Photo Shoot Stage vs. Stage Job for Sale

staged living room

Have you ever admired the photos in home decorating magazines? I know I have and can sometimes use them for inspiration. It is always a good idea to stay on top of current looks, colors and trends. However, we must keep in mind that we still must keep the décor appropriate for the home or condo we are staging.

Photo shoots typically take place in one day. We are able to use fresh flowers, beautiful bakery goods, breads and cheeses, and many other accents to showcase a space. These just don’t work when we are staging a home long term. Sometimes clients will ask me if I use “real” stuff and I have to explain why it is not practical unless a home is occupied and the home owner can provide fresh goods. After all no one wants to walk into a beautifully staged home full of fruit flies and moldy produce. When working on a photo shoot – everything is planned well in advance and all items and props are brought in well in advance. The perishables are often purchased that day or the day before to ensure maximum freshness for close ups.

When staging we are more often required to use non-perishable goods. This can be anything from décor pieces to perishable replicas (fake foods). Having the right combination to showcase a space long term while keeping counters clutter free and appealing is the main focus of staging for sale. We can use a wide variety of décor items in almost any room. The fun starts when we start combining non-traditional clusters. There are just so many different options and looks we can achieve.

My challenge to our girls for the summer is to get really creative and see what we can create for stunning accents that look like a photo shoot but out of necessity are for stage jobs. Within hours, I had them sending me an assortment of photographs of collections from our stock they wished to try out. We will continue working with this new twist. I’m really looking forward to the options we find and the new looks we will create.

Sometimes we all get stuck in rut when decorating our own home or even when staging. We get accustomed to the same pieces going in the same places and can fail to see the other options. I find this so often when we do consults for clients. I will easily re-arrange certain pieces of furniture and/or décor in their homes for a better look. They are often surprised that they had never thought of doing so themselves. That is the added bonus of a fresh pair of eyes. It is similar in staging. We get crazy busy and sometimes fall into the pattern of doing a similar look because we know how well it worked and how quickly the houses have been selling. I have to force myself to stop now and then and challenge ourselves to find a different way that looks equally as good or better! Surprisingly it really is not that difficult. We have a large assortment of options and new stock arriving so we can change up a look for a fresh new design.

So our challenge for the next few looks will be to create photo shoot worthy rooms using the best props we can find. Can’t wait to take this to the next level and as always, have fun! Creating beautiful spaces is a wonderful way to spend your days!

Furniture Planning for Open Concepts Spaces – BUYER BEWARE

 

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living room

Furniture placement for open concept spaces can be quite tricky at times. The smaller the space the more forethought and planning are needed in the initial design process of the floor plan, long before construction begins. We have seen a huge jump in new builds for both condos and apartment blocks over the last number of years. The new trend in construction is for larger more open concept kitchens. This obviously limits where cupboards can be placed as a wall is required to mount cabinetry. What seems to be the trend is to “steel” wall space from your living/dining space, where you would normally place your living room or dining table. This makes for a nicely finished vacant space for prospective buyers/renters to view with large open concept spaces. However, this can be very misleading.

Typical architectural features of a space dictate furniture placement and are fixed (cannot easily be changed). These are things like doors, walkways, light fixture placement, closets, etc. A space is defined by architectural details. You must allow for a door to swing open so you cannot place furniture too close to the door swing as you must allow not only room for the door swing to open but also for a person to stand in front of the door and step back as they open the door. This sounds pretty basic but more and more we are seeing smaller spaces designed that do not allow for this simple basic functional aspect of use of space.

So often we are seeing TV connections part way up the only wall in the open concept space. This is rarely a problem in a large space as there is more than adequate room and often requires us to pull the furniture in to create a more defined cozy sitting space. The problem occurs in a much smaller open concept – where there is simply no room to place furniture.

A room is NOT defined by its walls. A space is defined by walls, AND door swings, AND walkways into and between rooms, AND hanging light fixtures, etc. A dining area often has a hanging light fixture that is designed to have a dining table centered below it. This usually works perfectly, until someone has a brilliant idea to add an overhand counter top and counter seating too close to the dining light fixture. Sure it looks great on paper – but when you actually try to place the bar stools at the counter and the dining room table under the light – the bar stools and chairs bump against each other and the whole space is no longer functional!

