks on the counter under the art, and limit counter appliances to no more than three.

Come to think of it, an updated dining set and lighting fixture would also help.

Continuing with this same apartment, this living room (below) could certainly benefit from removing the easy chair.  It’s unnecessary and is crowding the room and impinging on the kitchen, never mind the fact that it’s unattractive.  Also, place the area rug under the front legs of the sofa, not floating under the coffee table.

It’s best to keep exercise equipment out of the bedroom (below).  In this case, it’s blocking the closet and tells the buyer there’s not enough room for anything in this apartment. 

Also the messy and overstuffed bookcases are distracting buyers from the great view!  And as all home stagers know, it wouldn’t hurt to invest in some nice bedding and throw pillows to make a buyer envision themselves relaxing on this luxurious bed, taking in the view.

And finishing up our analysis of this same apartment, what room is this?  A study? Excercise room? Den? Guest room? One cannot tell.  Each room should have one purpose and one purpose only so as not to confuse the buyer or send the buyer the message that the apartment is so small that four functions need to be shoved into one room.

Moving onto the next apartment for sale, a duplex in Brooklyn.  I am sure this is a very nice home, but without any staging, it is not shown to its fullest potential.

For example, the living/dining room (below) photo shows a high chair in it.  Not only is this unattractive, but homes for sale must appeal to the broadest range of buyers so that they all can envision living there.  A childless older couple or a single person cannot picture themselves living in an apartment that screams “A family lives here!”.

Also, the fans on the console and across the room (lower right corner) tell the buyer this apartment must have air circulation issues, or worse, is hot.

Moving onto the bedroom.  Keeping the crib in the master bedroom (below) tells a potential buyer with children that there’s not enough room for them in this apartment.  It may be that the crib is in the bedroom because the parents want to be near their infant, but it should definitely not be shown in a photo, nor during an open house or viewing.

Also, I’m sure other home stagers would agree, this bedroom could benefit from the addition of a table lamp on the nightstand and a piece of art over the bed to warm things up.

Is that a play pen I see in the foyer (below)??!!  This is totally unacceptable.  Not only does a potential buyer stumble upon this when walking through the front door, they are also told “there is not enough room in this apartment for your baby’s things”.

When stepping out onto this patio (below), buyers should think “Aaah…I can’t wait to be sitting out here relaxing and reading my book or entertaining my friends”.  While I know it’s winter, do we really need to see the collection of empty pots?  These should be stored away and out of view.  If possible, the furniture at the far right end should be brought here so it is the first thing the buyer sees.

And last but not least, I love the furniture in this living room (below), but it is too young and hip and colorful (red, blue, green, black, white) to appeal to the broad range of buyers.  The red console and the zebra end table at the very least should be replaced with more neutral pieces, and the blue wall painted a more neutral color.

© Copyright 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

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Home Staging New York: Curb Appeal Checklist

September 5, 2010

As they say, a first impression is a lasting one.  If your home doesn’t look good from the outside, buyers are going to believe it doesn’t look good on the inside either, so they’ll just drive away, or not click on your online listing to see the interior photos. 

Also, if your home looks beautiful, loved and taken care of on the outside it speaks volumes for what the buyer perceives the inside looks like.  It also says to the buyer “I am the type of homeowner that takes care of EVERYTHING – the roof, the furnace, repairs, etc.” 

Lastly, with outdoor space, even if it’s just a terrace in a condo or high-rise city building, buyers are buying EXTRA SQUARE FOOTAGE, so the outside space should receive the same care and even staging that is done on the inside of the house. 

The first thing to do is to clear away the “clutter”. 

Next, clean

Next, make needed repairs. 

Then, do some easy, but impactful “wow” factor transformations

Here is a checklist to get your home’s exterior space in show-ready condition: 

Step 1: Clearing the “Clutter”

  • Keep grass mowed and edges trimmed regularly (weekly)
  • Remove and replace any dead or dying shrubs
  • Consider removing or trimming any excess large trees or shrubs, especially those blocking the windows
  • Prune hedges and plants
  • Remove plant debris
  • Rake the lawn and walkways
  • Weed yard and garden
  • Shovel snow and de-ice walkways
  • Remove and store garden equipment, kids’ toys, pool rafts, empty clay pots, and any other extraneous items
  • Hide trash cans out of view
  • Keep driveway clear of extra cars (park down the street) during showings
  • Remove excess clutter from and neaten up shed and garage
  • Wrap up your hose or hide it altogether in a hose storage pot or wheel
  • Remove excess furnishings from front porches, decks and patios to create spaciousness
  • Take down or move umbrellas if they block any kind of view
  • If it is safe, take down the portable child fence around the pool
  • Remove “Beware of Dog” signs
  • Neatly stack the firewood

