Thursday, August 22, 2013

3 Reasons to Go Neutral When Selling Your Home!

My wife and I just bought a new home. And while everything ended well, the process of searching was not without its fair share of stress. However, despite all that, I discovered that touring many different homes and asking questions like "can we live here" was also very interesting and very eye-opening to me.

See, usually, I think and talk about paint and colors and decorating from the perspective of a homeowner who plans on staying in his or her home indefinitely. I generally talk about the importance of decorating with color, about putting your personality into your choices and all that. However, as I toured many of these homes, looking for one to purchase and move my family into, I kept thinking--over and over--how I wished the sellers had potentially put just a little bit less of themselves and their personality into the paint jobs.

As I said earlier, it was a bit of an eye-opener for me--and something that I failed to do myself in my own home--but it made me realize that when it comes to selling your home, neutral beats color almost every time. Here are just a few reasons:
1.  Color often requires a repaint. Neutrals never do. Bold, interesting color schemes built around your furniture and decor are tremendously effective ways to infuse a home with life and personality. And if you're staying there, that's great. However, if you're selling your home think about it: the colors are built around your furniture and your personality. New buyers look at them and think: "Wow, almost everything here will need to be repainted before we can put our stuff in here."
Neutral colors, on the other hand, may not pop with personality or excitement, but neither do they leave a prospective buyer thinking "repaint, repaint, repaint" as she walks from room to room to room. 
On the other hand, touring homes with neutral colors, I found myself saying:  "We could put some color in this room down the line, but," (and here's the money-line), "but, we can move in with it just like it is.
Repainting a room, in reality, is not a big project, but that doesn't stop many people from thinking of it has a huge undertaking. When you fill your "For Sale" home with color, many prospective buyers walk out with an idea that a lot of work and expense is required before the home will be ready for their stuff. When you paint with neutrals, the home is move-in ready.
2.  Color is personal.  Neutral allows for multiple personalities (in a good way). Color reflects our personality, our moods. Colors on the wall of a room help to determine the atmosphere of that room--how we feel about it and how we feel in it. When you decorate your "For Sale" home in colors, you are setting the tone for a given space based on how you feel about it, on your personality.  
Decorating in neutrals, however, gives the prospective buyers the complete freedom to customize that room to fit their family, their moods, their personality. Remember:  when people go through your home, you want them to feel as if it could be theirs. When you've got your personal favorite color combinations spread thickly on every wall, it becomes a little harder for folks to picture themselves in your home. Neutrals on the walls allows the many folks with many different personalities who tour your home to each potentially picture it as theirs.makes this much easier!
3.  Colors on the wall present a finished work.  Neutrals provide a blank canvas to work on. Don't assume that neutral colors are boring and that using them means your home won't have any appeal. You can still introduce color and flair to your decorating through the use of accessories. This is perfect because it shows that your home provides an interesting setting, full of color and life. However, prospective buyers immediately realize that when those items are removed, they've got a blank canvas to put their own mark on.
My wife and I saw this over and over. Certain homes we toured had neutral walls and colorful accessories--and while we maybe weren't interested in the colors used, we spent many nights dreaming about how we could bring our colors into that home in accessories and furniture we bought, painted, or brought with us. 
We weren't thinking about the work of repainting rooms. We were thinking instead about moving in and buying new decor that would help us spread our colors and personality through the home should we buy it. There is a night-and-day difference between those two modes of thinking. If you, as a seller, have people leave your home after a walk-through dreaming about the new decor they can purchase or bring with them, you're way ahead of the seller who's prospective buyers leave wondering how much it's going to cost to cover the lime green bathroom walls.

Of course, color works when selling homes.  Of course, neutrals aren't the only way to go.  However, I bring up these points because I was struck over and over by the ease with which I could picture my family and I living in the homes that were largely neutral.  Conversely, I was surprised how often we left the homes full of trendy colors and said things like "that house looked cool, but it definitely didn't fit our personality."  

