Transform Your Space with Style!

The following are articles written by Janet Davison

have been published in the  

Vacaville Magazine

10 Ways to Make Home Buyers Hate Your House!

Spring is a optimum time to sell a home! With plenty of choices available, make sure you are not doing any of the top ten things that can make a home buyer look past yours!

1. Unappealing "curb appeal"

  • Statistics say it only takes 10 seconds for buyers to form a first impression. The view of your home from the curb must capture the buyer's interest so they want to come in to see more. Potential buyers will keep on driving when they pull up to a house with an unkempt yard, peeling paint, plants growing in the gutters or garbage cans that haven't been put out of sight.

  • A "For Sale by Owner" Sign may be another curbside deterrent. Many buyers question why a home is not being listed by a Realtor--Was there something the Realtor wanted them to fix before taking the listing? Is the home owner trying to cut corners on cost? They may have fears that everything--including paperwork--might not be done correctly without a Realtor.

  • Nowadays, the computer is likely to be the place where buyers get their first introductions to your home. Make sure your on line photos are taken after cleaning, de-cluttering and staging when the home is picture perfect! Photos of empty rooms do not evoke the emotional responses that lead to sales.

  • Dogs that meet buyers at the door or in the driveway are a poor welcome to a home that is for sale. Don't give Rover the chance to frighten your prospects away!

2. Something smells fishy to me!

  • House odors are a major turn-off for potential buyers. The smells left by smoking, pets, smoky fireplaces and even food make buyers question the care given to the home. The smell of mildew conjures up thoughts of more serious problems. Because people tend to acclimate to the scents around them, homeowners can become desensitized to the odors in their own home.

  • If odors are evident, do not try to cover them up with perfumes, but rather, eliminate them with extra cleaning. If this is not effective and you want to sell your home, you will need to replace any carpet or other surfaces that retain an offensive odor.

3. Clutter it up!

  • The first step in preparing your home for sale is to make it clutter free. When the flat surfaces of a home are, for the most part empty, it leaves a clean canvas to create a simple, coordinated, compelling look - that sells! Remove all items you do not REALLY NEED to use: personal toiletries, knick knacks, anything that gives the appearance of clutter. These items will have to be packed eventually, so unless they have an "everyday use" they night as well be packed sooner than later!

  • Clutter refers to decorative items as well. Normally the amount of books in bookcases and items on shelves needs to be reduced by at least a third. Create a neutral environment by taking down personal collections and family photos. The goal is for the home buyers to "picture" their family in your home, not yours!

  • Too much furniture makes a house seem small and should be viewed as "clutter." A steadfast rule of thumb is "less is best!"

4. True Grit

  • Houses that sell quickly are squeaky clean--windows washed inside and out, base boards, walls, carpets, tile grout, closets, drawers...everything. This is so important that if cleaning is a chore to you, a professional cleaner might be the best solution.

  • Bathrooms and kitchens need to sparkle. No one wants to picture living with someone else's grit.

5. Dated appearance

  • Walk through your home with a critical eye to notice easy fixes to update your home. Oftentimes fresh paint is the solution. Multiple rooms with busy wallpaper are not appealing to most home buyers. Better to remove it and paint the wall in a warm but neutral color. Wood paneling, old cabinets and even fireplaces can be given new life with a coat of the surface-appropriate paint.

  • While silk trees and greenery add an element of coziness and life to a room, silk flowers have gone the way of shag carpets. Floral swags above art and doorways are a part of the previous decade.

6. Dimly lit rooms

  • No one wants to live in a dungeon. Dark rooms appear dreary. Sometimes it is as easy as brightening up dark corners with lamps! Other times it may be necessary to install additional light fixtures. Replace dim light bulbs with new ones.

  • Remove heavy drapes!

  • Trim trees and bushes that create too much shadow in the rooms.

  • Repaint dark rooms with colors that reflect light. Bold, dark colors may be your preference, but they can be a game-stopper in a sale. Serious buyers try to imagine their furniture in the home. If the paint colors would be too conflicting, their second thought is of how much work, time and money it would take to repaint.

