Monthly Archives: November 2015

Over-Enthusiastic Reno Blunders

Living Room 

We are often asked to stage newly renovated homes for sale. There are some outstanding reno jobs that are a pleasure to stage! The space gives us numerous options in terms of décor, furniture selection and placement and is just plain versatile! Buyers see the versatility of a great reno job! It makes the home that much more appealing to that many MORE buyers!

However, just as often we see renovation blunders! It is critical to think beyond the building materials when planning a design!  In your design you must allow space for furniture and for traffic flow – typically rooms require a 3’ wide walkway. Placement of furniture is critical to how well a space shows. We are limited by walls, islands, stairs, changes in flooring surfaces (carpet – vinyl), placement of light fixtures, doorways, and focal point in a room. 

We must do our best to arrange the furniture to highlight the focal point in a room. The most common focal points in a living room are a TV or a fireplace.  The problem arises when the only logical placement for the furniture is contrary to the focal point. For example, most people want their sofa to face their TV. If the renovation has placed the TV on a wall that doesn’t leave adequate space for a sofa to face the wall and still allow for a walkway, we must arrange the furniture to maximize the space. If we set up the furniture to accommodate the TV – there is simply no room to walk through the room.  This would be a reason for buyers to exclude your property. Even if a property is not staged, buyers see that there is simply no room for a sofa to face the TV. Furniture placement factors significantly in a property purchase! If their furniture won’t fit, many buyers will walk away!

One of the more common mistakes is adding an over-large kitchen island or peninsula. Renovators (whether paid or DIY’ers) need to keep in mind the kitchen is one of the central hubs of the home. There is a lot of traffic in a kitchen. If your island design only leaves 20” inches between the wall and island – people will have to turn sideways. It’s just not functional! The space will seem too small – not to mention that it is against building codes. It is equally critical to ensure you have adequate space to open the range door, dishwasher door or fridge! This seems really basic but it is shocking how many people do not take this into consideration when renovating. Just because it seems like a good idea at the time and may look good on paper, doesn’t mean it actually is functional! Stop and think about how the space will be used and ensure that it is appealing to buyers!

Light fixtures also dictate furniture placement. Quite frequently we will see rectangular light fixtures hung lengthwise across the narrowest part of the space. Remember we center the table under the light. If the space is rectangular, we typically use a rectangular table. We will place the table lengthwise in the room rectangular room. If your light fixture is installed widthwise – it simply doesn’t look good! Think about how the table will be placed before you install the light, then install the light accordingly. It is also important to ensure that the light is placed far enough from a wall to allow for a table. Again, lights should be centered over the table, if the electrical box is not centered, most light fixtures come with an adjustable length that would allow you to install a hook to hang the light from in order to have it centered over a table. Just ensure you leave enough space for a walkway! 

Quite often we see patio doors installed in a dining room or kitchen. Most times this works beautifully and leads to a nice outdoor deck. However, we have often seen cases where the walls limited the space so it becomes impossible to fit a table and still allow a walkway to the patio door. This makes either the dining room or the patio doors non-functional. A lot of wasted time and money for an unappealing and unusable renovation.

Changing flooring surfaces defines a space. If you have a vinyl floor and a carpet or hardwood floor joined in a room – the floor dictates a division of the rooms function. We cannot place furniture on this dividing line. It must be placed on one side or the other. If the space is very small, this can create a significant challenge to showcase the space with the correct size of furniture. In smaller open concept spaces, I typically recommend keeping the flooring surfaces consistent. It actually gives the visual illusion of a larger room whereas 2 different flooring surfaces give the distinct illusion of 2 smaller spaces.

Doorways and walkways must be left open and accessible. We cannot place furniture into a walkway, particularly if it is a means of egress from the building. Quite often when renovating a space, people do not consider the walkways and doorways – these walkways actually take away from the functional “living space” of a room. The living space and seating arrangement is outside of the normal walkways through the space. So, when planning a renovation, ensure you leave adequate space for walkways as well as a comfortable furniture placement in that room.

