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Lessons From Listings Photos: See the Power of Staging in This Pennsylvania Carriage House

September 16, 2020

lessons from listing photos

realtor.com

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.

These days, staging a home—redecorating it with furnishings and decor selected to appeal to buyers—is an important step that nearly every homeowner should think about when it’s time to sell their house.

When potential buyers view a home—whether online or in person—you want them to be able to picture themselves in your space. But it’s hard to do that when your personal stuff is everywhere. That’s where staging comes in. It’s a tool to highlight the strengths of each room and eliminate anything that could give potential buyers pause—be that clutter, personal belongings, or design decisions that just aren’t for everyone.

If you’ve ever doubted the power of staging a home before listing it, this Pennsylvania home will make you see the light.

Built in 1925, it has many great features and tons of character, but it still didn’t sell when it was listed for $810,000 in August 2019. In June 2020, it was relisted with brand-new photos of fully staged interiors. We’re talking streamlined furniture and rugs in clean, neutral colors. No more mismatched wooden furniture! And just two months later it was sold for $820,000, a little more than the initial asking price.

Since home staging costs around $2,000 to $2,400 a month (the furnishings are rented), that seems like money well-spent, especially when you consider the money lost on extra mortgage payments while the home sits on the market.

We went right to our experts to find out why the staging of this house attracted a buyer—and how you can have the same success in your home. Here’s what they had to say.

Living room

The living room in this house had a lot of great features, but the original setup didn’t allow them to stand out.

“When you have a feature wall, such as the stone wall shown here, it’s best to showcase that instead of covering it up with bulky furniture,” says Dawn Gerali, a real estate agent with West USA. “The modern, lighter-colored furniture and minimalist artwork works well to make this a comfortable, inviting space.”

“By simplifying the color of all the furnishings, it is less distracting to the eye,” explains Lisa Vail, designer with Vesta Home. “A potential buyer can easily find themselves stepping into the space and making it their own.

Vail adds that swapping out the furniture is a quick and easy move that gives the perception that the entire house has been updated.

Kitchen

There was nothing really wrong with the original kitchen in this house, but it had a mismatched vibe that made it hard to present a functional, uncluttered space. Yet the magic of staging changed all of that with just a few simple swaps.

“The kitchen island has been staged with bigger stools and place settings, and the shelves have been cleared as well,” says Will Rodgers, a real estate consultant with KW Realty McLean. “This gives the buyer the idea that the kitchen can be a good area for meals, and makes it appear less cluttered.”

Jill Valeri, a home stager and owner of Welcome Home: Interior Design Solutions, says the staged version of the room just feels better to potential buyers.

“The matching stools, place settings, and small vases by the stove create a visually appealing rhythm in the space, while emptying the built-in shelves makes them less distracting,” she says. “The overall effect is that the buyer can now focus on the beautiful marble and vast counter spaces.”

Dining room

Obviously the selling point in this dining room is the gorgeous ceiling beams, but unless the room is staged right, they may look more like a hindrance than anything.

“The ornate furniture in the before photo competes with the wood-beamed ceilings and windows. It detracts from the room’s architectural features,” explains Gerali. “The sleek, modern furniture in the after photo draws attention to the beautiful ceiling and the natural light coming in through the windows.”

Marla Perez, account executive with Vespa Home, agrees.

“Staging this dining room made it feel larger and more grand,” she says. “Changing the orientation of the dining room table elongated the dining room, and adding a neutral rug brightened the space. The updated furniture and upholstered dining chairs created a more formal dining [area] for entertaining.”

Bedroom

Very little has changed in the bedroom of this home, save for the new furniture and decor, but it feels like a totally different space.

“They have elevated this room simply by adding the appropriate-scale bed and neutralizing the color palette,” says Vail. “The original bed was way too high for the room and drew attention to the odd nook it was set in. But now it looks like the nook was built intentionally for the bed.”

Rodgers emphasizes the impact of the cosmetic changes.

“This bedroom feels more airy and natural after the old chests and dressers were replaced with plants, neutral-colored linens, and a serene piece of art over the bed,” he says. “This gives buyers a relaxing feel upon entering the room, which is perfect for a bedroom.”

The post Lessons From Listings Photos: See the Power of Staging in This Pennsylvania Carriage House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Virtual Staging: The Hot Trend That Can Help Sell Your Home During the Coronavirus Crisis

August 27, 2020

virtual staging

Feverpitched/Getty Images

In this age of social distancing, you might want to limit the number of strangers traipsing through your house. So chances are good you’ve said sayonara to the idea of having a staging company come in to artfully showcase your home for sale.

That means it’s time to get creative in order to prep your property for sale. And guess what? There’s an app for that.

Actually, there’s a wide variety of virtual staging software options available, allowing designers to digitally add gorgeous furnishings and accessories to photos of each room in your house, enhancing its overall appeal.

Some tech platforms can even do virtual renovations like digitally erasing a tired sofa or peeling wallpaper, and revamping rooms with new wall color and different flooring so you can show it off online to potential buyers.

Eager to find out more? Here’s how you can make virtual staging work for you.

Virtual staging is a practical solution during the pandemic

When Ed Gory, a Realtor®, was preparing to list a vacant two-bedroom ranch house in early March, staging companies couldn’t physically work in the house. Gory’s photographer suggested he contact roOomy, a company offering virtual staging services. Digital decor elements are layered into high-resolution photos of the home and rendered into a realistic final image to look like you’ve actually accomplished the transformation.

“I’d never considered virtual staging before, because the finished product I’d seen looked a little cartoonish, but the technology has come a long way,” says Gory, who works at Intero Real Estate in San Carlos, CA.

“Since buyers weren’t able to visit houses, virtual staging provided a means for us to show something more exciting than a picture of a blank room,” Gory says.

It worked so well, in fact, that the house was sold five days later.

This didn’t surprise Lindsay Dillon, roOomy’s vice president of strategic partnerships and marketing. That’s because virtual staging is experiencing a surge in popularity.