You would never place a sofa in the direct path of people walking in through the front door – well it is no different with an open concept design. Although there are no walls in place – we must allow for an “invisible” wall to define the use of spaces. A walkway behind a sofa or to an access door must allow a minimum of 3 feet width and enough space for a door to swing open but also someone to step back when opening the door. Once we allow for the functional use of space for walkways and door swings, we are often left with a much smaller are in which to plan furniture placement. On paper this may appear to be one large space and allow for adequate furniture placement and be quite deceiving. We always find it easier to draw it out to scale to plan the right pieces to make the best of the space available.

Keep in mind the depth of most sofas/loveseats is 3’. Length is anywhere from 5’ for a loveseat to over 9’ depending on the style of sofa. You usually need a minimum of 18” between the sofa and coffee table. The coffee table is typically 24” deep. Then you require a bit of a walkway between the TV console table and your coffee table – so allow for at least 2’6” although 3’ is much more comfortable. Finally allow for a console table that is anywhere between 12-14” deep. You need a total depth of 10’ to comfortably place furniture and a width of a minimum 10’ to allow for a sofa and a small end table. Any space that is smaller than this will give you nightmares in terms of furniture placement and setting up your living space so it works for you.

Keep in mind, as a designer and a stager – I have access to many different sizes of furniture to try to best fit the space. Most renters or first time condo buyers have their own furniture that and must work with that. Make sure you take the measurements of the space – allowing for walkways and doors wings etc. Then measure your own furniture to make sure it will fit comfortably in a small space. Especially if you are buying a condo – if you have difficulty using a tight dysfunctional space, it will look that way and be that much more difficult for you to sell down the road. If you are going to make an investment in your first home – make sure it is something that will work for you and something that you can easily sell down the road.

Developers – please do not be fooled by open spaces on your architectural drawings. Allowing adequate space for furniture is key to the success of your building whether it is a new apartment block or a condo complex. The last thing you want is to invest in a project that people find wasn’t designed with aspects of daily living in mind. Just because a space doesn’t have interior walls – doesn’t mean you don’t have to allow for appropriate division of space and functional use of the space. If ever in doubt – contact a professional designer who works with furniture dimensions and placement. If drawings are to scale – it takes less than 30 minutes to plan a good furniture layout that will best showcase the space and take advantage of the open concept floor plan! I have seen where furniture was shrunk down in scale on professional drawings to make it look like a 6.5’ by 7’ space would fit a full sofa, love, coffee, end tables and console TV table. Reality was I simply have never seen a sofa that was less than 24’ deep! It pays to double check and have a 2nd or third opinion from someone who has no stake in the project. That way you will be assured of an accurate analysis of the space.

 

 

Do People Try to Take Advantage of Your Expertise and Time?

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Do you find people seek you out for your industry expertise specifically because they value your opinion? How often do you come across people who request your opinion under the guise of possibly doing business? However, they want “free advice”, before they make up their minds. Anyone who is self-employed or on a commission must be very selective how we spend our time. There are individuals who will try to get whatever they can without paying for it. Being successful means using your time wisely and productively.

I can usually tell in the first few minutes if someone is calling for free advice or they are an actual prospective client. A prospective client will always respect your industry knowledge and level of expertise. They respect you as a Professional which is why they contacted you in the first place. They expect to pay for your time and services, and quite often ask up front what your fees are. In most cases they are contacting you because they have already checked you out through references or online. You have something they want or need and they are more than happy to pay for it. Good clients do not expect you to work for free.

We sometimes see clients who want to know “what they should do” for either a new kitchen/bathroom design or to get their homes ready for sale. With more than 20 years of experience, I can easily tell you what floor plan and products work best with your budget. I can easily help you plan the appropriate updates to ensure you get the best price for your home when you sell. We often suggest where to get the products you want with the best service and at a reasonable price. When it comes to staging, a floor plan materializes in my mind for a room almost instantly when I look at a space. We offer staging consultations that tell the home owner everything they need to do to get their home ready for sale. I am more than happy to provide you with all the product, vendor and contractor information if you want a DIY project. I always say “how we live in a home is very different from how we showcase a home for sale”. However, this knowledge was gained over years of experience. It is specialized knowledge. If a client needs a consultation for design or staging, there is a cost associated with the time and specialized knowledge. 

