Posts Tagged ‘real estate selling’

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.

Follow DonnaDazzo on Twitter

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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: 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? 

Home Staging New York: New 2009 Statistics – Staged Homes Sell 78% Faster!

February 26, 2010

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 they spent 78% less time on the market than before they were staged.

My own experience as a home stager supports this.   We recently staged a vacant one-bedroom apartment in New York City that had been on the market for 5 months with NO offers.  After we staged it, the owner received 3 offers in the first week and a signed contract less than 4 weeks from the date it was staged.

We weren’t surprised that the apartment had received no offers, since…

  • its black carpeting did not show well online. 
  • the built-ins in the living room were overwhelming and took up valuable space. 
  • the kitchen wallpaper was outdated. 
  • the terrace was dirty, cluttered and uninviting.
And that’s not including all of the negatives of showing a vacant apartment to prospective buyers.
After the homeowner agreed to our recommendations to correct the issues above, we staged the apartment with rental furniture and our decorative accessories. See the dramatic before and after photos:
Copyright  © 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: Home Sold in 8 Days!!

February 7, 2010
Home staging does work! A two-bedroom apartment in New York City needed to be sold, and sold quickly, because the owners were being relocated down south.  And it happened in 8 days!
But, let’s start at the  beginning of this amazing success story.
The furniture in all of the rooms was not showing off each room to its fullest potential (see the before and after pictures below):
  • The  dining room had a sofa in it
  • The living room had two dining room chairs and not much else
  • The master bedroom suite had a bunk bed for the children
  • The children’s room had a full bed and a desk set up as a home office

In my home staging consultation I recommended that the sofa be moved to the living room in front of the bookcase and that a dining room set be rented from a furniture rental company.

I also recommended that the furniture in the two bedrooms be switched.  A master bedroom with ensuite bathroom should be shown to its fullest potential.

Rather than repositioning their existing furniture, they decided to move themselves and their furniture out to temporary quarters in their new location, and rent furniture so that the home could be shown to its fullest advantage.
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The transformation was so dramatic and enticing that…

  • The real estate agent had 35 appointments in one week!
  • The homeowners received 3 offers at the first open house!
  • They ultimately sold it 8 days after the first showing!

The homeowner said:

“We had a very tight open house deadline with no room for error, but Donna still pulled off the staging beautifully – and it was completed with the given monetary budget. The apartment was not priced low, yet we received 3 offers and it sold 8 days from the first showing.”

The real estate agent said:

“….[this was] an amazing staging job…for my two-bedroom exclusive.  I know [the] staging helped my sales process tremendously.”

Home Staging Works!

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

Home Staging New York: What NOT To Do When Selling Your Home

January 31, 2010

I couldn’t believe my eyes!

Here was an apartment featured in the Sunday New York Times’ “On the Market in New York City” column.  As I viewed the pictures of this and the other two properties online with my home staging eyes, I cringed at the thought that  someone thought it was okay to photograph and sell these properties in their current condition.

While they are not horror stories, the three featured properties could all benefit from some free home staging advice.

So here it is:

1.  Upper West Side Condo – the personal photographs and wine bottle collection need to be removed.  Buyers shouldn’t be distracted by these and, more importantly, buyers need to envision themselves living in your space.  They can’t do that with your photos of your family, friends, vacations, etc. staring at them.

Also, while the seller and/or real estate agent think the pulley system for suspending the bicyle from the ceiling is an added feature of the apartment, it is VERY distracting.  The buyers’ eyes will immediately go towards that rather than the beautifully renovated kitchen with its unique oval window.

And couldn’t the bed have been made better before shooting the photo?  It looks like at the last minute the comforter and toss pillow were just thrown on the bed.

2.  Upper East Side Co-op – home staging is all about making the house or apartment appealing to the broad range of buyers.  While the homeowner might love the orange walls in the living room, MOST buyers won’t.  It’s okay to keep the orange toss pillows as an accent color, but it’s time to break out the paint and change the color of the walls to something more neutral (not white, but a soft beige).

3.  Clinton Hill Co-op – OMG!!! Is that a dog and a kitty litter box in the photo??  Again, when your home is for sale, it must appeal to the broad range of buyers.  You might love your dog and your cat, but not everyone is an animal lover.  And worse, some potential buyers may be allergic to animals, so they wouldn’t even consider looking at this apartment for their new home. 

This apartment could also benefit by removing the highly taste-specific wallpaper and thinning out the book collection in its wall-sized bookshelves.

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

Home Staging New York: So You Think Home Staging Is All About Pillow Fluffing and Scented Candles?

January 1, 2010

When I tell people I meet I am a home stager, I sometimes get the response “Oh yeah, so you do things like bake cookies or light candles to make the house smell nice”.  Little do they know everything we do from being a home seller’s psychiatrist to moving furniture.

