Central New Jersey Real Estate and Community

Dec. 7, 2021

Top 10 Tips for Selling Your Home During the Holidays

Attract home buyers even during the holidays with these useful tips.


The holiday season from November through January is often considered the worst time to put a home on the market. While the thought of selling your home during the winter months may dampen your holiday spirit, the season does have its advantages: holiday buyers tend to be more serious and competition is less fierce with fewer homes being actively marketed. First, decide if you really need to sell. Really. Once you've committed to the challenge, don your gay apparel and follow these tips from FrontDoor.


  1. Deck the halls, but don’t go overboard.
    Homes often look their best during the holidays, but sellers should be careful not to overdo it on the decor. Adornments that are too large or too many can crowd your home and distract buyers. Also, avoid offending buyers by opting for general fall and winter decorations rather than items with religious themes.

  2. Hire a reliable real estate agent.
    That means someone who will work hard for you and won't disappear during Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's. Ask your friends and family if they can recommend a listing agent who will go above and beyond to get your home sold. This will ease your stress and give you more time to enjoy the season.

  3. Seek out motivated buyers.
    Anyone house hunting during the holidays must have a good reason for doing so. Work with your agent to target buyers on a deadline, including people relocating for jobs in your area, investors on tax deadlines, college students and staff, and military personnel, if you live near a military base.

  4. Price it to sell.
    No matter what time of year, a home that’s priced low for the market will make buyers feel merry. Rather than gradually making small price reductions, many real estate agents advise sellers to slash their prices before putting a home on the market.

  5. Make curb appeal a top priority.
    When autumn rolls around and the trees start to lose their leaves, maintaining the exterior of your home becomes even more important. Bare trees equal a more exposed home, so touch up the paint, clean the gutters and spruce up the yard. Keep buyers’ safety in mind as well by making sure stairs and walkways are free of snow, ice and leaves.

  6. Take top-notch real estate photos.
    When the weather outside is frightful, homebuyers are likely to start their house hunt from the comfort of their homes by browsing listings on the Internet. Make a good first impression by offering lots of flattering, high-quality photos of your home. If possible, have a summer or spring photo of your home available so buyers can see how it looks year-round.

  7. Create a video tour for the Web.
    You'll get less foot traffic during the holidays thanks to inclement weather and vacation plans. But shooting a video tour and posting it on the Web may attract house hunters who don't have time to physically see your home or would rather not drive in a snowstorm. 

  8. Give house hunters a place to escape from the cold.
    Make your home feel cozy and inviting during showings by cranking up the heat, playing soft classical music and offering homemade holiday treats. When you encourage buyers to spend more time in your home, you also give them more time to admire its best features.

  9. Offer holiday cheer in the form of financing.
    Bah, humbug! Lenders are scrooges these days, but if you've got the means, then why not offer a home loan to a serious buyer? You could get a good rate of return on your money.

  10. Relax — the new year is just around the corner.
    The holidays are stressful enough with gifts to buy, dinners to prepare and relatives to entertain. Take a moment to remind yourself that if you don't sell now, there's always next year, which, luckily, is only a few days away.
Nov. 29, 2021

How to Stage a House: A Room by Room Guide

November 2, 2021 by Ryan Castillo
Updated on November 9th, 2021

If you’re planning to put your house on the market, you’re probably wondering how to get the most money for your home. That’s where staging comes in. Home staging is a proven way to get more buyers interested and help you meet or exceed your asking price. So what exactly is home staging, what’s the return on investment, and how effective can it be? This article will answer those questions plus more and explain everything you need to know about how to stage a house.

A bright and airy bedroom

How to stage a house: A room by room breakdown 

Staging with curb appeal

Because the outside of your home makes the first impression on buyers, curb appeal is important. Small tweaks can make a big impact. Some examples include:

  • Removing dead plants or foliage
  • Renovating your landscape  
  • Adding complementary plants or planters
  • Replacing your doormat
  • Painting your front door
  • Updating outdoor living spaces 
  • Power washing concrete and siding
  • Installing a new mailbox and house numbers

Pro Tip: Curb appeal is like gift wrapping. It creates the first impression and  “wow” factor to get potential buyers excited about opening the front door for the ultimate reveal of living spaces. Some other upgrades to consider for stunning curb appeal include illuminating your space as buyers drive by at night, adding solar lighting along a pathway and entrance for a touch of elegance, and adding an interesting welcome mat. If there is a front porch, you can also add a porch swing, loveseat, or bistro set for a welcoming look. – Heart & Home Staging 

Staging an entryway

It is important that your entryway is inviting as it’s one of the first places potential homebuyers will see. Adding a potted plant or vase of flowers can make the transition from outside to inside feel cohesive. Entryway furniture should be proportional to the space. Make sure to avoid overcrowding. If your home doesn’t have a designated entry, use a rug to define the space. 