We do free estimates for staging or design. An estimate is just that – you tell us what you want and we will give you an estimate for the job specifications. If you tell us you want 5 rooms staged, we will still design the rooms for staging but we will not tell the client what furniture to place where during an estimate. We simply will not give you any recommendations or share any design ideas for free. Quite honestly, planning creative work is still work. It deserves to be compensated no differently than any other work. 

It is common for people to obtain “3 quotes” before deciding what they want to do. However, that only works when you are specific about the product or service you are requesting. If you say “re-design my kitchen” and see who comes in with the lowest cost, the products you are looking at will invariably be vastly different. I have never seen a “lowest quote” for service that did not go bad in the end. Either poor quality product is provided or bad service or both! It’s like comparing a basic model car to a high end BMW. It is still a car but the style, features and quality will be vastly different! If you only go with the lowest quote, the same is true. You simply are not comparing apples to apples unless you specify you want “red delicious apples”! 

I am always painfully aware when a Realtor is being “played” by a potential client. They insist the Realtor jump through hoops and pay out of pocket expenses for the privilege of “maybe” obtaining their listing. They usually want the highest list price but are very reluctant to change anything to make the home more presentable and sellable! These clients are the same ones who complain the loudest when buyers are just not interested in their overpriced home. They typically pull the listing at the first opportunity and play the same game with the next Realtor! Learning how to weed out the people who will exploit you and waste your time and money is one of the most important skills for anyone who is self-employed. It can be difficult to walk away from “potential” business. However, if your radar is giving you warning signals pay attention. Every minute you waste with this client without compensation is time lost making actual money! Time is the only commodity we have a finite supply of, make the most of yours. People will only take advantage of you if you allow then to do so. 

When you become very good at what you do, you will be sought out for your expertise. Ensure you deliver what you promise and set realistic expectations.  Clients always appreciate honesty and integrity. Leave those who want to take advantage of someone to your competitors – after all – you’ll be too busy running your business and making money.

 

 

 

Key Points to Successful Real Estate Flips

living room

As a Home Staging Company we work with a number of different investors who regularly flip properties. I started out flipping properties more than 20 years ago and am very familiar with the whole process. We have seen the Winnipeg Real Estate market come full circle. The buyers’ market of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the hot seller’s market of the next 10 – 12 years and finally, back into the current Buyer’s market we are experiencing. Over the years we have learned some key tips that we share with our investors.

Most investors know you make your money when you buy, not when you sell. You have to buy the property at the right price in order to do the improvements required for property, in that particular neighborhood for a profitable sale. You also must allow for all costs associated such as land transfer fees, legal, mortgage fees & interest, taxes, insurance, utilities, Realtor fees, interest on any lines of credit for improvements, exterior maintenance such as shoveling snow or cutting grass. Equally important is taking into account the average days on the market for a home to sell in your location at your target price range and factor these costs into your carrying expenses! We have seen a number of people invest in higher end homes that are taking 120 days on the market or more to sell. These costs must be factored into your expenses. You may be fortunate and have a project sell faster – but I always go by the average scenario and add a bit more for worst case. At best I make more money than I thought possible – at worst – I’ve budgeted for it and I’m covered! Reno budget is the final factor – determine your budget based on the other homes recently sold in the neighborhood. Then stick to your reno budget!

It’s key to remember how much competition is out there now in the form of new builds. Trying to push of an older property beyond a “reasonable” asking price is very risky. Particularly when those same buyers can drive 5 minutes away and see brand new builds in the same price range! Your older home may be cosmetically updated but may have a dated furnace, or shingles or other mechanicals that are in good shape and do not warrant immediate replacement but that eventual replacement factors into the buyers decision. They can purchase a new home for the same price (with a warranty) and all new mechanicals or your project with no warranty and possible replacement costs in a few years. When pricing your home ensure it is priced appropriately for your location and its competition.

Ensure the workmanship is excellent quality! There is nothing worse than walking into a flip project that has been sitting on the market for months with no prospects. Quite often we will be called to stage in a last ditch effort to sell. Staging does not hide poor quality renovations! The $5,000 or $10,000 you saved in labour costs may well be a small amount compared to how much you have to drop your asking price when it won’t sell! If buyer’s have to come in and rip out what you did and re-do it, they are taking those costs right off the asking price! I’ve even seen investors buy another investors poorly done flip and re-do the work and flip it properly themselves! Fix things that need to be fixed – have invoices and warranties to show the buyers. They need to know they are protected and the work was done properly by someone who knew what they were doing! 

