Overpricing Your House Never Works – Even in a Seller’s Market

Lesa Bell Average Sales Price buckhead 3/14

Although it’s a seller’s market in Buckhead, it doesn’t mean you can overprice your house



Thinking that because of low inventory and the resulting seller’s market you can overprice your house or escape not putting it into peak market condition? Think again. Even though accurately-priced houses are being scooped up by buyers quickly,  houses priced above market value remain unsold. Now is the ideal time to list your home if you’ve been sitting on the fence, but get it in great condition for your photo shoot and make sure you price it accurately.

My new Vinings Listing Has Key Features Which Attract Buyers

My new listing in Vinings has many of the features today’s buyers want. The screened porch, flat backyard, recent updating and flexible spaces make for a very attractive package. I was blessed with clients who very quickly understood the concept of de-cluttering and updating so that their home’s pictures would attract buyers.

Lesa Bell Vinings Real Estate

Beautiful Screened Porch


Lesa Bell Vinings Real Estate

Large, landscaped, private and flat backyard

Lesa Bell Vinings Real Estate

Recently-renovated kitchen with coffee bar

Lesa Bell Vinings Real Estate

Vaulted Great Room Opens to Kitchen and Screened Porch

Lesa Bell Vinings Real Estate

Wall of Built-In Bookcases

I’m going to brag on my clients for a minute here. They completly purged their overcrowded bookcases in order to re-style them for simplicity and open space. I am so thankful they understood the value of letting go of all that was there. Monica Thiels was their stager and what a great team they were. The clients quickly began to transform their home with a view towards packaging it as a product so that it would appeal to the widest possible group of buyers. Well, guess what? Today is the first full day of it being on the market and we’ve already had many showings because the pictures are inviting.


Lesa Bell Vinings Real Estate

Great curb appeal from the street


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$500,000-$750,000 Is the Sweet Spot in Buckhead Real Estate

The Harry Norman Market Tracker report just came out today for February sales. In continuation of the trend established last year, homes priced between $500,000-$750,000 represent the largest segment of the market. Move up buyers who can easily sell their first homes because of historically low inventories in entry level categories, are quickly snapping up homes over $500,000. First -time buyers are finding a challenge in Buckhead due to a hot seller’s market. Now is the time if you are considering a move! I already have listings in Vinings and Buckhead that hitting the market in a few weeks. Why not let yours be one of them!

Sweet Spot in Buckhead Home Sales Love Now Sell Laater Lesa Bell

Homes Sold for $500,000-$740,000 are the Sweet Spot in Buckhead Real Estate

Homestager Monika Thiels Guides You Through Your Pre-Listing Action Plan

Monika Thiels

Monika Thiels

Today I am interviewing Monika Thiels, managing partner of Staged to Sell Atlanta, a home staging and interior design firm that guides clients through the essential process of preparing their homes for the today’s market. I’m a big fan. Monika has helped my clients put their homes in market-ready position with great success. There is no doubt that staged houses sell faster and for a higher value than homes that go on the market with little effort put into the process. Executing a pre-listing action plan definitely increases your home’s value.

Monika, how does your firm help home sellers?
We have repeatedly boosted the sales price of clients’ homes by making them appeal to the broadest potential pool of buyers. We assist with small renovation projects, de-cluttering, furniture arranging, space planning, lighting and accessorizing to make homes stand-out in today’s very competitive market.

How far in advance of listing do your clients contact you?
Between one week and six months.

What is the ideal lead time?
Three months.  Enough time for repairs, paint, and de-cluttering. but not too far ahead to lose momentum.

Describe your fee structure and your typical consultation.
My initial 1 1/2-2 hour consultation fee is $160.00 in which we develop a pre-listing action plan.  The hands-on seller takes good notes and executes it. If I prepare the action list, there is an $85 charge. Additional consultation time is $85/hour or $65/hour for two or more hours. The rate for purchasing trips for draperies and accessories is $35/hour.

In most cases, I go back for 1-3 hours a few days before the house is professionally photographed for the listing to hang art, style bookshelves, and tweak for photography. Additional expense is incurred if we need to move a lot of furniture which requires outside labor.  My team will then help with moving large pieces and hang heavy art or mirrors.

What are the  principles which guide you in making recommendations?
Less is more! Light and neutral colors please 90% of the buyers.

List the major expenditures necessary to list?
In order of cost:

  1. Maintenance-related work
  2. Hardwoods and Carpet
  3. Painting
  4. Landscaping
  5. Accessories including lighting, drapes and plants

What is the profile of the client who is most likely to implement your suggestions?
Action-oriented decision-makers between the ages of 35 and 60.

