Setting the Stage

When trying to sell your home, you want to make sure its best features are on display without going over-the-top or downplaying anything that could sway a potential buyer. Obviously, the exterior of a house is easier to show off in spring or summer, when the sun is out and your grass is a pleasant shade of green. But even when winter is still keeping the plant life to a minimum, the experts here at Intracoastal Realty have a few ideas to combat any lingering winter chill.

Keep everything accessible

There’s a reason the term is “spring cleaning.” But, in order to put your house’s best foot forward and get it sold, you might have to bust out the gardening gloves a little earlier than planned. The very first impression you can give is of your home’s exterior, so make it a memorable one – and in a good way, too. Clear the walkways, establish comfortable paths between shrubs and other plant life that will be returning in the spring, and in the case of snow or ice, be sure to shovel the sidewalk and steps when a potential buyer is coming over.

Timing is everything

Some homeowners like to spruce up the outdoors with some decorative lighting, even before and after the major holiday season. You can use this to your advantage if you’re trying to sell your house when the branches are more than likely bare. Strands of twinkling lights and strategically placed adornments can fill up the empty space left once the leaves fall, and go a long way in making your home look and feel warm and comforting, even when the temperatures outside say otherwise.   

Play to your strengths

Let’s face it: every house has its flaws. The advantage to selling yours in wintertime, though, is that if it’s a matter of a small yard or otherwise awkward terrain, you can go ahead and address these drawbacks openly with potential buyers while still having plenty of room without encroaching foliage to point out the positives. Take a walk around the property with your real estate agent and take stock of the pros and cons, then discuss the best ways to present them to those that come for a viewing of the house. With the right agent, any interested parties will promptly get both sides of the story, without you truly risking the sale in favor of disclosure.

No matter the time of year, putting a house on the market is always going to be a challenge. With experienced agents like those at Intracoastal Realty, you can be sure that you have someone to walk you through every step of the process. Contact us today to get started!

Professional Home Staging Can Lead to a Quicker Sale, and More Money

By Judy Royal

All the world’s a stage, including your home. If you’re planning to sell a property in the Wilmington NC real estate market, you’ll want to make it as appealing as possible to the masses with an eye-catching first impression. Cleaning and fixing that doorknob that’s been broken for years aren’t the only things you can do to get ready. Home staging is the process of preparing your residence for the marketplace with the goal of making it attractive to the highest number of potential buyers through the use of the following components: artwork, painting, furniture, accessories, lighting, greenery, and carpet. Experts agree that a professionally staged home is likely to spend less time on the market and net a higher sales price.

“The first thing it does is it gives the buyer a vision and a lifestyle of how they can live in the home,” said Lyn Manning, interior decorator and staging specialist who works with many Intracoastal Realty clients. “It just sets up a whole visual appeal. When we go in model homes we typically like the model home, and part of that is because it’s all set up to visually appeal to and emotionally grab the buyer. It shows them that lifestyle that they can have in that home and helps them decide how they can set the furniture up.”

This is especially important in homes that have floor plans with irregularities, Manning said. Professional staging can smooth those out by adding visual items that might be similar to what the new owner would incorporate. “It kind of takes away that guessing game for a buyer who has seen that raw, open space,” she added.

Staging isn’t just for empty homes, though. Many potential sellers will need to continue living in their residences while they are on the market and open to buyer showings. While Manning can provide all the furniture and decor to stage an empty property, in a lived-in space she works with what’s already there. “The challenge is to show the homeowner that less is more and get them to understand that thinning out is really necessary,” she said. “I really need to use what they have, maybe adding a few inexpensive elements to dress up what they have, and that’s a key part of this. My job is not to critique or criticize how they have lived in the home or their choice of decor.”

The home staging concept was born in 1972 when Barb Schwarz left the interior design business and went into residential real estate in Bellevue, Washington. With a background in theater, she began to suggest to sellers that they set the scene for potential buyers. In 1985, Schwarz began touring the country to teach agents and decorators about home staging and how it can be an advantage when selling a house, and in 1999 she founded the International Association of Home Staging Professionals® (IAHSP®).

About 49 percent of Realtors® who work with buyers believe staging usually has an effect on the buyer’s view of the home, and another 47 percent believe staging sometimes has an impact on a buyer’s view of the home, according to the National Association of Realtors® 2015 Profile of Home Staging. The report, the first of its kind from NAR, also found that Realtors® on the buyer side believe staging makes an impact in several ways: 81 percent said staging helps buyers visualize the property as a future home, while 46 percent said it makes prospective buyers more willing to walk through a home they saw online.

Realtors® believe that buyers most often offer a 1-5 percent increase on the value of a staged home (37 percent from Realtors® representing sellers and 32 percent from Realtors® representing buyers). Additionally, 22 percent of Realtors® representing sellers and 16 percent of Realtors® representing buyers said the increase is closer to 6-10 percent.

For an empty home, Wilmington sellers can expect to pay an average of $1,595-$1,895 for home staging, depending on how many rooms need the service, and there is also a small fee for each month the staging specialist’s items remain on the property, Manning said. The cost for a detailed consultation that uses the homeowners’ existing belongings is $125-$155, she added.