  • During the Open House and Show Times light the lamps, pull up the blinds, open the curtains and let the sun shine in.

7. Unfinished Repairs

  • Neglected repairs position your home as a "fixer upper." This significantly decreases both the number of interested buyers and the price they expect to pay. Go through your home with a notepad and a pen and write down every item that would appear on a "honey-do" list -- ant then, honey, do it! (Or hire someone!)

8. Show an empty house

  • Only 10% of buyers can visualize living in an empty house. Martha Webb, author of Dress your House for Success, says, "Empty houses do not sell more quickly or profitably. Lifelessness is not only a difficult negative to overcome, it also attracts low offers because it sends the message that it MUST SELL; the owners have moved on and need to unload their house."

9. Stage it yourself

  • Staging refers to the process of positioning the furniture, color, accents and accessories into "vignettes" that reflect comfortable living. The process is designed to create a memorable feeling that lasts beyond the tour so buyers will want to come back to the live there! Because of the personal attachment to their homes, most often sellers lack the objectivity need to see their homes as a commodity being prepared top "appeal to the masses!"

  • With staging, the bath can be presented as a spa-like experience waiting to happen! The set table and counter accessories in the kitchen create the thought of enjoying time spent together here with family and friends. Stagers have the necessary inventory to supplement your own belongings if the house is being occupied while it is on the market. If the house is vacant, stagers can place just the right amount of furnishings and accessories to make buyers feel at home.

  • 10. Owners being present during showings

  • While you would never leave your home unattended, you, the owner need to vacate the premises during showings! Buyers are much more comfortable inspecting a house if the owner is not there. In the presence of the homeowner, buyers feel like "guests" and are likely to feel awkward about opening closets and poking around to take a really good look.

  • In an effort to be friendly, homeowners tend to engage potential buyers in conversation--about their home, their history the neighborhood or their families. These conversations divert the buyer's attention and make them feel as if they are imposing.

  • During Open Houses and Show Times leave your home in the hands of a professional Realtor. Since most home buyers tour in pairs, they appreciate the liberty to talk about your home candidly with each other and the Realtor. S/he knows how to keep a professional distance while still pointing out the highlights that will sell your home.

Most of the items on this "Top 10 List" have easy remedies that will make buyers fall in love with your home. Make sure your home is totally ready before you list it. First impressions are lasting impressions. If your house gets tagged as the "house that smells" or "the one with the electric blue living room" it may be too late. Agents want to show houses that they know buyers will love -- and, as the homeowner, so do you!

Color YourWorld

There is nothing like a new coat of paint to add freshness and vitality to a room. The first thing most people ask themselves when deciding to paint is, “What color?” What they really should be asking is, “How do I want this room to feel?”

We have all experienced stepping into a home that welcomed us with warmth and character or into a refreshing room that felt cool and relaxing even on a hot summer day. We have also been places that felt void of personality, cold and uninviting. The difference is color. Furniture dictates style, art adds character but the “mood” of the room is derived from the color, and it begins with the paint on the walls.  

Colors are so closely connected to emotion, that our language is sprinkled with clichés coupling the two: “Having the blues”- “Cool as a cucumber”- “Mellow Yellow”- “Sunny disposition”- “Yellow streak down his back”- “Painting the town red”-“Seeing red” - “In the red”. Then there are the gray areas, the little white lies, and getting the green light…just to name a few. 

The first challenge is that even within the same color family, individual colors can have different effects on the psyche depending on the tint (the amount of white) or the shade (amount of black) as well as on the combination of other pigments contained within the color. Blues range from calm to moody; Yellows from timid to happy. Red can be tinted down to rose—for a romantic look, softened into powder pink for a baby’s room or heavily shaded to create a color of deep passion.

