4 Easy Rules To Home Staging 101: a unique and effective approach

Hi there! I know I've been a bit delinquent in keeping up with The Bloggers lately, but Autumn is my favorite season and I usually take this time to frolic outdoors and tune into my adventurous side. Its the only time I get to enjoy nature without breaking a sweat, getting frostbite or having an allergy attack. My boyfriend and I just went zip lining last weekend and I must say it was AMAZING! If you wish you had the guts to go skydiving but realize it just won't happen, go zipping! It is extremely fun, similar to a roller coaster ride but you get a more liberating adrenalin rush without fearing for your life.

Although I must admit, skydiving was fun. :)

Anyway, I need to stay focused because I have a lot to share with you today. Since 'tis the season for house hunting, I thought it was appropriate to address one of my favorite design challenges- Home Staging! If you are a homeowner looking to sell your property, chances are you have considered listing privately to save some moola. Unfortunately, those who opt out of enlisting professional help miss out on key strategies used to make the best impression when opening their home to potential buyers. This goes for builders too, but today I'm mainly addressing the fixer-uppers of the world. And thanks to the DIY revolution, this process should be a piece of cake for anyone. Privately and personally selling your home is a much more psychological and emotional process, so stay focused man. Or woman. And follow through! :)

Now, while I won't recommend painting your hardwood floors white or give away all of my secrets, I will share my general no-nonsense but common sense approach to Staging. While few sellers don't need much coaching because they keep meticulously spotless and feng shui-ified houses, everyone can use an outsider's perspective even if it is a trusted friend who will help lead you to the promise land if you're still stuck in the 70's (I love the 70's too) but this is probably the best advice I can offer you.

Exhibit A
This is a no-no if you're selling your house. I can't see the walls or the floors. I feel closed in and don't know where to focus my eyes. I'm shopping for a home, not the set of Beetle Juice. Now as much as I love that movie, I want to see the home's soul, it's architectural bones. While this look works wonders for someone already living here, this room needs to apply the 3D's to be sold.

The 3 "D" phases of home staging are De-cluttering, Depersonalizing and Decorating. This formula is a foolproof way to ensure that your home is updated and polished before going on the market. It gives a homeowner the confidence boost needed to sell the shingles out of it and the buyer every reason to consider biting those shingles...(?) Ok, that was bad. And I don't just mean by sweeping your front stoop, hiding everything under your bed and washing your dishes, which surprising doesn't dawn on some homeowners to do. Smh...

Things to consider:

Think about your neighborhood and the demographic that will likely be shopping your home. Do you live in a bungalow or loft built for a bachelor? A 2 bedroom cottage perfect for retirees who are down-sizing? A 5 bedroom colonial made for a young family with 3 kids? Whomever they are, setting up shop so that potential buyers see themselves living there is a sure way to get them to bite fast. Why? Because the appeal of a comfortable and inviting home being well taken care of makes folks want to let their guard down and start dreaming. They will start to envision themselves living in their home and revel in the thought of not having to spend time and more money after just having purchased a house, in order to achieve that "livable" desired effect. You know the one. But whether or not you're living in your fixer-upper, there are simple things you can do (without spending much dough) that will lessen the blow, just so you know. (I told you I like to rhyme)

Let's face it- Home Staging is one of most underrated design tricks in the universe. Just remember, all the sensory processes from just a 10 minute walk-through does a number on the psyche. The same way you make a lasting impression in the first 5 minutes of meeting someone, your house does the same for a potential buyer. All 5 senses are tuned in and turned on the second a buyer takes that first step inside a home. Make them count. First thing is first...

The first impression is made by the exterior of the house. Make sure your home has a clear and present walkway leading up to the front door, the lawn is neatly manicured and that there are colorful plants along the walkway which can also be seen from the street. A seasoned home owner recognizes the maintenance costs that are required of an elaborate landscape if one does not have a green thumb, so keep it sweet and simple. Remove any dead trees and plants that stick out like a sore thumb. Also, make sure your mail isn't overflowing from your mailbox (even if you're not living there anymore.) If you live in an apartment, the hallway leading up to the front door should be clean and presentable, clear of litter, mail and newspapers...(and smelling fresh.)

Now take a step into your front door and hyper-analyze every square inch of what is in sight. The goal is to create a functional and inviting entry way...this will set the tone for the rest of the tour. Start here and follow the 3-Ds while you give yourself the tour...