Step 2: Cleaning

  • Remove mildew and cobwebs from eaves and lighting fixtures
  • Power wash any mildew off (or at least hose it down) house, roof, patio/deck, outdoor shower, cement, furniture, awnings, umbrellas, walkway, front door area and driveway
  • Clean windows, front door glass and sliding glass doors inside and out
  • Clean light fixtures
  • Clean exterior and interior of BBQ
  • Sweep and wash garage floor
  • Sweep shed floor
  • What you can’t stow away when you’re decluttering, at least clean and place it to the side
  • Clean out gutters
  • Though not visible, clean chimney (safety reasons)
  • Clean grease spills on driveway and garage floor
  • Clean pool, hot tub, ponds and other water features
  • Wipe down or hose your curbside mailbox 

Step 3: Repairs

  • Fertilize grass
  • Water grass more
  • Add grass or sod to bare spots
  • Paint exterior
  • Paint trim
  • Paint or stain fence
  • Paint, or oil and seal the deck
  • Repair or replace windows, screens and shutters
  • Repair or repaint front door
  • Replace mailbox and house numbers
  • Replace welcome mat
  • Polish door fixtures, numbers, mailbox, light fixtures
  • Remove unattractive storm doors, especially those hiding a beautiful front door
  • Remove unattractive awnings
  • Replace furniture
  • Repair or replace torn awnings and umbrellas (or remove totally)
  • Repair or replace worn or missing side or roof shingles
  • Replace burned out bulbs
  • Align downspouts with gutters
  • Repair cracks in foundation, sidewalks, etc.
  • Repair or replace broken deck planks/slats
  • Repair broken fences
  • Repair any doors to garage, shed, outdoor shower, pool house, pool equipment storage, etc.
  • Repair hose faucets, sprinkler systems, pool/hot tub filters and pumps
  • Repair or replace any other broken or worn items

Step 4: Make “Wow” Factor Transformations

  • Paint the front door a contrasting color to the house such as red, maroon, black, etc.  This is one place where it’s OK to use a bright color when selling your home.
  • Paint the garage door  
  • Update mailbox, house numbers and driveway and front door lighting fixtures
  • If you have a large front door area, consider adding a bench, chairs, small table 
  • Add/replace doormat
  • Update lighting fixtures on walkways, pool area, patios, decks 
  • Consider adding walk up lights (solar are inexpensive) 
  • Update the planters to match the style of the house
  • Add huge pots of color with flowers (in every season if possible) to at least the front steps, if not also the patio/deck. 
  • Consider hanging flower pots around the front porch and deck/patio
  • Plant flowers in the front and back yards – flowers do wonders! 
  • Add mulch to the flower and shrub beds to provide contrast and a neat look 
  • Flowers and/or mulch can also be used to cover any bare areas in your planters or under trees for a clean, manicured look 
  • Consider adding shutters or window flower boxes to accent windows
  • Add a fountain to backyard
  • Add a table and chair set to backyard patio and decks
  • Create an outdoor entertainment room by adding pillows to chairs or setting the table with a stack of plates, wine glasses and bottle of wine
  • Replace worn and outdated outdoor furniture, as well as furniture that doesn’t match the price point of the home

Do you know of any other things homeowners can do to enhance their curb appeal?

2nd, 3rd and 5th images: Simon Howden /

4th image: Suat Eman /

© Copyright 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.


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Home Staging New York: DIY Homeowner Gets Quick Sale

July 23, 2010

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on hiring a home stager.  If you are willing to do the work a home stager recommends yourself, then a few hundred dollars investment in a home staging consultation can result in thousands of dollars of return in selling your home and/or thousands of dollars in savings on mortgage, maintenance and taxes as the home could sell sooner than if it had not been improved prior to putting it on the market.