“Even before the coronavirus, we were seeing a shift in how the real estate community was approaching digital content,” Dillon says.

Click the arrows and slide from left to right to see a fully staged room from roOomy.

Your home can be styled any way you like

Home stagers usually pull decorative items and furniture from their warehouse to fit your rooms, limited to whatever inventory they have on hand at the time. They also generally just add basic elements—think sofas, dining and bedroom furniture, plus artwork—but they won’t usually change out light fixtures, for example. Virtual staging designers have no limits, because they’re working with a huge digital library of 3-D assets.

“We want to show the space in its best light based on your target buyer,” says Dillon. But “we don’t want to be deceptive, so we won’t add a wall or kitchen island that doesn’t exist.”

Virtual staging can make a vacant home more attractive

Virtual staging is especially useful for sellers who have already moved out, says Lyndsey Garza, owner/broker at Galveston Vacation Real Estate. An empty house is typically much more expensive to stage, and it can be harder to sell.

“For people that don’t have the imagination to see something as an office or a kids’ playroom, virtual staging gives them room to think outside the box,” Garza explains.

Click the arrows and slide from left to right to see a fully staged room from roOomy.

Virtual staging is cost-effective

Sellers can save significantly with virtual staging, because the costs of physically staging a home—removing existing furniture, hauling in a bunch of new things, and then staging the home—really add up.

“Here, a 1,200-square-foot home could cost $2,500, but it’s about a third that price to do virtual staging,” says Gory. “Plus, you have a lot more control over the style, artwork, and even the plants you put out, so you could really dress up a house and give it a great online first impression.”

Garza notes that to minimally stage a four-bedroom, three-bath, 2,500-square-foot home in Galveston or the Houston area for three months, sellers fork over $3,500. A simple virtual staging would cost about $500.

“Very few sellers want to put any more money into their home, and virtual staging saves them money with less traffic through the home,” she says.

You can save valuable time when listing your home

Because virtual staging is done on a computer, it saves a lot of time, Gory says. Usually real estate agents meet with a live stager to assess the house, wait for an estimate, and then wait again for movers to bring over rented furniture—and finally, the photographer takes listing photos.

“That process could easily take a week from start to finish, and it took a lot quicker to stage virtually, because I did everything from my computer,” Gory says.

And consider this: If you’re in the middle of sprucing up your place, you don’t have to wait until your renovations are complete before posting listing photos—virtual staging allows buyers to visualize how great the house will look when you’re done.

Click the arrows and slide from left to right to see a fully staged room from roOomy.

Be transparent about what’s real and what isn’t

The last thing you want is a buyer who feels tricked into going to see a house that looks nothing like the photographs, says Garza.

“The downfall with virtual staging is that sometimes it can appear misleading: Even though the perspectives and measurements are theoretically correct, it’s fictitious—it’s an idea of what the space could be versus the actual space,” she says, adding that it’s important to clearly note on the online property listing that the images have been virtually staged.

Consider a true virtual staging platform

There’s a reason virtual staging hasn’t taken off in the past—it’s tricky to get right. Make sure you have confidence in the technology being used by the company you choose.

“Because we’re able to transform a 2-D image into a 3-D space with our patented technology and add real 3-D furniture to that space, we’re ensuring that what you’re seeing in scale is accurate,” says Dillon. “You’re not trying to fit a king-sized bed in a room that has no business to have one by using photo-editing tools.”

And be sure to carefully vet the companies you and your agent are thinking of hiring.

“Some of them look way too spiffed up and don’t fit the property, and sometimes it looks like you’re playing a video game,” Garza says. “I like to show clients samples, because I want sellers to be happy with what’s online. Then, chances are buyers are going to be happy with it, too.”

The post Virtual Staging: The Hot Trend That Can Help Sell Your Home During the Coronavirus Crisis appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

How To Show Your Home During the Pandemic: The Definitive Seller’s Guide to Virtual Tours and More

April 15, 2020

Halfpoint/Getty Images

For home sellers in the era of the novel coronavirus, showing off your home to potential buyers may seem like an impossible task. As people practice social distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19, most open houses are on hold, and in-person home showings are limited across the country.

But there are still ways to reach potential buyers and show your home in the best light—through virtual tours.

In the third part of our series, “Home Selling in the Age of the Coronavirus,” we highlight all the ways home sellers can give buyers an in-depth look at their property without actually opening their doors and risking the buyers’ health (or their own).

How virtual tours work

Virtual tours offer home buyers a remote, video-enabled walk-through of a property that will give them the sensation that they’re actually there—or at least darn close.

Real estate agents used virtual tours before COVID-19 as a unique marketing tool. Now, online tours are more important than ever, since they’re often the only easy way for buyers to check out a home without physically entering the property.

Virtual tours are recommended by the National Association of Realtors® as a way to avoid face-to-face contact while marketing homes during the coronavirus crisis.

“With the current shutdown, more and more home sellers are requesting that we offer buyers a virtual tour to help expedite the sale,” says Peggy Zabakolas, a real estate broker at Nest Seekers International in Bridgehampton, NY.

Real estate listing sites like realtor.com are featuring virtual tours on more and more listings. (Look for the virtual tour icon on the bottom of the listing page.)

Types of virtual tours

Virtual tours can be conducted in a variety of different ways, depending on time, technology, and budget.

Probably the least complicated is where sellers or real estate agents use their smartphone camera to record a video as they walk through the home, showing off each room.

A more interactive option is to livestream a one-on-one showing with the buyers. This will give them more control over where you are pointing the camera, via FaceTime or another video streaming app (“Could you take a peek inside that closet/outside that window?”).

Yet another option home sellers might consider is a virtual open house.

With gatherings of more than 10 people prohibited across most of the United States, real estate agents have been forced to cancel open houses. But many are using tools like FaceTime or Zoom to host live virtual open houses so they can show potential buyers around a home.

Buyers often enjoy seeing the “raw footage” that a virtual open house or showing can offer, as opposed to a professionally produced video, says Angela Hornburg, team leader at the Hornburg Real Estate Group in Dallas.

