Monday, February 15, 2010


By Jennie Norris, ASP Master, IAHSP®
Owner, Sensational Home Staging – serving the Greater Denver region

1. If it’s cluttered – PACK IT UP

Clutter is a natural part of life and most of us do our best to stay on top of it. Things on surfaces, floors, walls, and in our yards – are all items we enjoy or have “plans for” – and that is life. However, when selling a house – the clutter that is part of daily lives actually cuts into our equity. As Barb Schwarz, the Creator of Home Staging®, says, “Clutter eats equity” and the more of it that is around, the harder it is for a buyer to look past and see the possibilities of the house and of living there as their home. When Selling – PACK IT UP – pack up the clutter and this actually gives the Seller a head start on moving – as when the Seller gets an offer they will already have packed up a lot of their smaller things and personal items – which will lessen the stress of having to move.

2. If it’s dated – SPRUCE IT UP

Not all houses are new. Not all buyers want new houses, and yet most all buyers want houses that are in move-in condition. This means that if your house or listing is dated, it might be worth the investment to paint or upgrade elements of the house so it stands up to the competition. Spruce it up – put in warm neutral paint colors on walls and paint over any custom colors that are too bright, too dark, or too dingy. Don’t be stubborn about painting – you are moving. You can paint your new house the colors you want but for Buyers – make the effort to help them mentally move in to the house you are selling by giving them a warm neutral palette.

Take down wall paper or paint over it – wall paper is too customized and individualized - make your house Buyer neutral. Replace worn carpeting if possible, and remove odd objects, funky art that is possibly distracting, and pack up controversial items. Replace dated fixtures – for about $25.00-$75.00 you can replace a faucet, ceiling fan or lighting fixture. That means for an entire house when you invest about $500 you can update a lot of elements that will help your house compete with newer houses for sale.

3. If it’s dirty, CLEAN IT UP!

Dirty houses are a turn off to Buyers. It sends the message, “I did not care for my house and you will probably find maintenance issues here.” It may also send the wrong message to the buyer that you are desperate or in some sort of sticky situation if you are not maintaining your house. That is the wrong message to send when selling. Dig in and do whatever you can to make your house really shine. If you are not able to do it yourself get help. Call in favors or get volunteers that can help you do what you need but do not put a dirty house on the market. If there are pets, get rid of the hair – and that means you need to vacuum UNDER the furniture too – and suck up those dust balls.

Get an objective opinion from someone that has high cleanliness standards – and LISTEN to their advice about your house and don’t take it personally. The things we do for buyers may be beyond what we do for ourselves, but remember this is all about the EQUITY in your house – and your desire to get the BEST offer in the SHORTEST time. Be willing to clean your windows and bathrooms until they sparkle. Buyers can tell how well you’ve cared for your house by looking at the small things – window tracks, bathroom or tile grout, fixtures. If you cannot afford to replace worn carpet, at least CLEAN it! It is an inexpensive investment to ensure your house looks the very best based on your timeframe and budget.

4. If it’s broken – FIX IT UP

Houses that are for sale need to be in good condition as well as show well. It would be worth it to have a home inspector go through your house for sale and find all the things that need repair or replacement so that when the house comes on the market it is ready to sell. A buyer does not like going through a house that has “issues” that need addressing – and anything that can be done up front will help the sale.  If you cannot afford a home inspection, go through your house with "Buyer's Eyes" and see how your house stands up to the scrutiny you know it will go through with showings.  Make sure things are in working order, any cosmetic scuffs or knicks are repaired, and your house is ready for the public to come through.

5. If it’s overgrown – TRIM IT UP

The outside of the house makes the first impression and we have about 3-10 seconds to capture the attention . Curb appeal is extremely important and yet many Sellers fail to address that when their house comes on the market. Trees get bigger and overgrown, and shrubs grow wider and taller – and sometimes the house – that is the product – is hidden.  Take the time to trim trees and shrubs so that they don't make the house feel crowded.  Add color to help with curb appeal - with annuals or perennials that highlight the yard and house and show up well in photos.  And don't forget the side yards and back yard.  If there is a view - show it off.  If there is an eyesore - minimize it with strategically placed trees or lattice.  If there are unused pots or other yard items, box them up or get rid of them.  Minimize "yard art" as well - remember we want the focus on the house, not pink flamingos or a collection of cute bunnies.

