How to Stage an Entryway

blog-entryway-stagingThe entryway (or foyer or entrance hall, depending on what part of the country you’re from) is literally the first impression buyers will have of the interior of your home — making this space appealing is the first step in helping buyers establish a particular feeling about your house. As with all first impressions, buyers will form an opinion about your house within a matter of seconds — either positive or negative — that they will try to further support as they view the rest of your home. If that first impression is a good one, they tend to look for attributes throughout the home tour that will support those initial feelings.

So what’s the best way to stage the entryway when selling your home?

Be objective. This can be hard to do on your own so you may want to enlist the help of a friend, real estate agent, or (ahem…) a professional home stager. Take a hard look at your entryway. Is it inviting and easily accessible? Are you tripping over shoes and looking at a tangle of keys and dog leashes hanging on the wall? Do you need to create an entryway? 

Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Do you have a soaring ceiling or beautiful hardwood floors? How about a crack in the tile or an outdated light fixture? Identify the pros and cons of this space. What are some ways you can help emphasize your positive features to make them stand out and downplay your negatives?

Simplify and reduce. This area should be almost completely devoid of any untidiness. When in doubt, get rid of it.

  • Remove coat racks, shoe racks, key holders, leashes, etc. — basically any piece of furniture or decor designed to collect and organize the clutter of daily living.
  • Remove rugs and mats, at least for MLS photos and showings. They are a visual distraction and break up the floor space, making it look smaller. The exception: if you’ve got really awful or damaged floors and need a distraction.
  • Remove any items that allow the buyer to profile who lives there (i.e., religious icons, family photos, etc.) They create a distraction for buyers. 
  • Replace or update old lighting and door hardware. Again, simply spray painting them will sometimes do the trick (this won’t work for all homes). We like the color “Oil-Rubbed Bronze” by Rustoleum.  

Create a marketing “hook.” Use a few props and decor to connect with your buyers on an emotional level by staging a space that says life would be “just right” if they bought this house — clean, welcoming, uncluttered, organized.

  • Create a welcoming spot for buyers to envision walking in from a long day at work and having just the right spot to set down their keys and mail. Use a simple, low profile table with a large piece of art or a mirror over it to reflect light. Add a lamp for warmth.
  • A potted plant or a beautiful, fragrant bouquet of flowers smooths the transition for buyers by bringing the outdoors in. **Maintaining a fresh/living flower arrangement is hard for most sellers when their home is on the market, and it’s practically impossible to do in a vacant house. Instead, invest is beautiful realistic-looking faux plants.**

We love helping home sellers work with what they have to transform their entryways (and the rest of their home!) into a space where home buyers fall in love. If you’re getting ready to put your Katy, TX home on the market, call Three Bears Home Staging at (832) 377-0785 to schedule your Walk & Talk Consultation! And to learn more about DIY staging for entryways and other areas of your home, you can also check out our new book, Just Right! DIY Home Staging, now available on Amazon and iBooks!

 

Title photo by ZandersDirect  via Pixabay under Creative Commons License CC0

Transform Your Back Patio: Staging Outdoor Spaces

blog-outdoor-stagingWhen preparing your home to sell, it’s easy to overlook the potential additional living space you can create right in your backyard! Creating a welcoming outdoor patio or deck area is a great way to add “mental” square footage in a buyer’s mind. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2017 Profile of Home Staging report, 63% of buyers ranked staging outdoor spaces as “important” or “very important.” Lack of entertainment space often prevents people from fully enjoying their backyard, but with a few staging tricks, it’s easy to transform your patio into an appealing, relaxing space for yourself or potential buyers.

  • Clean up. It’s hard to imagine oneself entertaining or relaxing in a grimy, dirty space. Start fresh and get rid of all the pollen, cobwebs, and insect nests that have accumulated. Break out the power-washer, if necessary, or just hose everything down. Wipe down existing furniture, light fixtures, and fan blades. Toss out moldy, mildewy cushions.
  • Create seating. If you’re limited on space this may be a little harder, but even a bench or a couple of comfy chairs will help communicate a message of relaxation to guests or potential buyers.
  • Add pillows. This will instantly make your porch more fun and cozy. I highly recommend using longer-wearing “weatherproof” fabrics (I have cushions covered with Sunbrella fabric, and I love them. They’re out all the time and never get gross.).
  • Plant. You can’t overdo it when it comes to flowers. Whether they’re hanging in baskets, blooming on bushes, or sprouting in pots, flowers add a feeling of luxury and have a strong draw on potential buyers.
  • Consider a rug. Not all spaces can accommodate one, but a fresh, clean rug can definitely pull a seating area together and create a cozier vibe. Make sure you use a rug that’s labeled for outdoor use.
  • Eat! Love of good food can always bring people together so if you have the space, add a dining area as well! For small areas, a bistro table with a couple of chairs and a nice pot of flowers work well. If you’ve got an uncovered patio area, use a table with a large umbrella to provide plenty of shade and show potential buyers that outdoor dining is no problem!