Buyers can also ask questions, which may help them to feel more secure that they can be fully informed about the property—or perhaps even allow them to make an offer on the spot.

3D tours

A more high-tech option for showing a home is setting up a fully fledged 3D tour. This is where a home seller, real estate agent, or a professional photographer uses a special 3D camera to capture images of the home.

These photos are uploaded into a proprietary software program that renders the visuals in three dimensions, creating a tour that can be uploaded onto a real estate listing.

Adding a 3D tour is a little more involved than taking a video on your phone, however—and it can also be pricey.

For example, the 3D visual platform Matterport offers packages ranging from $9.99 to $309 per month. Immoviewer’s prices range from $69 per month to $799 per year. Typically, a listing agent will pay for this as part of the marketing material.

While 3D tours are still rare, some people insist that they’re worth the cost, especially for higher-end properties. Homes can be viewed in several different ways, such as in dollhouse view, which shows how rooms are laid out in the house (see images below).

The dollhouse view provides a sense of the flow of the home.

Matterport/Realtor.com

Virtual tours show viewers a 3D model of a home’s floor plan.

Matterport/Realtor.com

Virtual staging

Traditional staging—where furniture and artwork are arranged in a house to present the space in the best light—is a great selling tool, but it may be difficult to pull off at a time when sellers are reluctant to let outsiders into their house.

There’s a workaround here, too: virtual staging, which provides simulated images of a property laid out with alternative furnishings.

“Virtual staging, like physical home staging, is aimed at enticing home buyers and helping them connect emotionally with a property,” says Ilaria Barion, a luxury home stager, who offers both in-person and virtual staging.

Virtual home staging uses software to reimagine new decor in a property, in order to enhance the appearance of the space.

Unlike on-site staging, virtual staging comes with unlimited options, for example, paring down homes that are filled with furniture and ornament and displaying them with a simplified, cleaner design.

Before: The living room of a New York City home before a virtual staging

Ilaria Barion Design

After: The virtual staging of the same living room highlights its features.

Ilaria Barion Design

Before: Bedroom before virtual staging

Ilaria Barion Design

After: Virtually staging the bedroom offers a more neutral design.

Ilaria Barion Flow

Just as with virtual tours, virtual staging was available before the coronavirus outbreak, but is especially important now. Even small, simple changes can make a big difference.

For instance: Does your property have an accent wall painted in a bright color that might turn off buyers? Virtual staging can wipe that away. Sellers should aim for “a neutral palette, so the new buyer can envision themselves living in it,” Zabakolas says.

Also, adding a few trendy accents can make a lasting impression on buyers.

“Small accents to dress up the home, such as flowers or centerpieces, help in any virtual or in-person tour,” says Tomer Fridman, a luxury and celebrity real estate expert at Compass in Los Angeles.

Staging a home virtually is cheaper than on-site staging, Barion says. Virtual staging costs a few hundred dollars and is usually paid for by agents, unlike traditional staging, which costs thousands. Virtual staging can also be completed in a matter of days.

“Virtual staging allows for many more options that would be cost-prohibitive in real life, like stripping down wallpaper, changing window treatment, adding a pool table, or replacing old furniture and fixtures,” Barion says.

How home sellers can use virtual tours to find the right buyer

Virtual tours and open houses can help buyers get to know a home, but the fact is that some may insist that they see a place in person before they feel confident about making an offer.

Although some areas, like the state of New York, are prohibiting in-person home showings at present, they are still happening in other places.

While it may be off-putting for sellers to allow buyers to enter their home, that may be necessary if they want to get an offer.

Virtual tours and showings nevertheless serve an important purpose: They help buyers get to know a property well enough to become serious contenders for a purchase.

In turn, virtual tours help sellers lower their risk of exposure to the coronavirus, by helping them whittle down the number of buyers who enter their house.

So how else can home sellers know a buyer is serious? Maggie Wellsreal estate agent at Keller Williams Realty Greater Lexington in Kentucky, requires that buyers have a mortgage pre-approval and have taken a look at the virtual tour beforehand.

Agents also make sure to keep hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and shoe coverings available for buyers to use during their in-person tour.

Selling a home during the coronavirus crisis presents many unique challenges. Being adaptable will help sellers to reach buyers and to make sure that the home is sold.

The post How To Show Your Home During the Pandemic: The Definitive Seller’s Guide to Virtual Tours and More appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

I Don’t Have Money for Updates; Should I Offer a Discount When Selling My Home?

December 3, 2019

asbe/iStock

When your home is on the market, it needs to stand out from the crowd. And certain features like beautifully appointed open kitchens or impeccable hardwood floors are great at drawing eyeballs for listings. But what if you can’t afford to renovate—even if certain things have fallen into a state of serious disrepair?

Some sellers may choose to offer an allowance, or discount, on their home to entice buyers. In this situation, the seller would agree to take the financial hit on repairing anything that the buyer sees as an issue. The allowance would be written into the buyer’s offer, and the buyer would have to check with the lender for details that pertain to this type of clause. (Some lenders may have a problem with it.)

Benefits of offering an allowance

If you cannot afford to make necessary repairs to your property, offering a home improvement allowance is certainly a viable option.

Robert Rahmanian, principal and co-founder of REAL New York, says this might be a good strategy if you’re having trouble selling your house or when a buyer brings up the need for updates.

“The allowance amount very much depends on the kind of updates that need to be conducted,” he says. The allowance may be determined based on the total price of the necessary updates.

According to Martin Eiden, a broker at Compass in New York, the first step is to get written estimates from contractors to do the work, and then offer an allowance for the estimated amount.

“I would present it like this: ‘We were considering updating the kitchen and baths but didn’t want to choose a color the end buyer may not want, so these are the estimates, and the buyer can choose the final colors and finishes,’” he says.

