Staging Your Home AND Your Pets!


Most home owners have pets, but pets can present challenges when listing a home for sale.  Typically, real estate agents and home stagers prefer that pets, their toys, beds and litter boxes are removed during showings.  They're concerned about selling the home and anything that could be a deterrent to a buyer should be minimized.  Having to worry about buyers who might be allergic or frightened of animals can be an issue, not to mention any potential for animal odors.

Generally, you'll have a better chance of selling without any visible signs of pets on the premises; but sometimes it's just not realistic to board your pet or leave work to take them out during showings.

So....what do you do?  Stage your pets!

Be sure that they're groomed and all pet paraphernalia is clean, neat and fluffy.  Perhaps making a temporary (during showings) homestead in the laundry room could be the answer.  Then, dress up your pet in a handkerchief or the latest dog or cat fashions.  Post a sign saying "Welcome to Our Home!" and include your pets names with a photo.  If your four legged family member is shy, prone to barking, or an escape artist, be sure to note that on the sign as well.


Will some buyer's be turned off by your pets?  Maybe; but there's also a good chance that the majority of your prospective buyers are also animal lovers and will appreciate your added attention to details.  From a buyer's perspective, if you take this much time tending to your pets, you're probably inclined to take great care of your home.  This sends a subliminal message to your buyer that they're in a home that won't need a lot of work to bring it up to standards. After all, the number one staging tip is always have your home meticulously clean.

Happy Selling!




If you're a first time home buyer, or if you're trying to buy up into a higher priced neighborhood, or if you're contemplating doing a "flip", then buying a fixer-upper might be a good idea for you.  The trick is to be completely realistic in your expectations of how much spare time you can devote to the project of home renovation, how much additional money it will cost above and beyond the cost of the house, the amount of skills and experience you have in various home repairs, the level of repairs or upgrades needed, how long you plan on living in the home, and your tolerance for living under duress.

First and foremost, if it's truly a "fixer" home, it should be priced as such.  If it's advertised as a fixer or needing TLC, then the home should come with a discounted price.  Use your head and not your heart.  Do your research and check the recent comparable sales in the neighborhood. You can easily find these on or Zillow.  Find out what upgrades the comps have to determine how much money you should reasonably invest in the home without going over fair market value.  If you suddenly lost your job, or got a job transfer, you'd want to be able to sell your home at the same price for what you put into it; or hopefully, at a profit.

Some improvements are simple:  new paint, freshening up the landscaping, a few new appliances, new hardware on the cabinets and the house can have a whole new look.  At other times the home may need a complete kitchen or bath remodel and require the help of professionals.  Unless you know what you're doing, or you have a friend who's a licensed plumber or electrician, I would strongly advise paying the extra money and know that you're getting a quality job from a professional.

Based on information compiled from the National Association of Realtors, here are some of the best improvements for return on your investment:

1.  New Roof - It may not be glamorous - but you'll be glad you did it when you realize the savings in heating bills, dry rot and roof leaks.  Also, if you sell you can recoup up to 105% of the cost!

2.  Hardwood Floors - If the house you buy already has them, then refinish them.  If it doesn't, seriously consider putting them in.  The cost of hardwood over carpet is slightly higher, but you'll love the difference and down the road, your buyer will too!

3.  Energy Efficient Appliances/Solar Heating/Insulation - You will be so glad that you include these items in your budget, especially during the extra cold months or very hot summers.  There may be rebates or tax credits as well.  When it comes time to sell, you will get top dollar; buyers look for and understand what these items signify.

4.  Remodeled Kitchen - This is a big ticket improvement, but it's well worth the work, given how much time we spend in our kitchens.  Use neutral color palettes that don't go out of style and you won't put yourself in the bind of having to remodel in 5 years.