Recently, we received a call from Nancy E. Love, Associate Broker and team member of the Elaine Clayman Group at Brown Harris Stevens to do a home staging consultation at a studio apartment in Brooklyn Heights, New York.  

She convinced the homeowner to stage his apartment before putting it on the market by giving him this choice:  

“You can stage the apartment and get a higher price or leave it as is and I can aggressively market it at a lower price.  However, when you saw the model apartment in the building in which you bought your new apartment, you fell in love.  That’s what we want buyers to do with your apartment.”

So, Designed to Appeal came in and spent two hours at an investment of only $300 and left the homeowner, Jack LaFata, with a list of things to do and to purchase.  Some homeowners ask us to do all or some of the work, but Jack wanted to do all of it himself.  

So he had the apartment painted, decluttered and put things in storage and went shopping for new bedding, throw pillows, a rug and other items.  He spent about $1,950 on this and $80 per month in storage, so his total investment in staging, including the consultation, was only 0.7% of the list price.  

And it paid off.  The results were dramatic as you will see in the pictures below and he should be proud of himself.  

Jack received a full price offer during the first week at a private showing, but this ended up not going to contact.  He then received an executed contract less than 40 days from the time the apartment went on the market, at 95% of asking price.   

Here is what the homeowner had to say about the home staging consultation:

“Donna’s insight and assistance were invaluable in getting my apartment ready to sell. The apartment feels light and airier now, more comfortable, better flow, more coordinated, inviting, and much less cluttered (I don’t even remember what I used all that clutter for to begin with) I wish I’d have thought of staging the apartment earlier for my own enjoyment.”
And here is what the real estate agent had to say about the results:
“We have an accepted offer at close to the asking price.  Thank you for your expert staging!  We wouldn’t be here without your professional help.  Much gratitude and praise (from a long time skeptic of professional staging).”

© Copyright 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC.  All Rights Reserved

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Home Staging New York: But…but…but – Even More Objections to Home Staging, Overcome

July 2, 2010

Whether it’s your home for sale or your client’s home for sale, not every seller is convinced right off the bat that staging the home is necessary to get it sold.

In a previous blog, I addressed three common objections from both real estate agents and home sellers to staging a home when it’s for sale:

  • But, why would I want to be spending money when I can’t afford to?  I just need to sell my house/apartment.
  • But, why can’t buyers just look past the décor and envision themselves living here? 
  • But, my home looks good.  It doesn’t need to be staged. 

In another blog, I addressed three more objections:

  • But, why can’t the real estate agent or homeowner figure out what needs to be done to stage the home and make it look better?
  • But, similar homes in the neighborhood and/or building sold without staging.
  • But, the home has already been decluttered and cleaned.  That should be enough.

So if you find yourself or your client asking the following questions or stating these objections, carefully consider these answers before you make that final decision not to stage.

But, my home is in a great location/area/neighborhood and I’ve priced it right.  I don’t need to stage.

Yes, location is one of the most important factors in setting your home’s value.  And pricing it right is also important.  But the right price is only one of the three legs of a three-legged stool when it comes to doing the right thing to sell a home successfully.  The second leg is good outside marketing, and that’s what a good real estate agent brings to the table.  The third leg is inside marketing, or staging – improving the home to make it more desirable.  Remove one leg, and the stool collapses.

But, if it doesn’t sell in 3 months, then I’ll consider staging it OR Let’s see if someone makes an offer after this weekend’s open house.                                        

If a home seller waits to stage if it doesn’t sell, it then becomes a stale listing.  The owner will be offered less than the listing price because potential buyers know it’s been on the market for a while.  Also, the owner and agent end up missing out on any interested buyers who first saw the house and decided it wasn’t for them for one reason or another. Why not capture them right away because the home looks its best?

But, why bother with making the home look better when the new owners will change it anyway?

While a total kitchen and/or bathroom remodel may be unnecessary prior to selling, the reasons you want to at least do some updates like painting, new carpeting, floor refinishing and changing out lighting/plumbing fixtures is to 1) first, eliminate the turn-off that buyers will have once they step into the space, and 2) to improve the space enough so that buyers feel they can move in and wait awhile prior to doing their own updates.  And things as simple as repairs need to be done so that buyers don’t make a mental checklist and offer a lower selling price.

But, I don’t have the time to stage.

