Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Why savvy homeowners choose home staging

While home staging is not a new concept (in fact, the industry is actually about 40 years old), it has gained popularity in recent years, thanks to additional exposure through magazines and television shows. There are a number of reasons why home staging works the way that it does, and more and more homeowners are reaping the benefits. 

In this week's Vlog, we explain a number of popular reasons why home staging works, and why savvy homeowners are choosing to stage before they list.

Remember: The cost of home staging is always less than the first price reduction!

Have you staged your home before? Tell about your experience with home staging!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Your BTSH Team: Jennifer MacEwen

Meet Jennifer MacEwen, BTSH’s new Decorating & Design Consultant. During her career with a CD distribution company, she often felt drawn towards interior design. When the feeling became too strong to ignore any longer, she began working at a local high-end furniture company. She then registered for Conestoga College’s Interior Decorating program, and obtained her certificate in 2010.

“Being in the high-end furniture business helped me a lot. It helped me understand the construction and underlying elements of furniture and design,” she said. She also credits working in her mother and grandmother’s home d├ęcor store, where she helped out, purchased merchandise for the shelves, and began dabbling in design.

Before coming to BTSH, Jennifer worked in a boutique creating displays and assisting clients to select and purchase items for their homes. Next she graduated on to designing by herself, and made the move to BTSH in September 2015, where she works with design client, assisting with all of their home design needs, from decorating to renovation projects, and everything in between.

Though Jennifer describes her personal style as “contemporary,” she prides herself in her ability to design for anyone and any style. Her personal favourite design elements are clean lines, mixing modern with vintage, using natural elements with shabby chic pieces, as well as the contrast between light and dark while mixing in pops of colour. She’s also all about art! She loves beautiful and interesting pieces, and says that having “wow” pieces are great for every home.

Favourite part of her job:
    Finding pieces that her clients would never have thought to put together.
Favourite TV show:
    Home by Novogratz
Favourite designer:
    Johnathan Adler
Favourite upcoming trend:
    Gold and pastels – Throwback to the 90s (in a good way)!

Jennifer believes that everyone should have the opportunity to come home to a space that they can enjoy, a space they can call their own, and a comfortable place to call home. A proven perfectionist, Jennifer doesn’t stop until you are 100% happy and is a welcomed addition to the BTSH team!  

Monday, January 11, 2016

How To Hang Artwork Like the Pros!

We were recently hired to hang artwork for a previous client’s new place – they had all of the pieces that they needed, but they still had a lot of questions:
  • How high should they be hung? 
  • Should we stagger groups of artwork, or align?
  • Should the art go behind the bed, or behind the lamps, or both?
  • Is this piece big enough/does it work well in this space?
  • What type of screws, nails, and tools do we need?

Hiring a professional designer to take on the task of hanging the artwork answers all of these questions, and more. We have the tools, the training, and all of the equipment (including a ladder that works great on stairs)!

That said, if you are interested in tackling this task on your own, these tips will help you to (almost) hang artwork as well as the pros do.

Nails, hooks and more

Picture hanging hooks come in a variety of sizes, based on weight handling capabilities, so be sure to select the one that best suits your needs. Standard single nail hooks will hold up to 30 lbs. There are 2 and 3 nail hooks that will hold more weight, so be sure to review what your needs are before purchasing.

An alternative to the standard picture hooks is the fairly new Monkey Hook®. These do not require a hammer, and are simply thread through the drywall, holding up to 50lbs on their standard hooks! We recommend using ONLY on drywall.

Once you have found the perfect wall art for your space, and you’re ready to hang, you need to purchase my ultimate favourite picture-hanging tool – I can’t leave home without this, and clients are mesmerized when I use it. I know, it’s starting to sound a bit like an infomercial, but trust me when I tell you that this little tool will change your life, regardless of the type of artwork that you are hanging.


It’s called the Hang & Level™, and I’m pretty sure it’s magic. I have included a link to buying this online, just in case you want to see what the fuss is about. If you choose to purchase one, there are some handy instructions on the back of the packaging, but I’ll sum it up for you in 5 quick and easy steps:

1. Hang your artwork from the hook of the Hang & Level™ tool.
2. Position on the wall where you wish to hang the artwork.
3. Once in position, remove the artwork from the hook, and press the “button” on this hook into the wall (you’ll notice a small indentation mark on the wall).
4. Place your nail, or the bottom of your picture hanging hook if using a hook, on this marked spot, and hammer in your nail/hook.
5. Hang your artwork on your nail or hook, and use the Hang & Level™ built-in level to ensure it’s straight.

