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Tip Jar: The How and Why to Staging a Home

865thompson2Today's guest post comes to us from Paul Benjamin, a District Manager at EZ Storage.

Today's selling market is rough. Though house prices are starting to rebound, the environment remains extremely competitive. Staging your home is an excellent way to help your house stand out, catch the attention of potential buyers, and ensure that it sells for a good price. Whether your house is vacant or still furnished, there are multiple ways to make your house look more attractive and inviting to as many potential buyers as possible. Read on to find out why you should stage your house and to discover some quick house staging ideas.

What are the advantages of house staging?

Staging your house helps it sell faster and at a better price. While house staging can't make your house sell at a price above its worth, it serves as a sort of insurance against the price of the house being forced below its worth.

Selling your house in the current economy means having to compete with similar houses which are likely priced lower than yours. Your house needs to be presented as attractively as possible- and to the greatest number of people.

Staging a house can be done relatively inexpensively (less than a thousand dollars!) and helps to neutralize a house. This is beneficial in eliminating quirks or specific stylistic choices that might put off some potential buyers.

Do you have an old bathroom or ugly carpeting? Home staging can also draw attention to a house's strengths while simultaneously downplaying its weaknesses. Staging a room to draw attention to a large bay window and away from old flooring is much cheaper than renovation, after all.

3 Quick and Inexpensive House Staging Ideas

1. Make sure your house is spotless from top to bottom: It sounds obvious, but many sellers underestimate the power of a de-cluttered house. Making sure that everything is organized and in its place makes a house look larger and more attractive, inevitably attracting more interest from buyers. A key to making a house less cluttered is to get rid of extra furniture; even if a house is spotless, an overcrowded room with one too many chairs or end tables in it will quickly make a house seem smaller and dirtier.

2. Re-purpose unused spaces: Taking empty or unwelcoming spaces and transforming them into usable, attractive rooms is an excellent way to add value to a home. Do you have a 'sewing room' that you barely use? Adding a well-placed book shelf or desk can instantly make a room serve dual purposes. What about a den that just seems dark and gloomy? Bring light in by adding an interesting lamp or a few brightly colored accent pillows-- or even draping bright fabrics on the wall. 

3. Lighting, lighting, and more lighting: As far as house staging ideas, this one is pretty easy. Brightly lit homes always look more welcoming and attractive. Make sure every room is carefully illuminated and potential buyers will automatically find it warmer and more livable. It's not a simple matter of making sure you have enough lamps in a room, however; increase wattage in already existing lamps and make sure the light isn't too glaring or bright; a mixture of soft and harder lighting is best.

Bottom Line: Home staging is one of the most inexpensive ways to up the selling price and appeal of your home. While it won't fix an old kitchen or outdated flooring, it can draw attention away from flaws to ensure as many potential buyers as possible find the house attractive. 

Put the house staging ideas above to practice and watch your home sell!


logoPaul Benjamin is a District Manager at EZ Storage, a self storage company serving the Philadelphia area for over 40 years.


Dollars & Scents: Got Lemons?

lemonsIf you think baking cookies before a showing is a surefire way to sell a home, think again. As it turns out, those homey scents that most agents swear by aren't as convincing as once thought. Today's article in the Wall Street Journal details a study in Switzerland that shows that simpler scents such as orange SELL. From the article:

"Complex scents, even if they're pleasant, can be a distraction because some people subconsciously dedicate time and energy to figuring out what the aroma is. At open houses, "they are not there to process the smells. They are there to process whether this is a place they want to live," Prof. Spangenberg says. Instead, he recommends simple scents, such as lemon, basil and pine, since they're easier to process and less distracting and thus more conducive to spending.

So put down the cinnamon rolls! The article goes on to list baked goods and potpurri among the worst offenders and suggests that scents be congruent with the home. And no, that doesn't mean that aroma of fish in Fishtown, folks! Try something natural and remember to keep it subtle. Essential oil sprays do the trick, simply add 8-10 drops of the essential oil of your choice (we like lemon) to a spray bottle filled with distilled water. Shake before each use. Try cedarwood and tea tree oil mixed in water for a pet deodorizing spray or cinnamon and clove if you still want that spicy "apple pie" scent without being too cloying.

