Monthly Archives: November 2013

Why Hire a Professional Designer or Interior Decorator?

One of the questions I am often asked is “What is the benefit of a hiring a Designer/Decorator?”  The most straight forward answer is that I work for you, the client, not the store you are shopping at!  However, there are a number of benefits that come with working with a Designer/Decorator. 

My one and only priority is my client and making their project the best it can be for the budget they have to work with.  I am not tied to any one store or brand.  Quite often when you are working with a “Designer” in a retail store they have a sales title of “designer” but may not actually have any formal Design Training.  Some are qualified Decorators or Designers, but just as often they are not actually Certified Decorators or Interior Designers. Furthermore, they will only recommend what they can from the product line that they carry in that particular store.  So it may be the best “area rug” available to you from that store but it doesn’t mean it is the best option or product for you!  There could very well be a rug that would go better with your color selections, in a more custom size that is better for your space that is not carried by that store…. The single biggest benefit of working with a Decorator/Designer is that we choose what is right for you based on what is available from multiple manufacturers – so you are searching from a much larger pool of available products to find the one that is really the BEST for your space.  This means you get a much nicer finished product because it is really custom designed just for you and your space!

This leads to the next comment – I can just as easily go shopping myself – I don’t have to pay a Decorator/Designer to do this for me.  Of course, you are right, but I already know what is available and exactly where to find it in most cases.  So it will take me a fraction of the time to source the exact right product that you may or may not find on your own.  Whether you come across it, quite often will depend on how long you are prepared to search for the right item and how much time you wish to devote to your project.  If you have the time and enjoy the shopping – go for it!  Have fun and enjoy every moment!  If, like many people, time is an issue and you will quit and settle for what seems like the best option you’ve seen so far…. You would be better off hiring a Professional.  You may spend 10 – 20 or more hours, whereas it may only take me 2 or 3 hours.  You have to remember, we do this on a daily basis.  There are many times when I see a space and know exactly which manufacturer or retailer carries the exact product that would be perfect for your space!  This means you get the right products sourced quickly at a fraction of the time it would take you to find them on your own! We save you considerable time.

The final objection is that Designers/Decorators are so expensive.  My response is simple.  I will save you money that more than covers my fee and will often allow you to buy nicer items with the same budget than if you did it yourself.  So, I can often stretch your budget to up the quality of the products.  How is this possible?  I know where to source quality products in any price range to meet any budget.  I also get discounts on many items from 10% to 50% of retail depending upon the items and the required delivery date.  We have dealt with multiple kitchen cabinet manufacturers, some are good and charge a fair price – some do a good job and charge considerably more…. But carry the same product.  Our product, supplier and reputation knowledge can go a long way to saving you time and money! Not to mention frustration if you choose the wrong company to deal with!  There are different fee structures that Designers and Decorators use – some are a percentage of product sold, some are a percent of the overall project, some are hourly.  I bill hourly but you pay what I pay for any product.  So if I get a 40% discount so do you!  All you pay for is my time!  This can quickly translate into thousands of dollars of savings that you can use in your project for that extra something!! 

So, working with a Professional Designer/Interior Decorator ensures you get a custom job that is just right for you and your space.  We save you considerable time while sourcing the right products for you and we often save you money and help stretch your same budget by allowing those extra savings to be converted into that extra nice appliance, or upgraded faucet, or just less money spent!  So my question is – why wouldn’t you use an Independent Professional? 

Get Top Price When you Sell Your Home

Every now and then we hear about the property that is sitting that no one wants. The explanation is simple: it is overpriced for its current condition! Sellers sometimes have unrealistic expectations of what their home is worth. Often these expectations are based on what they “heard” the neighbors’ home sold for. What they do not realize is that the neighbors’ home had extensive updates completed that allowed it to command top selling price! So be realistic and compare apples to apples!

