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As most of us know, home staging can help sell a house—particularly in the living room, which has gotten a bad rap lately as a waste of space.

The fact is, first impressions matter, and the living room is usually near the entry point for most homes. Reality check: This room may not be the end-all, be-all area it used to be, but this is no place for your kid's train set, your husband's guitar stands, or any unnecessary clutter. So, it pays to do all you can to showcase this space right. To help, here are some living room staging tips buyers will love.

Amy Bell, owner of Red Chair Home Interiors in Cary, NC, urges homeowners to evaluate whether any furniture can be "voted off the island"—i.e., out of the room.

"I recently staged a home in which the living room contained enough furniture for two rooms," she notes. But, as part of the staging process, she shuffled the items and placed the contents in two different places. As a result, the home sold in one day.

Once you've removed some of the furniture, consider making an arrangement that allows people to sit and chat.

 

What is a kitchen work triangle? It's the shape formed when you connect your kitchen's main three work areas—fridge, stove, and sink—where most of the prepping, cooking, and cleaning take place.

If you're in the process of renovating your kitchen, this "work triangle" term is bound to be bandied about—and for good reason: If there's one room in your home that you'd like to be as streamlined and efficient as possible, it's the kitchen. Whether you're heating up a frozen pizza or preparing a Thanksgiving feast, you don't want to waste time needlessly navigating between your appliances and cleaning and prepping places.
Read more here.

Once upon a time, back when people smoked in airplanes and thought preservatives made food taste better, toilets used as much as 7 gallons of water per flush.

Then, in 1992, someone somewhere thought, “Uh guys? Is this really a good idea?" The Energy Policy Act was signed into law, and low-flush (aka "low flow") toilets that use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush were declared the new standard in the U.S. Instead of relying on gravity—and lots of H2O—to wash things down, low-flow toilets use pressurized air to do the dirty work of pushing waste into the pipes.

But have low-flow toilets truly unseated their old-school porcelain counterparts in this game of thrones? We've flushed out the truth. 

Read more.

Often, what helps a home sell faster is also what helps a home sell for more.

Surprisingly enough, just having a low price isn’t the key. Homesellers need to think of their property as a product — something to market — instead of home. When they do, the result will be a fast sale at a great price.

Try these six things to sell a home faster:

1. Stage the yard
The first thing people see when driving up to a home is the yard. Parking at the curb, hence the term “curb appeal,” buyers make an instant determination of how desirable a home is by how it looks. First impressions are everything, right?

Remove weeds, rake leaves, trim hedges and anything else to clean it up. Then, you can work on staging the yard.

Anything new including plants, grass or mulch will always brighten up a yard. Keep a realistic budget in mind, and skip the major projects (such as a new driveway) unless absolutely necessary.

2. Clean, clean, clean
The power of a good cleaning job, inside and out, can’t be emphasized enough. Start outside the house after staging the yard. Pressure washing the walls and cleaning the windows is a good start.

If the sellers are considering repainting, try cleaning first to see how the home looks. Often just removing dirt is enough to brighten the home’s look.

Inside the home, homeowners need to get into every corner and crevice to remove dust, grime or dirt. The places people will be most impressed by the work are the kitchen and bathrooms. The more “new” the house looks, especially in those rooms, the better the impression on buyers.

Why all the hard work? Buyers like move-in condition and will pay more for it.

3. Remodel or upgrade
The best returns come from the smallest improvements; new trim (door and window casings, baseboard, crown molding), new paint and new flooring all create a fresh new look around the home at minimal cost.

Stepping up from that includes upgrading appliances, fixtures (lights, faucets, etc.) and replacing windows. These will all make the home look newer and nicer, which helps the home sell faster.

Major remodeling, such as replacing the kitchen or bathrooms, should only be considered if necessary. Although doing major upgrades will help a home sell faster, the time it takes to do the upgrades could be long.

4. Declutter and stage the home
All the “little stuff” sellers have around their house, including collectibles and photos, should be put away.

After that, look at each room and see whether there are extra pieces of furniture that could be removed. The key to decluttering is less is more.

Buyers want to see large rooms where they can visualize living there. The more stuff they have, the harder it is to visualize.

Decluttering makes rooms feel larger, which makes the home more appealing to buyers.

Staging is often ignored or dismissed by agents as not important, most often because of cost. However, buyers and sellers, and their agents, all feel that staging increases the value and appeal of a home.

Equally important is how well a staged home shows in photography. As with curb appeal, the better the home looks inside, the faster it will sell.

5. Use professional photography and marketing
Use a professional photographer and produce professional marketing materials with the high-quality photos. All too often consumers don’t question the quality of the photos used to market the home.

With over 90 percent of buyers doing their shopping online, professional photos are essentially in attracting more buyers and selling the home faster and at a better price.

Good marketing makes a huge difference in how buyers see a home. Professional photos will be seen by buyers through the MLS and consumer real estate portals. All of which are designed to get buyers to fall in love with and buy the home.

6. Price effectively
A good agent will analyze recent sales and select a price that is designed to entice buyers to make offers. Pricing a home is not like pricing a car or TV. What the buyer ultimately pays is rarely what the list price is.

In most markets, the best strategy to attract the most buyers is to price just a bit low. This frequently results in multiple offers, competitive bidding and a fast sale at a high price.

 

This past year, my mother downsized from our six-bedroom family home into a two-bedroom condo in a senior development. Although she was nervous to cast aside her old life, now that the deed is done, she feels elated and free—and wishes she'd done it years earlier.

Now, my mom no longer worries about keeping her lawn mowed and driveway clear of snow, because maintenance staff does it for her. Rather than rattling around a huge house that took hours to clean, she has a manageable space she can easily tidy up herself. And, not incidentally, she has more money for whatever comes down the road.

Nonetheless, downsizing can still fill people with dread; experts say this is largely because they've heard horror stories from people who went about it all wrong. Here are the top six mistakes people make when downsizing, plus some ways to make the process easier and less intimidating.

Read more here.