With the right touches, you can transform even a tiny patio into a little oasis of nature.  If you’re selling your Katy, TX home and need a little help staging your back patio or other rooms in your house, contact the HSR certified home staging professionals at Three Bears Home Staging, and we’ll help you get started!

Title photo credit: “Decorating Ideas For Your Patio and Conservatory” by www.wickerparadise.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

How to Hang Art (and How to Figure Out Exactly Where to Put the Nail in the Wall)

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Gallery wall we installed for a client in the Rice Military district.

Whether it’s decorating a new space or staging a home for sale, hanging art can be a stressful challenge. Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what doesn’t feel right, but often the issue is either art that is disproportionally-sized for the space or art that’s been hung too high. But fear not! We’ve compiled a list of helpful tips, along with a Magic Formula for nail placement that will alleviate the stress of hanging and arranging artwork.

Common sense disclaimer: This is not intended to be a cure-all answer for every single art-hanging situation you may have in your life. While it’s been our experience that these tips work in many houses we’ve staged, they may not work in all situations.

  • Gather your tools. A tape measure, a level, a hammer, maybe a drill, and the appropriate hanging hardware are necessary for most jobs. Heavier pieces may require more than a simple nail. Floreat hangers and Monkey Hook picture hangers are two of my favorites for hanging large art and both leave minimal damage to walls.
  • Use chalk to make marks on the wall — it comes off SO much more easily than a pencil mark!
  • Since eye level is a bit of a generalization (even within a single household “eye levels” may vary considerably), many art galleries and interior designers recommend using around 5 feet from the floor as the centering point for artwork. This is a bit lower than where many people naturally tend to hang their artwork. Choose your midpoint (I like 60″), and stick with it. Keeping a consistent midline for the art in your house will create a more harmonious, cohesive feeling throughout the house. One exception: When you’re hanging art over a sofa or a headboard, don’t hang it more than 12” or so higher than the furniture. Keep the art visually connected to the furniture not floating high above it.
  • When hanging multiple pictures, treat the entire grouping as one piece of art. Whether it’s 2, 3, or 4 pieces, lay out your arrangement (I usually do this on the floor) to find the center point of the entire cluster and build out from there.

How to Figure Out Where to Put the Nail in the Wall

  1. Measure the height of the entire art piece (X) and divide by two. This will give you the center point of the art.
  2. Add 60 inches.
  3. Next, measure the distance between the top edge of the art and wherever the nail will sit (a hook or the lip of the frame). If you’re hanging a piece that uses a hanging wire, pull it up as taut as possible and measure the distance from that point to the top of the art. We’ll call this distance “Y”.
  4. Subtract Y from the total amount you calculated in Step 2 to find the exact number of inches from the floor where you’ll need to hammer in your nail.
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I know it looks like algebra, but this formula is actually pretty simple and it WORKS for hanging art “just right!”

For example: For a 36-inch painting where the nail hook/stretched hanging wire is 3 inches below the top of the frame (see our example), you should place your nail in the wall 75 inches from the floor so that the artwork’s center will be at 60 inches. Using the steps above, you can see that we calculated 36 inches (length of the art) divided by 2 is 18; add 60 inches to get 78. Then subtract 3 inches (see Step 3), leaving a total of 75 inches, the distance from the floor to where you need to hammer in the nail.

A Few More Tips

  • Keep spacing uniform between individual pictures in a grouping, only a couple of inches apart, for a more cohesive look.
  • Remember scale when selecting artwork to hang over furniture. Your picture or art grouping should be roughly 2/3 the width of the piece of furniture.
  • Step back and take a look at your arrangement. Nudge, scoot, adjust as needed.

If you still need help getting your artwork “just right,” Three Bears Home Staging can help! Call us at (832) 377-0785 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.

How to Take Pictures for Real Estate Listings

blog-how-to-take-picture-for-real-estate-listingsA picture can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, especially when it comes to selling your house. According to a report by the National Association of Realtors, 90% of home buyers across all demographics use the Internet to search for homes, so having top-notch listing photos is critical for getting lots of traffic and a quick sale. Our top two most important tips for getting the best listing photos are pretty straightforward:
  1. Stage all the rooms first. There’s nothing worse than multiple photos of messy, overly personalized rooms to send buyers the message that you’re not serious about selling. If you need help with this part, get in touch with us here.
  2. Use a professional real estate photographer! I cannot overstate the importance of this. Real estate photography requires a very particular skill set, from actually taking the photos to properly editing the finished product. In Katy, TX and the Houston area, hiring a professional real estate photographer is fairly inexpensive and is almost always a good investment when selling your home.