Pro Tip: You wouldn’t show up on a first date wearing your crusty-looking overalls, so why would you put your house on the market without looking its best? Similar to dating, making a good first impression starts with the house’s curb appeal and entryway. The goal is to create an emotional connection (dating), that leads to buyers putting in an offer (engagement), and then officially signing on the dotted line (marriage). – Bella Staging

A bright entryway

Staging a kitchen

A freshly remodeled kitchen is a great way to attract buyers, but small changes make a difference as well. Start by clearing your countertops and appliances. Store kitchen gadgets in cabinets or storage. Freshen up your cabinet paint and update the hardware to make an outdated kitchen look new again. When it comes to styling, less is more. A vase of fresh flowers or a small stack of cookbooks is enough to make the kitchen feel lived in, but clean. 

Pro Tip: Everyone knows kitchens sell houses. Cost-effective updates like new cabinet hardware, painting walls, trim, and cabinets can breathe new life into a dated space without breaking the bank. Cleaning and decluttering the space are also high on the list of easy DIY staging tips that help sell the space. Placing a few key accessories on the counters is a great way to set the scene for a buyer to imagine themselves using their new kitchen. – Home Star Staging

Staging a dining room

If you have a dining room, you don’t need to set your table with your finest dishes, but you should make your formal dining room feel like one. Be sure your table is free of dust and use a neutral table runner to bring everything together. 

Remove anything that doesn’t belong in a dining room. Many homeowners use their dining table for more than eating, but you want your buyer to envision entertaining in this space.

If you don’t have a dining room, be sure to create a dining area in your home. A well-proportioned table in the kitchen or modern stools at a breakfast bar will do in smaller spaces.

Pro Tip: Dining spaces can help elevate a home from alright to luxurious. Make sure your tables and chairs fit the scale of the space, then accessorize. Mirrors, art, and buffet tables can all complete the space with light and luxury. – Adorn Home Staging

Staging a living room

You want to show your buyers a living room space that feels open, clean, and comfortable. That may mean removing oversized furniture. But you don’t need to strip your room bare. You can use throw pillows to introduce pops of color and draw your buyers’ eyes around the room. Adding healthy houseplants (not too many) will make the room feel nurturing and alive. You should also have warm, fashionable lighting to brighten the room. 

Pro Tip: The flow pattern needs to move through the living/bedroom to the focal point. You do not want buyers to stand at the door; your work needs to entice them on a journey into the room. Therefore, studying floor shape, flow, and focal point will help you place furniture in the right fashion for your living room. – Spangle Staging

Staging a bedroom

If you can’t stage every bedroom in your house, be sure to stage the master bedroom. Your color palette should feature neutral colors and feel calming. Soft blues, whites, and taupes tend to do best in sleeping spaces. Accessories should be kept to a minimum, but warm lighting and a throw blanket will pull the room together. 

Pro Tip: Buyers love to see a large room with plenty of space, so it’s best to use a queen-size bed if possible. The position of the bed is also important as it is usually the focal point of the room. Try not to put the bed in front of a window unless you absolutely have to. The best place to put the bed is on the wall opposite the door. Layer the bed with gorgeous bedding and decorative throw pillows and a bed skirt, so we don’t see the mattress. Add two nightstands with current lamps and lampshades, and a chair in a corner with a small table staged as a reading nook or bench at the foot of the bed. Add a beautiful focal point such as artwork over the bed but make sure the artwork is the correct scale for the bed – at least 2/3 the width of the bed. – Donna Allen, Dramatix Decor

Staging a bathroom

Your bathroom should be clean, but it doesn’t need to feel sterile. For inspiration, consider the bathroom at a spa — clean, calm, and inviting. Amenities like fresh, fluffy towels, a textured shower curtain, and a new bar of soap in a spotless dish can make a big impact.