Finally, in smaller houses, stay away from adding structures that split up an already small space to make it appear smaller. There are so many other ways to define a space using furniture and lighting. Adding a structure just limits what you can do with the space and made a small space even smaller. We’ve seen closets turned into powder rooms – when you need a minimum of 3X5 inside dimensions that just used up quite a bit of floor space in the middle of your small room. It limits your functional furniture placement and closes off any open concept designs.

Essentially, when planning renovations, it’s always a good idea to have a professional identify a working floor plan that is functional as well as aesthetically pleasing! After all, most renovations take a significant amount of both time and money. A quick consult for a few hours and $200 – $300 can save you thousands of dollars on a renovation blunder!

Living In a “Staged” Home


A large percentage of the homes we stage for sale are owner occupied while staged.  Clients and Realtors alike are often surprised that we can “stage” a home that is “lived in” while being shown for sale.  However, staging owner occupied homes while they are being shown for sale is around 40-45% of all our regular business. The added bonus is that it is usually less expensive to stage an owner occupied home as they typically have most (if not all) of their own furniture. We provide Accessory Packages that complement the furniture in the home. These include accent pieces of furniture and any/all décor items. Accessory packages start at $750 and can go up to $1600 depending upon the size of the home and the items required.

Most people do not have a perfectly decorated home.  A large percentage of the homes we see are a work in progress. Home owners intend to complete certain décor and accent pieces but just have not gotten to it with the demands of daily life. It doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense to go out and spend thousands of dollars on décor pieces when you are moving. What if the pieces you purchase do not go with the new home? What if the furniture is the wrong size? Color? Style? That is why it makes so much sense to rent furniture and accessories to stage your home for sale! The rental costs are a fraction of what you would pay to purchase the items. You do not have to worry about things not working with the new home. It is also much less time consuming to have us accessorize your home.  It can be completed in one day!  Saves you a tremendous amount of time running around and looking for the right pieces to match! 

In most cases, staging an owner occupied home requires a consult prior to staging. This is where we come in and complete a room by room basic checklist. It is a working booklet we leave with the Home Owner that provides a detailed checklist of everything that needs to be completed prior to listing and staging the home for sale. It can include anything from cleaning light fixtures, decluttering, basic repairs and maintenance to recommendations/plans for storage of excess furniture and personal items. Basically everything the Home Owner needs to complete to be ready for buyers to start inspecting their home. Home Staging is usually the second last step in the process.  The final step is of course the photography of the staged home and uploading those pictures onto MLS and all marketing materials.

In most cases, owners have furniture that we can use for staging purposes. We rarely bring in large pieces of furniture unless the furniture they have is in really bad shape. Typically we will bring in area rugs, artwork, lamps and décor accessories to provide that “WOW Factor” when buyers come to look at the home. In some cases, we may bring in the odd piece of furniture from a dining room table & chairs or coffee and end table set, possibly accent tables or chairs…  Occasionally we may bring in a sofa/love or a sectional if necessary.  This is especially common with kitchen or dining room sets where the dining room is used as an office or play room. Obviously it will show better and be more appealing to buyers if it is presented as a formal dining room. 

One of the biggest considerations in working with owner occupied homes is damage to rented items used for staging. We only rent to non-smoking homes. This goes for vacant homes as well. If the home has the distinct odour of tobacco smoke in the home, it will penetrate the areas rugs and furniture. We then cannot use those pieces if they smell of tobacco in other homes. So under no circumstances will we stage a “smoking” home, vacant or occupied. Another consideration is pets. If you have pets and they have damaged your furniture, chances are they will also damage ours. Depending upon the pet and house rules, we may provide furniture but this is determined on a case by case basis. If I decide to provide furniture, it is furniture from my own stock, and thus I will be selective about the homes. The rental companies we work with that provide furniture have a strict policy to only provide furniture to vacant homes. This may be where the misconception arose to only stage vacant homes. Strong odours in the home can also be a detriment. This can include anything from cooking smells, pet smells to mould or musty odours. Once these odours get into the furniture/accessories it can be impossible to re-use them.