One of the insights into all the things a home stager might do is to look inside a home stager’s staging kit.

Here’s a picture of my home staging kit (and those items that happen to fit inside of it).

I divided up the items in my kit into three categories:

  1. Permanent items – you can’t run out of these, for example, a hammer.
  2. Items that won’t fit in my kit – for example, an ironing board
  3. Items I can run out of – for example, nails, picture hangers, cleaning supplies

Permanent Items

•        Box Cutter

•        Extension Chord

•        Furniture Movers (see picture below)

•        Hammer

•        Laser “Tape” Measure

•        Laser or Other Level

•        Picture Hanger (see picture below)


•        Pliers

•        Putty Knife

•        Scissors

•        Screwdrivers

•        Staple Gun

•        Stud Finder

•        Tape Measure

•        Wire Cutter

•        Wrenches

Items That Won’t Fit in My Kit

•        Broom and dust pan

•        Drill

•        Iron

•        Ironing Board

•        Power Screwdriver

•        Step Stool

•        Vacuum

Items I Might Run Out Of

•        Band-Aids

•        Marker – Black (to fill in scratches on furniture, picture frames, etc.)

•        Marker – Brown (ditto)

•        Brown Paper (roll) (for under rugs to prevent floor scratching)

•        Carpet Cleaner

•        Command Hooks

•        Duct Tape

•        Batteries

•        Fantastik

•        Flashlight (small)

•        Furniture Stick-on Felt Pads

•        Furniture Sticks (dark & light) for scratches

•        Gloves – latex or rubber

•        Glue – all purpose

•        Glue – Museum Gel (a removable dab will keep a plate standing on a shelf)

•        Krud Kutter or Goo Gone (to remove that seemingly endless supply of price stickers)

•        Light Bulbs

•        Masking Tape or Paint Tape

•        Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (a wonder that removes scratches and marks from walls)

•        Nail File

•        Nails – Assorted

•        Old English Scratch Cover – Dark

•        Old English Scratch Cover – Light

•        Paint Brushes

•        Paper Towels

•        Picture Hooks

•        Post it pad

•        Push-pins (a.k.a. thumb tacks)

•        Putty

•        Rubber Bands

•        Screws – Assorted

•        Sponge

•        Stainless Steel Cleaner

•        Swiffer Duster or Microfiber cloth

•        Tape (packing with dispenser)


•        Tape (transparent a.k.a. Scotch)

•        Toilet Paper (don’t want to get caught without this when staging a vacant property)

•        Trash Bags

•        Upholstery Pins

•        White Out (to fill in scratches in white bathtubs, sinks, or wood molding)

•        Windex

•        Wrinkle Remover

•        Zots (removable – to hold pictures in place)

If you’re a home stager, what do you have in your kit that’s not in mine?  Would love to hear from you.

Copyright  © 2009 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York – Home Buyers and Sellers: Who Were They in 2009?

December 19, 2009

First time home buyers had the highest market share on record (since 1981) according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).  The NAR surveys home buyers and sellers across the nation each year, and the results of their survey were released in November 2009 and cover the period from June 2008 through July of 2009.

The first time home buyer made up 47% of all buyers, up from an average of 40 to 41% over the previous 10 years.  The previous high was 44% in 1991, also at the peak of the previous significant downturn in real estate.

The fact that first time home buyers made up a significant portion of home buyers this time around isn’t surprising given these two factors:

  • Homes became more affordable as prices dropped across the nation
  • The first time home buyer tax credit of up to $8,000 became available

So what is the profile of this first time home buyer?  According to the NAR survey:

  • Their median age was 30
  • Their median income was $61,600
  • The homes they purchased cost $156,000
  • 55% financed their home with an FHA loan
  • 96% chose a fixed rate mortgage
  • 61% used their savings for the downpayment; 22% received a gift from a friend or a relative

Also, according to this survey, are some interesting statistics of the typical buyer and buying process, whether first time or repeat:

The Buying Process:

  • Buyers started their home search process online and then contacted a real estate agent
  • 90% of buyers used the Internet; 87% said they relied on real estate agents
  • Buyers searched a median of 12 weeks before they found their dream home
  • They viewed 12 homes before purchasing the one they wanted

The Typical Buyer:

  • 66% are married couples
  • 21% are single woman; 10% are single men
  • 8% are unmarried couples and 1% are “other”
  • 15% are non-white and 9% were born outside of the U.S.
  • The repeat buyer was typically 48 years old with a median income of $88,100 purchasing a home costing $224,500
  • 87% see their home as a good investment and more than half see it as a better investment than stocks

What did they buy and how did they buy it? 

