Tag Archives: rentals

Perfect Holiday Preparations

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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!

Furniture Planning for Open Concepts Spaces – BUYER BEWARE

 

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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.

 

 

Key Points to Successful Real Estate Flips

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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!

 

 

 

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

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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!

Selective Discrimination

Renting-property

After spending 20+ years working in the Real Estate Industry, we’ve seen enough to shock even the hardiest individuals. I’ve always found it extremely frustrating to see constant stigma and open hostility and discrimination if someone was a property owner/landlord. Discriminating against someone based on their “source of income” is a clear violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act. However, the clear and open hostility, from government officials, police, Media, The Residential Tenancies Branch, and the general public would never be accepted if it was directed at any other minority group! If fact, we see examples of the media addressing issues of racial discrimination on a daily basis in either newspaper or TV.  Yet, for some unfathomable reason, society feels it’s acceptable to take a stand against the mean, nasty, greedy property owner. For one and one reason only – their “source of income”. This is a clear violation of Human Rights Act! Yet no media have EVER (that I have seen) raised the issue of how unjustified this discrimination is.

Last time I checked, statistics said that approximately 50% of all rental units in the city were owned by small “Mom and Pop” operators. These numbers may have changed, with all the new building in the last year or so. However, these are the people that work hard at a regular job, scrape together the savings for a down payment on an investment property, in the hopes that it will give them a better return on their savings than a bank interest rate that is often less than the rate of inflation! They are your neighbors, your co-workers, your family and your friends. They are generally good honest people who work hard just like you do. Yet, the outright hatred and open hostility they face is so overwhelming, that many become frustrated and sell off their property to eliminate the stress of the discrimination.

One recent seller told me that after a tenant literally shot up the suite with a gun; walls, ceiling, everything has to be replaced. No way to collect the damages from the tenant. It’s the owner’s responsibility to track the tenant down and attempt to impose a Queen’s Bench garnishment order on their bank account or place of employment in order to collect the damages. They can close their bank account or leave it inactive. They can quit and work somewhere else, if you can’t track them down, you don’t collect. 

On the flip side, our Provincial Government openly discriminates against the landlords solely because of their source of income. If a landlord owes a tenant money, the RTB can redirect the rent from that house to pay the judgement to the tenant, if the landlord doesn’t pay. If that isn’t enough, they can order rent re-directed from ANY other property you own to pay that settlement. So, they do the work of collecting for the benefit of the tenant, but the landlord is left taking time off work to continually chase down a tenant that keeps changing jobs, and banks. The only difference between the two groups is the source of income. 

The misguided and WRONG attitude by our illustrious Government and Media is that Landlords are all rich, savvy, with lawyers and employees and lots of time on their hands to have someone else look after chasing down tenants who refuse to pay their debts. The REALITY is they are hardworking people with full time regular jobs they cannot afford to take time off from because they are left with $20,000 repair bill! Where is the fairness? Where is the justice? If you, as the Government, are going to collect for one group of people (tenants), how can you LEGALLY discriminate against the other group (Landlords)?! If you can re-direct a landlord’s income to pay a tenant, why can you not redirect a tenants’ income to pay the Landlords what they are owed?! There is something seriously wrong with this system. 

Yes, there was a well-known Property Management Company that was recently disciplined by the Manitoba Securities Commission. The individuals responsible have been held accountable and are no longer in a position where they can cause further issues. However, the overall public and media attitude has become that much more hostile towards Landlords and Property Management Companies as a whole as a result. Why are we judging the group by the actions of one or two? Why do we allow people to get away with this type of generalized hatred? When it comes to discrimination based on race, color, sexual preference, etc…, open discrimination like this would be front page news and people would be protesting in front of the Legislature. Yet it seems discrimination by source of income, painting all Landlords with the brush of a few bad apples, is acceptable and commonplace and everyone turns a blind or critical eye. 

