Tips on Christmas Decor Home Staging

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By Merri Cvetan, guest contributor

If you’re staging your home during this time of the year, adding a bit of holiday cheer to your decor can make a big impression on potential buyers. Use these tips to create a simple, polished look that puts your home in its best light this holiday season.

Choose the Right Christmas Tree

When showing your home, include holiday decor that allows potential buyers to picture themselves in the space. For example, choose a tree that allows other aspects of your home to shine. Your living room or entryway will look bigger if you opt for a small artificial tree over a 6-foot live pine. An artificial tree is also less messy than a real one, meaning your home will always be neat and tidy and ready for the next showing.

Light It Up

The Christmas light possibilities are endless, but when you’re staging a home for sale, think simple and low-key and stick to one style. An over-the-top display might not reflect the tastes of your potential buyers, and too many decorations can take away from the room itself.

Take advantage of the many styles of Christmas tree lights available to give your home an understated yet inviting holiday look. Opt for something different, like an artificial white tree decorated with white LED lights. Finally, choose ornaments and trim that coordinate with the lights. Add a few silver and red ornaments for extra sparkle and color. It’s just enough Christmas for your family to enjoy without overpowering the room.

Decorate Your Mantel

Traditional Christmas Fireplace

The fireplace is an important focal point. Keep it simple and elegant to help potential buyers imagine opening their own Christmas gifts around a roaring fire.

Don’t completely cover the mantel. Pack away any personal family photos or the kids’ school crafts. Drape a garland across the mantel, allowing the branches to hang over the edge. A string of simple white LED lights adds just enough illumination to highlight the fireplace.

Add a few candles and a simple vase to reflect the light. A rustic wreath on the wall above the mantel completes the scene without distracting from the main event. This style is classic enough to appeal to a variety of buyers while still capturing the holiday spirit.

Don’t Forget the Exterior

Christmas Door

Increase your curb appeal and make a good impression from the get-go by decorating the outside of your home. Consider your neighborhood, too–if all of your neighbors have lights and outdoor decorations, you don’t want to be the only home without them.

Keep things simple and easy with a festive wreath on the door to greet potential buyers. Wrap a garland or string of lights around your front porch (or hang them around your entryway), then finish the look with lanterns or a potted evergreen. Finally, make sure your walkway is clear of snow or ice.

Welcome Buyers With the Spirit of the Holidays

During an open house, create the feel of a festive holiday party by offering seasonal snacks like gingerbread cookies, candy canes, hot chocolate, and apple cider. Keeping mulled hot apple cider simmering on the stove will also make the whole house smell good. Light a fire in your fireplace to make the home feel cozy and warm, helping visitors envision living there. When it comes to impressing potential buyers, these small touches can make all the difference.

MerriABOUT THE AUTHOR: Merri Cvetan is an interior designer who writes about home decor topics for The Home Depot. See more Christmas lights and decorating ideas for the holidays.

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Hot Home Trend: Bamboo Everything!

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Bamboo is making its way into more home interiors. From flooring, window treatments to wall accents, furnishings and more, this sustainable material is popping up everywhere.

Some designers are making bamboo their go-to material, which RISMedia recently highlighted in the article “4 Reasons Why Bamboo Is Taking Home Décor by Storm.”

Bamboo is widely available and more affordable than many other wood products. Bamboo is traditionally considered a type of wood flooring, but it’s actually not a wood at all, but a grass. And at growth rates of three to five feet per year, bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on Earth, which means it’s widely available for spicing up interiors.

Here are a few trending ways we’re seeing bamboo enter more household decor.

Gold bamboo is particularly hot for home accents (Check out the coffee table in the picture below).

Bamboo-textured walls can add a focal point to a space.

Bamboo is popular in landscapes and for adding privacy.

Bamboo flooring is an alternative to wood flooring and comes in many different color variations.

Bamboo can be used for an artistic privacy screen.

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Smarten Up Your Showings With Smart Home Technology

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By Christy Matte, guest contributor

Smart homes with security and automation features are becoming a hot trend, and they can be an exciting way to dazzle prospective home buyers (and up your staging efforts to a high-tech level at the same time). But if buyers have never experienced an automated home environment, rattling off a list of features could be meaningless at best, and confusing at worst. Here are some fun ways to show a home with smart features, so the buyers will be wowed and you can clinch the sale.

Know What It Is and How It Works

It should go without saying, but make sure you can control the features like a security system, smart locks, or smart lighting, before trying to introduce them to buyers. Ask the homeowner for tips, test them out, and be ready for the big show.