  • 78% bought a detached single family home
  • 54% of the homes were in a suburb or subdivision; 18% were in an urban area
  • The typical home size was 1800 square feet
  • The median distance from their prior home was 12 miles
  • The median downpayment was 8%
  • 8% paid all cash for their home

The survey also covered the typical home seller:

  • Their median age was 46 and their income was $91,100
  • They had been in their home for 7 years
  • They moved a median distance of 19 miles
  • Their home was on the market for 10 weeks
  • Nearly half traded up, 30% bought a comparable home, and 22% traded down
  • 85% used a real estate professional
  • 42% used incentives to attract buyers, such as paying for closing costs or providing a home warranty
  • The home sold for 95% of list price
  • The home sold for a median increase of $36,000 over the seller’s original purchase price

There were also some interesting stats on For Sale By Owner (FSBO) properties:

  • These were a record low of 6% of homes sold and has been trending downward since 1997
  • The median home price for sellers who used an agent was $215,000 vs. $172,000 for a home sold directly by the seller, however this difference can be explained by the fact that the FSBO sales were more likely to be in a rural area and more likely to be a mobile or manufactured home.

A complete report can be ordered from the National Association of Realtors at

Copyright  © 2009 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: Top 10 Mistakes Sellers Make When Presenting Their Homes for Sale – Part II

October 30, 2009

Last week I shared with you the first five of the Top 10 Mistakes home sellers make when they present their home to prospective buyers.

To recap they were:

  1. Paint problems
  2. Dirty and/or worn carpeting and floors
  3. Pets and their accoutrement
  4. Personalized decor
  5. Dated or worn hardware and fixtures

This week I focus on the remainder of the Top 10 Mistakes.

Manfredi bathroom bef6.  Dirty, Cluttered or Untidy Interior or Exterior – Despite what sellers might think, buyers cannot see past dirt and clutter.  It’s extremely important that both the interior and exterior of the home, including the yard, be clean and tidy.  Kitchens and bathrooms need to be whistle-clean.

 IMG_1571 - cropped7.  Dated or Inappropriate Window Treatments – Anything dated in a home is a turn-off to a potential buyer and window treatments are one of them. If the drapes are from the early to mid-90s, chances are they are too heavy and too dated.  Remove them and replace them with panel drapes on a rod – inexpensive ones can be found at Target and JC Penney.

8. Bad Furniture Arrangements – Furniture that doesn’t highlight the room’s best features are doing the seller a disservice.  For example, a fireplace is usually THE focal point in a room, and the furniture should be arranged around it so that the eye is drawn to the fireplace.  Also, furniture should not block the flow of being able to walk through the room. It should not block being able to open a door.  Lastly, the furniture in the room should define the purpose of the room.  In the picture below, is this a guest room, an office or a game room?

pool table

 blocked windows9.  Blocked Lighting/Dirty Windows – Buyers treasure natural light and sellers need to do everything to maximize it.  Trim back or remove overgrown bushes and trees that are blocking the windows, clean the windows, open up the drapes, and even remove the screens while the home is on the market to let in more natural light.  For more tips to lighten and brighten a home, click here.

10.  Too Much or Too Large Furniture – Think LESS IS MORE!  Remember that the purpose of furniture when selling a home is to define the purpose of the room (e.g., dining room, not home office or children’s playroom) and to show what will fit where (e.g., king size bed).  It is not meant to show that you can provide seating for 15 in your living room and every seat has a side table to rest drinks on and the bedroom is large enough to hold 3 dressers. Also, the size of the furniture needs to be in balance with the scale of the room and the other furniture in it.

 cahn dining room

Also, check out HGTV’s 10 Best Kept Secrets When Selling a Home.

Copyright  © 2009 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: Top 10 Mistakes Sellers Make When Presenting Their Homes for Sale – Part I

October 24, 2009

Do you know the Top 10 Mistakes home sellers make about how they present their homes to prospective buyers?  And most home sellers also make the overriding mistake of believing that buyers “can see past this”. 

Well, it’s simply not true.  Only 10% of prospective buyers can visualize the potential of your home.  

