Friday, April 26, 2013

Good Staging = Good Editing

I can't stress this enough. The key to home staging is editing. You must edit, and then edit some more, and then edit some more.

The morning my realtor came to take photos for the listing, I had just come back from a weekend of house hunting and did not feel totally prepared. Yes, the house was clean, but it was not pared down and streamlined. After I saw my agent's photos, I realized that I still had some work to do before it was "open house" ready.

In the kitchen, I still had too many items on the counter tops, and a few too many photos on the refrigerator.

I also cleaned the fronts of the cherry cabinetry so that it would shine!

This photo of the family room was fine, but I did not like that lumpy blue blanket in the photo, so I put it in storage.

In the basement photo, I removed the decorative evergreen tree:

My realtor took some shots of the property. This photo showed the remains of my grapevine tree that my husband had thrown on the burn pile. Not very scenic!

I decided to make the fire pit a little more inviting by adding some lawn chairs. The chairs really drew your eye to the property at the bottom of the hill, making the fire pit a real focal point which could be viewed from the deck as well as the bedrooms at the back of the house.

Here's a good solid staging tip: If you think your rooms are ready for open house, take photos of them. You'll be surprised what your camera will see that you may have been ignoring on a daily basis.

Good home staging can make the difference between a house that sells on the first day and a house that lingers on the market for months. If there is one thing we have learned about today's real estate market, it is this: a properly staged home will get snagged up within twenty-four hours of listing. A home that looks a little too lived in will have its current owners living in it for longer than they anticipated.

My editing continues...I'm now pairing down for the packers. If you don't have to pack it, then you don't have to unpack it, either!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

36 Days

The story continues...

So my husband puts an offer on a house that he instantly fell in love with, a house that was totally finished from top to bottom.

Unfortunately, seven other families also fell in love with the house and made offers as well.

Seven offers.

Which, of course, sparks a bidding war, where the seller and her agent kept all parties on pins and needles for four days.

In the end, we did not get the house.

I'm trusting that God did not want us to live in that house, and He has something better in store for us.

My husband, however, is in a full on panic and wants a house now. Any house. It doesn't matter to him.

Because in 36 days, we will be homeless.

But I refuse to join him in this personal freak out. I told him that now is the time to pray and wait upon the Lord, not rush into making rash decisions because a clock is ticking.

I have a plan B.

My plan B involves putting our household goods in storage and spending the summer with my Mom in Michigan.

I will not grab a house I don't like in a location that is less than desirable.  I really don't think that God wants us to buy a house that is "done" because He has given us a gift to "make all things new". We could find the house tomorrow, or we could find it in July.

Today, the thought of a summer in Michigan makes me smile.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


My husband is going to look at a house that just came on the market this week. It looks like it could be the one we've been patiently waiting English Tudor home with a big, flat back yard in an old, established historic neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

We've looked at quite a few houses over the years. Some of them my husband liked, and some of them I liked.

The pilot's house in the woods. (My husband liked, I did not).

The yellow house in the village. (I liked, my husband did not).

But when we choose a house to call home, invariably we both like it and know instantly that it's the house we've been searching for. If he doesn't like it, then it's probably not the one. If I don't like it, then I remind him of the "happy wife, happy life" words-to-live-by.

This time, it will be a little different. Pittsburgh is six hours away, and I just can't drop everything (laundry, homework, boy and dog) to drive six hours when a house comes on the market. This time, I will have to trust that my husband will know if it's the one. I have to trust him to make an offer for both of us, even though I have not physically stepped foot in the house.

And I do trust him.

I will also trust him if he walks in the house today and decides for any number of reasons (too big, awkward layout, no storage, missing a bathroom, too expensive) that it is not the house for us.

This week, I read this from Spurgeon's Morning and Evening devotional. It recounts the story of Rahab, who tied the scarlet cord in her window, thus putting her trust in the spies who would save her and a God who would deliver her.

Spurgeon ends with this thought: "My soul, tie the scarlet cord in the window and rest in peace."

Today, I have a scarlet cord tied at my window. It is there to remind me to trust that God will find us the right house, the right neighborhood, the right community to call home. I'm trusting that God has a plan for our family, and that plan is to prosper us in Pittsburgh.

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength." Isaiah 30:15

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Sign of Things To Come

It's official. The sign is in the yard.

And just as quickly as the sign went up, we were under contract and have, in essence, sold our house.

That was faster than I predicted!

Before the sign even went up in the yard, I had my first showing. By the end of that first day, I'd had four more showings, with four more scheduled the next day, and four more scheduled the day after that.

And just like that, within twenty-four hours of having the sign appear, we had multiple offers on our house.

Praise the Lord!

It seemed like a good idea to get out of town for the weekend. So I packed up the boy and the dog and met my husband for another weekend of house hunting in Pittsburgh.

One house that we were considering now has an offer, and we're waiting to hear if that sale is pending or if we still have a chance.

We looked at five more houses after that. Blech, blech, blech, blech, blech.