The second challenge is that people have an involuntary response to colors which is not dependent upon their liking them? Colors have a subconscious, emotional impact on the human psyche. Studies show, for instance, that the color orange stimulates the saliva glands – making people, all people, hungry. It’s not by accident, but by marketing, that many fast food restaurants -- McDonald’s, Burger King, Denny’s -- use the citrus colors of orange and yellow in their signage and décor to stimulate the appetite. The lighter tints of blues and greens find their way into dental and doctor’s offices because of their calming effect. In some people, exposure to the large amount of intense red increases their blood pressure.

So – where do you begin? With the Color Wheel.

This is a circle of color which can be divided in half into a warm and a cool side.

Warm colors: red, orange and yellow are vivid and energetic.

Cool colors: blue, purple, green are calming

Brown is made from a combination of colors. 

White and black are considered neutral

Next, choose a Color Schemes.  Color schemes derived from the wheel can be helpful in selecting colors that reflect the mood you want to create. The three most predominant color schemes are Monochromatic, Analogous and Complementary.

Monochromatic Color Scheme

Just as the name implies, the Monochromatic Color Scheme uses a variety of values (tints and shades) of one single color. This creates a soothing relaxing easy-to-live–with color scheme that is also easy to accessorize. An example would be a relaxing spa atmosphere for the master bed and bath created with a blend of three values of blues and accented with white.

Analogous Color scheme

Analogous colors are colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. This color scheme makes use of one main color, and those colors on either side of it on the color wheel. One example would be red, red-violet and violet; another would be green, yellow green, and yellow. Analogous color schemes are bright, energetic and pleasing to the eye.

Complementary Color Scheme

Complementary colors are colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, such as blue and orange, red and green, purple and yellow. The most energetic of color schemes, these are often found in the uniforms of sports teams and make an excellent palate for Game Rooms, Bonus Rooms and Man Caves!

Generally speaking, monochromatic or neutral colors are best used in the public areas of the home – living room, dining room, family room. It is here that the interests of the family unit can be portrayed. The bedroom is a good place to express individual personalities and color tastes. Themes can be created through with a combination of color and accessories -- Red and Black for bistro kitchens; Silver and Black for the Raiders; Blue, Red and Yellow for Superman.

When selecting interior colors, it’s important to remember a few key points:

1. If you like to change your décor frequently, a neutral paint color – based in beige tones — gives you the opportunity to incorporate your favorite colors through art and accessories. This makes it easy to create changes seasonally or as your mood dictates.

2. Consistency in the color palette creates a harmonious flow.

3. Lighter tints are good for small areas, as they make the space look bigger

4. Darker shades create a cozy atmosphere

5. Consider your furniture and flooring when selecting paint colors to ensure that they will harmonize.

6. Accent walls, painted in a darker color, are a great way to add interest to a room and to emphasize focal walls and architectural features.

7. Crown molding and baseboards are normally painted the same color as the ceiling

8. Paint comes in a variety of finishes: Flat, egg shell, satin, gloss, semi-gloss. Flat is the least expensive finish, but the hardest one to clean. We recommend using flat on ceilings, gloss or semi-gloss on doors and trim, and egg-shell or satin on walls. 

9. After narrowing down your choices to a few, paint some sample swatches on your walls for comparison. Keep in mind that paint colors darken as they dry.

10. Every room needs an explanation point in black and a little bit of white! Just as the eye needs a pupil --every room needs a touch to black for focus. White – often found in the trim, doors, ceilings and base boards --unifies a scheme of multi-colors.

Selecting paint colors for your home can be fun, but making the right choice can be a horse of a different color. If the process leaves you singing the blues, before you go plum crazy, wave a red flag and call Cozy Chic Design for a color consultation. You’ll be tickled pink and your friends will be green with envy.

How to fall in love with your house

all over again!

Many of us grew up with the notion that someday we would live in a house with a white picket fence! While the image of your “dream home” may have changed throughout the years, you may still be waiting for the updated version to happen. If the timing is not right to purchase a new home or remodel how about launching a project to seek maximum happiness in the home you’re in.