So how do you get started when you have years or maybe even decades of accumulated goods in your dwelling space? Matthew Finlason, the host of HGTV’s television series “The Stagers,” offers these 10 rules for staging homes, according to an article on HGTV’s website:

  • Grab them from the curb: Add potted plants and flowers, pressure wash patios and walkways, weed the garden, and mow the lawn.
  • Make it sparkle: Mop, dust, vacuum, wash windows, and clean baseboards, inside cupboards, under sinks, and in closets. Also, be mindful of any odors.
  • Pay attention to color and light: Neutralize strong colors for the broadest appeal, and open up blinds and draperies to ensure sufficient natural light.
  • Depersonalize: Remove excessive personal items, such as photos, collections, personal awards, and electronics.
  • Consider replacing furnishings: Think about removing or replacing worn or outdated furnishings, and get rid of extra pieces.
  • Invest in new artwork: Breathe new life into your home with paintings and photography, which can be used to contemporize a room and add a splash of color.
  • Make repairs: Repair squeaky doors, chipped or smudged paint, and broken fixtures and fittings that you’ve neglected.
  • Apply a fresh coat of paint: Refresh a dull, dated room by brushing on some neutral color.
  • Don’t forget the floors: Get rid of worn carpets, and consider refinishing shabby hardwood floors. An inexpensive new area rug may also be a quick fix.
  • Spring for new light fixtures: Renew the look of the room by replacing old or dated light fixtures, door hardware, light switches, and outlets.

While these tips are a good start for any seller, they cannot replace the aesthetic details a professional can impart for a perfect look that can help you grab top dollar for your property.

Whether you’re in the market to buy or sell, Intracoastal Realty is here to meet your Wilmington NC real estate needs. We are a full-service real estate brokerage operating since 1976, and we currently have 12 offices with over 400 agents and staff to serve Southeastern North Carolina, including the areas of Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Southport, Oak Island, Ocean Isle Beach, Leland, Hampstead, and Topsail Island.

Home Renovations That Can Hurt (and Help) Your Property Value

Home Improvement House Meaning Renovate Or RestoreThe real estate market is on fire! When we have a market like this, it may be the right time to prepare your property for sale. If you’re considering substantial changes, they could affect the property’s overall market value. Here are four remodels to avoid and four to consider before listing your home.

Posted on Feb 23 2017 – 10:57am by Housecall / Brooke Nally

Remodels to Avoid:

Luxury Rooms

An indoor basketball court, wine cellar, sauna, or even a movie theater won’t often recoup the high building costs. Luxury add-on rooms are hard to pitch to buyers unless you’re living in an upscale housing market—the average homebuyer won’t be willing to pay for them. Further, rooms that depend heavily on wired electronics, like home theaters, are hard to keep current because TVs and speakers are constantly advancing.

Swimming Pool

The average cost to build a pool is $39,084, a hefty price tag that is seldom recovered once the home is sold. It’s widely accepted throughout the industry that a homeowner will lose money by adding a swimming pool. Homebuyers don’t want to deal with the maintenance cost of a pool (which can cost as much as $2,000 a year), the added insurance premiums, and—if they have young kids—the safety issues.

Gaudy Accents

Though gold-plated crown molding or mosaic-tile backsplashes may feature prominently in your ideal vision for your home, they often turn out to be the average homebuyer’s worst nightmare. Passing fads or niche trends rarely stick around long, so if you miss the brief window when your remodeling choices are in, you’ll end up paying for it later.

Changes Contrary to Area Standards

If you aren’t watching the trends common to your area, you could end up losing a lot of money. A home that totals $600,000 after all the renovations won’t sell in a neighborhood where homes are netting half that price. Likewise, knocking down the walls of extra bedrooms for an open layout won’t be appealing in a family-oriented neighborhood.

Remodels that Pay:

Steel Doors

You don’t want to go cheap on a standard front door. At roughly $1,000, steel doors are comparatively affordable, durable, low maintenance and burglar resistant. As an added bonus, the National Association of Realtors® reports that steel door upgrades show the highest return on investment of any home remodel, at over 100 percent of the cost.

Solar Panels

As the price of solar panels continues to drop, the energy payback on installing them is becoming greater and greater. The average rooftop solar system is now paid off in seven and a half years. After that, panels are a big money-saving asset. A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory notes that homebuyers “consistently have been willing to pay more for a property” with solar panels—a premium of around $4 per installed watt, on average.

Related: Will Your Homeowners Insurance Cover Solar Panels?

New Siding

The exterior of your house is the first thing potential homebuyers see when they come to your home, and you want to make the best first impression. This is part of the reason redoing your siding is so profitable. New siding recoups around 80 percent of the initial cost, according to the National Association of Realtors®, thanks largely to the increased curb appeal and improved energy efficiency it provides.

