Posts Tagged ‘real estate’

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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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: 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: 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: 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.
After viewing slide show, hit your browser’s back button to return.


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: Are Home Sellers Smarter than Real Estate Agents When It Comes to Staging?

November 9, 2009

We have all either seen or heard of that TV show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” where adults try to answer questions that a fifth grader could answer.  You assume the adults would know the answers because…well they’re adults and have had more years of life and learning under their belt.  Well, often that’s not the case…the fifth graders usually win.

I found myself this past week wondering if home sellers were smarter than real estate agents. I was contacted by two homeowners who were interested in staging their vacant investment properties.  Both of the properties were in New York City, however one was for sale and the other was a very high-end rental.

Both homeowners realized that they needed to furnish and accessorize their properties in order to stand out from the other properties on the market for rent and for sale.  In fact, one of the homeowners believed in staging so much, she had staged by herself another of her investment properties, which is for sale.  But after realizing it was a lot of work and very tiring (welcome to my world!), she decided to hire a professional for her rental property.

This homeowner told me that her real estate agent didn’t think it was necessary to furnish either apartment.  The agent felt they would sell and rent without staging.

I did a quick check of the rental unit on, and it showed competitive rentals in the same price range, location and type of building.  One of the units had one bedroom more than the subject unit, AND there were pictures of furnished rooms for prospective renters to imagine themselves living in!

More than 80% of buyers and renters start their search online, so don’t you think photos of furnished and decorated rooms would be more appealing than those that are not?

What if you were looking online and saw these photos?

Bedroom Before


What if you were online and saw THESE photos?

Bedroom AfterLiving Room - cropped left

In the other case where I was contacted by the homeowner whose property was for sale, I spoke to the real estate agent myself, not knowing in advance her position on home staging.  When I told her who I was and that I had been to the property in order to prepare a home staging proposal, she vehemently stated “No furniture!”.  She went on to state that she had sold other units in the townhouse complex and she was able to sell the units without them being furnished.  She also told me what she was listing the property at and that she was going to probably accept offers that were 5% less.

So I told her that…

The cost of staging is almost ALWAYS less than the first price reduction and in this case it was (2%).

Then I told her WHY the units should be furnished, and after every one of my statements, she said “I disagree!”

  • Empty rooms appear smaller than they really are
  • No emotional connection can be felt when buyers walk into an empty house
  • Most buyers can’t picture where there furniture will go and if it will fit
  • Most buyers can’t imagine themselves living there if there is nothing there
  • Small defects stand out because there’s nothing else to look at

I could have given her other reasons, but I got tired of hearing “I disagree!”.

What do you think?  Are home sellers smarter than real estate agents when it comes to home staging and selling homes?

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

Home Staging: One Leg of a Three-Legged Stool

August 28, 2009

Earlier this month I met with the owner of an empty apartment with 180 degree views of Central Park, upper Manhattan and the Hudson River,  to give her an estimate on staging it with furniture and decorative accessories.  She had temporarily taken it off the market.

The other day I sent a follow-up email and received a response back telling me that, since the time she had met with me, she had decided to change real estate agents.  She said she had been unhappy with the progress made by the original agent in selling her home and…

         … “that [emphasis added] was the reason [she] had considered staging at all.” 

I responded by saying…

        … “reading between the lines, it sounds like you may have decided  not to proceed with the staging”. 

She wrote back…

            … “getting a new agent will probably make all [emphasis added] the difference.”

So I responded by telling her that successfully selling a home is like a three-legged stool:

  1.   It must be priced right

 2.   It must have outstanding “outside” marketing by you and/or your agent


 3.    It must have outstanding “inside” marketing and positioning of the home, a.k.a. staging or showcasing

All three are the keys to selling a home.  The new agent will not make all the difference. 

  • If the owner insists on a price that’s unrealistically high, all of the marketing and promotion in the world by the agent won’t help. 
  • If the price is realistic and the agent is promoting the property, it still may not sell because prospective buyers can’t see beyond the empty rooms and envision their furniture being there and themselves living there.
  • If the apartment is staged and looks wonderful, but the price is too high and the agent isn’t doing his or her job marketing the property, it won’t sell.

