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LA Digs - Northeast LA Real Estate Blog

Welcome to LA Digs, the real estate and Northeast Los Angeles community blog written by Realtors Tracy King and Keely Myres.

Here, we share tips, market updates, and local news bits to keep you informed on what's happening in Northeast Los Angeles and the surrounding neighborhoods. Read on to learn about the latest in your neighborhood!

Three Tips for Staging Your Home to Sell

3 tips for staging your home to sell Source: Today's buyers are looking for turnkey homes. That is, they want to move right in without having to do a lot of work. Buyers with busy lifestyles pay a premium for listings that are in prime condition. Staging can make the difference between a listing selling or not, the time it takes to sell, and the ultimate sale price.
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An Overlooked Home Staging Tip

Here is an interesting home staging tip from Barb Schwarz,

Notwithstanding that all personal items should be removed, sometimes sellers overlook the obvious and leave diplomas on the wall. People form biases and can carry a bias too far. For example, the seller might be a lawyer, and there are buyers who might not feel comfortable buying a home from a lawyer. For whatever reason. Diplomas also give away a seller's age or a close estimate. If a buyer sees a recent medical diploma, for example, the buyer might assume the seller is saddled with student loans and needs to sell to pay them off.

We had never really though about this one before, but have observed that potential home buyers do pay attention to these things.

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Design Tips to Sell Homes

One of the panels we attended at the Inman Connect Real Estate Conference in New York a couple weeks ago featured Vern Yip from HGTV's "Deserving Design." He was fantastic to listen to and had a lot of great tips for showcasing a home to really appeal to its buying audience. Here is his presentation (you can skip ahead to 11:45 to get to the tips): Design Tips to Sell Homes. You can read the transcript of the presentation here.

And here are his "Best Ideas for Staging Your Home":

1. Present an optimal space plan

Optimize every room with a space plan that keeps rooms open and easy to negotiate, while showcasing how to utilize unusual spaces. Moving furniture around doesn't cost anything! This is so critical because not everyone who enters a property has the ability to envision how that property can be fully utilized. Sometimes people just aren't visual people, that's not what they do. Presenting an optimal space plan is the first and most critical portion of really showcasing what makes a property special.

A couple of examples:

  • Take an awkward nook in a bedroom or kitchen and turn it into a home office.

  • Use a dining room table as a place for meals and a desk for projects. In Urban Oasis New York, Vern used a table that seats six, but also served as a desk complete with pedestals for storage and electronics. He points out that it also serves as a prep surface for the open layout kitchen - all to show viewers how to optimize square footage in a small apartment.

  • Hide a laundry unit behind doors in the kitchen, or a hall closet, or a bathroom closet.

It's really about showing people how a space plan can improve their space and what they're actually getting.

2. Stick to a monochromatic scheme

A monochromatic room with minimal contrast looks bigger because the number of visual breaks is minimized. When you diminish contrast you actually expand the visual plane. Neutral colors in tans, warm grays, taupes, and shades of warm white have the most flexibility for adapting rooms to anyone's style and have the broadest appeal. A fresh coat of paint is the best investment when staging a property for sale.

An example:

In one unit from the show Selling New York there were some serious architectural elements in the living area. Everything in this unit is painted a warm white color, even some of the furniture is white. So the structural element blends in with the environment. You can accent it if you want, but painting it the same color as the wall diminishes it so if somebody doesn't necessarily like it, it fades into the background.


3. Incorporate organic elements

Real elements will make a property look well cared for and add an appealing sense of life, vibrancy and vitality to a space. They don't have to necessarily always be fresh flowers or plants. A couple of examples:

  • Instead of fresh flowers, Vern staged three clear jars with different kinds of hard candy in the entry area of the Urban Oasis New York Unit (he also mentioned "candy is questionable as to whether or not it's organic, but again it's injecting that sense of life to a space").

  • A bowl of apples is a great way to go. They can last three to four weeks, are relatively cheap, and they give a lot of life to a space.

  • One of Vern's favorite tricks: Monstera leaves in a vase (placed on a nightstand or bathroom counter looks great). They are a couple dollars each and last for several weeks.


4. Edit to showcase a space

Editing is free and an invaluable tool for expanding the visual volume of a room while also making it look neater, cleaner, and more expensive. When it comes to accessories, fewer items with higher individual impact offers the most bang for your buck.

