Zillow: Top 10 Haunted Houses in the United States

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

The next time you take a walk down a street in your neighborhood, take a close look at the houses and imagine the stories that have taken place within their walls. For most, it would probably be easy to envision relatively happy tales: newlyweds moving in to their first home, holidays around the table, etc.

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For other homes, especially dilapidated buildings in a state of disrepair and decay, the stories envisioned may be darker by nature. In fact, some may be downright scary.

Today, in honor of Halloween, we will examine the top 10 haunted houses in the United States, as presented by Zillow — “a home and real estate marketplace dedicated to helping homeowners, home buyers, sellers, renters, real estate agents, mortgage professionals, landlords and property managers find and share vital information about homes, real estate, mortgages, and home improvement.” The site boasts a database of more than 110 million U.S. homes.

Last year, they developed a list of the 10 most haunted homes in the U.S.

On a related note, do you own a haunted house? A recent Wall Street Journal article says it may be a tough sell. Let us know your creepy house stories — and have a Happy Halloween!

 

houstory halloween

How far would you go to get your stolen family heirloom back?

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

Ok, perhaps it wasn’t the best idea in retrospect, but we have to say we were impressed when we came across the story of a Utah woman who would stop at nothing to get her stolen heirloom back.

And we mean nothing.

 

Utah, family heirloom, family history

Debbie Harms’ parents. Photo courtesy of KUTV.

 

The following is an excerpt from a KUTV article in Roy, Utah, describing Debbie Harms’ actions after she tracked down the alleged thieves of her mother’s wedding ring through an online ad that posted the ring for sale.

 

Against advice officers would later give her, (Debbie) Harms made the bold decision to call the man who posted the ad and invite him into her home. She offered $900 for what he said was a family heirloom he was ready to sell. When he arrived, Harms realized the ring was hers. She slipped it onto her finger and her emotions took over.

“I told him that this was not his family heirloom. It was my family heirloom,” Harms said. “I told him his two choices were to take the $10 for gas money and run as fast as he could, or he could wait for the police to come while I gladly beat him to a pulp.”

The man, along with his friend who had come inside and a woman waiting in the car, took off.

 

That’s some serious passion and sentimentality. Also: I can’t believe she gave them $10.

According to Harms (I love that this is her last name), her father “went a full year without any lunch and saved all his lunch money to buy that wedding ring.”

That’s a lot of sacrifice, love and a serious lack of calories. I’m trying to think if I own anything that I would spend “hours” scouring classified ads for? Or if I possess anything I would risk personal injury for?

As The Kinks said, I’m a lover not a fighter. However, while I don’t condone violence, I can understand the passion. Unlike “stuff,” family heirlooms connect us to the past, and are often the only physical associations we have with loved ones after they are gone.

This heirloom was obviously worth a lot monetarily, but something tells me that if Ms. Harms was tracking down her father’s pocket watch, or a painting her mother created in kindergarten, she would have been just as up for a scuffle.

Legacy, memories and connections are powerful things – and not to be taken lightly. While we can’t say we recommend the Debbie Harms solution to heirloom retrieval, we certainly understand and respect it.

Obviously, some people are more inclined to go the extra mile. How about you? Do you own anything that you feel that passionate about? How far would you go to retrieve your family heirloom? Let us know!

Service links ‘orphaned heirlooms’ in antique stores with families who cherish them

Just for a moment, think about all the items (and potential family heirlooms) that could be floating around out there that may have something to do with your family. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all donated things to the local Goodwill or sold items on the lawn during a Saturday morning garage sale, so your presence is likely out there in some capacity.

I’m guessing these items were distributed with some degree of thought and didn’t hold a particularly lofty status in your collection of belongings. What about your parents, though? Or your grandparents? Or your great, great grandparents? How can you be sure they took the same care you did when you were downsizing? (You did take care, right? Of course you did!)

What if Grandpa gave away that  early 1900s family photo? What if your aunt decided the only copy of the 1958 yearbook your father appeared in wasn’t worth holding on to? How do you get those items back?

justajoy, heirlooms

Joy Shivar, founder of JustaJoy.com with Dan Hiestand of Houstory at FGS 2012 in Birmingham, Ala.

Enter JustaJoy.com Family Heirloom Exchange.

