“Ask the Home Staging Expert®” – How many houseplants are too many when your house is on the market?

Got PlantsHi Lori -

Dear Home Staging Expert -

I’m a Real Estate Agent in Florida and I have a client with a lot of houseplants.  I mean A LOT of houseplants!  They are everywhere and seem to be multiplying!  The homeowner is very proud of her collection, but those plants are the first thing you see when you walk in the door and they are overwhelming.  On top of that, a lot of them look like they’re on their last leg.  Personally, I would have tossed many of them out a long time ago.  How do I tell my client we need to thin out the jungle?  And what do we do with all those plants?  

Desperate Realtor in Boca Raton

Dear Desperate Realtor,

Too much of a good thing is just too much, no matter what that ‘thing’ happens to be.  What this listing is suffering from is really nothing more than clutter.  It just happens to be living clutter in this case.  While the homeowner might love all her plants, you are going to have to be honest and let her know they are going to be a distraction for buyers and will need to be corralled.  If you come up some options before you approach her, she will be more likely to agree.

You could find out if she might have a close friend or relative or maybe even just a friendly neighbor to farm them out to while her house is on the market.  It might seem like an impossible quest, but I have frequently found people with green thumbs are friends with and/or related to other people with green thumbs, so it’s not really that far fetched.

The best idea short of removing them from the home is to gather all the plants together and display them in one place as a grouping.  Perhaps a sunroom or a sunny, secondary bedroom, or even somewhere outside.  Since you’re in Florida, I’m sure they will do well out there.  But the key is to group as many together as tightly as possible in one area so you don’t distract from the space itself.

If some of the plants are sickly and the homeowner doesn’t want to get rid of them, try trimming off the dead leaves and plant several together in one pot, or tuck some silk greenery along in with them to make the arrangement look more lush.  It almost sounds counter productive, but I’ve had to do it before myself, and it will actually make everything seem well-cared for as a whole and the sickly plants will blend in rather stick out like a sore thumb.

Totally fine to use a couple of the healthier plants here and there to stage the property.  I use plants all the time.  But you definitely don’t want potential buyers remembering all the greenery and forgetting about the positive features of the house itself, so make sure to use discretion when placing them.

Hope this helps and thanks for the great question!

If you have a question for “ASK THE HOME STAGING EXPERT®”, please contact lori@homestagingexpert.com.

 

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Selling a Home with Wallpaper

free wallpapered living room

 

When I was a kid, my grandmother lived in the sweetest 1940′s bungalow and every single room, including the sun porch and pantry, was covered from top to bottom with wallpaper!  From lush florals, to rosy pink stripes, to Nordic tile designs, I loved every square inch of it!

Today, I don’t think I would be near as excited to have every wall plastered with so many colors and patterns.  And I know potential buyers won’t be, either.

While wallpaper has definitely been making a comeback, the problem is that most wallpaper styles are very design specific.  That fact alone is almost always going to ensure that wallpaper is going to be viewed as dated and typically not something a new homeowner is going to want to live with.

The advice I gave about selling a home with wallpaper well-over a decade ago still holds true today.  Should you try to sell a home with walls that have been papered?  That all depends on the wallpaper design, your price point, and how many rooms.

Ideally, removing the wallpaper is always the best solution.  But I do realize that some homeowners don’t want to do that for a couple of reasons.

1)  There is an emotional attachment to the wallpaper.

2)  It’s a lot of work and can be expensive to remove.

But those two reasons are exactly why it should be removed!

1)  You can’t take it with you!

2)  Guess what?  Potential buyers see removing wallpaper as a labor intensive and pricey project to tackle, too.  So getting rid of it really is your best option.

In some cases, if the wallpaper is neutral…as in, a tone-on-tone pattern or simply a textured pattern…it’s not the worse thing in the world.  As long as it’s in good condition, not peeling at the seams, not a bright color or busy pattern, and has not taken over every room of the house.