This is a solid strategy for two reasons. “Buyers capable of having a ‘vision’ for the home may be excited because they have the ability to choose updates and colors to their personal taste and liking,” says Shafaq Chawla, a real estate agent at Compass in Los Gatos, CA. Also, by managing the project themselves, she says, buyers will have peace of mind knowing that the repairs will be done to their liking.

Disadvantages of offering an allowance

However, there are also valid reasons against offering a home improvement allowance, chiefly the fact that most buyers favor a home that is move-in ready.

Chawla says although some buyers would enjoy the opportunity to customize the home, there are plenty of prospective buyers who will avoid going this route.

“Depending on the scope of the work needed, it may require them to take time off from work or endure the hassle of chasing down contractors for the job,” she says.

Plus, depending on the market, it’s possible that a home improvement allowance won’t even be necessary to entice buyers.

“In desirable neighborhoods with limited inventory, a home will likely sell, even if it’s outdated or saddled with condition issues,” says Sarah A. Adler, a real estate salesperson at Citi Habitats in Brooklyn, NY.

Other options

Aside from offering a home improvement allowance, how can you attract buyers if you don’t have money to fix up your property? The best solution is to price it correctly. That includes taking into account the conditions in that individual market and how much work the buyer will have to put into the home.

But there’s also another option. Although you may not be able to do extensive repairs on your own, it’s possible to put some level of sweat equity into it.

“It costs you nothing to do a thorough cleaning and remove clutter,” Eiden says. In fact, he believes you’ll get the biggest return on investment by painting your home’s interior with a fresh coat of white. Best of all, you can do this yourself. White paint will reflect light and make the rooms appear bigger. Plus, it gives the appearance of a clean palette and can help potential buyers imagine themselves—and their stuff—in there.

The post I Don’t Have Money for Updates; Should I Offer a Discount When Selling My Home? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

How to Throw a Halloween-Themed Open House That’ll Scare Up Buyers

October 17, 2019

Halloween open house

Katja Rovinowicz/iStock

Selling a house with Halloween on the horizon can be tricky. Maybe you want to decorate, but you’ve been told over and over again to keep your space neutral, so buyers can picture themselves in your home.

It’s good advice. But before you give up your grand plans for carving jack-o-lanterns and start stuffing the scarecrows back into storage, know this: There is a way to indulge in the holiday and make your home stand out from the crowd at the same time.

To the rescue: a Halloween-themed open house! Read on for expert tips on using this holiday as a marketing tool that’ll help you scare up potential buyers.

Don’t actually scare the buyers

Although it’s tempting to make your home the spookiest on the block, the experts advise against it.

Take it from Benjamin Ross, Realtor® with Mission Real Estate Group in San Antonio, TX, who has a graveyard with an animated pumpkin head and a zombie coming out of the ground.

“My granddaughter came over and was afraid to get out of the car,” Ross says. “Luckily for me, I’m not selling my house.”

When it comes to decorating your home for the big event, the best thing to do is keep it simple.

“Keep it tasteful and light,” says April Struhs, Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Schmitt Real Estate Co. in Key Largo, FL. “For example, a couple of pumpkin spice candles would be a great idea; then the buyers would remember the house that smelled like pumpkin spice.”

Of course, you can always stock up on the pumpkins, fall leaves and wreaths, Halloween throw pillows, and orange twinkle lights. You can even add in a Halloween doormat and some themed music. Jon Tetrault, partner and Realtor with the Nick Slocum Team in Warwick, RI, even recommends giving your buyers a laugh by writing “Not Haunted” on your For Sale sign.

But the creepy decorations? Consider skipping those this year.

“I would strongly stay away from blood and gore decorations,” Struhs says.

“My advice is to keep it fun-scary, not deathly scary,” Ross adds.

Keep it kid-friendly

Halloween ring toss
Set up activities to entertain the kids while parents tour the home.

gpointstudio/iStock

One of the best ways to make your event memorable is by having some fun activities prepared for the kids who might be traipsing along with their parents to your open house. Simple games that are easy to win (for a modest prize, of course), like a pumpkin corn-hole or ring toss, are always a hit.

But something even better? A game that keeps kids engaged—while also ensuring that their parents can see the entire house.  For instance, you could set up a mini-scavenger hunt, says Seattle-area real estate broker Valerie Burmester.

“While the parents look around, the kids will be on the lookout for those painted pumpkins, fall pillows, photos of a pet in a costume in the bedroom,” Burmester says. “It will be well worth the effort, because both parents and kids can get in on the games while still looking at the home.”

You might also consider having a small arts and crafts table where kids can entertain themselves while parents have a look around. (Struhs recommends Halloween-themed coloring books with crayons.)

And be sure to make up some small goody bags, or stock up a “treasure chest” of prizes that kids can pick from after every game. If your prizes include candy, get the parents’ permission before handing them out.

Stock up on the snacks

Halloween open house snacks
Spooktacular snacks

jenifoto/iStock

Speaking of treats, it’s an old adage for good reason: The way to buyers’ hearts might just be through their stomach.

“A lot of time kids get bored looking at houses, which can mean the parents don’t get a good viewing,” Struhs says. “One way to keep them entertained is with food.”

While candy is fine, chances are kids will get plenty of it while trick-or-treating. Opt instead for fresh and homemade treats.

“Fall-themed cookies, homemade pumpkin bread, and apple cider all give a home warmth,” Burmester says. “And they’re delicious for adults and kids.”

Pick the best room in your house to set up a snack table. Be sure to stage it with some fun Halloween decorations and a few pumpkins. If you have a coffee maker, brew up some java for your buyers. Most likely, yours isn’t the only home they’re visiting that day, and you’ll stand out even more by making it a fun and relaxing experience for both them and their children.

And if you needed another reason to feed your guests, consider this: “Giving the buyer something to drink and eat will help them stay longer at the house, which gives the real estate agent more time to really talk up the property,” Struhs says.

Don’t overdo the decorations

The goal of any open house is to sell the home—so just be sure to keep this top of mind when planning your event. Costumes, games, and decorations are all fine and good, as long as they don’t detract from the house, or negatively affect your buyers’ experience while they’re visiting it.