Joy Shivar is the owner of the company, and is a frequent vendor at family history, genealogy, and antique shows around the country. I first met her during the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree in June 2012, and re-connected with her at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference last fall. Joy’s service is a valuable one for those who seek to add texture to their family trees.

According to her Web site, JustaJoy.com Family Heirloom Exchange is the link between “orphaned heirlooms” in the hands of antique dealers (and collectors) and the families who would cherish them. The service is $20 per year, and includes:

* Complete information about thousands of family-related items listed by quality antique dealers associated with nearly 50,000 families

* E-mail alerts when new items are added related to your  family  (Up to 20 surnames)

* Members can list, buy and sell for free

* No buyer’s premiums, commissions, listing fees or final value fees.

* Sold items remain on the site for research purposes.  No charge for  printing pictures or documents.  (Individual researchers only. Commercial applications are protected by copyright.)

For more information, check out the video below. Have you ever used Joy’s service or anything like it to find family heirlooms? Do you see any value in a service like this? Let us know what you think!

Instant heirloom: A heartfelt Mother’s Day gift

Mother's Day 2013. Jessica, Gerri and Ally Hiestand.

Mother’s Day 2013.

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Founder 

One of the things we hear from folks when we tell them about The Heirloom Registry is, “But, I don’t have any heirlooms.”

It’s unfortunate that we had to attach a name to our registration service, but we did. And “The Heirloom Registry” just sounded catchier than “The Special Things in My Life Registry.”

But either would work. It’s not the age of an item that makes it an heirloom. It’s the story behind it.

The Heirloom Registry is simply a place to record the stories about the special things in your life. Those things can be old — or brand new. The key is that they have a story that gives them meaning. The Heirloom Registry simply ensures that story will always be easily accessible.

For Mother’s Day, my daughters created and gave their grandma a hand-painted hanging mobile. Of course, my mom absolutely loved it. An instant heirloom! By affixing a small tag and registering it, I was able to briefly tell its story and attach a couple photos (there is room for up to six) of my daughter painting it and presenting it to my mom on Sunday. It took 10 minutes. But now, if my mom would like to show it off to her friends tomorrow — or if my daughter inherits it 50 years from when she’s the grandma who “fills the world with joy”  — the story of how it came to be and the memories of a very special day are as close as the nearest computer.

It is an official, irreplaceable part of Hiestand Family History

An example of the Certificate of Registration — which users can view or print for free after registering an item on The Heirloom Registry — is below.

 

Registration Certificate from The Heirloom Registry

Registration Certificate from The Heirloom Registry

 

Access to Vital Records for Genealogists, Family Historians: Who, How and When to Ask?

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Founder

The following is the second part of a two-part series written by Houstory founder Mike Hiestand. Mike’s background in open records law is extensive: He worked as an attorney for more than two decades, helping journalists with their questions about access to government records and meetings.

In last week’s post, he provided general information regarding vital records research. This week, he’ll touch on the specifics of tracking down this valuable information for family historians and genealogists.

vital records, genealogy, family history

The first thing to know is that there is no national set of rules when it comes to vital records.

Providing specific information about access to vital records that applies across the board — in every state or territory — is simply not possible. Nevertheless, here are a few points to keep in mind:

Who to Ask

Requests for most public records can generally be made to the place where you think the records are kept. For example, if you’d like to see a copy of the health inspection of a particular restaurant in your town or an environmental impact study affecting your neighborhood, you should request those records from the County Health Department in the county where the restaurant is located or the state or federal agency that conducted the environmental tests. The same is often true for vital records — but not always. If you’re looking for a marriage certificate and you live near where you know the marriage was performed, it’s probably worth a phone call to that county clerk’s office. While they may not keep the record you’re looking for they should be able to direct you to the appropriate office (for example, a county court clerk.) However, a number of states have created Vital Records Offices or Agencies that are now responsible for collecting and managing access to vital records — either separately or in addition to the local record-keeper. A good resource for determining where vital records in a particular state are kept is maintained by Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Alternatively, you can just enter “Vital Records” and your state name (or you can even try your county name) into an Internet search engine to track down more information.

 

How to Ask

In many states, public records must be made available when they are asked for, either by mail, by phone or in person. Verbal requests in some of these states are valid. Other states require that you submit a written request. (You can find a nice, free automated form for requesting many public records here. (Full disclosure: I can say it’s nice because I helped create it years ago.)

