Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Failing to Make Repairs and Stage Can Cost You

Staging done badly undermines the appeal of your house
Decorated, Not Staged 
A lot of of the houses I see on line these days either have no staging at all, or there's been an amateur effort by the real estate agent or seller who don't understand the difference between decorating and staging. The ineffective and sometimes harmful pictures that result put the house at a significant competitive disadvantage. Of course attempted staging usually is better than none at all, because failing to make repairs and paying no attention to cosmetic appeal can really cost you.

The Crucial First Few Seconds


Most people know that today's buyers begin their search for a home on line, and you have seconds at most to get their attention in a positive way and make them want to visit in person. It stands to reason that if the pictures of your house aren't attractive, buyers will quickly move on to the next listing and you've lost an opportunity. If prospects do come and your house doesn't impress them by being clean, inviting and well maintained, you've either lost the sale or inspired a lower offer than you might have gotten if you'd made certain it was in sound condition and professionally staged before listing.


Case Study - Failing to Repair and Stage


To emphasize this crucial point, here's an example of how failing to make repairs and stage (or doing it badly) can squander the equity you've worked years to build. 

Let's say that houses in your development have been selling for $250,000 - $285,000. 
  • Repairs and professional staging costs are estimated at $2,500, of which a generous $500 is allotted for staging. You decide not to spend the money. 
  • A comparable staged house down the street in showing condition is listed at $275,000.
  • You decide to list your house for $265,000, thinking that a lower price will attract buyers and more than compensate for not doing the work. You forfeit a significant amount of money at the outset, and that's just the beginning. Because your house doesn’t photograph well, there are only a few showings and no offers. Keep in mind that had your house been repaired and staged, it could have been listed at a higher price, helping to offset the cost of the work and it would have been much more appealing.
  • The staged house down the street sells quickly for $270,000. You get anxious and reduce the price $5,000 to $260,000. 
  • More time goes by without results. You reduce the price to $257,500. 
  • After a long wait, an offer finally comes in at $255,000, pending the buyer’s inspection. You're down $10,000 from the original (low) list price.
  • During the inspection damage is found. The buyer demands a price reduction of $5,000 to cover repairs. Your original estimate for the same work was $2,000. 
  • After going back and forth, you agree to sell for $252,000. 

Here's What You've Forfeited:


  • the difference between the potential and actual initial listing price
  • plus the difference between the listing price and the selling price
  • AND you've paid higher costs for repairs, the costs of continued upkeep and the costs of lost opportunities, like being unable to buy that perfect new house you wanted. 

    Let’s Add This Up: 


    YOUR HOUSE                                THE HOUSE DOWN THE STREET
     AS IS                                                AFTER REPAIRS AND STAGING
            
    $265,000 list price  $275,000 list price ($10,000 more)
    $252,000 sell price                           $269,900 sell price ($17,900 more)
                                                                       - $2,500 staging and repair costs                   
                                                                    $267,400  (+$15,400 more net)
        
    With repairs and professional staging, the seller in this example had $15,400 more profit and a faster sale. This is a conservative example since the average difference in selling price nationwide between staged and unstaged houses is usually about 17%. And remember, this happened because you didn't want to spend $2,500.

    Home Selling is a Competition 


    The main point to understand about selling your house is that regardless of market conditions, you're competing against every other house in your price range. Your competition includes properties in your development and properties outside your immediate area, many with highly motivated sellers who are determined to make their house stand out. That's a big pool for discerning buyers to choose from. 

    Don't put your house at a disadvantage. Be a smart seller and do the work so that your house is ready to be a strong competitor from the moment you list. 


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Painting Estimates: Look Beyond the Number

I admit it: sometimes I get frustrated. We often do estimates for people who say they want the best possible job, so we thoroughly discuss what they want done and prepare our estimate on that basis, only to be told we weren't the low bid.  I'm not surprised to hear it. Our professional standards and our personal definition of high quality work are likely very different from our competitors, but the homeowner doesn't know this and chooses the low bid on the assumption they were prepared on the same terms, and that price is the only point of comparison. Unfortunately for us it's never true. To compare estimates accurately, you need to know how they're calculated. 

