Tag Archives: MB

Everyone Wants a Deal but Buyer Beware….


It doesn’t matter what you are buying, it is critical to ensure you know what you will be getting before you sign on the dotted line. Winnipeg is known as “Wholesale City” – everyone is looking for a deal. There’s nothing wrong with being a savvy shopper but it is extremely important to read the fine print before signing on the dotted line. Make sure you are getting a better price, not less service or an inferior product that is seriously over charged when compared to comparable products or service.

Beware the undercut deal that appears too good to be true. In most cases, if it looks too good to be true – it often is! If someone’s cost is that much less, there is usually a reason why. This is the case in Renovations, Home Staging and even listing contract for Real Estate. We often see this in design when home owners compare products of different quality – just because flooring looks the same doesn’t mean it wears the same, has the same warranty or the same properties. There is a reason for the price difference!

We offer different staging packages based on the budget and services required. We can bring in a bit more inventory to give a home a more lived in and natural look or if budgets require, we can keep the design minimal without sacrificing the overall integrity of the design. I’ve seen home owners compare staging costs for a full stage and go with a competitor whose price was a lower by $150 and receive less than half the furniture & décor we were bringing in. The home owner was furious with the finished product but the contract was signed and the furniture was in place. He called us to ask if this was normal. Minimal décor and furniture should not sacrifice the overall look of a space. Staging with half of a sectional with the sectional brackets clearly visible in the photos just should not be done.

Looking only at the price can lead to a huge disappointment. Look at what you are getting for the price. I often have this discussion with my Realtors. A home owner will list a home for a lower commission only to find that their home is never advertised anywhere! Then they want to switch to another Realtor and find they cannot and are locked into an agreement with the discount Realtor. It’s not all about price! You cannot expect to get the same level of service at a substantially lower price. We see this frequently in the reno industry, as well. Home owners go with the cheapest quote then are not happy with the quality of work. They then need to find someone else to fix the poor work. Then they often find themselves in a dispute or court with the first contractor. The job takes longer to complete and costs more than if they had just taken a mid-range quote to begin with. When I worked in the property management industry, cheapest was never best in my experience. If you want the cheapest you typically are sacrificing quality or service! My husband says you have three options the best quality, best service or the best price. Pick which 2 are most important to you because all three do not go together.

So, when it comes to staging, communicate what you are trying to achieve and what your budget is. Realtors if you are getting quotes for your clients, ensure you are comparing the same design with the same amount of product. Get photos of comparable jobs to show your vendor before your client takes the lowest bid and gets half a stage job! Getting 3 bids is like getting 3 Realtors to compete for a listing with nothing but the commission as the determining factor. That does nothing to provide your vendor with the best service and product at the best price. After all, that is what is important and will reflect best on you, recommending the best service and product at the best price. If your client wants to stay within a certain budget then let us know what that budget is and we will give you a design based on that budget. If the budget is not realistic we will let you know but that is very rarely the case.

The important thing is establishing yourself as a Realtor with a strong power team of complimentary professional service providers to help get your vendors’ home listed and sold quickly! Cheap products and shoddy services will ultimately reflect poorly on the person who made the referral. Your vendor is looking to you as the expert, so take the extra step and compare more than just the cost. Make sure you are recommending your client choose the best services for the most reasonable cost rather than half the services at 95% of the cost! Or turn it around and say you could have half the stage job for this price, or you could have a complete stage job for an additional $150! You end up with a listing that looks a hundred times better, sells faster and makes you look that much better to your vendor. The better a home looks, the more showings you will get and the faster the home will sell. Happy clients are great for more referrals!


Key Points When Planning a Renovation


Before& After

Before & After

We are constantly bombarded with technology. Emails, home décor and design sites all claiming their own expertise, well intentioned friends and family sharing what they have found online, there is so much information for a home owner to consider when renovating. The reality is simple. As much as you might LOVE a certain look, there are limitations to what will “work” and will “look great” in any given space. The best advice is to go to the experts. As well intentioned as family and friends are, unless they are professionals in the industry, it’s best to listen and thank them for their input and get a second Professional’s opinion.