Once again, however, obtaining vital records often requires you to play by different rules, which frequently includes requiring that you complete a specific agency form or that you provide specific identification that, as discussed above, proves you are someone with a direct and tangible interest.

While an increasing number of government agencies now offer online ordering services for vital records, in many cases states have made the private company VitalChek the authorized agency to provide such service. If you go the online route, just be aware that VitalCheck charges a service fee for the convenience, which is in addition to the regular fee charged by the state or local record-keeper.

Other companies are also stepping into the vital records business, so you may want to do a bit of research if you expect to need such information on an ongoing basis.

 

When to Ask

This is particularly frustrating as states truly are all over the map in establishing waiting periods — or not — when it comes to accessing vital records. Most states have waiting periods specified in their statutes for how long after an event you have to wait to request access to birth certificates and death certificates — but not all. A fairly common waiting period for birth certificates (unless the record is your own or you are the minor subject’s parent/guardian) is 100 years after the birth. Twenty-five years after death is a common waiting period for death certificates. Waiting periods for adoption records are even more varied, and frequently combined with other various exceptions and requirements. Waiting periods are less common for marriage and divorce records.

Still, trying to provide “standard” general information in this forum is an exercise in futility. In 2009, the Records Preservation and Access Committee of The Federation of Genealogical Societies and The National Genealogical Society compiled a list of states and their respective waiting periods, which may provide some help. Unfortunately, because state laws often include a dazzling array of exceptions and other stipulations, the list might not be the end of your research. A visit to your state’s Vital Records Office is probably the best first step.

 

How much does it cost?

You should expect to pay a fee to obtain a vital record. Open record statutes will either establish a standard fee schedule or, alternatively, allow an agency to charge a “reasonable fee.” One thing is clear: Providing public access to public documents is not supposed to be a money-making venture for the government. Unfortunately, as state and local governments have seen their budgets shrink, there has been an increasing tendency to raise fees for public records. Still, the law demands the fees be reasonable — which generally means the agency is entitled to recoup its actual costs for producing the record — and courts have sometimes stepped in to strike down particularly high fees as unreasonable. Vital records generally do have set fees, but those fees have also been rising in some states. The CDC Web site, mentioned above, includes some fee information.

Vital statistics records are part of the bread and butter of genealogists. While the rules can be frustrating, the information is generally available.

Navigating the Law: Access to Vital Records for Genealogy, Family History Research

gavelBy Mike Hiestand, Houstory Founder

The following is the first part of a two-part series written by Houstory’s Mike Hiestand on access to vital records for genealogists and family historians. Visit here for part two.

Mike’s background in open records law is extensive: He worked as an attorney for more than two decades, helping journalists with their questions about access to government records and meetings. He has spoken all over the country, written a book and produced various other resources to help journalists and others navigate state and federal freedom of information laws that, when used, can be highly effective tools for accessing government records and meetings.

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Oddly, when giving a talk to folks on freedom of information law, some of the most frustrating questions I would receive concerned the particular subcategory of public records of most interest to genealogists: vital statistic records (or vital records). That is, records that document the important milestones that make up a person’s life: their birth, adoption, death, marriage and divorce. A person’s military service records are also sometimes lumped into the category of vital records.

Answering questions about vital records is frustrating because access to such basic public records should be so much simpler than it is. Increasingly, states are stepping in to implement rules they claim are meant to protect against fraud, identity theft or, in recent years, terrorism. The dangers vital records actually pose and the efficacy of the laws intended to curb such nebulous risks are matters of hot debate. The undeniable casualty of lawmakers’ meddling around, however, has been a user-friendly records system. Rarely does the current system lend itself to a quick answer. Unless you’ve memorized the rules of a particular state, you always have to look them up because there is not a lot of rhyme or reason — and certainly not a lot of consistency — that informs those rules.

The first thing to know is that there is no national set of rules. Vital records are local records that are governed by an individual state’s open records law. That means that while another person’s birth certificate might be available to you today in state “A,” that same record could be off limits in state “B.” (The rules for getting a copy of your own vital records are less stringent.)

According to a 2009 survey by the Records Preservation and Access Committee of The Federation of Genealogical Societies and The National Genealogical Society, “Birth record release dates range from 72 years [after birth] in Delaware (the same restricted period as the U.S. Census) to 125 years in Alaska. Death record release dates range from 25 years [after death] in Alabama and Texas to 50 years in a majority of states.”