If your vanity is out of style or damaged, consider replacing it. A simple mirror can make things feel higher-end and doesn’t need to cost much. If your bathroom is dated consider doing a simple shower remodel by replacing tiles or changing out the showerhead. 

Pro Tip: Bathrooms can place a “timestamp” on a house for sale. Renovating only one of your bathrooms can further highlight the need to update the other baths. The solution? Elevate all three with a well thought out staging plan. Start with a deep cleaning providing special attention to caulking, grouting, and molding. Then, select fresh paint for walls and cabinets. Update the light fixtures with a bit more bling given to the master bath. Finally, add a fresh spray of an odor neutralizer that leaves behind no scent whatsoever. The end result?  “Crisp” and “clean” being the two words that come to mind when entering the bathrooms. – Successful Staging 

A light and bright bathroom

The basics of staging a house

Staging a house is about creating a neutral space for potential buyers to imagine themselves living in. Think of it as offering a blank canvas for prospective buyers to paint their future lives on. 

Staging also helps buyers visualize where their stuff will go. Empty rooms or rooms filled with too much furniture make it difficult to understand if there’s room for a king size bed or a home office. 

Home staging comes down to a few basic principles. Most homebuyers will be able to follow the general rules, but some may opt for professional help. When you’re selling your home, it’s important to show it off in the most appealing way possible.

Staging begins with a few key tasks:

  • Decluttering
  • Cleaning
  • Depersonalizing
  • Highlighting 


Clutter is a fact of life, but potential buyers don’t want to see yours while touring a home. Clutter makes your home seem smaller and may lead buyers to believe there isn’t enough space for their family.

Decluttering is more than removing the mail pile. You should declutter junk drawers, cabinets, closets, and your crawl space or basement. Buyers can and should inspect those areas during the viewing. 

Decluttering is a great task to undertake as you prepare to move. First, decluttering means there will be less for you to pack up. Second, you can make some extra cash when you get rid of your no-longer-needed items through a garage sale or tax-deductible donation. 

Some easy ways to declutter your home include:

  • Removing kitchen appliances from countertops 
  • Donating unused items 
  • Editing your pantry
  • Cleaning out your closet 
  • Creating zones for specific items

Pro Tips: Address visual clutter. The biggest reason people give for moving is a lack of space in their current home, so selectively prune anything that distracts buyers from seeing the great features of your home. Stacks, even if neat and straight, add weight and visual clutter to rooms. The Dezign Zoo motto is “when in doubt, take it out.” – Dezign Zoo

Spend at least a few weekends to completely declutter closets (we want to see baseboards!), pantries, cabinets, and bookshelves. Take closets down by 50 percent, remove magnets from the fridge, etc. If you aren’t convinced if something is de-cluttered enough, take a photo and see if it still looks cluttered through a camera lens – Curly Willow Design Studio

Remove all small appliances, toys, magazines, and pet items. – Utah Elite Staging


Cleaning your home keeps your potential buyers focused on the details of your space, not dirt and grime. It has the added benefit of making your home smell great. If you deal with pet odors, be sure to use a deodorizer — baking soda is cheap and effective. You can also freshen the smell of your home with scented essential oils such as lavender.

Don’t forget your walls, doors, and cabinetry. Pay attention to places where hands tend to fall — such as doorknobs, locks, corners, and door frames. Over time, the grime from our hands builds up on these surfaces. 

Cleaning these areas with warm soapy water made of gentle dish soap with degreaser usually gets the job done. If stains are stubborn, vinegar or a degreaser solution like Simple Green can often get these stains out. But if you’ve got years of grime to remove, you may need more action. Don’t be afraid to invest in a fresh coat of neutral paint or hire a cleaning service as it can make a huge difference. 

Pro Tip: Before you even begin to put a staging plan together, a home needs to look, feel and smell clean. Any staging on top of that will make a home sparkle. – Leah Jones, LJ Interiors


Your personal objects make it more difficult for buyers to connect with your home and imagine themselves living there. Depersonalize by removing family photographs, memorabilia, and collectibles. You should also store items like toothbrushes and deodorant in a cabinet or storage bin and your clothes neatly in closets and drawers. Finally, remove anything that aligns you with a specific viewpoint. That means religious objects, political items, signs, and posters. 

