White’s a colors, right?

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Ah, husbands. They are both a necessary evil and a wonderful refreshing comedic companion. As a decorator, I get many requests for color consultations. For some reason, color, really intimidates people. I find my clients either can not envision what color would work in a space or they are stuck in the Bermuda Color-wheel Triangle and have the same three colors throughout their entire home. Either way, they call me to help point them in the right direction. In many of my clients homes they have large non descript walls with no real architectural value or interest. Some so blank they are almost painful to look at. I often get asked what can they hang to fill the barren space. Many times, my answer is paint. Paint has a beautiful way of filling a space visually without over crowding or cluttering it. Now inevitably there is at least one person that does not agree…the husband. “White is a color right?” is and actual response I have gotten when suggesting we paint the walls a “color”. I don’t know what it is about paint that husbands don’t take a shine to. Perhaps it’s because they will be doing the painting! They typically do not understand that by adding an accent wall or painting a room it will make a huge impact on the feeling of there home (and sometimes for very little money). I have had clients who would rather spend hundreds of dollars on art that ends up not adding much personality rather than buy a $50 gallon of paint. Now, I may be one of those weirdos who actually finds painting relaxing, but even if you despise painting like I loath laundry, the difference it makes can not be disputed. So my anit-painting gentlemen, yes, white is a color BUT, it IS NOT the color that is going to make your wife happy (or your decorator). So if you wan

A large wall needs paint to fill the space with interest. This Lakeway office went with a warm yet bright blue to update there look.

A large wall needs paint to fill the space with interest. This Lakeway office went with a warm yet bright blue to update their look.

t you house to feel like a home, listen to the decorator and PAINT THE WALL.

Pricing, “I hate Money”

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Ok, hate is a strong word, and to be more accurate, I hate talking money. It has always been this way with me. As a kid I would go to garage sales with my mom. I would see something I like but I didn’t want to ask how much it was: What if I didn’t have enough money? What if I thought it was to much?….THE STRESS!!!!! Now as an adult and shamelesss bargain shopper, I don’t mind asking about pricing and discounts (it is part of my job as a designer) but I still seriously do not like talking about money, especially when it comes to how I get paid. I try to resolve this issue by displaying pricing on my website to both put my would be clients minds at ease (hey maybe they don’t like asking about money either) and skip the entire first conversation of “How much do you charge”.

When people ask me face to face what I charge, after I tell them, I find myself trying to figure out if their response says “too much”, “too little” or what?! I think the reason it is so difficult for me is because I love what I do, I mean I LOVE what I do. I joke that sometimes I am just a glorified mover (which is quite accurate 50% of the time) but for me it seems really unfair to the rest of humanity that I get paid to do this. It is hard to put a price on something, quite honestly, I would do for free.

This is actually one of the top subjects among those just entering the staging and design industry. One of the first things new designers and stagers ask is “What do you charge?” I have always found that there is a certain stigma that surrounds the design world. Something that says “I’m expensive, you can not afford me.” I do not believe that to be a great designer you have to charge astronomical fees, but I also do not believe in selling yourself short. When you believe in what you are doing and people believe you are good enough to get paid to do it, don’t give it away, that devalues everyone in the trade. Do your research, find out what the average going rate for your services are and then decide where your particular experience puts you in that average.

People tell me all the time, “you should charge more” and with as long as I have been doing this, I probably could. But that is why I started Decorator For Hire to begin with. I want to be able to offer design to everyone. Maybe you can’t afford a complete overhaul of your house but you could pay for a 2 hour consult to get the information you need to get started, and save you money in the long run. There are so many benefits to hiring a professional in addition to just good design.

So don’t let money talk slow you down. Get out there, and find out what you are worth, and then make it happen. As for future clients, don’t be afraid to call me up and tell me what you need help with. I promise we can find a solution without breaking the bank.

It’s All About Who You Know

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So if you are not in the “real estate biz” you may not know that part of what makes the top realtors the cream of the crop, is all about who they know. Not just other realtors and upcoming listings, it’s what vendors they know that will help you when buying or selling a home i.e.. Insurance, mortgage, carpet cleaner, stager…you get the idea. The same is true as a designer, your are only as good as the trades that you work with and that you recommend. When hiring a designer, you may want to find out who they know: Do they have a great painter, what about a landscaper or contractor. Not every designer can help you with every vendor, but if they are established they should have a couple of golden nuggets they can share and this is part of the value of hiring a design company.

Now I’m sure everyone does it differently, but the vendors that I recommend do not typically give me anything for doing so. I don’t get a percentage when my painter comes out, he does however give my clients preferred pricing because I send him so much business. I want my clients to know that these trade professionals are the ones I work with, because I trust their work, not because it means bonus time for Alicia.  I choose to make my income based on design time and product commission. That means, I only charge my clients when I am working on their individual project and shopping for the goods they need.

The point is, if you are looking for a designer be sure to get the best bang for your buck. A professional who has been designing for years has already taken the lumps and bruises finding the best labor out there. Remember you are hiring them for the expertise in all things sparkly and shiny as well as the experts they know.

What’s Your Problem (with design)

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Ahh the ever unattainable magazine spread, featuring a perfectly collected cottage that looks like it is lived in by magical fairies. Just the right balance of books and inanimate objects on the table, sun beams flooding in through the perfectly hung draperies, looking through to the beautifully manicured garden. It’s enough to make any sane person insane with design envy. 

If you are like most homeowners, you would be happy with an organized junk drawer but who doesn’t want deep down to obtain the wonderful and inviting home in those pictures? It can be daunting and overwhelming to say the least, forget trying to live up to the magazines, you’re just trying to find matching curtains! Don’t despair, help is here!

To start with, take a deep breath and ask yourself these questions to decide where to start.
What room is top priority? What will this rooms primary use be? What magazines and styles have you been drooling over?  What colors are you drawn to? What is your budget?  What is your timeframe? Do you have friends or family that are good with colors and design that could help you, or that can recommend a great decorator/designer? If you have more money than time (or patience) then hiring someone is the way to go. Not only will you take the stress and pressure off of yourself, but they can help you pull together your vision, actually save you money and time in many cases and give you an overall more pulled together look.

If it is important to you, then do it as soon as you can. So many of my clients put redesigning off until they hate their home, decide to sell, hire me to stage it and then say “wish we would have done this sooner, so we could have enjoyed it.” And in some cases they decide not to sell because the home they wanted was there all along, it just needed a little love. I truly believe that a happier home makes a happier heart. No money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy drapes and just the right amount of books vs inanimate objects!Image

Austin Sellers Market NEEDS Stagers

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So inventory is low, demand is high, why in the world would you need to pay a stager to stage your listing? Simple, money. Unless you are like that little girl in the banking commercial, chances are you like MORE MONEY. And put simply, staging is all about getting more. I tell my clients, in this market, it is not about if you will sell your house (because you most likely will) but how much more can you get? 

In a buyers market, staging is all about making the home more appealing to beat out competitors. Well guess what, it’s the same in a sellers except now the competitors are not other homes, they are other buyers. Let me explain. If the home inventory is low and the buyer demand is high, then someone needs your home. Chances are more than one buyer needs it. The point of staging it is to get the offers in swift, high and at war! Now is the time to take advantage of the market and squeeze every last dime out of your home. 

Take the time to hire a professional stager, investing even in just a one or two hour staging consultation can make all the difference in the world. In selling tactics, the best way to put it is: If I told you you could make $10,000 more by spending $100 more, would you do it?

Most stagers offer a base consult where they come in and evaluate your home and give recommendations to improve the value.  In ANY market, this is a wise investment and will pay off every time. So don’t be fooled by how fast houses are moving, if the house isn’t staged, there is money left on the table.

Austin Home Staging Tips

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I was recently asked by a local writer with the Austin Board of Realtors to comment on some common staging questions. Many of them were ones I have been asked before and some not so common, but  I thought posting all would be helpful to those looking to have their home staged or who have considered doing it themselves.
 
1. How long have you been staging homes? How has this practice evolved?

I have been staging homes for 7 years. In my opinion the biggest evolution is that staging is more prevalent. It is the new standard when listing your home. With the reality TV boom realtors and sellers alike have an acute awareness of staging. The business itself has not really changed all that much. There are certainly some specific design practices that are no longer common, but as a whole the industries growth is the biggest evolution. 

 
2. Do staged homes sell faster than those that are not staged? What are the statistics?
Overall staged homes do sell faster and often for more money than unstaged homes. The rate at which that occurs solely depends on how experienced the stager is. Homes staged by Decorator For Hire sell, on average, 83% faster. According the the Real Estate Staging Associations 2011 staging report, the national statistics show a 70-80% faster sell rate.
 
3. What are the credentials for a staging specialist?
There are no necessary credentials to call yourself a “stager” which is why anyone searching for an experienced and reputable stager should ask for realtor referrals and pictures of previous homes. Be sure that the photos are of actual local properties and not “stock photos”. Some staging programs that “certify” stagers, offer stock photos for new stagers. This is a practice frowned upon by the industry as a whole, but does still happen. These sort of education programs are widely available, but are not necessary to practice staging. It also a good idea to belong to reputable trade memberships such as the Real Estate Staging Association and the American Society of Home Stagers and Redesigners that help keep the integrity of staging intact.
 
4. Can you guide me through the staging process? 
The process can be different depending on what type of staging is required, vacant, occupied or vignette. Not all stagers offer those options, some only do occupied homes or one of the other specialties. We offer both occupied and vacant, but do not believe there is value for the consumer in vignette. All staging begins with the initial contact by phone, gathering pertinent information about the listing (i.e. location, size, style, listing price, vacant, etc.) This is also when you find out expectation in pricing and what the clients overall needs are. Once everything has been established and terms are agreed upon, a contract is sent along with a deposit request. From here the next steps change depending on the needs. If it is merely a consult,meaning they just want a walk through and written report of an occupied home, then there is no need for a contract and an appointment is set and report sent after. Vacant homes are bid on a case by case basis and the process as well as the timeline can differ.
 