Broadband Access

Access to broadband speeds is considered an essential utility for today’s connected homebuyer. Research shows that faster internet speeds increase your home value by as much as 3 percent. Homeowners can prepare their homes for higher broadband connectivity by working with area providers to install requisite equipment and wiring. Building out wall ports and cable-hiding baseboards is a good move to attract buyers, too.

Even if you’re not considering selling your home just yet, keep potential selling benefits in mind. Intrepid homeowners know that the best remodels will increase both quality of life and listing price, so take care to invest in projects that will net the biggest returns.

7 Foolproof Signs It’s Time to Sell

Sometimes the answer is staring you right in the face. It might be time to sell if you just got a new job on the other side of the country, or if you know it’s only a matter of time before your family outgrows the one-story, two-bedroom house you’re living in. Other times though, it can be hard to find that catalyst that really drives you to list your home. If you’re mulling over the possibility of selling your house, but can’t nail down a specific reason, check out these signs to sell.

1. You need to size up (or size down).

Whether your family is building up or emptying out, one of the first reasons that might help you decide whether it’s time to move is: space. Do you need more of it or less of it? On the one hand, if you need some extra breathing room, it’s possible that you could always finish a spare room, garage, basement or attic, or just build off of what you have, but you need to make sure that it will eventually pay off. If you’d be pushing the value of your house way out of the market compared with your neighbors, then you’d be better off just moving on up into a different neighborhood. Plus, you might run into some barriers if you decide to throw up some extra walls in the form of building or neighborhood regulations.

And, if you have too much space, well, then, you just have too much space. Save yourself the hassle of maintaining and paying for a home that’s too big for you, and maybe opt for a little bungalow in an especially desired area that you’ve always wanted to live in.

2. You need a change of scenery.

Neighborhoods change, for better or for worse. Maybe there’s a been more development than you would’ve like nearby or you’re tired of dealing with your HOA or you just want some extra yards of space between you and your neighbor’s windows. If you aren’t crazy about your neighborhood or the surrounding area anymore, it’s time to start seriously considering a move, especially if you’re worried about the effect it will have on the value of your home. That’s not really a matter of opinion either. If you’re wondering about how the value of your house is holding up, you can check with a Realtor® or local agent to get the facts. If your value’s going to dip, it’s also time for you to dip.

3. There’s no point in remodeling.

This is similar to deciding whether or not you should expand. If you’re just wanting to upgrade your home in general with some renovations, instead of upgrading the size, it’s not a bad idea to touch base with a Realtor® or local agent first. They can run comps on the neighborhood to see if renovations would price you out of the neighborhood. It doesn’t really matter if you’ve got the nicest house on the block if your neighborhood doesn’t support the higher price tag you’re liable to have for buyers. If you’ve got major renovations in mind, you want to make sure you get some return on your investment. If not, it’s time to start looking for a house that maybe has those features already built in.

4. You can afford to sell your house (and move).

This sounds a bit like an oxymoron, but it costs money to sell a house. If you’ve got any repairs, painting or carpet-replacing to do, you’re going to have to do that before you even put your house on the market. Now, you could try to factor in the fact that certain repairs need to be done with strategizing your asking price and “cushion” for them there, but, keep in mind, you’re going to automatically be pushing a certain percentage of buyers away. There are many buyers out there who really don’t want to have to run through a whole laundry list of things they need to take care of right after moving and, perhaps more importantly, they still may end up asking you to foot the bill come inspection time. If your inspection yields a list of necessary repairs, you’re probably going to end up paying by either dropping your asking price even further or paying for them yourself. Not to mention, you also need to be able to actually afford the move, which, depending on how far you’ve got to go and how much stuff you have, can become pretty expensive in and of itself.

5. You’ve got the equity you need for a profit.

This is extremely important. If you don’t have the equity to back your selling your house, be prepared to take a loss. To quickly calculate your equity, you need to know how much you still owe on your mortgage and the value of your home. If the value of your home is greater than how much you owe on your mortgage, you’re in good shape. The bigger the number, the greater your resulting profit will be. (Don’t forget: It needs to be enough to cover the cost of buying your new home!) If that number is tiny or even in the negative, then you’re not really in a great position to sell and should seriously consider sitting out this season until the market improves, the value of your home improves or you owe less on your home.

6. The markets are stacked in your favor.

This is kind of tricky. Ordinarily, you’d be looking for a seller’s market, so a high demand for homes with a smaller inventory actually available. You’re likely to get the best price for you home. However, you’re also likely to be an active buyer too, so if you sell in a seller’s market, you might end up buying in a seller’s market too. It really just depends on what the market looks like where you selling and where you’re buying. On the other hand, if you sell in a buyer’s market, you’ll be buying in a buyer’s market, so it all kind of equals out in the end. However, knowing the health of the market beforehand helps to determine what your asking price should be, which sets you up for future negotiations and offers, which eventually determines how much you’re going to your new home with, so, it’s still important to know.

7. You’re ready to move on.

Let’s not forget: moving out of your home, especially one that you may have raised your children in or was the first home you and your partner bought together, can be emotional. Are you ready to actually let go? In plenty of instances, there are assuredly homeowners muttering “good riddance” under their breath. But there are lots of others who might need a little more time to linger. Bottom line: don’t rush. Especially, if you’re getting ready to leave a home you love. However, if you know that moving could become imminent in the near future, it might be time to start heeding the advice above and preparing yourself for that first, big step.

