We’ve finally made the decision to sell our house and buy up. My husband and the real estate agent want us to go on the market next week. I’m panic stricken as we are no where near ready! They say our market is moving so fast, it doesn’t matter what our house looks like, it will sell. I say it’s going to get us a better price if we take the month to clean, organize, freshen up all the paint, and update the flooring on the main level. Our carpeting has stains that can’t be removed, even with a professional cleaning. We need to replace it, though I think it would sell for more if the floors were wood or at least faux wood. We’ve been here a decade and have three kids. Our house definitely looks ‘lived-in’ and I want us to get the best price. What do you think?

Stressed Out in Seattle

Dear Stressed Out – I can certainly sympathize with you. Selling your home can be stressful enough without the added pressure of trying to rush the process. Though I do understand the mindset of your husband and the real estate agent, I am going to have to agree with you. Even in a seller’s market, there is no guarantee your house is going to sell right out of the gate, so you definitely shouldn’t skimp on presentation.

The homes that sell the fastest and for the best possible price are the homes that impress the most potential buyers. I always tell my clients, ‘Sell the house you’d be happy to buy!’ If you aren’t impressed, buyers won’t be, either. It’s better to take a month to prepare than to have it sitting on the market a month without any interest. And the longer a house sits, the more chances for lower offers or price reductions. Do it right the first time, and you’re more likely to get the best possible outcome.

Schedule your new flooring to be installed right now…I agree that wood and/or faux-wood are better sellers…and arrange for a painter, the sooner the better. In the meantime, get cracking on the cleaning and organizing. It’s definitely go time, and if the stars line up in your favor, you might be able to get it on the market even faster than you anticipated.

Hope this helps and good luck with 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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Nothing kills curb appeal like dead, overgrown shrubs engulfing the house!  We recommend trimming back what you can, or completely removing anything that’s already dying or simply far too large for the space.  But don’t just leave it bare!  Remember that just like a nicely finished interior, potential buyers appreciate a nicely appointed landscape.

If you plan to replace and your home is going on the market soon, avoid shrubs deemed ‘starter’ size.  While certainly economical and easy to plant, they are far too small to make any real impact.  You can likewise skip planting full-size shrubs, as it usually doesn’t take many to break the bank and they often require more care to help get them re-established.  Somewhere in between, however, is absolutely ideal!

You also need to be mindful of the planting zone you’re in and the sun requirements and growing habits of what you plant.  Everything is going to get bigger…some things, MUCH bigger…so what might look perfect when you pop it into the ground may eventually turn out to be far too large for the space!

Below are some of our best suggestions for a few shrubs to help create a welcoming curb appeal that sells without getting too big or overgrown in the years to come.  If you’re still in doubt and the idea of tackling this project alone makes you nervous, take a photo of the areas you plan to plant up and head to your local greenhouse.  They typically have professionals on hand who can point you in the right direction.   (Availability from linked sources is subject to change.)

Little Lime Hydrangea

Zones 3-9, Full-Sun to Part-Shade, 3-6 feet tall and wide.

Blooms start out white with green tint, then fade to pink.

Available at www.wilsonbrosgardens.com

Montana Moss Juniper

Zones 4-9, Full-Sun, 2-4 feet tall, 3-5 feet wide.

Interesting foliage, may be used as a ground cover.

Available at www.greenwoodnursery.com

Goldflame Spirea

Zones 3-8, Full-Sun to Part-Shade, 3-4 feet tall and wide.

Maintains shape, rosy spring blooms, leaves turn color in fall.

Available at www.thetreecenter.com

Dwarf Alberta Spruce

Zones 2-8, 6-8 feet tall, Full-Sun to Part-Shade, 4-5 feet wide

Vertical interest, evergreen all year.

Available at www.fastgrowingtrees.com

Checkerboard Hardy Fuchsia

Zones 7-11, Full-Sun to Part-Shade, 3-4 feet tall, 2 feet wide

Showy flowers throughout summer.