There was one property that was built in Bridgewater Forrest – as an investment by 2 private individuals. They refused to take any advice from me or their Realtor (they “knew” what they were doing)! They used the absolute bare bones for materials including paint – they left 2 coats of primer in white on the walls, they refused to paint to save costs! The property had a nice layout but still looked horrible when other new show homes were painted in the modern color schemes and staged! This house looked so plain – walls, ceiling, everything was the same ugly white. They tried to dress the house up with staging after a number of months when the property wouldn’t sell – but staging cannot hide poor quality! They only staged for a few weeks for open houses and marketing photos and then continued to show the property vacant. Staging will enhance a good job and make it that much nicer but it cannot hide low grade materials. They used the most basic linoleum on the flooring and basic carpet when most builders were using ceramic tile and hardwood flooring. Just no comparison between the properties! The countertops were basic laminate top when competing homes had quartz or granite or even high end laminate- then the seller insisted on asking the same price as the show homes of comparable size with top grade materials. They had bottom line white appliances when other builders were using nice stainless steel….You cannot give buyers something that much below the standard of what they are seeing in other properties and still expect to get the same top price. It was no surprise the house wasn’t getting any interest! The other builders spent considerably more on materials for a nicer finished product – it only stands to reason that their property should command a higher price! There are times to cut costs and there are times when you have to spend some money to make some money!!! There wasn’t much the Realtor or I could do when the owner refused to adjust the price, paint at least a few walls for some life, or give us something we could work with to make this home more appealing. They mismanaged their budget and went low end on high impact high return areas! Sad reality was that any savings they may have enjoyed were quickly eaten up in holding costs as the property continued to sit month after month with no buyer and no price adjustment and a mortgage and holdings costs and interest costs eating their profit margin up.

When working with a Stager/Decorator we are trained to work with a budget. We also have extensive experience with various renovation projects and the products that we’ve seen/used over the years.  This provides us a much wider selection criteria to work with the budget and still achieve the look we want! There are ways to cut those costs and still give people a nice product that is what they expect to see. Paint is cheap! Use a nice current neutral color! Many linoleum patterns look very much like ceramic tile. You can use a similar linoleum product that may be only pennies more costly but will LOOK like real tile and have twice the impact in the finished product! Rather than the most basic laminate countertop, there are countless patterns now that look just like granite! You have to inspect closely to realize that it’s not – it LOOKS fabulous and again may cost a little bit more than the bare bones basic but will have twice the impact! Finally there is some top quality engineered laminate flooring that looks just like hardwood. It looks fantastic and it’s more durable! Designers know what areas to spend on for high impact and which you can cut back costs on to maintain that budget! When you’re in a competitive market – you have to give the buyer what they expect to see and something that is comparable to what they are seeing in other properties!

So if you plan on selling your home and want that best price – you have to make sure your home is comparable to the homes in your neighbourhood that are commanding that top selling price. The fact that you have similar square footage, or similar house age will never be enough to ensure you get the same price! If the home selling for $500,000 has top of the line renovations, you cannot expect to get the same price for your home just because you live next door (but haven’t done anything to your home for 20 years!) Blaming your Realtor because they cannot get you the price you want will never solve anything and is simply misdirected frustration. Anyone can promise you anything to get your listing. It’s the Realtors who are honest with you and set realistic expectations that are the stars in the industry! The selling price and how quickly your home sells is always based on what condition your home is currently in and what (if anything) you are prepared to do to increase its selling advantage in the marketplace! And yes, … sometimes it takes a little time and effort to make money – but remember your neighbour already invested their time and money and that’s why they were able to command the selling price they did!

Maximum Home Equity Program for Sellers

Maximum Home Equity Program for Sellers

For many home owners, their home is their single largest investment.  What if you could offer your clients the opportunity to maximize the equity in their investment before they sell their home? We’ve all seen the same home sell for a lower price and then a much higher price once it had some improvements done.  Every seller wants to get the best possible price for their home, but doesn’t necessarily have the cash or knowledge to do upgrades. With our Maximum Equity Program, you can be confident your clients will get the best price for their home!  To ensure everyone has the opportunity to take advantage of theMaximum Equity Program, if they are short of cash, they have the option to pay for the repairs/upgrades/ from the proceeds of the sale!