Cost Elements of a Painting Estimate


Labor, materials, supplies, equipment and overhead (office expenses, vehicle expenses, insurance, taxes, licenses, web site, dues and memberships, etc. etc.) are the main cost elements of a painting estimate. The biggest factor is the time needed to do the quality of work specified because of the cost of labor. It takes longer for a professional to prepare a surface for painting the right way which can involve several steps, and then apply the paint correctly, than it does for an amateur working at a low wage to do little or no preparation and slap on a coat of paint. Which do you think yields attractive, long-lasting results? And which approach do you think costs you less over time? You can either save money today and get poor results, or you can have work that looks great, adds to the beauty, enjoyment and value of your home - and will last. 

If you hire an individual who doesn't operate as a business with associated overhead you might pay less, but you take a much greater risk because they've chosen not to be visible and accountable. 


If you want to compare painting estimates more accurately, here's how:

How to Get Comparable Estimates        


First you need to decide what you want to accomplish. If you've just moved in and plan to stay, doing things correctly is smart, even if it means you do the work a little bit at a time. On the other hand, if you're doing a quick clean up to get your house ready to list, your goal might be low cost rather than high quality. Be sure to discuss your goals with the bidders who might have valuable suggestions. Make certain that everyone knows the final strategy so that the estimates are comparable. Require detailed written estimates.

We always provide written estimates, as much for our benefit as for yours, and we specify exactly what we're going to do and the materials we're going to use so that you know what you'll get for your investment in hiring us. I have yet to see a competitor's estimate that takes such a detailed approach, so how do you compare them with us?


Questions to Ask Each Bidder


  • Who will do the work and what are their qualifications? Unskilled or temporary workers may keep costs down, but you could pay a high price for their shortcomings.
  • Does the company carry workers' compensation insurance? If not, you could be held financially responsible if someone is injured on your property. 
  • What steps will be taken to prepare the surface?  Get every detail in writing so you can make comparisons.
  • What materials will be used?  Paint manufacturers offer several grades, and you will get what you pay for. If you want the best, specify it by manufacturer and product name.
  • How many finish coats will be applied in addition to a primer, if needed? Some painters will slide by with primer tinted to the finish color and one finish coat after stating they bid it for two finish coats. 
If our number is higher, it's usually because we were going to do more work and use better materials, or the competitor planned to take shortcuts, or didn't understand the job and underbid. It's that simple. 


Comparing the Estimates


Once you have the estimates, it's time to make a systematic evaluation. 
  • Compare the scope of work and the steps to be taken. If you weren't given enough information, you can't rely on that estimate to be accurate.
  • Review the qualifications of the workers if you care about clean work habits, and want to have paint applied to professional standards, such as crisp lines and no paint where it shouldn't go, like your wood floors, cabinets, driveway, patio, plants or windows. Sometimes paint can't be removed without doing damage. 
  • Confirm the exact materials each bidder is using and tell them you will verify the materials if they're hired. 
  • Confirm the number of finish coats in the estimate. 
  • Your impression of the professionalism and integrity of the company. Are you comfortable at the prospect of having them at your home? Do they have references or a web site where you can learn more about them? Are they established in your community? How long have they been in business? 
  • Professional color consulting services. We believe that using well-chosen colors is essential to a successful outcome, so we provide a free color and detailing consultation to every painting client. Do any of the other bidders?
  • Price.

Set up a grid and enter the information from each estimate. Notice that the price is the last basis of comparison because it depends on the preceding items. If you're not comparing apples with apples, you're in the dark about the estimate that represents the best value.

Beware of the Low Bid


Beware of an unusually low bid because it normally means the bidder:
  • didn't understand the scope of work
  • intended to take shortcuts, usually in the preparation phase
  • uses unskilled or temporary labor and pays them cash
  • plans to use lower grade materials
  • isn't operating as a reliable, accountable business


In Conclusion...


Painting done correctly can have many significant, positive effects on your house, far beyond what the work costs, so it's well worth hiring the right people who are going to do things the way they should be done. It's the best value for your money in the long run. 