I’ve been working in the residential home industry in Winnipeg for over 20 years. In that time, I have seen some fabulous renos and some total blunders. As well-meaning as family and friends can be, remember it’s always easier to spend someone else’s money! They love a design and think you should try it. If it doesn’t look good – no harm done… What some are really saying is you be the guinea pig and if I like it, maybe I will spend my own money! There are basic rules that we, as Designers and Decorators use to ensure we actually improve your home and increase it value and appeal!

The Appraisal Institute of Canada (AIC) is a great place to start for ideas. You need a realistic budget to determine what you should spend on your renos. The AIC can help you determine what is a reasonable amount to spend on a renovation so that you get your money back when you sell your home! Appraisers are the professionals that determine your homes actual value – regardless of what you have spent to purchase it, or renovate it. The value they determine (based on comparable properties in your immediate neighborhood) is what the banks use as your home value for mortgages! It is THE VALUE! This is where I like to start in determining what renovations should be done to update a home. It also determines how much we should look at spending and PREVENTS a home owner from overspending on renovations!

Most of the websites that email you and your friend’s ideas are out to sell. Whether it is advertising they are selling and entice people to their websites to see their advertisers or they are selling products, they want you to come to their site. They do not care about the value of your home, or whether your renovation will work well for you and your family. The only thing they care about is selling their product/service. Sure they may be full of pictures with great ideas but ideas are only as good as the space they are implemented in. I cannot count the number of times we meet someone who wants a major bathroom reno and show me a picture of a 250 sf bathroom with all deluxe fixtures and tile. Then they take me to their 80 sf bathroom and ask me how I would fit everything they want in the space?! There just isn’t the same amount of square footage to work with! We either have make the bathroom larger or scale down the project for the space.

Another huge issue we see again and again is the cost factor. When you are dealing with websites the cost is relative to the area the picture was taken and where the job was done. This could be in Minnesota or Phoenix or Vancouver or Hawaii! The same project will cost different based on the location! Materials that are readily available in one location may need to be shipped to another. This adds additional expense. When we start comparing US $$ to CND $$ there is a huge cost difference for many building products. When you add the exchange rate, shipping, duty etc.… the same products can cost considerably more here. That is why it is critical to compare LOCAL pricing and not INTERNET pricing.

Another important feature of online shopping to be aware of is size. Many products come in different sizes. Just because something is cheaper doesn’t mean it’s a “great deal”! There have been many times when clients have ordered their own materials. When the product arrives, they are stunned to find the product was much smaller than what they were expecting! Same product, smaller size, lower cost! It is critical to go over the specifications of a product before you order. Everything from the features to the actual dimensions should be compared to make sure you are getting a better price for the EXACT SAME product! Your Designers and Decorators deal with this on a regular basis. We know what to check before the order is placed. Furthermore, we may be much more familiar with certain products in our local market that you have not seen online. Many websites promise delivery in a few days or a week or 2. However, delivery can actually be 4-8 weeks out. This can have a significant impact on your renovation. Each market is unique and has unique aspects of climate and product type that works best in that market or situation.

Although websites and family and friends can be great for inspiration, a Professional will always be your best source of information for your particular local market. Whether planning a floor plan, determining a realistic budget for the scope of your project, or sourcing product for you, we will have a much more encompassing approach than any website. When you want a Professional job – go to the local Professionals!


Learn how to MAKE money on your Renovation at the Winnipeg Renovation Show this Coming Weekend Jan 13 – 15th


Living Room

Living Room

Our New Year gets off and running instantly with the Winnipeg Renovation Show this coming weekend Jan 13 – 15th. Although preparation and planning are often well underway in October/November for the show, the final details all happen right after the Holidays. Our booth is set up in the shop and we will be doing the final design and packing Monday so we can deliver and start set up! We have an extra special booth planned this year with a fabulous new look! We are also doing 2 stage presentations, Friday 13th at 5:00 pm “Planning your Kitchen or Bath Renovation”. We take you through a renovation from concept to completion. Sunday Jan 15th at 2:00 “Ensure the Best Return on your Renovation Dollar” where we show clients the best improvements to ensure they not only get a full return on their renovation dollar but how to learn to MAKE money on their home renovation by increasing the value of their home significantly higher than the cost of their renovation!

