Preparing for Making the Sale

Home staging is the art of preparing your home to be put on the real estate market. Regardless of the type of dwelling, the ultimate goal of home staging is to highlight the home’s strengths, downplay its weaknesses and make it as appealing as possible to the highest number of potential buyers, which in turn allows the seller to sell it more quickly and at a higher price.

Home staging has never been as popular as it is today. In the late 2000s, the creation of many new housing developments and the construction of so many new homes and condo buildings transformed the real estate market into a ‘buyer’s market’. Since then, there has been increased competition and sellers must put extra efforts into making their property stand out from the rest.

There are many secrets and important, yet cost-effective, ways to stage a home:

  • Get rid of the clutter and of excess furniture that makes the home look cluttered
  • Position the remaining furniture in a group away from the walls
  • Have fun moving furniture, artworks and accessories from one room to another
  • Ensure each room is well lit by adding light fixtures or lamps
  • Apply a fresh coat of neutral coloured paint throughout the home
  • Use the same colour in a small room as in the adjacent room to make the small room look bigger
  • Add some accents by painting one wall in a darker tone
  • Replace the cupboard doors, drawer fronts and hardware
  • Hang artworks in a non-linear creative fashion to make it highly visible
  • Group the accessories in odd numbers – ideally in groups of three
  • Create a fresh flower arrangement that will add a punch of colour to the room
  • Clean out your closets so the storage space can be seen by visitors
  • Finish all the repair work that was started and not completed

Living AreaBedroomBathroom

Of course, if you have a budget, you may choose to have your home professionally staged. These days, there are many companies that offer a wide range of home staging services. Just remember that a competent home staging professional must have the ability to remove the home owner’s personal preferences by neutralizing the space and making it welcoming, relaxing, pleasurable and memorable. Services from such a professional include, but are not limited to:

  • Consultations
  • Interior design
  • Paint and wallpaper
  • Window coverings
  • Bedding
  • Furniture and accessories rental
  • Shopping (furniture and accessories purchase)
  • Custom cushions and accessories
  • Refurbishing
  • Repairs and renovations
  • Kitchen and bathroom remodelling
  • Flooring and tiling
  • Electricity and plumbing
  • Finishing touches
  • Photography and video production

As you can see, there is science behind home staging. For each step, you have to think outside the box – draw from your creativity, be artistic and pay meticulous attention to detail. Furniture positioning and the choice of artwork and accessories are crucial to the creation of a space that will impress visitors.

From the time the potential buyers arrive, they must feel the irrepressible desire to live in the home and dream about the life they could have in it. This is, for all intents and purposes, the power of home staging.

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Waxing, waning, perigee and apogee!

These are terms used for gardening by the moon, which is an ancient method of gardening based on the phases of the moon. The technique is used to speed up the germination of seeds by taking advantage of the forces of nature.

The lunar phases control the amount of moisture in the soil, which reaches its peaks at the new moon and full moon. This is when the moon and the sun are aligned with the Earth. As the moon’s gravity pulls the ocean tides, it also pulls on the bodies of water, causing moisture to rise in the soil and, in turn, encourage germination and growth.

Although moon gardening is strictly based on experience and empirical knowledge, and that there is no scientific proof that it is effective, some tests conclude that seeds will absorb more moisture during a full moon.

Gardening by the lunar phases essentially allows seeds to sprout more quickly and plants to grow stronger and at a faster rate. It also allows for larger harvests that don’t go to seed as quickly.

The only thing needed to garden by the phases of the moon is a clear sky or a lunar phase calendar.

The two lunar phases used by gardeners are the waxing phase and the waning phase. The moon is in a waxing or waning phase based on the shape it takes in the sky. It is waxing from the new moon to the full moon, and waning from the full moon to the new moon.

waxing vs waning

A quick and easy way to know which phase the moon is in consists of drawing an imaginary line between the two ends of the moon’s crescent. If this gives you a “b”, the moon is in waxing phase. If the line gives you a “d”, the moon is waning phase. But in order to always be sure and to avoid having to guess due to a cloudy sky, it’s always good to have access to a calendar.

bd phases

Each lunar phase lasts approximately 13 days. The waxing phases bring vitality and resistance to plants. They allow for the sap to go up the stems, branches and leaves. When the moon is in a waxing Gibbous, it is the best time for seeding, grafting and harvesting. It is also the best time for cutting the wood to be used for carpentry work and for planting fruit trees, bushes and shrubs.