Ask yourself, do you have the time to wait around while you’re home sits on the market? Your home is probably the single greatest asset you have, so why gamble with the equity? 

The more time you put into making your home attractive to buyers, the higher your potential sales price will be.

Take one thing at a time.  First and foremost is decluttering and paring down.  You are going to need to pack anyway at some point (hopefully), so why not take the time now to go through everything and discard, donate or sell anything you don’t use or haven’t used in the last year or two.  Pack up and store items and out-of-season clothing that you won’t need in the next 6 months.  Then move on to the next project, whether it’s painting or getting around to those repairs you’ve been ignoring.  Enlist the help of a professional home stager and get your family involved too.

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© Designed To Appeal, LLC 2009-2010.  All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: But…but…but – More Objections to Home Staging, Overcome

June 20, 2010

Whether it’s your home for sale or your client’s home for sale, not every seller is convinced right off the bat that staging the home is necessary to get it sold.

In a previous blog, I addressed three common objections from both real estate agents and home sellers to staging a home when it’s for sale.

So if you find yourself or your clients asking the following questions or stating these objections, carefully consider these answers before you make that final decision not to stage.

But, why can’t the real estate agent or homeowner figure out what needs to be done to stage the home and make it look better?

The real estate agent should be spending his or her time doing what he or she does best – marketing and showing the home to potential buyers and renters.  Wouldn’t a homeowner rather know the real estate agent is doing this instead of spending hours rearranging furniture, shopping for accessories, and managing repairmen? 

Owners can’t stage their own homes because they’ve stopped seeing all of its flaws.  Most homeowners don’t have the “buyer’s eyes” that a professional home stager will when walking through the home.  The owners have gotten used to walking past the overgrown bushes in the front yard blocking all of the light from coming into the windows.  The dated wallpaper and lighting fixtures have been in the bathroom so long that they seem to be part of the family.  And homeowners may already be overwhelmed enough with the stress of finding a new home and moving that they won’t have the time or energy to focus on making the home look appealing.

But, similar homes in the neighborhood and/or building sold without staging.

Do you know if they sold at asking price?  Perhaps the owners had to sell for less than what they were asking for because their house looked less than desirable. Do you know how long the home was on the market? Why take that risk?  Staging works.  According to the Real Estate Staging Association’s 2009 study, both occupied and vacant homes that were on the market before they were staged spent 78% less time on the market after they were staged.

But, the home has already been decluttered and cleaned.  That should be enough.

That’s great that the homeowner has already gone ahead and decluttered and cleaned.  However, staging is much more than that.  A professional home stager can see things with a buyer’s eyes.  Staging highlights the best features of a home and downplays the negative features.  Staging ensures that the home appeals to the broadest range of buyers.  It’s a product to be marketed, and a professional home stager will help you market it to its highest potential.

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Copyright 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: Don’t Underestimate the Value of a Staging Consultation

June 19, 2010
A few months ago I was contacted by Jessica Flagg, a real estate agent with The Corcoran Group.  She told me she had spoken with her client and that her client had agreed to having a home stager come in to do a consultation on her soon-to-be listed Carnegie Hill apartment.
When I spoke to her client, Suzanne Dyer, she said to me:
 “I doubt you’ll need to be here for more than a half hour.  We really just need to figure out what to do with the dining room that I’m using as an office”. 
I told her my minimum is 2 hours, and I’m sure we can find some other things to do.
Well, after an initial consultation lasting 3 1/2 hours and a follow up staging lasting 1  1/2 hours, Suzanne was one very happy client:
“The staging process was definitely a worthwhile investment.”
and so was her agent:
“Your work really made a difference in getting the apartment sold quickly.”
The apartment went into contract in 50 days at full asking price!.
Here are some before and after pics of the transformation.

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Copyright 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC  All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: But…but…but – Objections to Home Staging, Overcome

June 11, 2010

Whether it’s your home for sale or your client’s home for sale, not every seller is convinced right off the bat that staging the home is something as necessary as getting a home inspection or a pre-approved mortgage is for the buyer.

So if you find yourself or your clients asking these questions, carefully consider these answers before you make that final decision not to stage.

But, why would I want to be spending money when I can’t afford to?  I just need to sell my house/apartment. 

