When and How to Use Them
Accent walls give interest and break up the monotony of a space by infusing color, pattern or texture to the wall. They can be used in entry ways, just opposite the door, creating a dramatic and memorable entry. Or sometimes they’re used in the bedroom to anchor the wall the bed sits on. They’re great with infusing the homeowner’s personality into the space. Accent walls can be made with paint, wall coverings, or textural elements. Really the sky’s the limit.
If you’re staging your home for sale, its an entirely different story. So far, I’ve never recommended anyone to create an accent wall to make the room more appealing for their sale. There’s a few reasons for this. Let’s go over some of them.
Accent walls represent the Seller
Accent walls really represent the Seller’s taste and personality, which is great when the Seller is living in the home, but not so great when you’re trying to sell it. Rule #1 of selling a home is to depersonalize it. In order for buyers to envision it as their home, remnants of the seller’s taste and personality just reinforces that it’s the seller’s home, not the buyers.
Distracts the buyer's eye
An accent wall in a room is exactly that … an accent wall. It’s meant to pull your attention away from other elements in the room and commands you to pay attention to that wall. When you’re selling a house, you want buyers to be able to move their eyes comfortably through the space. Unless the room is expertly staged and styled, an accent wall will stop the natural movement of the eye, disrupting the cohesion, balance and harmonious feeling in the space. Creating harmonious spaces is what makes people and buyers feel good in a space, which in turn motivates buyers to submit offers.
Color could turn off some buyers
Once you paint or install an accent wall, you’ve now narrowed your pool of potential buyers because an accent wall is by its very nature a color and style choice that you’re affixing to the house. You’ve now limited the buyer’s interior decor choices dramatically as they’ll be limited to decorating their home based on that accent wall, or they’ll have to paint over it or remove it. In today’s market, many buyers want turn-key and don’t want to be bothered with a can of paint, especially after the exhausting task of buying/selling and moving.
And color can be a strong factor for many people. A certain hue, tone or tint could be loved by one buyer, but be a serious turn-off for another.
For these reasons, for staging I typically recommend painting over accent walls to make it cohesive with its surrounding walls. The mood and focal point will be created using furnishings, art and decor, which aren’t fixed items of the home. Any color disconnect with the decor will be less harmful than a color disconnect with an accent wall.
Improper use of accent wall
Many times I see accent walls used improperly here in Hilo. Used improperly, they could subconsciously devalue the house in the buyer’s mind. Buyers typically don’t know what’s wrong with a room when they’re standing in it, but they’ll instinctively know that something doesn’t feel right. And by the very nature of an accent wall, it’ll be the elephant in the room that cannot be ignored. If it’s off balance, or used improperly, buyers will feel the room is awkward and not harmonious. Thus for staging, unless you’re guided by a trained and experienced stager, Seller’s should paint over their existing accent walls to match their surrounding walls.
When can I use an accent wall?
If you’re not selling your home and want to create interest, drama or a certain mood in a room an accent wall could be an option for you. The accent wall becomes the focal point and backdrop for whatever is fronting that wall, so keep that in mind. The rule is a wall that doesn’t have any breaks in it like doors, windows or other openings, would make a good candidate as your accent wall. IF there are windows, they MUST be symmetrically placed on the accent wall to achieve balance and harmony. If not, choose another wall that fits these parameters or abandon the accent wall intention and use other means to create your ambiance.
Can the accent wall rules be broken?
All design rules can be broken, but keep in mind that very few designers can break the design rules and do it well. So its best to stick to the rules unless you really know what you’re doing. And remember, what you see in a magazine shot isn’t the whole story. You can’t fully see and feel how that one shot of the room relates to - or balances with - the other side of the room unless you’re standing in the room. So use the accent wall rules to guide you if you want to add a wall of drama.
I was terrified!
I had a Hilo staging job a couple years ago where the accent wall broke the rules. I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to calm the disharmony in the room. To make matters worse, the accent wall covering was a very busy pattern. Painting over it simply wasn’t an option for the Seller. Therefore I used color to create the cohesion in the room and balanced the accent wall with a large piece of art over the fireplace. For the MLS photo, I cropped out the portions that would show the bad accent wall design issues. The end result? Check out the photo below. Do you think it turned out alright? Balanced, luxurious, inviting? Thankfully my terror ended with a happy seller as house sold in 15 days.