“Stay away from anything satanic or demon-inspired, and any race-appropriating costumes, like Native American or geisha,” says real estate agent Regine Nelson of Wealthward Realty in Austin, TX.

And always avoid anything political—during Halloween or any other time of the year, Ross adds.

No matter how you choose to plan your spooktacular event, stay focused on why you’re doing it.

“You want to make sure the buyer is focused on the correct things, like the house,” Struhs says. “Not how great you decorated for Halloween.”

The post How to Throw a Halloween-Themed Open House That’ll Scare Up Buyers appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

6 Home Staging Essentials Every Seller Should Buy at Walmart

October 15, 2019

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If you want to sell a house quickly and for the best price, make sure your prospective buyers never stare at empty rooms and bare walls. The deserted warehouse look is definitely out!

Enter home staging—the practice of using furniture and home accessories to create vignettes that will help home buyers imagine what life would be like in that house. If the real estate you’re selling isn’t staged attractively, you’re losing out, since plenty of other houses on the market will be.

Yet as important as home staging is, there’s no need to break the bank buying expensive items to make a house look great. In fact, you shouldn’t put pricey items in a staged house, where they can get damaged from being moved around or could even disappear. Buy things that look good, but that you can get for cheap.

Granted, some of these items might not feel as luxe as the fabric at a high-end department store, but who cares? Buyers shouldn’t be touching them, anyway. You’re looking for new and crisp and inviting—not irreplaceable treasures.

One unexpected place to look for staging props: Walmart. A few dollars can go a long way here! Check out these bargains that home stagers and real estate agents often buy to kick up your home staging without shedding too much money in the process.

Fluffy white hand towels

Walmart white towels
Go-anywhere white hand towels

walmart.com

Next to kitchens, “Bathrooms are the second most important room and selling feature in any home,” says Jimmy Zarate of eXp Realty in Houston, TX. Freshen up all of your bathrooms with a six-pack of premium soft white hand towels (walmart.com, $14.99).

“It’s the perfect accent,” Zarate says.

Chrissy O’Donnell, associate broker and real estate agent at Re/Max West End, in Northern Virginia, says, “I would place them in all bathrooms, accompanied by a clear dispenser filled with a warm-colored soap. If there is a master suite with a tub, I would fold them by the tub, adding a spalike feel.”

Bathrooms aren’t the only rooms that you can spruce up with fresh towels.

“Home gym or fitness room?  I would roll these up and place them in basket and add some water bottles,” says O’Donnell.

Round accent mirror

Anchor an arrangement with this classic round mirror.

walmart.com

This mirror (walmart.com, $58) will not only make your home look bigger, it’s also the perfect “safe” decor—mirrors go with any style or age of home.

“This is the perfect accent piece and would be perfect above an entryway or hallway table,” says O’Donnell. “Mirrors can open up a room and create more light, brightening things up! I sometimes mix and match different sizes of mirrors to fill up an empty wall, and this would be perfect to add to a collage.”

Fake plants

Attract attention with a simple fern.

walmart.com

Can’t keep real plants alive? Go with faux, which have come a long way these days and look strikingly realistic.

“I love adding greenery to any space and prefer using understated pieces just like these,” says O’Donnell. Placed in a vase, these ferns (walmart.com, $20.16 per six-pack) are a good bet.

“They could guide a buyer’s attention towards a certain area or piece and would be perfect for a living room or family room area,” O’Donnell says.

Flameless candles

LED flameless pillar candles

Add a warm glow with these safe LED candles (walmart.com, $19.88).

“I love using candles. They add warmth and character, and this motif adds some style!” says O’Donnell. “I would use these on a coffee table and place them on a tray.”

Don’t forget to make outdoor spaces look inviting, too.

“If the home had a screened-in porch, I might add these to a side table outside as well,” she says.

Chic art prints

A large art print creates a focal point.

walmart.com

If your walls are covered with personal mementos, photos, anything personal or even remotely controversial—or maybe just too much stuff—consider packing it all away for now.

“Any wise real estate agent or stager would tell you to take down any personal pictures or family photos, no matter how cute they are,” says Zarate. A great substitute would be the Designart ‘Skyline with Brooklyn Manhattan Bridges’ Art Print (walmart.com, $192). “It is the perfect size, while adding a sleek, modern feel.”

Colorful pillows

Colorful pillows

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When the room looks almost perfect, but still missing something, don’t be afraid to add some color. These three-button pillows (walmart.com, $13.84) have enough style and pop to make a statement, without being fussy. Keep a selection of these on hand, and you can swap out accent colors and soften edges of furniture as easily as you can toss a pillow.

The post 6 Home Staging Essentials Every Seller Should Buy at Walmart appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

How Touring Open Houses Helped Me See My Own Home in a Whole New Light

August 14, 2019

Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Want to learn how to sell your house? Simple: Put on your buyer hat and tour a bunch of homes for sale in your area. That’s what I did, and I learned a ton about how to sell my own place.

I’d bought my cozy one-bedroom condo in Irvine, CA, three years ago; it was perfect for a single 20-something ready to break away from the renting game. But now, I’m married, with dreams of having kids who will need their own rooms and with plans to get a brood of pups, who probably won’t be impressed with my cement balcony “backyard.” With these goals on our horizon, I realized that my husband and I were going to need a bigger place.

So, I started touring open houses in my area, often with my husband in tow. While my original motive was to figure out what we wanted to buy, it didn’t take long for me to feel like an expert in buying and selling. Here’s what I learned.

Home staging makes a huge difference

One weekend, my husband and I toured a house I loved—it felt so homey and elegant. I was inspired by the kids’ rooms, with their vintage feel and soft colors. I even started imagining family dinners at the gorgeous wood table next to the kitchen. I could practically taste the ice cream we’d have for dessert.

Then, a few weeks later, we went to see another house. Within moments of walking in, I walked right out, calling it “definitely skippable.” That’s when my husband stopped me.

