House Staging 101

House Staging Advice from a Pro

House Staging 101

A clean, uncluttered home is the foundation of house staging.

What do you think of when you hear the term "house staging"? A lot of us immediately imagine HGTV episodes and Instagram feeds filled with perfect spaces. Living rooms with just the right amount of lighting and uncluttered but cozy couches. Picture perfect kitchens with the latest designer trends on point. And then we look up from our screens to the spaces we're looking to sell or rent out, and...well, most of us don't have a house fresh out of Joanna Gaines' portfolio, do we?

But guess what—we don't have to! Right now, here in the local Fife/Milton/Edgewood market, you do not have to take on huge, expensive projects to stage your house to attract a buyer or tenant. Nor do you need to hire someone to bring in all new furniture (although you may need to move some out....). Read on for my tried-and-true 5 steps to house staging to help you sell your property or find the perfect tenant.

Staging Step #1: Draw attention to your property's best feature.

Every property has a diamond in the rough. Find it and make it stand out. Maybe it's gorgeous original hardwood flooring. Make it shine and arrange furniture and rugs to draw the eye to it. Perhaps it's a spacious kitchen with counter and cabinet space for days! Clear the clutter, and use pops of color to pull lookers into the space and make them remember it. Whatever your home's best feature, work it. 

Staging Step #2: Start packing immediately.

At the end of the day your goal is to invite people in. You want them to visualize themselves in the space.  If the space is jam-packed with your stuff, they won't be able to do that. 

Focus on creating white space. Remove personal items such as family photos, as well as collections of trinkets and doodads. Consider how much furniture is appropriate for a room, and remove something if there is too much for the space. Clear kitchen and bathroom counters, and create empty space in cabinets and closets. Less is better, I promise. And you’re going to need to pack anyway, so why not start before the pictures?

Staging Step #3: Maximize the use of lighting.

Let me shed some light on the facts (see what I did there?): Lighting sets the tone for how we perceive a space, so make it the right tone.

Natural light is king. For daytime showings, open up the shades and curtains in every room. Also make sure windows are clean as a whistle inside and out. The goal is to have no filtering of available daylight, to make the space feel as open as possible. And also to keep house hunters focused on the inside of the room, not the grime on the windows.

In terms of artificial light, in almost all cases white toned bulbs are preferred. Even in a small, windowless space, the right tone of light can change the feel of the area. If a room does not have an overhead light, or even if it does, add a tall lamp in a corner. Also make sure side and sofa tables throughout the house have appropriately-sized lamps, as well. Again, stick with white tones for the bulbs, but use lampshades smartly to reduce harshness and up the coziness factor in living rooms and bedrooms.

For evening showings, turn off your inner penny-pincher, and turn on all of the lights—interior and exterior—before you leave. Even if it's dark outside, you want the property to shine!

Staging Step #4: Manage smells.

I once walked into an inspection for a rental property in Edgewood, and an offensive smell hit me square in the face like a fly baseball. My eyes were watering, it was so bad. The unit was vacant, and it had been freshly painted, but it smelled like warm garbage had been fermenting for days. Since the smell was not there when we had originally viewed the unit I was determined to figure it out. Once the inspector opened up the crawl space we knew right away—there were some dead rodents. Yuck. So gross.

Clean. 

Just think clean, clean, clean. You simply want the place to smell clean. That means that your focus should be on removing sources of smells first and foremost, not just masking it.

Get rid of smelly furniture. Deodorize sink drains with baking soda and vinegar, and run some lemon peels through your disposal if you have one. Clean the fridge and take out the garbage every day, and especially when a showing is scheduled. Have the carpets and rugs professionally cleaned. And for sure make sure there aren't any animal carcasses in the crawl space!

In terms of adding pleasant scents, don't overdo it. This is not the time to run a diffuser or plug-in in every room. Less is more. I’m all for some lavender or citrus hibiscus but go as neutral as possible. You’re not trying to accommodate yourself. You're trying to reach the broadest audience possible.

That means that white linen, summer cotton, or straight-up bleach is the winner every time. Clean and fresh is the goal.