Pro Tip: When you decide to sell your home, it is no longer yours and should be staged to attract as many potential buyers as possible. Paint your purple walls a nice neutral, remove your taxidermy animals, and hide your personal items somewhere that no one can find them. – Katherine Maund, Copeland + Co

Highlighting your home’s best features

Each room has a unique selling point. This could be a fireplace, a bay window, crown molding, high ceilings, or hardwood floor inlays. These selling points should become the focal point of a room when buyers first walk into your home.

You should arrange your furniture and decor in such a way that makes these unique details immediately obvious to the buyer. Flanking your fireplace with chairs, hanging neutral and airy curtains to frame your window, and using lighting to your advantage will draw attention to what’s amazing about your home. 

Low on focal points? There are many ways to add unique architectural details, and most of them won’t break the bank. Just remember that staying neutral is key. You want something that lends itself to many styles and sensibilities. 

Pro Tip: Showcase what made you fall in love with the house. If you’re ready to sell, ask yourself: what made you fall in love with your house? Most likely those things will be the ones that attract buyers. Make sure those areas are cleaned up, de-cluttered, and emphasized so they shine and wow buyers. – Style Fusion Home Staging

When and why should you stage your house? 

Home staging isn’t just for walk-throughs. Your home should be staged when you get listing photography and videography done. It’s important to pay attention to this as 7 out of 10 agents have found photos, videos, and virtual walkthroughs to be more important due to COVID. More so, a recent study found that homes listed with professional photos sold quicker and for more money compared to those listed with amateur photos. Work with a professional photographer to ensure you get high-quality photos of your staging. 

Pro Tips: As important as it is to show your staged home to visiting prospective buyers, it is equally important that the pictures of your staged home are professionally shot and displayed on listing websites. – Nidhika Singh, Impressive Staging

90 percent of homebuyers start their search online. To make sure your photos look great, take a picture of your exterior and every room – this is what potential buyers will see. Add and edit your belongings until the photos look worthy of a compelling listing photo. – House Candy Home Staging

How much does it cost to stage your house?

The cost for staging your home depends on the methods you use, the size of your home, and the buyer you’re trying to attract. Below are the common ranges depending on your circumstances. 

Professional staging for the luxury home seller

If you’re selling a luxury home or trying to appeal to a high-end buyer, you should stage your home with high-end design. That means pristine floors and walls, top-of-the-line finishings, and upscale furnishings. 

When appealing to this crowd, it’s best to work with a professional. The cost will depend on your home size and ideal sales price. But, staging at this level should give you a sizable return on your investment. 

Professional staging for the average home seller

The average seller isn’t selling luxury. But that doesn’t mean your home isn’t quality. For the average home seller, professional staging takes all the guesswork out of the process. 

While the average cost to stage a house is  $1,500 according to NAR, there are many factors that can affect the price of staging such as geographic location, size of the house, how much inventory a space requires, the living spaces you plan to furnish, and whether a home is vacant. A seller can expect to pay up to .4%-1% of the list price for staging services in the United States. Consulting with a staging professional in your area will provide you with a more exact estimate.

DIY home staging

If you’ve got an eye for detail, basic design sense, and like taking on projects, DIY home staging may be a great fit. Depending on the work that needs to be done, DIY home staging can cost less than $1,000 if done effectively.

However, be ready to invest some time and elbow grease. But, don’t be afraid to hire out. Bringing in professional cleaners, for example, can lighten your burden for a small fee.

A dark modern living room

How staging a house affects sale price 

Home staging has been around for decades, but the rise of home decorating television has increased the need for showing a staged home.

The good news is that it pays off. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2021 Profile of Home Staging, 47% of buyers agents indicated that staged homes had an effect on most buyer’s views of a home. And 38% said that home staging increased the offer amount by 1 to 10%. 

With the median home sales price currently at $375,639, that can mean a few thousand to tens of thousands more in net proceeds from your home sale. 

Pro Tip: Staging is actually one of the best short-term investments a seller can make. Statistics show that an investment of 1-3% of the listing price can increase the final price by up to 8-10% – usually in just a few months. Not staging is leaving money on the table. – Lisa Vasey, Staged Today, SOLD Tomorrow!