“You know that’s the same layout as the house you loved, right?”

living room
This living room felt like home to me. I loved the table off the kitchen and the cozy living room.

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I hadn’t even noticed! Sure enough, as I looked at both listings online—both in the same preplanned community—I realized that almost everything was exactly the same. I’d walked through the same rooms, seen essentially the same views though the windows, and even tested the same faucets, without connecting the dots.

I couldn’t believe how different it all looked—and how quick I had been to dismiss the second house. This convinced me that good staging could offer a huge advantage, one that I’d have to make use of when selling my own home. While I’d once considered simply moving my furniture out of my condo before selling it, I realized now that it was important to keep at least some of the best things. Buyers will have a hard time picturing eating their meals at a table they can’t see, or imagining falling asleep in a bedroom without a cozy-looking bed.

chairs and fireplace
I walked into this house and was immediately confused by the staging. I couldn’t imagine myself here.

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Odds are, some areas of your home are outdated

Walking into an open house, it can be hard not to look at the owner’s sense of style before anything else.

Sometimes, I’d be overwhelmed by the gorgeous design and glamorous art pieces that seemed made for the home. I’d even go as far as to ask if I could buy that couch, or those bar stools, along with the house. But at other open houses, I’d find myself unpleasantly distracted by an outdated dining room table, or gaudy light fixtures. You expect a house to be at its absolute best when it’s being shown, so when I went into one house with a way-too-’80s fireplace and baby-blue walls that made the living room look like a nursery, I couldn’t even focus on the large living space or the great view.

blue and white living room
When I toured this home, I got some great ideas for pops of color in my own home. I loved the use of blue pillows in this otherwise muted living room. It reminded me that it can be easy (and inexpensive) to change up a look.

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Being (relatively) young and (moderately) hip, I thought I was in the clear from any big style faux pas. But one day, coming home from open houses, I realized that my condo might be a style offender, too. Once I started looking at modern, expertly designed homes, I started to notice that none of my furniture really went together and that the accent wall I loved so much was a bit outdated. I realized I’d have to give my condo a refresh if I had any hope of fetching top dollar.

living room
I was underwhelmed with this house’s interior. Not only was all the furniture dated, but the rooms felt flat and uninteresting.

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Don’t forget about the outdoor areas, too

Since my own home had a balcony, I made a point to tour some condos with balconies, just to see how they compared to my own.

As I saw terrace after terrace with sleek furniture and creative features like shade-providing curtains, it quickly dawned on me they were much more stylish and welcoming than mine, even though they were about the same size. I realized there was a lot more I could do with this small space.

Inspired, I bought some new cozy outdoor chairs for my balcony, added a small table and a few more potted plants, and even an outdoor-friendly rug for some more color. When I’m ready to sell, my balcony will already be buyer-ready!

sitting area
I liked this simple and sweet outdoor space. It has just enough furniture to make for a comfortable sitting area (without making it feel crowded) and the pillow and potted plants provide a cozy feeling.

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You have to spend money to make money

When I first started looking at homes, I didn’t understand why they were priced the way they were. I’d see some homes with three bedrooms and three baths that were $100,000 more expensive than houses the same size in a similar area. It wasn’t until I toured the homes that I understood. These pricier houses had some noticeable differences, such as upgrades in the kitchen and better curb appeal. I realized that people are willing to pay handsomely for certain features.

black and white kitchen
I saw many boring 1990s kitchens on home tours, but this updated, chic setup cut through the clutter.

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When it came to my condo, I knew there were updates I should do to the kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities. It wouldn’t cost too much to update those things, but I knew that when the time came to sell, buyers would be more willing to pay top dollar with those updates—so they were worth the added expense.

kitchen
This is one of the many basic, outdated kitchens I saw. Kitchens should feel inviting, but I thought this one just felt boring.

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The post How Touring Open Houses Helped Me See My Own Home in a Whole New Light appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

The One Thing That Can Make or Break How People Feel About Your House

July 31, 2019

GMVozd/iStock

Considering the time and energy homeowners put toward making their house look great (particularly if they’re trying to sell), many make the critical mistake of neglecting another one of our senses that can be far more powerful: smell.

Even if you’ve decorated or staged your home perfectly, if potential buyers walk in and detect an unpleasant odor, they could skedaddle fast. Good scents, on the other hand, entice them to linger.

“One of the easiest ways to evoke pleasant feelings about a space is to enhance the way it smells,” says Ben Creamer, a managing broker in Chicago. “It’s often the first thing a person will notice upon entering a space—and it’s one of the things that, when done poorly, can kill a sale, no matter how beautiful the home.”

Before considering what options you have for making your home smell amazing, you want to be sure you’re starting fresh.

“The first step to a good-smelling home is to get rid of any odor,” says Barb Boehler, a real estate agent in Madison, WI. “Make sure to scrub all surfaces, wash all rugs, and have the carpets cleaned. Until this is done, you’ll only be masking smells.”

In addition, be mindful in creating a home scent that will be as universally appealing as possible.

“The definition of ‘pleasant’ when it comes to the olfactory senses can vary widely from person to person, so it’s best to keep the scent subtle and clean throughout, with a special emphasis on the kitchen and bath,” says Creamer.

With that in mind, here are 11 tips for making your home smell amazing before guests or home buyers arrive.

Scrub down the bathroom

It goes without saying that scummy showers and grubby toilets are major buyer turnoffs. Use Fabuloso liquid cleaner for bathroom surfaces, including tubs and showers, for a lovely lavender scent, recommends Lisa Jacobs, an organizing professional and founder of Imagine It Done.

Freshen the fridge

Yes, there’s a good chance people will open your refrigerator and take a peek inside. Toss any smelly leftovers or expired condiments, then leave a fresh box of baking soda on a shelf to take care of any lingering odors, says Jacobs.

Take out the trash

Obviously, get rid of any and all garbage before you welcome guests. If your trash cans still carry an odor, sprinkle baking soda in the bottom to absorb it, advises Lisa Molinari, a real estate agent in Morristown, NJ.

