Decluttering for a home sale and mental health

declutter
From prettyorganized.com

Spring is around the corner, and for many it is the time to get a home ready for sale. Decluttering is a key component of preparing a home sale; while it is the core of “spring cleaning” for the rest of us.

Besides being the beginning of the path to selling your home, researcher and writer Deane Alban stated that decluttering is also the “gateway to taking better care of other aspects of life.” She asserted that the human brain is “wired to respond positively to order;” and there are health benefits to clutter-free spaces; which promotes feeling “calm and energized” (Declutter Your Life for Less Stress, Better Mental Health; bebrainfit.com).

When it comes to clutter, we are not the same. There are degrees to the amount and types of clutter we collect. And for many, getting motivated to declutter is a challenge; severe clutter collections could be considered hoarding by some. Dr. Robert London, a psychiatrist specializing in behavior modification, wrote about his professional contemplation of the relationship between clutter, hoarding and obsessive compulsive personality disorder. After consulting with a Professional Organizer, he concluded that many can benefit from their much needed service of guidance in “letting go” and getting organized (Decluttering — Is it Therapy?; Organization professionals perform a valuable and, yes, therapeutic service; psychologytoday.com; November 5, 2010.).

declutter
From sparefoot.com

Besides the psychological aspects that make us hold-on to “stuff,” one roadblock to decluttering is a common misconception that the goal is to have an immaculate home; which can make some feel anxious and/or overwhelmed (especially if the home sale is due to a negative life event). Instead, an underlying principle to decluttering is about creating an organized and spacious feel to a room. Another misconception is that you throw out everything you don’t need or want in your home; however, you have control over what items get thrown out, recycled, donated, or kept in storage.

One strategy to encourage your decluttering efforts is to plan. Rather than trying to complete the job in one weekend, try decluttering one room (or even one part of a room) per day; and for some, it may be as little as removing one or two items per day.

When going through each room, decide which items are necessities and which items need to go. You will undoubtedly come across many items that you decide are not necessary to keep out for everyone to see, yet they are personal or sentimental – these items can be stored. The items you decide that you no longer need or want can be donated, disposed of, or you might even decide to have a yard sale!

Of course, we are all busy; and finding time to declutter can be another obstacle to overcome. To help relieve the pressure, consider delegating responsibilities to family members. Consulting with professionals to guide your planning could save time as well. Some professionals even recommend a “decluttering party” as a way to ease the time crunch while making it fun.

Decluttering a home may feel as if it an exhausting task, but it doesn’t have to be; especially if you have a realistic plan. If you need help with your decluttering, you can check with your Realtor® (if you are planning a home sale) and/or you can consult with a Professional Organizer. The National Association of Professional Organizers (napo.net) maintains a national directory of Professional Organizers.

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Feng shui and your home sale

Selling a home with feng shui.

Staging a Home
From greenhomegnome.com

It didn’t seem that long ago when feng shui was important to almost every home buyer and seller. And if Google Trends is an indication of relevance, the diminishing number of searches for feng shui over the last decade indicates reduced interest. Perhaps the bursting housing bubble shifted everyone’s attention; buyers’ were determined to get distressed properties at a deal, while sellers were determined to get a model home look through staging. Although seemingly having lost significance in the housing market, feng shui is once again becoming a top concern for buyers and sellers.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, Merriam Webster (merriam-webster.com) defines feng shui as “…a Chinese system for positioning a building and the objects within a building in a way that is thought to agree with spiritual forces and to bring health and happiness.” The International Feng Shui Guild (ifsguild.org) adds that feng shui is derived from the Chinese philosophy of Taoism and has been practiced for aver 5,000 years. Furthermore, it is based in science and nature to help you live a healthy and prosperous life!

You may already be familiar with some feng shui principles, as a few basics of home staging share similar tasks. For example, de-cluttering, maximizing space and creating a “light filled home” are some of the preparations prescribed to stage a home for sale. And according to feng shui principles, these undertakings are vital in channeling a home’s energy flow. Although there may be some crossover, take caution not to confuse home staging with feng shui; staging a home is not the same as following feng shui principles.

International Home Buyers
From Realtor.org

One of the reasons for the surging focus in feng shui is the increase of home buyers from China. According to the National Association of Realtors® (realtor.org), buyers from China represented about 16% of international home buyers, while purchasing an estimated $28.6 billion of real estate in 2014.