2. DE-CLUTTER EVERYTHING! (Yes, even your closets, your basements, garages and under your beds) The simple act of visually expanding your floor space adds emotional value to your home, so get rid of your junk because there is no sense in trying to hide it. Buyers will find it. Keep the bare essentials and donate, donate, donate! Have a party and provide some wine and munchies in exchange for your friends' help in sorting through your beautiful mess. At the end of the night, you'll probably have piles of clothing, shoes, furniture, unused gifts and miscellaneous stuff that you will happily offer them for being so generous with their time, and trust that they will happily accept. This process will give your old things a new home, ease your move and lower the cost of storage. Otherwise if it isn't useful, 1-800-junk-usa will happily haul it away.

P.S.- Don't allow your guests to drink and drive. It's just not a good idea.***

a.) Invest in storage bins to fill with things you absolutely cannot live without (but really can live without for a few months) and store them neatly in your garage. Or if you need to rent a storage unit until you seal the deal- do it. In addition to floor space, your flooring should be a major selling point and you want to show as much of it off as you can. If the floors are not so pretty, play them up with AREA RUGS.

b.) Consider what existing furniture will physically fit in your next home if you're down-sizing, and what will not. You know what to do if it doesn't. And you should only shop furniture for your new home if the scale of the rooms are roughly the same or you have the space to store extra pieces. Don't jump the gun on shopping sprees with the money you saved on Realtor fees just yet. It could mean the difference between selling fast and never finding the right buyer to look past your new but awkwardly fitting and distracting over-sized furniture. Conversely, if you're half way moved out and the home is barely furnished, create smaller conversation seating areas with rental club chairs and a side table with fresh flowers to warm up the space a bit. If you don't want to rent anything, borrow from friends! ;)

c.) Create easy space flow, and make sure there is at least 3ft clearance for the main walkways through the house, or at least on the main "tour" path.

d.) And another thing- Potential buyers will look into your kitchen cabinets, closets, attic space, crawl space, basement, garage, bathtubs, behind doors, under beds and desks, behind sofas, and sometimes even your fridge! Gasp! =O So don't forget to de-clutter and clean your refrigerator, along with the rest of the appliances and deceivingly vulnerable contraptions that come with the house!

Here is an article on How to make a small kitchen appear larger

3. DEPERSONALIZE!! After you've de-cluttered, do it again but this time minimize personalized visual distractions that are within eye level. Start by organizing and putting away your nick knacks, collectibles, *neon lit beer signs, toys, mail, media, dishes on the kitchen walls, and any surfaces flooded with picture frames and self-portraits (especially if they're glamour shots of you laying in a cloud of feathers in your lingerie- trust me on this one.) And on the day you show your home, put away your litter boxes, cats, pet beds, garbage cans, ash trays, hampers, shopping bags. This reality check list minimizes the subconscious burden of "baggage" and the marking of territory- it gives the buyer room to breathe and dream.

a.) Shop at garage sales, pick up some inexpensive contemporary wall art and simple accessories like a vase or bowl to display fruit or flowers, and replace. Lather, rinse, and repeat in each room.

b.) If you haven't painted your walls in the past 5 years, this may be your opportunity to change the game with a fresh and neutral coat of paint. Neutral doesn't have to mean boring. A warm shade of gray or beige with undertones of red, green, blue or even a crisp greige will make the trim pop or just give it a modern touch. Don't worry about repainting the trim if is one, just giving it a good wipe down and maybe a touch-up here and there with a leftover can of paint will do wonders. Inexpensive. Neutralizing. Refreshing.

A good rule of thumb: more lighting (natural and artificial) allows for darker color shades as long as they are neutral and the paint isn't chipping. Obv.
If you have existing wall colors that are very saturated or dark, you will want to lighten and mute the walls, perhaps leaving one accent wall with your existing color as long as it doesn't overpower the room. This should act as a revival tactic, making the walls recede and embrace you at the same time, providing the buyer options with style.

c.) Don't leave any simple repair projects undone. The main objective here is make it CONTEMPORARY!

Patch up any holes, repair any loose handles or knobs, hinges. Check to see that you have clean and functional switch plates, outlet plates, and hinges that aren't rusted or crusty from being painted over 10 times.

Install simple lighting fixtures that you won't mind leaving behind. Small investments like updating hardware are pitched as perks to make buyers happy and it does. If you have old outdated light fixtures and can't replace em, paint em!

*Bathroom hardware should all compliment each other to highlight clean and simple shower curtains, soaps, and towels.

*If you take care of all the small things, the large repairs you cannot afford to fix won't seem so overwhelming.

