“ASK THE HOME STAGING EXPERT” – SHOULD I REPLACE MY KITCHEN COUNTERTOPS?

pixabay kitchen counter

Dear Ms. Matzke,

I ran across your website and really liked what I saw so I thought I would write in to get your opinion. I’ll be getting married in the spring and want to sell my condo soon so we can start our new life together in a new house. I think I need to replace my old Formica countertops in the kitchen before listing with an agent because they are dated (silver and gold flecks) and do have some corner damage that can’t be repaired. My fiancé wants to save the money for the wedding and doesn’t think upgrading to granite would be worth it. My question is this; If I make the investment and spring for granite countertops, will I get my money back?

Thanks in advance for your reply!

Soon-to-be-Groom in Dallas

Dear Groom,

First of all, congratulations on your wedding plans! That must be very exciting and I wish you both the best!

As far as the countertop is concerned, I am going to have to give you a two-part answer here.

1) If the countertop is damaged, it definitely needs to be replaced. If not replaced, your condo would need to be priced accordingly. The problem with not replacing it however, is that most potential buyers don’t really want to do the work themselves and are typically in the market for move-in ready. So even if you lower the price to accommodate, you are more likely to still end up with low-ball offers and possibly losing some potential offers, altogether. I would definitely remove that hurdle upfront by having the countertops replaced.

2) In reference to updating to granite, you don’t really say anything about the asking price or condition of your property or the condition of other comparable properties in the area, so I would do a little research. If similar condos have granite, then it would be well worth it to keep up with the Jones’. And certainly if they don’t, granite countertops might ultimately give you an edge in that marketplace. In that case, I would again price accordingly by including the price of the new countertops in your bottom line. If the rest of the condo is in great condition and you are the only one in the area with granite, people are often looking for and/or willing to pay more for the upgrades, so I think you will definitely get your money back through both the listing price and shorter time on the market.

Regardless of what you decide, I do want to caution that when you replace and/or upgrade the countertops, please do make sure your cabinets are in excellent condition, as well. Shiny new counters…especially a higher-end countertop like granite…slapped on top of dated old cabinets makes those cabinets stick out like a sore thumb and just serves to highlight how awful they really are. So clean them up, replace the hardware, re-stain and/or paint the cabinetry for a little boost and those new countertops will fit right in!

Hope this helps, and congrats again on your upcoming nuptials!

If you have a question for “Ask The Home Staging Expert”, please contact lori@homestagingexpert.com

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WARNING: Are These 5 Home Staging No-No’s Sabotaging the Sale of Your House?

stock photo stalking free

Even the best intentions can go awry, and the same is true when staging your home for market. With so much information floating around out there, it's sometimes difficult to find the right balance. These are a few common blunders that I often see, along with why you should avoid them and what you should be doing instead.

1) KEEPING IT TOO PERSONAL - Yes, we know you love that collage of family photos in the hallway. And displaying Junior's artwork on the refrigerator door helps to build his confidence and self-esteem. But the fact is, a potential buyer needs to picture themselves living in the house. And that's not easy to do when they've got a lifetime of someone else's memories staring them in the face. Pack that stuff up, tuck it away, and you can display it all again in your new home.

2) CREATING A THEME ROOM - The entire purpose of staging a house is to show off the positive features of the space. What you want a potential buyer to remember are the selling points of the home, like the beautiful hardwood floors, enormous eat-in kitchen, and natural stone fireplace. You don't want them remembering your house for its Star Wars-inspired dining room or jungle-themed master bath. Chances are, that's all a potential buyer is likely to remember.

3) CHOOSING THE WRONG PAINT COLORS - Paint colors can be very personal. But you want to make sure that anyone viewing your home will feel like they can move in tomorrow, not leave them pondering how much time it will take and what it will cost to have those teal green walls repainted. While a neutral palette might sound boring and tempt you to add some color, neutral shades are more likely to appeal to the aesthetics and furnishings of more buyers. Add color with artwork and accessories, but don't force it on them with bold paint schemes that won't work for most.