Let us know what scents you think sell!



Positive Karma in Philadelphia Real Estate

Have you ever had one of those settlements where there was delay after delay because the buyers mortgage was not ready?  And then red flags start to come up and questions such as "Will the mortgage go through at all?".   As a seller, you face the question, what do you do?  Terminate the agreement and market the property or agree to extensions?  In this specific case, I was the seller.

Something in my heart told me to wait it out and be patient.  And yes, we made it to a settlement table.   There was Positive Karma in Philadelphia Real Estatea lot of work in between where everyone helped each other to allow the goal to be accomplished.   I give kudos to all the people involved.   What was really special to me was receiving a handwritten note at settlement from the buyer.  When I opened it up that night, I was filled with gratitude.   It reminded me that real estate is not just about homes and property values; it is about people, their goals and their journeys.   And when you are instrumental in that or even a part of it, you really are part of something beautiful, part of something larger than yourself.

It is times like this that I really love what I do.  Meeting and helping amazing people will have a positive impact on you...a feeling I am referring to today as Positive Karma in Real Estate.    For those that have experienced this karma, it is a wonderful feeling.  It is this example of a thoughtful thank you note that that makes all the difference in the world to me.  Another example was being invited to a clients home a few weeks ago for a dinner and pool party, having that quality time outside of real estate.  These examples remind me that I am doing something right, contributing in a positive way, and in a sense, giving back to the community.

And speaking of positive karma, the buyer of my property is a yoga instructor.   I just visited her studio for the 2nd time just yesterday as I write this and look forward to going back often.  Positive karma is already taking place in a different form from one action to another...How cool is that ?

Have you had any similar experiences?


Tip Jar: Go with the Flow

Below is a before photo of a beautiful home we have listed at 1015 N 4th Street in Northern Liberties (only $359,900, BTW!). When we first visited this home, the layout had tons of potential but the way the furniture was positioned it really cluttered the space and did not show off the Open Flowing Layout people have come to love these days. As you see in the before photo below, the couch blocks off the dining area. Although this method of dividing rooms can translate very effectively in a huge oversized room, for the narrower rowhome so prevalent in Philadelphia, this method can backfire and give the illusion of a smaller space.















The current popular trend in home design in Philadelphia is for the main living spaces (kitchen living and dining areas) to flow together seamlessly. So we made some suggestions and the transformation was immediate. Below is the after photo. Notice how the room looks bigger, less cluttered and the Open Flowing Layout has been achieved by simply moving the couch that served as a room divider, out of the living room altogether.


To create a separation between rooms that will not effect the Open Flowing Layout that people are looking for, try these 3 tips:

1) One large piece of art or a large mirror on the wall can define a space and create a focal point for a room without taking up floor space.

2) A neutral colored floor rug that blends with the flooring can define a space without blocking the walking path or drawing too much attention through color to one area of the room.

3) Creatively placed soffets, chandeliers, and lighting can serve as an absolutely brilliant room divider without being at eye level or on the floor. This is my personal favorite solution.

Do you think you can implement these ideas into your home to improve flow? Have you done other things to create the same results in your space? I'd love to know.


Tip Jar: How to Avoid a Crappy Situation When Selling Your Home

We primp them. We pamper them. We dress them in costumes. We name them cute names like Zippy, Cinnamon, and Thurston Howell the Third. We walk them in all sorts of weather. We train them to do clever tricks. We get dates because of them and we will break up relationships over them. They are our dogs and we love them. But in Real Estate, man’s best friend can become Realtor’s worst enemy.

Here are a few examples of "Crappy" situations and ways to avoid them when trying to sell your home:

This photo is of a yard filled with “land mines” strategically placed by you know who, Fido!

Tip: Clean up the doggie remnants in the yard or hire someone to to do it for you. No one wants to play dodge the doodie during their showing of your beautiful home.

