Today, more than ever, you might need help selling your house.
Gone are the days when buyers not only had to beat everybody else to the open house but they might even have gotten into a nasty bidding war with other potential homebuyers.
In fact, buyers are now in the driver's seat. With a chilly financial climate keeping homes on the market longer and longer, shoppers can afford to be picky - and many sellers are left wondering if they're ever going to get what they want from their property.
No need to panic. Christina Anderson and Olga Parker are ready to help.
This pair of Hillsdale-area women have a brand-new business called Styled Spaces Homes Staging and More.
For those unfamiliar with the latest real estate practices - and who haven't watched HGTV lately - home staging is a relatively new art.
'Home staging means preparing the home for the market so that it sparkles and makes a great first impression,' say the Styled Spaces women on their Web site, www.styledspaces.com.
'What we're all about is just trying to help people get their homes ready for market,' says Anderson, adding that this is especially important because, in this stale market, 'People aren't buying.'
Although Anderson grew up in the design business in Kansas City (her father developed the Kitchens by Kleweno franchise known to many in the Midwest) and, after earning a degree in communications from the University of Texas at Austin and working for years in advertising, she learned about home staging through personal experience.
Back in 1987, she and her husband were looking for their first home in Portland, she says, when she began to recognize the need for the kind of thing they do.
'I'm serious, we looked at more than 100 homes,' she says, still amazed at how little effort people took to make their homes more desirable.
And then, in 1993, when she wanted to sell her own home, she adds, she received (and took) the advice of a professional.
'That was the first time I'd heard about staging,' says Anderson. 'I was amazed how unprepared people were to sell their houses.'
It was common back then, she recalls, for homes on the market to be messy, full of distracting personal things, with zero curb appeal and all kinds of important details not attended to.
Rule No. 1, she says, is to get rid of those personal things that tell everyone this is your house.
'When I did it with my home, the hardest hing for me to do was remove all my personal stuff,' she says, referring to photos, diplomas, the keepsakes on the refrigerator - nobody wants to see those things, she insists. As difficult as it is, they have to go because buyers need to visualize the home as theirs.
'It really does make sense to do that.'
'The whole idea is to appeal to as many people as you can,' adds Olga Parker.
Originally from Puerto Rico and a graduate of the Heritage School of Design in Beaverton, Parker has traveled extensively in Asia and Europe and has lived in Southwest Portland for three years. She's also been an interior designer for three years now.
Design was something she was always interested in, says Parker, and something she had a knack for. She developed a reputation for being good at it and often helped people with decisions about colors and accessories.
'Then, when we moved to Portland, I decided to do interior design as a business,' says Parker.
Interior design is different from staging because it's all about showing, or living in, the space, the women point out. But the primary thrust of their business is about selling the home, and that involves the inside, the exterior, all of it.
'I think the biggest problem is convincing the owners to try to spend some money to make it marketable,' says Anderson.
Sometimes it's surprisingly easy, she says, reminded of a place in her own neighborhood that, even though it was listed for sale, was a dull brown color, had a dead tree in the front yard and crooked house numbers.
'All those little things are important when you're trying to sell your house,' she says.
Styled Spaces differs from other staging businesses, Anderson insists.
'We're not so serious about it,' she says. 'We want to work with the owner and make it fun for them.'
They go through the whole house and do a six-page checklist, she explains - 'and we leave that with them right then.'
'We do have a developed list of resources,' says Anderson, of the specialists they rely on for work that gets more involved than just moving furniture around or changing accessories in a room.
'We're not contractors,' says Parker.
But the biggest obstacles between you and a successful sale is not always costly or complicated work. Sometimes there are creative solutions to a problem.
Anderson recalls the case of a friend in Seattle who had a very nice home on the market for months, and they couldn't figure out why it wasn't selling. Finally, advised by a professional, who said it was 'freeway noise' (even though the homeowners hadn't noticed it), they planted some trees along one property line and and set up a water fountain to cover the sound - and the home sold almost immediately.
Even the choice of photos used on a Web site can have an impact on sales, says Anderson. Pictures have to be good quality and flattering.
It can be hard for a Realtor to tell the buyer about problems with a house, say Anderson and Parker, adding that they can serve as an impartial third party and give the bad news when a Realtor cannot.
'It really makes us the bad guys, not the real estate agent.'
They do offer consultations, says Anderson.
'We'll go in and troubleshoot. If a house goes on the market and it's not sold, we'll go in and see if there's a problem there,' she says, insisting that their commitment to the client can range from light (three hours minimum) to very involved.
'We can either do the whole job, or they can do it themselves, and if they do it themselves, we'll still come back (for follow-up attention),' she adds.
'We'll even go shopping' (for towels, linens or other simple accessories). 'There's always something you can do to make it look better.'
Sometimes solutions can be found without spending any money at all, they say. Those who keep tabs on the home-selling programs on HGTV can testify that often simply moving furniture around, pulling accessories out of a closet or the attic can work wonders, says Parker.
'What is the most important purchase of your life?' asks Anderson. 'Your house. Why not take the time and effort to make it the best that you can?'
To contact Anderson or Parker, call 971-255-0557 or visit their Web site at www.styledspaces.com.