Archive for October, 2007

The Foyer and the First 15 Seconds

October 31, 2007

The foyer is the most important part of the home when it is on the market. Studies show that purchasers make up their mind in the first 15 seconds after entering a home. First impressions are so important when selling! General comments about staging a foyer are difficult because there are so many shapes and sizes in the Northern Virginia market. You might have an older home with a narrow hall lined with doors to the rest of the living spaces, or you may have more recent construction with a two story sweeping expanse, or your front door may open directly into a room.

Staging a foyer always requires individual creativity, but here are some of the basics:

  1. If your space is small, open it up. A narrow foyer can be opened by removing adjacent room doors, lightening the paint and keeping the ceiling at least two shades lighter than the walls. I do not advise painting the ceiling white in a narrow space – white will accentuate narrowness. A ceiling color that is in the same family as the wall, but lighter will keep the hall from feeling too closed in. If you want visitors to remove their shoes, direct them down the hall to the kitchen. Having visitors bump body parts while they take off or put on their shoes only reminds one of the cramped space. Light and bright art work on the wall is fine, but not too many pieces and no family portraits. Mirrors help add a sense of volume and create additional reflective light. Tapestries will close the space in. Coat closet doors must be freshly painted. Remove 2/3rds of the items from the closet – most are overstuffed.
  2. If your space is large, create a feeling of intimacy by providing a high table with a seasonal floral arrangement to make a smooth transition from the outside to the inside. If the second floor walls are visible from the first, the paint tones need to be similar – lighter if you want to make the space appear even bigger, darker is “OK” if you want to draw the eye upwards, but make sure the area is well lit. For a really large space, a bench can create a sense of warmth and a free standing circular table with a centerpiece can force foot traffic around it, accentuating the size, while adding a “grand hotel” feel. If your staircase is curved or angled, add a tall plant or a pair of wing-back chairs and table in the bend.
  3. If the foyer is surrounded by carpeting (especially stairs), make sure it is clean. Carpeting around an exterior door collects a lot of dirt.
  4. Add a runner to direct guests to the room you want them to visit first (typically the living room).
  5. Finally, walk right up to the front door, stop, and turn 90 degrees. What do you see? Turn another 90 degrees. What do you see? Turn another 90 degrees. What do you see? Except for the robotic movements, this is what home buyers do when they enter a home. They look 270 degrees. Look as far into your home as the view will allow – what will the first impression be? We will tackle those questions in future editions.

Burke VA home entry before Burke VA entry after

Before After

All the Best!

Monica, ASP

703-851-2690

Preferred Staging

the art of home preparation

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Staging the Stoop

October 26, 2007

Aside from curb appeal, the first impression a potential purchaser will have of the property is the front walk and stoop. Staging the outside of the home is critical to the over all impression a buyer has of the home. Potential purchasers will pause at the door while the agent knocks and then lets themselves in. Buyers can linger on the stoop for as much as a minute. While buyers are not likely to form a decision on the stoop, they do develop a sense of how well the rest of the home will show and how well the home is cared for.

The grounds need to be neat and clean. Since it is fall, a few leaves scattered about the yard is “OK”, but a thick blanket of leaves will indicate work to the purchaser, so its best to rake once a week.

The stoop should be bordered with fresh mulch if you have plantings, or a washed hard surface for those with cement or brick. A mixture of 1 part bleach and 10 parts water and a scrub brush will remove moss or algae that can grow on northern facing entrances. Be sure to wear gloves, eye protection and old clothes.

Now is a great time to prune shrubs. My suggestion is to just prune the branches that are extending beyond the shrub – reach 3 or 4 inches into the base of the shrub and prune there. This will hide the pruned branch from view. Do not attempt to shape a bush that has grown out of control…you stand the change of making it look worse than when you started. At most, give it a light skim with hedge trimmers, taking off no more than 20% of the exterior leaves.

Add color to the stoop with mums and other flowering plants for this time of year, and a fall wreath. Wreaths create a wonderful welcoming feel. If you can incorporate some of you shrub trimmings into the wreath, we will be tying everything together. Be sure to change the cuttings every couple of weeks. More frequently if it remains warm.

If you have screen or storm door, remove it if possible. They can be very awkward to move around in a confined space. Not the first impression you want to make. If removing the screen door is not an option, it needs to be in good repair. Torn screens will imply poor upkeep. Replace the screen with the winter door and make sure it stays clean.

Again, buyers will not typically make a decision based upon the front door area, but it primes them for the first impression they get when they walk through the door and into the home. More on that next week.

