Archive for the ‘curb appeal’ Category

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 your Washington DC Lawn Looking Great Will Attract Buyers

June 15, 2008

Wow, It’s Hot!

Well after a long wet spring, summer is upon us. With real estate closings happening in days rather than months, there is still plenty of time for buyers to get into their dream home before the new school year starts.
Dream home. That has a nice sound to it…”dreeeam hommme.” What do people think about when they say the words “dream home?” In Arlington, it may be a Cape Cod, with a white picket fence. In Potomac, your dream home may be an all brick federal mansion with a circular drive. Whatever the image, chances are there is a lawn involved. We did say “dream home” not “dream condo.”
So as the weather heats up, home sellers must start applying water to their lawn regularly. I am talking every 3 days regular, otherwise… Which home do you think will sell first?
asp logo   asp logo 
Well, unless someone has a Charlie Brown complex and feels the need to buy the saddest looking thing and nurse it back to health, I predict the home with the lush green lawn will sell first. When the temperatures get into the 90s, watering regularly will keep you grass green. Make sure the watering is a deep watering, at least 40 minutes with a regular sprinkler. Deep watering provides a moisture source for several days.
A couple of things to remember: Experts suggest watering in the morning to prevent fungus from developing from grass that is wet overnight regularly. If you can’t water in the morning, be prepared to use a fungicide on the lawn proactively according to the package instructions.
Always remove the hose from the yard. I know it is a lot of work, but the lawn should appear to be trouble free, and a sprinkler and hose shatter that image.
Let the lawn grow a little longer. Most homes in the Northern Virginia, Suburban Maryland and Washington, DC have a fescue or some other type of tall, narrow leaf grass. These are very hardy grasses that will thrive up to 6 inches in length. Keeping the grass trimmed to 3 inches shades the roots, helping to keep the grass cool and green, and the longer leaf helps to fill in bare spots.
Remember, it is much easier to keep grass from going dormant than it is to force it out of dormancy after the fact. A regular watering program with a preventive fungus plan will give you a lawn that buyers will want to walk through to get to the front door!
All the Best,
Preferred Staging
the art of home preparation

It’s Spring! Have You Got Your Curb Appeal On?

April 7, 2008

A Good Looking Approach Helps to Sell Your House

Last month, Realtor magazine came out with some survey statistics.

“According to the Real Estate Agent Community Trends survey, 82 percent of practitioners polled said buyers unimpressed with a home’s exterior will not want to look inside.”

So, 82% of real estate agents believe that their clients will not even enter a home unless the curb appeal is, well, appealing. I am one of those that get caught up on the actual meaning of a word. What caught my attention in the first sentence above was the word “unimpressed”. Maybe I am overstating things, but my reading is that 82% of agents believe that curb appeal must be above average for a buyer to seriously consider a property. How many of your clients have just average (or even below average) curb appeal? Now is the time to get moving.

Northern Virginia has had a nice cool spring so far, which means that lawns are just coming out of dormancy. If your clients have a thin lawn due to the drought last year, there is still time to over-seed and fertilize. Have them spray their lawn with a hard stream to know the seeds off of the grass and down to the ground. Be sure that they use “starter” fertilizer and follow the directions on the packaging. I actually reduce the application rate on the package by about by 25% to 50%. Burning a lawn is just not worth it.

Mow the law twice a week during peak growing times. I know this is a lot of work, but the appearance of a well manicured lawn is well worth the effort!

Now is the time you can begin to add color to the front of the home. Avoid planting until at least early May, as frost is still a concern. Instead, put flowers in pots. The pots can be moved into the garage or next to the home and covered if frost is forecasted.

Curb appeal is a must! Most home buyers will create a lasting impression of a property within the first 15 seconds. Make the most of that time and let them walk away impressed and considering their new home.

All the Best,

Holiday Decorating when Trying to Sell Your Home

November 15, 2007

The basic premise of staging is: by neutralizing a home, the home will appeal to a wider audience. By appealing to more buyers, we increase the probability that an offer will be made. Think of the leading brand of any consumer product (not the one you buy, necessarily, but the one most people buy). 99 times out of 100 the product most people buy is a neutral offering. The same applies to home sales; we want to have the most people interested in a property.

Now, here come the holidays, a time when we go down to the basement or up to the attic and pull out boxes of stuff to personalize our home. A stager’s worst nightmare!

Many say that since so few people are home shopping over the holidays, why not splurge a little? I can understand that, but also understand that when someone wants to see your home in December, this is a serious buyer. The seller must make that great impression we have been discussing these past several weeks.So, what to do? I suggest to my clients that they approach decorating for the holidays as though they will be somewhere else for the main event. If you were traveling on the main days of the holiday it is psychologically easier to go light on decking the halls in your own home.