People have a natural tendency to just accumulate stuff. Before going on the market it's important to go through a home and really edit down your belongings so that a potential buyer can visually understand what's happening in the property they're looking at.

An example:


"This is a bedroom from Urban Oasis New York. It's not the world's largest bedroom, but we've done the monochromatic color scheme and we've really pared it down. We put one large, central bed there, we have these pedestals on either side showcasing these keystones from a demolished brownstone here in Manhattan, and these pedestals also have niches so that they serve as night stands. Fewer things, really substantial things. More meaningful things, but fewer things really help showcase the property."

5. Place visual emphasis on highlights of a room

Whether a space has a fantastic view, a tremendous volume, or incredible floors, the highlight of a room should always be underscored dramatically! This is so important because every room has highlights, it's really up to you to now find out what those are and highlight them.

If, say, the highlight is an unobstructed view - put low furniture near the window and keep a monochromatic scheme to not distract the eye from the view.

6. Remember secondary spaces

Finish and accessorize auxiliary spaces. Bathrooms, guest rooms, and home offices should be treated as primary spaces and showcased with furniture, accessories, and organic items to illustrate that a property has many possibilities.

Everybody thinks about the living room, everybody thinks of the dining room, everybody thinks about the master bedroom. But you have to think about the secondary spaces as well if you really want to sell a property.

A couple of examples:

  • In bathrooms: include artwork on the walls, place fresh towels in a basket, put a plant on the counter.

  • In guest bedrooms: make sure there are fresh linens on the bed, put lamps on the side tables, add an organic element to a dresser.

So those are your tips today on how design can really help sell a property. Of course, if this all sounds like way too much work for you to handle before you sell your home, staging is a great option to showcase your home for the market. We work with a fantastic stager who will come in and make a detailed list of what needs to be done to make your home look fantastic.

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Ask Tracy: is staging a good idea?

Q. Do you think staging a home for sale works?

A. Let me answer this question with a little case study.

Highland Park (90042 zip) is undergoing an interesting renaissance. This area lost about 50% of the average price value in the 2 years from the peak to its valley, between 2007 and 2009. When prices dropped that low, a number of investors began buying properties, fixing them up and re-selling them.

I sold a small 2-bedroom 1-bath fixer in Mt. Angelus last year for $235,000. The investor did a huge amount of work including a reworked foundation, listed it for $429,000 and it sold for $455,000 in March of this year.

Even the fixed-up price seems pretty reasonable compared to hip areas like Silverlake and Los Feliz, and so the re-birth has begun. Companies like Better Shelter are going in and doing quality flips. They install good quality systems, artful paint schemes, nice finishes—and then they go all out and stage them even at the lower priced level. It pays off, too. The house at 4955 Meridian was listed for $499,000 and sold for $540,000 earlier in the spring.

Does staging make a difference in the ultimate sales price? It’s hard to say. The flip done from the one I sold last year wasn’t staged, but the one on Meridian was.  It seems to be trendy in Highland Park to stage homes these days. There was a property on Lincoln listed for $399,000 and designed by Native Homes LA that was staged and went into escrow within 3 weeks of listing. My listing on Range View (also listed for $399,000) was staged and went into escrow after just 2 weeks. The key to how staging works is that it makes the property look really attractive and in top condition.  It also helps prospective buyers imagine how their own furniture might work in the house  such as where the television might go, or if a breakfast table and chairs would fit in that corner. It can be difficult for a buyer to figure out a completely blank canvas especially if the floorplan is less than ideal.

Price is just as important, however. If any of these homes had been priced too high, the staging wouldn’t have helped. When you see properties selling for over asking, you know that more than one buyer thought enough of the home to bid on it.

Location is the last piece of the value puzzle.  Here is where the condition and the price are essential. There is a property in a very less-than-desirable part of Highland Park near the freeway that looked adorable in the photos and was priced well for the rest of Highland Park, though not really that inexpensive for that particular area. It went into escrow 11 days after it was listed.

So what’s the answer to the staging question? Some sellers feel that if it’s priced under $500,000, it doesn’t need staging because the low price will sell itself. Others stage any priced home. While it costs money to hire a stager, the money is probably justified by selling the house quicker, possibly with more offers, maybe pushing the price up a bit. If you have a property that has an odd floorplan or is vacant, you may want to consider some staging. If you want tiptop dollar, you probably want to do everything you can to get it. Don’t you?
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