It's color--it can be covered over.  And I know that.  Still, I found it hard to overcome the natural tendency to see someone else's color scheme as theirs, not mine.

Bottom line?  Think about it!  If you're selling your home and you're repainting, why not opt for some neutral tones? It might help you get your house off the market quicker!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Last week I went to the doctor. It was nothing serious--at least it didn't start out that way--it was just a routine visit. Kind of a maintenance thing. However, in the course of this "maintenance" visit, I was made aware of potentially life-changing information:  I'm shrinking. At an incredible rate.

See, when they called my name and led me out of the waiting room, they brought me to a little corner of despair where they keep the scale and the wall-mounted "how-short-are-you-now?"-o-meter. I hate both of these devices and particularly dread this part of each doctor's visit.

As was usual, they started with the scale. Now, normally, this part is a little awkward because while I'm not obscenely overweight, neither am I what you might call "fit".  With the right clothes on, I look fine (if you squint), but if you really take a look . . . well, it's not necessarily flattering.  At any rate, normally, when I climb onto the scale, the nurse clicks her tongue, shakes her head and makes a notation on my record.  Probably something about too many donuts. 

However, this time, I was actually excited to get on the scale. Oh, it'd been 2 years since last I stood on that little device, but I knew my weight was down. In fact, I was willing to bet I was about 11 or 12 pounds lighter than last time. And so, with that confidence in my back pocket, I hopped onto the scale and waited for the digital numbers to stop ticking. And sure enough:  they showed a weight loss from last time of about 12 pounds.

The nurse, with a bit of surprise (and, I thought, disappointment), noted this in my record, even commenting on the fact that I was significantly lighter.   

She then motioned toward the equipment on the wall--the "how-short-are-you-now" o-meter.  "Stand over there.  Back against the wall, head up straight, heels against the wall, chest in . . . "

I complied. Back straight. Eyes forward. Legs together. Chin rigid, strong.  And let me tell you:  I felt TALL.

She manipulated the equipment, sliding the little measuring bar until it hit the top of my head.  "Does that feel about right?"

"Yes."  I was confident.  Cool.  Collected.  And why not?  I was 12 pounds lighter than 2 years ago.  More fit than ever.  And, did I mention that I felt TALL?  I can't describe the feeling any better than that.  I just felt TALL.  Normally, I feel just the opposite.  Normally, when I stand up in the office where I work, I find myself eye-to-eye with people who are still sitting.  I'm not joking.  I work with such tall (some might say average height) people that I routinely spend every day feeling as if I'm about 12 years old among a gathering of grown-ups.  Normally, that's the case.  But not that day.  That day I felt TALL.  

And then the nurse spoke up:  "5 foot, 6 and 1 quarter."

It was so matter of fact.  A veritable non-event for her.  But that short, er, simple declaration, that reading of the scales, was world-shattering to me.

I was trying to process whether or not I'd heard her correctly when the import of the measurements hit her. Her face split into an eager smile.

"Ooooh!  This is interesting!" she said, looking over the papers in her hand, flipping back through years and years of notes.  "Did you know that just 2 years ago you were 5' 7"  Just 2 short years ago!  Did you realize that?"

I half-nodded since I was still processing the results. 

"And did you hear that you are now 5' 6 1/4"?"

I nodded again.

"You know what that means, right?  You know that means you've Shrunk, right?"  (I'm certain she used the word in the capitalized form for effect.)  "You know that means you've Shrunk at least 3/4 of an inch in just 2 years!  That's amazing!"

She made a couple more notes in the book and then turned around to lead me to the room where I would wait until the doctor came.  However, after taking a couple of steps, she turned around and looked back at me.  She tilted her head to one side and stared for a long second or two before smiling and shaking her head. 

"3/4 of an inch in two years!  Wow!  If you keep shrinking at that rate . . . well . . . "  She trailed off, turned around and continued on her way to the examination room with me trailing along behind.  Like a small child who needed a sticker and his mommy.  