Last week I showed a beautiful Fishtown home but the topic of conversation was not about what price the buyer should offer, it was about who could identify the smell? Was it a cat, a dog, a ferret...? I said Sasquatch. It really stunk!

Tip: Animals smell. No offense folks, but they drool, they have accidents, even their food leaves behind a noxious odor. Somehow it is undetectable to the pet owner but believe me, the rest of us smell it! Ozium, Lysol, or any organic deodorizer works wonders when used consistently where your precious has made a mess. Smells can and will kill a deal from being made on your home.

Philadelphia, especially Northern Liberties, is a dog-loving neighborhood. There may be 50/50 split of people to pets! But with ratios like that, the old saying rings true, dogs are better to be seen than heard.  Last week after playing what’s that smell (see #2 above) we toured a lovely home. We all peered out of the kitchen window to observe the garden that looked like it was a picture cut from Better Homes & Gardens...until we stepped outside to be met by CUJO. Holy crap...we ran for the front door never to return again!

Tip: There are actually sound ordinances, as well as a bunch of rules that pets and their owners must follow. Nuisances such as noise and droppings are topics of big discussion in Philadelphia and there are rules and fines for pets that behave badly. A tall fence makes good neighbors and in this case a discussion with the neighbor might go a long way in keeping CUJO from scaring off potential buyers. 


Tip Jar: Tips for Prepping a Tenant Occupied Property for Showings

Our tips are always tailored to our client's needs and the property we are selling. The basics when preparing a home for showings:

1) Open up the space!

2) De-clutter.

The layout in this home is great. It is open and contemporary. But the furniture is arranged in a way that blocks the flow from the entry door to the rear of the property and there are many personal items out in plain view. Since this home is occupied by three people it is important to be sensitive to their needs in the process of selling. Therefore we have come up with a Plan A and Plan B for preparing this home for showings.

Plan A is to keep the property in the same condition it and monitor the feedback. If the feedback mentions anything negative about the way in which the home shows, we will go to Plan B.

Plan B is to open up the floor plan by moving the couch that divides the living area and decluttering the surfaces. No more than three items on a surface is the rule of thumb. Since this property is such a fantastic price and is in a great location in Northern Liberties, there is a good chance we will not have to make any alterations at all.


Tip Jar: To Sell or To Rent Your Property in 2012? Ask Stephanie!

To Sell or Rent Your Property in 2012. That is the Question asked by Stephanie Somers.

Stephanie lets us take a peek of how she goes about determining the best strategy for her client. Stephanie is hands on and actually visits a home in Brewerytown.

This property is currently rented. The exterior 3 story home has a lot of original charm but has been greatly neglected as evidenced by the peeling paint and overall facade. After viewing the interior Stephanie explains that this 4 bedroom one bath home with tons of original details needs a lot of work. After going back to the office and crunching the numbers Stephanie comes to a conclusion. Market Value says it may be best for her client to rent the property for another year and reevaluate the market stats next year. Selling the home for a profit may not be possible in this market for this property.

What will you do with your home in 2012? Our tip? Ask Stephanie!


Tip Jar: Map It!

Map your Lifestyle.

Map your Lifestyle and let it Lead the way to your New Home!

We'd like to introduce to you a NEW WAY of Searching for Homes. Map it. Map out the nearest Cafe, Restaurant, Park, Nature Trail, School etc.  and find the homes for sale located closest to your Lifestyle trends.

Customize your own search, change your criteria, and save your search as a link and mail it to your friends and family!

Log onto our blog or website to use this Free Interactive Lifestyle Map. Try it. We'd love to know what you think!


Agent Bonus – Bait, Bite, or Bull?

Agent bonuses are bait, they bite and they are full of bull!  They are unnecessary, make a deal more complicated and muddy the waters of negations.   Instead, it makes more sense to keep it simple, transparent and clearly state what compensation is going to be with no bait and switch.  My suggestion is to lower the price and pass the concession to the consumer.  It is not rocket science.  Consumers drive the market, not buyers agents.