You get the point.  Don’t let the stool collapse when selling your home.

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

Home Staging New York: Five Decorative Accessories to Perk Up Any Space

August 19, 2009

Recently I was contacted by a writer for a real estate magazine and she asked me what are the five decorative items I use most often when staging a home for sale and why I use them.

After giving it some thought, I came up with the following, which can also be used to perk up any space even if you’re not selling your home:

1.   Throw Pillows – do wonders for both the living room and bedroom.  Use pillows in bright contrasting colors to the couch, chair or bedding color.  Because it’s important to use neutral colors on the walls and in furniture when staging a home for sale so that it appeals to the broad range of buyers, throw pillows are your opportunity to add punches of color to a room without overwhelming the space.

IMG_2244 reduced

 Inventory 249

 2.   Throws – are also an opportunity to add a punch of color to a neutral-colored room, however more importantly, it allows the buyer to envision curling up on the couch or chair with a good book or a glass of wine,  and relaxing.


3.   Colorful Fruit – whether real or fake, can also add pops of color to the kitchen, and make it enticing to a prospective buyer.  I use red apples, green apples, oranges, or anything with a bright color.  You can place them in a clear glass jar, in a bowl, or on a fruit stand.

Inventory 285 - cropped

Inventory 136

4.   Orchids – whether real or a good fake, add a touch of elegance to any room.  You want buyers to aspire to a certain lifestyle when they view your home, and orchids portray a luxurious lifestyle.  I particularly like using them in bathrooms, either on the tub surround (see below left) or the vanity. They also look great on a console table in the foyer.



 5. Decorative Balls – of any texture, such as glass or twigs, in a bowl placed on a cocktail table or as a centerpiece on a dining room table, add pop and interest.

dining rm centerpiece 

What are your favorite decorative accessories?

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

Home Staging New York: It’s a fact – vacant houses and apartments sit on the market longer than occupied homes

July 2, 2009

And, according to the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA), a 2008 survey revealed that vacant homes that were staged spent 85% less time on the market than unstaged vacant homes.  

 Why Should a Vacant Property Be Professionally Staged?
  • Only 10% of buyers can see beyond emptiness and envision their possessions in a home or apartment
  • Empty rooms appear smaller than they really are 
  • Buyers can’t use their imagination to see the home’s potential  
  • Buyers are overwhelmed by a lack of vision
  • Buyers can’t imagine where their furniture will go 
  • Without a frame of reference, it’s incredibly difficult to tell the scale and size of the room

  •  Without furniture, a buyer may be confused as to the purpose of the room: “Is this a study or an extra bedroom?”
  • Buyers can’t imagine living there 
  • Buyers think the owner is desperate to sell because “they must be carrying two mortgages, utilities, maintenance, etc.” 
  • Vacant homes appear soulless and no emotional attachment can be felt 
  • Vacant homes can appear to be neglected 
  • Paint colors and wallpaper stand out if too drastic, and buyers look at it as work to do 
  • Dirt and small defects stand out more:  holes or cracks in walls, stains in carpet, grout in bathroom, scuff marks on walls and doors  
  • The emptiness will make the home appear as if there are too many windows, too many doors and too many expansive walls

Home Staging New York: The Cold Hard Facts When Selling Your Home

June 18, 2009

The Cold Hard Facts….

  •  Buyers shouldn’t profile the seller!

                  The buyer should not be able to tell whether a single male, a middle-aged woman, an older couple, twenty-       somethings, etc. live here, so we need to neutralize the space

  •  It’s not about YOUR taste anymore!

                 We need to set up the space to appeal to a broad range of buyers 

  • It’s not YOUR home anymore!

                Once your home is put on the market, it’s not yours anymore – get used to it 

  • It’s a product to be marketed!

                 Just as if you were selling your car or a skin care product, it’s all about the packaging.

 Once you realize these cold hard facts, you are on your way to a fast and profitable sale of what is probably your greatest and biggest asset – so treat it that way!

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