Get the Apps

Ask the seller for access to the associated apps for the various systems. Even better, convince the sellers to tie all smart home technology into one convenient smart hub. It’s an easy task with the help of their Internet service provider. Install one app on one device so prospective buyers can try them out.

Educate Buyers on the Benefits

Make a one-page list of the features, specifically showing how they can save time and money, while also providing increased security.

Go Beyond the Basics

Most people have a basic understanding of a traditional home security system. Show them how this particular system can go even further. Can it send them a text message for smoke detection or a water leak? Can you open the smart lock with your own designated code? Show buyers how much flexibility is available. Security systems aren’t just for protecting against theft anymore.

Have Fun!

Use motion detectors to trigger mood lighting and automated music as buyers move through the home. Let them set off the sprinkler system (after touring the yard, of course) with a swipe of the app. Teach them voice commands to trigger the home’s other functions.

With the right planning, you can turn your everyday showing into something truly special and extremely smart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christy Matte is a Boston-based writer who covers home security for XFINITY Home. She is also a die-hard techie who blogs at QuirkyFusion.com. 

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Hot Home Trend: The Statement Shower

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

The shower in the master bathroom is getting a lot more attention. In fact, it’s one of the main splurges among renovating homeowners, according to the 2017 U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Study. These “statement showers,” as Houzz dubs them in its report, include high-tech features, like rainfall showerheads, dual showers, curbless showers, and body sprays.

Upgrading the master shower was the most popular renovation project, according to the survey of more than 1,200 U.S. homeowners who were in the midst or just completed a bathroom reno project. For more than half of renovators, their main aim was to increase their shower’s size. Also, survey respondents showed a rise in demand for high-tech features, such as mood lighting or digital controls, in master bathrooms.

Over a quarter of homeowners – 27 percent – have opted to remove the bathtub in their master bathroom renovations, according to the survey. The removal of the bathtub has allowed more room for a larger shower.

“This year’s Bathroom Trends Study sheds light on two key trends in master bathrooms, showers as a focal point and the growing role of high-tech features in bathroom products,” says Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz. “Additionally, it is clear that today’s master bathroom renovations are marked by timeless and durable elements, from natural stone finishes to curbless shower entries, a benefit of having older generations in the driver’s seat. Still, the early wave of millennial homeowners reveals their preferences for homes of the future, from larger master bathrooms to clean lines and white and gray color pallets.”

The Houzz study found that the national average for a major remodel of a large master bathroom (considered over 100 square feet) is $21,000.

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View the Possibilities With Virtual Staging

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By Brian Balduf, VHT Studios

Appealing to home buyers is all about making that emotional connection. Smart marketers know emotions trump other factors, especially when you hear buyers say the listing “just feels right.” They may be searching for a new house, but they’re envisioning their next home.

Buyers’ emotional experience while home shopping is heightened even more by stunning real estate photography that is the attention-grabber in the age of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Houzz.

Breathtaking photographs and video stir buyers’ emotions and imaginations and prompt dreams about how they’ll live in that home.

New virtual staging tools go even one step further. Virtual staging makes a listing stand out and allows buyers to visualize their dreams – not only in their minds – but on their monitors or mobile devices.

When marketing to those buyers, virtual staging allows real estate professionals to present the rooms of a listing in many styles and functions, enabling agents to reach the widest audience possible by appealing to myriad tastes and lifestyle needs.

Virtual Staging blows up the current one-size-fits-all listing model and gives real estate pros far greater flexibility in customizing a listing to the desires and expectations of their perceived audiences.

It starts with high quality photographs, the standard for showing how a home is currently furnished and decorated today for its current owner. Virtual staging tools inserted into or enhancing those photographs amp up the features of a listing and showcase why each room is a great space and how it can be used, whether the prospective owner is a workout enthusiast, a craft hobbyist, or a new parent.

Also, virtual staging eliminates the expense of renting furnishings or hiring traditional stagers, while allowing buyers to mentally prepare how they can live in their prospective home.

Virtual staging helps buyers look beyond the stark, off-putting appearance of a vacant room. It also presents decorating options that enhance, for instance, a living room containing worn carpeting and outdated furniture that could leave a bad impression.

Virtual staging presents a property’s potential and can attract and interest different audiences with a variety of lifestyles.