Available at www.dancingoaks.com

Tiny Wine Ninebark

Zones 3-7, Full-Sun, 4 feet tall, 4 feet wide

Spring flowers, maroon to bronze leaves all season.

Available at www.kiwinurseries.com

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Hello, Lori – We need your help!  We’re flipping a house and ended up going a couple of thousand dollars over budget due to some unforeseen repairs.  We refinished the hardwood floors, painted the kitchen cabinets and added granite countertops, completely remodeled both bathrooms, and everything got a fresh coat of paint.  So now that it’s spring, we’re finally tackling the exterior.  Everything’s been power-washed and painted, and we removed all the overgrown arborvitae and out-of-control shrubs.  That in itself was a huge improvement, but in my opinion, it looks very bare now.  There are literally no plants or shrubs or anything around the exterior of the house except a small patch of daylilies out back.  My partners don’t want to spend anymore money and think it’s best to leave it as-is.  They say it’s better to let the buyers decide how they want it landscaped.  I think we should add some edging, shrubs, and mulch.  What do you think?  Should we just hang up our wheelbarrow and call it a day?

The Missouri Flippers


Dear Flippers – Sounds like you’ve done a great job turning things around.  That is awesome!  But I’m going to have to agree that you shouldn’t stop there.  The landscaping would truly be the icing-on-the-cake!  You should never underestimate the value that a little added curb appeal brings to the table.  If you think it looks bare, potential buyers will likely feel the same.  I would definitely finish it off.  After all, there’s a reason you finished the interior so nicely and didn’t leave that task to potential buyers!  Most buyers prefer ‘move-in-ready’, and that goes for the landscape, too.

If you’re short on funds, you can try to find some free landscaping materials.  Check out craigslist.org.  This time of year, a lot of people start getting ready for home improvements and will often post ‘free’ or ‘cheap’ rocks or bricks for edging if you’re willing to haul it away.  Likewise, you can check out your local municipality for some free mulch.  While you do need to be careful about the mulch you find there…IMHO, it’s not always as attractive as the store bought stuff and might contain some weed seed…sometimes, you get lucky.

As far as the plantings go, a couple of mid-size shrubs…I wouldn’t go with ‘starter’ shrubs, as they are typically pretty small and won’t have the same impact…and some perennial filler plants should do the trick.  You could also ‘shop’ your own yards for some of those plants.  Personally, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to divide my Sedum, Hosta, and Salvia over the years!

In the end, I think it would serve you well to invest in some exterior landscaping.  There is nothing more attractive to potential buyers than a house that feels nicely finished, both inside and out!  Hope this helps and wishing you all the best.

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





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10 Cheap, Easy Ways to Stage Your Home For Sale by Teresa Mears

We participated in an article on home staging posted by Living On The Cheap.  Writer Teresa Mears did a great job offering 10 simple and affordable tips on staging.  Please check out their awesome website that includes advice on everything from Money & Budgeting, to Travel & Exploring, to Family & Parenting, and everything in between…including this awesome post on home staging!  Thanks for including us, Teresa!  

You’ve decided to sell your home, and you want to get top dollar for it. That means you need to stage your home for sale — in other words, prep your house so it looks more appealing to potential buyers. You’ve seen the TV shows where homeowners spend thousands of dollars to bring in new furniture and have a designer arrange everything, but there’s an important detail to consider: You don’t have thousands to spend.

The good news is there are many things you can do to spruce up the look of your home without shelling out a lot of money. “Updating isn’t as expensive as it used to be,” says Lori Matzke, author of “Home Staging: Creating Buyer-Friendly Rooms to Sell Your House” and a Home Staging Expert® in Minneapolis who teaches workshops nationwide. “There’s a lot of DIY information out there.”

There’s no rule of thumb about how much you should expect to spend getting your home ready to sell because every house is different. But investing a few thousand dollars can potentially increase your sale price by much more than that, in addition to making your house sell more quickly. “Anything that you can do is only going to benefit you,” Matzke says.