4) MISLEADING POTENTIAL BUYERS - Staging should make the positive aspects of a house so appealing, potential buyers are willing to overlook a few negatives. Purposely trying to conceal any problems can be a deal breaker when the truth is inevitably discovered. Your goal should NEVER be to hide anything from the buyer. For example, shoving a wardrobe in front of the bedroom window to block an ugly view is not acceptable. Instead, soften that view with a pair of light sheers and highlight the soaring ceilings and original woodwork. Now the negatives are no longer the main focus and nowhere near as distracting, and the room has nothing to hide.

5) STAGING OVER-KILL - Elaborately set dining tables, bathtubs filled with lilac water and rose petals, a breakfast tray on every bed holding a cup, saucer, fake toast, and copy of the New York Times...all of these added elements scream theatrics and not in a good way. Potential buyers walk through a house in literally minutes, so why place attention on a houseful of hokey distractions when the goal is to sell the house and not all the stuff within? There is a fine-line between staging to sell and blatantly contrived. While this might be fine for a model home, the average house already has too much to look at without the added charades. Make sure to keep the focus on the space itself and not all the props!

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Want Top Dollar for Your House? Apply Elbow Grease.

An article I was quoted in a couple of weeks ago. See original post here SmarterMoney on wptz.com

Elbow Grease House

In recent months, Jon, a Madison, Wis., homeowner, has been looking at his house in a new way — not through the eyes of the guy who lives there, but from the perspective of a potential buyer.

That spurred him to paint the front door and stoop, wash windows inside and out, clean mildew off window frames, do some landscaping, and finish numerous other tasks in and around his home. All told, he spent about three months’ worth of weekends and lots of weeknights getting his house ready to sell — about twice as long as he’d figured it would take. And it was well worth it, he says.

“If you don’t give that kind of attention to your house, buyers are going to notice right away,” he said. “They’ll take a cursory look and be out of there in two minutes.”
Many real estate agents agree with Jon’s approach to preparing a house for sale. In a 2012 survey of agents, almost 90 percent said home improvements can help sell a home faster, and nearly 73 percent felt home improvements could boost the sales price — if those are the right improvements.

Given that most of us have a limited supply of time and money, how should you best invest yours to get your home ready to sell?

Some actions can have a big impact on a buyer’s perception of your home, and cost you no money at all. Start with decluttering your house, recommends Robin Vogel, a real estate agent and accredited staging professional in the Seattle area. “Clutter eats equity,” she said.

Descend on your bulging closets and storage rooms to sort through which items to keep, toss, recycle, or donate to charity. Then there are those knickknacks, family photos, souvenirs, and other items scattered throughout every room. Pack up the items you plan to keep to take with you to your new home.

“I have no problem with people packing things up and stacking boxes neatly in the garage,” Vogel said. “Just get it out of the main part of the house.”

The next step is a thorough cleaning of the whole house. Get into every nook, cranny, and corner of each room. “I’m talking Q-Tip clean,” Vogel said. “Buyers don’t like to buy other people’s dirt.”

Next on your to-do list would be basic, inexpensive improvements. Applying a fresh coat of paint can make a huge difference in a room’s appearance, said Lori Matzke, president of Center Stage Home, a home-staging business based in the Minneapolis area.

“If you have a peacock blue living room,” she said, “you may want to change that out to something that other people can live with, with their furniture.” That’s why neutral colors are best. Sure, the buyers may decide to repaint with their own choices of colors some day. But most buyers in today’s market, Matzke and Vogel agree, want to be able to move into a house without having to immediately tackle redecorating and repair projects.

For that reason, putting in new carpeting is another project to consider, especially if your current carpeting looks outdated and worn. Again, choose a neutral color that will work with whatever furnishings the new owner will bring into the house.

In some markets, wood floors may be a bigger sell than carpeting, especially on the main floor, Matzke points out. “Wood floors are easy to do now,” she said, “and (sometimes) can be done almost for the same price as carpeting.”

Go through your house and notice all the low-cost fixes or changes you could make that would appeal to a buyer: a new shower curtain, updated knobs on kitchen and bath cabinets, a new welcome mat by the front door, trimming or removing those overgrown shrubs along the front of the house, and so on.