See for yourself how virtual staging was used successfully by Robert Pribyl and Bernadette Ray, with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group in Chicago. Robert says they took advantage of virtual staging’s flexibility for a vacant and fully remodeled 130-year old house in the trendy Logan Square neighborhood.

Virtually staged by VHT Studios

“This neighborhood is very hot. It’s become a magnet for millennials and high-net worth investors, so we needed to showcase how single professionals or families with different needs might live in the home,” Pribyl says. “I like the modern furniture that buyers see in the living room – it fits the style of the buyers I’m trying to attract. The home looks more appealing to buyers when they can see select rooms that are furnished.

They used virtual staging to showcase how a bedroom might appeal, for instance, to a young couple with a newborn. They also transformed that same vacant bedroom into an office and an exercise room for a young entrepreneur or a workout enthusiast.

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Virtually staged by VHT Studios

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Virtually staged by VHT Studios

In the finished basement, virtual staging allowed the duo to show the space’s potential as a child’s playroom and man-cave for TV sports fans and game lovers.

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Virtually staged by VHT Studios

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Virtually staged by VHT Studios

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Virtually staged by VHT Studios

In just four weeks after installing virtual photographs, they received multiple offers on the listing, and as of this writing, they were in negotiations with potential buyers.

Virtual staging opens many real estate marketing options which up until now have been impossible to deploy. There are now unlimited ways to present a room’s functions or decor through virtual tools.

Real estate professionals are also applying flexibility to how they use virtually staged photographs. In addition to websites, advertising and brochures, agents are using enlarged virtually staged photographs that depict multiple room functions and placing them on easels in each room of their listings. This allows buyers to instantly recall the virtually staged home they viewed online, as well as to envision the many possibilities.

Also, consider these other virtual tools that can solve common headaches that real estate professionals have had to work through over the years:

  • Virtual paint is helpful when walls need a fresh coat of paint or when dated wallpaper needs a makeover.
  • Virtual declutter removes mementos and personal effects that may be cherished by the owner but are distractions to buyers.
  • And virtual twilight wows buyers and with warm, romantic, and welcoming exterior views that appeared to be photographed at dusk.

Here’s another example of a virtually staged living space at a listing in Rosemont, Ill. See how the space has been configured to appeal to different style preferences.

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Virtually staged by VHT Studios

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Virtually staged by VHT Studios

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Virtually staged by VHT Studios

Don’t Try This at Home!

Some digital photography pros may be tempted to hire a Photoshop hobbyist to digitally alter photos with virtual enhancements. Having great Photoshop skills doesn’t guarantee beautiful virtual staging.

Installing a virtual couch into a photograph and hitting “Sharpen My Image” may do more harm than good to a vacant room. Often the end result looks like the old Colorforms stickers we played with as kids.

Experienced virtual stagers are studio and image specialists who have composition skills in real estate photography and know how to blend multiple exposures in which lighting, window views, and details are merged to create the final composite photography.

They also understand perspective, shadows, and size in relation to room dimensions.

We advocate trusting your visual marketing to a pro, just as real estate brokers advocate to their clients.

The newest visual marketing tools are proof that real estate marketing is no longer a one-size-fits-all proposition. Smart professionals are adopting these tools to reach a much wider audience, to make a greater first impression on potential buyers, and sell homes faster and at the best price.

Brian BaldufABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brian Balduf, CEO, chairman and co-founder of VHT Studios, has built the Rosemont, Ill.-based firm into the nation’s largest real estate photography and image management services company. Since he co-founded the company in 1998, VHT Studios has helped more than 200,000 real estate professionals sell more than $200 billion in properties through its nationwide network of hundreds of photographers and image specialists. Delivering to real estate professionals their most powerful selling tools – high quality photography and video – Balduf has worked to ensure their properties get seen more, sell faster and at the highest price. For more information, visit VHT.com, The VHT Studios Blog or find us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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Homeowners: Don’t Call It ‘Aging in Place’

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Home prices in a few areas have skyrocketed by up to 95 percent over the past five years.

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Use Plants to Showcase a Healthier Home

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By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine

You can clean the air with plants. And in an age when “healthy home” is what so many buyers are saying they crave, you may find this a cheaper alternative to improving the air quality in a home by just being smarter about the plants you choose to stage with.

The Center for REALTOR(R) Technology has been studying how plants can improve indoor air quality, and has written a book on the topic, “A Pocket Guide to Cleaner Air.” The book focuses on which plants can improve air quality in commercial settings. Their findings can also apply to residential spaces too.