Here are 10 economical ways to stage your home for sale.

  1. Remove all clutter.  Prospective buyers, particularly young ones, often can’t see past the homeowners’ decor to what’s most important about a house – the floor plan and the space. That’s why it’s important to make the home look as neutral and appealing as possible, so buyers will focus on the property itself.  Remove all personal photos, knickknacks and other junk that’s visible when you walk into a room. “Cleaning out the clutter just creates so much space, and that’s what people are looking for – space,” Matzke says. “It just really makes your home look bigger and younger.”  You don’t want empty shelves, but edit the décor to a few attractive pieces that pair well together and are not a mish-mosh of crazy colors.
  2. Edit your furniture.  If your rooms are crowded, consider putting bigger and less attractive pieces of furniture in storage. This will open up space and make your home look larger. Make sure there is nothing obscuring buyers’ eyes from focal points, such as fireplaces and views.  If your upholstered furniture is mismatched or patterned, consider draping them with matching slipcovers in a neutral color, if that helps pull the room together and make the furnishing appear stylish.
  3. Do a thorough cleaning.  Wash the windows, clean the cobwebs out of the corner and scrub the grout in the tile floors. Even though you’re not selling the furniture, clean that as well because it adds to the overall impression you’re trying to give. If your house has great bones, but feels old or dirty, buyers will be less enthusiastic and devalue the property in their minds.
  4. Spruce up the outside.  First impressions matter, so make sure your home exudes curb appeal. Go all out with small do-it-yourself projects. Replacing the mailbox and house numbers, adding a doormat and painting the front door can make your home more appealing to a prospective buyer driving by. If the house looks dirty, wash the siding or stucco.  “I’ve seen houses that look really frumpy on the outside and great on the inside,” Matzke says, “but you can’t get [potential buyers] in the door.”
  5. Refresh your landscape.  In the same vein, you’ll want your landscaping to be clean and attractive. Cut the grass, trim the bushes and get rid of dead branches. Clean up flower beds, add fresh mulch and plant flowers. Make sure your deck is swept and the pool skimmed of leaves. Tuck your kids’ stray toys and bikes in a shed.
  6. Paint.  While painting is fairly simple and inexpensive compared with other improvements, a new coat makes a significant impact. In some cases, you’d be wise to paint the entire house inside and out. In other cases, touching up and painting the trim might be enough. If you’ve got a crazy color or garish wallpaper in one room, tone it down with a neutral coat of paint.  “Fresh paint is a really good seller,” Matzke says. “Do it in trendy neutral colors.” Painting dated kitchen cabinets can also make the kitchen look fresh and new.
  7. Don’t forget the small stuff.  Pay attention to details, says Sherry Chris, CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. “New, matching towel sets in the bathroom, accent pillows on the couch and fresh flowers can be welcoming elements to a homebuyer,” she says. If you don’t want to spend money on items you won’t use again, see if you can borrow them from a friend.  You will also want to clean or replace light fixtures, and replace old cabinet hardware. “It’s not a really expensive undertaking, but it really makes a difference in how the home is presented,” Matzke says.
  8. Replace old carpeting.  If you can afford it, pull up the old carpeting and replace with new to give your house a fresh look. If your home has hardwood floors underneath, that’s even better. Ideally, you should refinish wood floors but even just exposing them is good, Matzke says. Hardwood floors are desirable, and potential buyers will be pleased to see them.
  9. Make sure each room has a defined purpose.  Don’t make prospective buyers work to figure out how to use a space or what it’s original purpose was. If you’ve turned your dining room into an office, return it to dining room status, Matzke says. If a room could serve multiple functions, Chris suggests putting up tent cards that say “Dining Room or Office” to point out alternative uses for the space. That would also work in a bedroom you’re using as an office.
  10. Make your house picture-perfect.  You want to make sure your home photographs well. Most buyers start their home search online, and they may quickly reject a home if the listing photos aren’t appealing. Don’t photograph your home before you’re finished staging it, and when you’re ready, pick a time of day with the best natural light to do the photo shoot. If you’re not confident with a camera, hire someone who is to photograph your house. If you want to save money, find a friend who’s handy with a DSLR.
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Denver Realtor Victim of Senseless Homicide – Here’s How You Can Help