Quite often when clients contact us regarding a renovation, they have an idea of what they would like to do but have not worked out all the details! It’s critical to determine what’s not working for them and what they need to improve the space. Sometimes after speaking to the client we can find that what they thought they liked (ie. their friend recently had done) would not work great in their space or for their family. However, we always find an alternative that works beautifully for their home and family. It’s equally important to take in the budget and the value of the home. Every home has a “critical ceiling value”. This is basically the top selling price you can expect for that home based on similar properties in the neighborhood. We want to ensure that the renovation doesn’t push the home owner’s investment in that home well beyond what they can hope to obtain in a selling price. People renovate for many different reasons but I have never met a client who didn’t want to get back the money they invest in a renovation. So home value plays just as important role in determining the details of the renovations as does the functionality and logistics of the renovation. Over the last number of years, many home owners were forced into bidding wars when purchasing their homes. Some have seen a market correction in the value of their home, lower than what they initially paid. Investing properly in an upgrade can help bring the value of the home back to where they can get their money back or even make money on their home. It’s all about knowing the numbers and making them work in your favor! Only then can we look at the different possibilities within the property budget to determine the best solutions for your family and your home!

I am frequently called in for alternate ideas or a second opinion on a design/reno quote. The estimate was not through Maximum or our partner company, KAT Reno and I never ask who the estimate is from. A homeowner whose home is worth $280,000 – $300,000 finds it very unrealistic to spend $100,000 – $120,000 on a kitchen renovation. It is really shocking how many times estimates are given well above what the property value dictates is reasonable for the home owner to spend. In the reno world, anything can be done for a price. However, our job as professionals is also to help the client determine what the best option is for their home and situation. Personally, I could never feel good about a job knowing the client would not get the money invested in their renovation back from their home sale. At the very least, I would ensure the client was aware of the comparable properties and values before they decided to proceed, knowing full well that if they had to sell in the near future they would not get their money back. A common misunderstanding is that if they use better quality materials, they will then get more money. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Once you go into the higher price range, the buyers often have many more options available to them, frequently newer homes in newer neighborhoods. So for a buyer to buy an older, remodeled home, at the top price range in their neighborhood, the buyer MUST have a strong desire to be in that neighborhood specifically. Their Realtor will often tell them that the home is over-priced and they would get better value elsewhere.

One of the biggest rules in Real Estate is that you make money buying the ugly house on a nice block and doing the improvements. Buying the nicest house in an average neighborhood typically means there is little room for your home value to improve as it must wait for the neighborhood homes to increase in value before your home value increases. However, purchasing a dated home with sound structure and mechanicals and spending intelligently on the right renovations can add tens of thousands of dollars to your net worth! That is after all how real estate investors make a living! Knowing what to do and how much to spend is the key to building additional equity in your home and adding value to families net worth! Join us for more details at the Reno Show this coming weekend!




Perfect Holiday Preparations


With the Holidays just around the corner, the pressure seems to be on. So many people I speak to are so stressed about not only getting things done, but making them perfect. There is a misperception that as a Decorator, my home and Holiday décor is meticulous. My Holiday preparation is always done perfectly. Sorry to disappoint you – that is just not the case over here! I am always the first to find room for improvement with my own preparations and décor. It may look great to someone else, but to me, it could be better. That is exactly how so many other women (and some men) feel. We judge ourselves much too harshly, often more harshly than others.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am very casual and although I like things well done and looking good, if it doesn’t happen just the way I want sometimes – it’s just not worth stressing over. I love spending time with my family and friends. The time spent together is what is most important to me, not how things look. The food on the other hand is very important – it must look and taste great! All prep takes time and that is something many of us have in short supply this time of year.

With our new showroom opening and a spurt of rush jobs right through to Christmas, we have had little time to spend on our usual Christmas Prep. I love the Holidays and typically have my décor up in November. Shopping is usually finished by early December and then we just have fun baking and cooking. That’s not the case this year. The time seems to be moving past at the speed of light and I cannot seem to catch up. Stress levels start to creep up and I need to remind myself to relax.

I still have Christmas shopping to complete, baking to finish, and next week I will start most of the food prep for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We had work done at the cottage so we need to clean and decorate the cottage so we can entertain friends and family at the cottage as well as in our home. One more place I still need to decorate, clean, and prep for the Holidays. Everything needs to be ready at the cottage so that when we get there, all we bring is the food and we are ready for anyone to stop by! My home and cottage are always a warm and relaxed place over the holidays.