If you need help getting ready to take that first step, you can find it here. Just drop us a line at or call us at 1-800-533-1840, and we can make sure you have an amazing agent at your side.

5 Things That Pull Down the Value of Your Home (That You Can Fix!)

If you’re trying to prepare your home to sell, then you probably already know that maximizing your home’s value is really the best way for you to get the most out of your home, monetarily speaking. While there’s not always a whole lot you can do about the the highway they laid down behind your neighborhood a few years ago or the power lines that seem to have accumulated since you first moved in, there are still things that you can do to preserve your home’s value, if not increase it.

1. Swimming Pools & Elaborate Landscaping

There are several factors that determine whether or not having a swimming pool will actually be a good or bad investment in terms of the value of your home. If you’re in a locale that supports having a swimming pool with sweltering, long summers — like we are! — then a pool in and of itself isn’t a bad idea. However, if your pool isn’t well maintained or if it bogarts all the space in your backyard, it might end up hurting more than helping. Keep in mind too that, for any potential buyers will small children or dogs, a pool might be a big negative for safety reasons. Does your pool have a safety fence or cover? If you’re going to have a pool, it’s important that it’s safe and clean. Buyers might also be turned off by the idea of having to care for a pool, as the maintenance is normally quite costly and labor intensive.

There’s a similar mentality for landscaping when it comes to maintenance. A highly customized and unique yard, laden with hard-to-care-for plants or requiring constant trimming to manage its aesthetics might actually act a deterrent for buyers, as opposed to an attraction. When tending to your yard, keep in mind that most buyers will probably care more about whether or not your yard has a healthy lawn (which is a prized asset here on the coast) than anything else, as well as the health of trees close to the house that could cause damage if they drop a heavy branch.

2. Poor Maintenance

Think of regular maintenance on your home as a requirement, because it essentially is if you want to protect the value of your home over time. When it comes time for your potential buyer to have their home inspection done on your home, all the little things that you’ve put off will add up, if they didn’t snowball into a couple of big problems, which will wind up costing you a lot more when you’re scrambling to close the sale on your house than they would have if you had just taken care of them when you actually had the time to research contractors and find the best rates. Poor maintenance can be a major contributor to decreased value of your home. Keep up with your home’s maintenance from the get-go with these helpful tips!

3. Overly Customized Kitchen/Bathroom Remodels

Upgraded kitchens and bathrooms can be a healthy boost to your home’s value, but not if they’re over the top or extremely personalized to your very specific taste. As we covered before with the swimming pools and landscaping, not all upgrades are instantly beneficial to your home’s value. You want to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible, and ornate faucets, “statement” sinks and professional-grade kitchen appliances might prove an obstacle to that. On the other hand, new appliances in the kitchen won’t improve your home’s value as much if the kitchen still has original linoleum floors, for instance, and your home doesn’t have a consistent feel to it.

4. Lackluster Curb Appeal

Just like having overly elaborate landscaping might act as a hindrance to buyers, so will a yard that looks barren and neglected. Admittedly, it can be fairly difficult to cultivate a lush, green lawn with the sandy soil and immense pine needles that we have to contend with, however, it’s not entirely impossible, and there are other ways to compensate for it. If you’re trying to raise your own luscious lawn, you’ll have to do a little research based on your soil type and the amount of sun/shade your lawn receives. Typically, in these parts, residents rely on several different strains of grass, typically bermuda, fescue or even ryegrass, among others.

If your yard is past the point of being salvageable, or, if you’re looking for a quick fix, potted plants are the way to go. You can also do your best to make sure that the actual exterior of your home is looking spiffy by renting or hiring pressure washing services to make sure that siding/shingles, fences, driveways and decks are clean and looking like new!

5. Bright Paint

Whether it’s on the interior or the exterior of your home, very bright and bold paint can be a turnoff for potential buyers. No matter how much you love your adventurous color palette, it can distract buyers from being able to actually picture themselves in your home, or the idea of having to repaint an entire house inside and out can deter buyers who are looking for a move-in ready home. Not sure where to start? Check out this neutral paints guide for ideas!

You can’t control everything when it comes to preserving or improving the value of your home, but there is still plenty that you can do! Need some help preparing your home to sell or looking for an agent? Give us a call at 1-800-533-1840 or email us at

Selling Your Home, It’s a Business Decision

Blog Courtesy of Bobby Brandon, Broker/REALTOR® at Intracoastal Realty

Don’t Let Emotions Get in the Way!bobby-brandon-pp

When you purchased your home, you more than likely did so with lots of emotion, which is very normal. For example, you looked at homes with your real estate agent and narrowed it down to the two homes you like the best. Your kids probably ran through the house selecting which room would be theirs. You might have liked the backyard because that is where your family dog would get to play and be safe. You might have even like the kitchen space because it is large enough to have friends over and spend fun times together. Or this might have been the area of town that you had always wanted to live, etc.