As for adoption records, whose rules can get particularly gnarly, the same Committee found “nine percent of the states…allow access to this information for adoptees between eighteen and twenty-one years of age. Four states have open access with either higher year age restrictions or other regulations.”

Many state laws include rules about who may obtain a copy of a vital record. State laws often restrict access to those with a “direct and tangible interest.” (Or language similar in effect.) Way too often, the statute leaves that term undefined, which means it’s up to the government record-keeper (or eventually a judge if a dispute arises) to interpret and determine who has a direct and tangible interest.

Fortunately, lawmakers in other states have at least taken a stab at clarifying what the terms means. Hawaii, for instance, defines someone with a direct and tangible interest as including the following:

  1. Registrant
  2. Spouse of the registrant
  3. Parent of the registrant
  4. Descendant of the registrant
  5. Person having a common ancestor with the registrant
  6. Legal guardian of the registrant
  7. Person or agency acting on behalf of the registrant
  8. Personal representative of the registrant’s estate
  9. Person whose right to inspect is established by an order of a court of competent jurisdiction
  10. Adoptive parents who have filed a petition for adoption and who need to determine the death of one or more of the prospective adopted child’s natural or legal parents
  11. Person who needs to determine the marital status of a former spouse in order to determine the payment of alimony

Points (4) and (5) would cover the work of most individual genealogists researching their own family, but could leave genealogists and historians without a direct family tie scrambling.

Next week, Mike will discuss the specifics of tracking down vital records information for family historians and genealogists — including who, how and when to ask for the information.

Rowhouse Tour: ‘Four Homes for the Holidays’

This week, The Houstory Hearth welcomes a holiday-themed guest post from DIY Del Ray.

Houstory, DIY Del Ray, holiday, homes, holiday homes, houses, holiday houses

Photo courtesy of DIY Del Ray

According to their Web site: “DIY Del Ray, a blog founded by Leslie, Katie and Sara, celebrates the art of small-space living and the creative spirit. We talk about interior design, unique storage solutions, living with kids, home improvement and craft projects, entertaining, and all the charming features of Del Ray, a neighborhood in Alexandria, VA.”

We first came across the blog a few weeks ago, when we found this great story they penned on using family heirlooms to tell your family’s story.

This week, DIY Del Ray takes a peak inside four, holiday-decorated rowhouses in the Del Ray community, and we wanted you all to come along. It’s title: “Four Homes for the Holidays.

“Living on a street of typical 1950s identical rowhouses, it’s always interesting to see how people decorate the inside of their homes — their paint choices, furniture arrangements and at this time of year, how they decorate for the holidays,” they write. “There isn’t much wiggle room in these houses – every last inch serves a purpose for something – but that hasn’t quelled the festiveness or desire to create a warm and cozy haven at home.”

To take the tour, read on. Thank you to DIY Del Ray for sharing your story with Houstory. Speaking of Houstory, Mike and Dan wish all of our readers a happy and safe holiday!

 

Do you use any holiday heirlooms to decorate your home? Do you decorate your home in a unique way? Share your photos at our Facebook page — we’d love to see them!

Houstory, DIY Del Ray, holiday, homes, holiday homes, houses, holiday houses

Photo courtesy of DIY Del Ray

Company history: Before ‘Houstory’ there was ‘Hestia,’ Greek goddess of hearth and home

An early prototype of company logo — before we became Houstory.

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Founder

Before there was Houstory, there was Hestia. Literally.

After the muse struck and we had shopped around the idea of the Home History Book with positive results, we figured the next logical step would be to give our dream company a real-life name.

In inspired fashion, Hestia came to mind.

I knew almost nothing about her at the time, but I learned that Hestia is the Greek goddess of Hearth and Home, charged with the important task of keeping the home fire stoked. Sounded like a pretty good fit for our company.

While I won’t go into the details of her birth (which like many God/Goddesses involves considerable oddness — in Hestia’s case being swallowed at birth and later regurgitated by her dear old dad), she is regarded as one of the 12 great gods of Greek mythology.

Specifically, she is goddess of domestic life. Of motherhood and child-rearing. She is the “mom goddess” – even though she never married. