3 inexpensive staging tips anyone can do

Putting your best foot forward. We’ve always been told in our personal and professional lives this is the best course of action when wanting to impress and create or demonstrate value. How does your house put its ‘best foot forward’ demonstrating its value to buyers? One way is to stage the home. Many of you have heard the typical generic tips of ‘de-personalize’, ‘de-clutter’, ‘organize’. But once that’s done here are some easy ways that you can further impress buyers and set your home apart.

1.) Pillows add pop

staging 4 staging 5

Many people have neutral couches. They’re a great buy. But photography will highlight these pieces and rooms the best if there’s a little color mixed in. In addition, choosing bright, uplifting colors can improve the in person showing as buyers react positively to the warmth. Above are two great examples of very neutral couches with easy pops of colors in the pillows and accessories. These types of pillows can be found at Target or Home Goods 4-5 pillows and a throw blanket could easily be found for an under $100 budget.

2) Baskets for storage

Messy closets make people think the closet is small and the house doesn’t have enough storage for all of your things so how could it possibly fit all of theirs! Baskets are an attractive and easy way to clean up your storage areas.

staging with basketsYou can see from this before and after that the baskets make it seem like there’s still some ‘wiggle’ room and that things can fit neatly and easily into this space. You can even use baskets as a pop of color in the closet or bring it into the room like these turquoise and white chevron storage bins from Joss and Main.

colorful storageThese could add a nice touch to white book shelves and would be great for toys, office storage, towels, lots of different types of items.

3.) Every room has a purpose

Every room in your home needs a purpose. If you want buyers to see a small room as a bedroom because you’ve decided to list it as one, then you need to stage it as one. Otherwise, you will definitely hear in your showing feedback ‘a bed won’t fit in there.’ Same with that room you’re using as a yoga studio- if you want people to know that they could use it as an office you want to stage it as an office. You may be saying ‘well that should be obvious.’ But assuming that buyers can visualize what the office would look like with all of your yoga mats and pilates gear on the floor is a mistake. Most buyers cannot visualize what a room make over would look like when complete. This may sound like a big expense but using craigslist, discount stores, resale stores, or outsourcing from friends are all great ways you can make over a room on your own for less than $500.

IMG_1777Here’s an example of a room that was 8×10 and the seller wanted to list it as a bedroom. The trundle day bed was found at a resale store for $150 and pillows and a quilt were purchased for an additional $100, a dining room chair was borrowed to go next to the existing floor lamp and a home goods rug was added for $70. And Voila! A new functional guest space that looks inviting to any buyer.

staging 1Here’s one more example of easy, inexpensive staging you can do on your own. The before has clutter, distraction, and bulky furniture. The artisan desk, chair, rug, and few pictures, strip this room down to the main function or purpose that is intended and makes the room look larger and more inviting.

With a little time and a little money any space can look staged to sell!

3 tips to win a multiple offer

Many of my deals this year and in the past several years have been the result of a multiple offer situation. When a listing is priced right in a competitive market there may be several bids in just that first few days that it hits the market . Therefore, it is important for buyers to be prepared. First, ask your Realtor about market conditions and what to expect. Things like, ‘what are average market times for homes in my pricepoint?’ ‘Should I be prepared to pay list price or higher?’ Setting these expectations for yourself can help so much in the process and give you the confidence needed to move forward on the home you love when you find it. If you land in a multiple offer bid situation here are 3 tips that may help you gain the advantage.

1) Find out what is really important to the Seller.

Many make the mistake of automatically assuming it is price. So often people get bent out of shape later on when a house closes and they find out their offer was higher but they did not win the bid for the home they wanted. But here are a few other factors that might be more important than price to a seller: Closing Date – they may have a very specific time frame for themselves or their family that they need accommodated. Financing – many sellers have been burned before by buyers whose financing fell through, so a cash offer or higher percentage down might be more appealing. Contingencies of any kind- similar to financing, fear of the deal falling through and starting all over can be a big motivator in a seller choosing a different offer. For instance, perhaps the other offer waives their appraisal or inspection contingency. By finding out through the other agent or directly from the seller in a for sale by owner scenario, what aspects of the sale are most important to them, often times you can craft the strongest offer.

2) Be Fast and Be First


When you get a response from the seller during a negotiation don’t take a day to think it over. This is a really easy way when multiple parties are interested to lose out on a home. Remember ‘The early bird gets the worm’ and all other cliches associated with ‘get in gear!’ This is the time to be first if you can and start the tone of all other negotiations. Show you are serious and interested. It’s not like a garage sale where you really want the painting you see but in front of the owner pretend not to be that interested so that you can get a ‘deal’. In multiple offers playing hard to get won’t work. They don’t need to come get you, you’re pursuing the asset they have and remember it’s soon to be one of your biggest and most important assets. If it’s that important don’t play games.

3) Try an Escalation Clause escalator

First, let me say these are permissible and becoming more and more common in IL. In other states you would need to check with your Realtor to find out if you can use one. Here is a sample wording of an escalation clause “Buyer is offering $250,000 OR $2,000 over the next highest bid not to exceed $260,000.” Sometimes these work, sometimes they do not. In many circumstances it can give you that little bit of edge you need since you do not know what others are offering. To ensure honesty, I request that if this clause is put into place that the other offer be shown to the buyer (names blacked out) before all final signatures are applied. Some circumstances where it doesn’t work is if more than one party tries the escalation clause approach or if, as previously mentioned above, price is not the main motivating factor for the sellers. It is a creative strategy though and one that can often times make the difference. Don’t forget to put the ceiling on the price!