Three Basic Choices in Wood Flooring
Flooring: the foundation of a room
Floors make a huge impact on a home, both aesthetically and financially. Think of your floors like a pair of shoes — its the foundation of the look you’re rockin’. If you’re wearing a Christian Dior dress with a pair of rubber slippahs…. that look isn’t pulled together! We're in Hawaii, so the Christian Dior dress gotta go and put on beach shorts and shirt to complete the ensemble! You can think of your floors in the same way. They’re the foundation of the home’s look. Floors can either be a very trendy look (which drastically limits the other finish choices you’ll make for the home) or a classic look like a great pair of jeans that coordinates with everything.
There’s many factors when considering flooring. On the design aesthetic, if you choose a trendy floor you should be prepared to replace the flooring in 10 years or the home will look and feel older than it is and you’ll be locked into basically one look. If you choose a classic floor its like a great pair of jeans that can be dressed up with a jacket or dressed down with a tank top. A classic floor is a great foundation that works with your home’s decor giving you beauty for many years. Flooring isn’t easy to replace or upgrade. It is possible but expensive to do. So this is a choice you want to be confident will meet your needs and demands both now and in the future. Per John Dupra of Revel Woods Fine Hardwood Flooring, “Flooring is a long-term decision that is not easy to change; like a really expensive tattoo for your house. It’s not something you want to choose hastily, or the sort of thing you want to do on the cheap lest you pay in the long run.”
When to Choose Flooring
Your flooring should be chosen very close to the beginning of a project if possible because its so foundational to the space. Because of flooring’s structural and aesthetic significance its also not wise to penny-pinch and save money on this line item at installation. Your savings will be realized years down the road in durability and elimination of constant floor repairs or replacements. A good placeholder budget number is $12/sf which would include materials and installation. That’s a little on the high side to give you some wiggle room for unwelcomed surprises.
Different types of Hardwood Flooring & Finishes
There are three basic types of hardwood flooring: Solid Wood, Engineered Wood and Wood-Look Products (laminate, pergo, vinyl plank, wood-tile all fall into this Wood-Look category).
There are basically two types of wood finishes: On-site or Factory. Also referred as Unfinished or Finished. On-site finish means you’ve bought unfinished wood and once installed your installer will apply the sealer and finish coats on-site. Because of this, the finish is more customizable in both color and sheen. There is no beveling between planks so you’ll have a truly flat floor. It will still require sanding and it does introduce chemicals into the home which could linger before fully aerating.
Factory means you’ve bought the wood with the sealer and finish coats applied at the factory so your installer only needs to install the wood and its ready to be walked upon immediately after installation. This also means there will be no noxious chemicals lingering in the home. A factory finish is typically more durable due to the controlled environment it was applied in. There are multiple extra finish options you can choose from too, such as smooth, wire brushed and hand scrapped, but some kind of bevel is required and thus you won’t have a truly flat-floor look on a factory finish.
Solid Wood Flooring
Engineered Wood Flooring
Stay tuned for our next article where we’ll discuss the common factors in sourcing wood flooring which includes climate, subfloor, lifestyle and aesthetic. By then, you’ll know if you should choose the rubber slipper, Reef slipper or anything in-between! Until then… a hui hou!!
By: Ulu Poepoe
UP Staging & Design
Realtors know vacant homes can be difficult to sell and often sit on the market long. Buyers have difficulty imagining what a space would look like filled with their belongings. Size, scale and layout become challenges in their mind as they view the space. And if the space is vacant, then the challenges are compounded. Add to that, sometimes Buyers don't know how they could use a space, and thus don't see the potential value of a property.
Professional staging eliminates those problems and helps draw in Buyers by giving purpose to the room, as well as warmth and harmony. The furniture and decor is carefully chosen to defend the space and accentuate the architectural features of the home, while drawing the Buyer in, helping them relate to the personality of the home. Here's an example of a vacant space. With no furniture and decor, its difficult to grasp the size and what the rooms is. There's nothing there for us to relate to, or to be drawn in with. Is it a large bedroom, a dining room, a living room? It feels cold and empty
Once staged, you can tell what the room is at a glance. Staging defined the room as a living room, gave it size, scale, warmth, balance, harmony and personality. It created a welcoming feeling that Buyers can relate and aspire to, drawing them into the home and motivating them to visit and even submit offers.
This Ainaloa home was on the market for 2 months when the Seller called us. We staged it and they were in escrow 11 days later at list price!
Simply placing furniture in a room isn't enough to motivate Buyers. Professional staging incorporates design and psychological techniques to help Buyers see the home's true potential and helps Buyers make that emotional leap, the decision, to buy the home.
"Do you think we need to stage our house?" they ask as you're midway through your listing presentation. If you say NO, you're in opposition to the messages given on HGTV and numerous other cable channels sporting real estate and decorating programs. YES means you see problems with their home which could hurt their feelings in this relationship-driven industry. How do you respond to their questions? What do you say?
A simple "We'll send our professional stager to meet with you." will handle it.
That's it! Task completed and now you can move on with your listing presentation. You talk business, you sell your services and land the listing. All questions on condition or presentation can get deferred to your professional stager.
Our initial 2-hour consultation meeting with your Seller bears useful information for your Seller as they prepare their home for market. We use tactful approaches in discussing these tender topics with your Seller. We discuss what they should pack, what can be used for their staging, what repairs they should perform, what walls should be painted and even what color to paint. We career our recommendations to bear in mind their repair budget, yet maintain the focus of converting their home to a house that's market-ready. We go over these details with them so it frees up your time and allows you, as their Realtor, to focus on the actual SALE of their home.
How do Hilo homeowners make their home stand out amongst the sea of other homes for sale? How do you maximize your equity, an minimize your market time?
Find a great Realtor is important when selling your home. Your Realtor should know your market competition and what inventory is on the market and at what price point. They should be familiar with the comps of what sold in the last 30 days or up to 12 months depending on the market. They should know what home conditions are at various price points and what home features are desirable and be able to provide you a report of market comps. This information is crucial when you sit down with your Realtor to determine the list price of your home.
Great Realtors market your listing aggressively through various marketing outlets, providing your home the greatest amount of exposure to its market pool of Buyers. Your Realtor is the greatest tool you have in marketing your home for sale.
Interview various Realtors and ask them these questions. The sale of your home is most likely the biggest, most expensive commodity you'll own and sell. Choose your Realtor partner carefully so you feel comfortable and confident with them.
Professional stagers are happy to work with both Realtors and Homeowners in preparing the home for market, shifting it from a Home to a Marketable Commodity. Where Realtors market the home externally, stagers work on marketing the home from the inside. Together we're a powerful team that can bring you results!
Claudia Jacobs, a fellow RESA member (Real Estate Staging Association), interviewed Rob Unger, CPA, CFE of Judson, Giordano & Siegel, CPA, P.C., to clarify how the IRS interprets staging costs and if any are tax deductible, and provided this enlightenment. She said Unger described, "Home sellers can benefit from home staging, as the fees for staging services can be considered as advertising costs according to IRS guidelines. Since a home stager prepares your house for potential homebuyers, the IRS considers the service as an advertising expense, as long as the home stager has been hired for the sole purpose of selling your home. The costs of staging are subtracted from the proceeds of the sale of the home and decrease the total realized profit. In summary, the IRS' position is that staging costs are a legitimate selling expense for both primary and secondary homes and are therefore tax deductible. However, it is important to note that if a house is staged and then taken off the market, the staging expenses are not tax deductible."
Questions for the CPA
This is great news, but Claudia wanted to get further clarification as the word "staging" is a very broad statement and can be confusing. Claudia then asked if fresh white towels, new shower curtain, home repairs, paint, new carpeting, furniture or furnishings -- either rented or purchased -- can qualify under the IRS definition of staging allowed tax deductions. She also asked if there's an IRS difference if the Seller buys the furniture and decor, or if they rent the furniture and decor from a stager.