Taking all of this into consideration, and your lifestyle, think realistically about how long your remodel is going to take.  There are always unforeseen issues that crop up in any project, so plan on them.  What is your stress level?  Do you have a sense of humor?  There will be times when you will need to stay calm and laughter really is the best medicine!  Remodeling a bathroom or kitchen can take several weeks.  Set a budget and stick to it.  Set a start and finish date; you don't want to be living in a house that's never finished!

If you plan wisely, not only will you have the house of your dreams, you'll have sweat equity also, and that my friends can be cash in your pocket down the road.


How to Hold a Killer Garage Sale!

OK, so you're: A) getting ready to sell your home, B) going Zen and finally recognizing that less really is more, or C) your stuff is multiplying at night in the dark and slowly taking over your house and it's YOU that will soon be living in the POD that you're now considering placing in the driveway.

Here are some tips that will make the job (and trust is a job!) of de-cluttering your living space a little easier!

Rule #1:  Don't do this on the spur of the moment.  A good garage sale takes planning and organization.  Set a date for your sale a month in advance.  Plan your yard sale for the first weekend of the month.  Buyers on lower budgets will have the most cash at that time.

Rule #2:  Once you set the date, check with your local city and see if a permit is required.  Ask friends and neighbors if they'd like to join in with you.  Group or neighborhood yard sales get more foot traffic when they're advertised this way.  However, to avoid mass confusion and frustration the day of the sale, make sure all participants agree to be prepared and responsible for their own items.

Rule #3:  Go through your home, room by room with a note pad.  This is the first of many times there may be family "disagreements".  This is the time for tough love and brutal honesty.  At all times remember your ultimate goal:  an uncluttered home and a little loot in your pocket!  The rule of thumb is:  have you used it or worn it in the last six months?  Does it still fit?  Is it broken?  Can it be fixed?  If it can be fixed, will you use it again?  (My husband has had a broken clock in our garage for 25 years that "he's going to get fixed".  Yeah, right.)  Legal exception:  family heirlooms or antiques.  I would suggest having these appraised.  You may be pleasantly surprised.  Aunt Edna's hideous teapot may actually be worth something and your family member may be more willing to part with it.  If you want top dollar, you may want to try selling at an auction, on Ebay, or in a consigment shop.  If you do decide to keep such an item, then have it added to your homeowner's insurance policy.

Rule #4:  Here's where things start to heat up!  Now you're going to allocate space for two piles. One will be for garage sale items.  The other will be for those broken, unfixable items that absolutely NO ONE would buy at a garage sale.  These will go directly to the land fill.  Trust me, it will take a discerning eye to tell the difference between the two piles at times!  Depending on how many family members are involved, there may be "time outs" required.  At our house this is also known as happy hour.  For the items you're unsure about selling, ask yourself these questions:  1.  If I didn't already own it, would I buy it again?  2.  Do I care what happens to it or who buys it?  If you're worried about who gets it, you aren't ready to part with it.  3.  If you regret selling it, can it be replaced?

Rule #5:  Now that you have your "For Sale" pile, you can begin the arduous task of pricing.  Again, plan on more "discussions".  Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is value.  Remember,  people go to yard sales for a bargain.  It's your job to give them one.  Price your items accordingly and at the end of the day, everyone will be happy.  Use neon colored price stickers and a Sharpie so your buyers can easily see prices.  If you're not certain about price, go to a couple of local garage sales and watch the shoppers and check out the prices.  If the items look good, but buyers walk away without buying, then prices are too high.  Make sure you have everything marked with a price.  In spite of this, expect your buyers to "haggle" with you.  It's just part of the game.  It does not mean that should mark items UP to cover the cost of haggling!  If you're not willing to negotiate on certain pieces, write the work "Firm" on the tag.  Some will still want to negotiate, but not as many.