That’s it! Seriously! No need to measure how far down your wire or sawtooth sits on the back of your frame. It’s that easy!
Now, unfortunately, this handy tool won’t work for all pieces, but it does work well for most, and will significantly reduce the amount of time needed for your art hanging project.

Moving on, here are a few basic guidelines for positioning your artwork:

Gallery Walls:
  • These do not need to create a nice, neat square or rectangle – consider an offset shape that creates a visual balance.

Hanging pieces side by side or stacked
  • Be sure to leave 1” – 3” between pieces, depending on the size of the piece (larger items can have more space between them).

How high should you hang it?

  • Most pieces should be hung at a standard eye level (60 in from ground to centre of artwork).

Above a sofa or bed:
  • Minimum 6” above the back of the sofa or headboard, and no more than 10”.

Above a console table or sideboard:
  • Generally 4” – 6” – there may be exceptions, especially if there are other artwork pieces in the room, in which case you’ll want to align the centers of the pieces of artwork with each other.

Above a mantel:
  • For most mantels, we recommend 3” – 6” above.

Additional tips:
  • For hanging artwork on plaster walls, place a piece of painters or masking tape where the nail will go BEFORE hammering – this will keep the wall from splitting.
  • Carry a magnet in your tool pouch or pocket – this will give you quick and easy access to nails, without the risk of choking on them!
  • Remember scale when selecting which pieces will be hung where – ensure that large walls have a large piece or grouping of small pieces, and smaller walls are host to smaller display pieces.
Written by:
Shauna Lynn, Founder and Lead Creative Solutions Provider, Beyond The Stage Homes

Monday, December 21, 2015

BTSH's 2015 Reflections and 2016 Plans

Each year, as it comes to an end, I can’t help but get a little nostalgic. In May of 2008, I made the bold decision to embark on an exciting new adventure, and offer a new kind of service to Waterloo Region. While home staging wasn’t a new industry, I knew that it was a valuable service, that was under-utilized in my local community. I wanted to create a solution, and create a method for helping homeowners to make the process of selling their homes easier. 

At the time that I opened the doors to Beyond The Stage Homes, I couldn’t imagine that we would not only become the largest home staging company in Waterloo Region, but that we would build a thriving design business, mentor and inspire up and coming home stagers, and impact the local community all the while.

Beyond The Stage Homes is now a full-service team, and I have this incredible team to thank for making BTSH what we are today. 2015 was our best year yet for awards and accolades, and we are humbly honoured to receive each one. Check out our year in review:

January - received 3 awards from the Real Estate Staging Association:

RESA Top 10 Home Staging Team of the Year 2015
RESA Top 10 Vacant Home Stager of the Year Canada 2015
RESA Top 10 Redesigner of the Year 2014 & 2015

January - launched our first successful Home Seller’s Workshop, and have hosted several more throughout the year.

February - hosted a Cupcake Day in association with the local KW RESA Chapter

April - We were thrilled to take on a co-op student from Conestoga College. We enjoyed working with her so much, she later joined our team as a home staging assistant!

May - BTSH sponsored the KW MS Walk once again, and helped to raise much-needed funds for the Grand River MS Society chapter.

September - Style Corporation was launched as the parent company to Beyond The Stage Homes. 

September - Styled, Listed, and Sold Academy, the latest in home stager training, was launched as a division of Style Corporation right here in Waterloo Region.

October - Jennifer MacEwen, Design and Decorating Consultant, and Beth Thomas, Professional Home Stager, joined the ever-growing BTSH team.

October - Received 3 additional awards, both local and international:

Some other exciting achievements

Other awards:
- continued to educate, mentor, and inspire students of all ages (spoke at Conestoga (twice) and Sheridan colleges)

- signed up with Waterloo Region Small Business Centre as a mentor
- featured in Our Homes and Splurge magazines; noted in Snap'd
- incorporated Style Corporation, and now operate 2 divisions of this corporation, including Beyond The Stage Homes, and are looking forward to launching 3 new divisions over the next 2 years.

Some great causes that we supported throughout 2015 are:
- K-W MS Walk
- K-W Humane Society
- local children's soccer team
- Caring for Little Kidneys, McMaster Children’s Hospital
- Sleep Tight PJ Party
- Food Bank of Waterloo Region

What does 2016 have in store?

We plan to continue to build on our experiences. We will continue to host our ever-popular Home Seller’s Workshops, find new ways to mentor and inspire, and help even more homeowners to get the most out of their homes, whether they’re living or selling.

In January, Jennifer Roth and myself will attend the 2016 RESA Convention at Treasure Island in Las Vegas. I am honoured to be teaching an educational class in one of our break-out sessions. Each year, home stagers from across North America, come together to share their experiences, expertise, and support. 

