Tips for making your home better for you or for a buyer
by: Scott Keith Bridget Kiene, of Transformations by Design in Beaverton, is a professional home stager, and she preaches the gospel of good first impressions for your home.

You know the drill. At a job interview, you need to dress perfectly and show a great attitude. First impressions are key. The same holds true if you want to show off your home. You want to 'wow' your guests. If you're trying to sell your home, you want to create a great feeling for potential buyers.

Two terms get used a lot in the world of home selling and home buying: curb appeal and staging.

Professional home stager Bridget Kiene, of Transformations By Design in Beaverton, says you can make an impression, even before your guest or home buyer enters your driveway.

Kiene is a home stager who likes to refer to herself as a 'stylist.' She says curb appeal makes someone want to enter your home, whether you're entertaining visitors or trying to sell your house.

A guest's first impression can start with the home's exterior.

'With curb appeal, we try to look at not only landscaping, but also things like fresh paint on the front door,' says Kiene.

Architectural detail work is important. You can work on your shutters and window boxes, she says. Even a power washing can help.

'You want your home to be appealing and welcoming. We've all walked by, or driven by, those homes that are very unappealing,' says Kiene, recalling that her kids would often refer to one house as 'the scary house.'

Pride in your home is important, even if you have no intention to sell your home.

Homeowners, she says, 'want to feel good about when they entertain and when others come to their home. Having curb appeal shows that pride of ownership.'

Curb appeal is essential if you're trying to sell your home. You want potential buyers to have a positive first impression because, says Kiene, 'once they form that impression, it's very hard to have it change.'

Lenore Carter, a principal broker with Coldwell Banker Seal in Lake Oswego, says home staging is not optional, but critical.

'It's merchandising,' says Carter. 'What if you went into your favorite store and there were spider webs and poor lighting, the counters were dusty? I mean, we have to merchandise, and that's what we're doing.

'When I started out 35 years ago,' adds Carter, 'I can remember going into some houses and feeling for a light switch. I didn't know where it was. I just knew I was stepping into a totally dark (and cold) house.'

Since the vast majority of home buyers start searching online, staging and curb appeal take on added importance, says Carter.

'When we do curb appeal and staging, we think, 'How is it going to show in photographs?'' says Carter, noting that she also provides virtual tours of homes online, allowing home buyers to move their computer mouse to see sweeping views of the home.

Whatever your home status, there are steps you can take to improve your home's beauty. Lighting is high on the list. Often, according to Kiene, when a home was constructed, the builder put in inexpensive lighting. These lights can appear dated several years later.

'Often times you can get a bigger light that's going to appear more grand, expensive and nice. These are things that are very affordable and actually easy to do on your own,' says Kiene.

To help your home look maintained, a new coat of paint is important, both inside and on the exterior. Your home needs to be appealing, Kiene insists, and color palates can help. 'Most people don't have the ability to recognize how a color is going to broadcast,' adds Kiene.

Kiene says color schemes are always changing. She's seeing a move away from yellow colors to cooler beiges and grays, and she points out that each year designers attend color seminars where they learn what is trending. These days, perhaps because of the economy, people prefer more neutral, soothing and natural colors, she says.

If you're ready to beef up your home's curb appeal, you can try to do it yourself, or you can hire an extra pair of eyes, perhaps a home stager. A professional will notice details you may have overlooked. Kiene gives an example:

'It's like the lady who went to her 25-year reunion and she still has the same haircut. She thinks she looks great. And everybody says, 'Can you believe Sally Jo still has the same haircut?' That's the thing with your house. Sometimes people just can't see it.'

Boosting your home's curb appeal is a reachable goal for anybody.

'Everyone should aspire to live in a home they love and make it the best it can be,' says Kiene.

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