Category Archives: homeowners

Use the power of “magic showing moments”

By Laurie Moore-Moore, Founder

The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing

Recently, I had an “Aha! Moment”– one of those times when the light bulb flashed and my understanding of something clicked to a new level. Here’s what happened, I had an opportunity to interact with the wonderfully outrageous South Florida home builder, Frank McKinney.

Just to set the stage for you, McKinney’s personality is as big as the 60,000+ square foot spec mansions he builds. He bills himself as a real estate “artist,” and there is no doubt that he is the force behind some of the Florida’s most interesting mansions priced in the double digit millions.

McKinney, who designs his homes in a tree house office, is a master of creativity.  On each property homepage, you’ll find a countdown-to-completion clock ticking away.   His new homes have theatrical “unveilings” (rather than grand openings) and draw hundreds of invitees who pay to preview the properties.

Here’s the light bulb that went on for me. We all know the importance of effective staging. But “McKinney’s marketing approach moves past staging and aims at creating a desire to live in the home from the time the prospect pulls up in front.  He works to take staging and showing and turn it into a powerful selling experience.

First, he considers when and how the prospect will arrive at the house. He tries to schedule showings at a time when the home will show to best advantage. If sunset is spectacular from the poolside terraces, he wants the prospects to experience those views.  Then, with the use of strategically placed cones, he influences exactly where the prospect and agent will park.  He blocks the drive so they are forced to approach the home in the most desirable way.  The prospect sees the full expanse of the front yard, takes in the dramatic architecture, sees the guest house which appears to be floating in a lagoon, smells the freshly cut grass and feels the marble pavers underfoot.  Anticipation heightens with the approach.

When the door opens, a memorable front door experience begins. While McKinney builds-in many of his front door magic moments — including in one recent home, a “water floor” that curves into an arched aquarium wet bar with exotic fish overhead — you can stage your own memorable front door openings by being creative. It’s the concept that’s important.  McKinney carefully furnishes and stages the home so there is a pleasant surprise or positive feature around every corner. He appeals to multiple senses using music and scent.  He has chocolate and champagne waiting. Prospects are qualified in advance, so McKinney has even been known to hand them the keys and suggest they spend the evening at the house (giving new meaning to the old puppy dog close!).

His goal is to open “the window of desire” for the home and close the deal.  What’s sitting by the front door on departure?  A contract.

McKinney’s sales track record would indicate that this approach works. He tells the story of meeting buyers after closing to walk them though their new multimillion home and demonstrate all the features.  His buyers asked, ‘Can we see the upstairs now, Frank?”  They had purchased based on only seeing (and falling in love with) the main floor.

In short, McKinney’s showings are designed to be memorable experiences that result in sales.  How can you do that with your listings?  Your homes don’t have to be multimillion dollar extravaganzas for you and your sellers to make every showing a memorable experience. This is turbo-charged staging.

Think about the questions McKinney must ask himself with every property.  What times of day does the home show best?  How can I take advantage of that?  What approach to the house is most favorable?  How can I enhance that approach? Where should prospects park?  Can you create a WOW the moment the front door opens? How can you keep the positive impressions happening?  What about sound and scent?  How can you stage to best highlight the lifestyle(s) the home represents?

Then, there’s the question of how you get the buy-in and cooperation of your seller.  The reality of today’s market is that some homes are selling.  Successful sales are generally the homes which have proper pricing, effective staging, and creative marketing. If your seller understands this and YOU can create magic showing moments, the probability of sales success rises.

Strategies for Effective Home Staging

It is interesting to read up on the latest strategies and techniques for effective home staging. Staging today is not an option if an owner is serious about selling a property.  Second only to pricing, condition and staging are key to impressing potential buyers and therefore, securing the sale of your property.

Here are some fall-related tips to help make a home more appealing:House for sale

  • Too many holiday decorations create a cluttered atmosphere (such as Halloween, Thanksgiving & seasonal decorations). Less is more in this instance.
  • Skip seasonal candles (they can be a safety risk and often have too strong of an odor).
  • Well-lit rooms not only look larger—they also make properties more inviting. Open blinds and shades to let in natural light; turn on lights and lamps for additional illumination.
  • Up the ‘coziness factor’ by adding pillows and plush throws to chairs and sofas.
  • Keep the thermostat set at a comfortable level – it is easy to cut off the AC in favor of opening the windows in September and October but if it is unseasonably warm, keep the air conditioning turned on.  The opposite is also true, if it is unseasonably cold, go on and cut on the heat.  The temperature of a home is key to creating an inviting atmosphere.

Spring Staging Tips

Any home stager will tell you that “staging is staging” and the principals remain the same throughout the year—keep things clean, clutter free and colorful. But that doesn’t each season comes without its own brand of staging magic. For spring, there are a number of things you can do both inside and outside to take advantage of the beautiful weather.

spring flower gardenBarb Schwarz, creator of Homes Staging® and CEO of Stagedhomes.com, suggests adding splashes of color to your porch with potted flowers. She favors larger pots placed on each side of the front door bearing tulips or daisies with greenery in the middle.

Bringing spring colors into a home is just as easy, especially with accessories like throw pillows, area rugs, artwork, towels and bedspreads. “Change accessories and the whole house changes,” Schwarz said. Swap-out decorative pillows on a sofa for a fresh, new look. “This year nature colors are really in; green is really big and hot orange is an accent that is strong.”

Designers recommend using other knickknacks that speak of spring, such as pears, eggs, sea shells, nature, leaf patterns in fabrics, wicker, real leather and rust metal as contrast. Schwarz said it’s also a good idea to replace the drapery panels in a home or office. She recently changed a den from a daisy pattern in blue to cream plain panels that went from ceiling to the floor “and the whole room looked bigger and more elegant,” she said.

