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Calgary is currently in a buyer's market with a large amount of housing inventory for them to choose from. Sellers need to be especially savvy during these times in getting their house ready to help stand apart from their competitors. Following are some staging tips to achieve just that:
1. Depersonalize: In order for buyers to more easily envision themselves living in your house, it's important to remove your family photos, accolades, and religious symbols.
2. Make Repairs: Don't give buyers any reason to make you a low-ball offer, or worse, no offer at all! Address all needed repairs such as torn window screens, cracked plaster, burned out light bulbs, dinged walls, leaky faucets, etc.
3. Clean Clean Clean: Hire a professional cleaning company to get into all of the nooks and crannies in your kitchen and bathrooms. Ensure windows are cleaned, as well as baseboards are dusted.
4. Neutralize Paint: Have a "move-in ready" house by painting your walls in a light, neutral colour such as "griege" (beige/grey) as it will work with all decorating styles. Buyers can later customize the wall colour to suit their own personal tastes.
5. Statement Lighting: A low cost way of adding big impact to your home is adding a new chandelier in the dining room that compliments the style of your home's architecture. You can find beautiful lighting options at any big box store and shouldn't spend more than a few hundred dollars.
6. Clutter-free Kitchen: Kitchen counters should be mostly cleared off to show off the counter space. The only appliances that could be left out are a nice coffee maker. Perhaps add a nice pot of utensils by the stove and a bowl of lemons to the counter.
7. Update Finishes: If your kitchen doesn't have a backsplash, you can purchase some lovely, reasonably priced tile and get someone handy to install it for you. If the existing backsplash is dated, you can use a new product from the Home Depot called "SimpleMat" where you can stick it to the existing tile, and then easily place the new tile on top of it. Since there's no mortar needed, you can grout it right away.
8. Replace Cabinet Pulls: If your kitchen and bathroom cabinet pulls or worn or dated, replace them with more contemporary ones such as chrome or matte black.
9. Fresh Bedding & Towels: Create a luxury hotel look in the master bedroom and bathroom with new light and neutral bedding and pillows. Place nice decorative pillows to the bed and a colour coordinating throw at the end of it, and keep all furniture uncluttered with matching lamps on each night stand.
10. Spruce up the Exterior: Neatly trim bushes, mulch the flowerbeds, and add seasonal arrangements of flowers by the front door. Keep the lawn mowed during summer, and walkways shovelled during the winter.
Getting your home ready can be relatively inexpensive, especially if you focus on the small details. It will surely impress potential buyers in a competitive market!
BEFORE AFTER
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If you hope to sell your house more quickly for top dollar, then you should most definitely consider investing in your likely largest investment by implementing any needed cosmetic upgrades and home staging to appeal to today's "HGTV generation" of buyers.
The biggest bang for your buck is to give the walls a fresh coat of neutral paint such as warm whites, creams, or greys. Light, bright, spacious feeling homes that are move-in ready sell more quickly.
Kitchen and bathrooms statistically have the highest return on investment so it's advisable to paint or reface worn out or dated cabinets, add new cabinet hardware, replace countertops with stone, replace dated or leaking faucets and fixtures, and replace older appliances with new ones. (There is no need to replace with high-end appliances unless you're selling a high-end property.)
Replace dark, coloured, or worn out linoleum or carpeting with lighter neutral ones, or even better, hardwood floors as that is what most buyers are looking for. If you're selling an older home with carpet over the original hardwood floors, it is highly recommended to remove the carpet and re-finish the hardwood if it needs it. (See my blog on Hardwood Floors for more info.)
Once the cosmetic upgrades have been done, be sure to de-clutter, de-personalize, and edit out any unnecessary furniture and decor. You need just enough to show the buyers how each space can function while making it still feel homey and inviting, but not so much that it distracts the buyers from the selling features of your home. To further maximize the appeal of your home and make your listing stand out on the MLS, it is advisable to store away your dated, dark, or overly ornate furniture and decor and hire a professional stager to bring in lighter, more contemporary items that will most definitely call the attention of the buyers.
Take a look at these AFTER & BEFORE photos of an occupied home in New York state staged by Karen Hunter of Staging Magic. She convinced the homeowners to invest in some cosmetic upgrades and rented furniture and decor, and guess what? The house sold in 3 weeks for $200,000 over list price!
It can literally pay to invest in cosmetic upgrades and professional home staging...
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Can hardwood flooring improve the resale value of your home and increase a home's value?