Finishing details are everyone’s nightmare. They always seem to take 2-3 times longer than originally planned! However, your finishing details are critical in the final presentation of the property! If casing and baseboards are not properly cut and fitted, if the paint below can be seen through the quick coat someone slapped on, if your tiles are uneven or broken, carpeting cut too short and underlay can be seen by the baseboard, windows are fogged or rotting and need replacement – all these things factor in the presentation of the property! We all know Realtors will tell buyer’s if they feel it was a good job or not – and if it was a “bad flip” with poor quality work that you can clearly see – “what can’t you see that you will have to fix?”. Not the impression you want to give buyers for a fast sale when you want the best price possible!

Planning successful floor plans are critical to showing a property well! If walls are to be removed for an open concept – ensure they are done properly and you have the required supports in place to ensure structural integrity! I’ve seen homes that have just had the painting completed and already they are showing stress cracks where a support wall was removed without the proper support put in place! Buyers will see this too and with the amount of inventory you have for competition now – chances are good you will not get anywhere close to top dollar if you cut corners structurally. Another common mistake we see is removing a bedroom to install a main floor laundry or even a second bathroom. Most buyers look for homes based on the number of bedrooms they have. Removing bedrooms will always remove potentials buyers from the prospects. Look at alternate options – maybe a closet that can be converted into a 2 piece bath that allows you to keep that 3rd bedroom! If the floor plans do not allow for a main floor bath, you can easily have a second bathroom in the lower level that will still qualify as a second bathroom. A bedroom may be better off remaining upstairs as bedrooms have strict criteria and a lower bedroom may not actually qualify as a “bedroom”. Furthermore, if appealing to a younger family, most parents want their younger children on the same level as the parents and not on a different level of the home. 

Floor plans that add islands or counter seating peninsulas must take into account space planning! In most cases a sit down eating area is located closely to the island or peninsula. First you must ensure you allow adequate space for counter seating and space to walk behind. You must also allow proper space for seating at a kitchen table and allowance for buyers to access kitchen/dining chairs to sit down without tripping on the bar stools at your counter seating! This is one of the most common errors in floor plans. Sometimes lighting is left hanging in the middle of a walkway where buyers can hit their heads. Your light fixture should be centered over your island/peninsula and over your table. If necessary move the lighting to allow for seating at both areas comfortably with a clear walkway in between that if free of hazards from above. 

Lighting is one of those low cost and high impact items! There are some fabulous light fixtures that can really dress up a small space and really give it some character! Use light fixtures to your benefit but ensure they are installed correctly and at the correct height. You can also add great value with new faucets or some nice tile! Use walls tiles on walls and floor tiles on floors – if you get a deal on wall tiles and install them on the floor – you just may end up having to rip them out and re-do them if they start cracking when buyers come through!

Choose paint and flooring options that are appropriate for the home’s age, character and are neutral enough to appeal to as many people as possible. Any time you choose a really “trendy” wall or floor color – you run the risk of turning some buyers away. The more people your reno appeals to the faster it will sell. Use neutrals in your materials and allow your Home Stager to bring in that “pop” of color in furniture and décor. It is always so much easier for the buyers to decorate around neutral tones and see themselves in the space. So pass on the red cupboards or lime green tile. 

Home Staging shows them what they can do with the space and just how good it can look! There is simply no comparison between how a vacant home shows and one that is fully staged! A professionally stage home always makes an impact on the buyer!  Usually long before the buyer ever came to the property, the photographs of the staged property online created enough excitement for the buyer to short list your property as one they wished to see. We offer the promise in the online photographs, and then really excite them when they see the property in person! Furniture scale, style and placement is key to showing off a space to its full potential. We color coordinate our complete room designs to accent the materials selections you have made. The more neutral – the more options we have to work with. If staging budget is a consideration, we often only stage the main areas and the master bedroom. Unless you have a very small second bedroom and need to showcase furniture placement in this space, we rarely stage secondary bedrooms.  We are quite capable of doing so but in most cases it is simply not necessary! If they haven’t fallen in love with the house by the time they reach the secondary bedrooms – that room will rarely make the difference between a sale or not. Besides, we can better utilize the same budget dollars to really maximize the “wow factor” when they see the main areas. This will always have more impact and go much further to convincing them to make that offer. 