These are all examples of emotions playing into the buying process. But now you are selling that same home. Once again, you are facing surfacing emotions. Hopefully, you have had a lot of great memories in the home you have spent so many years in and it might be a little hard for you to leave it. But a word of caution, when selling you should put your emotions to the side. It is now a business decision, and it all comes down to money.

Letting emotions get in the way is NOT a smart business decision. For example, you have negotiated with the buyer back and forth, and finally received the price you want. Now you and the buyer are fighting over the ten-year-old curtains in the home. You had it in your mind that you wanted to take the curtains with you, but this could be a deal breaker. As part of the negotiations, the buyer is asking for your grill, and you have your heels dug in NO. This minor conflict is the only thing that is stopping you from selling your home, obtaining the price you want and moving to the area in which you want to live. You could lose the entire deal over a $500 gas grill.

These are all examples of making an emotional decision verses a business decision. I have seen deals lost when emotions get in the way. I have seen deals go south over curtains and grills. Once the buyer has walked, the seller realizes what a bad decisions they have made and what it cost them in “winning the fight” (emotions). So remember, when selling, it’s all business!

For more information on buying and selling homes, go to Bobby’s Team can provide expert advice and insight into current homes and land for sale in New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender County.



Sellers: How to Prepare Your Home for Inspection

There’s a lot of preparation that goes into getting your house ready to sell, but there’s one step in particular that you don’t want to neglect: the home inspection. You can save yourself a lot of time, hassle, money and the risk of losing a potential sale by prepping for your home inspection now.

Get Started Early

One thing that you can do to make sure that your house is ready for inspection before the actual pre-sale inspection, is to have your own done. If you’re seriously considering selling your house, then you need to have someone come in and seriously analyze it. You want to be aware of any and all problems before the inspection that breaks the news to the buyer. Even if you have no problem making repairs after the pre-sale inspection, a laundry list of issues — even little ones — can make buyers uneasy and might leave them feeling hesitant about moving forward.

The idea is that if you go ahead and get an inspection done now, you can start preparing even before your house goes on the market by making your own repairs. You can also save yourself money by allowing yourself the time to thoughtfully pick out your contractors or do a little patching up yourself, as opposed to waiting for the due diligence period where the seller and your agent will want all repairs to be done as quickly as possible, leaving little room for shopping around for contractors.

Fix What You Can

A home inspector will, without a doubt, find something that needs to be fixed on your house, even if it’s something small, like crumbly caulking or peeling paint. There’s no question as to whether you’ll have fixing up to do; it’s more of deciding what it is you can afford to tackle and what you can’t. Small fixes, like those that typically fall into the category of “deferred maintenance” are relatively simple and affordable to fix. Painting, replacing a broken electrical receptacle, repairing small leaks or small damages are all examples of this. However, while each instance may be small on its own, every little thing adds up, and it’s better to nip this sort of thing in the bud before it becomes too unwieldy.

If you happen to have a list of larger fixes and you can’t afford to take care of them all, it’s best to consult with a professional about which ones offer the best return on your investment. Asking your inspector, agent or a home appraiser whether a new roof or a new water heater has better market value will help to ensure that the investment you choose to make is the most beneficial one to the successful sale of your house.

Plan for What You Can’t

If you can’t afford to fix every little thing on your house, or you have to forego installing a new water heater because you just replaced the roof and couldn’t afford both, you’ll need to have a plan ready for when the buyer is inevitably notified of any shortcomings that the house may have. Areas that will require a large investment from the seller within a short amount of time of their purchasing the property from you will probably need to be compensated for in some way. Are you willing to lower the selling price? Can you give the seller a significant sum of money to put towards the repairs? Can you bite the bullet and get it fixed? If you choose not to negotiate in any way, you run a higher risk of losing the sale, so go ahead and start deciding which choice best resolves the issue while making the most financial sense for you, so you’re ready for the scenario if, or when, it presents itself.

Be Ready the Day Of

Most likely, it’ll take you months to prepare your house for the pre-sale inspection, if you start planning ahead as we suggest. Don’t make the inspection any more stressful for yourself by dropping the ball the day-of. Make sure your house is clean. Make sure inspectors can easily get to attic, basement or crawlspace entrances. If you’ve got a well or septic tank buried in the background, leave some direction (either written or visual) that lets the inspectors know where it is. Make sure your dishwasher, washer, dryer, stove and sinks are empty or easy to access. If these appliances are going to be left in the house when the seller assumes ownership, the inspector will have to run tests, and they shouldn’t have to move your dirty laundry or dishes out of the way. Go through the night before and ensure that you don’t have any burnt-out lightbulbs anywhere so inspectors aren’t left wondering if the light doesn’t work or if it just doesn’t have a working lightbulb.

Your agent will most likely give you a list of things that you should do prior to the inspection as well and, if they don’t, then ask. They can probably provide you with a checklist of items to go through before the inspection, such as making sure pets are out of the house or crated, or making sure that you’re out of the house long before the inspectors arrive. This helps to guarantee that the inspection process will be a smooth one.