This week I focus on the first Top 5 Mistakes.  I will share the remaining five with you next week.  And as you will see, ameliorating these mistakes costs little or none. 

yellow cabinets1.  Paint Problems – too often prospective buyers can’t get past the ugly shade of green that the house is painted or the purple in the bedroom. For both the exterior and interior it is best to stick to neutral colors, EXCEPT 1) you can use a bright contrasting color like red for a front door, and 2) DON’T use white on the interior walls as it’s stark and cold (it’s fine for trim and ceilings).  Paint issues involve both color and the condition of the paint. Paint is one of the most inexpensive ways to freshen up any space.  Walls and floors are the “bones” of any interior space and both should be in good condition.

dirty rug

2.  Dirty or worn carpet and/or floors – .as just stated, walls and floors are the “bones” of the house or apartment and should be in good condition.  If carpets are old, outdated and badly stained, it’s best to remove them.  Sometimes a beautiful hardwood floor awaits underneath. If not, replace with inexpensive wall to wall carpeting.  Hardwood floors in bad condition should be refinished.  You don’t want to give your buyer a mental checklist of repairs they need to do so that they either walk away or bid lower. 

dog3.  Pets and their “accoutrement” –  you may love your pets, but not every buyer will.  Leaving your pets in the house while it’s being shown is a BIG mistake.  Removing them but leaving behind pet bowls, kitty litter boxes, leashes and dog cages is also a BIG mistake.  Remove all traces of your pets including hair and odor. 

4.  Personalized Decor – displaying family photos, children’s artwork, trophies, awards, collections and your prized deer head on the wall does NOT allow the buyer to imagine living in your space.  Plus these items are also a distraction.  You want the buyers to look at your house, not your children’s baby photos.


outdated fixtures5.  Dated or worn hardware and fixtures – if floors and walls are the bones of the house, then hardware and fixtures are the “jewelry”.  Outdated or tarnished door handles on kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and outdated lighting fixtures and faucets are a turn-off to prospective buyers.  Replacing these can update the look of a bathroom or kitchen very inexpensively.  And don’t forget to replace scratched doorknobs on doors and broken or non-matching lightswitch plates. 



Stay tuned next week for the remaining five mistakes home sellers make when presenting their homes.

 Also, check out HGTV’s top 25 Real Estate Mistakes when buying and selling a home.

Copyright  © 2009 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: Lighten and Brighten Your Way to a Successful Sale of Your Home

October 16, 2009

When selling a home, it is very important that it be light and bright.  Buyers do not respond well to dark spaces. 

Here are a few home staging tips and tricks to brighten up your home: 

  • Remove screens from windows – this lets more of the natural light through
  • Wash the windows – seems to be common sense, but you’d be surprised at what a difference it makes!
  • Remove awnings from windows and over doors
  • Trim or remove overgrown bushes and trees that are in front of windows

IMG_2274 - cropped - 70FPR bdrm

  • Replace drapes with sheers where possible – sheers provide warmth and softness to a room but still let the light show through
  • Swap out low wattage bulbs for higher wattage ones


  • Keep all lights turned on during an open house or showings
  • Use uplighting in dark corners – either a tall floor lamp called a torchiere or a can light placed on the floor
  • Place wall and floor mirrors where they can reflect natural lightIMG_1005
  • Use neutral paint colors on the walls
  • Brighten up dark furnishings with throw pillows or a table runner in bright colors


Doing these simple and inexpensive changes to “lighten and brighten” when selling your home can reap its rewards – a 355% return on your investment, according to a Home Gain survey from 2007.

Copyright  © 2009 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York – Realtors: Do You Have “But I Can Do It Myself” Syndrome?

October 8, 2009

This past week I made a couple of presentations regarding Home Staging to real estate agents at their weekly meetings.  In chatting with one of them after my presentation, he said that he usually does his own staging.  This can involve anything as simple as telling the client to declutter to as time-consuming as going shopping for new bedding.    When I asked him why he does this instead of hiring a home stager, he said “well, this way I don’t have to convince my client to spend money.  Also,  I can do what stagers do”.

So ask yourself, does this sound like you?

And if the answer is YES, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you want to tell your clients their home is untidy and has too much stuff in it?
  • Do you want to tell you clients to get rid of family photos and their prized collections?
  • Do you want to tell your clients that their home smells like a cat or a dog?
  • Do you know how to get a vacant home fully furnished and accessorized?
  • Do you have the time to shop for bedding, towels, knickknacks, etc? 
  • Do you want to spend hours deciding the optimal placement of furniture and accessories?
  • Do you really have the eye of an interior decorator or a home stager?
  • Are you comfortable recommending paint colors?
  • What do you do when the husband and wife don’t agree with your “staging” recommendations? Whose side do you take?
  • Is this how you want to be spending your time?
  • Do you think your client would appreciate you taking time away from marketing their home rather than leaving this up to a professional?

So the next time you think “But I can do this myself”, think about the fact that it’s the same as a seller thinking they don’t need a real estate agent to market and sell their home.  You know that you can do a much better job than they can because of your experience, knowledge and contacts, to name a few qualifications.

Hiring a home staging professional is the way to go if you want the job done right.

Related post: Homeowners: Do You Have “But I Can Do It Myself Syndrome”?

Copyright  © 2009 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved