Recently I was brainstorming ideas on how to make my business more competitive, while also paying attention to the bottom line. I had heard the term ‘staging’ a lot but didn’t really know what it meant, nor how useful it could be to my real estate practice. Then, as if out of nowhere, in walked a professional stager (Marilyn Roeke of Mission Possible Staging www.missionpossiblestaging.com in Calgary) who changed my ideas and got me thinking more carefully about what is involved in pre-listing a home for a seller. Additionally, Marilyn put me in touch with Christine Rae and her Certified Professional Stager program (www.stagingtraining.com), an amazing Canadian who basically brought the staging industry to Canada from the US in the 1990s. Before I knew it, I was taking Rae’s online course to learn about and obtain the Certified Staging Professional ‘Elite’ designation, a special course designed specifically for real estate agents wanting to utilize staging in their business model and learn how to promote it to their clients. Such a fascinating topic, so I would like to shed some light on what I have learned about staging in the past few months. Here goes.
What is staging and how it is important to a listing?
Staging is a wonderful marketing tool, which will enhance a client’s marketing plan and increase their profit by securing as much as the equity in the home as possible. According to Marilyn Roeke, “staging is a process of preparing a property for sale or rent by highlighting its best features. It is an investment tool that sets a property apart from its competition giving it a competitive edge. Although staging includes decorating it is much more than that”. With this in mind, a professional stager will utilize various techniques and methods in order to target a particular demographic, while at the same time appealing to a wider swath of buyers as the home will look perfectly presented. It is important to look at the listing process from the eyes of the buyer, as they actually are the most important party in the sale of a home. The home really should be set up and ‘staged’ with the buyer in mind. This is done by minimizing visual distractions and enhancing the look and feel of the property, both inside and out. Marilyn takes it one step further and focuses a lot on the ‘curb appeal’. For example, having the seller make sure that the lawn is cut, the flower beds are full (in season of course) and that the shrubs and trees are pruned back, if need be. Furthermore, she may also point out that the trim needs a touch up, or the roof needs replacing if shingles are curling. Curb appeal, is crucial, regardless of market, as many buyers put together a list of possible homes prior to going out with a realtor, and may drive by before viewing inside. This can make or break. I have had the experience that a buyer has crossed a home off of a viewing tour due to a previous late afternoon drive by. The curb appeal was, well, not appealing, and so influenced the buyer to think that possibly the interior mirrored the exterior.
Which Home Repairs that will Result in the Greatest Return on Investment?
Real estate professionals get asked questions about how to make their home more appealing to a potential buyer, and as much as it does depend on the home being marketed, it also depends on the budget that the seller has to use towards home repairs. Some homes have a ‘honey-do’ list a mile long, and some homes are pretty much ready to go with some simple pre-packing or flowers in a vase. However, most homes do require more than a spruce up in more than several areas of concern. According to HomeGain (www.homegain.com), a site that provides information about real estate and the industry, the top three improvements to the home before listing and that will result in the greatest ROI are 1) clean and declutter (872%), 2) home staging (586%) and 3) lighten and brighten (572%). Moreover, Rae cites that updating and staging kitchens and bathrooms are key, as the budget allows for of course. She goes on to say that “72% of first impression of a home can be controlled by the seller”, and that the feeling of a home is assessed within a blink of an eye of entering the property - a decision has been made, and homes are eliminated from the list based on the very first impression, regardless of whether it is inside or out. Now that I have a much firmer grasp of staging and how it all works, I am very excited to incorporate staging and Marilyn Roeke into my business model when working with sellers. I understand that this is quite crucial, especially in the buyer’s market that we are presently in, as no one has a crystal ball to predict when this down economy will flip for Calgarians. I look forward to adding to this topic in future blogs posts. One never knows what will come out of a well-timed brainstorming session. Have a happy spring!