Here are the serious flaws of agent bonuses

The majority of agent bonuses state the following wording:   $5,000 bonus paid to buyers agent with acceptable offer.

Here is the bait!!! The key word is "acceptable", the squirmy worm at the end of the hook.  What exactly does that mean?  Agent Bonus - Bait, Bite or Bull?Basically, nothing. Is bull! When the deal is submitted, the buyer agent will of course ask for the bonus, but in reality is only assured of receiving it on a full price offer.  Other than that, you can pretty much guarantee that any type of counter-offer will slash or gut the "bonus" like a flopping fish on the dock of a bay.  Here is where it really bites... "The get you and guilt you" ... It plays out like this:  The listing agent will use the strategy "Well, you do not want the bonus to get in the way of closing the deal with your client, do you?"

The second time it might be worded like this:   $5,000 bonus paid to buyers agent with full-price offer. New bait!  If the acceptable bait is not bitten, you may hear something like this.  Full price offer??? This is pretty much a joke insult. How often does a full price offer get written on a property in this market?  If a property is priced right from the beginning to get a full price offer, the listing agent and seller will not need to entertain the ridiculous idea of offering a bull-crap agent bonus.

Sometimes this happens:   $1,000 bonus with accepted offer

And there is the brainless bait bonus! They forgot they put the bait out there...Here is how this one plays out.  An agent forgot they advertised the BS bonus in the MLS and the buyer agent demands it at settlement and the listing agent and seller are scurrying around as the seller reminds the listing agent "oh, don't you remember, I took that back."  And then everyone looks like a smacked ass at settlement.  Lovely predicaments those are...,

When Agent Bonuses Don't Bite

In my experience, agent bonuses have only worked well with large publicly traded companies doing new construction projects that are a part of their marketing and branding budget.  It brands their name and makes people want to work with them deal after deal as it builds confidence.   In my local Philadelphiamarket, two companies that did extremely well were Hovanian with The National building in Old City andToll Brothers with Naval Square.

The No-Bull Conclusion

Lower the listing price! Consumers are extremely price-sensitive.  Stop baiting!

Newsflash! Believe me, buyer agents are starving to do deals and will be just as happy to wrap up a deal with or without the bonus.  They are happy to work a deal for 3 percent.   Furthermore, agent bonuses can complicate negotiations instead of enhancing them if not done correctly.  There is no reason to start negotiations off on the wrong foot.

So in essence, do not bait! Once an agent bites, they will realize it is bull! Say no to agent bonuses!  Let's all start 2012 on the right foot and close a few more deals together.

What are your thoughts?


Selling Your Philadelphia Home? Think Twice Before Listing With Your Best Friend

Selling your Philadelphia Home is a big decision.  Who are you going to list with? Your best friend? A good friend? Someone you know or a premier listing agent that services your area? These are the questions to ask yourself whether it be your primary residence or even an investment property that you own.  Too often I hear after the fact, "Well I gave the listing to so and so because I thought he would do a good job." This sale is going to bring in proceeds for you, or perhaps save you from a foreclosure.  It is a big decision.  You need expert advice from someone that is independent and who is an expert in the marketplace.  You need someone that you can trust, but not someone that is going to "yes" you to death and not someone that is going to tell you what you want to hear.

Selling Your Philadelphia Home?

Or perhaps your friend is only in the business part-time and not up to all the changes in real estate or does not provide maximum exposure for listings (video, blog, enhancing listings) or is just an outright crappy negotiator?  Or even if your friend is a great agent, they may be soft with you in terms of where your listing price should be, thus you question why your property is not selling?  I have heard one too many times that these friendships can get soured through these real estate trials and errors.  So why even bother in markets like these?  List with the friend during the seller markets when the friend does not have to do too much and do your research to list with someone who goes the extra mile and stands above the crowd in these tough markets.  What sellers need now (more than ever) are the best agents that are honest, that are not afraid to tell the truth, that are the best negotiators for their clients and who excel in giving them the maximum exposure for their listing - to get it SOLD.

Not for nothing, we are easy to find.  You already know where to find us.


Phone: 215.253.6818