And depending on the price-point of the listing, I still recommend painting over it in some cases.  Do keep in mind that someone looking at a $500K home is not going to take kindly to wallpaper that’s been painted, however.  Also remember that painting over wallpaper is not like painting over drywall.  Besides proper prep work, you can’t slap on paint like you’re white washing a fence!  Too wet and that wallpaper you didn’t want to take off to begin with is going to start peeling off on it’s own, and you’re going to have a very big mess on your hands and end up removing it anyway!

But there are also a couple of staging tricks to downplay wallpaper if you decide not to remove it.  If the pattern is bright, busy, or both, get rid of all the artwork on the walls which will clash and make it stand out even more.  Opt instead for plain-framed mirrors, or try moving a large piece of furniture to block some of the pattern on the largest part of the wall, like a glass cupboard in a dining room.  You aren’t actually hiding it since it’s probably everywhere else in the room too, but it will tone it down somewhat and not make it the first thing that pops right out at you when you enter.

While you do have a few options when it comes to selling a house with wallpaper, the best solution is still removing it altogether to ensure that wallpaper doesn’t come between you and a solid offer.

 

 

 

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“Ask the Home Staging Expert®” – How do I display artwork without adding nail holes?

Here I used a hallway table and leaned a mirror on top.  I added a lamp, greenery, books, and a dish of hard candies to round out the display.

Here I used a hallway table and leaned a mirror on top.  The mirror is leaning on two strips of rubber shelving liner to hold it in place and prevent it from slipping.  Strips adhered along the top of the frame ensure it won’t scuff the walls.

 

Hi Lori!

I am a new stager and just signed a contract with a builder to stage three model homes.  The walls have just been painted, so the builder doesn’t want me to add any nail holes to hang artwork.  How can I properly stage a home and make it look finished without adding any artwork?  Have been following your blog for a while and am looking forward to your response.  Thanks in advance for your advice!

New Stager in New Jersey

Dear New Stager -

Congrats on signing up to stage three model homes!  That’s pretty impressive for any stager let alone someone new to the industry, so kudo’s to you!

Trust me when I tell you, the old ‘nail-holes-in-freshly-painted-walls’ dilemma has been around forever and seems to be a cause for great anxiety among builders, Realtors, and homeowners alike.  It is probably not without justification however, as I’ve personally seen some really horrific damage done to walls where someone with good intentions left behind nail holes the size of a dime or better, or tried to cover their tracks with spackle and made it even worse!

That said, there are definitely a few really good ways to avoid this and add your artwork without sweating bullets!

1)  Don’t use nails, use sewing machine needles!  They are incredibly sturdy, make a tiny hole, and have a thick, heavy end which is perfect for hanging.  Pound them in at an angle and they aren’t going anywhere.  If you have a REALLY heavy piece to hang, add two about 3 to 6 inches apart and you should be good.  To prevent the frame from scuffing the wall, add a heavy grip, non-adhesive rubber shelving liner cut into strips or Scotch rubber bumper dots to the back.

2)  Lean your artwork, instead!  You can still add a lot of color and give your room a finished look by leaning your artwork and avoiding nail holes, altogether.  Over a mantel, inside built-in shelving, on top of a console table.  All of these spots provide an opportunity to display your artwork without damaging the walls.  That same heavy grip, non-adhesive rubber shelving liner can be added to the bottom of the corners between the frame and display surface to hold it firmly in place.

3)  Use existing nail holes!  While this might not hold true in a newly built home, homes being re-sold will often leave previous nail holes behind.  (I see this a lot.)  Give the wall a good once over and you might even find a nail or two still in place that have simply been painted over and you can hang your artwork there.

4)  Invest in a couple of easels!  They make decorative easels in many sizes.  I have used them before in model homes, from small counter-top easels to fancy floor easels for dramatic displays.  Some are even adjustable so you can choose the height.  Do an online search, or check out home furnishing or art supply stores to find something that suits your needs.

