Archive for November, 2008

Don’t Overdo the Holiday Lights (Holiday Staging, Part 5)

November 22, 2008

We are almost done with the outside of the home in our special Holiday Staging series for homes for sale in Northern Virginia, Washington DC and suburban Maryland. I can’t wait to get inside, it is cold out here! Please see yesterday’s post, which lists the other blogs in the series so far.


In our last blog, we wrote about our favorite way to use holiday lighting when a home is on the market – using flood lights works wonders to showcase a home. However, if the idea of having a light shining in on your home several hours a night is not your idea of a good time, traditional outdoor mini-lights are a good alternative. We do like to follow some guidelines, however.


First, stay with white non-flashing lights. Home staging, at its core, is about neutralizing a home to appeal to as many buyers as possible. I know this may sound boring, but white always-on lights are classic. They never go out of style and they appeal to the widest audience.


Second, use lights prudently along the front landscaping and trim of the home. Too many lights become an attraction in themselves. They also become work for the potential buyer who may be thinking that they are not going to be able to live up to your standard when they own the home.


Third, add lights in the windows. Single candle type lights will draw a buyers eye around the home, making the home appear larger than it otherwise would in the dark.


Lastly, if you have a Christmas tree, place it next to a front window, if possible. There is something very appealing about seeing the lights of a decorated tree through a window. To many people, a tree visible through a window evokes a very warm welcoming feeling – exactly how you want a potential buyer to think about your home!


Now that we have taken care of the lights, we can move inside and warm up! Brrr; and it is not even Thanksgiving yet. Until next time…


All the Best,


Monica Murphy, ASP


the art of home preparation


Lighting the Way to Your Home Sale (Holiday Home Staging, Part 4)

November 21, 2008

OK, so now we move to the topic of holiday lighting. If you have just joined us, this is Part 4 in a series of holiday decoration articles specifically written for homes for sale in the Washington DC, Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland markets. If you live here, you’ve come to the right place. If you don’t, well, you are welcome too!


You can review previous topics here:

Part 1: Keeping the Holidays While Your Home is on the Market

Part 2: Wreaths Around Washington DC

Part 3: To Lawn Art or Not Lawn Art


This is Part 4: Lighting the Way to Your Home Sale (cute, huh!).


OK, so we have created a focal point to the home with an attractive seasonal (rather than holiday) wreath hanging on the front door. During the day, that is all I recommend. Any other visible decorations serve as a distraction. At night, however, we need something more.


When your home is for sale, the lighting I recommend is a spot or flood light illuminating the home. Look at it this way, it gets dark around 6pm during the short days of winter. If a buyer wants to drive by a home after they get off of work, or better, they are testing the commute to your home (that’s a great buying sign!), you want the buyer to be able to see the home! If all they can see is a dark shadow sitting back from the road, what type of impression will that leave?


Sure there are exceptions to this recommendation…if you live where a spot light will annoy your neighbors, or the home is well illuminated with street lighting and a spotlight would be washed out you may want to go another route…tomorrow, we discuss tasteful holiday lights.


All the Best,


Monica Murphy


the art of home preparation

To Lawn Art or Not Lawn Art (Holiday Staging, Part 3)

November 20, 2008

Yesterday, we started with at the wreath, and I encouraged everyone to put a wreath on their front door – even if it is just a seasonal wreath (if Christmas is not celebrated in the home). Wreaths add an important element of curb appeal in an otherwise dreary winter landscape. Wreaths create a focal point that draws the buyer’s eye to the door, welcoming them in the home. Lastly, wreaths create a transition between the outside and the inside. You get a jump on a great first impression with an attractive wreath.


OK, for those of you who like to put out lawn decorations for the holidays, I have one word for you – DON’T. If your home is for sale, the last thing you want a buyer to see as they approach your home is something foreign in the lawn.


I know that many home owners have attachments to their special lawn ornaments. I appreciate that the holiday may seem a little empty with out the traditional display. When you home is for sale, you need to think about the purchaser, not yourself.


When a buyer approaches a home, any lawn decorations will be a distraction. The buyer’s eyes will be fixed on the object on the lawn, not the home behind it. If they cannot figure out what the decoration is (such as a deflated blow-up Santa, or a straw deer that is lit at night), they will spend more energy trying to guess. Guessing leads to uncertainty and distraction.


This recommendation holds true no matter where your home is: Northern Virginia, Washington DC or Maryland.


Tomorrow, we will talk about tasteful light displays.


All the Best,




the art of home preparation

Wreaths around Washington DC (Holiday Staging, Part 2)

November 19, 2008

Let’s start our exploration of holiday decorating for homes on the market with wreaths. We will keep in mind our three different customer segments (Northern, Urban and Southern – see yesterday’s post). I like to start with the wreath because it is the last thing that potential buyers will see before they step into the home – so it sets the stage. The wreath also acts as a centerpiece for lawn decorations and curb appeal.