Get underfoot

Carpets and rugs can trap a ton of bad smells, especially if you wear shoes in your home or have pets—and warm weather can make them even worse.

An easy fix: Get them shampooed or steam-cleaned regularly, and especially before an open house, says Jennifer Snyder, owner of Neat as a Pin Organizing & Cleaning.

Don an apron

You know all of those hours you’ve spent watching bake-offs on reality TV? Put them to good use by whipping up something sweet that will do double duty making your home smell enticing and providing a snack for potential buyers.

Cedric Stewart, a residential sales consultant in Washington, DC, loves pulling a batch of pumpkin bread or banana bread out of the oven right before the open house begins.

“This provides a great smell, and treats seem to stick in the buyers’ mind after they leave,” he says. (It’s also not a bad idea to brew a fresh pot of coffee to go with the baked treat.)

Just add soap

Round up all of those unused bars of fancy soap you’ve been gifted over the years, and place them in a pretty bowl on a bathroom counter. Dove brand soap also works great for this.

“It can fill a room with a remarkably clean, fresh scent for weeks,” says Creamer. “You can even hide a bar or two in a walk-in closet to freshen the space.”

Play with matches

Tried-and-true candles can make a room feel peaceful, as well as fill it with a pleasant scent—provided the scent isn’t overpowering.

Jacobs loves Apotheke’s bamboo three-wick candle, while Los Angeles–based real estate agent Melissa Okabe always turns to Diptyque’s baies candle, which smells fresh and fruity.

Light the candle 10 to 15 minutes before the open house begins and, of course, keep it in a well-ventilated area away from anything flammable.

Focus on essentials

Oils, that is. If you’d rather stay away from open flames, you can opt for essential oil diffusers for a similar effect.

Okabe recommends fresh, neutral scents such as lemon or lavender, to add to a high-quality diffuser such as this one from West Elm. (It will be a gadget you use long after you sell your home, too.)

If you don’t want to invest in a diffuser, you can use essential oils in a few other ways.

Tangela Walker-Craft, a home and family blogger, recommends dabbing a drop of oil on cold lightbulbs before turning them on—it’ll give off a subtle fragrance as the bulb warms up. You can also add a few drops to cotton balls and hide them strategically around your home, then simply toss them after the open house concludes.

Raid your laundry room

Face it: Potential buyers are likely going to be peeping through your drawers and cabinets, so you’ll need to consider how they smell, as well. An easy way to freshen up confined spaces like these is to add dryer sheets a few days before the open house, says Ben Mizes, a real estate agent in St. Louis.

“These places don’t see a lot of light, so they can have some funky smells—but dryer sheets make them smell like fresh laundry,” he adds.

Simmer down

If you don’t have time to bake, you can create a similarly appealing sweet scent by simmering vanilla extract diluted in water on the stove.

Molinari makes a natural potpourri by adding five cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 tablespoons cloves, three bay leaves, and an orange rind to a pot of simmering water.

Catch air

High-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, purifiers can be a little expensive, but they’re extremely effective in removing any lingering strong, strange odors from the air, says Mizes. Combining an air purifier with another method, such as baking cookies, can make a big difference in how your home smells.

At the end of the day, remember to not overdo it. Avoid having multiple scents competing with one another in various rooms.

Instead, “find one neutral, mild scent and let it breathe,” says Molinari. “A scent throughout helps give your home flow and connectivity—so allow it to become the background of the experience.”

The post The One Thing That Can Make or Break How People Feel About Your House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Curtain Call: 3 Surprising Ways Drapes Can Help Sell Your Home

July 30, 2019

baona/iStock

If you thought your curtains couldn’t be used for much more than hiding from nosy neighbors, think again.

Curtains are one of the most underused resources when preparing a home for sale, experts say. The right set of curtains or drapes can make or break some home sales—especially when it comes to transforming a room into the staged version you want your buyers to see.

Keep reading to find out the unexpected ways curtains can help you sell your home, and how to choose exactly the right ones for the job.

1. Curtains can block outside noise

Whether it’s the busy city street outside your apartment or the neighbor’s never-ending string of construction projects, a good set of drapes can do more than add a pop of color to your drab living room—it can also help mute the unwanted noise.

“The key is to refocus buyer attention to the positive aspects of the room,” says Caroline Carter, founder and CEO of Done in a Day. As opposed to, say, the sounds of traffic or babies wailing in the next home.

To properly block any noise from the outside, Carter recommends using a combination of neutral linen curtains and 1-inch plantation blinds or shutters.

Hang the drapes 3 inches to the sides of the window frame to avoid blocking natural light—starting just under the crown molding, all the way to the floor, she says.

But when using curtains to hide your home’s less-than-desirable features, it’s important not to lose sight of staging basics—like preserving as much natural light as possible.

“The combination of drapes and blinds will deaden outdoor noise and dress the window so the buyer is focusing on the natural light and the value of the blinds rather than the outdoor noise,” Carter says.

2. Curtains can hide ugly wallpaper or paneling

Maybe you inherited it, or maybe you chose it. Either way, we’re not judging—but buyers will.

It’s hard to fall in love with a home if certain features are detracting from its charm. So if you don’t have the means to get rid of the ugly wallpaper or paneling, at least do yourself a favor and cover it up.

“To remedy the look of paneling or wallpaper, install a fabric or curtain wall,” suggests interior photo stylist Bonnie Aunchman.

To get started, Aunchman recommends investing in quality fabric and having it measured precisely—by a professional, preferably. You’ll want the fabric grazing the floor when all is said and done, and not an inch higher, lest your buyers catch a peek of what you’re trying to hide.

“Have curtain tracks installed,” she says, “or if your budget doesn’t allow, you can achieve this look by using rods—just ensure they are as close to the ceiling as possible.”

To get an even more finished look to your handiwork, consider adding wooden or fabric-covered valances to conceal the curtain rod.