Congrats again on your new gig and please let me know how it goes.  I’m sure your models will turn out fabulous!

If you have a question for “ASK THE HOME STAGING EXPERT®”, please contact lori@homestagingexpert.com.

 

 

 

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“Ask the Home Staging Expert®” – Show third bedroom as an office, a bedroom, or both?

free bedroom office

Hi Lori -

We’re getting ready to sell our two-story, three-bedroom single-family home. I work from home and the third bedroom serves as my office and our guest bedroom, housing only a daybed and a desk. For staging, I’m not sure how to handle the room’s closet. It’s a pretty sizable walk-in and it currently stores our winter coats, wrapping paper and other items that would normally be stored in a basement or attic — because we have neither of those.

Perhaps I’m overthinking it but I’m afraid that leaving those things in there will signal that, if you actually need three bedrooms, this house won’t work for you. What do people usually store in the guest room closets? Should it just be empty? Should I move my desk in there and call it my office?

Thanks for any help you can offer!

Nervous in New Jersey

Dear Nervous -

That’s a dilemma many homeowners have to contend with when listing a three-bedroom home without additional storage.  But I think you are offering potential buyers a lot of flexibility by showing that third bedroom as a home office/guest room.  That’s exactly what I would do.  That way, anyone can envision either/or and the potential of that space will not be in question.

I would only be concerned with showing the closet space like you would any other closet.  It doesn’t really matter what the contents are, as long as they are presented in a neat and orderly fashion and not absolutely bursting at the seams!  I typically tell my clients to edit and remove one-third to one-half of whatever they’re storing…depending on how much stuff they have in there…so buyers can still see some nice, usable space.

As far as using the closet as an office, I would not be inclined to do that as I think anyone looking for three-bedrooms is going to want to use that closet for the occupant of the bedroom.  And anyone looking for a home office is likely not going to want to feel like they’ll be stuck in a closet, no matter how roomy!

I think that utilizing a large closet as an office is actually a very clever use of space.  But you don’t really want to be showing that to buyers as it’s going to make them feel like the house has run out of room and the only way they can actually have a designated office is to tuck it away in a closet. 

If a buyer is in need of both…three-bedrooms plus a well-sized home office space, they are likely going to keep looking for a house to better accommodate their needs.

The truth is, no matter how far we try to cast our nets when appealing to potential buyers, a house is never going to catch every single one of them.   Your home will definitely be too small for some, but it will be absolutely perfect for many and likely many more by simply showing that flexibility!  I truly believe that by showing different options to utilize that third-bedroom space, you are going to have a much easier time nabbing those who could go either way and that is the goal.

FYI – When it comes to staging a home for market, I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘over-thinking’ the details.  Those details count, and it’s a good idea to look at all your options to come up with the best solution, which you have definitely done.

Thank you so much for asking, hope this helps, and best of luck in the sale of your home!

If you have a question for “ASK THE HOME STAGING EXPERT®”, please contact lori@homestagingexpert.com.

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DOES YOUR LISTING STINK? 7 Ways to Combat Odors in a Hurry!

Businessman making smelling bad gesture

 

Your open house is scheduled for noon.  You walk in at 11:45 a.m. and “OH, MY GOSH!  What is that horrible smell?!!”

Maybe the owner’s left something in the garbage before leaving for the weekend.  Maybe they fried up a nice big pan of garlic and onions the night before.  Or maybe the house has just been sitting all alone for a while, closed up for the season.

Whatever the reason, when you’re in a hurry and need the place smelling better fast, trying to mask odors with air freshener is usually not the best option.  Now you’ll just have a house that smells overly perfumed and frequently mixes negatively with whatever it is that’s already offending.  

Here’s what you should do instead to help clear out the stink!

1)    Remove the source, if possible.  (Smelly garbage cans, overflowing cat boxes, etc.)