Before we start, let me say that I know many people do not celebrate Christmas. I do not expect my clients to decorate their homes in a manner which is inconsistent with their personal beliefs. What I seek in those situations are elements of holidays which have been secularized. Wreaths are a perfect example. Many people maintain wreaths all year long, rotating them to match the seasons. Wreaths are no longer Christmas symbols.


Select a wreath that you will feel comfortable leaving up beyond the holidays, or replace your holiday wreath with a seasonal wreath after the holidays. A wreath adds a bit of warmth and color to an otherwise bare exterior during the winter.

 Martha Stewart wreath

In Maryland, I would suggest a wreath that is simple, classic and evergreen.















For Washington DC (and other urban areas), I would suggest something a little more modern. Find something edgy, but non-offensive. This square wreath does the trick.


Pottery Barn wreath














In Northern Virginia, where we are leaning towards the south. We suggest adding some color to the wreath. This Williams Sonoma wreath is a great example:

Williams Sonoma wreath 






















Lastly, when a home is for sale, I do not recommend hanging wreaths from every window in the house. This may be very attractive and really brings out the spirit of the season, but home staging is about neutralizing and showcasing the home. Wreaths in every window will draw the buyer’s attention away from the home and to your decorations. It may also convey a sense of exterior clutter that we do not want buyers to experience before they enter the home.


Tomorrow, we discuss lawn art.


All the Best!




the art of home preparation

Keeping the Holidays While Your Home is On the Market (Part 1)

November 18, 2008

Around this time last year, I wrote a post about staging for the holidays. I thought I would continue this year with a multipart series so we could go into more details. We will call this blog: Part 1 (original, huh?), Holiday Psychology.

First, I would like to talk buyer psychology. I have a masters in Art & Architectural History, so I am no shrink, but basic marketing says you have to keep your buyers in mind at all times. Buyers in Northern Virginia are different from buyers in Washington DC, who are different from buyers in Maryland.

There are subgroups within Arlington, for example, or Gaithersburg versus Bethesda, true; but you have to draw the line somewhere. We can work on more specific market segmentation and how that will influence the staging of the home with your Realtor.

I don’t know if it is the north/south thing, but buyers in Maryland have a definite northeastern view of the world. Buyers in Virginia, definitely southern. Buyers in Washington DC, well let’s just call them urban.

There are specific psychological profiles associated with each of these groups (bet you can think of some one your own!). We will keep these profiles in mind as we move forward in the discussion.

southern_accents_dec_19911     greenlight-long-island_holiday-2006-cover1   new-york-city-holiday-lights-tour-in-new-york-city-21

Do these groups mix, sure. Might someone interested in buying your home come from somewhere other than the northeast or south? Absolutely. Can you stage for every possible segment of the population, No! So, please excuse my painting with a broad brush here.

Now, as we move forward over the next couple of days, we will keep these larger customer groups in mind.

Tomorrow: Wreaths and why every door should have one (but not the windows!)

All the Best,



the art of home preparation

Washington Post on Staging

November 15, 2008

Preferred Staging was featured in the Washington Post today, talking about how staging improves the salability of DC metro area homes. This was a big treat for us, coming on the heals of a Washington Times article.

Here are a few excerpts:

  • LaChapelle, for instance, gives much of the credit for her sale to her decision to have the home staged. She feared that an empty house would look too cold and barren.
  • “A vacant house leaves no impression on buyers. In the world of sales, no impression is the same as a negative impression,” said Jane Fairweather, an agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Bethesda. “If you’re only competing against vacant homes, you’re still okay. But if a buyer sees three vacant homes and then a fourth one that is done up smashingly, the buyer is going to remember that fourth home.”
  • “To really capture a sale, buyers need to be able to mentally move into the home they are considering,” Murphy (that’s me!) said. “When you stage a vacant home, you’re providing an example for a buyer. The worst thing you can do is make your potential buyer guess. You need to do the work for them.”

Read the rest of the post article here. The Washington Times article can be found here. Whew, ok, enough of the 15 minutes of fame, now back to helping people sell their homes!

If you are planning on selling your home, or your home is currently on the market and has not sold and you are in the Northern Virginia, Washington DC or suburban Maryland region, I would love to here from you!