If you require professionalism, high standards, integrity and work that looks great and lasts, please call me at 828-692-4355. We'll talk about your project and I'll schedule an estimate with Roger. On the other hand, if the most important thing is to find the lowest bid, we're probably not the best choice.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Don't Default to White

One of the most common and jarring color mistakes I see is the use of plain white paint on ceilings and on interior and exterior trim, apparently without determining whether or not it's a good choice. I'm guessing that these things get painted white by default in the mistaken belief that it's "safe" because it's usually what people do, and finding a wall color they liked was stressful enough. After all, plain white goes with everything, doesn't it? Or does it?

White Ceiling and Trim By Default
Don't get me wrong. I like white, even plain white, when it's used in the right way, with the right wall colors and in the right places. But unfortunately I usually see it used with high contrast and/or neutralized wall colors and with natural materials like granite, wood, stone and tile. It's a combination that's unflattering to all participants because when there's no common color present to tie everything together, what your eyes see is the way they're different, and that sets up the perception that something isn't quite right.

Keeping It Simple: Basic Things to Consider When Choosing a White


Hue Family of the Wall Color


Every color, unless it's pure white, pure black, or white with varying amounts of black added, can be traced to one or more hue parent families (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple). The hue family(ies) of your wall color is where you should start to find the right white for the ceiling and/or trim.

Tint, Tone or Shade?


After you identify the basic hue(s)s, decide if the color is a tint (one or more hues plus white), a tone (one or more hues plus gray), or a shade (one or more hues plus black).

Think of tints as pastels and tones and shades as neutralized colors. If your wall color is a tint, avoid the neutralized whites. If your wall color is a tone or a shade, avoid the tint whites. Fortunately, clear, bright tint colors are easy to spot when you're standing in front of the displays at the paint store, helping you to stay in the right area when you're looking for a white that will work.

For example, if you use a neutralized member of the yellow family (a tone or shade) on the walls, look for a neutralized white from the yellow family for the trim. If you have a tint yellow on the walls, use a white tinted with yellow for the trim. If your wall color is a neutral such as a taupe that looks like a green/brown combination, your off-white trim should have at least one of these components.

This isn't the only approach to choosing a white,  just a way to keep it simple.


How Much Contrast?


Deciding how much contrast you want between the ceiling, walls and trim should be based in part on how much attention you want to focus on them. With higher contrast colors you need to be sure that that the trim has merit and is attractive and well-proportioned.

A Collection of Boxes
For exteriors this is especially important because treating functional banding boards as trim and painting them in a high contrast color like plain white is very unflattering and undermines the crucial sense of unity and harmony. After all, you don't want your house to look like a collection of boxes... For interior trim, unless it's unusually large and lovely, consider painting the crown and baseboards in the wall color or in a low contrast accent color from the same family to make the room look larger. 


LRV Values


If you've decided to have white trim, you can choose a white with exactly the right amount of contrast by looking up the Light Reflectance Value (LRV) for your wall color and then for the whites you're considering. 

Paint manufacturers determine the LRV for each color they make by measuring it with a device and numbering the result on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being the blackest black and 100 being the most reflective white. An LRV of 50 is the happy medium and the standard for residential interior wall colors. To see contrast between two colors you usually need a difference of at least 7 points. In addition to finding LRV numbers on line at each manufacturer's web site, you can find the values for Sherwin Williams colors on the back of the paint strip and the values for Benjamin Moore colors at the back of the fan deck in numerical and alphabetical order. Comparing LRV values eliminates the need to guess about contrast and is easy to do.

To Sum It Up:


Use plain white for your ceilings and trim only if you love it and after you've done the homework to be sure it works with your wall color. While you're at it, consider branching out by using a color other than plain white. There's a universe of beautiful colors to choose from, and one or more of them is probably a much better choice.












Thursday, April 7, 2016

How to Choose a Paint Color for Exterior Stairs

Before - Stair Risers Accented in the Trim Color
It's fairly common to see front stairs and risers painted different colors, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's the best approach. I believe that the only details that should be painted an accent color are the ones that deserve the attention, and stair risers usually don't qualify for the spotlight. 