Why do today’s buyers want “perfect” now rather than the opportunity to build value by performing cosmetic updates?
Two reasons: financing because it’s hard to finance a remodel immediately after financing the home purchase, and the busy lives of today’s buyers. With small kids and two working parents, families are looking for a turnkey move.

What about children’s rooms during photography and showings?
Leave the décor as is but keep it tidy. I encourage mothers to buy several IKEA wicker trunks for the family room and other living spaces so toys can be scooped up and placed there immediately before a showing. Other toys can be placed in attractive plastic crates, and stacked in the basement or playroom.  Toiletries can be placed in baskets so they can be stashed under the sink before each showing.

What do you suggest to a client who has a dated house and little money to spend?

  • Neutralize with paint; removing dated wallpaper
  • Enhance curb appeal by cleaning up the landscaping, add a few containers or window boxes for color.
  • Replace dated drapes with neutral ones from IKEA. I used over 100 sets of IKEA drapes last year. Remove valances.
  • Replace dated lighting with fixtures from Home Depot, HomeGoods, IKEA or Ballard Designs
  • Replace shiny brass with black/bronze. chrome or brushed nickel.
  • Edit Oriental rugs and runners.
  • Remove silk flowers and fake trees and replace with living arrangements where needed.


Quick and Affordable Ways to Update Your House and Increase its Value

Lamps and Shades

I remember back in the day when I worked at ADAC and bought the most beautiful Asian-inspired ceramic lamps to sit on my bedside table. Over time, I grew to hate those chubby little men staring at me each night. Off with them and in with a wonderful double gourd lamp and drum shade. I cannot tell you the happiness it brought me. If the Asian-inspired look is a must-have for you, at least consider updating the lamp shade.

This need not be an expensive project I promise. TJMaxx and Target have good neutral options. Look for a shade that is pleated or drum shape. No fit and flare please. Granny’s house is great but homebuyers don’t want to buy it.

lesa bell love now sell later

Pillows, Pillows Everywhere

Can you freshen your look with some large pillows ? IKEA, Ballard, West Elm, Pottery Barn, and some great vendors on ETSY all have them. Don’t buy anything under 24″.

Lesa Bell Love Now Sell Later

Toss in Some Throws Too

If you’re updating with some pillows, add a throw in too. My affordable favorites are from West Elm. I have two, but Pottery Barn, Target, TJ Maxx, and even Old Navy have them.

Love Now Sell Later increase your home's value West Elm Softest Throw

West Elm Softest Throw $49

Purge the Fake Plants

Although there are limited exceptions, silk plants must go. You may be accustomed to seeing them fill some empty corners or on a table somewhere, but think about it. Do you see them in pictures of beautiful interiors? I think we know the answer to that one. An empty corner is fine,  Let your room breathe and modernize your look.

Love Now Sell Later increase your home's value forcing blooms indoors

Quince is one of the easiest blooms to force indoors

Add Some Real Plants

If you’ve done everything on this list. Reward yourself with a white orchid. I was afraid of them until I learned that even I can keep them around by putting a couple of ice cubes in them every Sunday. You don’t need to go to a high end florist. Trader Joe’s has them. I put the plastic container in a pretty pot, cover with some chartreuse moss that I get from Pike’s and instant gorgeous. Having something living in my home brings me joy.

Ruthlessly Clean Your House to Increase Its Value

Love Now Sell Later Lesa Bell

De-clutter and Clean to Make Your House Sparkle

We live in a highly visual culture in the era of Pinterest, Houzz, and HGTV. Most buyers are spoiled by the attractive images they see. The days of putting a sign in the yard without pre-listing preparation are gone. Putting in the extra effort will increase your home’s value.

After de-cluttering, de-personalizing, painting, and installing stone countertops, obsessively cleaning is the most important step sellers can take to appeal to buyers. Think about it. Would you go on a first date not looking your absolute best? Selling your house is like a first date. Making the extra effort lets buyers know you are motivated to sell. An added benefit is that sellers see a sparkling home as one that is obsessively maintained by the seller.

Believe me, I watch buyers faces and body language as they enter a house and it’s very predictable. Clutter, dirt, and bad odors make for a very quick first and only showing.

Ruthlessly cleaning your house is critical because it helps you eliminate clutter as you go. The process also emotionally detaches you from your house so that you actually begin to embrace the concept of packaging it as a product!