Feng shui is also important to Chinese-Americans, according to a recent survey conducted by Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate and the Asian Real Estate Association of America (Feng Shui a Driver of Home Selection and Investment for Chinese-Americans; bhgre.com; August 11, 2015). The survey revealed that 76% of respondents are familiar with the principles, and half of those respondents practice feng shui, which is “…considered to dictate spatial arrangement and building design to produce a harmonious flow of energy.” When it comes real estate, consider that 81% of respondents indicated that feng shui influenced their buying decisions; and that 79% of respondents indicated that they would pay more for a home that follows feng shui principles. And if you’re selling a home, you should take notice that 75% of respondents indicated that they experienced at least one “deal breaker” conflict of feng shui principles in a home (infographic on home staging and feng shui).

home saleIf your home doesn’t exactly correspond with feng shui principles, consider offering a “Feng Shui Contingency.” Such a contingency was highlighted in a 2014 Realtor®Mag article about the Seattle housing market and the high concentration of buyers from China (Why You May Need the ‘Feng Shui Contingency; realtormag.realtor.org; September 22, 2014). Much like a home inspection contingency, many buyers are including a contingency to have a feng shui master approve the house. The good news is that some conflicting elements may be remedied (such as landscaping); however, others cannot (such as the home’s physical location and direction).

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Real estate agents, emotional intelligence, and sale price

Can real estate agents with high emotional intelligence get you a higher sale price?

home for saleWhen it comes to selling a home, the prescribed course of action is to set the right listing price and prepare the home to be shown. Real estate gurus proclaim these as the two most important items to making the most money from your home sale. And although these are widely accepted goals to getting your home on the market, recent research may actually counter the conventional wisdom about pricing and staging; while a new line of thinking suggests that you’re choosing the wrong agent too.

Staging, as we know it, has been a staple of home sales for almost forty years. And listing agents almost always discuss it during their listing presentation. Research has already proclaimed that furnished homes sell in less time than vacant homes (see Chien-Chih Peng’s study published in the June 22nd 2004 issue of The Appraisal Journal), but does staging add perceived value to the price? Well, Lane, Seiler, and Seiler (2015. The impact of staging conditions on residential real estate demand. Journal of Housing Research, 24(1), 21-35) conducted the first study to determine the virtues of home staging. Their results suggested that home staging does have some impact on the home buying process, as you might expect; “…we find a neutral wall color and good furnishings do significantly influence a buyer’s perceived livability and overall opinion of the home.” However, the study’s main conclusion was that staging a home does not significantly impact sale price.

If you think that pricing a home is a straight forward process of gathering and extrapolating the latest neighborhood data to your home, think again. There may be more going on in your head than you realize. A recent study by Loveland, Mandel, and Dholakia (2014. Understanding homeowners’ pricing decisions: An investigation of the roles of ownership duration and financial and emotional reference points. Customer Needs and Solutions, 1(3), 225-240) suggested that home sellers make different home pricing decisions based on the length of ownership, anticipation of financial gain, and emotional experiences in the home. It seems that the longer you have owned your home combined with a greater financial gain or positively associated memories, may incline you to over-price your listing and likely maintain a higher price; while those who have a shorter time of ownership combined with less financial gain or bad memories price more reasonably, and are more likely to make larger price adjustments.

So maybe getting the most money for your home comes down to your agent. After all, research confirms that experienced real estate agents sell homes faster and for more money than rookie agents. And yet, subjective conceptions of agent traits may guide you to choose your agent, regardless if your assumptions are valid or erroneous.

Forget savvy, forget aggressiveness, forget connectedness, or any preconceived notion about what personality traits your agent needs. A recent pilot study of licensed real estate agents by Swanson and Zobisch (2014. Emotional intelligence understanding among real estate professionals. Global Journal of Business Research, 8(5), 9-16.) suggested that the key underlying trait for real estate success and financial gain is emotional intelligence (EI). The concept of EI is complex, and is often confused with typical personality traits such as sanguinity or purpose. Rather, EI is the ability to be aware of, and command emotions in oneself and others. Those with EI are thought to be empathetic and able to acknowledge responsibility for actions and emotions. Additionally, those with high EI are likely to better understand and manage others’ motivations – which is fundamental to negotiation.

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Making real estate sexy again

Real EstateThe go-go market of almost ten years ago was unique. The wealth aspect of the market seemed to have an effect on almost anyone who owned property; there was somewhat of a carnal attraction that had many home owners seeking more property and turning renters into home owners. It was no surprise that home ownership rates swelled to historic highs. Those who sold their homes or cashed out on their equity found themselves wealthier; while those who didn’t sell were happy to know their “paper wealth” was rapidly growing as home values realized monthly double digit gains.

At that time, the attraction to real estate for many seemed to be instinctive; the flirtation between home buyers and real estate may have been about a future of happy living and financial growth and security. Well, the sex appeal of real estate has worn off and seems to have been replaced by a “meh” attitude; probably indicating a lack of inspiration and/or interest.

Trying to regain the attention of home buyers, some agents have tried to re-establish real estate’s sex appeal. And it has been purposeful to attract home buyers by pairing homes with items that elicit carnal desire; listings are surrounded by exotic cars, modern art, and even sexy models have been credited to facilitate sales of luxury properties.

