“Ask the Home Staging Expert®” – Should we leave furniture in our vacant home?

vacant listing minnetonka lr
“This vacant listing was staged with a sofa from www.homereserve.com, an area rug, a sofa table and dining room table from www.craigslist.com, and indoor/outdoor chairs purchased on clearance!”

Dear Home Staging Expert® – My wife has accepted a job offer across the country. We need to get there fast and will be renting an apartment while our house is on the market 1200 miles away. I have always heard that leaving some furniture behind is a good idea, but if we do that, it will cost us twice as much to move once our home sells. Thoughts?

Josh and Jen – Seattle or Bust

Dear Josh and Jen,

Thank you for the question and congrats to your wife on her new gig! I do think that vacant listings are a little tougher to sell. Whether a fair assessment or not, vacant rooms do tend to look smaller and people often think something must be wrong with a house that’s sitting empty. But simply leaving a few key pieces behind…a sofa, dining set, and bed….along with some artwork to warm up the walls, a few lamps, and a rug or two, would be just enough to give potential buyer’s some perspective on how their furnishings might fit in the space.

However, with a move as far away as yours, I would instead suggest you consider renting a few major furnishings for this purpose, or even investing in them yourself, as it would be far less expensive than paying for two moves. Another option might be to leave some things you might want to replace anyway behind…make sure they are in very good condition…and buy new once you get to Seattle.

On the upside, if you decide to rent from a rental outlet or hire a stager who can stage your property for you while renting you the furniture, you will not have to deal with any of the details yourself. Or if you do buy, you can always donate the furniture to a charitable organization once the house sells and receive a tax credit, or gift it to a friend or family member in need in exchange for keeping an eye on your house while it’s on the market.

Do keep in mind that while vacant furnishings should definitely look the part, they don’t need to be high-end purchases like the kind of furniture you might make a long-term investment in for yourself, so you really can find some great buys out there for much less. For the record, I have purchased enough beautiful furnishings to stage an entire home for less than $1000.00 several times, which is certainly far cheaper than hauling it across the country!

Whatever you decide to do, remember that the house itself should be in great condition, first and foremost. Fresh paint, new/clean carpeting/flooring, great curb appeal, are always a good investment. There is no point in renting and/or buying new furnishings to be plopped down in an all too lived-in setting. Furniture won’t enhance a home that is in desperate need of updates and might even make it look more dated. But when the backdrop is right, a few key pieces can create just the right amount of warmth and perspective to give potential buyers a better sense of the space while keeping the house from feeling abandoned.

Thank you again for the question, hope this helps, and wishing you and yours a wonderful new life in Seattle!

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

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The 5 Biggest Misconceptions About Home Staging

A home staged with the buyer in mind!

“A home staged with the buyer in mind!”

Home Staging has been around for years now, and though almost considered a standard practice when it comes time to sell your home, there is still a lot of misinformation floating around out there. Here are a few of the most common misconceptions about Home Staging and the Home Staging Industry, and the facts that debunk them.

1) Home Staging is a Regulated Industry, like Real Estate

Actually, no it isn’t. While it’s important to verify any stager you hire has a portfolio of their own and can provide references upon request, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will have any professional credentials. Unlike Real Estate or Interior Design for that matter, because the Home Staging Industry isn’t regulated by a formal governing body, literally anyone can call themselves a staging pro. While there are many courses and certifications available from many different sources, including our own, none of these certifications/designations/accreditations are offered through a state or federally regulated governing board. They are awarded by the company offering the course.

2) Home Staging is the same as Interior Design

While these two professions are often thought to be one in the same, they should actually be considered polar opposites. Though both have to do with the styling of a home, that’s where the similarities end. Interior Design is the process of enhancing a home to appeal to the owner’s aesthetics and how they use their space. Home Staging focuses on playing up the space itself by directing attention to the positive features of the actual structure and presenting them with many potential buyers in mind. Interior Design specializes in individuality, while Home Staging tends to de-personalize a space maintaining visual appeal so the home will attract a larger audience.

3) Home Staging is only for Vacant Houses

In my own business, I actually stage more occupied homes than vacant listings. Because most people don’t live in their house the same way it should be presented to sell, staging an occupied home is just as beneficial and just as necessary. The ultimate goal for both is always the same…to sell the home quickly for the highest possible profit.