Most definitely!  The majority of real estate agents surveyed by the National Wood Flooring Association said houses with hardwood flooring are easier to sell, sell for more money, and sell faster.  The trend towards hardwood flooring keeps growing year after year because not only has it become more stylish (and more affordable), but because allergies and asthma conditions are on the rise, the number of home buyers requiring hardwood has increased.  Hardwood flooring adds more elegance and natural charm to virtually any room in the home, whether it's traditional or contemporary.
While adding new hardwood floors will initially cost you more than carpet, it will save you a lot of money in the long run.  Carpet gets dirty and worn and needs to be replaced every 7-10 years.  As a general rule of thumb, hardwood flooring usually costs twice as much as carpet, so by the time you replace the carpet once, you’ve already spent at least as much as you did on hardwood.  While hardwood floors need to be periodically sanded and refinished, this cost is significantly lower than the cost of replacing the carpet, not to mention the annual carpet cleaning costs.
It is rare for carpet to remain in place with a new home buyer…they will almost always rip it up and either replace it with wood floors, re-finish the existing hardwood underneath the carpet, or replace it with new carpet in the bedrooms.  The new owners are typically concerned about the germs and odours from previous owners, not to mention that they rarely have the same taste in carpet style or colour 
There are usually furniture indentations as well as areas where the carpet is stained or discolored from light (and it becomes very apparent after the sellers’ furniture has been moved out).  When a buyer sees carpet, they see a lower value and higher costs that they will need to pay to replace it.  This can reduce the offer on your home as well as increase your time on market.
If selling your home, what should you DO and NOT DO with your flooring?
When you are selling your house, you want to spend the least amount of money for the highest return.  Following are my recommendations:
(1)  If you have hardwood underneath the carpet, rip up the carpet and refinish the hardwood.  It's one of the biggest bangs for your buck when selling as will appeal to most buyers.  If funding is limited or if this is too inconvenient to do, then consider just refinishing the wood for some of the rooms to at least show the buyers that you have hardwood and what it looks like such as the living room or master bedroom.  While you could certainly replace the old carpet with new carpet that is more cost effective in the short term, keep it mind that it will be less appealing to home buyers so may take longer for your home to sell, costing you potentially money in the long run when factoring in the 1 or 2 price reductions!  
(2)  If your current hardwood floor isn’t in the greatest condition, it's usually worth it to sand and refinish it.  This will make it look good as new and show your home at its best. Alternatively, if you don’t refinish the floors, your house won’t show as well and the new owners will need to refinish the floors which will likely be factored into their offer price.
What colour of hardwood should you choose if selling your home?
This does depend on the style of the house, but I generally recommend choosing a light, natural wood which makes your space look larger and brighter.  If your current hardwood floors are really old and beaten up and/or have some water stains, you may need to select a darker stain when refinishing it to cover the imperfections.
Hardwood flooring is a smart investment not only because it looks beautiful, warm and luxurious, but they are also easier to clean, last a long time, as is usually on buyer's "wish list".  In fact, most hardwood floors last well over 100+ years and never go out of style.  You just can’t go wrong with hardwood! 
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There are several key ways to successfully stage a home to create mass appeal to maximize its sale price. Some tips that I recommend you address above anything else are:
1.  Reframe Your Mindset...
It's tough for most people to wrap their head around the fact that they need to spend time and money on their house when they don't plan on staying there for much longer.  While it seems crazy, you need to reframe your way of thinking and instead think of it as INVESTING in your house because it will most likely help you to sell for more money than if you don't, and in at least half the time.  You will invevitably spend less money on any necessary cosmetic upgrades and home staging than you will on your first price reduction, not to mention your monthly carrying costs!   You WILL succeed if you invest in your largest investment by the way of effective home staging!
2.  Step up the Curb Appeal...
First impression is everything!  It is a well documented fact that homes with excellent curb appeal sell considerably faster, and for more money than homes lacking curb appeal. Typically 50% of home buyers make their decision within seconds of pulling up in front of a house, long before they step inside the front door, whether or not they're going to buy your house.   Attention to architectural details, good color combinations, and a well designed landscape are all important factors in good curb appeal.  At the very least, prune the surrounding vegetation in the summer months so that your house isn't hiding behind it and plant some colourful flowers in either the ground and/or in pots.  Flank seasonal foliage in pots on each side of the front door.  Ensure that toys, bicycles, garbage and recycling cans are removed from view.  In the winter months, ensure walkways are always shovelled and de-iced.  Scrub clean the front door and outside windows, and paint the door if it needs it.  Polish or replace the mailbox and house numbers and place an attractive Welcome mat at the door.