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    On the left, a vacant room room photographed with an iPhone camera. On the right, a well-staged room photographed with a high quality camera and lens.

However…IF you don’t live in an area where real estate photographers are not readily available or if it’s simply outside your price range, you may decide to take your own photos. If thats the case, be sure to keep these tips in mind:

  • Stage all the rooms first. It’s important and bears repeating.
  • Use a good camera. A cell phone probably won’t do the job. 5 Megapixels or higher or a DSLR camera is ideal.
  • Use a tripod. None of the professional photographers I’ve worked with use them, but they don’t need to because they’re pros — you’re probably not. A tripod will give you sharper shots. The ideal height is slightly lower than eye level.
  • Get a wide angle lens. A good one is super expensive (another good reason to hire a pro), but they’re critical to get a decent shot of the whole room, especially bathrooms and other small spaces. You can sometimes rent a lens or purchase an inexpensive one online, but be aware they may create a fishbowl effect or other distortion in the photos.
  • Take photos from the doorway or entrance to the room to give buyers the most complete perspective of the space. You can take other pictures from other angles too but definitely include this one.
  • Use as much natural light as possible. Use flash only as a back-up since it can cause unsightly reflections. Your choice of lighting throughout the house also plays a HUGE role in getting great photos. See our blog post on choosing the right light bulb for optimum results.
  • Avoid taking interior pictures at night unless you want your house to look haunted.
  • Stand with the sun to your back when taking exterior shots of the home. Taking photos at an angle (instead of head-on) to give the photo more depth and dimension. If possible, wait for a day with blue skies to minimize the need for editing.

When your house is staged right, photographed right, and priced right, you’ll have a listing that’s “just right” for bringing in lots of potential buyers!

Title photo credit: “Camera” by Bridget Coila is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Free Printable: New Year Purge List

NewYearPurgeList-ThreeBearsHomeStagingReducing and simplifying (or “de-cluttering” as I prefer NOT to call it) is the hallmark of home staging advice. Most of us think, work, and feel better in an environment that is clean and easy to maintain. The first step toward achieving that goal:  out with the old and in with the new!

Whether you’re planning to sell your home this year or you’re just trying to get more organized in general, getting rid of all the extra clutter is a good baseline from which to start. We’ve put together a handy little check list to help you get the new year off to clean start. You can download our FREE PRINTABLE CHECKLIST by clicking the button below!

Are you reducing and simplifying this January? Share your tips and tricks in the comments! And if you’re thinking of selling your Katy, TX home and need some help figuring out more ways to show your home in its best light, we can help! Give Three Bears Home Staging a call at (832) 377-0785 or contact us here to schedule a consultation.

Three Bears Home Staging’s New Book Arrives on Apple’s iBooks Store

3D-cover-itunesKATY, TEXAS – JANUARY 17, 2018 – Three Bears Home Staging, a Houston-area home staging consulting firm, announced the launch of its first book on the iBooks store. Just Right! Easy DIY Home Staging is a step-by-step guide that walks home sellers through the basics of staging a home for sale, from understanding how buyers think to a room-by-room analysis of how to best prepare each space in the house.

“I find that many of my clients do a great job of staging their own homes with a little professional guidance and some help learning how to see the home more objectively,” said author and owner of Three Bears Home Staging, Vannessa Rhoades. “The goal of this book was to provide that tool at an affordable price to more home sellers, both here in Houston and beyond — because when a house is staged ‘just right’ and priced ‘just right,’ your chances for a faster, more profitable sale are far greater.”

The book is now available on iBooks for $9.99.

About Three Bears Home Staging and author, Vannessa Rhoades

Three Bears Home Staging was founded in 2013 and provides home staging services for homeowners and real estate professionals. The firm specializes in Walk & Talk Staging Consultations for home sellers, providing detailed, objective advice for the fastest, most profitable sale. Three Bears Home Staging has received Houzz’s Best of Customer Service award annually since 2015.

Vannessa Rhoades is an HSR Professionally Certified Home Stager, owner of Three Bears Home Staging, and author of Just Right! Easy DIY Home Staging.

For more information about Just Right! Easy DIY Home Staging, or for additional author information and promotional images, visit ThreeBearsHomeStaging.com.