For the record, we used to own a number of rental properties and a property management company. I’ve seen and experienced this discrimination first hand and it is extremely stressful and so full of hate – just because we owned/managed rental property. We rarely collected from tenants when the RTB issued a judgement. When we finally sold our last property we were left with approximately $50,000 – $60,000 in unpaid judgements and considerably more for those that never made it to a hearing as they disappeared before you could ever serve them paperwork. Just before I retired I had an experience that would stay with me for the rest of my life. I was filing paperwork at the RTB offices downtown. There was a middle aged ethnic couple there with a RTB officer and they were crying. They couldn’t get a tenant out of their house and the RTB wouldn’t explain the correct procedure to them. “It’s all online – it’s all on the paperwork”. They obviously did not speak English well and no one would help them. I spoke to them and found out the tenant had been there for more than 6 months without paying rent. Utilities were being unpaid and they could no longer pay for the mortgage on the rental house and their own house. They were being ordered by the RTB to pay the utilities on the rental property. They had tried 3 times to evict the tenant, but they didn’t serve the paperwork in the right order, or the right form, etc. They had filed and had a number of hearings but because their paperwork was “not in order” the tenant was allowed to stay rent free, and they were told they had to refile and start again and wait for a new hearing. They were behind on their home mortgage and were at risk of losing both homes if they couldn’t get this sorted out. They both worked full time and couldn’t continue to take time off work, they needed the income. They were recent immigrants and had put all their savings into the 2 homes. I spent some time with them and the worker, showed them what they had to do and in what order. They were very grateful and I can only hope things turned out well for them. I couldn’t understand why our Government can offer language interpretations services to tenants in multiple languages but will not make any effort for the Landlord. That day I returned to my car and cried. It was so unfair and there was nothing I could do to change it. The hatred and stigma and unfairness of it all was more than what I was prepared to continue living with. That day I decided I wanted out of the business and began selling off every last property. I’ve never been happier!

We saw everything. A client was thinking of purchasing a property and requested we go have a look at it. We walked in with the realtor to find water pooling through the kitchen, living room and to the front door. There were 2 young boys, maybe 6 – 8 years old. They were sitting on the sofa playing video games and the electrical cord and video box was on the floor and was centimeters from water pooling around it. I had rubber soled shoes and ran to the electrical outlet and unplugged everything seconds before the water surrounded the electronics. The kitchen faucet was left running, dishes and empty alcohol bottles were overflowing. The children hadn’t eaten, mom was passed out on a mattress with a baby maybe 6 months old crying beside her. The milk in the baby’s bottle was curdled and chunky. We called social services and police. Another image I will always remember. We’ve seen piles of human feces in homes where the water was turned off for non-payment. It’s hard to get rid of that image!

We’ve seen suites where there have been murders; suicides and attempted murders and attempted suicides. People just angry and frustrated with life and think it’s Ok to take out their frustrations on other people’s property. The amount of damage we have seen over the years is well into the millions of dollars. This never reaches the news. The odd time someone hears about it they think “rich property owner can afford it”. Really?! Then why do we hear about it when someone goes on a vandalism streak and smashes car windows in a neighborhood?! Why doesn’t the same attitude apply? You’re a “rich car owner” after all… The number of people who contact me selling their rental properties, always with the same horror stories and frustration is insane. This is such a black eye on Manitoba. It’s time someone took notice and began working for change!

Years ago, after evicting a tenant for not paying the rent, he called our home and threatened my 6 year old daughter in the most foul language, and told her he was coming to kill us all. I grabbed the phone away and blocked his number instantly and called police. There was nothing they could do because “it was a Landlord/Tenant issue” call the RTB. The RTB doesn’t deal with issues like that – they told me to call the police! Unbelievable! He threatened my 6 year old child! No one gave a damn cause I was a Landlord! Didn’t matter, but someone can be sitting taking pictures in a park and everyone hears about it for fear they “might” be a child molester. My daughter was terrified and traumatized and I couldn’t do a thing except change our telephone number and set the alarm! Why? Because we were “landlords”! Just so very sadly wrong in every aspect. Just wrong!

The reality is that right is right and wrong is wrong. It is not right to destroy another person’s property, regardless of the circumstances. It is not alright to utter threats or assault others. It is not okay to discriminate against anyone, based on ANY of the categories under the Human Rights Act. It’s not okay to fight for someone’s rights while you openly stomp on another’s. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and equally based on who they are and what they have or have not done. Putting people into “groups” and judging them based on their belonging to this “group” is inappropriate and unfair and unjust. I’ve always been fair and dealt with people as individuals. I just wish our Provincial Government and our Media could do the same and stop championing some groups while slaying others. Discrimination happens in many ways – it is never right or acceptable! People are not all of the same character, regardless of the “group” we “belong” to.