Don’t overlook the importance of the inspection and what it means for the value of your home and the finalization of your home’s sale. As always, if you need a helping hand to guide you through the process, we have a strong team of realtors at your disposal! Just give us a call at 1-800-533-1840 or drop us a line at

8 Tips to Stage Your Home to Sell

Before you put your house on the market, it’s imperative that you spend a little time prepping it for potential buyers. If you’ve been taking good care of your house and spent money on renovations, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not dedicating some time to staging your house to sell. Here are eight tips to help stage your home to sell!

Deep Clean (Then Clean Some More)

The very first, and cheapest, thing you should do is: clean. Clean like you’ve never cleaned before. Clean like the in-laws, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and your favorite celebrity are coming over for tea. Rent a carpet shampooer to deep clean those carpets. Wipe any dinginess from your walls, floor trim, window frames or door frames. Scrub grout to a glistening white. Dust ceiling fans, blinds, lamps—everything—until you get every hidden corner from floor to ceiling. You must obliterate set-in dirt and grime in your house. Kitchens and bathrooms, especially, must be spotless. To help avoid imminent feelings of being overwhelmed, take it room by room, day by day. Then, do your best to maintain this level of cleanliness throughout the duration of your house’s time on the market.

Banish Clutter

Stacks of magazines and mail, piles of shoes by the door, overstuffed closets — have all got to go. Literally. And it can’t just get shoved into cabinets or closets. You actually have to get rid of your junk and establish some organization. For that which you cannot throw away, spring for some cheap fixes in the form of under-the-bed storage, aesthetically appealing storage boxes for closet shelves or cabinets, and desk organizers for mail and papers. Alleviate packed closets by going through some clothes and donating or selling what you don’t wear anymore. Tidy up kitchen cabinets and drawers. Invest in some shelves or hooks for hanging up tools in garages or sheds. The more junk you get rid of, the better you display the amount of storage your house actually has.

Spring for Small Updates

Now that your house is clean and organized, it’s time to do some updating. Probably the quickest, easiest and most affordable way to make an impact is with paint. Opt for neutrals and soothing, earth tone colors. You don’t have to totally abstain from color either. Deep blues and greens can add warmth, without turning off buyers like wilder colors will. You can transform a kitchen by laying down new linoleum if your current floors are looking worse for the wear. While you’re in the kitchen, you can also bring a dated kitchen back into modernity with new hardware and/or by resurfacing cabinets and drawers. If you can afford it, buying a few stainless steel appliances will definitely help to catch the eye of buyers too.


You’re almost done with the heavy lifting for the inside of your house — except for this step. Now comes the time to take a good, hard look at your furniture and decide what can go and what can stay. We naturally accumulate more and more stuff over the years, and furniture is no exception. Oftentimes, sellers are guilty of having way too much furniture, which will make any house feel cramped and cluttered. So, if your house too closely resembles an obstacle course compiled of bulky couches and chairs, it might be time to either sell a few of pieces or move them to storage.

Or, it might just be time to do some rearranging. Instead of having all of your furniture pushed up against walls or crammed into corners, create a little breathing room. Check out this quick guide for arranging furniture to help you open up your space.

Add Floral Notes & Decorative Touches

Here’s an easy step! Now that your house is clean, open and clutter-free, you can do a little bit of redecorating. But you’ve already decorated your house, you’re thinking. And while you may absolutely love it, it’s important to create a space that’s gender neutral, minimalist and feels fresh—like a blank canvas for buyers. For instance, in the master bedroom, replace a decked-out floral duvet with something that’s sans-pattern and neutral. Stage your dining room table, coffee tables and bookcases with small decorative flourishes, like fresh flowers, pretty bookends, leather bound books, bud vases, little glass or wooden knick knacks. Hang a few decorative mirrors to create space, and swap out heavy curtains with light sheers to let in more natural light.

Create Curb Appeal

Consider the inside of your house done. Check! Now for that curb appeal. Naturally, make sure your lawn, shrubs and trees are neat and tidy, mowed and trimmed, respectively. Pressure wash and seal any decks, fences and patios. Try out a bright, new color on the front door for an instantly more inviting entrance. Add a few, low-maintenance perennials to garden beds and set out potted plants of friendly flowers like mums, daisies, or pansies (for hanging planters). Replace or paint antiquated-looking outdoor light fixtures. Hang a pretty, seasonal wreath or flag and maybe upgrade a beat-up mailbox.

Set the Scene

Here’s where the “staging” part of home staging really comes into play. You want to showcase your home and show buyers the lounging and entertaining potential of your house. For instance, don’t leave your patios or porches barren. Add some charming tables and chairs to help buyers envision themselves enjoying what could potentially be their next backyard gathering. Play into the season too. Is it cold out? Create cozy-looking nooks in your home with plush throws and oversized pillows. Around these parts, we’re lucky enough to have pretty divine weather during spring and fall, so try adding a hammock to the backyard to show buyers how they can enjoy the beautiful climate. On the other hand, we are also susceptible to some blistering summers, so create shady sanctuaries outside with an awning or an umbrella to go with that table and chairs you just added to your patio.