Your pre-listing action plan for cleaning:

  • Clean windows, inside and out, clean sills and around the frame.
  • Wash all window treatments, shutters and shades.
  • Clean all door frames, walls, molding and baseboards, putting extra effort around switch plates and door hardware.
  • Clean all art and picture frames and mirrors.
  • Polish all furniture.
  • Clean dusty vents and ceiling fan blades.
  • Remove contents of all bookshelves, clean and re-style for a simple and “almost-empty” look.  See my Pinterest board for examples.
  • Remove all cushions and pillows from upholstery, vacuum and have professionally cleaned if it’s been a while, or if they don’t smell wonderful.
  • Vacuum and professionally clean carpets and rugs
  • Get in all cracks, corners and crevices, remove cob webs
  • Clean all light fixtures and lamps. Replace grungy and dated shades.
  • Bathrooms must be immaculate! If your house were a hotel and you were the guest, would you want to take a shower there? Make grout look like new and check the shower rod and curtain to ensure they don’t need replacing; wash or replace bath mat and towels. White is the best. Remove personal items from sight.
  • Clean inside, outside and all around the toilet, replacing the seat if necessary. They are cheap at Home Depot!
  • Remove contents of all closets, clean, re-fold and organize.
  • Remove as many appliances from your kitchen countertop as possible.
  • Clean behind refrigerator and vacuum the coils.
  • Clean exterior and interior of all kitchen appliances, including under vent hood.
  • Wash exterior and interior of kitchen cabinets and pantries.
  • Wash the inside and outside of the trash can.
  • De-clutter and thoroughly clean desks and computers. Contain paper in decorative boxes from Target, IKEA or Container Store.
  • Clean basement in same manner.
  • Clear out and clean garage, returning items on racks or shelving.
  • Aim for fresh scents with your cleaning products. Never mask with grocery-store fragrance.

If you are interested in pleasing scents that are now overpowering, you may visit these posts:

You may also be interested in my previous post Packaging Your Home as a Product

The Look That Sells Houses

Update Your House Now Making It Easier to Sell Later

I’m having fun with the Polyvore app! Here’s a set I created that is very visually appealing to homebuyers. Why?

  • Light and neutral with pops of color for personality
  • Art that opens an imaginary window in the room
  • Clean and uncomplicated lifestyle that most buyers want
  • Visually restful with minimal distractions such as personal pictures and mementos
  • Creates an invitation to move in with no work
  • Lightens and enlarges the space

Is this look your personal taste? Maybe or maybe not. Does it photograph beautifully, compel homebuyers to look further, and ultimately add value to your home? Definitely!

Use this visual as inspiration as you begin your pre-listing action plan.

Packaging Your Home as a Product Will Increase its Value

Packaging your home as a product. Love Now Sell Later

Buyers look at your home from a totally different perspective than you do, and you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Since many buyers initially see your house online, it’s critical to package your house so that it looks updated and competitive in the market. Below is a pre-listing action list to increase your home’s value.

Aggressively de-clutter. Rent offsite space if necessary to store items which draw attention away from the house and give closets and storage rooms the appearance of being inadequate. Make your house look like there is storage room to spare. The goal is to have half-empty closets beautifully organized.
Aggressively depersonalize. Remove collections, personal photos, folksy mementos, and any excess of sports memorabilia from shelving, tables, counters, chests, and walls. Buyers want to be able to visualize their lives in your house.
Clean so that your house sparkles. This can’t be overemphasized. A meticulously clean environment (this includes the garage) sends the message that the sellers have meticulously maintained the house. Clean windows, interior trim, all lighting fixtures and carpets.See my pre-listing cleaning checklist.
Neutralize and brighten. Paint all walls pleasing neutral colors, replace dark carpets with neutral hues. Patch any dings and dents in walls. Store or reupholster dark or worn furniture. Consider storing outdated or unusual artwork. Simplify bedding with fewer items in light, soothing colors. Remove dated wallpaper and drapes that recall a bygone decade.
Accessories. Less is more. Consider updating furniture with a few fresh and simple pillows.
Kitchens. Replace worn countertops with granite. Paint worn cabinets and replace hardware. Update old appliances with new ones in stainless steel. Present clear and clean countertops, free of small appliances, spices, oils and knick knacks. Clear the refrigerator of all sports schedules, menus and photographs.
Bathrooms. Consider replacing countertops if necessary. Replace outdated plumbing fixtures. Have grout cleaned or replaced so that it looks like new. Organize under counter storage space and remove unnecessary items.
Lighting fixtures, switch plates, hardware, lampshades. Update these important features to give your house a look that is new and fresh.
Cut corners. Remove any large pieces of furniture that block traffic flow and may make the room look smaller than it really is. You have permission to leave corners empty.
Exterior curb appeal. Pressure wash and paint if necessary. Replace any rotten wood and damaged gutters. Add pine straw or other mulch. Freshen planters on the front porch.