As well, SLS Academy will be hosting their next Home Staging Career Workshop on January 16th, and will be offering their Home Stager Training program to Waterloo Region students in February/March.

The rest of the year promises to hold new adventures, and of course, exciting home staging and design projects. We can’t wait to get started!

All the best in 2016! 


Shauna Lynn and the entire BTSH team!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Buyer Perception - What they REALLY see

Living in your home, and selling your home are very different. It's important to identify what a buyer will see during an open house or walk through, and the conclusions they are likely to draw from what they see. Helping to eliminate "distractions" will help buyers see the true potential and value of a home, which is always in the seller's best interest. 
By identifying and addressing these with the homeowner, from the buyer’s perspective, your home stager can help you understand the importance of their recommendations. Remember – it’s not what buyer’s see, it’s what they perceive.
For example, take some of these common items in your home and compare them to the perception they leave with prospective buyers:

What Buyers See
What Buyers Perceive
Bins and boxes in closets
There is no storage space
Out of place items – toiletries in the linen closet, pantry items in the hall closet, etc
There isn’t sufficient space where these items belong

Pet items - anything

Any knicks/scratches were caused by pets 

Knicks and scratches on walls/baseboards, etc

The home has not been well cared for

Dirty appliances (oven especially)

The whole house was dirty before listing

Air fresheners

Homeowner is covering something up

Magazines in a bathroom

“I spend time in here”

Builder’s Basic fixtures

No updates have been done to the house

Pots and Pans in the oven

Lack of storage in the kitchen

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

6 Key Tips to a Successful House Flip

You can make money flipping houses, but it takes a savvy investor, and a keen eye to bring in a maximum return. TV reality shows and infomercials of all styles will have you believe that flipping houses is a quick and easy way to turn a profit in real estate. This can be true when done right, but if you are considering taking on the challenge, make sure that you are prepared for the work involved to help avoid making costly mistakes.

House flip·ping – the act of purchasing a home in a state of neglect and/or disrepair, fixing it up, and selling for a profit.

The key word there is “profit.” In order to ensure a successful flip, we have outlined some guidelines to help you.

If you are planning your first flip, it’s usually best to start off with a small, mostly cosmetic flip. While the profits will be somewhat smaller on these, it will give you, the investor, an opportunity to learn to budget, set timetables, and live within those. A cosmetic flip is one that does not require any major demolition, but instead provides a facelift based on fresh paint, baseboards, light fixtures, and other non-invasive updates.

Here are some of the most common mistakes that we at BTSH have seen when it comes to flipping houses:

1. Don't make too many personal design choices 

When planning a fix-up for the purpose of resale, you’ll want to ensure the finishes and designs selected incorporate every day function, while maintaining a neutral style that will appeal to your market. Avoid finishes that are on-trend. These will appeal to a smaller pool of buyers, and could concern potential buyers about their sustainability.

2. Avoid overly extravagant finishes that do not suit the price point of the house 

It’s easy to get distracted by pretty things. We all enjoy a little glitz and glam, and so will your buyers, but be sure to check in with your budget often. Before beginning any renovations, research your neighbourhood and market, and compare what similar houses are selling for. Regardless of your updates, there will be a market ceiling that dictates how high your buyers are willing to go. Most buyers are not easily impressed by brand name window coverings, or top of the line hardwood floors, provided that they feel that the finishes and workmanship reflect quality. Take the time to find the best price, focus on value, and splurge cautiously.

3. Price the house properly to recoup unplanned expenses 

This is already covered in the previous point, but remember that your budgeting errors are not your buyer’s concern, and pricing a house too high will result in a much slower sale of the house. When a house sits on the market, it becomes stale, and will eventually require a price reduction. Now you’re back where you should have priced the house initially, but a few thousand more in the hole from the extra months of carrying costs. If you go over budget, unload the house as quickly as possible so that you can free up capital to move on to the next venture.

4. Starting renovations with a clear plan and budget 

Poor planning is the bane of a property flipper's existence. In order to have a successful flip (and by that I mean maximum profit-minimum investment, not any profit at all) you must carefully create a plan of action and implement that plan as quickly and cost effectively as possible. You must also realize that there are likely to be rain delays, hiccups, and disasters along the way. Proper planning can eliminate some of the disasters that may occur, but it will not eliminate every conceivable possibility that will come along. More importantly than anything else, proper planning can limit these occurrences as well as their severity to the overall time schedule and budget. Plan for at least a 15% contingency once your budget has been created, and this should help to cover most unexpected expenses.