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How to Create a Cozy Guest Room for Holiday Visitors

blog-How-to-Create-a-Cozy-Guest-Room-for-the-HolidaysAs family and friends descend upon your home for the holiday season, it’s time to get your guest bedroom in shape to receive visitors! Use our helpful tips to make sure you have everything in place to make your guests feel at home.

  • Clean sheets. (Do we really need to point this out, you ask? Why yes, I think it’s important that we do. I was once a guest at a home where the sheets had dried dog vomit on them. Yes, the host knew…and didn’t seem to think it was an issue.) Put freshly laundered sheets on the bed the day before guests arrive and get points for being SuperHost.
  • Fresh towels. See above.
  • Extra pillows and blankets. Keep these easily available regardless of the season. People get cold at night and like to have options.
  • Alarm or clock. This may be especially handy for older guests or those who don’t use their smart phones as clocks. While you’re at it, be sure to have extra electrical outlets available for guests to charge their devices.
  • WiFi password. They’ll probably ask for it anyway.
  • Fan. Fans are a huge relief to people who tend to “sleep hot,” and some guest may just appreciate the white noise they provide.
  • Extra hooks. Space may be at a premium with extra people in the house so invest in a set of handy over-the-door hooks to help guests keep their clothes and towels dry and separate.
  • Blinds or light blocking drapes. This is a thoughtful bonus for guests who prefer to sleep late.
  • Bedside lighting. Guests who like to read before going to sleep will find a pretty lamp on a bedside table especially handy.

Don’t forget to add the fun stuff! Fresh flowers are a sweet touch, as are a few toiletries, like an extra toothbrush, soaps, or shampoos. You might even consider leaving a little tray with some bottled waters and healthy snacks for guests who may not feel comfortable raiding your refrigerator. The main goal is to provide a bright, clean, comfortable space that makes visitors feel relaxed and welcome.

If you need a little help getting your home picture perfect for the holidays or if you’ve been thinking about putting your home on the market, give the experts at Three Bears Home Staging a call to set up a Walk and Talk Consultation!

Take These 3 Steps This Holiday Season to Prepare for a New Year’s Home Sale

Deciding to sell your home is a big step, but almost all home owners will still have a few things to do before actually activating their listing. Remember, buyers assume that a clean, organized, updated home has been well-maintained — and they make the opposite assumption about dirty, cluttered, or dated homes. Once you’ve made the decision to sell, don’t leave any money on the table. Give yourself an edge on a successful sale and a “show ready” home by getting an early start with these three tips this holiday season:

  1. Start paring down the master closet. “This house has way too much storage!” said NO BUYER EVER. It probably goes without saying that an empty closet shows better with buyers than one packed full of clothes and miscellany. That being said, emptying all the closets is not practical for most homeowners so concentrate your efforts on THE most important closet in a home buyer’s decision-making process: the master bedroom closet. Organize, eliminate, and get stuff off the floor. For more detailed info on how to organize your closet for staging, check out our book, Just Right! Easy DIY Home Staging for Bedrooms & Closets, now available in the iBooks store.
  2. Begin de-personalizing. Buyers need to be able to walk into your home and easily envision their family living there — not reminded that they are a guest in someone else’s home. Start packing family photos, collections, sports memorabilia, and anything related to your hobbies or religion. This may feel especially difficult during the holiday season, but if you plan on listing at the first of the year, set yourself up for a faster sale by starting the de-personalization process NOW.
  3. Take care of any maintenance, repairs, or updates. Leaky faucets, that one light switch that doesn’t work, the places on the wall that need touch-up paint…the list goes on and on for most homeowners. NOW is the time to start updating or fixing all those things you’ve been putting off. One trick we use with our clients is blue painter’s tape — just stick a small piece on every spot in your house that needs maintenance or updating. The tape pieces are a constant visual “to-do” list that you can work on in the months leading up to your listing.

When it comes to preparing your home for sale, it’s extremely hard for most sellers to be objective about their own home. Hiring a professional home stager to do a guided Walk and Talk Consultation or even just having an honest, heart-to-heart discussion with your real estate agent a month or more BEFORE you list your home will give you more time to make the changes needed to get you a faster sale and a higher profit. Ready to get started? Call Three Bears Home Staging in Katy, TX at (832) 377-0785 to set up a consultation.

Title photo credit:  “Dishwashing gloves and sponge” by www.yourbestdigs.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Bathrooms: Easy DIY Staging Tips

blog-bathroom-staging-tipsFirst impressions are especially important when it comes to bathrooms, an area where potential home buyers don’t typically spend a lot of time. We’ve outlined a few of our favorite tips for staging your bathroom (and some easy updates even if you’re not trying to sell your home).