All the Best!

Monica, ASP

703-851-2690

Preferred Staging

the art of home preparation

More on Vacant Staging

October 22, 2007

Last week’s article on why vacants should be staged generated a lot of feedback! Most of the questions centered around “how long does it take” and “how much does it cost.”

Before beginning, however, let’s make sure we understand what we are going to accomplish… In staging a vacant, we are working to position a house as a home. Statistics show that staged homes sell faster than non-staged homes (see our website for details). With the average mortgage payment for a home sold in the Northern Virginia area is around $3,000, every month we take off of the total DOM, we put $3,000 in the seller’s pocket.

Further, the longer a house stays on the market, the better the chances the asking price will be reduced. Avoiding a price reduction because the house sells faster could be worth $10,000 to $30,000 to the seller.

These factors are the seller’s return on investment (ROI) and is a critical part of the calculation regarding the benefits of staging. Does staging guarantee a fast sale? Are you guaranteed to survive a car crash because you were wearing a seatbelt? No, but you still buckel up anyway because your chances are greatly improved – same thing with staging.

How Long?

If a vacant is to be staged successfully, it needs to be viewed as a project:

  1. Assess the property. First things first, what’s the property like. Townhome versus single family. New construction or renovation versus former occupied. We need to visit the property. We can work off of photos, but there is some risk inherent with just using photos.
  2. Learning about the target market. We discuss the target market with the real estate agent. We want to understand who will be most interested in the property and who the likely purchasers will be.
  3. Select furniturishings. For the big stuff, we typically utilize one of the furniture rental firms in the area. We customize the look with our own accessories.
  4. Delivery and staging.

Generally, we allow 2 to 3 weeks for the project. Shorter intervalls are possible, but we might run into limitations on furniture availability.

How Much?

That’s the magic question…It depends (of course)! Generally speaking, rental furnishings and accessories will cost $250 per room per month. The size of the room and the nature of the home (eg luxury, medium, entry) will dictate a higher or lower investment. There are delivery fees, our staging fee (depending on the hours required) and a one month’s deposit.

Most sellers do not stage the entire home. The living room, family room and master bedroom are common. These are the main “show me” rooms – as in: show me how I will live in this home. The kitchen and outside entry might get a few accessories to add appeal.

Bottom line, I suggest one months’ mortgage payment as a budghet for a 3 month long staging. Staged homes sell faster, so at minimum, the seller should break even. If the seller can avoid a price reduction in the process, they will be miles ahead of the game!

All the Best!

Monica, ASP

703-851-2690

Preferred Staging

the art of home preparation

Why Vacant Homes Need to be Staged for Sale

October 9, 2007

OK, show of hands – Who has purchased a car without test driving it? Come on, the car looks good in the show room; it scored well on Edmunds and Consumer Reports – why do you need to drive it? Not many hands??? I thought so.

Next question – Who has purchased an expensive suit or dress without trying it on? Looked great on the hanger, and the sales person said it will be perfect for you – why do you need to try it on?

Last question (this is an easy one) – Why do builders have furnished models? Answer: BECAUSE IT IS HARD TO SELL A VACANT HOUSE!!!!

Sorry for shouting, but I needed to make the point… Vacant homes are at a huge disadvantage in this market for the same reason that: you don’t buy a car without driving it, you don’t buy a suit/dress without trying it on, and builders furnish models…buyers need to get a feel for their purchase.

Most home buyers, when they walk into a vacant space can guess where their sofa will go, how their dining set will fit, or how to purpose the basement areas. But that is the problem. Psychologically, if a buyer is guessing, they are uncertain. In this market, uncertainty = no sale.

Further, a vacant looks too much like a cave. I think it is safe to say that Northern Virginia buyers are looking for more than shelter.

bedroom before bedroom after

Staging a vacant home provides the buyer with the visual context to remove the uncertainty. They can see how the floor plan works and how furniture can be arranged. Staging transforms the cave into a home. Staging provides the context for potential buyers to see themselves living in the home.

A buyer must be able to see themselves in the home before they will make a purchase decision – just like you need to be behind the wheel of the car or see yourself in the mirror wearing the suit or dress.

Just remember, if a buyer can picture themselves in the home you are on your way to a sale. If not, you are wasting your time.

If you have vacant property – consider having it staged. Vacant homes need every advantage in this market and staging will provide your property with the edge needed to be the next home sold in the neighborhood.

All the Best!

Monica, ASP

703-851-2690

Preferred Staging

the art of home preparation