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Home Staging Tips That Focus on Largest Customer Segments

by RISMEDIA

Selling a home in any market can be competitive. It’s essential that your sellers follow some simple, yet important tips to help make their home more salable.

A quicker home sale can be reached by keeping in mind the needs of the home’s most likely buyer and creating a fresh inspiring look just for them, according to Pulte Homes expert Janice Jones, national vice president of merchandising.

“Everyone understands the value of de-cluttering, cleaning and refreshing a home in today’s competitive market,” Jones said. “The difference between a ‘For Sale’ and a ‘Sold’ sign often boils down to effectively staging a home to appeal to young singles, families or empty nesters—the three largest customer segments that are likely to buy your home. Home sellers should have a good idea of the type of buyer who will make an offer and, since everyone likes an updated home, some simple refreshes can achieve an updated look and feel.”

Jones recommends conducting a technology overhaul prior to staging your home. “Old technology will date your home and you seldom have a second chance to make a positive first impression,” she said. “Flat screen TVs, laptop computers, iPods with docking stations and wireless technology have eliminated the need for large bulky entertainment centers or massive desks designed to hide wiring. Once you’ve rid your home of bulky, dated stereos and TVs, it’s time to hone in on attracting prospects.”

Here are a few, additional ideas:

For singles, Jones recommends emphasizing sleeping spaces and the living room, which are critical to this group. “Singles will spend a lot of time in the living room and the bedroom, which are their sanctuaries from the outside world. As a result, there is no need to set the dining room table with place settings,” Jones said. “Instead, focus on a simple TV stand with clean lines, a flat screen TV and candles in the bedroom and bathroom.”

Young families tend to revolve around children. Items that help this demographic envision themselves living in the space include age-appropriate bedding, linens and towels, a bright rug near play areas, and strategically placed toy chests with open tops. Since kids often play or watch TV on the floor, eliminate the coffee table to create a living room that appears larger and more inviting. Jones notes to remember about the garage when staging for families. “Organize children’s toys and sports equipment to showcase the garage’s storage capacity without compromising functionality,” she said.

Empty nesters tend to seek an upgrade in quality features. Upgrading bath accessories like towel bars and toilet paper holders or decorative hanging lights to a better quality and newer style will make an impact. If the budget allows, upgrading the refrigerator, stove and dishwasher can draw in a buyer.

Lighting is also a key feature for this group. Jones advises ensuring living spaces maximize natural light. If lighting is less than ideal, add lamps or a ceiling fan with light fixtures. It’s important to open heavy blinds or window coverings when showing the home.

An absolute “must” for home stagers regardless of which demographic is being targeted is color. Most sellers are instructed to use neutral colors when repainting. However, adding the right punch of color to accent walls can create depth, enhance kitchen cabinets, or bring a boring bathroom to life.

Homeowners can find color in simple accessories, like throw pillows, coffee table books, and decorative canisters. Neutral colors in flooring materials, upholstery pieces and window dressing work well because they enhance brighter accents.

When choosing colors, Jones cautions homeowners to be aware of their sensory impact:

- Red is stimulating and encourages self confidence

- Orange promotes happiness and celebration

- Yellow is uplifting and light-hearted

- Blue is calming in softer tones and promotes clarity in deeper tones

- Green is the color of nature—it feels fresh and rejuvenating

- Aqua is restful while pink is gentle and sweet—making a great pair

- Purple tones bring out a sense of compassion

“The key is to experiment and put yourself in the shoes of the prospective home buyer,” Jones said. “It may be helpful to ask a friend or relative for a brutally honest opinion before and after you start staging. You may be surprised how little changes—with a little budget—can make a huge difference to a prospective buyer.”

Simple Tools to Do a Home-Energy Audit, and Save

by Liana B. Baker

For many homeowners, electricity use is highest during the summer — that means steeper energy bills are just around the corner.

But a lot of the energy you're paying for is squandered through air leaks around doors and windows, or through cable boxes and appliances that sap energy when no one is around. Before you shell out the cash for a professional home-energy audit, however, here are some do-it-yourself ways to measure — and then curb — your energy use.