How to save money on home staging costs

Whether you’re hiring a professional or going full DIY, there are some tips and tricks you can use to lower your costs. 

When hiring a professional:

  • Speak with your real estate agent first about how much work should be done
  • Compare costs from several services in your area and be sure to read reviews 
  • Look for a referral discount through your realtor, friends, or coworkers
  • Take on some (manageable) projects yourself, like minor landscaping and paint touch-ups
  • Stage key rooms — living room, kitchen, and master suite are a must. 

When DIY home staging:

  • If you’re painting, purchase several gallons of premixed paint in the same neutral color family  
  • If your furnishings need an upgrade, shop thrift stores, Facebook marketplace, and garage sales— you can get higher quality items for major discounts
  • Consider getting a consultation from a professional. For $100 to $600, you can get the right guidance on how to maximize your staging investment

Pro Tip: Only stage the key rooms. The key to saving money with staging is to only stage the key rooms. If it’s an occupied home try to use as much of what you already have, then throw in what’s needed to complete the job. – Lancaster Home Staging And Design

When it comes to staging your house, it is important to create a space that potential buyers can envision themselves living in. By following these simple steps, you can create a great first impression and get one step closer to selling your home. 

*Median Sale Price as of November 8, 2021

May 13, 2020

What's Happening This Week

This week is Police Week


Many of you know that prior to starting my career in real estate I proudly served with the Mount Olive Twp. Police Department for 18 years.  Actually, I should still be working there now, but fate has a warped sense of humor.  On a September night in 2015, I was involved in an incident that not only changed my career path, but my life…completely.   

I am often asked about my police career and what happened that September night.  Without going into all of the details of the incident or my injuries, I will say this:  God was looking out for me.  I am one of the lucky ones.  After multiple surgeries and months of physical therapy, my doctors were not able to put me back together (enough) to continue my service and I had to retire from the career I loved.  But I am here! I am blessed.  And in what I consider to be a completely bizarre twist of fate, I am now your Realtor!

As Law Enforcement Officers, men and women willingly put their lives on the line for others.  They know the risks, prepare the best they can, and pray that their skills, and fate, will carry them to the end of their careers.  For far too many, this does not happen.  I was almost one of them.

This week is National Police Week.  For those unfamiliar with what this signifies, let me explain.  In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week. Under normal situations, tens of thousands of law enforcement officers converge on Washington, DC to participate in a number of planned events which honor those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice.  Thankfully I am not one of those brave officers who are permanently etched into that memorial wall, but I came way too close. 

I ask that you join me in honoring the 146 men and women who lost their lives in service to their communities, state, or nation in 2019 and the thousands of other officers we have lost over our lifetime.  You can read all of their profiles here:  https://www.odmp.org/ It may be eye opening!  I also ask that you pray for our active duty officers and their families.  They are facing unprecedented times and need (and deserve) our support. 

Please stay safe and stay healthy!  As always, I am here for any of your real estate needs!

July 23, 2018

5 Things to Look for in a Rental Listing

Lackluster listings abound — learn to cut through the clutter and spot the keepers.

Whether you’re looking for an apartment, single-family house or townhome — and whether you’re in a city, the suburbs or a small town — be prepared to spend a lot of time online and even more time driving around to tour the most promising places in person.

If you want to save time and avoid headaches, make sure that every rental listing you consider has all the information you need. High-quality listings help you weed out the places that don’t fit your criteria (wait, Fido’s not welcome?), but they also indicate an organized, communicative and professional landlord — something every renter wants.

As you begin your search, consider these five important things every good rental listing should contain:

1. Detailed details

Front and center should be the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, storage space and a floor plan to help you visualize the layout.

Avoid listings with vague terms like “junior one bedroom” or “open one bedroom.” According to Zillow research, 88 percent of shoppers search online listings based on how many bedrooms and bathrooms they need. Landlords know this, so they get creative with descriptions to attract more tenants.

Another need-to-know detail is how safe the property is. Zillow research reports that 67 percent of renters said that a safe neighborhood is a must-have, and 46 percent said the same about a secure building.

Most landlords will say that the neighborhood is safe, so do your own research, especially if you’re new to the area.