Get a Second Opinion

One of the biggest barriers that you’re likely to face when trying to stage your home is your own bias. So, throughout this entire process enlist the help of friends, family or your listing agent to lend some suggestions about the current decor and appearance of your home. Rest assured, they’ll have opinions on the best way to arrange your furniture and can help add an objective eye during de-junking. Of course, you could always hire a stager for some professional help. Stagers are also helpful if you’ve already moved out of your house and need someone to maintain the house or add some tasteful furniture to keep the place from looking too empty. If you’re working with an agent, they’ll probably have a few preferred stagers that they can recommend.

With a little bit of effort, you can really dress up your house and make it that much more enticing to sellers. Need a helping hand? Contact us at or at 1-800-533-1840.

Should I Sell or Rent My House?


It’s a scenario most often experienced by those who are in the midst of relocating — should I sell my house or rent it? There are multiple factors that come into play here, and before you decide on anything, here are five questions you should ask yourself first:

How much equity do I have?

The amount of equity holds some major bearings on which path you should choose right from the get-go. For instance, if you have little to no equity (only a few thousand dollars or less), renting can help you build more equity until you have enough money to cover selling costs (more on that below). Selling your home when you have only a very small amount of equity depends on your available cash to bring to settlement. No cash typically means a short sale or foreclosure, which may or may not be a viable option depending on your situation.

Additionally, you should take into consideration the rate at which your home is building equity. If your home is appreciating quickly, it might be better to hold on to that property for as long as the trend continues, if you can continue to cover the costs of owning while renting.

Is it a seller’s market or a buyer’s market?

Obviously, if you’re living in a seller’s market, then selling your home might be the better option because you’ll be more likely to get the most for your home, whereas selling in a buyer’s market typically means settling for less. But that’s not the only thing you need to take into consideration. You have to keep in mind that:

  1. You’re focusing on local trends, not statewide or nationwide trends, and
  2. Your ability to sell your home for a profit depends on individual home values in your immediate area.

It’s never a bad idea to contact a local realtor to discuss market trends and run some comps (comparables) to determine what the average value of homes in your neighborhood are going for. They’ll be able to provide you with an accurate depiction of what the local market is doing presently, what it’s done in the past, and what it’s most likely to do in the future, carving out a much clearer picture of how your house will do on the market. If it happens to be that you’re in a buyer’s market and might have a hard time selling (or already know you will through experience), renting can be a logical solution to help cover any remaining mortgage payments or save up for selling costs again while you’re stuck in limbo.

Is the rental market in good health?

Rent is also subject to market trends. If you’re asking for more than most are willing to pay, you’ll be hard pressed to find tenants, which will become one of your number one priorities if you decide to rent your home. So, if rent values for properties similar to your home are too low to cover your mortgage payments, then renting may not be the best choice, unless you’re willing to make up the difference. You also have to pay attention to demand. How long does it take similar properties to find qualified renters? Are rental properties quickly snatched up? Or do they linger? Are you confident in your ability to cover costs if rent doesn’t get paid or if tenants have to leave unexpectedly?

Which costs can I afford?

There are costs associated with both selling and renting your home. The big question is, which costs are most affordable for you? There are, as we mentioned before, selling costs that you need to consider: real estate commissions for your selling agent, any home warranty or bonus offers made in conjunction with the sale of the house, transfer taxes, cost of repairs required by inspections, title search fees, capital gain tax and more.

On the flip side, managing a rental property will require money for any repairs or maintenance or, if you decide to use a property management association to take care of all of the maintenance and billing for you, money for fees and services. Money received in rent is usually considered additional income as well, which means additional taxes. There are tax deductions for rental income. For instance, certain repairs, operating expenses, property depreciation or property taxes may be deductible, but it’s best to discuss which deductions you’ll actually be eligible for with an accountant, rather than hoping the deductions will be worth the increased taxes.

Do I want to be a landlord?

Finally, you need to ask yourself if you really and truly can handle being a landlord, as this comes with a whole host of responsibilities that require money and time. First, you need to find tenants that are trustworthy and likely to pay their rent on time, which may require background checks, credit checks and other verification. Even with these measures, tenants may still be late with rent or miss payments altogether. As the landlord, however, you’ll be responsible to pick up the pieces, wherever they may fall, so if your property is damaged, it’s up to you to fix it. If your tenant turns out to be unreliable, it’s up to you to find another. If you’re doing this on your own, this is a serious investment in time. If you’re working with a property management group, you’ll still have to be available for any issues that may arise with your property, as most management groups require the landlord’s permission in many incidents.

Asking yourself these questions can help prepare you for either option you choose. However, if you still need some help, contact us at, or give us a call at 1-800-533-1840. Whether you need help selling your home or managing your soon-to-be rental property, we’re here to lend a hand.

