Staging mistakes, its not about you! Chico CA Sellers

May 14th, 2013 by Robert Hightower

Nowhere in life is the old adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder truer than in real estate.

One person’s dream home might be a mid-century modern, Mad Men styled contemporary, while another’s includes all the gingerbread charm of a classic Victorian. But when it comes to prepping a home to be viewed and (fingers crossed!) sold, there is both art and science to staging a home before its listed to maximize its appeal to the broadest number of target buyers.

The challenge is: staging is an investment, one every seller can’t afford to make (although studies have shown professionally staged homes sell quicker and for more than non-staged homes). Many take it on as a do-it-yourself project, like all DIY home improvement projects, can be fantastic or, not so good – depending on the approach, skill, and resources of the “self” whom does it.

The only thing worse than not staging your home for sale at all is to spend your time and money doing the work only to have buyers react badly to it. Here are a few common scenarios in which home sellers think their staging is awesome and buyers, well, differ:

1. You used beat up or ugly furnishings and decor. Great staging – DIY or professional – includes choosing furniture that shows the home off in its best possible light, and positioning the furnishings optimally, showing off the size and features of the home. Sometimes this can be done using certain pieces of the seller’s furniture, other times, furniture must be rented or otherwise obtained. One area in which budget-minded sellers like to save money on staging is by finding cheaper alternatives than renting new furniture from a staging company or store. The price to have your home professionally staged, will be offset by the speed in which it sells and the increase in sales price typically.

In this era of Craigslist, eBay, Free cycle, estate sales and other peer-to-peer online stores and trading sites, there is an abundance of access to used furniture at bargain prices. I have no bone to pick with the smart sellers who use these tools to replace their own furniture with something that is in better condition, more attractive or a smaller scale than their own, so as to highlight how much space their home truly offers. There is no shortage of yard sales and estate sales for the Sellers in Chico CA. That said, using old, floral sofas from Craigslist’s Free Section, unattractive thrift store “artwork” or even your own truly worn out, old furniture is a recurring reason buyers cite for focusing on how bad the staging is vs. the house itself.

What’s worse, the furnishings you might think was THE BEST BARGAIN EVER might actually give your nice home a worn-down, unkempt feel to the buyers who come to see it. It could turn them off!

2. You created distracting themes and scenes. My friend Barb Schwarz is the head of the International Home Staging Professionals Association; she defines staging as “preparing a home for sale so the buyer can mentally move in.” The goal is for buyers to visualize the new-and-improved versions of their lives that your home will help them realize, so some pro stagers will set up objects to communicate the lifestyle activities that a home facilitates. It’s not bizarre to see a breakfast table and chairs on the patio of a home with lovely views, a crib and baby gear-vignette in a small room suitable for a nursery, or a popcorn maker and recliners to show off a media room’s theater-readiness.

Occasionally, though, these scenes and vignettes can go rogue, creating borderline bizarre scenarios that distract and detract more than they help.

A beach scene (ball, umbrella and all) in a Midwestern bedroom, a lively Parisian mural and Eiffel tower replica in a California condo and bizarre collections (taxidermy, anyone?) are all real-life examples of staging scenes that have done more harm than good. Its not about you, its about the buyer, and how they feel when they see your home, do they want to live their or run out the door?

3. Your house is neither clean nor clutter-free. For various reasons, some homes just take time to sell. And if you’re living in a home that is on the market for long, it can be challenging to ensure it is perfectly pristine at all times, meaning every single time a buyer enters it. And it doesn’t take a truly filthy house to turn a buyer’s impression of your home from awesome to awful. The little messes that a family accumulates through daily living can be perceived by buyers as distracting at best – disgusting, at worst. I have had a buyer walk right out of the house after seeing a dirty laundry area, she had seen enough!

If your home is well staged, do not underestimate the power of piles of clothes, mail, paperwork, dishes or kids’ toys to deactivate the home-selling power of all the hard work and money that went into preparing the property in the first place.

4. There are glaring gaps. Sometimes a home’s staging leaves a glaring gap, an elephant in the room house, so to speak. This often happens when sellers run out of time and money to prepare a place, but it can be avoided through smart advance planning and budgeting for your pre-listing property preparation.