Oh, and that old trick of baking bread or cookies right before a showing? If you have the time to do it and clean up properly afterward, I have never met someone who disliked the smell of freshly baked goodies!

Staging Step #5: Play up accessories.

When house staging, it's bad business to spend money that won’t necessarily get you a strong return. If you’re planning on selling or renting your property out then maybe pass on the HGTV-style remodeling. Instead, find some cost-effective accessories to get the most bang for your buck. The idea here is to frame the room. Imagine you are telling a story in each room. Make your viewer want to join the house on its story.

Some effective and inexpensive ways to stage a house using accessories:

  • Place fresh hand towels in the bathrooms.
  • Add pops of color to the living room or bedroom with a few throw pillows or books with spines that color-coordinate with the space.
  • Create a cozy reading nook with an accent chair and side table. Don't forget the lamp, and perhaps some flowers or a little plant. 
  • Place potted plants and herbs at the entrance and around the patio.
  • Highlight your beautiful Pacific Northwest outdoor space with stringed lights around the patio, and add solar spotlights along exterior paths.

Every property is different just like every person is different. This list was created for very low level staging. 

If you are working with a more complex situation, like helping a senior citizen in your life downsize their stuff, then know that you are in good company. In that situation, I would encourage you to find an intermediary to help sort through the details of their situation. 

Regardless of your particular situation, you likely want a stress free real estate transaction. Sorting out the stuff BEFORE you're forced to is a tip I can hang my hat on. 

All the best,

P.S. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you don't already. Don't miss out on the tips, tricks, and sometimes just plain funny items I share on social media!

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Confessions of a Real Estate Agent

Confessions of a Real Estate Agent

Confessions of a Real Estate Agent

Confessions of a Real Estate Agent

Confessions of a real estate agent: this industry is complicated, energy sucking, and emotional. But when boiled down and distilled to its core, my job is to serve. Thankfully, I learned from my parents at a very young age that my job as a real estate broker is to listen, guide, and support my clients.

Here are three truths about any trustworthy real estate agent:

Confession #1: We’re straightforward because we care.

Blunt, curt, and straightforward are some of the labels I’ve been given over the years, and I’ve learned to take all of these as compliments! Here are some of the hard truths I’ve had to speak with clients about: 

  • The smell is a problem. 
  • Restricting showings to only 6 p.m. and later will probably double the days on market. 
  • The price is too high.
  • It's not the lighting in the picture. Navy blue carpets do clash with purple walls.

A good agent will tell you the truth about your property. Always. We will do it as gently and professionally as possible, but we will not lie to you to get a listing. It's not in your best interest or in ours. We care about you. So we'll speak truth.

Confession #2: It's your journey, we’re just invited to ride along.

As much as we do care, we cannot care more about your situation than you do. I’ve had to learn this the hard way. My job is to help you see what matters to you, and come along side you to make it happen. But you steer the ship.

Every person and every transaction has its special circumstances, so I strive to pull those out, name them, and put them on a timeline. Some common needs are a fast sale, a certain amount of money, or to be nurtured towards a real estate goal for years. No matter the circumstance, my job is to partner with you and ride along through the process to make it as smooth of a journey as possible.

Confession #3: Every day is a constant reviewing of priorities.

Missed family dinners, missed birthday parties, and long weekends. Tethered to a cell phone, working late evenings, and up for early morning emails, calls, and paperwork. All of these are a normal part of my life. I’ve stood outside countless events on the phone with a client while my husband manages our life so that my service and your outcome comes to fruition. And I don't regret it for an instant. I love my family. I love my work. The two are not mutually exclusive. It does mean that I am constantly assessing my priorities on a daily--sometimes--hourly basis. So if you see me kissing my kids as I shuffle them onto the ball field while negotiating on the phone with another agent to come to agreement on a sale, know that I am living my best life. 

I choose this Every. Single. Day.

I choose to embrace my straight forward personality.

I choose to join people on their roller coasters to make it as smooth of a ride as possible.

I choose to show my kids that their mom loves her job and serves people.

Every day.

How can I serve you in your real estate journey?

All the best,

P.S. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you don't already. Don't miss out on the tips, tricks, and sometimes just plain funny items I share on social media!