All the best,

the art of home preparation

Staging for the Holidays

November 14, 2008
We just received our first request for holiday staging/decorating today, so I thought I would send out a quick note… The holidays in the Washington DC area have gotten busier and busier. This year is looking like the busiest of them all, with the change in administrations and everyone working harder to keep the wheels of the economy turning. It has gotten so you cannot even drive in Tysons Corner or Chevy Chase after Thanksgiving!
Preferred Staging can help you with your home preparation by doing as much or as little as you need, from rearranging furniture for better flow and movement through the house, to helping you to decorate.  
The best way to move forward would be to start with a consultation and for us to come and see your house and discuss plans and budget.  More often than not during a consultation we start working towards your goal – moving furniture, changing accessories, etc. 
The holidays will be here before you know it, so call soon!
All the Best,
the art of home preparation

Washington DC Sellers Getting Ready for the Inauguration

November 13, 2008

I received a call from the owner of a town home in Bethesda, MD yesterday. They are moving out next month and will be listing the home in the new year. Staging was something they were planning to do anyway, but this homeowner is getting creative and leveraging the staging to earn some extra money while the home is vacant.

The homeowner plans to rent his town home out during inauguration week! They are going to leverage the upscale staging and the attractive location of his home. Hey what ever works!

Any one else interested in covering the cost of staging through a short-term rental for the inaguration? Obviously, homeowners in Washington, DC should consider it, but what about Arlington, Alexandria, Silver Spring, College Park, etc.

Give us a call to discuss!

All the Best,



Preferred Staging

the art of home preparation

Fairfax Condo Sold in Under 2 Months

November 12, 2008
Staged and Sold in Under 2 Months
We love getting letters like this!
November 10, 2008
To: Monica Murphy
Preferred Staging, LLC
My husband and I had a condo to sell and it had been on the market for about two months. We spent a great deal of time and money renovating the condo and we appreciated the space and convenience that it provided.
When the real estate market fell dramatically, we were worried that there would not be a buyer with the ability to see what our condo offered.  We put so much thought into the interior, especially the kitchen.  
We made the decision to stage the condo to show the size of the rooms and to enhance the fact that the room size was larger than what most homes offered.  After moving our personal furnishings, we thought it would be best to help the prospective buyers visualize the space that we were offering.
It was at that time that I searched the internet and found Preferred Staging, LLC.  I called Monica Murphy and was delighted to find someone that was very interested in working with me to provide the best solution for staging our condo so that potential buyers would have the ability to visualize the room sizes and get a better feel for what our space provided.
Monica was personable; had the ability to listen to what my requests were; was pleasant and extremely capable and professional.  In no time, Monica had the schedule laid out and within a very short time, our condo was transformed from vacant to impressive and very well defined.
We were very impressed with Monica’s ability to look at our property, take photos, determine what furniture was needed and put everything together very quickly.  Monica was never insistent or overly aggressive.  She was very personable and she went out of her way to make sure that everything was done well and on time.
We made the right decision to stage; we made the right decision to have Preferred Staging do the job.
It is with great pleasure that I recommend Monica Murphy and Preferred Staging, LLC, to assist home sellers to stage their homes for successful sales.
D E Piper
Here are some before and afters of the condo…
Alexandria condo living room before home staging  Alexandria condo living room after home staging 
Alexandria condo living room before home staging  Alexandria condo living room after home staging
Alexandria condo dining room before home staging  Alexandria condo dining room after home staging
Alexandria condo dining room before home staging  Alexandria condo dining room after home staging
Alexandria condo bed room before home staging  Alexandria condo bed room after home staging

All the best,

Preferred Staging

the art of home preparation

Your Wasington DC Area Home is Still for Sale…

November 12, 2008

Your home has been on the market for months and the holidays are coming up – what should you do?

Homeowners in Fairfax, Loudoun, Montgomery, Arlington and Washington, DC are asking themselves this question at this very moment. Maybe you are one of them. First do not despair – you need a strategy to get your home sold fast! Preferred Staging is here to help.

First, the most critical question: Are you using a real estate agent? If not, why not? To save the sales commission? Let’s resolve that issue right here…statistically, home owners who sell their homes themselves net a lower sales price than if they had used a real estate agent – even after the agent commission is taken into consideration. In this market, you need all the marketing power you can get to bring potential buyers to your door.

Second, how does your home look? Once the buyer is at the door, what is their first impression? If the first impression isn’t, “Wow, this is really nice,” then your home is at a severe disadvantage. Homes that do not show well, do not sell well. It is as simple as that.

So, our advice to you is get a plan. You start your plan by discussing your sales strategy with your agent. If you do not have an agent, call us, we know many fantastic agents throughout the Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland.

Second, get your home in top shape. Call us for a walk thru consultation. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, we can give the direction you need to get moving in the right direction. If you need more assistance, we can provide staging services in your home. Staging can be anywhere from using your existing furnishings in unique ways all the way to bringing in furnishings to really showcase the property.

We have strategies and services to fit any budget. Speaking of budget, staging costs are almost always more than covered by reduced sales time and the higher price your home will command when is shows as one of the best homes in the neighborhood.

Now is the time to get busy and get your home ready to sell in the new year!

All the Best,



the art of home preparation