Rule #6:  Use neon colored poster board and thick black sharpies to make signs.  Place them at main intersections around your neighborhood and at all turns leading to your house.  Make sure you have directional arrows so buyers don't get lost.  It's best to put the signs out early the morning of your sale.  (By early I mean 6:00AM).  Plan on using internet advertising as well.  Place Craigslist ads a week in advance and make sure you give the address, dates and starting time.  If your HOA or neighborhood has a Facebook page, post your sale there as well.  There will be professional shoppers (i.e. antique and second hand store owners) who will show up before your starting time. These are serious shoppers!  They come with cash.  Be especially nice to them.  This means smiling at them even though you may still be in your pajamas and you haven't finished your first cup of coffee.

TONI'S HOT TIP:  I always put out a plate of homemade cookies during our garage sales.  Please note:  homemade, not store bought.  People will notice the difference, linger, browse longer, and hopefully, find something that they absolutey can't live without.

Rule #7:  At the end of the day you will be exhausted.  You have two last important steps to complete before you can kick back and count your profits (if you haven't already!).  First, be sure to take down all the signs that you posted in the morning.  Nothing is more annoying than old Garage Sale signs.  Secondly, do not drag any unsold items back inside your house.  Make a binding pact with all family members that any left overs get loaded into the car and are driven to the charity thrift shop of your choice.  Always make sure you ask for a tax receipt for your donation. You may not have sold these items, but you'll be happy to see those deductions on your tax return nex year!

There, now it's time to enjoy your newly de-cluttered space and get on with your life!  Whatever the future has in store for you, whether you're selling and moving, or just simplifying, remember, as a great Feng Shui practitioner once told me "all that clutter stops the flow of positive energy in your space and ultimately in your life".  The real challenge now becomes how not to go out and replace all of the old stuff with new stuff!  Good Luck!





The 10 Biggest Home Buying Mistakes

home buying mistakes image

Buying a home, especially your first home, can be an experience filled with excitement, anticipation and last but not least, a lot of stress.  Knowledge is power, and today there is a tremendous amount of information available on the internet to help you as you enter the housing market.

  1. Buy your home based on your needs. 
    Don’t try to guess where the market is going or make a shrewd investment.  This is your home.  This is where you come home at the end of the day, feel safe, and enjoy your life, family and friends.
  2. Choosing a bad location. 
    That age old adage still rings true – location-location-location!  Is it on a busy street?  Next to a commercial building?  Is the neighborhood declining?
  3. Overlooking an awkward floor plan for a great yard. 
    You won’t be living in the yard; but you will regret putting up with a miserable layout – not to mention the difficulty in selling to the next buyer down the road.
  4. Overlooking how the house functions for you. 
    What is your lifestyle? Are you the type that uses a formal dining room and living room, or do your feel more comfortable with an open floor plan?  Are you willing to make major renovations to make the house work for you?
  5. Not having a home inspection during escrow. 
    Absolutely DO NOT buy a home without having a home inspection.  Use a certified or licensed home inspector, not a contractor.  A home inspector has been trained to know what to look for during the home buying process.
  6. Not checking out a builder’s reputation on a new home. 
    If you’re considering buying in a new development, talk to several people who live in the builder’s home and see what they have to say.  It’s also a great way to meet your prospective neighbors.
  7. Not getting what you want because you’re impatient. 
    Buying a house is a major life decision.  Take into consideration the monthly expenses, maintenance, your lifestyle, commute time before signing a contract.
  8. Waiting for a better market or interest rates. 
    I’ve been in this business for thirty years and I’ve found that people have never found the top or the bottom of the market until it’s passed them by and they’re looking back at it!  Get in while you can and enjoy your home.  Interest rates are still low.  I remember when they were 16%!
  9. Not buying at all. 
    If you can afford a home and you don’t make the purchase, you’ll end up losing the benefit of a wonderful tax deduction, the ability to build home equity and long term appreciation in value.
  10. Listening to all of the “Experts” telling you what to do.  As soon as your friends and family find out that you’re buying a home you will receive more advice than you can handle, not to mention horror stories.  Just smile and thank them, and then tell them you have a great Realtor who’s taking great care of you… and Call Me!