In the "Before" picture the stair risers were painted in the trim color and the deck and stair treads were painted a green that clashed with the yellow walls and the cement walkway. Between the excessive accenting and the color clashes, far too much was going on. 

The house was about to go on the market and it was essential that the picture of the exterior for the MLS listing have maximum appeal. In a perfect world I would have recommended a color change for the walls, front door and storm door, but that wasn't in the budget. 


After - Treads, Risers and Deck Painted One Color
The deck and stairs were in poor condition and had to be painted. That created the opportunity to make the house a little bit more photogenic by correcting the color disharmony and reducing the number of accented details.  

I recommended using a single color on the deck, treads and risers, one that was chosen to coordinate with the house and cement walkway.  In the "After"  picture you see the benefits of treating the stairs and deck as a single unit. 


Some Color Considerations for Exterior Stairs


Here are some color considerations for exterior stairs, particularly front stairs:
  • What are the colors in the permanent details of the house and landscaping, such as in roof, walkways, stone foundation, key flowering plants, etc.? You have to consider all these colors when choosing the stair color.
  • What paint colors are used on the house and trim (wall color, front door color, trim color(s), etc.)? Do they work well with the permanent details? The stair color should coordinate with everything. You might be able to use the stair color to create more color harmony between the house colors and the colors of the permanent details, if needed. 
  • Consider the architecture of the house. Are there already lots of accents, or does the house need more? If more pizzazz is needed, are accented stairs the best way to provide it?
I think restraint is usually the best approach to accenting, so my preference in most cases is to use a single color for stair treads and risers. As the "Before" and "After" pictures demonstrate, using one color creates better flow because your eye takes in the stairs as a single unit, as opposed to seeing the stair components. 

What you might have thought to be a simple matter, painting the stairs, is in fact something that has a big effect and deserves thought.

When it comes to color selection, whether it's for stairs, the whole exterior, or for the inside of your house, success comes down to choosing the right colors and using them in the right places. Color selection is the phase that receives the most emphasis, but I believe that where you put the colors is equally important. Color placement done correctly is a powerful tool that can correct many design shortcomings, showcase the best, hide the rest and help your house live up to its potential.

If you have a painting project coming up and would like help with choosing and placing colors, call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule a color and design consultation. If we do the painting for you, this help is a free part of our services. 











Monday, February 8, 2016

The Kitchen Ceiling Repair Project





We just completed a major repair project on the ceiling in our kitchen and family room. It wasn't much fun, but it had to be done. We were "lucky" that we were snowbound for a few days last month and able to focus on the work so that Roger could complete it in record time.  


Phase 1 - The New LED Lights


The gaps in some areas were 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch.


The project began when we ditched the old halogen lights in the kitchen in favor of LED lights. It was easy for Roger to make the switch and the new lights are a big improvement, but as you can see, they didn't fit the holes exactly so he had to make cosmetic repairs. 

Roger puts up a debris containment tunnel.











The first step was to sand the ceiling around the perimeter of each light. Falling debris and some escaping dust particles are inevitable, but Roger created a series of "containment tunnels" to minimize the clean up. 
Filling the voids in the ceiling.














Next Roger filled the voids between the light and the ceiling with   3-M Patch Plus Primer. After it dried he added more where it was needed, sanded again and caulked the perimeter of the light to create a smooth transition to the ceiling. 






As you can see, this is fussy work. There were eight lights to fix and some were quite challenging because of large gaps between the light and the ceiling.
Note that the rim of the light has gotten a first coat
of the ceiling color so it will blend in.

After Roger fixed the lights, he moved on to the next phase - cracks in the ceiling that were really bugging us.

Phase 2 - Repairing Some Cracks and Bad Taping 


After the first of the two long cracks was repaired.
We have an open plan and the kitchen ceiling continues to the family room. Two long cracks had appeared between the two areas from faulty sheet rock installation and bad taping, along with a couple of smaller ones. We could see the cracks coming and going, making invisible repairs very important to our peace of mind.

Fortunately Roger is an expert at solving difficult cosmetic problems, but I have to admit that fixing the cracks was an even bigger and messier job than Phase 1. It meant a major disruption to our lives for a few days, but it was part of the process so I just accepted the chaos.