We all know that many buyers are willing to pay more for a home in move in condition.  Most Buyers lead busy lives with careers and children and really can’t afford the time or money to move and start renovations.  They would rather maximize their mortgage to get the best home they can afford.  Most sellers just want their home to sell quickly for the best price possible.  Unfortunately, many sellers have been in their home for years and the home can become dated.  That renovation 10 years ago, although still somewhat “new” to the seller – is no longer new to the buyers looking for something more current in design!

So how do we bring the buyer and seller together?

That’s where Maximum Impact Plus comes in.  Our team of professional Designers, Contractors and Home Stagers work closely with the listing Realtor to identify the areas of the Seller’s home that may need attention to increase the value (sale price) of the property and increase its competitive advantage in the market. Our team determines the most important areas of concern and agree on a budget for repairs/updates.  Our Professional Design Team work with the Home Owner to design around the furniture and décor to provide a picture perfect finished product that “Wows” Buyers.  Once the work is completed and it’s staged to perfection, your listing sells much faster and for a better price!  Your clients are thrilled because you increased the value of their investment and made them some serious money!

Can’t you just hear the phone ring with their referrals?!

How exactly do we identify what needs to be done?

We’ve been flipping houses for close to 20 years.  We would buy low and a few months later sell the same property much higher, always for a profit.  Although the TV shows make it look easy, it’s not.  It takes a sound strategy, and systematic approach. It is critical to know what your budget is for each home so you do not over improve.  This is where the comparable homes in the immediate area dictate exactly what we do, and what we don’t!  The key is to ensure we update cosmetically to make the home more desirable and comparable to the nicer homes in the area, this usually means repairs, paint, flooring maybe countertops.  If there are any maintenance issues – these must be addressed first.  Then we take inventory and identify the most critical cosmetic improvements.  Working closely with the listing agent is key to successfully identifying the comps – which determine the extent of the work.  Why would we offer to do this for home owners instead of purchasing the property ourselves?  Because we love what we do!  After years, this is my way of giving back my expertise and knowledge to help others.  There is a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes from helping others that is addictive!  We simply show the home owner an extensive portfolio of before and after projects with the before and after pictures and the increase in price!  They are instantly intrigued and often sold instantly!

Our program is simple.  Once we agree what repairs/upgrades need to be completed, we agree on the timeline and the cost.  We have a contract that is signed by the home owner that instructs their lawyer to disburse payment from the proceeds of the sale of the property.  The owner agrees to actively market the property until it is sold.  The Realtor informs us of the possession date or any changes to possession date or lawyer. Some sellers wish to pay for a portion and finance the balance, others finance the whole amount.  We work with each individually, as each case is unique.  Our only real restrictions are that we must be working with a home owner or estate sale and not an investor (flipper).  There must be adequate equity in the property to justify the expense of the repairs/upgrades, so we will pull title to verify liens.  The property cannot be in foreclosure to be eligible.  We do as much work or as little work as the home owner is comfortable with.  Once the work is completed, our Home Staging team completes the final look and can even arrange for professional photographs, if required.  Then it’s up to the Realtor to establish the new list price and sell the property.

Here are a few examples of our program:

River Avenue sat on the market for approximately 6 months and continued to drop the price.  We were contacted by the Realtor to see what we recommended.  It was last listed for $585,000.  We identified some critical repairs and painted and staged the property.  We also recommended they vacate the “party tenants” on the 2nd floor. Total costs for all repairs, improvements, and staging was less than $30,000. The new list price was $639,900 and it sold for $648,100 in days!

A home on Syracuse had an initial CMA of $240,000.  It was well maintained but very dated.  We updated flooring and paint.  Completed some repairs/updates in the finished basement, and staged the property.  Total cost of repairs, updates and staging was approximately $25,000.  New list price was $315,000 and it sold in days for $355,000!!