The softer the market, the more you must differentiate the property from others crowding the market.  Wouldn’t it be great to get a bidding war going because your property looks so much better than everyone else’s? Remember, staging is an investment not an expense.  A study by the Real Estate Staging Association showed that homes that were staged after being on the market for a while, spent 78% less time on the market than before they were staged.  Home staging can increase profit in two ways – by increasing value and by reducing expenses (mortgage, taxes, utilities) by decreasing the time the home is on the market.  And according to the National Association of Realtors, the longer the home is on the market, the lower the selling price will be.

But, why can’t buyers just look past the décor and envision themselves living here? 

Only 10% of buyers can visualize the potential of a home.  Most buyers cannot look past a cluttered or unappealing room.  And while most of them start out looking for a home based upon logical criteria, for example, 4 bedrooms, family room with a fireplace, they end up purchasing based upon an emotional connection they feel when they’re in the home.  When a house feels like home, they will reprioritize their list. They may be willing to give up the fireplace because staging has transformed the property into a “dream” and they can envision themselves living there.  It has to portray a lifestyle they aspire to.

But, my home looks good.  It doesn’t need to be staged. 

Every home that’s for sale can benefit from the objective eye of a professional home stager.  Most homeowners are so used to their home’s flaws they don’t see them anymore.  Also, you cannot view your own home through a buyer’s eyes. Once your home is on the market, it’s a product that needs to be positioned just like any other product on the market.  And it’s not about your taste anymore!

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© Copyright 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC All Rights Reserved


Home Staging New York: Convince My Clients to Stage Their Homes? What’s In It For Me?

May 12, 2010

As a real estate agent, you may be wondering why you should make the effort to convince the homeowner whose home is on the market to stage their home.

Here are ten reasons why you should do so:

1. Gives You More Control – That’s right. Here’s a common scenario for you – the seller may desire a certain dollar amount for the home but you know that unless some changes are made, the seller won’t get it. By incorporating the home staging process, you are controlling more of the outcome of the sale.

2. Gives You Credibility – When you bring in “experts” who do this for a living it adds to your own credibility. Would you seem credible if you also appraised and inspected the homes that you sold? No, it waters down your expertise because people know you can’t be an expert in everything! When you’re focused on your own field of interest and outsource to professionals it gives you added credibility in what you’re good at – selling homes!

3. Listings That Show Well Reflect Well on You – Wouldn’t you rather be the agent who’s known to always have beautiful, attractive, updated, neat and clean homes to sell than the agent who always seems to get stuck with the unattractive homes to market?

4. Differentiates You from the Competition – You believe in doing everything possible to sell your clients’ listings and you are one of the few agents who have a full team of professionals, including a home stager, to help you do so.

5. Protects Your Relationship and Listing – You have to have a strong client relationship that gets you through the entire process. Home staging is a form of constructive criticism that sometimes addresses hard, personal issues like smell and cleanliness. Your clients EXPECT a professional stager to instruct them on these issues but are not completely comfortable with you as their real estate agent doing this.

6. Greatly Improves Your Outside Marketing Campaign – The time, effort and money you spend on marketing the home on the outside will be twice as effective when you have photos of beautifully staged rooms (with updated accessories) vs. empty rooms, or worse, unattractive furnishings. With over 90% (according to NAR) of home buyers searching the Internet FIRST, it’s critical that your home marketing photos be outstanding and have impact.

7. Gives You More Money – Home staging is pure economics. When you improve upon a product, you increase the demand thus raise the price. Higher sales price = higher commission.

8. Makes You Sell Listings Faster – Buyers have MANY home choices in today’s market and they want a home that is turnkey ready. Statistics show that staged homes sell faster than unstaged homes.

9. Less Time on the Market Improves Your Reputation – In a National Association of Realtor Profile of Sellers it was reported that over a quarter of seller’s MOST IMPORTANT EXPECTATION is that their real estate agent will sell the home WITHIN a specific time frame. In today’s market, that’s not an easy task among the many homes available UNLESS your listings stand out. In a referral-based industry, happy clients mean more listings and the reward of a job well done.

10.Gives You MORE Listings – Happy clients talk and when over 40% of sellers find their agents through referrals, expect more listings! Incorporating home staging into your selling process makes you more value-added to potential clients.

© Copyright Designed to Appeal, LLC 2010 All Rights Reserved. 