"But a city is more than a place in space, it is a drama in time" - Patrick Geddes
(Scotish urban planning guru, 1854-1932)
New to the real estate industry as of January 5th, 2016 (regardless if you are a REALTOR®, Buyer or Seller), is that CREB (Calgary Real Estate Board) has aligned with the City of Calgary’s new community map of the city and naming culture for listing homes on the MLS. Key changes include:
- The city will now be divided into 8 sections: City Center, East, North, North East, North West, South, South East and West from the four zones A, B, C, D, which roughly corresponded with Calgary North West, North East, South West and South East up until this year;
- The ‘estate’ names of several communities will be dropped (eg. Silver Springs Estates is now Silver Springs);
- Some existing names will be changed to match the City naming, (eg. Saddleridge is now Saddle Ridge);
- Some communities will disappear or split and merged with others (eg. Quarry Park is now part of the Douglasglen/Douglasdale community);
- New community names will be added (eg. Legacy, Rocky Vista)
- Several commercial area names have been changed to match City naming (eg. Highfield is now Highfield, Manchester Industrial, Alyth/Bonnybrook and Burns Industrial);
- For more information on the community names, please click Calgary Community Profiles to view the City’s community profiles that exit now.
If you have an auto search set up with us, please let us know and we can assist you in adjusting your home search critiera to align with the new changes. Thank you.
“Constant renovation is the key to success and failure” - Yash Dwivedi
“My decorating and renovation skills are NIL - indeed, I once used a shower curtain from Pottery Barn as a ‘window dressing’” - Candace Bushnell
A few weeks ago I was invited to and attended a real estate associate ‘caravan’, which is basically a group of realtors with listings in a particular area of the city who visit each other’s listings and offer constructive feedback. It is also in the hopes that maybe one of the participating realtors will bring a buyer. It was a very interesting, informative half day event, topped off with a light lunch and chat at the organizer’s listing. I had seen the photos on the MLS prior to entering the home for the lunch, and was interested as it looked like a new kitchen in a home that was about 25 years old or so. I was intrigued and looked forward to seeing this home.
I entered and was met by new hardwood floors, and obviously a new paint job. Heading into the kitchen I was amazed at the new cupboards and new counter tops… but wait, on closer inspection, the cupboards were in fact over painted original oak cabinets with new hardware. It looked fantastic, and once can only imagine the amount of money saved on tearing out and installing brand new ‘custom’ cabinets. The backsplash and counter was new, but the home owner had just had the cabinets refinished, painted and added new silver hardware - I was amazed.
Yes, an easy fix, but one that can make a huge difference if one is thinking to fixing up an older kitchen for renting out, selling or just for the sake of living with a ‘new’ kitchen. This can also be applied to bathrooms and pretty much anywhere in the home where there is the tired oak wood or panelling that needs to be rejuvenated. In fact, the construction and materials of these original oak cabinets, wall panels and railings are well made and is actually ‘real’ wood (as opposed to particle board) and so is worth the effort to preserve. I have since asked other home owners about this, making this a suggestion for my own listings during open houses in an area of Calgary where the homes are about 25 years old and are full of tired oak cabinetry. The response is great. For great ‘before and after’ images on Pinterest, see this link https://www.pinterest.com/explore/oak-kitchen-remodel/
Happy renovating / rejuvenating your home!
“When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go.” - Alexandra Stoddard
“There is a saying that every nice piece of work needs the right person in the right place at the right time.”- Benoit Mandelbrot
Undeniably, buying or selling a home is no small undertaking. In fact, it is a monumental decision that requires the utmost planning, organization and careful thought. When compared to renting, it is not easy to ‘get out’ of a hastily made decision. Hopefully, we can avoid the ‘waste from haste’ by working with a competent, intelligent and timely real estate professional: a decision that can save us time, money and headache.