Pamela Cabriales was a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a real estate agent in the Denver Metro whose life was cut tragically short by an absolutely senseless act of violence.  I did not know her personally.  She truly was just another name and face pictured below the sensational headlines, one of many I see pop up on my newsfeed all too often these days.  (You can read about her story here, which I do not plan to dwell on in this post.)

But this one was different for me.  Beyond the horrific details of the crime that abruptly ended her life, Pamela was part of the industry I have been immersed in for more than two decades.  Our industry.  She undoubtedly had many of the same hopes, and dreams, and aspirations as the rest of us, and chose a career in real estate to fulfill them, just like the rest of us.  Perhaps it is that common thread that helped make the connection for me.  After all, Pamela’s story and her random, fateful ending really could have been the story for any one of us.

We work in a very competitive industry.  Whether you’re a Realtor, Home Staging Expert®, or both…there is definitely a lot of competition.  But I’d like to think there is also a sense of camaraderie.  One where we can all come together and support our own when in need.  Which brings me to Pamela’s son, 6 year old Leo.

Whenever I read a tragic story like this, I am always left wondering, “What can I do to help?”  And then I was made aware of something very personal and particular I could do to show my support that will benefit Pamela’s son directly.  A GoFundMe campaign has been set up for Leo’s college fund, and I can’t think of a better way to honor his mother’s memory than to give her child a better and brighter future…the future she no doubt dreamed of for him herself.

I have never posted anything like this before, and hopefully will never have to post anything like this again, but if I can get just one person to donate, it was well worth posting.  So I implore you all…in fellowship and generousity…to make a donation for Leo and to share, share, share this post within your circle!  Whether you donate $5 or $500 matters not!  It all adds up and it will make a difference in the life of this young man.

If I know anything about Realtors and Home Staging Experts®, it’s that we are an absolutely thoughtful and giving crowd, and I can’t think of a better cause to rally behind than Leo’s future and a donation to that future in his mother’s memory…she was one of our own.

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Before and After: Michigan Realtor® Chere Wiseman Finds Success Offering Complimentary Staging

When Michigan Realtor® Chere Wiseman of Five Star Real Estate Leaders took on this listing, it had already been on the market for months as a For Sale By Owner, was over-priced, had unflattering photos, and the furnishings and decor were really not all that buyer-friendly.

“I knew right away for me to win this listing I would need to offer more than the average agent,” said Chere.  So she took a chance and offered to stage the home complimentary.  “This was my first time going all-in on a vacant listing!”

To stage the living room, Chere went to the local furniture rental store and chose a gray sofa set with green undertones to give it a bit of pop against the neutral background without overwhelming.  She created a more inviting layout that welcomed buyers in and played up the size of the room.  The decorative ladder and blankets were borrowed from her own home and helped add an element of height to draw more attention to the beautiful cathedral ceilings.

In the owner’s suite, Chere opted for a full-size bed instead of king-size, which had previously proven to take up too much space.  The smaller sized bed helped the room feel much larger and the softer shades used in the bedding made the bed feel less bulky by tying it in with the background.

Because of all the extra room she created, she was able to include a nightstand and lamp which made the layout feel more functional.  As a finishing touch, she used an over-sized basket under the window to expand the visual square footage of the space.

Her gamble to stage the listing as a complimentary service paid off when the house sold less than a week later for the exact price she told the homeowners it would sell for!  With her Home Staging Expert® Certification in hand and a major win under her belt, Chere plans to offer more staging as a value-added service for her clients in the future.  Sellers looking for an agent who goes above and beyond in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area should most definitely give Chere Wiseman a call!

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