When we provide accent pillows, throws, and towels, these items are typically for display purposes only.  Clients only place them when they are having showings, otherwise they may keep them in a closet so they are out of the way of children and typical daily living.  Artwork and other accessories are placed and remain in place until we de-stage.  All in all, most items we use to stage an occupied home remain in place for the duration until the home is sold. Some parents just feel more confident placing things out of the reach of little fingers. However, when we are staging a home with children, we often take this into consideration and will use accessories that are non-breakable. Parents have enough to think about without having to worry about that as well! 

The process of staging an occupied home is just as simple and straight forward as a vacant home. We usually just focus more on accessories than the full package. The cost is obviously much lower as we have fewer costs moving large furniture. However, the impact is undeniable! Staging an occupied home can bump up your home, from nice to “WOW Factor”! It’s the combination of the right furniture and accessories for your space that creates those memorable rooms.  Memorable rooms are the rooms Buyers make emotional connections with. Those are the homes that receive the best offers! Staged homes spend less time on the market and obtain higher selling prices than non-staged homes. Vacant or occupied, every home has the potential to be staged and make Buyers pay attention!

Staging Sells Houses!


Home Staging has been incredibly busy this year! This is no surprise, Staging Sells Homes Faster! There are stats all over the internet to verify this, including a comparison that was made here in Winnipeg a number of years ago. Staged homes sold in less than half the time with nearly twice as many going into bidding wars. This year alone, 2015, I have lost track of how many of our staged homes went into bidding wars! It’s literally been that many! I’m really looking forward to December when I can do my own stats and compare them with those of Winnipeg Realtor’s association.

We have been setting houses up and taking them down pretty quickly. Many are still selling with multiple offers within a week or so, others take on average around 3-5 weeks depending on the price range. However, it is so rewarding to receive that thrilled call from the seller or the Realtor or both thanking us for helping the house sell as fast as it did and for the price they received! Just LOVE to get up in the morning and do what we do! It is also interesting to drive down the street and see the same houses sitting for sale, unsold, that were there before we staged our clients’ home. Guess we are doing something right. It’s unfortunate how many signs we see for “price reduced!” 

Reality is, many times we have come into a clients’ home and with some minor changes, de-cluttering, re-arranging and maintenance, we have actually INCREASED the listing price and still had the home sold for more than what they were originally asking! It’s simply of giving the buyers what they want and what we know they will pay more to get. 

Some of my Realtors and Clients forget that I was (and continue to be an investor). I’ve been buying and fixing houses and selling them for profit for over 21 years! It worked when we were in the last buyer’s market, it worked when we were in the seller’s market and it will continue to work because the principles we use e time tested and proven over all price ranges of homes and all over the city. Just because buyers are not interested in your house, doesn’t mean that you have to drop the price! There are seller who unrealistically want to list for more than their Realtor will recommend with the understanding that the price reduction will come if there is no interest. However, your Realtor has already told you that based on the condition of your home and how it presents, compared to others on the market, the price they recommended was fair.

As an investor, we’re always watching for those sellers who continually drop the price in hopes of attracting a buyer. This tells us there just may be the potential to make some money! As a seller, why wouldn’t you first explore other options to dropping the price? Find out if you are leaving money on the table for the next owner? If all you need is some help making your home more appealing, there is no harm in obtaining a consultation.  Most sellers need to make as much from the sale of their home as they can. When you consider how many hours you have to work to make and take home 10K, 20K or 30K (after taxes) isn’t it worth it to you to explore other alternatives before chopping another $10,000 or $20,000? Even if it takes you a few weeks in work – do you usually make $10,000 for a few weeks effort? We provide consultations where we can tell you everything you need to do to make your home as appealing to buyers as possible! Consultations average between $150 – $250 depending upon square feet and time involved. WE can also put you in touch with a complete list of trusted professionals for everything from complete house cleaning to window cleaning to renovations or de-cluttering and removing debris. We also supply packing services and can arrange for storage services for excess household items. Literally everything you need to ensure your home sells for the best price you can get!