The waning phases help the roots to develop. They also allow the plants to photosynthesize (make sugar), develop their flavours and their colours. When the moon is in a waning Gibbous, it is the best time for planting, transplanting, repotting and budding. It is also the best time for harvesting aromatic and medicinal plants, treating your plants against diseases and parasites, pruning off the dead branches and cleaning up your trees, and to cut the wood which will be used for heating.

When gardening by the moon, it is not recommended to garden on these four days of the month:

  • On the day the Earth and the moon are closest (perigee)
  • On the day the Earth and the moon are farthest apart (apogee)
  • On the two days when the Earth’s orbit around the sun cuts the moon’s orbit

Unfortunately, the only way to find out when these days occur is to have a calendar. You can also use this lunar perigee and apogee calculator.

By following the moon’s phases carefully and taking advantage of the moon power on the Earth for gardening purposes, you will maximize your garden’s potential, grow more flavourful fruits and vegetables and more aromatic and colourful flowers.

Had you ever heard about moon gardening before?

COMM 0011 Blog Post #4 — Are you driving your investments?

As the world turns and life blows by us at the speed of light, some items are getting older and, in some cases, a lot more valuable. Who would have ever imagined that cars would one day be a worthy investment?

It is a known fact that new cars lose on average 20% of their value in the first year. Nonetheless, a lot of people can’t resist the shine, the feel and the smell of a brand new set of wheels. These days, some of the same cars who depreciated when first driven off the lot are now putting food on the table—and in some cases, that’s putting it lightly. On August 14, 2014, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sold at auction for US $34.65 million and some collectible cars have even been sold for more privately.

$34.65M Ferrari
Photo by: Amanda Weindel, CNBC

For a car to become a classic, it has to be at least 25 years old. But as they get older and older, there are fewer of them and they become much harder to find. The beauty, mystique and history of these rare vehicles are what make them so valuable to collectors from around the globe.

Classic cars are unique in many ways and a wide range of factors can significantly affect their value. These include:

  • Its original components (or lack thereof)
  • The production number
  • The colour or colour schemes
  • The availability of historical documents
  • The demand for a specific model
  • Whether it’s been preserved or restored
  • The quality of the restoration (if applicable)

In the last year, investment analysis of collectibles reported that classic cars are vastly outperforming most of the markets by generating returns of 25 per cent, compared to only 10 per cent for the second highest market: coins. Cars also dominate over the long run, with gains of over 110 per cent over five years and almost 470 per cent over the last decade.

Comparables

Although this is true of all classic cars, investing in high-end collectible cars is reportedly even more lucrative than investing in stocks. In fact, when portrayed over a 20-year period, only one asset class outperformed: gold.

With classic car prices rising quickly, individuals who have always wanted a classic car are encouraged to take the plunge before these hot commodities become unaffordable. This is an investment you can drive and if you do it right, one day, you will likely be laughing it up all the way to the bank.

What’s your favorite classic car?

Taking a break from social media: All-inclusive winter vacations—can you survive without one?

For me, the answer is undoubtedly and unequivocally yes and here’s why:

Over the last three years, I have been going to Cuba for one week in February—not because I want to, but because my fiancé could not survive a Canadian winter without a break from the cold (or I could not survive a Canadian winter with my fiancé continuously complaining about the cold!). We always book our trip online at www.sunwing.ca or at this newly discovered gem www.voyagesbergeron.com, but never before first doing our homework on www.tripadvisor.com. A couple of weeks ago, we headed to the airport—destination: sunny Varadero!

sunnybeach

Although the weather was incredibly enjoyable and the sun’s heat felt amazing on my skin, I can’t say I’m big on travelling to poor countries. Some things always end up going wrong and this always puts a damper on my vacation. This year was no different:

  • The key cards to access our room would get demagnetized, so we had to wait in line at the reception desk to have them reprogrammed every single day in order to be able to get back in our room.
  • The drain in the beautiful glass shower in our bathroom was blocked and the shower was not sealed at the bottom, so I ended up flooding the entire bathroom floor in a matter of seconds when I tried taking a shower on day one.
  • The drinks are far from flavourful, are warm and the alcohol is watered down— is it too much to ask for a girl to get one decent buzz while on vacation?
  • The food is barely edible—although there is a wide variety of shitty food to choose from.
  • The glasses, dishes and table linens in the restaurants are often dirty—which I struggle with a lot as a clean freak.
  • The toilet paper rolls are usually out when using the resorts’ public washrooms—although I have learned from past experiences and always carry tissue paper on me now.
  • You often have to sit directly on the toilet as there are no toilet seats.