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Home Staging New York: The Forgotten Rooms When Staging a Home for Sale – The Basement

May 9, 2010

In 1973 a film entitled “Don’t Look in the Basement” was released.  It was originally entitled “The Forgotten” in reference to the ignored patients of an insane asylum, but someone thought it would attract more movie goers with a new title.  After all, basements can be creepy. 

Dark, dank and dirty is what usually comes to mind, never mind those hidden corners where something just might pop out!

Well, perhaps “The Forgotten” was an appropriate name after all, since basements are one of those areas in a home that is often overlooked when staging a home for sale.

Basements, whether finished or unfinished, add valuable square footage to the house.

Basements should receive as much attention as the rest of the house when it comes to the Must Do’s of staging:

  • Begin by decluttering.  Discard, sell or donate any items you haven’t used in years.  Basements tend to collect items we think we might use someday, such as old faucets, old appliances (left), toys, luggage pieces, etc.  So ask yourself “will I ever really use this?”
  • Consider renting a storage space for items that you are keeping but won’t use or need in the next 6 months, especially if you are considering renting storage for unneeded furniture and items in the rest of the house.  It may be worth it.
  • At the very least, buy moving boxes and begin packing.  Or purchase plastic storage bins with covers as you can probably use them for storage in your new home. Stack the boxes or bins neatly, or even better, purchase metal shelving to stack them on.

Is that a ping pong table underneath all that stuff?

Time to declutter.

  • The basement should be cleaned thoroughly.  You want to remove the “yuk factor” when buyers view the space. Sweep and mop the floor, or vacuum the carpeting.  Make sure you remove cobwebs and dead bugs from corners and along the ceiling.
  • Clean the windows and remove excess vegetation from outside the windows to let in as much light as possible. Open the curtains, if any.
  • Wipe down exercise equipment, ping pong table, and anything that has collected dust.
  • Install extra lighting, even if it’s a bare bulb and pullchord, in dark corners or areas.
  • Paint the floors of an unfinished basement (check with your paint store for the best product).  It makes the room brighter and cleaner in appearance. And it doesn’t have to be the typical gray.
  • A fresh coat of paint on sheetrocked walls also goes a long way in making the space appear clean and as valuable as the upstairs space.
  • If your basement doesn’t have walls separating each room, it’s important to designate areas, each with a purpose.  For example if you have excercise equipment or children’s toys scattered about, designate an area for each so that it appears that the basement has an excercise “room” and a children’s “playroom”.

In the photo below left, the hockey table is mixed in with exercise equipment (pilates machine and bike). The hockey table should be grouped with the foos ball table which was in another area of the basement.  In the photo below right, the bicycles are mixed in with a couch, rug and two chairs (out of photo).  The bikes should be removed and this area should be set up as a den or living space.

If the washing machine and dryer are in the basement, set up this area as a laundry “room”.  Make sure this area is sparkling clean, since no buyer wants to do laundry in a dirty area.  Set up an ironing board and iron and/or a table to fold clothes.  Store laundry supplies neatly on shelves or in a cabinet.

The same goes for other areas in a basement: home office, media room, workspace, arts and crafts space.  Make sure each area is clearly designated.

Buyers expect the basement to be dark and dirty.  Why not surprise them with a clean, bright, organized and neat space?  The buyers will also perceive that you are the type of homeowner that takes care of things and doesn’t neglect the ongoing maintenance of the house.

Copyright Designed to Appeal, LLC 2010 All Rights Reserved


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Home Staging New York: Finding the Right Balance with Furniture

April 19, 2010

Imagine a boat where all of the weight was shifted to one side.  What would happen to the balance of that boat?

Balance in a room is the same thing. 

It’s affected by two things: 

  • The size of the furniture
  • The placement of the furniture 

If most of the furniture is either very tall, very short, top heavy or bottom heavy, the room will be off-balance vertically

If most of the furniture is on one side of the room, the room will be off-balance horizontally.  

While balance in a room is also determined by and affected by the color, texture and style of the furniture, as well as the use of and color and style of art and decorative accessories, we will limit this discussion to furniture size and placement in a living room. 

1.  Start with the big pieces first.  By this we mean sofas and loveseats.  Assuming you already have a sofa and/or loveseats, place these first in the room, near to the focal point so as to emphasize it and not block it.  A focal point can be a fireplace, an entertainment center, or a window with a view. 