Over the course of working in the real estate industry, both as a destination service consultant and a licensed real estate associate, I have come up with three key questions that one must honestly and transparently answer for themselves before buying or selling. They are:
Where do you want to move to - sounds simple enough, but many people do not actually have this narrowed down; or they think they do, but can be distracted easily by the ‘shiny penny’ of yet another bigger, better community or location. You need to sit down and have a heart to heart with yourself as to where it is YOU want to live, and for what reasons. Is it convenience you are looking for? Status? Access to public/separate system schools? The best off leash dog park in the city? What is it about your lifestyle that you want to bring with you to this new location and does this new location offer? Finally, what are the deal breakers? For instance, it has access to public transport, but not LRT, and are you ok with taking the bus? There are many resources in print, on line and with your real estate professional’s experience to help you decide. No question is a small question.
When do you want to move - sure, one might think ‘as soon as possible’, but that isn’t necessarily the way that it is going to work, especially if you are trying to list and sell a house in order to buy a new home. Again, we need to sit down and consider what the market is doing, the inventory available and are we ok with what is on market presently, work/school considerations (i.e. being settled into a new home before school starts in the fall clearly makes a lot of sense), seasonal restraints of moving in the winter and schlepping stuff through snow banks, and such financial considerations as mortgage rates, cash flow, and much more (for financial advice, best to check in with your bank or mortgage broker). The timing of a move can make or break the euphoria of actually buying the dream home, in many ways, so good to have this well thought out as your real estate professional will most certainly ask you.
What do you want to move in to - regardless of whether it is your dream home you are ready to locate and move into, or a first time buyer/starter home, this question needs careful consideration or it can be costly, let alone a potential relationship divider. Start with where you currently live and what you like or dislike about it, even if it is a temporary rental or you are living with your parents. From there, you can map out (perhaps literally with pen/paper) your lifestyle and what your happiness requires in terms of space. I am not saying that you will necessarily be able to get it all in one, but you might be able to arrive at certain deal breakers, or areas that are negotiable. Are you looking to renovate if what you buy doesn’t have it already? What are the finances of that, and is it feasible? Spaces that generally require attention are the following: bedrooms (number, size, and location), kitchen, and living room vs. family room, bathrooms, developed or semi-finished basement, garage. Another question is will your family be expanding? Do you have pets? All of these questions need to be well thought out and discussed with yourself and family members before seeking the assistance of your real estate professional. Of course, she can assist you in looking at ways to make things work, but at the end of the day, the decision will ultimately be yours as you have to live with and within it.
So, before getting in front of a real estate professional, make sure you are prepared - where to, when is the optimal time and what is the best fit. Here are some additional resources:
It has been a busy week with lots of media hype about the real estate market in Calgary and across Alberta, to be sure. Hard to not notice, simply open a paper or catch a feed on social media, all pretty much claiming the same doom and gloom - humongous downturn in the Calgary housing market. Yikes. What to do now? This was not in the brochure… I spoke to a landlord a few days ago who asked me directly, “Not a buyer’s market, but isn’t it more a case of ‘buyer paralysis’?” Yes, I thought, that is an apt description, seems like there is a lot of fish out there, but people are frozen with (media) fear to bite… another property manager who I ran into was all smiles, some how coping with the uncalled for ‘shift’ in the rental market by literally grinning and bearing it, “Oh, definitely noticing a slowdown and not to mention that rental rates are down by 10% across our inventory”. Interesting, that means that the people who own the properties that he manages would have to have agreed to the reduction, too. Feels official in some very real way.
However, I am not convinced that this is going to last … I see it more as a calm in the market before a storm of buying takes hold. Yes, once the weather warms and the smell of spring is in the air. Not that we have had a nasty winter, just that we are still in February and the official first day of Spring in the Northern hemisphere is not for another 3 weeks - March 21st! Ok, so what, it’s a buyer’s market out there, according to the Conference Board of Canada (http://www.newstalk770.com/2015/02/26/calgary-now-in-a-buyers-market-conference-board-report/) meaning that more inventory is out there and it is the advantage of the buyer now, not the seller: a good time to negotiate the right price. Come summer, I call a flurry of buying activity across the city … what are you waiting for, let’s go!