However, despite all these negative things that mostly happen as a result of the country being so poor, and up until recently, unable to import resources from the US, what bothers me the most is that the tourists are in large part highly ignorant. It’s like they think that because they’ve purchased an all-inclusive vacation, they can do anything they want.

For example, they constantly leave plastic glasses and beer cans on the beach instead of putting them in the trash cans provided nearby for that very purpose, and they leave cigar and cigarette butts in the sand, in the planters, under the seats—pretty much everywhere except in the ash trays.

But what frustrates me the most is that they waste unbelievable amounts of food instead of just taking what they can eat and/or simply go back for seconds. This is particularly disturbing to me because the resort staff cleaning their messes and throwing out that food struggle to feed their families every single day of the year, being only provided with seven pounds of rice per month and having to earn everything else by themselves. And this is a country that is doing far better than many other popular travel destinations such as the Dominican Republic.

If the restaurant staff could at least rely on the tips people leave them to clean up their messes, it wouldn’t be so bad, but staff report that very few people actually leave tips at restaurants on an all-inclusive resorts and that is something I have also witnessed for myself.

So, although I’m always leaving to go there with a positive attitude and an open mind, I always end up looking forward to coming home and swearing to myself I’ll never go back.

nevergoback

How do you feel about all-inclusive winter vacations? Are yours more enjoyable than mine and if so, why and where do you go?

Taking a break from social media: All-inclusive winter vacations—can you survive without one?

For me, the answer is undoubtedly and unequivocally yes and here’s why:

Over the last three years, I have been going to Cuba for one week in February—not because I want to, but because my fiancé could not survive a Canadian winter without a break from the cold (or I could not survive a Canadian winter with my fiancé continuously complaining about the cold!). We always book our trip online at www.sunwing.ca or at this newly discovered gem www.voyagesbergeron.com, but never before first doing our homework on www.tripadvisor.com. A couple of weeks ago, we headed to the airport—destination: sunny Varadero!

sunnybeach

Although the weather was incredibly enjoyable and the sun’s heat felt amazing on my skin, I can’t say I’m big on travelling to poor countries. Some things always end up going wrong and this always puts a damper on my vacation. This year was no different:

  • The key cards to access our room would get demagnetized, so we had to wait in line at the reception desk to have them reprogrammed every single day in order to be able to get back in our room.
  • The drain in the beautiful glass shower in our bathroom was blocked and the shower was not sealed at the bottom, so I ended up flooding the entire bathroom floor in a matter of seconds when I tried taking a shower on day one.
  • The drinks are far from flavourful, are warm and the alcohol is watered down— is it too much to ask for a girl to get one decent buzz while on vacation?
  • The food is barely edible—although there is a wide variety of shitty food to choose from.
  • The glasses, dishes and table linens in the restaurants are often dirty—which I struggle with a lot as a clean freak.
  • The toilet paper rolls are usually out when using the resorts’ public washrooms—although I have learned from past experiences and always carry tissue paper on me now.
  • You often have to sit directly on the toilet as there are no toilet seats.

However, despite all these negative things that mostly happen as a result of the country being so poor, and up until recently, unable to import resources from the US, what bothers me the most is that the tourists are in large part highly ignorant. It’s like they think that because they’ve purchased an all-inclusive vacation, they can do anything they want.

For example, they constantly leave plastic glasses and beer cans on the beach instead of putting them in the trash cans provided nearby for that very purpose, and they leave cigar and cigarette butts in the sand, in the planters, under the seats—pretty much everywhere except in the ash trays.

But what frustrates me the most is that they waste unbelievable amounts of food instead of just taking what they can eat and/or simply go back for seconds. This is particularly disturbing to me because the resort staff cleaning their messes and throwing out that food struggle to feed their families every single day of the year, being only provided with seven pounds of rice per month and having to earn everything else by themselves. And this is a country that is doing far better than many other popular travel destinations such as the Dominican Republic.

If the restaurant staff could at least rely on the tips people leave them to clean up their messes, it wouldn’t be so bad, but staff report that very few people actually leave tips at restaurants on an all-inclusive resorts and that is something I have also witnessed for myself.