A couple contacted us when they needed to sell their home on Dunrobin.  They were quite handy and could complete the work themselves.  They just needed to know what to do to maximize their selling price.  They had completed renovations to 85% of the home and only had their kitchen left to renovate when they unexpectedly found a new home.  Now it was critical to complete kitchen updates fast but at minimal expense!  The original CMA was $224,900 but they desperately wanted to increase their equity.  We gave them a step by step list of what needed to be completed and even where to obtain the best materials at the best price.  We suggested they replace the countertops, flooring, faucet, paint and install a tile backsplash. The cost with their own labour was $1700 for materials and consulting fees.  Their home listed for $234,900 and sold for $255,200 in 8 days!

So the next time you meet with sellers and they are not thrilled with the CMA you present, consider telling them about the alternative.  When you see an expired listing that needs some work, this is a perfect candidate for the Program.  The next time you are called out to an estate sale or when Mom or Dad have been moved into assisted living, and the family need to sell, this is another opportunity to maximize the selling price.  Let’s face it when long time owners are being moved into a care facility, their home usually is somewhat dated.  This is also the time they NEED to maximize the equity from the sale of their largest single investment!  They need that money for their care!  These are the most rewarding clients to work with.  Knowing that they sold with an extra $20,000, $40,000 or $80,000 in their retirement income because of our help is an honor and a privilege and honestly, just a fabulously rewarding project!!!  I would so much rather see the increase in property value go to the original home owner than to an investor.  Basically, any time your sellers wish to maximize the equity in their home sale, the Maximum Equity Program is here to help all Realtors and Home Owners Maximize the Equity in their Home Sale.


NOVEMBER 12, 2013

Selling a Occupied Investment Property

I sometimes receive calls from property owners who are having difficulty selling their occupied investment properties.  They want to know if we will stage the rental property.  Stagers simply will not stage an occupied rental unit. To begin with, most furniture companies will not rent furniture for staging occupied homes. They rent furniture for staging vacant properties only.  The chances for damages are simply too great in an occupied home. Food, drink, pets, cigarette smoke can all become huge issues of potential dispute when renting furniture to occupied homes.  Most staging contracts specifically stipulate there are no pets or smoking allowed in the premises while the rental furniture and accessories are on site.  I will rent my own stock furniture and accessories for occupied homes, but am careful if there are pets in the home and simply will never rent to a smoking home.  Even if they do not smoke while the furniture is in the home, the residual smell of the smoke from carpets, drapery, and just the building will often infiltrate the furniture. 

When having difficulty selling an occupied rental unit, the tenant, in many cases isn’t taking very good care of the rental unit itself, which is why it doesn’t show well and is not selling. Usually it’s messy, cluttered, can have unpleasant odours, may have repair/maintenance issues, etc.  Placing rental furniture and accessories would simply complicate the matter for both Stager and Property Owner.  If the owner stages the suite with nice furniture and accessories – the potential of damage, spills, breakage, is much higher because the contract is not with the tenant.  The tenant is not responsible (even if they are).  Basically, it becomes a much worse headache than it is worth for everyone.

However, we can offer some sound selling advice for Investors having difficulty selling their investments.  First of all, always remember, it is YOUR investment!  If the tenant is preventing you from selling and getting the best price for your investment, time for your tenant to move!  The Residential Tenancies Act allows property owners to give proper notice for tenants to vacate premises so owners can do renovations or so they can use the property for their own purposes.  It doesn’t matter how long the tenant may have been there or what time in the school year we are at.  You, as the Owner, can give proper notice and order your tenant to leave.  An investment property is always more appealing to a buyer when it’s in good, clean, well maintained vacant condition.  If your tenant is making the place look run down or a disaster, they are costing you money!  Some tenants will refuse access for showings making it difficult to view the property.  This just sends investors looking elsewhere.  Most owners would rather choose their own tenants with their own selection criteria anyway.  So it may cost you rent for a few months, what might that be $1500 – $2000?  If you have to drop the selling price by $10,000 or $20,000 or more – where is the real cost?  Why allow a bad tenant to run down your investment any further?  When you sell, this is your opportunity to re-coup the maximum dollars you can.  Plan your sale, take the steps necessary to make the most out of your investment.  Once the property is vacant do the necessary repairs and cosmetics improvements to make it look great.  Then it is just another vacant property to be staged!  No tenant, no complications.  You can stage any vacant property to maximize your selling price! With rents not registered in many single family home rentals, the new buyer than can set his own rental rates…. Much more appealing! You’ll sell faster and for a better price than if you had let the tenant stay!