Before purchasing any investment property, it is always a good idea to have a qualified home inspector or contractor review the property, and address any renovation plans that you may already have to determine feasibility and review anticipated costs. Knowing the problems and potential problems that exist in a property can help you to create a workable timetable and budget.
Also, when creating your budget, don’t forget to account for resale expenses – these are the fees paid to your real estate agent, lawyer, and staging. Remember that vacant properties do not evoke the emotional response that most buyers need in order to connect with a house, and motivate them to purchase. As well, empty rooms appear smaller than they actually are, and properly furnishing them will show the scale. 

5. Understanding your audience

Take some time to determine what the buyer demographic is in your area, and evaluate what their wants and needs are. Keep in mind that you may not be the target buyer for your house, so what you like and dislike should not be a factor in most design decisions. This is important to all of the above points in determining what you should, and should not, do in terms of renovations. Today’s first-time homebuyers are especially motivated by move-in ready homes that require little-to-no maintenance. If your buyer is a young family demographic, you’ll want to show them the storage in the house, great lounging/entertaining areas, and of course, multiple bedrooms, preferably in close proximity to the master bedroom. Doing your research on your avatar will be key to marketing the house properly.
Some additional considerations, depending on your buyers, should be fenced in yards, landscaping, and maintenance requirements. Low maintenance lawns are in high demand these days, particularly low maintenance lawns that appear to be well landscaped. Remember, less often really is more.

6. Hiring the right trades 

We have all heard nightmare stories of the contractor that failed to complete work, or simply did not complete the job properly, and TV has capitalized on these failures, but you do not want to pay this cost. Research your trades, ask for referrals, review previous work, and ensure that they are properly registered and insured before hiring them for any work.

If you are considering purchasing a property for resale, contact us for information on our Resale Consultation BEFORE you begin any work on the property. We will help you to identify and address what your buyers are looking for, and can recommend quality trades to perform any work you need.

The sheer volume of work, the time consumption, the sleepless nights and days, and the planning needed in order take a run down property to resale condition is often glossed over on the reality shows, but the fun they show is real. Like all investments, house flipping presents a number of potential risks, so do your research, plan, and follow these tips to a successful house flip.
At BTSH, we have created a consultation specially designed for our investor friends - a few hundred dollars now could save you thousands on avoided mistakes. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Create the Perfect Study Spot in Your Home!

It’s that time of year again! As the end of summer approaches, it’s time to get organized and gear up for back to school. The return to school can help households to return to a routine and schedule. Before your kids start returning from school with schedules for basketball practice, field trips, and after school activities, determine what type of calendar system will work best for your family, and start putting it into action. Whether your prefer the simplicity of the classic wall calendar, or you need to keep your tech-savvy family in sync with a mobile calendar, find the system that works best, and get it into action.

Though your kids may be excited to see all of their friends again, it is doubtful that they are looking forward to the prospect of homework. However, creating a proper, functional study area will help to improve their productivity. Regardless of whether you have an area that can be strictly dedicated to homework and studies, be sure to take the following into consideration, wherever your children set up their workstation:

- Eliminate distractions – This means no television, games, iPads, phones, etc. Avoid being a distraction yourself, ensure that the allocated space is not in a high traffic area where people will congregate and chat.

- Provide the tools of success, and keep them at the ready – erasers, sharpeners, pens, pencils, rulers, glue. If you do not have a dedicated homework area, store these in a portable container that can be easily brought out when needed.

- Create an inbox or mailbox for permission slips and returned tests.

- Provide sufficient task lighting, and add table or desk lamps as needed. Straining your eyes can lead to headaches and fatigue.

If your home can accommodate a study room, there are some great things that you can do to make the space comfortable and inviting:

- Allow for a couple of different workstations, including desks and, if possible, a “comfy area” with a sofa or relaxing chair, or a window seat with some pillows. This will help to encourage creativity and allow for a change of workplace when needed.

- Shelves, cubbies, baskets, and bins are great for keeping tools and materials organized.

- A chalk board and/or white board can help to get the creative juices flowing and work through challenging homework problems.

- Want to keep the art projects off of the fridge? Hang a ribbon or string on the wall between two hooks, and use clothespins to hang and display the latest works.

For more inspiring ideas, check out our Creative Homework Areas board on the BTSH Pinterest.

Did you know that many families can’t afford the simplest back to school necessities? Click here to learn more about helping families in Waterloo Region.

Anselma House and Haven House are two additional organizations that are always in need to supplies for the children that they house, from backpacks to pencils and books. For details on what they need, contact Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region.