And further questioned if the home goes off the market for a few months, then goes back on, is the Seller still allowed to claim it as a tax deduction? For instance: Sellers didn't want to put in new carpeting, but had no offers while it was listed so they took the home off the market for the winter. Then decided to install carpeting, home back on market and then it sells.
CPA Rob Unger replied, "With regard to the timeline, the costs of staging are only deductible if the home is for sale and actively on the market. If the home is on the market, then taken off without a sale, the cost of staging (prior to it taken off the market) is not deductible.
"The IRS does not allow you to deduct expenses for repairs, maintenance and upkeep on your main home, so these expenses cannot be subtracted from the sale of your home. Fresh paint, new carpet, furniture and home decorations are not tax-deductible expenses, even if a home stager recommends them.
"In your example of the home being on the market, coming off, then going back on and selling, they are considered separate transactions. If there are staging costs associated with the first time it is on the market and then comes off with no sale, no deductions are allowed for the staging costs. Any staging costs associated with the property going back on the market and selling are deductible as it relates to that transaction.
"Staging is typically what happens after the homeowner has cleaned, painted and made minor repairs. It's the cost of the stager's services in dressing up the home to get it ready for sale.
"In your example, when the homeowner is buying the fresh white towels and furnishings, these are not tax deductible, as after the sale is completed, the homeowner is most likely going to take these items with them. If these are part of a stager's services and the stager rents these items to the homeowner, and it is included in the stager's invoice for services, and they are retained by stager after the home staging is completed, then they will be tax deductible as staging expenses.
Unger continues, "I think a literal explanation is that the tax-deductible part is what is on the invoice from the stager. Items that the homeowners buys and intends to keep that are used in the staging process are not deductible, as they are being used for staging and then also for personal use after the staging making them non-deductible. Items they rent for the staging process and then return to stager after the home sells are deductible as part of the staging, as homeowner does not use them for any personal use, they are used strictly for the staging process."
If you initiate a conversation with your CPA to see if the IRS tax deduction can be applied to your circumstances, ensure you advise your Realtor as well. Your Realtor can help you determine the proper market price of your home. The IRS home staging cost tax deduction places importance on pricing the home right the first time, so the property doesn't bounce on and off the market, jeopardizing staging tax deductions and extending the home's market time.
Staged right. Priced right. Sold!
Many of us living in Hawaii see how the Pacific Ocean creates a long tail with the East Coast being at the head and Hawaii at the tail end. Sometimes being at the tail end is a good thing. I've sat in on a few of Paul Brewbaker's, Chief Economist at Bank of Hawaii, predictions and he would describe how Hawaii's economy lags a few years behind the mainland. Design trends lag too.
With the advent of smartphones, it has brought our world smaller. I can talk to my friends in DC and cousins in Sāmoa, in a blink of an eye. How awesome is that?! But for me, I interpret this shrunken world to mean we can't lag behind on trends like we used to. Especially when we're selling much of our product to mainlanders. Many of our homes in East Hawaii have wood-stained cabinets. But one of the quickest, easiest ways for our homes to look dated and old is to have wood-stained cabinets. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE beautiful woods and how they bring warmth into a space. And there are indeed many timeless and beautiful wood stained kitchen cabinets. But on the whole, many of them just scream outdated and passé. Even ones just installed. Not sure if this is true? Go to Houzz.com and check out the kitchens showcased there. Then go to Zillow and search homes in our area and look at the cabinetry. Yes, we are experiencing a very long tail whip here.
Wood is a gorgeous building product. Many woods feel so luxurious underfoot, and they have natural dimension and shimmers that just bring depth to a space. But if we use too much wood in a space, the wood gets lost. We feel "dizzy" in the space and its not a harmonious, luxurious feeling.
One of the easiest ways to modernize a kitchen is to paint over the wood cabinets. The home we staged last month didn't extend their beautiful wood floor into the kitchen, which was wise so their wood floors didn't compete with their wood cabinets. But they could have if they painted their cabinets the right shade of white, or rather a cream white. Instantly adding elegance to the kitchen and modernizing it.
I'm Ululani and have been staging homes in Hilo since 2013. I'm passionate about staging, design, color and photography. I'm also about slow food free of pesticides, chemicals and genetically modified organisms for healthy balanced living for our 'ohana and communities.