Of course, all rooms in the house are important and there are ways to liven up each one as the spring season blooms. You want the buyer to buy the whole house, not just one or two rooms staged, so it’s important to create a cohesive design.

Yet don’t forget your “great outdoors.” Clean up your yards, remove fallen leaves and dead plants, and trim bushes and hedges. Indeed, spring brings more buyers so take advantage of all that the season has to offer.

Quick Tips for Selling Quickly and With the Best Terms

Patience is a virtue for just about any circumstance including selling your home, even in a real estate market when homes are on the market for just a short period of time. Assuming your home is in good condition and you are in a positive equity situation, here are some tips to help you sell your house quickly and for the best price whether your home is in Northern Virginia, Washington, DC or anywhere else in the country!

1. Price your house correctly: Working with your agent, choose a price that is realistic- preferably on the low side of realistic – but not too low that it will send up red flags. Let your agent establish a price he or she feels will make your house the buzz of the neighborhood. The more interest you have the more showing you will have and the better chance you have of being in a multiple offer situation.

Prudential PenFed Realty agents use current market data from the multiple listing service, RBIntel, the National Association of REALTORS’ Realtors Property Resource, and other market statistics to help estimate the price range your home will bring.

2. Be flexible, compromise: know your basement price and don’t be offended by offers within those parameters. Consider negotiating housewares and fixtures that may appeal to prospective buyers, such as those expensive new drapes you just installed, the dining-room chandelier or that slick, washer-drier combo. Conduct a complete inventory of household features to determine what you can and can’t live without.

3. Remove the clutter from your home: This must be done regardless of time frame. Throw away anything you won’t be taking with you and pack in storage items that you won’t miss during the sale process. Consider renting a storage pod that can be picked up and eventually moved to your new home.

4. Offer incentives: One popular incentive for a fast closing is to share or pay for your buyer’s closing costs. You may also offer higher commissions for a fast sale, which may lead to even more showings.

5. Rent to buy: If there’s interest in your home but no one is willing to step up to meet your timeline, offer prospective buyers the chance to rent your property with the right to buy it in six months or a year. Both parties win, as buyers can experience the home and neighborhood firsthand while you transition with cash flow to cover expenses.

Indeed, home-selling requires time and patience yet there are several things you can do to help expedite the process, if necessary. With flexibility and creativity, you can increase your chances of a quick sale.

The Truth About Radon Gas

There’s a scene in “The Princess Bride” where the villainous Vizzini offers his adversary an invisible, odorless and tasteless poison. While his description is meant to conjure laughs, he could have just as easily been talking about radon gas.

You can not see, smell or taste radon, yet exposure to the gas can make you sick. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today after smoking.  It can be a really big deal but one that is easily treated.

Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and may sneak into the air you breathe by penetrating your home through cracks in the foundation. It can be discovered in all parts of the country and can cause a dangerous high indoor radon level in any home. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, roughly one out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels and homes in Northern Virginia are no exception.

While it’s not a requirement that you test for radon when you make an offer to buy a home in many places, especially homes where the basement is included in the living area, it is a good idea to ask for a Radon Inspection Contingency.

A Radon Inspection Contingency can put some structure into getting a “short-term” radon test done on any home to make sure the levels of radon on the lowest level of the home are below the 4.0 pCi/L level. That level was a target set by the U.S. Congress for indoor air quality, and the U.S. EPA enforces that mandate.

If you are preparing to sell your home, you should test for radon before you even put it on the market.  This can save valuable time during a real estate transaction, as long as you have all the paperwork and testing data to show the prospective buyer.  If you do find out you have elevated radon levels you can remediate before putting your home on the market. If you need help, ask your favorite real estate agent for a recommendation.  At Prudential PenFed Realty we have a list of contractors we use on a regular basis and would be glad to pass on a few names of trusted contractors.

The quickest way to detect radon is with short-term tests, which remain in your home for two to 90 days, depending on the device. The most common detectors are charcoal canisters, alpha track, electret ion chamber, continuous monitors and charcoal liquid scintillation.

Test the home in the lowest level that you currently live in, or a lower level not currently used, but which a buyer could use for living space without making renovations. Elevated radon levels can be remedied with a radon-reduction system, which can reduce the gas by up to 99% percent and cost less than $1,500 to buy and install.

Buyers and sellers should be smart about radon. Every new home should be tested after occupancy, even if it was built radon-resistant or with a radon reducing system installed.

Here’s a Great Way to Clean a Smelly Disposal

Is something smelling off in your kitchen? It’s not the trash or the refrigerator or even the dog food bowl. Checked the over and last week’s chicken you forgot to cook is definitely not still defrosting in the oven. Oddly enough, have you thought to check your garbage disposal? As crazy as it sounds, those amazing chopping machines that can take on almost anything have been known to get an icky gunk build-up of residue from pulverized food.

We’ve poured all kinds of things down our kitchen garbage disposal to make it clean and sweet-smelling – orange and grapefruit peels, dried-out lemons, baking soda and vinegar.

But we never thought of throwing salt down there – until we read this tip.
Here’s how it works:

  • Fit a stopper into the sink, and fill with hot water and a squirt of dish detergent.
  • Turn on the disposal and let the soapy water drain, pushing gunk down the drain with it.
  • Throw 3 or 4 ice cubes and a handful of large-grain salt, such as Kosher, down the drain and run the disposal.
  • Flush with water, and you’ve got a clean disposal. Grind up a few lemons if you want a fresh, citrus smell.

Voila! A fresh-smelling drain!