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This year has been moving at the speed of light. However, as a business owner, our job is to not only manage the day-to-day cray-cray (translation: craziness) but also to move our business and industry forward. That's exactly what I did this week.

This week not only did I earn the designation of RESA-PRO™ (Real Estate Staging Association PRO designation, more on that below) but I also finalized plans with the national leadership board for the Indiana Chapter Kick-off Meeting of RESA® in September. 

It was a productive week. 

So, what is RESA® and why should you care?

RESA® is a 501 (C) 6 Tax Exempt Non-Profit Trade Association. They are the national governing organization for professional home stagers. They are also the largest network of professional home stagers dedicated to advancing the professionalism in the staging industry.

A RESA-PRO™ home stager is not a "hobby" home stager. A RESA-PRO™ home stager is a dedicated home stager that is held to the highest standards of business, ethics and integrity. 

According to RESA®, "Hiring a home stager with a RESA-PRO™ designation is important for homeowners and real estate agents because:

  • You're hiring a home stager that is a well qualified professional
  • You're hiring a home stager that is held to higher standards 
  • You're hiring a home stager that is held to a higher ethics standard 
  • You're hiring a home stager that has been in business for at least one year 
  • You're hiring a home stager that is insured with a home staging business insurance policy 
  • You're hiring a home stager that is committed to continuing education so they can use the latest home staging techniques"

That's a solid list. All good points. 

 I went after the RESA-PRO™ designation for a few other reasons:

  • To advance the professionalism of the industry on a local level. On the RESA® website they make a distinction that a RESA-PRO™ is NOT a "hobby" home stager. Yikes! As a business owner, it's frustrating when we hear the horror stories of a "hobby" home stager. That's why educating the public and realtors is so very important. A person's home is a large INVESTMENT and should be treated with the same professionalism as other INVESTMENTS in a portfolio.
  • To form a local chapter of RESA® that is connected to the national chapter. Again, it goes back to goal #1 - advancing the professionalism of the industry. It also provides a resource for realtors and those interested in the staging industry. Staging statistics and information shouldn't be held hostage. The information should be freely shared to advance not only the staging industry, but the real estate industry as a whole. 

For the complete list of what it means to be a RESA-PRO™ check out: http://www.realestatestagingassociation.com/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=304550&module_id=72018

To see my snazzy new designation on my home page visit www.elephanthomestaging.com and scroll to the bottom. If you are reading this on my website, go the home page.

If you are interested in receiving information about the inaugural meeting in September please e-mail me: www.elephanthomestaging.com/contact-us You do not have to be a current RESA member or have a staging certification to attend. Realtors who stage are also welcome. 

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My dad recently passed away and my brother and I have heard this question a lot lately. A LOT.  It’s usually followed by an expression of sympathy and how much they loved our dad, and our parents in general.  Add in that our family business is real estate and the question becomes even more weighted.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not offended by the question. It’s just that I felt like Wile E. Coyote when the Roadrunner would drop a 500lb weight on him from atop a cliff every time I heard it. It’s overwhelming when someone you love dies. It’s even more overwhelming when it’s a parent, especially the last surviving parent. All their “stuff” – good and bad – becomes your responsibility to take care of and integrate into the “stuff” in your life.  Cue the cartoon sound effects: Beep..Beep…BOOM!

In our case we have our parents home and both our grandparents homes. The home of our maternal grandparents is currently being rented. My brother is used to being a landlord, I am not. It also means my brother and I are now business partners - think Oscar and Felix in the “Odd Couple”. My brother is way more entertaining than Oscar.

Our paternal grandparents home is currently occupied by an estranged and deranged aunt-in-law (not sure if this is a an actual term) who inhabited the house the day our last surviving grandparent passed and hasn’t left yet.  That whole situation will most likely end like the Waco standoff.  This definitely falls under the “bad stuff” category that my brother and I must take care of now.

The focus is on our parent’s home, our childhood home, which was built next door to our paternal grandparents home on about 4 acres. Let me connect the dots – our parent’s home is next door to the home where the estranged/deranged aunt-in-law is living. Awkward.

We are the third generation on this land that my grandfather purchased shortly after settling here from Virginia. He was the Fire Chief when he moved from the “city” to the “country”. He used mostly reclaimed wood to built his home and several of the firemen under his command helped to build the home. Architecturally, it’s very different than other homes in the area as he brought some of the influence of courtyards, arches and verandas with him from Virginia. It’s my style of home and I love it. My grandparents divided the land (figuratively) and my parents built their home next door.