Phase 3 - Painting


Because of the extensive repairs, touching up the paint was impossible and the entire ceiling had to be repainted. That meant the kitchen and family room had to be cleared so that everything could be covered with plastic. Then Baci and the other cats had to inspect the preparations to make sure Roger had done them properly. 


Late that night the kitchen was covered 
and ready for painting.

While Roger prepared the paint, Baci inspected 
the family room.

Once the lights over the island were wrapped in plastic, the only light source for this picture was a work light, but you can get an idea of how much covering up had to be done.



The Happy Ending

It took a full day to paint the ceiling, but when all the work was done and the drops and plastic were removed, it looked great. Everything is back to normal now and you can't tell that Roger worked miracles fixing the cracks and the areas around the lights. 

There were two long cracks here.


All eight new lights had to be worked on.


Compare this with the "before" picture above.





























Baci smiles in approval while she calmly waits 
for the plastic and drops to be removed.



If you have a project with cosmetic repairs that will require an expert touch, call me at 828-692-4355 and schedule an estimate. Chances are, Roger can work miracles for you too.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

About Those Closets

A BEAUTIFULLY PAINTED, COLOR-COORDINATED CLOSET
"Don't include 
painting the closets." 

Roger hears this all the time when he's doing an estimate. Maybe it's the prospect of cleaning out the closets so the work can be done, or it's an attempt to save money, or a bit of both. I get it. But I'd like to put in a good word or two for painting the closets anyway. 

When You're Redecorating

If you've chosen a new color for the walls, leaving the closets "as is" could suggest that you didn't care about doing a high quality job, or that you forgot to paint them. The room will look unfinished and the overall result will be less polished, harmonious and attractive than it could have been. 

Most closets get a lot of wear and tear and the walls become scuffed and dirty. A dirty, dingy closet in an otherwise nicely painted space is jarring, and every time you open the closet door you'll wish you'd painted the interior.​ In a master suite with generous closet space, lived-in closets, especially if they've been left in the old color, can be a significant detraction. 

When the closets include painted shelving, plan to paint them too. We prefer using an oil base enamel for durability. Allow time for shelves to cure, usually at least a week, before you put your things back. Ask the experts at the paint store for guidance on how long this will take for the product you're using. 

When You're Selling

DONE RIGHT, EVEN A SIMPLE CLOSET ADDS VALUE
Painting the closets is a smart move when you're selling. Newly painted clean, fresh closets enhance the perceived condition and value of the house. Unpainted closets might suggest that that house wasn't well maintained, or that you weren't diligent about preparing it for sale. 

If the house is unoccupied and the closets are empty, it's even more important that they look their best, or dirt and damage will be in plain view. I think of unpainted, lived in closets as little pockets of truth that show some of the wear and tear the house received.  
The two big reasons that sellers should paint the closets are:

Condition
Clean painted closets will help make visitors more confident that the house is well cared for. Dirty, dingy closets will undermine your selling strategy.

Cosmetic Appeal
Freshly painted closets contribute to the cosmetic appeal that helps that house photograph well and makes buyers fall in love so you can sell more quickly and at the best price. Dirty, uncoordinated closets create a negative impression.

So when you're deciding whether or not to paint the closets, please don't automatically reject the idea. There are several good reasons why you should clean them out and make a fresh start with a new coat of paint.  

If you're redecorating or getting ready to sell, call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule a estimate. As one of our painting clients, you'll receive a free paint color consultation to help find the perfect colors for your project, including the closets. If you would like advice on how to prepare your house for sale, schedule a staging consultation, including paint color advice. 



Thursday, December 3, 2015

Incremental Color Decisions

We're doing an interior painting project at the moment, and I've been working with the
Solving the Paint Color Jigsaw Puzzle
homeowners to create a coordinated color palette. I think of this process as putting together a color jigsaw puzzle, using placement of each piece to help guide where the next one should go. 


I prefer to work this way whenever I can because I believe the best results come from making incremental decisions as the job progresses, using each color successfully applied to help guide the next choice, rather than trying to choose all the colors at the beginning from samples. 


