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

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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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