The real estate industry is beginning to boom again. But the landscape is much different than it was at the onslaught of the big bust. For one, there is an overabundance of homes needing long overdue updates competing with new construction. Large estates are no longer as appealing to a now much more cautious buyer desiring a simplified lifestyle. We also have a new buyer on the market, the Millennial. But one of the biggest disruptors in the residential industry was HGTV which catapulted to the forefront of superior programming and subsequent skyrocketing viewership.
Clearly, from the popularity of HGTV shows such as Fixer Upper and Property Brothers, buyers are open to an updatable home. However, the reality is, they have a misconceived notion of the entire home buying process. With an even harder time of visualizing the potential of a home even though it meets most of the criteria for that perfect space.
We recently assembled a panel of top design professionals, ranging a multitude of design disciplines and backgrounds to fortify real estate agents with an arsenal of tips on how to appeal to residential buyers and close that sale.
Taking a cue from the popular TV series can be to your benefit. Specifically, prepping the client before they enter the home. Take a moment as you step onto the property to stop from a curb vantage and set the stage of expectation. Explain what they are about to see and why you feel they should keep an open mind to this home. Allowing them to enter the property with the preconceived notion this is the house of their dreams, is a recipe for disaster.
Set the Stage
Nancy Pierson, Equity Title Agency: Jennifer, as a former HGTV designer and the interior designer on DIY network’s Rescue My Renovation, share with us some of the useful terms and common language that homeowners are used to hearing. What can they say to connect with today’s buyer when showing the potential of a non-updated home?
Jennifer Biffer, Arhaus Biltmore: When I am looking for investment property, I think the key thing is the layout of the home and whether it has good bones, how are the systems of the home and does it need a $50K AC overhaul. The orientation of the home is important and if there is good light in the home. People are looking for a comfortable place to go home and retreat. If the structure and bones are there, then anything can be done with the architecture.
NP: Due to the popularity of HGTV and Chip and Joanna Gaines, some Buyers crave updated and move in ready homes. Can you give our agents specific examples, including costs per square foot about changes that can be made to a home to bring it closer to that “HGTV” standard?
Joi Prater, Joi Prater Interiors: Everyone is looking for that perfect home. If you can understand the potential a property has, you can help your buyer or client visualize the potential. You have to get beyond what is or isn’t simple cosmetic changes and look for the opportunity in the bones of the home. The walls are the greatest surface area of the room. Something as simple as painting can make a huge difference. The wrong color and finish can throw everything off. Painting is $1 to $2 per square foot. Flooring is a big expense upwards of $5 per square foot. You can come down from that if it is an investment property. In which case you may want to suggest $1 to $2 per square foot for the flooring. Labor is the same, figure about $7 per square foot. Fixtures can easily be changed such as ceiling fans and door handles. When it comes to a kitchen the simplest thing is to paint your cabinets and change out the countertops. Quartz runs about $1,000 a slab. Probably looking at twice that for fabrication costs.
NP: Joy, your business is staging, what do feel are the key staging tips that bring the most wow to a property?
Joy Hopkins, RoomService: We are a full-service design company, so we are more than stagers, we have the keen eye of a designer and look to the bones of the home. My background is also as a set designer on film sets so I see every individual space as the potential for a story. Staging should be more than simply decorating a space, it should tell the story of the space. I also follow a 1, 2, 3 methods: 1) light and bright, 2) declutter, and 3) show the bones. We utilize the trends people want and create that feeling that they want to buy and live in that house. That goes a long way because the average home buyer does not understand the blank space.
Create an Experience
NP: Obviously staging of the home is all about creating the desire to be the person that lives in that home. What are some of the furniture trends that you see your Arhaus retail clients gravitating toward?
JB: The client we are seeing at the Arhaus Biltmore wants the clean-lined upholstery. Streamlined, cream fabrics, straight arms, linen fabrics. Keeping it simple and then with the case goods, they really want something more interesting. So, a lot of the artifacts. We repurpose many pieces such as machinery into desks, carved pieces for coffee tables, and decorative panels for the wall.
NP: Lauren your background relies heavily on color interpretation, gray has been the color du jour, is it on the way out? What is the new color palette on the horizon? Do you have any tips on color selection throughout the entire home?