At our current project, the owners have removed wallpaper in the kitchen, powder room, guest bedroom, master bedroom and bathroom. More rooms will be painted as they get around to removing more wallpaper. 

Our first decision was the kitchen wall color because of its importance as their main living area, and because I always begin by analyzing the colors of the fixed elements in the house, such as flooring, tile, counter tops and cabinets. Every color we use has to work with things that are unlikely to change, at least for a while.  The next decisions for logistical convenience were the powder room wall and vanity colors, followed by the guest bedroom walls. The master suite wall color is being chosen last because it's at the far end of the house, allowing more color latitude if desired, and because the carpet is being replaced. The new carpet contains several shades of off white, and the overall color impression was difficult to project, so I wanted to choose the wall color after the carpet was installed to be sure it would work with it and with the bathroom tile.

Some Benefits of Incremental Decisions


Color Behavior 

Choosing colors incrementally provides an opportunity for me to see how each color behaves on the walls before choosing the trim color. Many people have learned from experience that the way a paint color looks in a sample can be dramatically different when it's applied to four walls. By making color decisions one room at a time, you can be sure each color is right for that room, that it will harmonize with the overall color plan, and that the trim color will be right for all the rooms.

More Informed Recommendations

Incremental color decisions help me make more informed recommendations as I can easily see how the puzzle is coming together, and it also gives me a chance to suggest color strategies for extra pizazz or to solve any design issues that might arise. 


Maximum Flexibility

Incremental decisions give us maximum flexibility as the clients and I discuss what colors they like best, or don't like as much as they expected to, and make changes as needed. Maybe a color looks darker than they thought now that they see it on the wall instead of in the sample. Fine. If they can live with it, we'll use what they've learned for future choices. If they can't live with it, how much easier to redo one wall or one room than the entire house! 


Reduced Anxiety

Last, but by no means least, making one decision at a time is a lot less stressful for our clients. They have a much better idea of how everything will look as it comes together, greatly reducing their color decision anxiety. They grow more and more excited, confident and happy as their vision comes to life.


Of course making incremental decisions means that I'm on site every step of the way, and even though my help is a free service to our painting clients and it's time-consuming, Roger and I think it's the best approach. We know that if the colors aren't just right, our clients aren't going to be as happy as they could be, no matter how good a job he does. My involvement helping them find colors they love to live with, along with Roger's superb craftsmanship, really sets us apart. We like that too.


If you have a painting project, call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule an estimate. Once you choose us to do the work, I'll come to discuss your ideas and we'll find your perfect colors. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cranky About the Color of the Year

Pantone Color of the Year 2015-Marsala
In recent years it's become the practice for paint companies such as Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore, and other companies such as Pantone, best known for its color matching system, to name a color of the year. The choices are often quite different, making it difficult to see how any of them represent an informed idea, or anything beyond a way to generate sales.

Color(s) of the Year 2015 


Take this year, for instance. Pantone says the Color of the Year is Marsala. Sherwin Williams says it's Coral Reef, and Benjamin Moore says it's Guilford Green. 


Sherwin Williams Color of the Year 2015-Coral Reef

If you want to be trendy, which of them should you choose? Can they all be right? What if you don't like any of them? And what are you supposed to do next year - paint the house again?

Here's Where I Get Cranky


It may not bother you, but I don't like the idea of people sitting in a room somewhere deciding what colors I should live with. The notion that they can make this choice for you and me and everybody else, with zero consideration for whether or not the color is appropriate, is laughable. We aren't cookie cutter people! One color of the year (or three, or more) doesn't fit all.

Benjamin Moore Color of the Year 2015-Guilford Green

What About Fashion Trends?


To me, these color pronouncements are very different from fashion trends because they often involve significant expense and are decisions we usually live with for a long time. Fashion trends are fun, can be indulged cheaply and left behind without remorse, unlike a Marsala living room.