And then our last house of the day spoke to me.

What did it say?

It said "You're homeless now, so you might want to consider me!"

It had more to say, but I'm still mulling it all over in my head.

Tune in  tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Keeping It Clean

This is not a paid/endorsed blog post. I only wish it was a paid/endorsed blog post when I consider how often I'm using these products!

Today, I thought I'd share with you some of the essential cleaning products you need to have on hand when your house is on the real estate market.

Now before I go any further, I can see you Pinterest pinning/home and lifestyle blogging readers cringing right now. I know what you're saying, too.

"Disposable cleaning products! How wasteful! I only use homemade cleaning products with organic rags, thus ensuring that I leave the smallest carbon footprint possible for Mother earth."

Well, good for you!

But here's the reality check.

A realtor calls and says" Hi. We're in your neighborhood looking at houses with clients today. I know we're supposed to give you more advanced notice, but do you think we could see your house in fifteen minutes?"

Are you seriously going to say "No. I haven't mixed a fresh batch of vinegar cleaning solution today, and I have no time to clean the stinking rags in the laundry room"?

If you want to get your house sold, you are going to say "Of course! Come on over!"

And then you will clean like a crazy woman for thirteen minutes, leaving two minutes to spare to load a labrador retriever, a child, and a basket of dirty laundry into your car.

The truth is this: these disposable products are essential at a time when speed and convenience mean everything. Swiffer dusters make fast work of the flat surfaces in your house (don't forget the ceiling fans and blinds!). A Lysol wipe can get the nastiness off your counters and make your bathrooms smell fresh. Swiffer wet ones will give your floors a fast cleaning, and they dry quickly as well.

And here's one more thing: don't neglect the odors in your house. This is probably not a time to be frying bacon every morning. And while your family may have connected the smell of vinegar to cleanliness, other visitors may find the odor offensive.

This is one of the reasons I keep a Febreeze plug in on every level of my house. I have sons, and I have a big dog, and they all come with big odors. I do my best to keep the house smelling fresh at all times.

My house is being listed TODAY! Let the cleaning frenzy begin!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Curb Appeal

My realtor called on Sunday.

"Hey, Mary! Can I come take photos of the house on Tuesday?"

Aaack! So much to do!

Cleaning! Decluttering! Conquering the LEGO mess in the basement!

The weathermen had forecast rain for the entire week. But guess what? We've had clear skies and sunshine! Perfect weather for photographing the house in the best possible light.

I went to Home Depot and Lowe's yesterday to pick up some potted flowers.

I started at the mailbox...

...then added some bright tulips by the lamp post.

Some cheerfulness by the front sidewalk...

...leading to the cheerfulness on the front porch.

And finally, I added some potted pansies to the table on the back deck...

Everything outdoors got a nice cleaning and sweeping.

You know what they say...

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Craziest Thing I've Ever Done to Sell a House

This may be the craziest thing I've ever done to sell a house.

I staged an empty bedroom as a nursery.

And I don't have a baby.

Yes, I have babies, but they are big know, the kind that leave their huge shoes everywhere for me to trip over.

Here's my thought process on the matter. My oldest son moved his belongings to a rental home near campus, so his room became the game room/guest room. And what was once the game room/guest room was the smallest room of the house. It is next door to the master bedroom, which is an ideal spot for a nursery.

The experts will tell you that most buyers do not have very good imaginations. With that in mind, I thought it might be a good idea to show them one purpose for this room.

When I floated the idea past my realtor, he told me that if I could do it without spending a dime, then he was all for it.

I am not a hoarder, but I do have a Rubbermaid tote for each son, filled with a few key items from their baby years. My son, John, assembled the crib, I hauled out the bedding, and voila! Instant nursery!

A few sweet toys and stuffed animals to say "Isn't this a cute room for a baby?"

And, as luck would have it, all of the bedding matched the paint color of the room!

So, tell me, what do you think? Was it a crazy idea? Was it a good staging concept? Am I taking this house selling thing too seriously?

Opinions welcome!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

House Hunters: Pittsburgh Edition

Welcome to House Hunters: Pittsburgh Edition!

You know those annoying young couples who walk into a room and say "But it's red! I can't live in a red room!" You want to shake them and say "Hell-o! There's this wonderful, magical place called Home Depot where you can buy this transforming product called 'paint'."

We're not one of those couples. We're not a couple who needs stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops. We're the couple who looks at ugly and says "I think that can be pretty one day."

Unfortunately, that was not our experience yesterday.

We've officially begun the house search with a realtor. We toured a dozen homes in five hours yesterday. It was exhausting.

What did we find?

We found that we don't make enough money.

We found that some people live in absolute filth, but value their filth so much that they think it's worth $300K.

We found that some people can overlook rips in carpets, cheap woodwork, and bad odors, but still command top dollar.

We found that adorable homes in our price range would require us to get rid of half of our possessions and two-thirds of our children.

I am trying not to become disheartened.