As you survey your home inside and out, “look at it as a product,” Matzke said, “instead of as the home you live in. Emotionally detach yourself from it.”

In other words, use a buyer’s eyes. You may love that dining room wallpaper that you selected so carefully 20 years ago and paid a small fortune for, but now its peeling and dated. Get rid of it.

Likewise, think about replacing old kitchen appliances. “Nobody wants a 30-year-old harvest gold refrigerator anymore,” Matzke said.

Remember, “95 percent of buyers can’t see past what’s there,” she said. That means most don’t do well at envisioning a house’s “potential.” What buyers see in front of them is what will stick in their minds as they form an impression of your house and decide if they want to make an offer to buy it.

Sometimes sellers assume that a major remodel of the kitchen or bathroom is sure to boost a house’s sale price enough to be worth the cost. Not necessarily, Vogel cautions.

“I wish sellers would contact their agents before they do the kinds of projects that are going to cost a fair amount of money,” she said, “to make sure they’re going down the right path.”

The agent can tell you what’s going on in the marketplace. What are homes similar to yours selling for, and what level of finish do these homes have. For example, how much work has been done on other houses for sale in your market and what is the quality of that work? Then you can decide if you should undertake a more costly remodeling project before selling.

“You don’t want to be higher than the competition,” Vogel said, “and you don’t want to help the competition to sell, either. So you need to know what’s going on in the houses around you.”

Another piece of advice Vogel gives sellers — and she sees a growing number of agents doing so — is to get a professional home inspection before putting your house on the market. You’ll avoid nasty surprises that could torpedo a deal later.

You’ll get a list of jobs that need to be done; you can decide which to do and inform a buyer about remaining projects. Plus, you could get bids for those jobs you don’t do, so the buyer knows what to expect. It’s much easier to do all this before you put your house up for sale, rather than in the midst of buyer-seller negotiations with tight deadlines.

“You’ll have all the information and all your ducks in a row,” Vogel said. “And that is huge ammunition with many buyers.”

As for home-seller Jon, agents showing the house frequently remarked that it was immaculate and showed well. “Being told by the pros that we were on the right path for show-worthiness was big,” he said. The hard work and attention to detail before putting his home on the market paid off.

Jon reported, “We’ve sold our house! A young family that has been renting the house next to ours decided they loved the neighborhood and will be the new owners.”

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Buying and Selling: All the home’s a stage

Work with what you have to save money, sell your home for more

By Alison Gowans, The Cedar Rapids Gazette
Reprinted with permission from http://thegazette.com/subject/life/buying-and-selling-all-the-homes-a-stage-20150328

Don’t confuse decorating with home staging.

That’s the mantra home staging expert Lori Matzke repeats to clients.

You may love your kitten statues and retro lamps, but when selling your house, they can be a distraction. Potential buyers should be focused on the fireplace, not the items crowded on the mantelpiece.

Matzke, founder of Minneapolis-based Center Stage Home, led a workshop for 12 Cedar Rapids real estate professionals Monday, directing them as they transformed Rick and Cyndi Sievertsen’s home at 5600 Shiloh Lane NE, Cedar Rapids. The Sievertsens are working with Skogman Realtor Debra Callahan to sell the home.

Good staging can add thousands of dollars to your final selling price, Matzke says, or can mean the difference between your home selling or sitting on the market.

The team at the workshop was merciless, hiding oodles of fake ferns, sculptures, wreaths, candles, vases and lamps in a basement storage room. Their goal was to simplify the space, leaving room for a buyer’s imagination.

“This house was professionally decorated,” Callahan says. “But staging is about presenting the house so buyers can see themselves in the home instead of seeing the other people’s things.”

Professional home stagers sometimes bring in new furniture and accessories, but the workshop team could use only what was in the home.

The items are not as important as how they draw the eye around the space, Matzke says.

“Sometimes I have to work around turquoise sofas. You have to get over it,” she says. “That’s not the point. It’s about how you lay it out.”