Rooms – Listen, I personally live in a house that is beautiful everywhere until you poke your head into my young adult son’s room. So I can relate. This situation might be okay to live with, but it’s a real home staging fail for a property that’s on the market. Don’t let there be one or two rooms that it looks like the stager – or house cleaner – missed. And this goes for the garage, closets, cupboards and drawers, too. Buyers like to look inside these areas to see how much space they have – if they are crammed full of junk, it creates the impression that the house lacks storage and order.
Exterior vs. interior. Some homes have amazing curb appeal, but look like they’ve been run over roughshod on the inside. And the opposite is true: some look like Martha Stewart handled the inside and junk man extraordinaire Fred Sanford was in charge of the yard. Neither of these is ideal.
Multi-sensory gaps. If your home is beautiful to the eye but smells bad, is strangely hot or cold, or has a noise issue (think: neighbors’ music, freeway noise or strange in-house creaks or whirrs), buyers might appreciate the visuals but fixate on the multi-sensory challenges. Especially if you have pets, you might want to ask a friend or your agent to step in from the outside and give you a gut check on whether your home is smelly – you might be so used to it you can’t trust your own senses.

5. You lacked a neutral, expert eye. Home decorating and home staging are two different things. When you decorate your home, you customize it with your specific tastes, preferences and aesthetics in mind. When you stage it, you aim to neutralize your home’s look and feel so it appeals to more buyers and doesn’t have turn-off potential.

Schwarz puts it this way: “Decorating a home is personalizing it. Staging a home is depersonalizing it.”

I cannot count the number of beautifully decorated homes I’ve seen where the seller must have thought they needed to do zero staging, and where the seller was simply wrong. Their very personal tastes in Elvis quilt art, red lacquer furnishings or sewing machine collections had been beautifully executed for them, but also were so highly personal, so very specific that it was near-impossible for a buyer to envision their own lives or families or homes or activities taking place in that space.

This is one reason I encourage even sellers who are on a tight budget and can’t afford pro staging and sellers whose homes that have been beautifully decorated to at least have a home staging consultation with their agent and a professional stager. These pros can call out little “edits” (furniture or decor items you should remove) and give you advice about what buyers love and hate to see in a home that you might be able to execute yourself at a surprisingly low cost.

If you need help please get in touch! I can help with Staging or refer a professional.

Robert Hightower

Article borrowed from Trulia

11 tips to help sell your house

April 23rd, 2013 by Robert Hightower

We’ve all heard about how “depressed” the real estate market is right now. But what’s bad for sellers can be good for buyers, and these days, savvy buyers are out in spades trying to take advantage of the buyer’s market, and find a steal of a deal. Here are 11 thing you can do to help sell your house.
1. Audit your agent’s online marketing. 93% of homebuyers start their house search online, and they will never even get in the car to come see your home if the online listings aren’t compelling. In real estate, compelling means pictures! A study by shows that listings with more than 6 pictures are twice as likely to be viewed by buyers as listings that had fewer than 6 pictures.  How many pictures do you want?  Maybe a virtual tour or video as well.
2. Post a video love letter about your home on You Tube. Get your smart phone and walk through your home AND your neighborhood, telling buyers about the best bits – what your family enjoyed about the home, your favorite shops that you frequented on Saturday and Sunday mornings, etc. Buyers like to know that a home was well-loved, and it helps them visualize living there, too.
3. Let your neighbors choose their neighbors. If you belong to neighborhood online message boards or email lists, send a link to your home’s online listing to your neighbors. Also, invite your neighbors to your open house – turn it into a event. That creates opportunities for your neighbors to sell the neighborhood to prospective buyers and for your neighbors to invite house hunters they know, and who like the area.
4. Face book your home’s listing. Face book is the great connector of people these days. You can put the word out that its for sale, post some pictures, a link to your You tube video etc.  You will find social media is very powerful.