When thinking about “what are you going to do with the house?” my first reaction was to do a before/after series as my brother and I restore and update our parent’s home and the surrounding land.  Then I started thinking about what our parents “before/after” photos would look like. What photo represented their best selves as a couple and parents? It would be hard to choose just one. They were a fun, vibrant couple and wonderful parents.  What would their “after” photo look like after disease and illness robbed them of that vibrancy? They would be the exact opposite of a typical “before/after” sequence.

Home maintenance got postponed while dad took care of mom on a day-to-day basis during her prolonged illness. Both our parents put family first. However, after my mother’s passing, dad was even more focused on spending time together as a family and preserving old memories while making new. He did enough maintenance to get by, but he spent most of his time in Indianapolis with my brother and me.

I decided against doing a “before/after” series since the reason the home and land needs some TLC is because my parents had their priorities right and spent time on things that truly mattered and made their lives well lived and their funerals well attended by all those who loved them.

So, “What are you going to do with the house?” We’re going to restore it to the beautiful home and piece of land that it was when we were growing up. This is the best way to honor our parents who opened their home and hearts to so many.

What is the house going to do with us? It’s going to help us heal, one room at a time, one acre at a time, one memory at a time.

Hopefully, that will be enough….for both the house and us.

 

Photo Courtesy of Annie Spratt

 

 

 

 

 

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I'm one of those people who shop year-round for presents. I'm also one of those people who happen to love Thanksgiving. It's the one holiday where the focus is on family, friends and being, well, thankful.

I'm not sure what it says about us, as human beings, when we decide to bury a holiday of gratitude to pursue one of pure commercialism. Well, I DO know what it says about us, as human beings, but I don't like it. If you plan to shop on Thanksgiving day, I want you to remove all the "self help" art from the walls in your home, especially anything that has the word 'gratitude' in it. 

I'm a savvy shopper and have had more than a few request for websites, apps and tricks I use throughout the year. I keep it simple and the list small, so before I list my information I want to take a moment to acknowledge the "Big Box" stores that will be closed on Thanksgiving Day 2015 so their employees can spend time with their family, whether they want to or not. 

  • Babies-R-Us
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Burlington
  • Cabela’s
  • Dillard’s
  • D.S.W.
  • GameStop
  • H&M
  • Half Price Books
  • Harbor Freight
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Home Depot
  • Lowe’s
  • Marshalls
  • Mattress Firm
  • Nordstrom
  • Pier 1 Imports
  • Petco
  • Sam’s Club
  • Staples
  • T.J. Maxx
  • Tractor Supply Co.
  • Williams-Sonoma Home

These stores will get priority with my holiday spending. 

Here's my list of what I fondly call "Angela's little helpers":

  •  Brad's Deals - My friend, Brittany, introduced me to this site a few years ago, after she bought 3 round-trip airline tickets from Indianapolis - Atlanta for $49 EACH RT TICKET for a trade show we were doing just before Thanksgiving a few years ago. She earned her tiara for savings queen and has yet to be de-throned. Brad's Deals is a daily e-mail that gathers the best daily deals from around the web in an easy, clickable, email. It gathers everything from daily essentials like toilet paper and laundry detergent to appliances to jewelry. Literally everything. Has an app.
  • Brad's Deals Black Friday - Just like the original, but dedicated to Black Friday deals only. All the Black Friday inserts can be previewed here. Has an app. 
  • Coupon Mom - I didn't grow up in a 'couponing' household. Ironically, in my 20-some years in the advertising/marketing industry I understood their purpose from a new product launch/trial perspective. I just never had the time to actually use them. In fact, less than 2% of coupons are redeemed.  In January of 2014 I was snowed in for a few days. Since I couldn't get out of my driveway I decided to have a TLC Extreme Couponing marathon. I had never watched the show before but was fascinated and thought, "Hey- I can do this"...on a much smaller scale. A word of warning on this one - it takes some time to set up and get the hang of it.  I would HIGHLY suggest watching the tutorial. Every week Coupon Mom matches up store sales with electronic and paper coupons to show you what products have the greatest savings. In a nutshell, you are purchasing products you use consistently when they are at the lowest price, instead of when you run out of them. I use this system only at Target and purchase mainly non-food items. I don't shop at chain grocery stores (I eat a whole food/limited ingredient diet), but they are listed as well. 
  • Cartwheel by Target App - Brilliant. I love this app. I love Target. It was introduced in May 2013. I began using it in November of 2013 (our 2-year anniversary is coming up) and have saved exactly $416.32 with very little effort on my part. It's simple. Target gives you 10 or so spots and you load them with what YOU want to save on that shopping trip. You can earn badges to get more spots, and more savings. During the holidays, Target usually does a 'deal of the day' type promotion with Cartwheel. Every day something is 50% off or more. If you have little ones, this is a lifesaver/budget saver. 
  • Target REDcard™ - Love this card. The REDcard™ works exactly like my bank debit card. It's not a credit card, it connects directly with my bank account (bring your checkbook when you apply so they can get the routing & account numbers). Here's why I love this card - not only do I save 5% just for using it to pay for my purchase, but the 5% I pay goes to help a school of my choice (you choose your school online). 