If you don’t already have one, then a sofa and/or loveseat is the first item(s) to purchase since it will determine the style, color, and size of all of the other pieces in the room. Also, take measurements of the sofa in case you intend on purchasing chairs, rugs, artwork and cocktail, end and sofa tables. 

You should also be aware that the style of the sofa/loveseat will determine its visual weight.  For example, a sleek modern sofa with straight lines, legs instead of a skirt, and straight arms, will have less weight than a sofa with a curved back, rolled arms and a skirt along the bottom. 

2.  Add Chairs.  The simplest way to achieve balance is to add two matching or color-complementary chairs to the sofa or loveseat seating arrangement.

Upholstered chairs, whether club style or slipper style, provide better visual balance to a sofa than a pair of wooden chairs. 

But make sure that the height of the chairs is no more than 5 inches taller or shorter than the height of the back of the couch/loveseat. 

In the illustration below, the furniture arrangement highlights the fireplace, the focal point, and is also balanced.  The fireplace is balanced by the large picture window on the opposite wall.

3.  Add Tables:  The next items to add to the seating arrangement are the end tables and cocktail table. 

End tables should be no more than 2 ½ to 3 inches higher or lower than the arms of the sofa or chairs to provide balance.   

Also, if the couch has its legs exposed rather than being skirted, then this visual lightness can be balanced by an end table with small legs or one with no legs, such as a cube, a small chest with drawers or an end table with shelves.  

A cocktail table should take up 2/3 to ¾ the width of the couch. A sofa table behind the couch is optional, however it too should not exceed 2/3 to ¾ of the width of the couch nor be higher than the back of the couch. 

4.  Tall bookcases, armoires, entertainment centers, wall units.  These are the items that can have a dramatic impact on the balance of the room, and because of their height and mass, must be balanced out. 

For example, an armoire or single large bookcase, both of which are taller than they are wide, can be balanced out if there is a fireplace with a piece of art or a mirror hung over the mantle on the opposite side of the room.  

A tall and wide entertainment center or a bank of bookshelves can be balanced out on the other side of the room by adding some vertical and horizontal weight to either side of the fireplace.  This can be accomplished by adding a chest and artwork hung over it to both sides of the fireplace.

In the picture below, the fireplace is balanced on the opposite side of the room by the console table with two lamps and a piece of art over it.  Further balance is achieved by adding chests and artwork to either side of the fireplace, rather than leaving these walls empty.

Copyright  © 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: A Checklist to Open House Success!

March 20, 2010

When your home is for sale and you’re living in it, it can be difficult to always keep it in show-ready condition.  After all, you, your family and your pet are living there day-to-day.

But, you have to think of an Open House as opening night for a really fantastic show and present your home in its best possible light.

Assuming you’ve cleaned thoroughly, made necessary repairs and upgrades, and implemented the expert advice and recommendations of a professional home stager, these are the “last minute” things to do before you show the house in order to make the most out of your potential buyer traffic.

You can use this checklist for both Open Houses and scheduled showings.

 Curb Appeal

  • Garage doors should be down and the front door wide open
  • Remove any debris, toys, trashcans, pet items etc.
  • Park cars down the street and away from driveway and front of house in order to give buyers clear picture of home


  • Excess toys should be packed up and stored; each child will choose a basket or bin of favorite toys to play with
  • Quickly go through home and pick up any extraneous stuff i.e. toys, clothes
  • Create a junk drawer or basket where last minute clutter (today’s mail, newspapers, etc.) can be stashed at a moment’s notice
  • Remove make-up, shampoos, hair dryers and toiletries from bedrooms and bathrooms, and store (a handled shower caddy is a fast way to transfer shampoos from shower/bath to bathroom vanities or linen closets)  
  • Securely store personal items and anything small but valuable
  • Turn ON every light in the house and light some candles (only in safe areas when you know your Realtor will be around)
  • Turn on interior lights in china cabinet or shelves
  • Open all blinds and window coverings for maximum light (unless there are privacy or view issues)
  • Ideally have windows open but make sure the home is a comfortable temperature
  • The house must be spotless, however, if not enough time, at least spray and wipe bathroom and kitchen counters
  • Vacuum high traffic areas (if time)
  • Fluff couch pillows, place throw strategically, organize coffee table
  • Fire in fireplace if appropriate
  • Close TV cabinet doors
  • Close closet doors except for walk-in closets
  • If time, set out “Emotional Connection Points” in each room i.e. set out kitchen place settings, patio trays etc.
  • If time, make arrangements for pets outside of the home (e.g. day care or friend)
  • Remove any pet dishes, litter boxes, leashes, dog cages, etc.
  • Empty all garbage cans (especially in kitchen and bathrooms)
  • Set out dress towels in bathroom
  • Toilet seat lids should be down
  • Keep music on low (use TV cable music station in order to keep uniform in every room)
  • Fluff and straighten beds and pillows in all bedrooms
  • Place fresh flowers in vases in strategic locations (but don’t overdo it)
  • All ceiling fans should be on low