Clients and friends tell me about guests they will be hosting over the Holidays that make them feel less than “perfect”. Do not give anyone that much influence over your Holiday festivities. There will always be people who take pleasure at knocking others down to make themselves feel good. That says more about them than about you! We all lead busy lives and do the best we can with the time we have. If it’s not good enough for someone else – they are obviously not concerned for your well-being, so don’t give them the power to ruin your special day! Holidays are for fun and laughter and love. Holidays are for family and friends. People who care for you honestly do not want to see you stress to the point that you don’t enjoy your Holiday. Chose to spend your time with people who care, and even when you must host more challenging people, don’t give them the power to ruin your day!

Give yourself permission to relax and be less than perfect. Try not to judge yourself harshly. Appreciate everything you have accomplished, how beautiful everything looks, and how wonderful things taste. Take time to look around the room and watch family and friends as they smile, laugh and share stories as they catch up with each other’s lives. Rest assured, your family and friends are more concerned with catching up, eating, drinking, laughing and having fun than the perfection of the scene you create! Provide a warm and welcoming ambiance for everyone to relax and enjoy! Then kick back, relax a little and enjoy your special Holiday Gathering!

Happy Holidays Everyone! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! May 2017 bring you health happiness and prosperity! See you in the New year!

Get What You Really Want!

Staged Rec Room

Staged Rec Room

We are currently in the midst of doing some renovations in our own rec room. It is so much easier designing for others. I know what will look great instantly in another’s space. I always second guess myself when it’s for my own home/cottage/office. I have definitely been using my designers for second opinions! So thankful I have such talented girls! Biggest lesson I’ve learned over the last little while, is not to settle for less than what I really want.

I’m really pretty easy going in my own personal style and home design. I want it to be functional, neat and clean and have just a touch of flair! I like things in order, but I also like a little “POP” of something unique for interest. I have really stressed over the carpeting and paint and fireplace stone for our rec room. Finally had it all firmed up and then found out that the stone I wanted was back ordered. Sucks when this happens. We have the option to wait for it to come in – or to substitute something else. Guess, I will have to head down to the shop and see what else I may like or if we can determine a firm “back order” date.

I understand clients’ frustrations when we work so hard to put a look together only to find that something is discontinued. It’s happens no matter how hard we try to keep samples current! Reality is even when we are notified by the manufacturer, there are times clients already have those samples. It’s so hard to explain something is no longer available after they have their minds made up. However, we sometimes just have no choice. One thing I have learned is that it is best to make the selection in person! If possible, bring the samples into the room they will be installed. Check the lighting and shading at different times of the day. The same product can look different in the same space just with different natural light from daylight to evening. Make sure you like it at all times of the day before you proceed. If possible, have all the samples you plan on using together (like a color board) with paint, flooring, tile, cabinets, counters, etc.! It’s so much better to take your time making the “right” selection than to rush into something you do not like and then regret it. After all most renovations are not inexpensive so if you plan on spending the money – spend it on something you really love!

My most common words of wisdom are to focus on the most expensive items first. Things like flooring, cupboards, counters, tile – these are more limited in options than your paint colors or décor/accessories. Use the most expensive purchasers as the base of your color scheme and work from there. Make sure you love the items you will spend the most on, chances are you will be much less likely to change those items in a few years. However, things like paint and décor are easily changed for a fresh new look. There are literally hundreds of thousands of paint colors. We can find a paint color to go with pretty much anything! However, flooring, cabinets, counters and tile are all limited in their colors, styles and selections. So, choose the more limited items first. Make sure all aspects of the design blend well and then pick a paint color that will compliment your selections! It’s so much easier than trying to match flooring or furniture to a paint color! I know paint usually goes on first and most people choose materials in order that they are required. We work with you to ensure you make your choices in a cohesive manner that encompasses the complete design. This is the only way to really have a beautifully finished space that just flows! In fact, some may call it designer perfect!

So, take your time, pick your materials with care, and ask a designer for help if you need a second opinion! After all, it’s much easier to get a second opinion before anything is completed than to change something after its installed because it just doesn’t look right! Time spent in careful planning will ensure you get the space you really want and will love for years to come!