So, although I’m always leaving to go there with a positive attitude and an open mind, I always end up looking forward to coming home and swearing to myself I’ll never go back.

nevergoback

How do you feel about all-inclusive winter vacations? Are yours more enjoyable than mine and if so, why and where do you go?

Can people really get addicted to social media? (COM0011 – Blog Post 2)

For most of us, Facebook and Twitter are simply tools we use to connect with family and friends. But for some people, social networking sites have become an increasing compulsion.

Social media addiction is a term often used to describe someone who spends too much time on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, to a degree where it affects other aspects of their everyday life, such as work or school. We all think our social media habits are safe and harmless, and can always find others who use it more than us to justify how we are not addicted to it. However, feeling anxious or becoming agitated when not being able to access our email or social media accounts for a few hours could in fact be a sign that our habits are not as healthy as we might like to think.

Although medicine does not officially recognize social media (or social networking) addiction as an illness or a disorder, the various behaviors associated with excessive use of these weapons of mass distraction have recently become the topic of an increasing number of discussions and studies. An experiment lead by Wilhelm Hofmann of Chicago University’s Booth Business School even suggests that checking emails and social media can be more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol. Another study conducted by researcher Diana Tamir at Harvard University, found that when people talk about themselves, which is essentially what they do on social media, it stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers, similarly to what sex and food do.

Facebook Status

The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes addiction as “a strong and harmful need to regularly have something or do something.” 1

Regardless of race, colour, sex or creed, it’s human nature that we all want to be involved, connected, feel important and be part of something bigger. And social media platforms allows us to do just that – incredibly easily, for free and around the clock! But these wonderful attributes are also what cause a risk of addiction in some people, which is why we should always keep a close eye on our online habits and assess our social media behaviours regularly. We can do this by:

  • Tracking of the time we spend online daily;
  • Tracking the time of day during which we engage more intensely in social media activities;
  • Tracking the number of hours we sleep and the number of times we wake up during the night;
  • Tracking how often we feel stressed or anxious about not having been online; and
  • If need be, set a time limit we feel is acceptable to spend online each day and stick to it.

These simple assessments will go a long way to keeping us sound and healthy while enjoying all the benefits of social media.

There is no doubt that social media has changed the way we live and do business for the better, and that it has helped us to break down all kinds of barriers, including social and geographical barriers. But it’s important to remember that too much of anything is not good for anyone, and that we should always remain aware of the risks excessive social media use poses to our overall health.

Furthermore, it is crucial to recognize that it’s still alright to put the smart phone down from time to time and treat ourselves to some guilt-free genuinely committed face to face time with the real live human beings we truly care about.

1 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/addiction

A social media strategy is crucial to building a successful online presence

Working as a communications professional in a hospital which offers programs and services for an elderly population is quite a challenge when it comes to social media. This is not only because most of our customers are seniors who are not computer literate, but also because we are not in the business of selling a product or a service—what we want to do is simply raise awareness and build our brand so people, as well as referring health professionals, know we exist.

Because we offer a wide range of unique health care services, most people in our community will, at some point, require what we offer, or know someone who will. That having been said, it’s fair to assume that “most people in our community” should then be aware of what we offer, for when they or their loved ones need it. For us, properly identify our target audiences is vital—hence the need for a detailed social media strategy!

Although I have not been involved in the limited social media efforts that have taken place over the last few years, I know that when the words “social media” are spoken internally, people immediately think Twitter and Facebook. In fact, we do have Twitter and Facebook accounts, but these tools are simply a means to an end, and a strategy is what will sustain an ever-increasing audience, and ultimately, put us on the map!

By taking the right first step and developing a solid plan, I am certain that I will be able to improve my organization’s knowledge about social media, help the organization overcome its fear of social media, obtain support from senior leadership and increase collaboration and participation from our key experts.

While researching the various steps involved in developing a sound social media strategy, I came across a Hootsuite blog titled A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Social Media Strategy, which allowed me to download a simple five-step guide that will help me:

  1. Clarify my organization’s social media goals
  2. Audit our current social media status
  3. Develop a content strategy
  4. Use analytics to track our progress
  5. Adjust our strategy as needed

Although the development of such a strategy is the first step to ensuring a successful online presence, I fully expect to have to overcome a few hurdles in the process. I am confident that the lessons learned in this course will give me the arguments I need to push through them and continue on a path to social media success.

If you know of a successfully implemented social media strategy in a health care setting, I would love to hear your stories and learn from your experiences. Please share it with me by replying to this post.