The students swapped furniture between rooms to create flow and continuity. The main floor living and sitting rooms, full of modern art, didn’t match the more dated basement family room, so a glass table was moved downstairs to modernize the space. Matzke wants all three floors to look like they belong together.

“Every room should have a purpose,” she says.

Formal sitting rooms that look like they’ve never been lived in just appear as wasted space, she says. Mixing and matching furniture between sitting rooms and family rooms can make both look welcoming.

“You want your rooms to feel like they’re embracing you and pulling you in,” she says. “It’s all about how the potential buyer feels walking into that space.”

She recommends standing in the entrance to each room as you plan your layout. If that means moving the TV to a less central location or rearranging couches, so be it.

“In the first 30 to 60 seconds you’re going to capture that buyer, It’s not about how you sit and live in the room. You need to get them into the room in the first place,” she says.

In the basement family room, the agents cleared clutter from around the entertainment center. Matzke recommends hiding anything smaller than a football. She stopped them from adding even one or two accessories back to the top of the cabinet.

That would just draw attention to the TV, she says, which is not the goal.

“Always accessorize with a purpose,” she emphasizes. “You don’t want attention on the accessories. You want the attention to be on the home’s features.”

So the team added a pop of color with bright flowers and red chairs in front of a window to draw attention to the view. Upstairs, they moved a bench to illustrate a potential additional seating area.

Anything that makes a room feel bigger and brighter is a positive, Matzke says.

In the master bedroom, team members flipped over a heavy black and gold brocade duvet so the cream lining underneath showed instead. Then they raised the curtains, letting in more natural light. These simple tricks didn’t require buying anything, but they made the room feel dramatically lighter.

“Space, light and updates — I swear that’s what sells listings,” Matzke says. “Cramped and dark and cozy does not sell.”

She says it’s simple psychology — making a room cheerful makes buyers feel cheerful too.

“When things are bright and cheery, it does affect people and how they see the space,” she says. “It really does impact people’s demeanor.”

If you decide to make some purchases for staging, they don’t have to be expensive to make the space feel fresh.

Matzke recommends updating easy things, like paint colors and light fixtures. Basic updates can help whether you’re selling a $100,000 home or a $500,000 home.

“If you haven’t picked up an interior design magazine in a decade, now is the time to do so,” she says.

“If I’m buying a cardboard box by the river, I still want it to be the trendiest box by the river that I can afford.”

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Are You Making these 6 DIY Home-Staging Mistakes? from www.selfstorage.com

By Rachel M. Hartman
Reprinted with permission from www.selfstorage.com

Staging your home — spiffing it up to please the prying eyes of homebuyers — can help it sell faster and at a higher price.

HomeGain cites cleaning and decluttering as the top home improvements that real estate professionals recommend to home sellers, based on the average cost and the return on investment. If done incorrectly, however, home staging can be harmful. Potential buyers might be turned away, and the house could linger on the market for months.

Experts warn DIY home stagers about committing these six mistakes.

1. Overlooking curb appeal.
curb-appeal

“Homeowners frequently form an emotional attachment to their landscape,” said Lori Matzke, owner of Home Staging Expert. This can make it hard to spot unappealing features such as overgrown trees and shrubs.

Bare patches of a lawn also can be a turnoff. “Not only does it make the home feel like it hasn’t been taken care of, but potential buyers fear they are going to have trouble growing grass where no grass is currently growing,” Matzke said.

To spruce up the home’s exterior, trim trees and shrubs, add healthy sod, and make sure the area around the front door is clear of dust and cobwebs.

2. Not dealing with odors properly.
curb-appeal

“The house should be odor-free,” said Michelle Minch, owner of Moving Mountains Design, a home-staging and interior design company.

If there’s a distinct smell in your home, avoid masking it with heavily perfumed scents. “It’s better to get rid of the source of the odor,” Minch said.

A fresh coat of paint might clear up some scents, such as aromas from cooking certain types of food. Other smells, such as smoke, will require deeper cleaning.