5. Beat the competition with condition. In many markets, much of the competition is low-priced foreclosures and short sales. As an individual homeowner, the way you can compete is on condition. Consider having a termite inspection, and whole house inspection in advance of listing your home, and get as many of the repairs done as you can – it’s a major selling point to be able to advertise a very low or non-existent pest repair bill, or other repairs.   Think about the piece of mind that comes to the buyer who is already nervous when they find out right out of the gate the condition of your home is good.  Also, make sure that the little nicks and scratches, doorknobs that don’t work, are all repaired before you start showing your home.  Details matter!

6. Stage the exterior, for curb appeal. Stage the exterior with fresh paint, immaculate landscaping, add some color with plants and even outdoor furniture to set up a Sunday brunch on the deck vignette. Is your yard inviting?  Buyers often fantasize about enjoying their backyards by entertaining and spending time outside.
7. Access is essential. Homes that don’t get shown don’t get sold. To sell a house once you have to sell it twice; you have to sell it to the buyers agent and then to the buyer.  And many foreclosures and short sale listings are vacant, so they can be shown anytime. If your home is difficult to show, it will be crossed off the list quickly.  Don’t make it difficult for the buyers agents to get their buyers into your house – My favorite are either vacant homes or they ones that are call first and go!  You know you can get in at anytime, do you want  your product off the shelf when your buyer is ready to shop?  Make it easy on the buyers agent and the buyer to get into your house.
8. Pricing is serious. Today’s buyers are very well informed about the comparable sales in the area, which influence the fair market value of your house.  Have your listing agent get a CMA for the area, its a market analysis.  Take a good look at what the most recent sold’s in your area are as well as what’s listed.  The buyer will have this information, and will not be paying you more for you house because “I need” more or because your emotional attachment to the home.
9. Who’s your competition? Be active in regards to educating yourself about your market.  If a buyer is interested in your home in your area what other homes would they be interested in today?  What are they priced at?  What features do they have that I don’t or what features do I have that they don’t have and what is the value of those features.  A lot can be learned from scouring the internet but you can also go out and hit some open houses.  At the end of the day you want to get fair market value for your house.
10. De-clutter. Take all the things that make your home “your” personal sanctuary (e.g., family photos, religious décor ), pack them up and put them in storage. Buyers want to visualize your house being their house, they want to see their belongings fitting into your space – and it’s hard for them to do with all your personal items marking the territory as yours. Pack up all your clutter, anything that is sitting on top of a countertop, table or other flat surfaces. Anything that you haven’t used in six months? That goes, too. Donate it for a nice right off or give away what you can, throw away as much as possible of what remains, and then pack the rest to get it ready to move.
11. Listen to your agent.  You should have interview agents and found a good one.  There are a lot of resources online to give you the proper questions to ask your agent.  Once you have settled on a agent, listen to their recommendations! Find an agent you trust and follow their advice, they are the professional here no matter how many Real Estate Shows you have watched on TV or what your brother in laws says, you hired a professional now listen to them.