There are many details to successfully flipping a property. It is very much a tested and tried formula of success. If you stray from the formula you increase your risk and potential returns. If you stick with the proven formula, you can have a tremendous amount of fun and make a very good living at the same time! Enjoy and have fun!

 

 

 

Decorating Tips for the Holidays

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There are two approaches to Holiday Decorating. The first is relaxed while enjoying the spirit of the Holiday Season. The second, is stressful with a desire to get everything done, or done just right! If you take a few simple steps, holiday decorating can be fun and stress free. 

Sort through what you have before rushing out to buy more. This will save you money as well as time. I always forget what decorations I have in storage, especially the newer ones. Most years we buy a special new piece or two (three or four). Christmas is our favourite time of the year! My hubby and I both discovered we shared the same favourite Holiday when we were on our Honeymoon and discovered a year round Christmas shop. We were like 2 kids in a candy store! We still have nearly all the purchases we made that day for our tree. We have simply added to our Christmas décor over the years. So, I usually start by bringing out all my accent pieces for the home. My garlands and sleighs with snowmen, reindeer, ornaments for my mantle, etc. That way if some was damaged or broken I have time to replace it if I want to. I usually pick a weekend in November and do just my accent décor then I have time to buy more if I need just the right piece for “that” one space that doesn’t look quite right. 

Leave yourself as much time as possible. Holiday decorating can be overwhelming if you try to tackle it all at once. The next big projects are my Christmas trees. I usually have 3 at home and 2 at the cottage. I did say Christmas was our favourite Holiday, right? Our main tree is very traditional with many of the ornaments we purchased back on our honeymoon. It is a special family tree with years of ornaments from ours girls, and special ornament additions we’ve made over the years. If I’m feeling particularly stressed that year, I will only do one tree per day. I start in late November or early December so I have time.  We have a tree in our piano room decorated in burgundy and gold with some black accents for the piano. We are still renovating our rec room (hope to have that completed in the next few months) but I still have a tree at the bottom of the stairs to greet people! Of course, we have our fireplace and mantle decorated in the rec room as well. At the cottage, our main tree is even more rustic than the one at home. After all it is the cottage. Finally, most years I also put up a small (6’) tree in our sunroom at the cottage as well. This one is more whimsical and fun, like our sunroom.

One of the things that make décor cohesive and interesting is having it meaningful. Our main tree is very rustic with a very beautiful tree skirt that I bought years ago that had matching throw pillows. So our tree skirt and throw pillows blend with the rest of the décor in that room for a wonderful look! We have a beautiful blend of colors from the room that we use on our tree. Burgundy from our accent chairs, golds from our walls, and black from our piano. It all blends beautifully and looks “right”. Having décor meaningful takes time and is developed over time. There is no time to start like the present. It doesn’t have to be big, just a few small pieces each year and before you know it, your Holiday décor is special and speaks uniquely of your family.

I finish off with some nice outdoor touches. Micheal’s was having a great sale, as they often do this time of year, so we found a combination of accents sticks that we blended together for our large planters by our garage. They are simple but beautiful. We also have small 3’ Christmas trees on either side of our 2 front doors to greet guests during the holiday season. It’s that extra splash of “happy” to welcome friends and family. Christmas simply wouldn’t be Christmas without my hubby’s Christmas lights. He loves his lights!  We have them along the front of the house, on the 4 small trees at the doors, along the fence and of course around the garage doors. Holiday lights can be as simple or as detailed as you want. Home hardware has a beautiful and simple light called an “elf light”. It takes 10 minutes to install and casts multi colored speckled lights on your home.  Very beautiful effect in next to no time!

Finally decorating your holiday table. Again, this can be as detailed or as simple as suits you and your family. You can go all out for a centerpiece and colored placemats and matching napkins, with matching napkin rings. Some people still have special table clothes they use only on the holidays. Use what is meaningful to you and your family. This is where I find most people’s traditions tend to be similar to what they grew up with. Then of course, we add a few of our own special touches!  In setting a table for the holidays, dinnerware can really make a table look stunning. Small little accent pieces that go with the décor in your home from accents on the stemware to décor sprinkled on the table. You can go all pout or stay as simple as you feel comfortable with! If you do want to be more elaborate, leave yourself time to plan it all out and have it ready well in advance. There is nothing worse than scrambling at the last minute! You may even wish to set out the décor and centerpiece the day before and just leave the glasses and dinnerware for the day of. You will have enough to do that day so save some time and stress.

