Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Why should I bother to stage my house?

When the housing market is in the toilet or even when it's climbing out of the toilet, folks need to go that extra mile to get their properties sold (or rented) for the most money possible and in the quickest amount of time.

I've talked ad nauseum about making sure you have painted, cleaned and prettified everything so the prospective tenant/owner doesn't have to.  This post will be about making the house feel like a home.

People in the market to buy or rent, want a home.  Not just 4 walls and a roof.  They want to connect with the space.  They want to be able to visualize themselves (and their stuff) living in the space.  Sometimes they need a little help.  I've heard it said many times by real estate professionals that prospective buyers/tenants lack the imagination to see the potential in a space.  I don't believe that for the most part.

Prospective tenants/buyers aren't idiots.  They can see potential when it's obvious.  However, when a room is shaped oddly or maybe it's a room with a lot of doors like a middle bedroom with a door from the hallway, one to the on suite, two that go to can be a bit daunting to imagine where your furniture will fit comfortably.

Another thing to remember is people that are house hunting are usually tired, frustrated and anxious.  They are usually working not only on a budget but on a time line.  They are looking at numerous houses/apartments.  After a while all the spaces seem to run together.  They remember the bedroom of one house but the kitchen of another with the bathroom of yet another.  So anything you can do to not only make your space stand apart from the crowd - in a good way - is a good thing.  Also, they will remember the house that answered all their questions.  Like where will the couch go?

Here is a picture of a standard apartment eating area.  I'm not going to call it a dining room - I refuse.  If you viewed this apartment it would be ok.  It wouldn't make you grab your pen and snatch the application out of the agent's hand by any stretch of the imagination.

But if the owners took just a little time, imagination and very little money and painted the walls and added just a little furniture/accessories, you just might change your mind.

Entirely different room isn't it?

How about those dark basement family rooms?  Look at this one.  Faux paneling. Exterior carriage lights. textured ceiling. Shag carpeting.  I look at this room and I wonder where the salad bar is located.  It just looks like an old "all you can eat" German buffet restaurant.  If I were looking to rent or buy this house, I'd probably walk away.  This room alone screams both time and money just to make it presentable.

However, with a little sprucing up, it doesn't look nearly as bad.  It now looks rather pleasant.  Now mind you, not a lot of time and money was spent redoing this room.  It was simply a matter of toning down the faux paneling, getting rid of the shag, adding a few more pieces and lightening it all up a bit.  That really is all it took.
Most people think kitchens are easy.  Just clean them really well and walk away.  Nope.  They too need a bit of staging.  However, less is more when staging a bathroom or a kitchen.  Clean it, paint it and put out a minimum of accessories and then walk away.  While the kitchen below is nice, it needs to be better.  It needs to feel homey and loved.  Currently it is neither.
With just a little work, it now looks warm and friendly.  Like a place you'd want to pause and hang out in for a little while.  Nothing was painted.  No fixtures were replaced.  Just some wall positioned accessories and a little eating table.  That's it.
When you stage a house or an apartment, you don't have to rent furniture and/or accessories from a company.  Well, you can - but that can get rather pricey and usually you're locked in for a minimum time period.  Most people have a couple of extra chairs at their house that they can stand to do without for a little bit.  Most people have a card table they can cover with a pretty sheet, or curtain panel.  Most people have enough knicks knacks in their houses that they can use in their staging.  The things you don't already have at home you can pick up at garage sales, flea markets and sometimes off the curb the night before trash pickup.  That's why I always have a collection of spray paint in my utility room.  Grab that chair off the curb, clean it up and spray paint the dickens out of it.  It doesn't matter if it's rickety - slap several pillows on it to discourage anyone from sitting in it and you have a chair for your staging job.

If you need an actual dining room table and you don't want to deal with the burden of bringing one to the property or having one delivered, take two saw horses and a large piece of plywood (or a hollow core door) and put it on top of the saw horses.  Then drape a sheet over it.  Next put a runner on top of that and place some dishes and a centerpiece and you have a beautiful table for the dining room.

Earlier I mentioned rooms with weird shapes.  These types of rooms can intimidate some people because they really can't imagine where to put the furniture so they just assume their furniture won't work in that room and move onto the next property.