Speaking of being new — if you’re moving to a new part of town or an entirely new city, look for listings with important facts about the neighborhood, including proximity to transit or major freeways, convenient shopping centers, and nearby recreation and entertainment options.

2. Amenities — all of them

Beyond basics like heating and kitchen appliances, every renter has different amenities that they consider must-haves.

The most popular amenities renters look for include air conditioning, in-unit laundry, ample storage and private outdoor space. Watch for other nice-to-have in-unit amenities, like recent renovations, hardwood floors, plenty of windows and upgraded kitchens.

Shared amenities should be included in the listing too — things like parking, rooftop decks, fitness areas, outdoor space, swimming pools and bike storage.

3. Major (and potentially problematic) policies

The listing should disclose any policies that could be a deal breaker for you. Examples include rules around pets (including specific breeds), the maximum number of people who can live in the unit, smoking, parking, noise and — most importantly — lease terms and length.

Additionally, see if you can tell if the landlord lives on-site or if a local property management company manages things. If the landlord is nearby, they’ll likely handle repair requests quickly, along with general building upkeep and maintenance.

4. Clearly described costs

Make sure the landlord is exceptionally clear about the dollars and cents:

  • What is the monthly rent?
  • How much of a deposit is required, and is any of it refundable?
  • Are there any one-time fees?
  • Is there a pet fee or monthly charge?
  • Does parking cost extra?
  • Who pays for utilities?

These additional charges can quickly move a listing from feasible to fruitless, so make sure you have all the info you need to do the math ahead of time.

5. High-quality photos

Focus on listings that have not only good photos but also recent photos — and lots of them.

Look for listings that include both interior and exterior shots, plus photos of all shared amenities. But renter beware: If the landlord says the photos are of a similar unit — not the one that’s actually for rent — you may find yourself in a bait-and-switch situation.

Once you find a few listings that include these details, you’re off to a great start. You can more easily compare properties side by side, identify deal breakers and find areas where a landlord might be open to compromising.

Posted in Buying a Home
July 9, 2018

Renting Versus Buying - The Myths about Renting!

Renting often gets a bad rap.

It’s true that some aspects of being a renter are less than glamorous, but it’s not all bad. In fact, the number of renters is on the rise, and the traditional mindset about renting is changing.

Let’s debunk three of the most common myths about renting.

1. You’re throwing money away

Many people say that paying rent is like taking your money and throwing it away. While you may not be gaining equity in a home, you are paying for somewhere to call home, which is not the same thing as throwing your money in a trash can.

And let’s not understate the value of avoiding household maintenance costs. Most rentals include upkeep and repair services, and some even include the cost of utilities.

Additionally, buying a home may not be a wise financial decision for you right now. Maybe you live in an expensive housing market or you don’t have quite enough saved for a down payment. Simply put, renting may be in your best financial interest.

To find out whether renting or buying is more financially viable for you, there are several tools available to help you make an informed decision.

2. You have no negotiating power

A common myth surrounding the landlord-tenant relationship assumes the landlord has all the power.

Contrary to popular belief, renters have a lot of negotiating power when they sign a lease, says Tracy Atkinson, director of global marketing and relations for Goodman Real Estate in Seattle.

“If you think you may be buying a house soon ask, ‘Do you have a mortgage clause?’ You can also ask about a job relocation clause. Simply ask, ‘Can you work with me?’ Each resident has the power to do that,” she advises.

The most important thing is to read the lease in its entirety to ensure you understand what you’re signing. If you see terms you want adjusted, don’t be afraid to ask.

3. It’s difficult to get out of a lease

Another common misconception about renting is that it’s hard to get out of a lease.

Though it’s not advisable to sign a long-term lease when you know life changes are ahead, sometimes life throws us a curve ball. Whether you relocate for a job or your roommate moves out, sometimes it’s necessary to break your lease.

One option is to sublet your place. Check with your landlord or property management company to ensure that subletting is allowed, and get everything from both your landlord and the new tenant in writing.

If you’re relocating, another option is to work with your property management company to find available units at a sister property or even in another state.

Talking with your property manager and explaining your situation will always help you find the right solution for you, Atkinson says.

Of course, there may be fees associated with breaking your lease no matter how you go about it, so be prepared for that expense.

Posted in Buying a Home