“Ask the Home Staging Expert®” – How do we sell a house when we live next to messy neighbors?

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Good Morning, Lori!

Here’s an issue my partner and I are having and we don’t know what to do.  We are getting our house ready to sell and have followed every bit of advice we can find.  We think our place looks pristine, inside and out.  The problem is, we live next to neighbors who have other priorities.  Their yard is a mess, there are knee-high weeds or taller everywhere, they have a junk car parked in the alley next to their garage, there is junk metal scattered around, and the entire place looks dilapidated and awful!  How do we appeal to buyers when they know they are going to be living next to that mess?  They are very nice people, they just don’t seem to care about their property.  Should we ask them to clean it up?  If so, how do we ask without offending them?

Good Neighbors in Shreveport


Dear Good Neighbors

That is definitely a sticky situation and unfortunately, no amount of staging can stage away the neighbors!

Yes, I would definitely approach them and yes, they might be offended.  But really, what other choice do you have?

Ideally, it would have be great if you could talk to them while you’re working on an exterior project of your own.  You could simply say something like, “Hey!  I’m hauling a few things away today!  I can grab that pile for you if you like!”  Or something to that effect.

But I have a feeling a more direct approach is going to be necessary.  Tell them you are selling, let them know you mean no offense, and offer to do the work.  Approach it gently and maybe start with something small.  Like the weeds.   (Hey, for all you know, they will welcome your assistance!)  You can get more involved and tackle more projects as you go.

If that get’s you nowhere, you could also try calling the city, though I would only use that approach as a last resort.  But many areas have ordinances that your neighbors are likely violating.  While I certainly wouldn’t want them to get into trouble, it is not fair that the condition of their home and yard might impact the sale of yours.  So that would be my final solution if directly approaching them doesn’t work.  If you explain the situation to your city, they will likely be more diplomatic in their approach.

And finally, while it certainly won’t resolve the problems next door, you might consider a privacy fence or privacy hedge to lessen the impact and use sheers on the windows facing the neighbors.  It won’t hide the mess, but it might downplay it enough to make it less of an issue.

I feel for you!  Hope you can get this resolved and wishing you all the best for a successful sale!

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

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The Top Three Investments that will Help You Sell Your House

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Getting ready to sell?  Or maybe your house is already sitting on the market going nowhere fast.  Whatever the case, your goal is to appeal to the most potential buyers as possible, and we recommend these three updates to garner more interest for the biggest payback…

1)  Paint Your Walls Neutral – We can’t stress this one enough!  Fresh, neutral colors have been proven to appeal to more potential buyers.  It’s not a gimmick, it’s a fact!  And paint is one of the cheapest upgrades you can make to your home.  Say so long to your lavender walls…you can paint your walls any color you like in your new place…and instead opt for a nice, creamy white, taupe, or tan so more buyers will be able to envision themselves living there!

2)  Update Your Flooring – Potential buyers absolutely LOVE new carpeting!  The look, the feel, the fact that they won’t be living on someone else’s old floors.  But if you really want to impress them, go for wood or wood-look laminate!  While replacing flooring is never cheap, it costs a lot less than your first price reduction.

3)  Perk Up Your Landscape – Trim back those overgrown trees and shrubs, or cut down anything that is dead or dying altogether, replace the yellow, weedy lawn with sod, drop in a few colorful plants, add fresh mulch, and you’ve just increased your curb appeal 100%!  A landscape that looks well-maintained, SELLS!

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“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

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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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