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Social Distancing and Real Estate

guidelines for social distancing and real estate

Social Distancing & Real Estate

Note: this information about social distancing and real estate in Washington State is based upon current guidelines as of May 8, 2020 as provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Washington State Department of Health, Washington State's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order" and related memos/orders, and the Northwest Multiple Listing Services. As the situation surrounding the pandemic changes quickly, please listen to state and local authorities for the most up-to-date information that may expand or reduce limitations for conducting real estate transactions. This post does not constitute legal or medical advice. If you need either, please contact an appropriate licensed professional. 

I think it's safe to assume that you have heard the phrase "social distancing" by now. But something you might need to know more about is how buyers, sellers, and agents are navigating their way through social distancing and real estate transactions. Well, you're in the right place. Let's get to it!

But first...

What is Social Distancing?

In case you've been living off the grid, and you're not sure what social distancing is, here's a basic primer:

According to the CDC, when outside of our homes we need to keep space between ourselves and others. When we have to be out, some of the most common practices are to stay at least six feet from other people, and avoid gathering in groups. 

In addition to minimizing in-person interactions, we are also encouraged to wash our hands frequently, not touch our faces, use face masks when out of the house, and disinfect hard surfaces frequently to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. 

So, how do we do all of that and still get properties bought and sold? Here are some best practices.

Social Distancing & Sellers

The good news is that licensed real estate agents like us are still allowed to show your property in-person. But we can do so only by appointment, and no more than two people can be onsite at a time, including the broker.

Obviously, that makes things a little cumbersome for couples and families to see a place together. This means that it is more important than ever to capture flattering photos of your property, and to post walk-through videos and 3D virtual tours online. Make those first (and maybe only) online impressions count!

For properties that are owner-occupied, we can utilize the multiple listing services scheduling program, ShowingTime. The goal of using ShowingTime is to avoid scheduling multiple showings at the same property at the same time. 

Other best practices for sellers to follow:

  • Disinfect all surfaces when you leave the property before each showing, and again when you return.
  • Make it easy for you to clean as you go by placing cleaning supplies around the property.
  • Finally, place hand sanitizer at the entry for house-hunters and showing agents to use on their way in and out.
  • If you or someone in your household is ill, please let us know so showings can be rescheduled.

Social Distancing & Buyers

Although in-person showings of no more than two people (including the broker) are permitted, we are strongly encouraged to share virtual tours of properties first. Additionally, the use of video calls during the showing is a great way to share the experience in real-time with others who cannot attend due to the two-person limit.

All in-person activities must be by appointment only, and the two people meeting must strictly follow social distancing guidelines provided by the CDC by remaining at least six feet apart at all times.

When viewing a home we need to touch as few surfaces as possible, use hand sanitizer and cloth face coverings, and always stay at least six feet apart. Finally, if you are not feeling well, please reschedule the showing or rely upon the virtual resources to make choices regarding your real estate purchase. 

Social Distancing & Closing

Title and escrow companies provide settlement services that support financial services and banking, so they are deemed essential under the Governor's orders. Although some title and escrow branch facilities may have modified their hours or closed, for the time being they are still able to offer remote online services.

One silver lining to all of this is that we have so many tools and resources to handle almost every single transaction detail remotely now. If this were happening 30-40 years ago it would have been completely different. I think we'd be hoarding fax machine toner instead of toilet paper! (Kidding...please don't hoard toilet paper...or anything else...).

 

For further information, here are some links to the referenced agencies and decision makers:

If you have specific questions about health concerns related to COVID-19, you should consult with a health professional.

All the best,

P.S. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you don't already. Don't miss out on the tips, tricks, and sometimes just plain funny items I share on social media!

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Curb Appeal that Sells

Curb appeal that sells is the best first impression you can make when listing your home.

Curb Appeal that Sells

Nailing curb appeal that sells is ciritical in attracting buyers to your home.

Not all curb appeal is created equal. Curb appeal is the impression someone gets when they are on the curb and looking at your property, and curb appeal that sells is very important.