3.  De-clutter and De-personalize...
This section goes hand-in-hand with having to change your mindset about selling.  Remember that you're selling your HOUSE, not your home.  Buyers feel like they're invading the seller's privacy when they tour a home that's filled with the seller's clutter and personal momentos such as family photos, awards, toys, travel knick-knacks, religious and political symbols, etc.  Buyers will focus on the these items rather than all of the great selling features of your house hidden behind all of that stuff!  By packing away as many of your personal items as you can and replacing them with "neutral" accessories, in addition to keeping your house in a constant state of neat and tidy for the duration of the selling process, you will most definitely reap the rewards.  
4.  Repair and Clean Clean CLEAN...
We tend to overlook the areas of our home that are in need of repair because we get so used to seeing them every day and then eventually don't even notice it anymore, such as a heavily scratched floor, pet stained carpet, a torn window screen, etc.  However, the buyers will notice those items right away and will factor the needed repairs into their offer price.  Inevitably, their estimated costs of repairs will be 3 or 4x the actual costs it will take you to get it fixed, so just get it done in the first place so that they don't have the upper hand during the negotiations!  Once the repairs are completed, hire a professional cleaning crew to come in to thoroughly clean EVERYTHING so that it's spotless, including the windows.  It's amazing how much light floods the room when the windows are sparkling clean!  After your house is staged and you have your first Open House, you'll need to maintain the momentum of keeping your home as clean as possible.  The extra daily chore will be worth it, and you shouldn't have to do it for very long since your house will inevitably sell quickly!
5.  Freshen & Brighten...
New paint is the cheapest way to freshen and brighten a room.  Be sure to choose a lighter, relatively neutral tone to help enhance your home's best features.  Your awesome red walled dining room and soothing lilac purple bedroom may appeal to your fabulous sense of style, but it may turn off many buyers because it won't work with their furnishings and decor.  By providing freshly painted neutral walls, it will appeal to most buyers and compliment their decor until they decide whether or not they'd like to re-paint to suit their taste and style sometime down the road.  This is also a good time to freshen your dated light fixtures, fawcets, cabinet hardware, kitchen & bath counter tops and back splashes with something more contemporary.  You don't need to spend a lot of money on high-end updates... it just has to look new.
​6.  Remove Unnecessary Furniture...
When selling your home, you want it to appear as large as possible.  ​There's a common belief that rooms will feel larger and be easier to use if all the furniture is pushed against the walls, but that isn't the case. Instead, furnish your space by floating furniture away from walls. Reposition sofas and chairs into cozy conversational groups, and place pieces so that the traffic flow in a room is obvious. Not only will this make the space more user-friendly, but it will open up the room and make it seem larger.  Replace your large dining room table that seats 8 with a smaller dining table that seats 4.  Buyers will see for themselves how spacious the room is and that they could even fit a larger table if they wanted to host a dinner party for eight.  If you have a large sectional sofa in an average sized living room, store it elsewhere and replace with a rented or borrowed loveseat and one or two occasional chairs in a parallel grouping.  It allows buyers to better see the room's spaciousness.
7.  Place Focus on the Selling Features...
If your house has any architectural features that today's buyers are looking for, you'll want to place as much focus on them as possible!  If you have a fireplace, place a conversation area around it and hang a piece of scale appropriate artwork or mirror above the mantle so that it's the focal point when you first enter the room.  If you have hardwood floors underneath an older carpet, rip out the carpet and show them off as most buyers want hardwood floors!  Be sure not to hide them underneath a large area rug if it isn't necessary - choose a smaller rug that's just large enough to anchor the conversation area.   If your house doesn't have the architectural features that buyers are looking for, then you can have one or two added to help your house be in line with your competition, such as hardwood (or engineered) floors, crown molding, French doors, etc.  
8.  Spruce Up and Stage Outdoor Spaces...
Not only should you stage the inside of your home, but you should also stage your outdoors, both front and back, to emphasize ALL the living space that your property has to offer.  Does your house have a front porch?  Show off this selling feature and stage the space by placing a couple of wicker chairs with vibrant seat cushions and a small table with a pitcher of lemonade.  Perhaps you have a large backyard with a concrete slab next to the house?  Soften the concrete with an outdoor patio sofa set and weather-proof area rug, along with a BBQ and/or ornamental fire pit to demonstrate a fabulous outdoor entertaining space.  Be sure to always keep the grass watered and trimmed, and plant colourful flowers in the ground and/or in pots.  (You can always take the potted plants with you to your new home!)
Remember, you need to invest in your investment in order to make the most of it, in ANY real estate market.  You only have one shot at making a first impression, so do it right the first time and you'll be rewarded with a quick sale and strong selling price!
Contact me today to provide you with a Home Staging Consultation!
Leanne Mackenzie
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