By Haley M. Hwang, REALTOR® Magazine
Home Staging: The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More Money by Barb Schwarz (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2006)
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An important distinction between staging and decorating a home is that the goal of decorating is to personalize a space, whereas the goal of staging is to depersonalize it. The smart real estate professional understands that staging a home before placing it on the market will help sellers fetch top dollar, says Barb Schwarz, the self-proclaimed founder of the home staging industry, in her latest book. When your sellers have too much furniture, too much clutter, and too much of their unique tastes and interests on display all over the house, potential buyers have a hard time looking past all that and envisioning themselves living there. This book provides practical tips to stage each room of the house as well as how to tackle exterior challenges to increase curb appeal. While the black-and-white photos and the blurry color photos that illustrate the before-and-after staged homes make it difficult to truly appreciate the power of staging, Schwarz still makes a convincing argument for why real estate professionals should be doing this with their sellers.
Tips From the Book:
- Do the sniff test. If your sellers have dogs, cats, hamsters, old carpeting, mildew problems, or if they love to smoke or cook foods with a pungent odor — and you can smell it, chances are that buyers will, too. Ventilate the home and invest in an air-cleaning and deodorizing machine or products to remove pet odors. Another option is a cleaning product with living enzymes that consume the odor-causing agents and remove the smell permanently.
- Pack up early. Sellers should pack up several large pieces of furniture and as much of the clutter in each room as possible. Don’t just shift the stuff to another room or garage — rent a storage space and get it out of the house before showing. “The way you live in your home and the way you sell your house are two different things,” Schwarz writes.
- Stick with beige. Carpeting shouldn’t look like a Crayola box — in a shade of purple, brown, wild yellow, shocking blue, black or white — or be shaggy or patterned. If your sellers have loud carpet in their homes, recommend that they replace it with plain, “real estate” beige. Don’t assume that buyers will be able to look past the bad carpeting and just offer a credit off the purchase price. Most buyers will keep looking for a house with fresh carpeting.
- Use the rule of three. Three items are pleasing to the eye. Whether it’s artwork, figurines on a shelf, a magazine stack, pillows, afghans, or candles, arrange them in threes for a pleasing display as accents in any room.
By Kelly Quigley, REALTOR® Magazine
Presentations That Change Minds: Strategies to Persuade, Convince, and Get Results by Josh Gordon (McGraw-Hill Cos., 2006)
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Have you ever witnessed a presentation that flopped? The presenter’s enthusiasm seemed faked, the audience was uninterested, and the message irrelevant? The goal of this book is to make sure that your next presentation, whether you’re seeking to win a listing from an uncertain seller or secure business financing from a skeptical lender, is the exact opposite — a total success. Real-life examples featuring well-known business and political leaders such as Steve Jobs and Ronald Reagan illustrate 14 strategies for getting audiences involved and persuading them to your way of thinking. Each chapter explains how to employ one of the strategies, such as humor, trust-building, and excitement, along with tips to avoid common presentation pitfalls. “When persuasive presentations are created with the same template as those designed to inform or educate, few audience members will change their minds,” the author writes. To be successful, you must treat persuasive encounters “as an entirely new species.”
Tips From the Book:
- Find your audience’s passion. When audiences get truly excited about what you are presenting, they are easily moved to action. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that your audience will be enthusiastic just because you are. Remember that audiences rarely get excited about products or services, but they do get excited when they find out how those products and services benefit them. Excitement starts with tapping into the needs, passions, hopes, and desires of the people sitting in front of you.
- Memorize the punch line. If you can make the audience laugh, you can connect with them and make your message memorable. But humor is tricky and must be done carefully. Even though it may seem spontaneous, humor must be well planned and rehearsed. After all, if you get distracted and blow the punch line, you’ve botched the whole joke. Memorize the punch line so you can recite it even if a fellow presenter slips and pours ice down your back.
- Get them to choose you. When your audience compares your offerings to that of your competitors, you must be seen as the top pick. Prepare for your presentation by checking your competitors’ Web sites and literature to find out what they’re saying. Then, plan a way to differentiate yourself by focusing on the details — even the tiny ones — that set you apart from the rest. Translate those differences into benefits for your audience. Don’t be afraid to show a line-by-line comparison of your services and those of your competitors.