Can you think of anything else I may have left off my list?

Copyright  © 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: The Art of Arranging a Bookcase

March 12, 2010
One might think that the arrangement of items in a bookcase is not art, but it is.

Color, balance, and space all play a big part.
Here are some hints to arranging a bookcase, whether built-in or free- standing, whether you’re staging to sell or not:
  1. First, remove all of the items from the bookcase.
  2. Discard or pack away paperback books (especially when staging as they can be sloppy-looking).
  3. Remove the dust jackets from the hardcover books, except coffee-table books to give the shelves a neater appearance (when staging).
  4. Group books and accessories separately so you can more easily see what to work with.  
  5. Group hardcover books by color of the spine.  I personally like to group books on the shelves by the spine color, but it’s really a matter of personal taste.
  6. Begin to stack groups of books (say 5 to 8 depending upon the widthof the books and the width of the shelf) vertically on either the right or the left of the shelf.
  7. Then, on the shelf underneath this one, group them towards the opposite end.  So if you grouped them on the right on the shelf above, group these ones on the left.
  8. In order to fill up more visual space on these shelves, you can append a short stack (2 to 3) of books laid down horizontally and acting as a bookend to keep the vertical books from falling down.
  9. You can also place a small object on top of these horizontal books, such as a glass paperweight or anything that’s not too large relative to the height of the vertical books.
  10. Balance the other side of these shelves with a taller decorative object, so that there’s height on one side with the books and height on the other side with a decorative object.
  11. Continue this pattern of books right and left on alternating shelves, and intersperse some of the shelves with the horizontal books.
  12. Also continue to intersperse the decorative objects on the shelves so that there is balance on each shelf and in the bookcase as a whole.
  13. Just as an artist steps back from his painting, keep taking a step or two back to look at the visual you are creating – it should be uncluttered, but not too empty, and should be balanced.
Look at these before and after photos and you will see the difference.  Which one is more pleasing to the eye?

bookcase before

 Bookcase After


Copyright  © 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: Our Recent Stagings Beat 2009 Staging Statistics

March 8, 2010

I recently wrote that if you ever doubted that home staging may not be the worthwhile investment everyone on the West Coast seems to think it is, updated statistics show that it is.

Home staging is basically presenting a house or apartment in its best possible light so that it is attractive to the broad range of buyers, so much so, that when buyers walk into the space, they fall in love and want to live there.  Home staging is about selling a lifestyle, not a house.  If you put yourself in the frame of mind of someone marketing a product, you know that packaging counts.  It’s the same thing when selling a house.

A study by the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) of homes that were staged in 2009 revealed that:

  • Vacant homes not previously on the market before they were staged sold on average in 42 days
  • Occupied homes that were staged before they were put on the market, sold on average in 39 days

Our experience with recent home stagings support, and even beat, the vacant homes number.

We recently staged a vacant one-bedroom apartment in New York City.  Both the homeowner and the real estate agent were smart enough to realize it wouldn’t show well without some furniture in it, and without a few cosmetic updates we recommended (painting the built-in bookcase white, updating the kitchen appliances and hardware to stainless steel, and hanging a chandelier to define the dining area).

After the updates and the staging, the homeowner accepted an offer at full asking price 23 days after the staging!

In a previous blog, I reported on another recent staging that had a signed contract 15 days after the staging at close to the asking price.

While two recent stagings is certainly not a scientific sample, they do support the RESA statistics.

View the before and after photos in this 90 second slide show. 

Wouldn’t you be more likely to make an offer after the staging, than if you walked into this apartment before it was updated and staged?