2)    Open all the windows to allow as much air to flow through the house as you can.  You can speed up this process further by placing a fan in the window blowing out to suck the smell out with it.

3)    Baking soda is a great odor absorber.  Sprinkle it on carpeting, let it sit, then vacuum it up.  Sprinkle it in the garbage cans.  Sprinkle it over the litter box. 

4)    Vinegar is another way to combat offensive smells.  Not only does cleaning up the source with a combo of vinegar and water help eliminate the smell, but boiling vinegar on the stove also cuts down on the offender as the humidity from the vinegar fights the odors in the air. 

5)    If you have access to lemons and/or oranges, squeeze a little fresh juice and cut up the peel, then add it to water and let it boil.  It has the same effect as vinegar alone, only it will leave behind a nice, light, citrusy scent.

6)    Wipe down walls with vinegar and water.  You don’t have to do a total house cleaning, but wiping some of the walls down where the odor is most offensive can truly help as the odors seem to cling to drywall and paneling.

7)    For musty/moldy smells, plug in the de-humidifier!  This will help suck some of that damp moisture right out of the air and take the smell with it.  

 

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“Ask the Home Staging Expert®” – Should We Paint Our Brick Home Before Selling?

painted brick gray

 

Good morning, Lori,

We are getting ready to sell our 3-bedroom ranch-style brick house this spring.  I think the brick makes the exterior look really, really dated and want to paint it.  My husband says he hates painted brick and thinks it will be tougher to sell.  What do you think?

Brick House in Houston

Hello, Brick House!

Personally, I love painted brick homes, but I agree with your husband’s point of view, as well.  Some people just truly do not care for painted brick exteriors and will avoid them at all costs, assuming it means more upkeep in the future.

The beauty of a brick exterior, theoretically anyway, is that there will be less maintenance and upkeep, which is why many hesitate to paint.  However, depending on the style of brick, the condition, and whether or not it’s been teamed with some off-color siding or not, all this would factor into whether I can confidently tell you to paint or not to paint.

On the upside, I do agree that paint can give a brick home an entirely updated and more modern and distinctive appeal.  For instance, if the home also has siding and you paint the brick the same color as the siding, it really can give your curb appeal a boost.  Another reason to paint might be due to previous repairs where the brick had to be replaced with something that didn’t quite match.  Paint can make the repair far less noticeable.

On the downside, some potential homeowners might be turned off fearing they will have to repaint every few years to keep it looking attractive, and this might factor into their decision making process.  But just like some buyers prefer a two-story to a single story and vice versa, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to this.

You might want to compromise and consider leaving the brick as-is and simply updating the shutters if the house has shutters, or perhaps adding shutters if it doesn’t, then repainting the doors, or painting the siding to coincide with the brick a little better, which would also freshen things up, provided there is also siding on the house.

In my neighborhood here in Minnesota, there have been three painted brick homes that have been on the market over the past few months.  One of them, a two-story Victorian, has been painted forever and I’ve never noticed any peeling, though it did get a fresh coat of paint in a new, updated color before it went on the market.  The other two were both ranch-style homes that were just painted recently.  All three homes were sold literally within weeks…if not days…of going on the market and for full price.  So it did not seem to be a deterrent to buyers.

That said, I would ask your Realtor how painted brick homes fair in your area.  As mentioned, I am in Minnesota.  Temperatures here fluctuate from extreme hot to extreme cold.  But paint might have a different effect on bricks in Houston where it’s consistently warm and sunny and humid.

While I’m not able to advise you on this with 100% clarity based on your area of the country, I can tell you that without a doubt, if I felt the brick made a house look tired and dated myself, I would not hesitate to paint.

Let me know what you decide!  Would be fun to see how it turned out.

If you have a question for “ASK THE HOME STAGING EXPERT®”, please contact lori@homestagingexpert.com.

 

 

 

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