Lauren Rosenberg, LR-ID: If we are talking about selling a house that hasn’t been staged, the vanillas, creams, beiges, grays are still there but they are warmer deeper tones. If we are going to stage a house that’s when we would get into other accents colors, incorporating your deeper grays and greiges. Some of the colors that are big for 2018 are purples. Any shade of purple from an indigo down to a light shade of violet. Also, blues and purples are big in kitchen cabinets. Any shade of mint green, sage green, marigold. All paint companies have different thoughts on what are the current big colors. But almost all agree on a palette of blues, purples, greens, and marigolds. Black is also big for an accent color. When furnishing a home, incorporate bolder colors in the walls, fabrics, and accents.
NP: Millennials are now homebuyers and have very specific tastes. They are interested in design thanks to Pinterest, home shows, and Instagram. What flooring trends and styles do Millennials seem drawn to?
Calee Ranger, Facings of America: It seems like millennials are interested in a minimalist pattern and cement. We have options for cement, but it is not easy to take care of. It requires sealing and a higher maintenance. Porcelain can look like cement as well as come in large format tiles with smaller grout lines, requiring little to no maintenance. Natural stone remains popular, but it requires a lot of maintenance such as sealing to keep it looking new.
NP: Millennials are also interested in sustainability. Joy, you’ve done some creative things with furniture. With repurposing such a popular trend, can you give the agents some ideas to pass on to their clients on cool ways to re-purpose a room or piece of furniture?
JH: This is my favorite part, it becomes a puzzle with homeowners’ existing furniture. It’s more looking outside the box and seeing what you must work with. The 3 Rs I use are repurpose, repaint, refresh. Often you don’t see headboards in a room. But if you walk around a house you may find a great piece of art, forgotten piece of furniture ready for the donation pile, or an old door. Add paint in a bold splash of color and you have the perfect headboard. A lot of millennials are looking to find a different kind of home with a bit of spark and personality. Being sustainable is bringing the outside in by using an organic piece of driftwood and natural succulents. Thinking outside the box make a space feel more contemporary.
Be an Advocate
NP: The homebuyer talks about a larger remodel such as adding a bath or updating the kitchen. These can be expensive if not daunting upgrades for the average homeowner. Besides hiring a designer, how can local businesses best work with them?
CR: Interior designers are always a great asset if it fits in your budget. You can be minimalistic with their services in getting input. Design consultants are available in showrooms that are available to help with your projects. Also, contractors and architects, if your project warrants are a good source of guidance. It just depends on where you see your project going. When you do elect to work with a professional, make an appointment in advance and let them know what you are interested in. Bring in pictures from Pinterest, Instagram, magazine so they can see what your style is, what you like. I like to ask what your lifestyle is like, that gives me an idea of what types of materials would best you’re your project. We’ll ask you things about your lifestyle. What do you like to do? What types of materials do you like? There are many choices and we are there to help you stay on track.
NP: If a Buyer asks for help with remodeling referrals, what are some options? How does an interior designer charge and besides designing what is one of the key advantages of having a designer on their team?
JP: You can certainly work with an independent designer. There are showrooms you can work with. They will guide you through the process and they generally have a ROC license. The benefit of working with a professional on a project is they are going to save you time and money. They will have access to products you don’t. Every designer charges differently. If you are working with someone it is okay to ask them how they charge. Some charge by the hour, some will give you a set fee, known as a flat fee, which they will define exactly what they will do and you can expect. If you are working on a large contract that requires supervision of plumbing, electrical, tile, cabinets you will generally want to hire a general contractor. What they are going to do is oversee the project and coordinate the project. They are going to be working for you. Interior designers are not general contractors. We are going to have our service and our fee and then the contractor has what they charge. Designers will make sure the right product is delivered, the tile is being laid according to plan, the flooring is the correct flooring and we are going to be your eyes and ears on the project.
More than MLS
NP: Besides design, you also bring to the table publicity experience. What options can you suggest the agents take advantage of to promote their properties.
LR: It may be the biggest challenge agents face is getting the right people into their projects. Publicity is very real, and it is very credible. Everyone needs a publicist. Your story has to be newsworthy. Think about how you differentiate from other agents and you can stand out as an expert in your field. The press is always looking for content and that press includes bloggers. Both are always looking for good content. A great way to differentiate yourself is to align yourself with like-minded businesses and professionals. For instance, if your ideal client drives a Mercedes or Range Rover, align yourself with those dealerships. If your clients have jets, align yourself with jet companies. Keep your brand moving to the same kind of clientele as you desire.