Here are some simple, inexpensive ideas:

1. De-Clutter & Clean

This seems so basic but many people have too many things in too small a space, shelves clustered with too many trinkets and furniture too big to be able to maneuver comfortably about the room. In order to have a relaxing, peaceful environment there needs to be some breathing room. A familiar phrase in the design business is “Less is Best!”

2. Color Your World

Bold colors are in fashion right now. What a difference a fresh coat of color can make! Any interesting architectural features of the home can be emphasized with color. Create a rich impact by using two or three hues within the same color pallet. You might try an accent wall in a bright contrasting color. The colors become more vivid when the room is framed with white on the ceilings, doors, windows and baseboards. New 3- 4” wide white baseboards make a bigger difference in a room that most people imagine.

3. Create a “flow” – a continuity and rhythm

A base color that is carried from room to room not only creates a pleasing sense of continuity, but makes the rooms appear larger. Punctuate the room with an accent color that is used a minimum of three times – perhaps in the pillows, rugs, window treatments or accessories. Finally, rhythm in created through repetition. Multiples of like objects hung at the same height add continuity as well as rhythm.

4. Make it fit YOU

Comfort in the home begins with the furniture. Your sofa, your bed, your pillow, your easy chair – all need to be the right fit for YOU. Make sure you have a comfortable place to do the things you like to do most. If you are an avid reader, for instance, you’ll want to create a comfy chair with a side table and a good lamp. If the space is tight, add a basket for your books with a snugly throw on top. Furniture placement is also important. One common mistake is to line the furniture up around the perimeter of the room. Great looks can be achieved by placing the furniture at an angle.

5. Make it Cozy

Surround yourself with your favorite things. Add the simple pleasures that titillate the senses – the aroma of candles, the glow of the fire, fresh flowers, chocolate. Whatever is YOUR PLEASURE! Place baskets of photos where you can enjoy them and the memories they evoke. In our Re-design business, the thing we add most offen to homes are trees and plants. Even silk plants “add life!”

6. Focus on the Present

Life is too short to live anywhere but in the present. Keep an eye on where you are going, but keep your focus on getting enjoyment out of where you are now. An “Attitude of Gratitude” makes happiness anywhere.

Feel the fear – and do it anyway!

Are you considering becoming a landlord?

Have the reduced real estate prices and the lower interest rates, made you consider purchasing an investment property? Are you thinking about upgrading your personal home and turning your current home into a rental? Is the possibility of an additional stream of income enticing?  

The ripple effect from the downturn in the economy and the subsequent turbulence in the real estate market has created a “buyer’s market.” Many Vacaville homeowners are becoming first time landlords. One thing stops some of them – fear. Will the tenants pay the rent on time? Will they take care of the property? What would happen if you can’t find tenants? A thorough screening process – reference reviews and credit checks-- will eliminate some of the anxiety. 

For a new landlord, choosing the first tenant is an exciting experience. The completion of the initial Rental Agreement – and the beginning of income as a landlord -- is a “high-five” experience! The more difficult renting comes when you experience a turnover in tenants. At this junction, you will begin the process of preparing for new tenants, only this go around, TIME IS MONEY!  

I have been an Interior Decorator for many years, a landlord in Vacaville for two decades, and a Home Stager for the last four years. Last year when a new apartment complex opened locally, the innovative owners, who were familiar with my company, Cozy Chic Design & Home Staging, hired us to “stage” one of their units. They were delighted with the results, and told us, “Everyone who walks through the staged apartment, rents one of them!” While that was probably an exaggeration, they have kept the initial staging in place, showing it as a “sample apartment.” Since then I have “staged” my own rental units to ensure only a minimal amount of time is lost in the transition between tenants. What a difference it has made in the ease of renting! As a result, we have added “Staging to Rent” as part of the menu of services offered by Cozy Chic Design.

Here are a few tips to give you confidence that you can keep your rentals full!