Selling in a down market

April 23rd, 2013 by Robert Hightower

To ensure your home sells in a down market, there things you can do to help your chances.
Price it right the first time:  If you’re going to sell your home in a down market, you may have to be willing to make some concessions on price.   In many areas foreclosures have depressed the prices quite a bit.  While you may not be able to cut your price to the level of some of those bank owned homes, you can still do your research as to what comparable homes are selling for, and undercut their prices.  Your agent can get you all the information on active and comparable sales in the market for you.  You may not get as much action as the foreclosures, but you will at least get more action than other sellers who aren’t as flexible on price.  Try not to get emotionally stuck on a certain price. What you need to sell a house for does not matter at all to the buyer.  The buyer is looking for a great deal, wouldn’t you be?  If you price it too high if the market is still falling then you run the risk of chasing the market down, not fun.  Bit the bullet and price your home properly to begin with and it will sell quickly.  I have used a technique of undercutting the market, it causes a lot of people to see the home quickly and results in multiply offers!
Curb appeal is King:  Even if you can’t compete on price with foreclosures, you can do your best to make sure that the your house at least looks better on the outside than the foreclosure down the block  A recent study suggest that you have about 90 seconds from the time a buyer see’s your home for the first time until they make up their mind about your house.  The clock starts from the time they drive up, part of the time is in the front yard as their agent unlocks the home for them, how does your home look?  Need paint, is the yard mowed, could you freshen up that flower box with some colorful flowers?  Go out and stand by the road, what will your buyer see when they see your house for the first time?
Clear the home of clutter:   This is a reoccurring theme:  reduce the extra clutter throughout the house to make it feel bigger, more spacious and buyer friendly!  Hey if you are not using it put it in storage, give it away, donate it or throw it out!  Less you have to pack.
Fix big problems:  If your house has a big problem that will turn a lot of buyers off, fix it!  Nobody wants to move into a house with major issues.  If the HVAC is not working and you know you are going to have to fix it while in escrow, well if you are serious fix it now.  Consider getting a whole house inspection and a termite inspection, fix the major issues and anything you can, it will help the buyer mover along quicker. Fix smaller problem areas around the house:  Go throughout the house and take notes of all  the small things that need fixing that may be a turnoff to a potential buyer.  Take the time to go around and fix those things one by one.  If you noticed them, the buyer will too
Consider staging the house:  When we sold we actually staged the house to make the rooms feel more spacious, give it a less cluttered look and a make people feel more at home.  Often times staging will put you over the top in a tough market.  It helps the home shine, gives the feeling of bigger rooms and a clean friendly space. Watch a lot of HGTV and try to emulate what the experts do to stage a house!
Offer bonuses to agents or buyers: Look agents are business people.  They are in business to make money.  Offering out a full 3% to the buyers side helps out a lot, so does offering a small bonus like a $1000 to any buyers agent who can close this deal by the date of: ….Use the power of the web and your personal networks to market your house:  Face book is the obvious one that gets a lot of exposure, and that is the name of the game exposure to what you are selling, your house!
Get a good agent to help you sell:  Get a good agent to help sell your house, not a friend of a friend – or your aunt Agnes who just got her real estate license. Your house is one of your biggest assets, and this is no time to do someone else a favor.  Do your homework.  There is a lot of information floating around on the web today about things like what to ask a listing agent, what makes a good listing agent.  Take the process seriously and don’t just go with the agent that has told you he can sell  your home for more money, that is calling buying the listing.  Pricing is separate issue and you as the seller should always feel in control of that part of the process, its your asset, be informed, make educated choices.
When the house is showing, keep the house clean and don’t be there!:  When you are having an open house, or the house is having a showing, make sure that you aren’t there.  Some people find it annoying having the home’s owners in a house when you’re trying to look at it.  Personally I will get information from you that you don’t want my buyers to have.  If you are not there you can not tell me that you are having to move because of a job, or family issues.  Also, make sure to keep the house spic and span to make sure that it shows well.  Finally consider baking cookies before a showing, or lighting one of those cinnamon roll candles. It will give the house a pleasant aroma, and people will feel at home.
Selling your house in a down market isn’t an easy task, but you can still do some hard work along the way and make your odds much better.  In the end your house will show better, and you’ll be able to sell your house that much quicker, with less hassles and isn’t that what everyone wants anyway?