She showed me into the room and closed the door as she left.  And there I sat, my little legs dangling off the chair, just short of the floor by about 3/4 of an inch.  And while I sat there, I did math in my head.  And I realized that if I continue shrinking at that rate, by the I'm sixty-four I'll be 4' tall, probably 180 pounds, and I'll need a ladder to get into my car.  I'll need a booster seat at restaurants and I'll have to have one of my kids reach things off the top shelf of the refrigerator for me.  I'll have to sit on phone books at work so I can reach the computer keyboard, but in so doing, I will move my feet farther from the floor.  I'll have to . . . .

My thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door and the entrance of the doctor.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  At least now we could get on with the business at hand.  The maintenance check up.  We could infuse the situation with some professionalism, this doctor and I.  We could put away all this talk about shrinking and we could discuss important things like . . . .

"So," the doctor broke into my thoughts as she flipped through some papers on a clipboard.  "So, it seems you've shrunk almost 3/4" in 2 years!"  An amazed whistle escaped her lips.  "You know how amazing that is, right?"

Yeah.  I've heard.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Stenciled Dresser Project

Finding and old piece of furniture--something that's seen it's better days--and breathing new life into it with a little paint and some creativity is easily one of my favorite do-it-yourself projects. I love it because it's usually inexpensive (if you're a smart shopper), doesn't take much time, and the results can be dramatic.

Today, I want to highlight and recommend a simple project we discovered on a great decorating blog called "Sophia's Decor".  (Check it out sometime--you'll thank us later!)

This is a simple project that anyone can accomplish.  Please head to Sophia's Decor for some great pictures and more detailed comments about the project.  But to quickly summarize:

Here's What You Need:
  • A piece of furniture to paint (this is important)
  • Paint (main color and stencil color)
  • TSP
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint Supplies
  • Stencil or Projector
 Here's What You Do:

Start by scuff sanding your furniture piece with some 120-150 grit sandpaper.  This doesn't need to be a complicated, lengthy, arm-breaking, sweat-producing sanding job.  You're basically just dusting over the piece to dull the previous finish so your paint will bond.

After the scuff-sanding, wash the piece down with a TSP and water mixture.  This will remove the sanding dust and will also help to clean away any surface contaminants that might be left from cleaners and so on.

When the piece is completely dry, apply your main color.  Brush or roll it directly onto the furniture piece without a primer.  (If you plan to distress it, it's important to skip the primer step.)

Once the piece is painted (it may take one or two coats depending on your color), go ahead and distress it.  This is a bit of an art project and takes a little bit of thought.  It's not complicated, but you want to be careful to create an authentic distressed look without going too far.  Carefully run your sandpaper over the edges of the drawers and the top and the legs and you'll notice that very quickly you cut through to the wood beneath.  Work around the spots that would see normal wear over the years:  the drawer pulls, edges and so on. Continue like this until you've achieved the look you desire and then wipe the piece clean with a damp rag.

When it's dry, it's time to apply the stencil.  This part will take some planning and some thinking and some searching to find just the right graphic.  In this case, the blogger at Sophia's Decor used a projector to display the image on the dresser and then she traced it with a pencil, using an off white paint to fill in the lines.  You could also accomplish the same affect if you found a stencil to your liking.

However you put the design on, let it dry a couple days.  Once it's dry, the last step is a light sanding over the letters.  (Don't work too hard with this sanding or you'll remove too much of the lettering!)  The goal here is to lightly distress the lettering and give the piece an aged look.

At that point, you can leave the piece as is, or, if you prefer, you could apply a light, single coat of polyurethane in a low-gloss or flat finish.  A solvent-based polyurethane will yellow slightly over time, so be aware of that before you top-coat anything that's white!

Overall, this project will take you a couple days from start to finish--though most of that time will be just letting it dry in between paint coats.  It's fun, easy and, because the furniture piece is small compared to the room it is eventually placed in, you can experiment with colors that might be too strong for the walls.  

If you try something like this, or have a project you think turned out really well, please post a pic on our Facebook page here.  We love to see what you've come up with!