3. Making spotty improvements.
curb-appeal

“While updates are usually a positive selling point for any home, especially kitchen and bath remodels, make sure that any changes made are consistent with the rest of the house,” Matzke said. “Totally modern makeovers will stick out like a sore thumb if the rest of the space is dated.”

For a streamlined look, spread updates throughout the home. Replace dated carpeting, paint walls, and opt for a midlevel remodel in the kitchen or bathroom with more basic materials.

4. Failing to put away family-related décor.
curb-appeal

If personal items are filling up your living room, for instance, “buyers won’t be able to imagine themselves in the room,” said Jennifer Campbell, owner of Set Your Stage, a home-staging company.

To make a space more appealing, remove family pictures and personal decorations. Also, change any deeply colored walls. For instance, you might love a wall that’s bright red, but not everyone will. Go with a warm, neutral tone instead.

It can be tough to evaluate your own home when it comes to personal touches, Minch said. As a rule of thumb, she said, “you won’t go wrong by having less, but you will go wrong by having more.”

5. Taking everything out.
curb-appeal

At the other end of the spectrum, removing too many large items can make it hard for home shoppers to grasp the potential of your space.

“Buyers can’t picture what can fit in the room,” Campbell said.

Perhaps you have a bedroom that has enough room for a queen-size bed. If you leave the room empty, buyers might be inclined to think there isn’t enough space for a large bed. “If you display a queen bed, you can show that yes, you can fit that in there,” Campbell said.

6. Leaving clutter.
curb-appeal

Some clutter might be obvious, such as boxes or other items lining a hallway. Other forms of clutter might involve not-so-obvious belongings, such as collectibles.

“Collections tend to be large and take up a lot of space,” said Lori Howard, owner of Hope Designs, a home-staging and interior-decorating company.

If you post pictures of the house online, potential buyers likely will notice the clutter and be distracted by the collectibles. “It becomes chaotic to the eye,” Howard said.

To showcase the dimensions of your rooms, remove clutter and collections. If you don’t have ample space for storing extra belongings in a closet, the basement or the attic, look into stashing them in a self-storage unit.

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How a Good Real Estate Photographer can Help Sell Your House!

We’ve all seen them. The crooked. The dark. The grainy. The close-up of a well-meaning Realtor’s well-manicured (or sometimes not-so-well manicured) toes in an attempt to take a close-up of the flooring. The random cat hiding out under the bed. A picture of the dining room table instead of the dining room. The occasional blur of a homeowner trying to run for cover before the picture is snapped. Yes, these are the photos that all too often get posted to the MLS.

With more and more potential buyers beginning their home search on the internet…a number that ranges anywhere from 77% to 95%, depending on which statistics you want to believe… that’s not exactly how you want your listing depicted. The key is to generate as much traffic and interest in the home as possible. The more potential buyers who find it on-line, like what they see, and want to come take a look in person, the more chances you have to sell the house!

This is where a good real estate photographer comes in! Professional photographs will capture a home at its best with quality lighting and clear, crisp images to entice potential buyers to the door. And what buyer doesn’t want to see beautiful photos of a home they might potentially want to purchase? Professional images help them visualize what it might be like to live there while fueling their imagination! And getting them to the door with buying in mind is exactly what it’s all about. A good real estate photographer can help you create a positive first impression!

While finding a good real estate photographer isn’t always easy, we want to help you streamline that process by introducing you to two photographers I’ve personally invited to join our group of Preferred Service Experts. I am extremely honored and confident to recommend them for all your real estate photography needs.

CARYN B. DAVIS
Caryn B. Davis
www.carynbdavis.com
860-526-5936

Based in Connecticut, Caryn has 15 years experience photographing interiors, exteriors, home decor and gardens for an array of architects, resorts, realtors, builders, landscape architects and interior designers. Additionally, Caryn’s images have appeared in numerous publications such as Cottages and Gardens, Early Homes, Good Housekeeping, Old House Interiors, on HGTV, and others.