Peak Their Interest with a Hint of Promise, then Over Deliver!

There is nothing more exhilarating than being fueled with anticipation.  The satisfaction of finally having your expectations met and even exceeded, makes you feel so complete!  Unfortunately, there is nothing more deflating than the let-down of un-met anticipation.  So where do your listings fit in this spectrum??  Do you over promise and under deliver or do you peak their interest with a hint of promise, and then over deliver?

Last fall we were looking for a new cottage.  I scoured all the listings and narrowed down my search and was so incredibly excited about one listing I literally counted the days until we could see it!  I had thought it was just what we were looking for – until I saw it!  You cannot imagine my level of disappointment and frustration when my husband saw it and said no way! It had very low ceilings, which made the rooms feel very small.  The photos were taken with a wide angle lens making the rooms appear much larger than they were.  There were significant maintenance issues that needed to be addressed that just were not evident in the photos and costly repairs.  It was waterfront – but so far back from the water you couldn’t even see the water from the house!  We had come prepared to spend in the top range of the asking price for a cottage that required little to no work.  We found a cottage needing quite a bit of work asking top dollar!   I left so disappointed I wanted to stop looking!  The photos and the listing info had built my expectations up and the property just couldn’t compare!  It over promised and under delivered.

Then we saw the cottage we purchased.  It didn’t look like anything special in the photos – in fact, it looked like it needed work.  I was not in the least bit excited to see it and almost didn’t get out of the car!  We really didn’t want another “project”.  Since I’m a Designer and my husband owns a Renovation Company – work didn’t scare us, we just wanted a place we could relax. We had decided we wanted to pay more for something in great condition so we could just enjoy it. We would rather just not work on a cottage on our weekends off!  ….Then we saw it!  The room sizes were much larger than they appeared in the photos.  The layout of the cottage was almost exactly the same as our old cottage – open concept with high vaulted ceilings and lots of windows – only it was much larger than our old one!  It had beautiful water views from almost every room in the house! The lot was huge and private with twice the water frontage of the one I “loved”! The price was exactly as it should be for the condition.  Basically, the listing under promised and the property over delivered! We saw tremendous potential in this neglected home.  We bought it that day and decided the location, price and condition justified the work and we agreed we would spend the first year doing the major upgrades we wanted.  They are almost all complete – and from now on we just pick a project for the coming year and sit back and enjoy!

How our expectations come into play in our home search has a huge impact on how we perceive a property.  Take accurate photos that truly depict the space.  Stand at the far end of the room but don’t use a wide angle lens that makes the room appear twice the size it actually is. If it is truly well maintained and immaculate then say so.  But don’t give the impression that a property is in A-1 condition if it is not – most buyers just don’t appreciate it.  If they are looking for something in top condition and willing to pay more for something in top condition – that is exactly what they want to spend their time looking at.  Many will find themselves annoyed at having their time wasted by a misleading listing.  Price the property fairly for its condition.  Almost all Home Sellers are also Buyers. I often hear their feedback on their home search and the most common complaint are properties that are priced too high for their condition when compared to other properties of similar cost!  If your vendor wants that premium list price, then try to convince them to spend the time and if necessary, the money, to bring the property into similar or equivalent condition to other comps in that price range.   At the bare minimum, you should be delivering what you promise.  If you can draw them in with a hint of promise, then really wow them once they come in by having a property that over delivers, then you’ve got them sold… Hook, line and sinker!

Well off to the cottage for a quiet weekend!