What You Need to Consider When Choosing Paint Colors for Your Home


When it comes to the use of color in your home, I think you should forget about the so-called Color of the Year and instead focus on:
  • the location of the house (mountains, seashore, etc.)
  •  the style of architecture
  • the color of permanent details such as flooring, carpet, counter tops, cabinets, stonework, etc.
  • the colors in major pieces of furniture
  • the exposure of the room (North facing, South facing)
  • the way the room will be used
  • the colors you like
These considerations are timeless and won't steer you wrong.

Other Pronouncements


Many people have been embracing the use of gray for interiors, even though certain designers and paint companies tell us that gray is OVER. I say that if you like gray and it works well in the context of your home, you should use gray and be happy.

Then there are the designers who tell us that we all should have white kitchens. I love white kitchens as much as the next person, but I also love other ideas when they work. The right kitchen design is situational, not a formula. 

So you see, I really am cranky about this whole Color of the Year business, and about design and color pronouncements from people who generalize. I pay little or no attention, and I don't think you should be concerned with them either. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Want A Painting Estimate? Here's Why We Have to Meet You.

The phone has been ringing a lot lately, including people who are calling us for the first time. Some have suggested that Roger "just go look at the house and give me a bid", and I have to explain why that's not a good idea - for either one of us.

In order to do an estimate, we require that Roger meet with you to look at the work and discuss it. Here are some reasons why:

Why We Have to Meet You To Do An Estimate

  • Scope of Work, Your Expectations and Budget

 When Roger looks at a project he could have questions about what you want to do and your level of expectations. For example, if he sees that your project requires a lot of surface preparation for the best result, is that what you want, or do you prefer to settle for less preparation in return for a lower price that fits your budget.

  • Damage or Problems You Weren't Aware Of

Roger might identify a problem that needs to be discussed so that we agree on how to address it, such as damage or cosmetic issues that you didn't see, but he did.

  • Options for You to Consider

Once Roger determines your goals for the work, he can make helpful suggestions and include options in the estimate.

  • Will There Be Color Changes?
If you're planning color changes, we need to know because it might affect costs, depending on the number of coats required for coverage and the complexity of your color plan.

If you would like help with colors, I provide a free color and detailing consultation to our painting clients. Not only will we find colors you love, I'll help you with a strategy for how to place them to showcase the best features of your home and camouflage the rest.

  • Professionalism and Competence - Beyond the Number

We want the you to feel confident in us and our professionalism, and meeting Roger will help you to qualify him and our company. Without that personal connection, our estimate, although it's well presented, is just another number. We strive for excellence and value, not to be low bid.

To evaluate estimates you also need to evaluate who's doing the work. Is he or she clean and well-groomed? What is the condition of the vehicle? If both are dirty and disorganized, it could mean that they won't protect and care for your property either. A low bid from someone like that could be the worst "bargain" you ever found, and if you don't meet with them, you don't know who you're dealing with.

Will Doing the Estimate Make Sense?


If after I explain all this, the caller still just wants Roger to go by and look, I decline with regret. Alarm bells are going off in my head because the caller who just wants a quick number seems to be shopping for the cheapest price, and we wouldn't be a good fit. 

Because we take the time to look carefully at the work and give you a detailed written estimate, doing one is a considerable investment in both Roger's time and mine. We need to have a reasonable likelihood of success, assuming relatively comparable bidders, not low bid amateurs. Our goal is to be fair and reasonable, deliver professional quality work that lasts and represents an exceptional value over time.

Now you know why we need to meet you - and why you should want to meet us.







Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Roger's New Ride

Roger's New Ride
After nearly 300,000 miles and twenty-three years of faithful service, we’ve said goodbye to an old friend, our gray 1990 Dodge van. Some of you may remember it!

The van served us well from the early days in the San Francisco Bay Area when our business was called Ness Painting & Decorating, then it helped us make the cross-country move to Hendersonville and start Sterling Property Services in 2004. 

Apart from being an essential element of our businesses, the van also helped us at home. For example, there are three Japanese maples in our garden today that came from our old garden, transported safely in the trusty gray van. 

Goodbyes are never easy, but we have much to remember and be grateful for. 


This week the signs went on the new van and Roger completed the transition. Here they are, ready to begin the New Year. If you see them, honk and wave! 