Now THAT'S the spirit of the season!

 

Photo: Public Domain

 

 

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The other day I was speaking with an acquaintance of mine about her house, which she had recently taken off the market. Again. Her home has been on & off the market several times over the past few years. She and her husband even accepted an offer for $500K LESS than asking, only to have the financing fall through prior to closing. She was frustrated. REALLY frustrated.

She wanted to pick my brain about what she might do differently when she puts it back on the market. Again. Not having seen her house, I wasn't sure how much of a help I could be to her.

I asked her all the transactional questions pertaining to the home - square feet, market price, appraised value, neighborhood, etc. I'm not a realtor but the price seemed in line with the size of the home and neighborhood. She had worked with a few large realty firms who have good reputations and specialize in homes over $1 million. 

Huh, that wasn't the issue.

Then I asked her to describe her home to me. I won't go into great detail, but let's just say it's a nice home. A REALLY nice home in a REALLY nice neighborhood. The home sits on a peninsula with 360° water views, each bedroom has a view of either a sunrise or a sunset, it has an indoor pool and was professionally decorated. My dream home. She even had the property professionally staged - twice. 

Huh, so that wasn't the issue.

What??

I kept pressing for details and then a half hour into our conversation she mentioned her house might have tiny details that may need some updating like...the knobs. The gold knobs. And the chandeliers....the gold chandeliers. 

Hmm, got it. 

I couldn't get to my laptop fast enough. While we were still on the phone I looked up her listing. True to her description, it was an absolutely stunning property...with gold knobs and gold chandeliers. They weren't horrible by any means, but they weren't in line with the prestige of the property. 

Buyers don't buy work, especially at that price point. 

I suggested she invest a few thousand and replace the gold knobs and the gold chandeliers with something more on trend. She flipped out. 

Well, flipped out for her, she's a very calm, centered woman. Usually.

Obviously, it wasn't the money as she was willing to lose $500K by dropping the price of her home in order to sell it. So, what was it then? Why would the suggestion of replacing knobs and lighting cause an otherwise rational woman to lose her mind? Again, I'm exaggerating but I heard the anxiety in her voice.

More pressing (cautiously this time).

Emotions. Specifically, love and fear. 

She was emotionally attached to the chandeliers. She had purchased them after she and her family had moved into the house. They held a place in her heart because there was a fond memory attached to them. When she looked at them, they made her happy. 

I get that. 

I suggested she take them down and take them with her to her new home. Problem solved. 

Or so I thought. Now fear.

"What if I change the knobs and chandeliers and the house STILL doesn't sell and now I'm living in a house I don't like. It won't be like my home anymore."

Ah, my heart melted and all the pieces fell into place. I felt for her, I really did.

Here is a woman who loves her family and has had many happy memories in her home. The kids have grown and now it's time to downsize. Her home, both the physical house she lives in as well as the emotional concept of home, has been slowly stripped away every day, every month, every year it's been on the market. Like slowly peeling a band-aid or scab, it hurts. 

The point of this little story is, well, I have two points really: 

1. Don't be a witch when you tour a home for sale. It may not be your dream home (or theirs) but they have memories, good and bad, attached to it. Don't low ball your offer either. It reflects badly on you, waste your agents time and insults the buyer. Remember if you're buying a home, then some day you'll be selling your home. 

2. The devil is in the details - buyers don't buy work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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