MEASURE IT

The average household will spend about $2,140 on residential energy consumption in 2010, according to the Washington-based Alliance to Save Energy. What's running up that bill? A home power monitor is one way to find out, said Tom Simchak, a research associate at the Alliance to Save Energy.

Simchak said he purchased one — The Energy Detective, or TED (see the site at TheEnergyDetective.com) — for about $200. It's connected to his circuit-breaker box and to his Internet router. The monitor records and calculates the cost of his electricity use and sends that information (current and projected consumption, plus cost, among other things) to a small box with an LCD display that he keeps in his living room.

The monitor also sends the information to his laptop, where TED's proprietary software lets Simchak assess his energy-use history and projected use in greater detail. In addition, the monitor uploads the data to Google PowerMeter, a free online home-energy monitoring tool.

While the power monitor won't tell you how much energy each separate device is consuming, Simchak said the real-time data makes it easy to figure out. "When you hear the air conditioner click on," he said, "power consumption goes up by seven or eight times."

A cheaper alternative that does give you information on specific devices' energy consumption is a kilowatt meter, which measures the energy use of any device plugged into it. You plug the meter into a wall socket and then plug the device into the meter.

The kilowatt meter can't measure an overhead light or other devices hardwired into your home, but "it's still a useful tool," said Reuven Walder, a professional energy auditor in Rockville, Md. He sells a kilowatt meter for about $30 at his store, Ecobeco (see the site at Ecobeco.com). Walder said it might surprise you, for instance, just how many kilowatts your cable box uses — it can add up to $30 to $50 a year.

CURB IT — AND SAVE

Whether or not you decide to shell out for energy measurement devices, you can save money on your utility bill with some simple steps to reduce your home's energy use.

A smart strip, for instance, eliminates vampire energy — the energy devices consume when they're switched off. Smart strips, which retail for about $30, plug into the wall and also work as surge protectors. The strip's sensor cuts the power to devices plugged into it when they're switched off.

Next, check doors and windows for gaps around the frames. "Insulation is important any time of year, but in the summer you don't want to waste all that energy on AC that's just going to escape through your door," Simchak said.

Walder suggests looking at windows and doors every season. Many of the air gaps you find can be sealed with caulk or spray foam.

Black and Decker sells a thermal leak detector that shines a red light on walls; the color of the light will change to blue to indicate a hot or cold spot. But Walder said the $50 device has its limits: It can only cover a few inches of wall at a time so you may not always get a reading of exactly where the air is coming from.

Covering pipes and water heaters with special wrapping is another cheap way to save on energy this summer. Water heaters usually are in basements that remain cool even during summer, so they must consume energy to maintain their high temperatures. Putting a thermal barrier around a heater helps it work less, and that can save you money.

Soon after buying a house earlier this year, Simchak said he spent about $10 buying foam to wrap exposed pipes. "I was able to get at about half of the hot-water pipes in my house," he said.

Walder and Simchak highly recommend buying a programmable thermostat to better regulate your use of your air conditioner, and the heating system in winter.

You can save around 10 percent a year on energy bills simply by lowering your thermostat by 10 percent to 15 percent for a minimum of eight hours, Walder said.

LITTLE THINGS HELP

Some other low-cost or free energy-saving moves:

• Put thicker curtains around windows in summer (including in an unfinished attic) to keep out the sun.

• Regularly dust off the coils under your refrigerator so it doesn't have to work as hard to stay cool.

• Install low-flow faucets (with an aerator so the water doesn't just trickle out).

• Replace incandescent light bulbs with more-efficient fluorescent or LED ones.

• Consider checking out Microsoft-Hohm.com. The website details the average energy use of homes nationwide.

Simchak said these energy-saving steps don't require technical know-how. "I haven't done anything a normal person can't do," he said. "It takes a little time and effort. But with all these products available, regular folks can do them just fine."

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Contact Information

Photo of Laurel Sweeney Real Estate
Laurel Sweeney
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nutshell Realty
1209 State Route 213, PO Box 452
High Falls NY 12440
Office: 845-687-2200
Toll Free 877-468-5783
Fax: 845-687-4162

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