  1. Keep it sparkling clean. Remove all traces of dirt and mold from shower doors and tiles. Get rid of rugs and fuzzy toilet seat covers, wipe down baseboards, sweep and mop floors. Dirt, hair, mildew and soap scum are major turn-offs for buyers.
  2. Remove clutter–even if it’s functional. Buyers don’t want to see your combs, toothbrushes, hair dryers, and toiletries stacked on the counter. Keep these personal items in a caddy to easily store out of sight in a cupboard when not in use.
  3. Add spa-like accessories. A few candles, decorative soaps and a beautiful plant (we like orchids) can help any bathroom feel a bit more luxurious. Avoid the temptation to use heavy deodorizers.
  4. Replace old bathroom fixtures with new ones. Sleek, modern fixtures can give your bathroom an instant facelift at a fraction of the cost of a complete renovation. Shop your local home improvement store for inexpensive cabinet hardware, faucets, shower heads, towel bars, toilet paper bars and lights.
  5. Add some high-quality plush towels that coordinate with the rest of the bathroom’s color scheme. Hide your “real” everyday use towels (just toss them in the in the dryer out of sight) when buyers are coming through and put out fresh clean ones — neutral colors typically work best for photos. To get a “spa-like” look, we recommend rolling up a few white hand towels to place on the counter or next to the tub.
  6. Keep counter wipes, glass cleaner, and paper towels handy in every bathroom for quick clean-ups. You never know when that call will come from a potential buyer who wants to tour your house!

Making a few budget-friendly changes can get your bathroom looking great for any target market. Need more staging tips for your Katy, Cypress or Houston area home? Three Bears Home Staging can help! Contact us here to schedule a Walk & Talk Consultation or call (832) 377-0785.

4 Tips for Avoiding Contractor Fraud

blog-avoid-contractor-fraudIn the wake of Hurricane Harvey, our Houston and Katy, TX communities will sadly see an uptick in the number of contractors attempting to take advantage of frustrated, anxious families who were displaced by the storm. Reputable contractors are often booked for weeks or months. Families overwhelmed by a natural disaster may not do their due diligence when it comes to vetting contractors, and sadly, fraudulent contractors and scam artists will step in to take advantage of this, whether it’s the use of defective materials, unkept promises, or price gouging.

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Me with my friend and photographer Stephanie Cheney, mucking out her Katy, TX house after it flooded during Hurricane Harvey.

The disaster relief non-profit organization SBP has identified recommendations to safeguard families from contractor theft. They also offer a free contractor fraud checklist online. We’ve summarized their suggestions here:

  1. Get for recommendations from neighbors, family, friends, or co-workers who’ve had similar work done. Avoid using contractors who “just happen to be in the neighborhood” knocking on doors or “have material leftover from another job,” as these are often red flags for fraudulent activity.
  2. Ask for references and CHECK references. Call former clients. Check their Better Business Bureau rating for any complaints. Honest contractors will have a verifiable track record. Also make sure to use contractors who are licensed and bonded or insured. We highly recommend using SBP’s Free Contractor Checklist as a guide when interviewing contractors.
  3. Get more than one estimate and get it in writing. Verbal estimates don’t hold up in court if the contractor ends up charging your double or damages part of your home. It’s also a good idea to have a knowledgable friend or an attorney review the document. Both you and the contractor should sign the estimate prior to beginning any work.
  4. Avoid paying cash upfront. According to SBP, “Document all payments, via check or credit card, so there is a paper trail. Clients who pay with cash are likely to never see the contractor again. Reputable contractors ask for down payments or deposits (1/3 of the total price is standard procedure), almost never request full payment upfront. In fact, most legitimate contractors bill at predetermined progress points in the project and when the work is complete to the client’s satisfaction. If a contractor asks for or demands total payment upfront, do not use that contractor.”

If you suspect a repair rip-off, call the consumer division of your state Attorney General (800-351-4889). If you suspect fraud, waste, or abuse involving Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance programs, report it to FEMA’s Inspector General’s Office (800-323-8603).

As home stagers, we’ve heard too many tragic tales from frustrated homeowners who were taken advantage of by unscrupulous contractors. Disaster-struck communities are a magnet for this type of theft. Taking the necessary precautions to hire a reputable homebuilder will ultimately help you get back into your home faster. And if Three Bears Home Staging can help, don’t hesitate to contact us at (832) 377-0785.

Title photo credit:  “N view” by Sean Gillies is licensed under CC BY 2.0