Although HGTV has opened the eyes of future homeowners to the possibility of a diamond in the ruff, as a seller you will want to appeal directly toward your target demographic in order to get the highest return on investment. The number of tips and tricks to getting your house ready to sell can be overwhelming, so we’ve created this simple guide to help you focus your efforts on the items that will get you the biggest bang for your buck.

Catch Their Eye

First things first: put on your buyer's hat. For the next few moments, you are no longer the homeowner. If you want to sell, you need to think like a buyer!

Now, mosey across the street and look back at your property. What is the first thing your eye is drawn to? 

Is the mailbox falling off its post? 

Do you have a beautiful front door? 

Or how about the furniture and plants, how are those looking? 

The goal here is to highlight the good and touch up the bad. If nothing stands out to you in a good way, then make something stand out! Even just a simple flower pot with a pop of color will draw the eye and make people want to see more. 

Create Symmetry

Symmetry is an age-old design trick that is the simplest way to create something appealing. If you have something on one side of your door I’d encourage you to consider duplicating it on the other side.

In the sample photograph notice the hedges lining both sides of the stairs. This creates balance and draws buyers toward your door. At my own house, I have two big black pots on either side of my teal front door. I change our the flowers every year. One year, I even put beautiful chocolate tomatoes. It was beautiful AND delicious!

Windows, Fixtures, and Doorways 

It can be easy to pass through our days unaware that one of three light bulbs is out, or that the leaves have gathered in that corner again. My big oversight is spider webs. Josh, my husband, has walked through two spider webs in doorways over the past week. So guess what we’re doing this weekend...that’s right, we’re taking a broom to all of the outdoor areas. Getting the windows, fixtures, and doorways dusted off and wiped down won’t cost us a penny but it makes a big impact on curb appeal. A clean home, inside and out, is the fastest way to get curb appeal that sells.

Declutter

Depending on how much room you have, a good rule of thumb is to think “Less is more” at your entry way. Planters and seasonal décor are cute, but no one enjoys an abundance laying around the front porch.

My assistant is constantly battling with her family not to use their lovely, covered front porch as a storage for bikes and such. If this is your family’s habit, too, clear it out. Then set the boundary that while the house is on the market everyone is expected to have a place for everything, and everything in its place.

 

Increasing your curb appeal is not only for you to draw buyers in for a look. It also allows you to enjoy your property more when you are there. It increases the entire feel of the home and property. Simple and clean is typically the most appealing and attractive to any eye.

Do these simple tasks to give your home curb appeal that sells, and get your beautiful home noticed for the gem it truly is. Want some more inspiration? Check out this fun post with lots of DIY ideas to give your home's exterior that extra pop.

Sometimes a first impression is all you’ll get, so make it count!

All the best,

P.S. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you don't already. Don't miss out on the tips, tricks, and sometimes just plain funny items I share on social media!

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5 Important Questions

5 Important Questions

 

We have all had a friend or family member that wanted us to buy something from them. Makeup, clothes, furniture, and the list goes on. I personally love shopping local and love supporting my friends and family but what about that age old saying “don’t mix business with pleasure”?

After years of serving people, I’ve come up with a way to find out if working with someone will be a good fit, regardless of if they are a friend of family member. The first step is to visualize that person, then ask yourself…

 

Is this person an expert in their field?

Malcolm Gladwell discussed becoming an expert in his best-selling book, “Outliers”. He proposes that it takes about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert at any given topic. That’s about 10 years. So it takes about 10 years of intentional, mindful studying and practice to finally be able to claim expert status. Look at any given field. Electrical, beautician, auto mechanic, clothing designer, ect. When considering an investment opportunity, I’m forced to ask myself “has this person done the work and put in the time to become an expert?”

Is this person trustworthy with personal information?

If someone gossips to me, then the chances are high that they are gossiping about me to someone else. Sharing stories to communicate a point can be done in a way that doesn’t violate someone’s trust. When I consider working with someone, I always take into consideration how they speak of past client relationships. I have decided that I only partner with people who are transparent and honest enough to give it to me straight, but not too boisterous or open mouthed about personal information… especially about an investment or big decision. A real estate agent should ONLY be speaking with you and their designated broker about your transactions. Period. No excuses.