4. DECORATE! Now that you've cleared out and neutralized your home, it is time to turn Shabby into Chic by thinking like a buyer would and contemporizing it. (I'm aware I made that word up, thanks.) Let's make-believe you have entered a contest for Best Dressed Home. Use universal laws of design when approaching this phase because you want to make it comfy, functional, and gender neutral as well as stylish...

a.) Naturally, decorating requires preparation by cleaning, scrubbing, shining, dusting, windexing and making beds. If you have a wall full of windows, you make that glass sparkle! If you're not keen on detailing your home you better HIRE SOMEONE.

b.) Give yourself a tour through every room to decide what purpose it would best serve a potential family (or future family.) Is the space being utilized as a storage/junk room? Clear it and stage it! If you have 5 children each sleeping in their own bedroom, vacate and condense two kids' rooms with the others' to create a few grown-up scenarios like a guest room, an office, den or a library. If a family has 2 home offices, stage one desk in a common area so you can make the extra room an inviting guest room OR if one office is spacious enough, show it off an office/guest room.

c.) If you can afford to...finish every space from the Basement to the Attic. Every last square inch counts! Use an inflatable mattress to help with staging sleeping quarters.

d.) Make sure the basement is presentable if you have one. Especially if there is a laundry room or bathroom down there. Add remote lighting and stage it as a playroom, music room or TV Room so the space adds value to your real estate. If you haven't visited your dark dingy basement in years, you'll have to strap on a pair and go down there! For the next owner, that space could be valuable real estate. So just make sure there is a walkway without any dead rats laying around. You get the idea, and remember- staging is to be executed with temporary changes in mind so don't be afraid to get down and dirty!

Check out this multi-functional basement...

e.) If you live in a studio apartment, be careful not to crowd the space by creating too many separate living/working/eating areas. Even though you may have pulled it off living there doesn't mean others will share your vision and it may leave them feeling claustrophobic and confused. Try to limit your use of space by creating a multi-functional, transformer "more than meets the eye" kind of lifestyle and create a focal point. This approach is urban, modern, green and it works.

f.) If there is a not so attractive view of another house or a brick wall, bring the eye away from the windows and create a focal point in that beautiful home with your nicest piece of art or a vintage chandelier. Use relaxing sheer drapes and keep them closed so the light comes in and that view is an afterthought. Conversely if you have a gorgeous view, it will sell itself- make sure the path that draws people to this window isn't obstructed with your stuff and the window itself covered with heavy/dusty/smelly curtains.

g.) Use Mirrors on walls with no windows, and in dark narrow spaces...

h.) Dress up a spaciously unused corner with a piece you already have and light it! It could also be as simple as a basket with magazines and a floor lamp.

i.) Try to center your furniture in a room. It creates the illusion of intimacy and more space, and if you can do this easily you probably really do have more space. teehee

j.) AIR QUALITY (This actually fits under 'Depersonalize' but I like it here because people won't be able to admire your decorating if they can't keep their eyes open)

Listen up! If you learn nothing else from this blog post or think what I am proposing is beyond unreasonable and just ridiculous, then for the love of God just make sure at the very least, that you optimize the air quality. I emphasize this because my sense of smell is of bionic caliber and I also have allergies that pick up on dust and dander from miles away.

I know most people are desensitized to their "house scent" including myself and the only time I get a good whiff of my house is when I've come back from a long trip, so I know it exists. Even though it is a pleasantly passive smell to me, it is also what smacks guests in the face on any given day, giving the most memorable impression upon walking in. So do your best to neutralize your house scent, (especially if you're a smoker or pet owner) with these quick steps:

*Open the windows and doors and let the air come in (and go out!) Place dehumidifiers or air purifiers in each room for a few days.

*Live plants do a great job of purifying the air. Just don't get carried away and create a jungle in your living room. One or two will do. Here are 10 of the best air cleaning plants.

*Do not solely depend on air fresheners and scented candles to freshen up. That stuff can get nauseating and the resident stench usually returns in no time. Besides, people with allergies will pick up on your uncleanliness before you've moved on to the 2nd room, so handle your business.

*Wash your clothes, sheets, drapes, pillow covers, pet beds, towels and whatever other washable fabrics you have in the house. Keep your vacuum empty and clean, and use it!

In summation, there are a million and one ways to improve the conditions of any home. You have to evaluate and prioritize where you can get the most bang for your buck and bring the best return on your investment. Remember, even privately listed homes are advertised on the internet for the masses to see, so don't even think about photographing a not-so-staged home! Like Mr. Medium says, "you can't polish a turd..." but I say you CAN do amazing things with a camera, like making a room seem larger and brighter than it is. So play up it's attributes and give your home's good side a fighting chance. And once you lull people inside for the open house, you'd better have something to show for all your clever camera tricks- something besides home baked cookies, of course...

If you would like a personal or online home staging consultation or to inquire about professional organizing services with VIDA Interiors, visit us at www.vida-interiors.com or give us a ring at (845)659-6267.

Happy Home Staging, "...and may the odds be ever in your favor." :)