Most importantly, remember the Holidays are about spending time with those you love.  Enjoy time with family and friends. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to make you happy and feel good! Relax and enjoy! Happy Holidays everyone! May the peace and love and joy of the Holiday Season be with you all!

 

Staged Properties Selling Fast This Fall!

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Whether your home is vacant or occupied, staging it for sale will help it sell faster and for a better sale price! We’ve seen a significant swing in the local real estate market. Interesting however, is that Maximum Impact Plus continues to see fast sales in our staged properties. Even the Winnipeg Real Estate News front page this past week was all about the new Buyer’s Market and things to do for a fast sale. As always the key factors are condition and price. Staging homes for sale was recognized as one of the key factors to selling in the Buyers Market!

The condition of a property is determined by a number of factors. Anything from updates, to basic maintenance and repairs, de-cluttering a property so it shows well, and arranging furniture and accessories for that maximum impact “wow factor” when buyers come in. The WREN stressed the importance of good pictures for on-line marketing and listings! Fabulous pictures have become a critical factor in creating buyer traffic through your property. The better the pictures, the more interest!  Staging a home professionally will ensure you have beautiful magazine quality rooms for your Realtor to photograph and market! The more interest they can generate by their photographs and virtual tours, the more potentials buyers come to see the home and the faster it sells. 

Another key factor was ensuring the homes are priced “right” for our current market. Sellers often want to overprice their homes based on sale history of recent years. However, the market we’re selling in is now, not 2 years ago. New builds have added a tremendous amount of available supply of homes for buyers to consider. A few years ago, their selection was much more limited and thus, prices were higher. As supply increases, the demand decreases, as does the selling prices. I regularly tell my clients that they must be very realistic in the listing price. A key factor many sellers do not consider is having the listing become stagnant. Once it has been on the market for a number of weeks without any offers – it loses its urgency! Buyers are less likely to offer list or closer to list pricing. The longer the home sits on the market the more likely you are to receive low ball offers! If your home has been on the market for a long time – many Realtors will discourage new clients from seeing it if they have already been through with other clients. It needs work or it’s not what you’re looking for are comments buyers often hear. Buyers don’t even get a chance to come see your home, even if they were marginally interested.

Most of our stages since this summer have sold within the first few weeks to a month. The Sellers are realistic about the asking price, the home looks beautiful, the photos are fabulous and the homes are selling quickly! Most are very close to asking price, and some are still selling at over asking price because the urgency and the competition for a well-priced home in fabulous condition is still high! However, these homes have to be in great condition and looking fabulous! We’ve had a few homes that were over-priced (by the Realtors assessment) and they take longer to sell than average and they sell for below the asking price.

We have many different staging packages for occupied and vacant homes. Occupied homes typically require one of our Accessory Packages. Occupied homes usually have most, if not all, of their own furniture. We will often re-arrange what the home owner has to better showcase the spaces in the home. We top off the furniture with a beautiful accessory package of artwork and accessories to compliment the color and style of the home. These packages are customized for each property but include things like accent furniture, area rugs, throw pillows, artwork, décor, bathroom décor. The amount of décor is often dictated by the budget of the homeowner but starts around $750 and go up from there for a larger home. This includes all moving, design, packing and set up and rental costs for the first month. It is an excellent starter package that can turn an ordinary home into a highly sought after home! The second month rental costs start at around $325 but can be dictated by the client budget.

Staging a vacant home typically includes a living room, dining room &/or eat in kitchen, master bedroom and bathroom. Depending upon the layout and the amount of furniture required, and how many rooms need to be staged the starting cost is around $1500 and can go up from there depending on the home and the budget. This includes all design and labour costs for packing, set up, take down and pack up. It also includes all moving costs to and from the home.  It also includes the first month rental. Second month rental costs usually start around $750 for all furniture and accessories and go up from there based on amount of décor and number of rooms staged. 

When we complete a stage job it is “picture ready”! Typically our Realtors schedule their photographers right after us so they can get the pictures on-line asap and start marketing the property and creating the interest and excitement! The key to a fast sale is running with this excitement and generating as much interest as possible as quickly as possible to create that sense of urgency that leads to those great offers every seller is still hoping to receive!

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

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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!

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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!