4) Home Staging is for Frumpy Houses, not Mine

Well, I don’t live in a ‘frumpy house’, but I would still need to stage it to sell! Staging is all about presenting a home to highlight the best features of the space, not the owner’s stuff! And since most homes have been decorated to appease the owner’s style, creating a more universal appeal is really the key. In other words, a ‘frumpy house’ shouldn’t be the only consideration. The fact is, most houses could definitely benefit from a few updates, editing, and rearranging to make a positive first impression on potential buyers.

5) Home Staging is too Expensive

Selling your home is usually the single, largest financial transaction most individuals will ever experience. This isn’t like selling your old sofa on craigslist, this is a major deal worth thousands…or even millions…of dollars! When you consider that the longer a home sits on the market, the more price reductions it will undertake…why on earth would anyone leave something like that to chance? It’s far better to spend a little money upfront to ensure the house shows well than allow that house to linger and lose perceived value. In the grand scheme of things, staging fees are a drop in the bucket. So shop around and find a stager with experience, references, and an impressive portfolio, and you are sure to find a staging pro that fits your needs and your budget.

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Matisse 1

Hi, Lori – Quick question for you! We are not sure what to do with our cat, Tuna Fish, during showings. We both work all day and don’t know if it’s acceptable to leave him home alone or not. He usually just hides around strangers and will probably just hide during showings. Is that ok? What do you think we should do?

Tuna Fish and Family in Cherry Hill, NJ

Hello there, Tuna Fish and Family!

Clients ask me this all the time, though the animal species in question may vary. But there are several things to consider in this scenario.

First and foremost in my animal-loving opinion, is the safety of your beloved pet! While your kitty might run and hide around strangers when you are on the premises, that might not be the case if strangers enter when he’s all alone. He might panic and run out the door, scratch or bite the intruders to guard his home territory, or just freak out in general. Because you are not there to see for yourself, you really can’t be certain exactly how he will react. So always better to be safe than sorry.

Secondly, you also don’t know how potential buyers might feel about your pet. Even the most passionate animal lovers often second guess the condition of a home with pets of any kind due to possible damage and/or lingering odors left behind. There too, some people might not care for animals in general, are allergic, or fear them. And you really don’t want your pet to be an automatic turn-off to potential buyers.

Last but not least, animals hanging around the house during showings can actually be quite a distraction. Most buyers walk through a home in 15-20 minutes or so, give or take. What you want them to notice and remember is the house itself and all the positive selling points, not your cat streaking through the living room at top speed and scrambling up the curtains!

The truth is, no animals, or even any trace of animals, should be left behind for showings. That means, removing eating dishes, bedding, treats and toys, and hiding the litter box. If you have a dog, don’t leave any ‘presents’ on the lawn and replace grass in spots that might be worn down/destroyed. And make sure your house doesn’t have any funky pet odors or window markings. Carpeting should be steam cleaned…and maybe the upholstery, too.

Ideally, if you can’t sweep your furry family member up at a moments notice to leave for showings yourself, consider farming them out while your house is on the market. Maybe a friend, family member, or even a friendly neighbor could keep them safe during the day while you are away. There is also kitty/doggie daycare to consider, or talk to your local boarding facility and see if they might have some options for you.

Another idea that Realtors are not too crazy about because it does tend to limit showing opportunities a bit but would ensure your pet is secure, is to pre-set certain days and/or hours for showings. If you can assure your animal won’t be at home during specific time frames, that would be best. Perhaps scheduling your work days to start a little later or end a little sooner would suffice. You might also consider working a few longer hours, for example Monday thru Thursday, so you can take Friday off specifically for showings. And of course, make sure the same applies to weekends.

If your pet absolutely must stay at home, make sure they are crated and/or kenneled. That does not mean locking them in a room and making that room unavailable to potential buyers. Potential buyers want to see every room of the house! What it does mean is providing a comfortable crate or kennel with enough ample room to move around and access to food or water, and for cats, a litter box. Tuck the crate/kennel in an out-of-the-way corner so they will not be disturbed or the center of attention. And make sure to have someone come in and check on them during the day for potty breaks and the like.

While it is true that selling a home with pets might take a bit of extra work, in the end, it is very doable and your pet can still feel secure during the process.

Thank you for writing in and wishing you and Tuna Fish all the best!

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

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Best Time to Buy Area Rugs is NOW! – For Staging and Home

NOW is the time to buy if you are looking for an area rug for staging or home. Personally, I love the indoor/outdoor rugs for staging! Very lightweight to transport, easy to clean, durable for foot traffic, and gorgeous colors!

Heads-Up! www.overstock.com Area Rugs are on sale NOW! And they offer free shipping for orders over $45.

I just bought this lovely wool rug for my guest room. SWEET!!


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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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