Q. How did you get into Real Estate Photography?

A. I came to it naturally through my love and appreciation of architecture, design and home décor.

Q. Can you share with us what you like best about your job?

A. Creating beautiful images of different spaces that also help to sell a home.

Q. Why do you think professional photos are so important when listing a home for market?

A. We are visual society. Often the photographs are the first thing the potential buyer sees. If the images are dark, unpleasing or blurry, and do not present or represent the house well, it may deter the potential buyer from wanting to see the house in person.

Q. What are the biggest mistakes you think real estate agents and homeowners make when having their home professionally photographed?

A. They often go for the least expensive professional they can find instead of choosing a photographer who has a solid knowledge of lighting, photography and the proper equipment to do the job and do it well.

Q. What do you think is the biggest misconception real estate agents and homeowners have about hiring a professional real estate photographer?

A. That is doesn’t take a lot time to craft well lit, technically sound, beautifully composed images, and that because it is digital there is not a lot of processing time on the back end.

Q. What is the number one question you are consistently asked by clients and/or potential clients?

A. What do you charge?

Q. If you could give real estate agents and homeowners any advice on choosing a good real estate photographer, what would it be?

A. Look at the work. It speaks for itself. Are the images dark or are they well lit? Are they crooked or straight? Do the room proportions look correct? Are they blurry, fuzzy or pixilated or are they technically sound? Are they well composed and invite the viewer in? Do they show off the best features of the house? Can you get a real sense of the house from the photos?

Q. Are there any other words of wisdom or anecdotes you’d like to share?

A. You get what you pay for.

(Please Click on Images to Enlarge.)

Caryn B. Davis 1

Studio Lights

Caryn B. Davis 3

DEANNA DIMARZIO
Deanna Dimarzio
www.deannadimarziorephotography.com
508-944-7898

Deanna specializes in real estate and architectural photography in the Boston area. Dedicated to providing realtors and designers around Boston, Southern MA, Cape Cod and Rhode Island area quality real estate photography personalized service, and professional photographic knowledge. Over 10 years experience.

Q. How did you get into Real Estate Photography?

A. I have always loved architecture. I love going to cities, NYC in particular, with my camera. I’m like a kid in a candy store when I see all the great buildings and facades. I call it ‘eye candy.’ I met a realtor and started shooting their listings. I then started marketing locally and my business grew from there.

Q. Can you share with us what you like best about your job?

A. I love that each home I photograph is so different. Whether it be the lighting or design of the room, it forces me to think and be creative as to what the best angle would be to get the right shot or whether or not I have to move anything.

Q. Why do you think professional photos are so important when listing a home for market?

A. It’s that first impression! Real estate has changed so dramatically over the past few years and so many buyers now start their search on-line, having a set of great photographs to showcase a seller’s home is essential in the current market. A great comparison would be food photography. Think of all the beautiful photographs of menu items you’ve seen in print and on t.v. When you look at a great photo, you want that!Sometimes without even thinking.

Q. What are the biggest mistakes you think real estate agents and homeowners make when having their home professionally photographed?

A. I frequently find that a home hasn’t been properly de-cluttered, edited, or rearranged to make the best of the space. My rule of thumb is, ‘less is more’ and I always take the time to ask if I can make a few adjustments as needed. I think it allows potential buyers to envision how they can make the space their home.

Q. What do you think is the biggest misconception real estate agents and homeowners have about hiring a professional real estate photographer?

A. That they can do the job themselves. We have wide angle lenses coupled with vision to capture a great shot. A professional can also enhance the quality of the photos, post shoot.

Q. What is the number one question you are consistently asked by clients and/or potential clients?

A. They always notice that I moved everything off the counters for the photos and always want to know if I think that was really a good idea. Yes it is, because you want potential buyers to see the space and envision themselves living there, not looking at your stuff.

Q. If you could give real estate agents and homeowners any advice on choosing a good real estate photographer, what would it be?

A. I would encourage them to look at their portfolio, check out their testimonials, and make sure they are using professional equipment.

Q. Are there any other words of wisdom or anecdotes you’d like to share?

A. I do believe a home sells faster with professional staging and photos. I’ve seen it happen many times.

(Please Click on Images to Enlarge.)

Deanna Dimarzio 1

Deanna Dimarzio 2

Deanna Dimarzio 3

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