6. If it’s not selling – LISTEN UP

Ultimately, Staging is a marketing tool and a financial tool to help the Seller and Staging will help a house sell faster and at the best price in any market. It is well worth it to invest in an objective opinion about your house by hiring a professional Stager to come and create a Staging plan for your house. Listen up to your Stager and do your best not to take things personally when you may be advised to pack, paint or perk up your house.

Staging works – however it is not a “magic wand” that allows a seller to price their house outside of where it will sell. It will help a house sell faster than the un-Staged competition. Statistics prove that fact – and yet Sellers - Listen UP to your Realtor and if your house is not selling and it is Staged properly for sale, then it is the price that is keeping a buyer from buying. This does not mean that the Staging did not work – it means that the house needs to meet the market conditions and other factors that could be impacting the sale – and it WILL sell before the competition that has NOT taken into account presentation and Staging as a marketing, listing and financial tool.

Follow this UPLIFTING advice and you should be receiving an offer on your house that will lift you up and make you glad that you invested the time and dollars in Staging. Whether you implement the suggestions provided to you by a professional Home Stager or you hire them to help you do the work, Staging is a proven way to get top dollar for your house in any market. And in today’s market and economy, we need every tool available to help put our best foot – or your case – house – forward and attract the positive attention that will get your house SOLD!

If you are in the Denver region and want a professional Home Stager’s evaluation of your house or listing, contact Jennie Norris, ASP Master®, IAHSP President, and Owner of Sensational Home Staging (

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why Every Realtor Needs A "Guido" On Their Team

The other night my husband and I enjoyed a wonderful dinner with a new friend, and real estate professional and manager of an office, and her husband. We had a great time. However, as is common, the conversation got around to what we both enjoy doing, and when we talked about my Staging business this friend shared something I thought was very insightful - and about which I agreed 1000%.

She said (I am paraphrasing) that she was encouraging agents in her office to add a Stager to their team so the agent did not have to tell clients things that could hurt their feelings or as I call it, "Be Guido."

"Being Guido" means you are the one that tells the client all the things they have to change in their house before putting it on the market. It's like you are the "bad guy" - hence the name I give it - "Guido."

Agents - Do you REALLY want to go there with your client? I know many of you have ideas and knowledge on how to prep a house for sale - and yet do you REALLY want to be the one that tells them their house is outdated, paint colors are wrong, they have too much stuff, their collection of Hummels, Lladros, thimbles, teapots, trolls, beer steins, hats, mugs, golf balls, sports pariphenalia, etc.- has to be packed. . . or their big moose head on the wall that they love so much - has to go?!!

Staging is an investment in getting the house sold - and the average Staging report is about $200-$300. That is a worthwhile investment to get the client to make changes - without the Realtor risking something that is worth far more than $200-$300: The RELATIONSHIP.

No matter how you couch it - that Seller will always remember that you told them things about their house and taste - and decor, furnishings, and things they love - that may hurt their feelings. Even when the seller says, "Oh go ahead and tell me - it won't hurt my feelings." That is not true.

I have heard them say that hundreds of times - and yet they almost always cross their arms at some point when I am working with them - which is a LOUD body signal that "I don't like what I am hearing." Now - because I have training in how to work with clients I don't just "press on" with my opnions. I stop and assure the client, I compliment them, and help them get past whatever emotional issue is happening to cause them to shut down - and I will compromise if needed so that I do NOT risk the client's feelings. That takes TRAINING and EXPERIENCE.

Can I caution you agents out there that are contemplating working with a Home Stager? Don't just pick someone because you like their website or photos. A lot of Stagers work with vacant houses - and don't have to interact with a client, their things, and the emotions. If you list houses that have stuff in them - including a family - you need to work with a Stager that KNOWS how to handle this combination - a possible stressful situation with the seller and why they are moving, family members that may not be 100% on board, and the "stuff" they love in their house that they need to move, pack, or change.

I think getting a trusted Home Stager to be part of your Real Estate Team is genius - of course I would think that - but from your perspective - it will help protect your relationship with your client, and not put you in that sticky situation at all. Leave that part up to those that can get the client on board, not risk your relatiionship (because I am there to make YOU look good too!) and get the Staging done.

Because that is the goal after all - to get the house Staged so YOU can SELL IT for the Seller in the shortest time and at the best price!

We can make a WINNING TEAM! "Bada bing! Trust me" - oh wait, that sorta sounds like "Guido."