Aunchman also recommends staging furniture and a rug around the draped wall to make it look more natural in the room, and not as though something is being hidden.

“Draped walls are often done intentionally and can be beautiful,” she says. “Style your wall like it’s an element you intended to do!”

3. Curtains can make a small space feel larger

By now you’ve probably caught on to what’s considered proper curtain-hanging etiquette: That is, they should reach all the way to the floor. But did you know that you can make your house look larger by investing in curtains that are even slightly longer than what you would traditionally need?

If you have a few small rooms that need an extra bit of staging help, drapes can really come to the rescue on this.

Rather than buying curtains that start at the top of your window, opt for something longer and install the rod several inches above the window. This will give your buyer the illusion of a room with higher ceilings—and make it look much larger.

While you’re at it, extend your rods out past the window so that your windows appear larger, Aunchman says.

Just be sure your curtains look top-notch before the install.

“While it may seem that everyone would do this, make sure you steam out all the wrinkles after you unwrap your curtains—they have the obvious packing creases that need to be steamed out to drape beautifully,” Aunchman says.

How to find your perfect curtains

When selecting curtains to stage your home, there are a few important rules to follow.

“Select drapes that are up to date with the style of room as well as the style of the home,” Aunchman suggests.

And stick to neutral-hued drapes without loud patterns or geometric designs, she says.

“You want potential home buyers to focus on the home, not the drapes,” she explains.

To get started finding for your perfect curtains, check out stores like Wayfair (where you can shop for Aunchman’s go-to drapes) and J.C. Penney—which has a window treatment department that can help you kick off your custom window projects.

The post Curtain Call: 3 Surprising Ways Drapes Can Help Sell Your Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Staging and Selling a Home With Kids: Yes, You Can!

July 25, 2019

monzenmachi/iStock

Staging your home is universally acknowledged as one of the most important things you can do to make it appeal to potential buyers. And while no one ever goes in thinking it’ll be easy, it doesn’t have to be an insane amount of work, either—which is especially good news for home sellers who have kids. After all, few expect a home occupied by children to be perfect; that said, it should still adhere to some of the basics of staging, by being clean, inviting, and depersonalized.

This may seem like a lot of hassle, especially when buyers probably know you have kids. Won’t they forgive a few minor details? Maybe not, says Mary Hall Mayer, a Realtor® with Warburg Realty in New York City.

“It’s psychological,” Mayer says. “A dirty-feeling house implies nothing is well-maintained—not your appliances, or even the wooden floor concealed by a large area rug.”

So whether you’re selling a house with messy preteens or trying to stage while your toddler throws food across the room, we’ll walk you through the process of transforming your home so it’s seller-ready. Read these tips from the experts that will help you prepare your house (and your children) for a staging success.

Strike a balance

Just like any other room in the house, the kids’ rooms should be tidy and clean. Does this mean playtime is banned while your house is on the market? No. But it does mean you’ll need to get tough about what really needs to stay.

“The first thing I like to remember is that, if I’m showing an occupied unit, it’s occupied by everyone living there,” says New York City–based real estate broker Brian Letendre. “Let’s find out what’s absolutely essential to normalizing the day to day for the children, and get a storage space to put any overflow.”

One of the best ways to make your home inviting (besides keeping it clean) is to depersonalize. We don’t mean transforming it into a sterile space, just a neutral one that could comfortably belong to anyone, even a buyer without kids.

“You always want the prospective buyers to get a glimpse of what life would be like in the unit for them, without too much of the seller’s personality there,” explains Letendre.

That means you’ll be putting your storage unit to work, and filling it with items like old monogrammed baby furniture or those abstract clay art projects made by your kids before they could even walk.

Remove larger toys that might otherwise dominate the room, like play sets, dollhouses, or that 4,000-piece Lego Death Star set.

Corral the small stuff

Once you’ve packed the big items off to storage, it’s time to gain control of the small stuff. You know—all of those half-used crayons and McDonald’s Happy Meals toys that have been accumulating for years.

A good approach is to invest in a collection of baskets or bins. Pick something that adds some style to your space, rather than detracts from it. That means stay away from hideously bright plastic bins; the point is to make your space look like it was organized by a professional.

Kim Jones, a Realtor and owner of Louisville-based L+K Home Organization, sold her home when her twins weren’t even a year old.

“The toys you keep are the ones kids play with every day,” she explains. “Rather than leave them out, get containers and shelving. To maintain organization, it’s important to place the toys back in a manner where it’s easy for the kids to help in the cleanup process.”

If your kids are old enough to help, encourage them to keep their space clean and organized.

“Labeling the containers, baskets, and bins gives the look a finishing touch but makes it easy for everyone to identify where things go back” says Jones. “If your kids are too young to read, use pictures instead.”

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Watch: 6 Home Staging Hacks for When You Have Only 5 Minutes Till Showtime

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Prevent messes before they happen

When the bins are labeled and ready to go, it’s time to start thinking about all of the little messes that happen with kids—and how to prevent them when you have prospective buyers coming over.

“Now isn’t the time for art projects,” says Danielle Schlesier, a Realtor in Brookline, MA. “Pack up tempting supplies like paint, markers, crayons, and glitter.”

Another good point is to watch what you cook on showing days. Here’s a tip: Skip the waffles and maple syrup for breakfast. In fact, keep any sticky, high-spatter foods off the menu for those days, and plan to have the kids out of the house at least 30 minutes prior to your open house, giving you some time to clean up if necessary.

Do a final sweep

Toys organized, messes cleaned up, kids waiting outside—it looks like you’re ready to go, right? Not just yet.

Despite all of your hard work (and we see you!), there are still a few final places you’ll want to check before heading out.

Mayer, of Warburg Realty, offers up her final checklist. “Clean [off] fingerprints and sticky handles that people may open, like closet doors, appliances, doorknobs, mirrors, and glass.”

If nothing else, you should make sure your buyers can’t guess that morning’s breakfast based on the door knobs.

The post Staging and Selling a Home With Kids: Yes, You Can! appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.