Rather than dropping the price again and remaining frustrated and in limbo, why not explore some of the other options available and see what you can do to help your home sell for the best price?!



Restaurant Renovations & Acoustics

645570876_f0b1025df8_zRestaurant acoustics are a key element of a successful restaurant renovation! In fact, restaurant acoustics are a key factor in any successful establishment building a loyal clientele. Unfortunately, many people think they are pretty good at putting colors and materials together. However, planning for functional use of a space goes well beyond just making it look pretty! Customers not only need to enjoy the look but also the atmosphere – which includes acoustics.

When was the last time you went to a restaurant and found you could not hear the people you were with across the table? Over the last number of years I have seen many of my favourite restaurant undergo renovations and updates. Some have been hugely successful and other have been a total flop! Why would an owner want to spend tens of thousands of dollars to update a space and not consult a Professional Designer? If you make an error in judgement and you lose loyal clientele, you’ve not only lost their business, and many other customers who no longer enjoy their time in your establishment! You will lose customers, and business will suffer and you will not make the money necessary to go back and correct your mistake! Your plan to update your restaurant and draw more business has sadly backfired!

Last Friday we went to one of our favourite restaurants that had recently been renovated. Our server could not even hear us until she dropped her head down to our level to take our order. We could not carry on a conversation and the “newly renovated” restaurant was only half full! We had been to this same restaurant many times over the years before it was renovated. We had never had an issue with acoustics here before. We’ve had many meals when the restaurant was full and very busy, yet we always enjoyed our time there. Unfortunately, it was so unbelievably loud after their renovation, we will not be back! We’ve been going there for close to 15 years!

Planning a restaurant renovation is more than just looks and shiny new building materials! For your renovation to be a success, it is critical to take ALL aspects of the dining experience into account. When people go to a bar, they expect the music and conversation to be loud. However, when a couple or group go out for dinner, it is usually to converse and catch up on life. That is impossible to do when you cannot hear the person sitting next to you. Chances are you won’t be back if you cannot enjoy the company of your guests!

I cannot count the number of restaurants we’ve been in the last year or so who have renovated but have failed to take acoustics into account. They have “updated” with the new modern look, sleek materials, glass partitions, and hard floor surfaces. Sound will bounce from one hard surface to another. It is critical to use materials that absorb sound and stop this “bouncing effect” in order to drop the level of sound in a space. When designing a space for dining and conversation; planning for sound reduction makes a huge impact in the success or ultimately, the failure of a renovation! There are significant ways to lower sound in a space, from fabric upholstery, to carpet, to noise reducing paint, noise reducing dividers between seating areas and so much more. Yes, there is a paint that can reduce noise by up to 30%! That is a significant noise reduction and might just be the difference between customers enjoying the new space and coming back or not! 

The rage in design is a very modern sleek look.  Many do it yourself “designers” choose all the modern materials but pay no attention to how well they will ultimately function in the space or how those materials will impact the use of that space! You may be saving some money on a designer, but ultimately, how much did it cost you in lost revenue and cost to correct your mistakes before you lose the business altogether?! 

One final word, certain surfaces are simply not recommended or advisable in some applications. House flies tend to be a nuisance in restaurant, particularly those with outdoor patios. I have never seen something as disgusting as clear glass light fixtures hanging right over a dining table that were full of fly poop! If you are going to use clear glass light fixtures, at least make a point of cleaning them regularly, especially during summer months when flies are common. Another restaurant that was recently renovated, unfortunately it was renovated more for a residential application than a busy restaurant. Between the poor acoustics and the fly poop hanging on the light right over your table, I would much rather have enjoyed my meal in their old décor! 

When planning a renovation in any area that is open to public, please, take the time to consult with a Design Professional who can save you time and save you money on costly mistakes!