Beginning THE DAY notice is given (or you give notice) that the tenants will be moving:

1. Arrange a time for a preliminary walk-through with the tenants. This will enable you to access the state of the property. If it is apparent that there are things that will be the current tenant’s responsibility to fix – like holes in the wall J-- the landlord can point those things out and state his/her expectations. This preliminary walk-through might also reveal items such as a leaking sink that are your responsibilities, as the landlord. Most of these repairs can be fixed prior to the tenants moving out – which, since “time is money” will save you some bucks!

2. Create Curb appeal. As soon as possible, before the moving date – get started on the curb appeal! Sprucing up the yard – trimming, pruning, mulching and mowing can be done ahead of time. Once you start to advertise, people will want to “drive by” to take a look at the property. What they see on this excursion is their first – and most lasting impression! This visit should entice them to want to see the interior of the home. Your rental contract may dictate that the tenants are responsible for upkeep of the yard, but normally there is some sprucing up to do that goes beyond tenant responsibility. My suggestion is that you do it sooner, rather than later. 

3. The contract with the tenant should require that the home be left clean, but if the landlord has any doubt that this will be done, s/he can go ahead and hire someone to clean the home the day it becomes vacant. If the home is not left clean, the cost for reasonable cleaning can come from the tenant’s security deposit. If the tenants leave the home clean, cancel the cleaners.

4. If the interior walls need to be painted, line up the painter now. S/he can be scheduled to begin painting the day after the property is cleaned.

5. Stage the property the day following the cleaners (or painters)!

6. Advertise the property. Set up appointments to view the property starting the day following “staging day”. Once the property is staged, you will have beautiful photos to add to your online advertising.

8. Pre-screen any interested applicants, and send a slideshow of your staged property to anyone who meets your criteria of a tenant. We provide a free slideshow for every property we stage. This same slideshow can be used EVERY time your property becomes available.

9. Bring an application with you when you show the property – and be prepared to rent it to the first person who qualifies!

What? Stage Rental Property?

It’s a new concept! Customarily, homes are staged in preparation for them to be sold. Statistics say that only 10% of purchasers can visualize themselves living in a home that is presented “empty”. This is also true with renters. Through the use of color, accessories and a few pieces of furniture, a well-staged home creates “emotional connection points” with the prospective buyers – or tenants. Using a vignette style of light staging is cost effective. It not only shows the home to its best advantage, but makes it friendlier. Here are a few more things to consider:

1. Staged properties rent more quickly! A rental property without tenants is losing money daily! If the property rents for $1000 per month, $35 is lost every day that it stands vacant. $1500 monthly rent equals $50 per day lost; $2000 monthly rent is $70 per day lost, etc. It’s true that “Time is Money” – but with a vacant rental property, it is more like, “Time is Money LOST!”

2. Rental Staging is affordable. Priced by footage, the initial staging costs are roughly about the same as 10 days rent. If, by staging, you are able to rent the property quickly, the staging is paid for by the rent that is not lost!

3. When a property is staged for the purpose of selling it, after the initial cost of staging there is a monthly fee for use of the furniture and accessories. It is advisable that the home remain staged until close of escrow. Staging Rental Property differs, in that as soon as the deposit is given by the new tenants, we can “de-stage” the property.

4. The price of staging a Rental Property is a deductible expense!

5. According to the National Association of Realtors, 84% of people search for homes online first before deciding to visit. Photos of beautifully staged rooms stand out among the competition! Unless the property is staged, the only choice for a photo opportunity is either to take photos of a tenant-occupied home or an empty property.   

6. The cost of staging can be FREE! Owners who choose to make staging a part of their rental plan can pay for it, over time, with as little as a $5 increase in the rent.

The opportunities of the Real Estate market have never been better! If your inclination is to become a landlord – the market is ripe! Yes, it’s a bit scary. When I became a first-time landlord, it helped me to remember one of my favorite success mottos: “Feel the fear, and do it anyway!” I’m glad I did!