An April 2011 report by Julie Rose of WFAE 90.7 Charlotte (Realty Firm Uses Sex Appeal To Sell Luxurious Homes; wfae.org) described a photo shoot of a luxury home where, …” a blonde in tight jeans arches her back and tips a wine glass to her glossy lips. Her date leans closer, admiring…” But as Rose sates, “She’s lovely, but she’s not what you’re supposed to be looking at…” You’re supposed to be attracted to the kitchen features that seem to be a backdrop behind the model. However, the real estate agent interviewed said that the idea was to give an idea of what the home’s potential could offer.

Not all agents are on board with this technique, some have characterized the sexy advertising as “cheesy” and distasteful. One agent was quoted by Rose as saying, “It’s definitely gonna make someone stop and look at it. But once they’re in the listing looking at the pictures, I think they’re gonna focus a little more on the models rather than focusing on the home. And I think the bottom line is you want people to focus on the home.”

Sex appeal marketing is just a new take on selling a lifestyle. Lifestyle marketing has been the cornerstone of luxury real estate for years. For example, pairing fine art with luxury real estate has become commonplace; homes and condo projects have incorporated art collections to sell the lifestyle. In fact, the premier art show, Art Basel, has become the place to not only buy/sell fine art but high end real estate as well (Luxury Property Brokers Raring To Pounce On Wealthy Art Lovers At Miami Art Basel; November 28, 2013, Forbes.com). And for gear heads who want their homes built around their supercars, Miami’s über luxury Porche Design Tower will open in 2016.

Want to convey a lifestyle about your home? Before you hire models to pose in your home, consider talking to your agent about focusing on the things that made you enthusiastic and energized about your home. Chances are that the buyer of your home will be attracted to it the way you once were.

© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Trendy is not for home staging

interior designDeparting from the safety of natural materials and earth tones, big and bold interior design has become popular this year. Many designers have talked about 2014 as the year of using bright colors, brass and other yellow metals throughout the house. But if you’re selling your home, tread cautiously– because trendy may not be the best choices for staging your listed home.

Kelly Walters of HGTV (Color Trends: What’s New, What’s Next?; hgtv.com) talked about color use in the home, over the last ten years, being a reflection of our need for safety after 9/11 and the Great Recession. However, this is the year for change, and it’s reflected in the colors we choose for our interiors. A palette of gray hues is replacing the use of browns as the favorite neutral color; while reds, pinks, and violets are trending in popularity.

Using brass throughout the house has been the buzz during 2014. Kate Watson-Smyth reported the popularity of brass (Why brass is back as the new must-have metal for home décor; Financial Times, January 24, 2014; ft.com) as being a trend moving away from shine towards warmer tones. The use of brass and similar metals has also expanded from stylish bathroom finishes and hardware to fixtures as well as furniture.

Remember wallpaper? It’s back! Realtor® Magazine’s Barbara Ballinger wrote about how wallpaper has made a comeback. Relegated to accents, wallpaper is once again acceptable as wall covers (Wallpaper: Back in the Game; Realtor® Magazine, October 2014; realtormag.realtor.org). The new generation of wallpapers are eco-friendly and easier to use; inks are typically water based, while many papers are designed as “peel and stick” to be easily removed and reused.

Kitchens are important to many of us, and what could be better for the home chef than their own hydroponic garden. On her blog The Entertaining House, Jessica Ryan (jessicagordonryan.com) describes the Chef’s Garden Wall hydroponic system, “Fresh is the new green.” Because some kitchen hydroponic systems are low maintenance, you don’t necessarily have to be a gardener to have fresh greens at your finger tips all year.

Although trendy interior design may seem modern and stylish, it may not be the best choices when selling your home. Melissa Tracey wrote in her Home Trends Blog (5 Design Trends You May Want to Avoid in Staging; August 11, 2014; blogs.realtor.org), “Staging in trendy fabrics, colors, and finishes may offer up buyers a feeling that the home is up-to-date and move-in-ready. But getting too trendy can also backfire, particularly if it’s too personalized.”

And about those interior design trends I listed above? Tracey says to “steer clear.” Although wallpaper may be a tempting and easy way to brighten up a room, she says to stick with paint because wallpaper may interfere with a buyers’ vision of living in the room. And when painting, she says that trendy colors may be “too bold” for buyers; sellers should stick with neutral colors, using bolder colors as accents (such as pillows, rugs, and lamps). And although many designers are going all in on brass, it’s best to use it sparingly as accents when staging your home. The trend toward doorless kitchen cabinets is to be avoided, because buyers will undoubtedly ask “Where are the doors?” And finally, Tracey points out that the highly popular Tuscan and French Provincial themes are giving way to transitional and contemporary styles.

© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.