Home Selling Tips: How to Take Better Photos of Your House


Most buyers begin their search for a new home online. And, unfortunately, most photos that they come across don’t do the property justice! Not having photos is not an option. You know what happens when you don’t have photos for your home? Your property gets skipped. There’s nothing to entice a buyer to investigate your home any further. If anything, it might actually leave buyers wondering what it is you’re trying to hide. Photos help buyers sort through their options and decide which homes they actually want to see in-person. Need some home selling tips? Take better photos of your house, with this guide!

1. Preparing Your Home

This might seem like a no-brainer, but you should spend a little time preparing your home before taking any photos. First off, make sure your house is clean and uncluttered. Windows should be smudge-free, bathrooms spotless (with the toilet seat down and bathroom mirror wiped!), carpets freshly vacuumed and hardwood floors should gleam. Make sure wires to TVs, lamps, etc. aren’t the first thing one sees when looking at a room. You might even have to do some rearranging of furniture to really open a room up. Essentially, the preparing your home for real estate photography is very similar to the general tips to sell your house. (Sidenote: if you need some extra help, consider some home staging tips or hiring a professional home stager!)

2. Hire a Pro (Optional)

If you don’t feel confident enough to hack it yourself or if you can afford a photographer, hire a professional. Professional photographers can be pretty reasonably priced — just make sure to check out their portfolio to get a glimpse of their strengths. Before you hire anybody, you want to see if they excel at real estate photography. If they do, you can trust them to capture the best lighting, angles, etc. when shooting your home. However, if you do plan on hiring a photographer, go ahead and make a list of any features that you really want to bring attention to, and don’t settle for fewer than 25 to 30 quality images to post with your listing. Most real estate photographers easily take hundreds of photos during shoots, so this shouldn’t be an issue.

3. Get Some Basic Equipment

First thing’s first: your camera. Smartphone cameras have come a long way — most now have anywhere from 8 to 20+ megapixels — and can easily rival or replace your typical point-and-shoot camera. And you’d be surprised at how many professional photographers have utilized the cameras on their phones to take stunning shots. If you don’t have a capable smartphone camera, point-and-shoot cameras are affordable and definitely adequate for the job. If you do happen to have a decent camera on your phone, you should be able to get away with taking pictures of your home with it, just as long as you pay heed to some general guidelines before you do so. For instance: invest in a tripod to avoid blurry photos, utilize your camera’s settings (which have become pretty sophisticated) to capture the most light and detail, and opt for a landscape (horizontal) over portrait (vertical) orientation in most rooms.

4. Utilize Natural Lighting

While your first instinct in lighting up a dark room would be to turn the flash on your camera on — don’t! Flash almost always creates an artificial and anything-but-warming feeling in photos. It drains color and probably won’t do your home justice. Just take a look at some professional real estate photography. Do you see many lights on in the pictures? Probably not. Quality real estate photography utilizes soft, natural lighting. If you must add some artificial light to your compositions, do so by flipping on some lamps or overhead lights. The best time to take photos is during the morning or late afternoon/dusk to get warm light that won’t cause glares like the bright, harsh light that’s likely to fill up your home in the middle of the day.

5. Find the Right Angle

Anyone who’s spent any time at all looking for homes online has probably encountered the sort of useless photos of corners or walls that almost always accompany listings, and really give no indication of what a room actually looks like. And honestly, taking pictures of rooms is tricky.

So, to avoid this conundrum, try out these home photo tips:

  • Start by backing up, lowering your camera’s perspective and shooting low. Seriously, take a knee for this. You want a little bit of floor in your photos, as opposed to just walls and ceilings. Just take a look through your average home magazine — what do you see? Floors. The inclusion of floors adds perspective and gives potential buyers an idea of what the actual space feels like.
  • Experiment with both landscape and portrait orientations to see if you can get a little bit of the entire room in the shot, from floor to ceiling.
  • Avoid severe angles. Try to shoot straight-on for rooms that are connected or show a continuation of space — such as your kitchen-to-dining area, or dining-to-living area — to create depth. Sometimes you’ll need to angle your perspective a bit, just try not to overdo it. Think 45º or less.

If you’re struggling, then home magazines are the way to go. Try to replicate some of the room compositions you see, and you’ll get the hang of it eventually. You can also check out some additional home photo tips here.

6. Use the Lens to Look

The best way to make sure you’re actually capturing some decent photos of your house is by “looking with your lens.” What does this mean exactly? It means you should actively be reviewing your photos after you take them. Check the lighting, check for any eyesores or obstructions, and try out different perspectives to ensure you’re capturing your home in the most appealing way possible.

7. Capture Your Home Honestly

Do not try to make up for lighting or framing issues by applying filters or using speciality lenses! Instagram filters are a no-no, as is using wide-angle lenses or panoramic views as these physically warp or alter pictures and do not accurately depict what your home really looks like. In fact, you shouldn’t touch up photos like this at all unless you have access to software or in-camera photo-editing that allows you to automatically balance color (if your photos look too yellow or green, for instance), but that’s it. The less you edit, the better. The home-buying process relies a lot on trust. If home buyers feel like you’re trying to make your home look like something it’s not, they’re going to wonder what else you’re trying to conceal about your house.