At the 2017 REALTOR(R) Conference & Expo this past weekend, CRT showcased an orb of clean-air plants on the show floor. We thought it looked like a chic space for an outdoor oasis of fresh air. But as the healthier-home trend catches on more, maybe we’ll even see this idea move indoors—like an indoor tropical paradise home office orb. After all, the cleaner air is supposed to make you more productive.

CRT’s clean-air orb display during the 2017 REALTOR(R) Conference & Expo

The average American spends about 90 percent of their time indoors. Yet, indoor air quality is about five to 10 times worse than outdoor air quality.

Certain plants, however, can actually improve the air quality of a space and even make people more productive and healthier, research shows. For example, dracaena warneckii is known for cleaning benzene and formaldehyde from the air—chemicals that are often linked to some furnishings. The “Money Plant,” or also known as Devil’s Ivy, is known as one of the hardiest house plants to kill and also will rid these potentially harmful chemicals from the air. The Chinese evergreen is another plant that is known to clean indoor air, and as a bonus for when selling a home, it’s known to bring good luck to those who grow it.

Infuse more clean-air plants into your next listing. Maybe buyers will notice there’s something different in the air.

A sample taken from CRT’s book “A Pocket Guide to Cleaner Air”

Continue Reading →

Use Plants to Showcase a Healthier Home

ORB_SSS

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine

You can clean the air with plants. And in an age when “healthy home” is what so many buyers are saying they crave, you may find this a cheaper alternative to improving the air quality in a home by just being smarter about the plants you choose to stage with.

The Center for REALTOR(R) Technology has been studying how plants can improve indoor air quality, and has written a book on the topic, “A Pocket Guide to Cleaner Air.” The book focuses on which plants can improve air quality in commercial settings. Their findings can also apply to residential spaces too.

At the 2017 REALTOR(R) Conference & Expo this past weekend, CRT showcased an orb of clean-air plants on the show floor. We thought it looked like a chic space for an outdoor oasis of fresh air. But as the healthier-home trend catches on more, maybe we’ll even see this idea move indoors—like an indoor tropical paradise home office orb. After all, the cleaner air is supposed to make you more productive.

CRT’s clean-air orb display during the 2017 REALTOR(R) Conference & Expo

The average American spends about 90 percent of their time indoors. Yet, indoor air quality is about five to 10 times worse than outdoor air quality.

Certain plants, however, can actually improve the air quality of a space and even make people more productive and healthier, research shows. For example, dracaena warneckii is known for cleaning benzene and formaldehyde from the air—chemicals that are often linked to some furnishings. The “Money Plant,” or also known as Devil’s Ivy, is known as one of the hardiest house plants to kill and also will rid these potentially harmful chemicals from the air. The Chinese evergreen is another plant that is known to clean indoor air, and as a bonus for when selling a home, it’s known to bring good luck to those who grow it.

Infuse more clean-air plants into your next listing. Maybe buyers will notice there’s something different in the air.

A sample taken from CRT’s book “A Pocket Guide to Cleaner Air”

Continue Reading →

Hot Home Trend: The Statement Shower

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

The shower in the master bathroom is getting a lot more attention. In fact, it’s one of the main splurges among renovating homeowners, according to the 2017 U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Study. These “statement showers,” as Houzz dubs them in its report, include high-tech features, like rainfall showerheads, dual showers, curbless showers, and body sprays.

Upgrading the master shower was the most popular renovation project, according to the survey of more than 1,200 U.S. homeowners who were in the midst or just completed a bathroom reno project. For more than half of renovators, their main aim was to increase their shower’s size. Also, survey respondents showed a rise in demand for high-tech features, such as mood lighting or digital controls, in master bathrooms.

Over a quarter of homeowners – 27 percent – have opted to remove the bathtub in their master bathroom renovations, according to the survey. The removal of the bathtub has allowed more room for a larger shower.

“This year’s Bathroom Trends Study sheds light on two key trends in master bathrooms, showers as a focal point and the growing role of high-tech features in bathroom products,” says Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz. “Additionally, it is clear that today’s master bathroom renovations are marked by timeless and durable elements, from natural stone finishes to curbless shower entries, a benefit of having older generations in the driver’s seat. Still, the early wave of millennial homeowners reveals their preferences for homes of the future, from larger master bathrooms to clean lines and white and gray color pallets.”

The Houzz study found that the national average for a major remodel of a large master bathroom (considered over 100 square feet) is $21,000.

Continue Reading →