Home Staging 101

Looking to sell your home? There’s no better way to get the house looking good to buyers than employing a little home staging. Home staging? Sounds like putting on a play. Well it kind of is—the idea is to make your space into a stage on which potential buyers can imagine their lives playing out. How do you achieve this desirable effect? A few useful tips will send you on your way. But if you can’t manage it—or don’t want to deal with it—there is a whole field of professional home stagers who will be eager to help you make your house look perfect for the sale. Step one: Take yourself out of your home Buyers need to see what basically amounts to a blank canvas on which they can project their desires. This means that all your very special—and personal—knick-knacks, thimgamajigs, and whatchamacallits should be packed away. While you might adore that ancient samurai sword hanging over the mantle or delight in your doll collection arranged just so on the bookcase, odds are your average buyer won’t have the same taste. Replace all the items that say “you” with a blander collection of decorations. Consider replacing the sword with a nice nature photograph. You can get these affordably—online print emporiums and stores like Target and Ikea offer framed art for a pittance. And maybe some pretty vases or other pottery would fit where the dolls once stood. Decent examples of such decor can also be found for a song at discount shops and other all-purpose stores. Step two: Wipe out the clutter The key to creating a clean,...

Buying a Home Today: Post Housing Crisis Considerations

A central pillar of the American Dream is to own your own home. But as we all know the nation-wide housing crisis has made a lasting, sometimes devastating, impact on the concept of home ownership. In response to the housing catastrophe, some have wondered if renting a home will become more acceptable over time and possibly even become the new American Dream. No doubt that house ownership has dropped in the last few years. But this trend doesn’t mean that a shift in the American psyche is taking place, or that we’re completely moving away from homeownership.  To the contrary, in fact.  According to a recent National Public Radio segment, “After the Housing Bust, Revisiting Homeownership,” journalist Chris Arnold reports that the ambition of owning a home is still alive and well. So what are the reasons for buying a home, so soon after the housing bubble burst? The short answer is that it still makes economic sense to do so. Home prices are down by 30% nationally. Here are some things to think about as you weigh the decision of going ahead with homeownership. Interest Rates are Extremely Low Besides lower housing prices, interest rates are extremely low. Historically low, in fact. It’s generally believed that these rates really have only one direction they could go from here—and that’s up. So for any potential homebuyers, now may be the time to move forward.  Businessweek columnist Marc Roth boldly stated in 2009, “If you have a steady job, good credit, and the down payment, then you really are being offered the gift of a lifetime.” But be sure to...

Useful Tips for Saving to Buy a New Home

I know a family, which I’ll call Todd and Jill Merrill.  During the economic downturn of 2008-2009, Todd lost his job, and the family decided they needed to move. When they prepared to sell their home, they discovered, like many others, that the value of their house was less than the money they owed on it. The Merrill’s have done their best to move on and rebuild their lives.  Although they lost money on their last home, their goal is to buy another in about a year. If you’re coming out of a similar situation, and looking to buy another home, realtor Richard Martinez addresses common questions you may find helpful. Talking with my friends and calling on my own observations, here are a few strategies that can help anyone like the Merrill’s reach their goals much faster. Set a Timeline By setting a timeline, you can identify a specific date in the future when you can reach your goal. Obviously, you’ll need to determine how much and how fast you’ll be able to reach that goal. If you set aside a specific amount from every paycheck—treating “saving” like any other expense—you can really make some headway. Take a look at these resources on saving money over time: Tips for Saving up for that Home and How to Set and Reach Saving Goals. Eliminating Unnecessary Expenses To save up for a down payment, look at where you can trim any excessive expenses and then become disciplined enough to eliminate them. In general, for things like groceries and clothing, it’s a good idea to buy what you need in one...

The 25-Box Move

We all know moving can be stressful. But one thing I didn’t anticipate last time I moved was the stress I felt about how much stuff I have. When it was all crammed into a mountain of boxes in the middle of the room, it suddenly seemed simply overwhelming. Was that really all mine? And did I really need it all? The experience left me thinking. Moving really is the best time to weed out what you can put on the trash heap or the donation pile. What if you were to limit yourself to a certain number of boxes and force yourself to discard all but what could fit inside? I mentioned the idea to a friend, who actually took me up on it. She was about to move to a smaller place and decided this was the perfect time to try a “25-box move.” Everything that didn’t fit into those 25 boxes would get the old heave-ho. Well, as you’d suspect, it is surprisingly hard to decide whether there is room for Grandma’s antique—but never used—candleholders. Or if that old National Geographic collection holds enough sentimental value to save. My friend pulled her hair out in the process, but managed it in the end. Some of her boxes were rather large, but there were in fact only 25 of them. Here are some of the tricks she used: Use a wardrobe box.  Sometimes bigger is better!  Wardrobe boxes are great because they’re so large and do help you transport a lot of clothing.  You can maximize the space by packing shoes, jeans and sweaters in the bottom...

Advantages of Apartment Living

Advantages of Apartment Living The American Dream is a house with a yard and a white picket fence. But is that really the only option for a good life? Aren’t there some disadvantages to going with the whole detached single-family scenario? Wouldn’t it be good to think a little more flexibly about what an ideal home might be? For example, there are a whole lot of attractive aspects to apartment living. The reduced maintenance is an obvious one, but there are a lot of other reasons those nesting in smaller spaces find themselves relaxed and happy. Here’s a sampling: Less space for unimportant stuff Little space for storage means you can’t let stuff accumulate. Call it the self-inflicted junk patrol. With no basement, garage, or attic in which to fling all your knick-knacks, everything you’ve got in your apartment is going to be something you really want to keep. No yard care = time and money savings The average American homeowner spent more than 75 hours a year and some $360 caring for his or her yard in 2010. Water for the lawn gobbles up a big chunk of the family budget: lawn care is estimated to account for almost one-third of all residential water use in the U.S. That adds up. In an apartment, the labor and expense of yard work is out of the equation. It might seem sad not to have your own little green space, but when you think about what it really takes to keep that square of heaven blooming, you might be glad to head to the park for a picnic instead. Fees...