5.  How do you sell staging to clients? Why is it important?

I don’t usually have to. By the time the seller or realtor contacts me, they have pretty much already decided they need me. Five years ago, that wasn’t so much the case as information hadn’t been so readily available and I had to educate potential clients on the value of staging. But now it is generally accepted that if you want to be competitive, you have to stage your home.

 
6. Without giving away your secrets, what are the top ten staging concepts a homeowners should know about?
1. Declutter. That goes for rooms, walls, shelves, closets, garages, cabinets…EVERYTHING. Why pay to pack and move items, you don’t need or want. Recycle the money you get from selling old stuff, for updates.
2. Clean your house ( I know this sounds like a given, but you would be surprised! Deep clean those showers, baseboards, tiles and carpets.)
3. Remove your personal belongings (buyers don’t want to know you use a water pick and foot luffa).
4. Remove affiliated decor (religious, school, work). If there is a chance of offending even one potential buyer, is it worth it?
5. Freshly paint interior with warm neutral colors.”Builder Beige” is not a warm neutral color.
6. Curb appeal is just as important as staging. If you can’t get them to come in, then the inside doesn’t matter.
7. Add neutral and seasonal home fragrances. Even if your home does not have an offensive oder, it does have your oder.
8. Make sure, curtains, throw pillows and rugs coordinate and add a bit of color.
9. You don’t want something hanging on every wall, but you do want something hanging on key walls.
10. It does not have to be expensive to have your home staged. Even one hour will make a HUGE difference in your bottom line.
 
7. Clearing clutter is a big part of the staging process. What tactics do you use to convince homeowners to let go of their stuff?
They don’t have to let go of it, just remove it. If they choose to store it, then I tell them they are one step closer to moving, because they have one more boxed already packed. But I do encourage them to make sure it is something that they want in there new home. No one wants to pay to move something just to unpack it and donate it. Sometimes we get so used to having “things” around, we don’t stop and think about if really really want them anymore. 
 
8. Will a room feel larger if the furniture is pushed against the wall or does floating furniture in groups open up traffic flow?
The short answer is no, but it all depends on the room, the layout and the furniture size. Typically it is not ideal to push your furniture against a wall, but sometimes it is the best choice for traffic flow. Not all rooms are large enough to have the furniture floating. The most important thing is to have size appropriate furniture and just the right amount of it.
 
 9. How do you use lighting in the staging process?

Everywhere! Light is money in real estate. Aside from using all existing ceiling and mounted lighting, adding side lamps, table lamps and counter lamps create an ambiance and warmth. I use lamps in every room, including kitchens and bathrooms when appropriate.

 
10. How can paint improve a space? Make it appear larger?

New paint is to a house like a wash is to a car, it adds a fresh, clean, new feel. Warm neutral colors can lighten and brighten a room, or make it feel more cozy, which ever look you are trying to achieve. There are mixed reviews as to whether a lighter color really makes a room feel larger or not, but it does make it feel brighter and that is a good thing.

 
11. Do you have creative suggestions for hanging wall art?

I have creative solutions for wall art, but rarely do you need them for hanging wall art. Art needs to be the right proportion, hung securely and at an appropriate hight. It is a good idea to mix framed art with sculptural hanging pieces to add texture and interest. It can get boring quick having one frame after another. You can also use paint as art in small decorative spaces, niches and coffered ceilings. 

 
12. When organizing accessories, is the rule of three still a good one to follow? Is color, texture and shape also important?

The rule of odds, still applies it can be 1,3 or 5. Color, texture and shape are always import. You are not selling your decor, but you do want it to be pleasing to the eye and have an overall cohesive look.

 

13. Have you ever staged a home so well that the owner kept his home?

Great question, but no. Usually sellers have special circumstances outside the home that requires a move, expanding family, job relocation, etc. I have, however, had home owners say more times than I can count “Why didn’t I call you sooner!” And since I am a decorating and staging company, many of my staging clients become design clients and hire me to decorate there new home.

 

14. Please feel free to include any additional information that I didn’t ask.

The biggest reason people may not realize they need a stager is because there is so much more than just decluttering and redecorating. Having a solid understanding of spacial relationships and how to apply them, as well as being able to see a home through buyers eyes, are skills only a trained and experienced home stager can offer.

Five Common Costly Mistakes Made by Untrained Home Stagers

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Great advice all the way around.

Kitchener-Waterloo Home Staging Blog

This article was originally written by Nairn Friemann, president of Ingenuity & Pizzazz Inc., RESA 2012 Professional Home Stager of the Year and a CSP graduate and intructor. Her article is wonderfully well written and really showcases the pitfalls associated with choosing the wrong home stager.

Five Common Costly Mistakes Made by Untrained Home Stagers

Selling a home is never easy. However, the challenges today seem overwhelming to most sellers.

The main criteria for selling real estate have always been location, size, and price but never before have presentation and condition been as important as they are today. 95% of buyers are shopping first on the Internet and “driving-by” properties in a “click.” Without a doubt, appealing website photos are the key to attracting buyer traffic (we have dubbed it ‘speed dating’ for homes). Visiting the property, buyers form first and lasting impressions within seconds. 90% of the population cannot…

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