In business, they say that when the market is bad or revenues slow down, entrepreneurs should fight the urge to cut costs when it comes to marketing — in fact, upping the investment in marketing is one way businesses find they can counteract slow markets.

This counterintuitive truism also applies with real estate. While slow-market sellers generally want and need to pinch pennies, the investment of time, money and effort in strategic home staging often pays off in terms of getting your home sold — period — and certainly getting it off the market in a shorter time frame than its non-staged competition.

The aim of Norma Lehmeier Hartie’s new book, "Sell Your Home Fast in a Buyer’s Market: Secrets from an Expert Green Feng Shui Staging Designer," is to help home sellers use staging to best their homes’ competition in a market where buyers have many more homes than normal from which to choose.

Book Review
Title: "Sell Your Home Fast in a Buyer’s Market: Secrets from an Expert Green Feng Shui Staging Designer"
Author: Norma Lehmeier Hartie
Publisher: Lingham Press, 2010; 232 pages; $17.95 amazon.com

In business, they say that when the market is bad or revenues slow down, entrepreneurs should fight the urge to cut costs when it comes to marketing — in fact, upping the investment in marketing is one way businesses find they can counteract slow markets.

This counterintuitive truism also applies with real estate. While slow-market sellers generally want and need to pinch pennies, the investment of time, money and effort in strategic home staging often pays off in terms of getting your home sold — period — and certainly getting it off the market in a shorter time frame than its non-staged competition.

The aim of Norma Lehmeier Hartie’s new book, "Sell Your Home Fast in a Buyer’s Market: Secrets from an Expert Green Feng Shui Staging Designer," is to help home sellers use staging to best their homes’ competition in a market where buyers have many more homes than normal from which to choose.

In distinguishing this book from the many others on staging, Hartie states that she "departs from traditional staging," which "seems fake." She explains that she will teach readers how to make buyers "want to step into the lifestyle that you have created," which intrigued (and confused) me a bit, as it echoed what Hartie deemed the "fake"-ness of traditional staging.

But Hartie elaborates that her approach to staging is designed to respond to the average buyer’s basic senses of sight, sound and smell — plus the sixth sense of "how it feels," which she addresses using the energetic precepts of feng shui, the ancient Chinese science of placement, aesthetics and energy, or qi ("chi").

Hartie acknowledges up front that price is the No. 1 factor that determines whether your home will sell, lest you think you could list your home at an unjustifiably high price and get it sold fast, just because the feng shui of the place is perfect.

She launches the book with two non-staging-specific chapters on preparing to sell your home, including finding and interviewing agents, creating an action plan, and photographing your home; and smart home pricing — including a caution against the common trap of overpricing. These sections contain some useful sidebars and interesting insights from active real estate brokers and agents on the home features and pricing considerations in various regions around the country. …CONTINUED

Then, as all good feng shui advisors do, Hartie moves into chapters on decluttering and cleaning — helping readers first understand what clutter is (in the context of preparing a home for sale), why it’s a problem, where it should go and how to go about getting it there.

When it comes to cleaning, Hartie’s green tendencies begin to show, as she provides recipes for non-toxic, non-chemical cleaning solutions and a very detailed, step-by-step action plan for cleaning an entire home without chemicals. This might sound basic, but cleaning standards are so personal that it is very common for do-it-yourself sellers to inadvertently skip a step (or 10) or miss an element of housecleaning without a thorough checklist to guide them.

After teaching you "green" cleaning techniques, Hartie pleads her case for going green, incorporating thoughts from practicing real estate agents who have seen buyers’ increased focus on green housing features like tankless water heaters and sustainable flooring materials.

She then explores the home improvements that have been shown to make a difference in getting homes sold, also offering a checklist against which sellers can evaluate their home’s current toilets, front doors and the like to determine whether they might be worth replacing.

In a section entitled, "Present a Memorable First Impression," Hartie interviews a landscaping expert to generate tips on creating curb appeal and staging a home’s outdoor areas. Then, she gives a primer on "negative energies" and how to get rid of them, through smudging, incense and sacred sound (e.g., cymbals, gongs, etc.).

Hartie closes the book with a massive section called "How to Make Your Home Look and Feel Great," which includes thoughts on using feng shui’s rules and guidelines, creating positive energy and balance in a home, selecting eco-friendly finish materials and design products, furniture arrangement and various lists of "room-specific" staging tips.

In "Sell Your Home Fast in a Buyer’s Market: Secrets from an Expert Green Feng Shui Staging Designer," sellers looking for a very complete idea of the energetic or green steps they can take to clean and otherwise prepare their homes for sale will find a useful tool.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Ask her a real estate question online or visit her Web site, www.rethinkrealestate.com.

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