While I said 3 tips, I am going to throw in one other bonus tip to try. In wanting to set yourself apart, it might be a good idea to write a short 1-2 paragraph cover letter introducing yourself and explaining why you want to buy the home. This won’t necessarily make an impression on everyone, particularly those just worried about the bottom line, but in some situations where both offers are generally the same, it might be the thing that sets yours apart. Example would be “Dear seller, my name is xyz and my wife and I are expecting our first child. We love your home and the obvious care and work that you have put into it over the years. We very much hope that we can raise our children there and put into it as much love and attention as you have…..” hopefully you get the idea.

I hope these tips help you if you are searching for a home and find yourself in multiple offers! If you are searching on the North Shore or city of Chicago I’d be happy to help you find your next home!

First time buying- a look across the country

According to the National Association of Realtors 2014 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report the largest market share of 1st time buyers is purchasing between $200,000 and $250,000. Here is an interesting look at how our local market of Evanston, IL compares to some of the other major markets across the country.

Evanston, IL Listed at $249,000 2 bed, 2 bath 1500 Sq ft.

evanston listing 1evanston 2evanston 3evanston 4

Listed by Cathy Kozlarek, Coldwell Banker 

New York, New York Washington Heights Listed at $249,000 1 bed, 1 bath Sq footage not reported

new york 1 new york 2 new york 3

Courtesy of Urban Compass, Inc

San Francisco, CA Listed at $218,703 1 bed, 1 bath 974 Sq ft.

San Fran 1

Listed By: Real Estate Revolution

Miami, FL listed at $259,900 0 bed, 1 bath 507 Sq ft.

Miami 1 Miami 2 Miami 3 Miami 4

Courtesy of EWM

Top 3 reasons a home isn’t selling

A wise man once said selling homes is about 3 things: Price, Condition, Location. While certainly many more aspects of marketing go into selling a home many of them do fall into these three categories. Put another way- Does your price suit your home’s condition and location?

Therefore the #1 reason a home doesn’t sell…… yes you probably guessed it- it’s overpriced!

sticker shock-resized-600

What are some ways you know your home is overpriced?

1) You aren’t getting showings. Especially if your Realtor is updating you that you are getting lots of online views, or ‘virtual showings’ as they are often referred to, but no one is asking to see it in person, this is a good indication the price is too high and people aren’t willing to come look at it.

2) When you request a CMA or professional appraisal the other similar homes that have sold in the area are not in close range with yours. Looking at the recent sales is a better indication than the other homes on the market because the other homes on the market are simply other properties also not selling. So there is no guarantee their homes are appropriately priced to the market either.

3) People cringe when you tell them the price. Ok this was meant to be funny but is often true. Good to be socially aware of people’s reaction and feedback to your price.

#2 Reason your Home isn’t selling….. Condition

Now Condition could mean a few things. What if your home is actually very nice and buyers will love it but your pictures are terrible? That is a poor representation then of your condition. But all points generally relate to the same issue of how your home is being presented. Here is a simple comparison of photos-

Photo A                                                                        Photo B

photo beforephoto after

(photo credit Harry Lim)

Photo A looks dark, smaller and unfriendly. Photo B light, bright, big and the buyer feels they can move right in!

Sometimes the condition has nothing to do with the photos and the home has not been kept up competitively with other homes in the area. I.E. the home for sale has formica counters, brass hardware, and white appliances from 1990. Vs. Other homes on the market that have granite or the more and more popular quartz counters, stainless steel appliances purchased in the last 5 years, and chrome or nickel hardware.

One other issue I would raise in relation to condition would be clutter and personalization. Buyers want to see themselves in the home. They can’t do that if when they walk in the tables are covered with homework and empty glasses, and your beautiful family photos are all over the walls. A good Realtor or stager can help you to get a clean palette and de-personalize so that buyers can visualize it as their next home. This includes  repainting the crazy orange wall you might love to a more neutral look that has a wider appeal. Save it for your next home!

Finally #3 Location.

Everyone has heard over the years that Real estate is all about location, location, location. Truer words have never been spoken. Particularly at a time when the largest buying generation, millennials, are about to eclipse the marketplace. Studies have shown this Gen-Y group is willing to sacrifice size and space for location and lifestyle.

Now of course you can’t move the house. If it backs up to a highway or is not close to a town center you probably at some point made the same compromise that your buyer will decide to ultimately make. But that compromise has to be for some other incentive….yes that’s right back to our other two favorite words- better condition (meaning less work and updating on the buyer’s part) or better price.

While I said top three reasons at the top and I am holding to that, I will also add that using a Realtor is crucial in selling your home. This is your biggest investment and putting it in the hands of a professional that knows the marketplace and is going to work hard for you is very important. You wouldn’t operate on your own appendix and hopefully you value your home as much as your health. Therefore, please seek out the help of a true professional when listing your home.