Can I ask questions without being made to feel stupid?

Every profession has inside language. Heck, every FAMILY has inside language! If someone is specialized in a field, they should feel secure enough to explain it to me in a way I can understand. If they aren’t willing inform me or take the time to answer my questions, I probably don’t want to work with them. Especially if it’s a financial investment! A sure-fire sign of expert status is that they can clearly lay out the stages or process to their profession without inside language or jargon.

Can I accept constructive criticism from this person?

This goes hand in hand with being able to ask questions. If I am going to trust someone with my time and money, and they have the heart of a teach and want to help me, there are bound to be things that come up where I just don’t know what is best… typically it’s because I don’t do it full time! So if my electrician is able to explain the rationale behind a process, I’ll probably trust their experience enough and go with their opinion. This is only after I am secure that they have my best interest in mind, not their bank account.

Is this person level-headed in difficult situations?

Financial purchases can turn emotional real quick! I have found that a big portion of my job is to help keep people grounded and focus on the facts at hand. If someone folds under pressure
over small matters, it’s safe to presume they will fold under big matters too. Making sure you have a level-headed viewpoint is so important when it comes to negotiating repairs and closing terms. You need someone who can help find solutions.

If your answer was no to any of these questions, then it sounds like you probably need to have a conversation with this friend of family member. If it’s not a good fit, that is okay! Explaining to them ahead of time that you are concerned about the relationship being at risk is a totally valid. Any friend worth their weight will understand and may even have the same thoughts.

On the other hand, if you were able to say Yes about the person you were visualizing, then it is probably fine to work with them! Personally, I have found that friends and family members tend to do a BETTER job and care more about protecting me than someone that I don’t have a connection with.

Get the 7 secrets to a stress free transaction here! 

5 Things To Avoid When Selling

5 Things NOT To Do When Selling

 

Put your bright yellow buyers cap on with me and imagine you’re searching for a new home. A place you can be comfortable inviting your friends over for a birthday party, or hosting the next family holiday event. You’re scrolling through the different properties online and decide to go see a few in person... now ask yourself, what differentiates the properties to you? What helps you filter the properties you just want to see online and which you are compelled to see in person?

After decades of witnessing just about every listing faux pas, misstep, and bad marketing strategy out there, I’ve compiled the top 5 things to avoid when selling your property. Let’s get your listing from one they just want to see online, to one they are compelled to see in person!

1. Waiting to market

In today’s modern social media world, there are plenty of ways to create intrigue before your house actually goes live on the MLS. 25% of houses are sold to friends or family members of the neighbors so the next time you see one of your neighbors strike up a conversation with them about possibly selling.

2. Remove dead plants & cover with leaves

A lot of plants, such as hosta's and bulb flowers, will die back in the winter. If you want these beautiful plants to return better than when you planted them, cut back the dying part cover them with a thin layer of leaves. Adding to much could cause rot, so I like to gather the fallen leaves from our neighborhood and tuck my plants in for the winter. This will protect them from the frost.

3. Winterize lawn with a slow release fertilizer

Cut your lawn for the last time until next spring and lay some slow release fertilizer. This will feed the grass throughout the winter and make it ready to start growing strong again first thing in the spring.

4. Make your spring project checklist

Have you ever woken up in late march and felt frantic to get your spring projects started? Planning ahead with a checklist can really help you stay focused on the priorities. I hang mine up on the frig so we can start the spring season off right and budget appropriately. Note: Late fall/early winter is the best time to plant some bulbs! I always plant tulips, garlic, onions, and daffodils. Perfect for an early spring harvest!

5. Service your furnace

Propane and natural gas furnaces are the most common source of heat in the United States. If maintained properly, they can last 15-20 years... sometimes even longer! Serving your furnace every year will help the efficiency, and it only takes about 30-45 minutes.

With one big Holiday down, and one more today go, I suggest taking a few moments to reflect on what your property needs. None of these are difficult or expensive task’s but they will help you be ahead of the game and prepare you for a beautiful spring.

Click here to Download your winter checklist

Check out Watsons.com to find more information on Fall Planting Tips

 

All the best!

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