Real Estate

Staging to Sell Your Home

A007If you’re thinking about selling your home, you can gain a competitive edge by using the techniques of professional home stagers to make your home look more spacious and inviting.

Focus first on removing clutter and personal items. “Remove one-third of everything in cabinets and closets to make your house look like a model home,” says Michele Roark, an interior decorator and home stager in St. Michaels, Md.

Take a cue from model homes and remove small appliances on kitchen counters. In the bathroom, hide everyday items so surfaces aren’t cluttered. A two-car garage is a must-have feature for many buyers, but if it’s filled to capacity, it’s a turn-off. Buyers usually look at several homes, so make yours the one they remember as being spacious and attractive.

Roark staged Cecelia and George Laufert’s Baltimore home. “It was wonderful,” Cecelia says. “She moved a couple pieces of furniture and changed the entire look of the living room. We sold our house in 11 days last June and some houses in our old neighborhood are still on the market.”

When Karen Lawlor of Staging Solutions in Ellicott City, Md., arrives at a client’s house, she goes through a selective decluttering process. “I identify the focal point of the room, like a gorgeous view or stone fireplace, and arrange the furniture to highlight it,” she says. Lawlor recommends renting a storage unit for stashing excess furnishings.

In addition to removing clutter, sellers should keep a clean house. Wash windows, clean carpeting and eliminate pet odors and any other signs of pets. Make small repairs, such as caulking around the bathtub or regluing torn wallpaper.

Don’t overlook the exterior of the home. Power-wash a dirty deck, rake leaves, and clean gutters and downspouts. To a prospective buyer, a manicured lawn, a house with clean siding, a freshly painted front do or and a new doormat say, “Welcome to my well-maintained home.”

Editor’s definition: Professional home stagers are sometimes hired to declutter, arrange furniture and update the décor of a home so that it will be more appealing to prospective buyers. They are hired to refresh/update a home’s space so that a potential buyer can imagine living there.

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Decorating Wallpaper

Wallpapering Advice from a Pro Paperhanger

Gene and Katie Hamilton
Gene and Katie Hamilton

Wesley Barras of Total Wallpaper in Richmond, Texas has some advice he’d like to share with homeowners about the fine art of paper hanging. Here’s what he suggests.

Ordering Wallpaper: Two sheets of the exact same wallpaper can look slightly off if they were run through the printing press at different times so order a little more than you think. If you run out before completing a job, you may have a difficult time finding your pattern with the specific run number to match what you have.

Buying Online? Order Samples: If you order wallpaper online order samples first because images become pixilated when they are compressed to fit in a website. This means a picture may be slightly different from the real thing and colors can look different.

Priming the Walls: Make sure your contractor or yourself primes the walls with primer or shellac before hanging the wallpaper because wallpaper glue needs a smooth surface to stick to. If you don’t prime the walls, the glue will stick to the drywall which makes removing it a very long and tedious process, and can damage the drywall.

Use this WALLPAPER CALCULATOR to know how much to order:

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Stop Squirrels with a Chimney Cap


Sometimes it seems nothing can stop a determined squirrel from crawling down your chimney, but a chimney cap is your best line of defense. The cap has grated sides and a sturdy hood that fits snugly on top of the chimney to prevent critters, rain and debris from entering.

Installing the cap is relatively easy. The challenge is getting onto the roof and carefully getting yourself over to the chimney. There you need to inspect the flue and measure its inside dimensions so you know what size cap to buy. The installation is as simple as inserting the flue tabs of the cap into the chimney and using a screwdriver to fasten four screws around the outside of the chimney cap base to hold it in place.

You’ll find chimney caps sold at home centers and lumberyards in a range of sizes from 9 inches square to 13- by18 inches in black metal or stainless steel. You’ll notice that the package lists a minimum and maximum opening size, so choose one whose range fits your chimney.

A handyman will charge about $157 to inspect and install a chimney cap, which includes labor and material. If you’re willing to do the high-wire work, you can buy a cap for $55 and install it yourself, pocketing a 65 percent saving. If you do it yourself, double-check your tools before you venture up there. On the first inspection, don’t forget to bring a measuring tape; when installing, don’t forget any tools.

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cost of a rural mailbox

Spruce Up Your Exterior with a New Mailbox

Gene and Katie Hamilton
Gene and Katie Hamilton

A handyman will install a new mailbox for $184, which includes the labor and material, but a homeowner can do the job for $90, the cost of the box, and save 51 percent. There’s some assembly required, which involves sliding the top of the box onto the base and inserting screws into the inside corners. Then slide the base of the new unit over the existing 4×4 wood post, and fasten the new unit to the post with bolts through slots. You’ll need a hammer, crescent wrench and screwdriver. The cost and work will be more if you have to replace the post. You’re ready for delivery after adding easy-to-read house numbers.

Call your local post office to ask if there are requirements for locating a mail box on your property and check with your local building department to find out what the required depth for post holes is. The depth depends on the frost line (how deep the ground freezes) is your area.

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energy saving lower heating costs Saving Energy

Staying Warm with Heat Upgrades

Gene and Katie Hamilton
Gene and Katie Hamilton

According to the U. S. Department of Energy, the typical family spends almost $1,300 a year on their home’s utility bill. You can lower your energy bill by 10% to 50% with simple and inexpensive improvements that button up your house to keep cold air out and warm air inside.

First, try these no cost improvements. Rearrange furniture so it doesn’t cover the cold air returns in the floor so heated air can flow freely. In sunny side rooms open draperies and raise shades to let Mother Nature heat the space and close them at night. Use a heavy window shade or drapery to keep cold air out in north-facing rooms. And when you’re not using a fireplace, close the damper. Feel cold air coming from electrical outlets or receptacles on exterior walls? Remove the plate covers and insert an inexpensive foam switch and wallplate sealer that cuts down the draft.

Inspect the condition of weatherstripping and replace material if it’s old and worn. Look at exterior doors, windows, on a door or access panel to an unheated attic, crawl space or attached garage.

Look at the thresholds of all exterior doors. The gap between the bottom of the door and the threshold should be tightly sealed with a gasket in the threshold or on the bottom of the door. If you can see light or feel a draft replace the gasket.

At the first sign of cold weather install storm windows or replace screens with storm panels in combination storm doors and windows.

To seal a drafty old window try this quick-fix. Get an inexpensive interior storm window kit, which has enough plastic sheeting and double-faced tape to cover the average size window. Apply the tape around the window, press the plastic film in place and use a hair dryer to shrink the film for a clear, tight fit.

If the loose fill insulation in your attic isn’t 12 inches deep add rolls of poly-wrapped fiberglass insulation. Cut the rolls to size with a heavy scissors and lay the pieces on top of the existing insulation.

Use a foam sealant to fill the gaps and cracks around joints in the siding, electrical outlets and water spigots on the exterior of you house. And replace old caulk around window frames with a cartridge of good quality caulk.

The Alliance to Save Energy says you can expect to save about 3 percent on your winter heating bill for each degree you lower your thermostat. Install a programmable thermostat and set it to automatically lower the heat at night and when no one is home and raise it in the morning or before the family returns home.

Have an annual tune up by a heating professional for an oil fired unit and at least every other year for a gas fired unit. Remember to clean or replace air filters in a forced air system once a month so it runs efficiently. And if you plan to replace windows, a furnace, heat pump or appliances look for the Energy Star label on the product to assure you it meets energy efficiency standards.

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