Below is one of those rooms.
Simply by adding a few pieces, prospective buyers/tenants now know a perfect spot for their stuff!  If you don't have an extra bed or a truck in which to move a bed, use an air mattress.  You can actually set several concrete blocks where you want the bed to go.  Place 2x4's over the blocks and then set the air mattress on top of those.  Once you add the linens, the blocks will be hidden and it will look like a real bed.  Or you can use two air mattresses stacked atop one another.
You don't have to break the bank to stage a house properly.  If you're like me, you have tons of knick knacks, artwork, books and other assorted items already in your house that you could do without for a couple of weeks.  The rest of the stuff can be picked up at a thrift store or yard sale for next to nothing.

At the end of the day, a house that is dressed up will go quicker than a naked house.

But that's just me.

Why do people move?

Why do people move?  That is an age old question.  There are many many reasons that people go through the hassle, headache and expense of moving.  But "I've outgrown my space" seems to rank right up in the top 3....or maybe even 2.

What exactly does that mean?  Usually people who moved into a home single but have since gotten married and had children use that sentence.  In their situation, I can believe it to be true. However, there are a lot of single people and couples (whose family size has not grown) who use that phrase.  So what are they talking about?  

My bet is, they haven't outgrown their space.....their stuff has.

Do you remember your first place?  I do.  My parents gave us their old couch, his parents gave us the bed from their guest room, we received tons of wedding presents such as 10 toasters (not exaggerating), 5 irons, 3 ironing boards, along with an assortment of mixers, blenders and other household (and very useful) items.

Even with the generosity of our friends and family, we still resorted to using a cable spool (see picture below) that we found as our dining room table and stacks of pillows as our chairs.

Our little apartment seemed HUGE when we first moved in.  Why shouldn't it?  We had next to nothing to put in it.  But by the time our lease was up, we had outgrown our little space and needed something larger.  Our apartment didn't shrink....we had just gotten more stuff to put in it than it would comfortably hold.

So what is the cure for our obsession with stuff?  The obvious cure is not to buy more stuff than will fit into your space.  While that's an easy solution, it's far easier said than done.

Then the children come along and guess what?  Yes....more stuff.  Children have a unique way of taking up every square inch of your home.  Your living room that once entertained all your friends on a Friday night now barely has the space for you to sit and watch television comfortably because the baby stuff has taken over.  There are car seats, strollers, play pens, toys, walkers, play mats, high chairs....the list is endless.

So let's look at some ways to end this clutter trap and make you want to stay rather than move.

Extra bedrooms are a renters best friend.  Most rentals don't have a ton of storage space.  For some reason the people who design rentals tend to believe that a renter is like a nomad.  They move about from space to space and live out of a single suitcase.  They would be wrong.  If you have a bedroom that you aren't using on a regular basis, make it your storage room.  

I don't mean open the door, fling in whatever item you want stored and then quickly shut the door.  I mean shop your local thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales (and yes, relatives garages) and find shelving units.  Line the walls with these units.  You can get as fancy or as plain as you wish.  You can even use cinder blocks and wood for your units.  Easy to assemble, easy to take down and easy to move about.  Cinder blocks run about $1 to $2 each and the wood can be reclaimed or bought new for about that same price.  Paint it if you like or leave it plain.  Either way, it is a storage unit that can be added on to easily and works perfectly.  Add a few baskets to contain the small stuff and you have some amazing storage.

Or how about buying portable hanging systems?

Maybe you don't have an extra bedroom?  Do you have a garage?  There's always extra space in there!

What if you currently use that spare bedroom for an office and don't want to let go of that?  Not a problem.  Chances are you don't need a formal office space unless clients are coming to your home.  Take a corner of that spare bedroom, hang some shelving then take a cheap interior door and make yourself a corner office!  You still have plenty of room left for storage.

There are tons of areas in your current space for you to turn into storage.  All you have to do is look around and be creative.  Using the back of a door is a great way to get some of your stuff off the tops of your dresser's and out of your drawers.  Hanging purses, scarves, jewelry on hooks that are placed on the backside of your bedroom door is a great way to add more storage.

Let's not forget baskets!  I don't think there is a greater declutter tool known to man than baskets.  Put a few beneath your coffee table, then just scoop up the clutter and throw them into the baskets when company's coming for a quick, stylish way to control your clutter.

Pottery Barn, Pier One and tons of other stores carry unique and well crafted baskets of all sizes and shapes (and even colors) that will last forever.

If you love your neighborhood and you have a good landlord already, why move if you don't have to?

I say, just work with what you have and before will fall in love with your space all over again!

Enjoy your space!