Summer Fun

Staged Living Room

Staged Living Room

Its hard to believe it’s September! Where did summer go? We are always very busy in summer but this year, we took on an extra project that ran us a bit ragged. We are in the final stages of renovating our new Home Staging and Design Showroom! All the staff for Maximum Impact Plus and Kat Reno are so excited! We are planning our Grand Opening for October. It will be such a treat to have everything in one location. We were fortunate to have a unit come available adjacent to our current warehouse location so we just doubled our space! We will be announcing our Grand Opening in October 2016!

There were a number of fabulous design and decorating projects we worked on this summer. A beautiful high-end bathroom renovation with a definite beach theme. It turned out perfectly beautiful and the owners were just thrilled. We also completed a backyard oasis that was featured in Home and Renovations Magazine. It had a multi-level deck; BBQ area; sunshade; stone patio; LED lights that “dance” to your favourite tunes; and of course, multiple sitting areas to enjoy all the wonderful views! Client was thrilled with the final product and has been enjoying her space daily! We have also completed a number of kitchen reno projects. There is something incredibly rewarding about helping families make the most of their space and increase the value of their homes! I always say we have the BEST careers possible!

We also had one of our stage jobs featured on Global TV morning show It was so exciting to walk through a stage job with a camera crew and explain the various aspects of a design and why it was planned down to the last detail to best showcase the space. Home Staging is so much more than just filling an empty space with furniture and accessories. We need to use the best furniture and accessories to best display how a space can be used. We must be sensitive to architectural details as well as overall style and character of a space. There is something so incredibly satisfying for our whole team when a space comes together just perfectly!! It’s so much better than just a job well done – it almost feels like a piece of art that we have all put our own personal touches on. Such a rewarding day at the “office”!

Our staging side has been going just crazy this summer. We have had a constant flow of stage jobs in and out. We even had a number of properties sell on the first day! Just LOVE IT when this happens! Earlier this summer we had our new summer stock arrive so we have thoroughly enjoyed designing new rooms with our fun and funky new furniture and accessories. There seem to be countless combinations of new “looks” for us to play with. With the new showroom space coming soon, we are looking forward to re-arranging our warehouse to make it even more functional and getting in some new exciting furniture.

We are really looking forward to going to the Furniture Show this fall. The plan is to have a revolving display of “staged rooms” in the showroom. Everything from a classic and traditional design to a modern contemporary fun and funky design. I can’t wait to see the spaces we feature in the showroom. It’s going to be so much fun!

Our Design and Decorating side has also grown substantially. Kat Reno now offers Durabilt Windows and Doors and Maximum Impact Plus has become a distributor for Hunter Douglas window coverings. For years, we have sub contracted out window coverings on our decorating projects. So, we are thrilled to be able to finally offer a complete design package. We start with the rough space, plan a functional floor plan, and design with flooring, cabinets, paint, etc. Our renovation experts from KAT Reno come in and bring the vision of our team and the client into reality and then we step back in to finish off the space with furniture, accessories and window coverings. It is truly a pleasure working with our clients from the initial planning phase right through to the last accessory and piece of artwork that has been completely custom designed for the client and their space.

I certainly have learned something this summer. It is very true that it is so much more difficult to design for yourself. Our showroom has been by far, the most challenging project for us. We have done multiple commercial spaces, so I know the drill. However, when doing it for yourself, you act as both client and designer. It is really hard to remember to ask ALL the appropriate questions at the right time! More than once I have awoken in the middle of the night thinking “oh NO….I forgot about…” It does not help that this is our busiest time of the year as well. I will be so happy when the showroom/offices are completed and we can settle in and just focus on business again. Hopefully getting back into some regular hours with the fall. Then again, we still have our rec room we have to complete so our daughter can teach piano one night a week. Lessons start soon so I guess we better get cracking on that project this coming week. We also received our new Durabuilt Windows this summer, so those must go in. I am so fussy about carrying product lines. I want to try them myself so I can make proper recommendations to clients based on experience! Guess we still have a bit of work over the next month before we can relax. Hope you all enjoyed a wonderful and relaxing summer! Here’s wishing you all a fabulous new school/work year! Enjoy! Be Happy! Stay Healthy!


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


living room

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?


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!