Time Estimated: One to Two weeks

April 23rd, 2013 by Robert Hightower

Here’s How:
Disassociate Yourself With Your Home.
Say to yourself, “This is not my home; it is a house — a product to be sold much like a car on a car lot..
Make the mental decision to “let go” of your emotions and focus on the fact that soon this house will no longer be yours, and you are moving on.
Picture yourself handing over the keys  to the new owners!
Don’t look backwards — look toward the future, and your new beginings.
Pack up those personal photographs and family heirlooms. Buyers can’t see past personal artifacts, and you don’t want them to be distracted. You want buyers to imagine their own photos on the walls, and they can’t do that if yours are there!  You want buyers to say, “I can see myself living here.”
People collect an amazing quantity of junk. Consider this: if you haven’t used it in over a six months, you probably don’t need it, put it in storage if you need too.
Remove all books from bookcases.
Pack up those knickknacks, and collectables.
Clean off everything on kitchen counters, makes them look bigger and the kitchen look bigger and more inviting.
Put essential items used often in a small box that can be stored in a an area that is not seen like a closet when not in use.
Think of this process as a pre-packing on the packing you will eventually need to do.
Rearrange Bedroom Closets and Kitchen Cabinets. 
Buyers love to snoop and will open closet and cabinet doors.  Again another opportunity to show off your house, get rid of the clutter, do you really need last seasons clothes crammed into the closet, or would it look better and larger if it were 1/2 empty and organized?  Think of the message it sends if items fall out! Now imagine what a buyer believes about you if she sees everything organized. It says you probably take good care of the house as well. This means:
Alphabetize spice jars.
Neatly stack dishes, and glasses.
Turn coffee cup handles facing the same way.
Hang shirts together, buttoned and facing the same direction.
Line up shoes.
Anything you can do to show more space and a organized area the better
Rent a Storage Unit. 
Almost every home shows better with less furniture. Remove pieces of furniture that block or hamper paths and walkways and put them in storage. Since your bookcases are now empty, store them. Remove extra leaves from your dining room table to make the room appear larger. Leave just enough furniture in each room to showcase the room’s purpose and plenty of room to move around. You don’t want buyers scratching their heads and saying, “What is this room used for?”  You want them walking into a room and imagining their furniture going into the room.
Remove/Replace Favorite Items.
If you want to take window coverings, built-in appliances or fixtures with you, remove them now. If the chandelier in the dining room once belonged to your great grandmother, take it down. If a buyer never sees it, she won’t want it. Once you tell a buyer she can’t have an item, she will covet it, and it could blow your deal. Pack those items and replace them, if necessary.  I have seen a buyer and seller fight over a wall clock, and a not pretty one at that, so pack it up and move it out if you don’t want to leave it behind.
Make Minor Repairs.
Replace cracked floor or counter tiles.
Patch holes in walls.
Fix leaky faucets.
Fix doors that don’t close properly and kitchen drawers that jam.
Consider painting your walls neutral colors, especially if you have grown accustomed to purple or pink walls.   Do not forget the baseboards!
(Don’t give buyers any reason to remember your home as “the house with the orange bathroom.”)
Replace burned-out light bulbs.
If you’ve considered replacing a worn bedspread, do so now!
Air filters should be replaced
Consider having the carpets professionally cleaned
Make the House Sparkle!
Wash windows inside and out.
Rent a pressure washer and spray down sidewalks and exterior.
Clean out cobwebs.
Re-caulk tubs, showers and sinks.
Polish chrome faucets and mirrors.
Clean out the refrigerator.
Vacuum daily.
Wax floors.
Dust furniture, ceiling fan blades and light fixtures.
Bleach dingy grout.
Replace worn rugs.
Hang up fresh towels.
Bathroom towels look great fastened with ribbon and bows.
Clean and air out any musty smelling areas. Odors can be a deal killer and if they are bad will turn off a buyer very quickly
Go outside and open your front door. Stand there. Do you want to go inside? Does the house welcome you? How does the door look?  The entry way is it clean and free of needed repairs.  Remember the front door is where your buyer and their realtor will gather and come in together, they will pause there while the realtor opens the door so they will spend a bit of time looking it over.
Linger in the doorway of every single room and imagine how your house will look to a buyer, what do you think the room is saying to your buyer?
Examine carefully how furniture is arranged and move pieces around until it makes sense.   If its not your thing ask a friend for help.
Make sure window coverings hang level,  an blinds are adjusted properly.
Tune in to the room’s statement and its emotional pull. Does it have impact and pizzazz, are the colors right?
Does it look like nobody lives in this house? You’re almost finished.
Check Curb Appeal.
If a buyer won’t get out of her agent’s car because she doesn’t like the exterior of your home, you’ll never get her inside.
Keep the sidewalks cleared, broomed or blown off.
Mow the lawn, and edged.
Paint faded window trim.
Plant yellow flowers or group flower pots together. Yellow evokes a buying emotion. Marigolds are inexpensive.
Trim your bushes.
Make sure visitors can clearly read your house number.

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November 17th, 2012 by Robert Hightower

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