Friday, August 30, 2013

Cabinets With Glass Doors: Pitfall or Opportunity?

The contents of cabinets with glass doors are often overlooked by sellers who are distracted by a long list of other things to do, and by homeowners (including me) who become accustomed to their appearance, or are so eager for a place to put something, that we ignore crowding or other issues. Even though it's understandable that we would focus on more pressing matters, it's good to be aware of some negative consequences of leaving them as is, especially when you're selling.


Some Pitfalls of Glass-fronted Cabinets

  • Over time, glass-fronted cabinets can become strictly storage places where things are kept with no concern for appearances, instead of being an attractive design feature
  • Unless properly staged, these cabinets have a disorganized, busy look that adversely affects the impression of the room, and even more importantly for sellers, results in less attractive marketing pictures. 
  • Because everything is in view, unstaged, overfilled cabinets can make a room look and feel uncomfortably small and unattractive. 
  • Crowded cabinets, like crowded closets, sends the overt messages that the house lacks adequate storage, which is not good when you're selling, and that you're disorganized. The additional, unintended message could be that there are other things, like regular maintenance, that you didn't get to either! That message could undermine buyer confidence that your house is in good condition. 

The Typical Offender - The China Cabinet


Nana's China Cabinet
The typical offender is the china cabinet in the dining room, built-in or free-standing, where an assortment of china and other pieces are kept waiting for a special occasion, or because they have no other home. That might be OK when you're living in the house, but not when you're selling. 

This is my grandmother's china cabinet, filled with her tea cup collection and some other things I couldn't figure out where else to store...Sound familiar? My cabinet isn't as bad as some, but I can do better, and so can you.  For example, the miscellaneous vases, figurines and bird nests don't need to be there. I need to become my own client, create a better backdrop for each shelf and display the tea cups more creatively, such as with lifts to present them at different heights and by using a special stand that stores the saucer vertically behind the cup. 

How to Stage Glass-fronted Cabinets:


  • Remove everything so you can make a fresh start, with no preconceived ideas of where things should go. 
  • Clean the shelves and the glass.
  • Sort the contents. Take away everything that can be donated, discarded or stored elsewhere. 
  • Keep only the medium and larger pieces that are attractive and that suit the style of the room.  
  • Sellers should avoid using small, single items. It's a busy look that doesn't photograph well. You want to focus attention on your house, not your belongings. Store collections of small pieces too.
  • Plan for negative space. Don't crowd the shelves. 
  • Place the large items first. 
  • Align some larger things from the right, some things from the left and center others.  
  • Place the medium size items.   
Portmeirion Storage Only
  • Simple usually works best, especially when you're selling. Behind glass, a single china pattern nicely displayed works better than a hodgepodge of many unrelated, clashing objects. For that reason, I store my collection of Portmeirion "Botanic Garden" china in the two glass-fronted upper cabinets in our kitchen. Other china and the functional odd bits are stored behind closed doors. 
  • For more interest, stack some things and display others, like plates and platters, vertically. 
  • Consider shape and size and work in opposites. Mix small and large, round and square, etc. 
  • Use color to advantage, especially with the larger pieces, as color will show in photographs and make them more appealing. Coordinate the colors with the other colors in the room. 
  • Don't mix crystal with opaque china because the crystal gets lost and the shelves just look busy. That's why I display glassware by itself in this lower kitchen cabinet where it becomes texture, and not a distraction. (Please pardon my dust!)
Glass Storage Only

Sellers should keep in mind that the goal is to focus attention on the house, and the contents of glass-fronted cabinets should play a supporting role, while people who are simply living in the house can please themselves. 

Bookcases and Open Shelves Are Treated Differently

My approach to cabinets with glass doors is different from the way I like to stage bookcases and other open shelves. Whether you're living in the house or selling it, you have so many more options for open shelves, like books and plants and art and more, but that's a topic for another day... 

A professionally trained, experience stager can help you edit your cabinets - and everything else. Call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule a two hour staging or redesign consultation, and expect a minor miracle, just from using the things you already have. In the meantime, I have some work to do around here...


By:  Sandy LeRoy