Decide what holiday elements really complement your home, and what elements are put out only because they have sentimental value, or simply because you have them. Placing a swag of greenery over a mantel, for example, is a classic touch. Placing miniature figurines in a North Pole setting with a train circling is a distraction. Not only do decorations provide a distraction, but they act as clutter. Filling every surface area with candy dishes and miniature lighted trees will make the home feel smaller than it really is.

If you have items of great sentimental value, but lacking aesthetic value, leave them in the box until the last minute and put them away immediately after the holiday. I suggest the same for religious and other symbols. Keep advent calendars in drawers, and nativities can be set up on Christmas Eve. Menorahs should also be stored during the day.

The outside of your home can be decorated with wreaths on doors and windows and minimal plain white outdoor lights (“less is more” is the rule here). Keep the glowing Santa lawn ornament in the garage this year. At nighttime, turn on every light you have in the front rooms of the home. Make sure all the bulbs in the exterior lights are functioning. A fully lit home creates wonderful, warm curb appeal at night. Potential buyers frequently drive buy properties before requesting a showing. At this time of year, many of those drive-bys will be after the sun has set.

The holidays are times of excess for many families. The key is to keep the excesses from become excessive and turning away buyers who can’t see the home because it is covered with the owner’s holiday decorations. Keep it simple.

As always, all the best!

Monica, ASP


Preferred Staging

the art of home preparation

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


Preferred Staging

the art of home preparation

Fall Curb Appeal

September 26, 2007
OK, we all know that staging a home starts with curb appeal. Home buyers in Northern Virginia are extremely busy. They will first look at real estate listings online, drive by the homes in which they are interested and then request to visit a home. Fall offers us one of the best opportunities to differentiate your listings from the others on the market. We want to create a warm, welcoming feeling for the fall – the kind of feeling that says, “This is where I want to come home every night!” asp logoA welcoming feeling is obtained by creating a visual funnel with the home’s entrance as the focal point. Use fall decorations and plantings around the entire front of the home, but only sparsely at the edges. The concentration of accents should increase until your eyes rest on the door (adorned with a fall wreath, of course).Unless they are part of the decorations, leaves should be cleared away regularly. A few scattered leaves enhances an autumn theme outside. A yard covered with fallen leaves makes a potential buyer think of all the work it will be to rake. Many areas, such as Reston and Annandale, have leaf pick up if your rake it to the curb. We suggest you bag your leaves and have them picked up with the regular lawn watse. You do not want a wall of leaves to compete with your fall staging.fall decor 3With so many cultures mixing in Northern Virginia, leave the Halloween decorations in the box this year. Halloween runs counter to many people’s beliefs and might keep that one buyer from falling in love with the property (remember, all you need is one!). Certainly use pumpkins and gourds, but no carving, please. Uncarved pumpkins will last many weeks, so it is best to leave them in their natural state. Live accents such as pumpkins will need to be replaced once or twice if the weather is warm, so keep that in mind.Have a great fall, and best of luck in your real estate activities!Monica, ASP



Preferred Staging

Curb Appeal Withers in Northern Virginia’s Summer Heat

August 1, 2007

Wow, who would have thought that your house would still be on the market in July! You listed it in April, expecting to catch the Spring buyers. The market is slow and so is the foot traffic through your home.

Don’t despair! September and October are right around the corner – you need to get ready for the last big push before the holidays (gosh, did I say holidays?!). We are still months away, but you must start to get ready now.

Potential buyers are out there. They are browsing the listings on-line and driving by the homes that look interesting. “Driving by? That means I have to worry about curb appeal! Oh well, its July. The buyer will understand the brown straw where my grass was a few months ago. The grass will come back in September, like it always does.”

Maybe your grass will come back, but will the buyer? Probably not. There are too many other houses out there with green grass and neatly pruned plantings, beckoning buyers to look inside.

Which home would you like to see?

Vienna VA home brown grass Vienna VA Home Green Grass

Maintain your curb appeal by watering. Lots of watering. Selling your home is worth the slightly higher water bill. Water in the morning if you can. If you can’t get it all in the morning, water at night. You can risk the lawn fungus the landscapers will warn you about. If you are concerned about fungus, treat your lawn once a month with a fungicide from your home and garden store. Do not water mid-day, as that may lead to burning the grass, which is counter-productive.

To revive your lawn in the mid-summer heat, you have to water deeply – I’m talking about a couple of hours several times a week. Remember to store the hose every day. I know, it’s a lot of work, but remember what you are trying to accomplish!

Your yard and landscaping make the home’s first impression. Keep them in top shape and you will be rewarded.

For more on home staging – the art of preparing and keeping your home ready for sale – please visit Preferred Staging.

All the best,

Monica, ASP

Preferred Staging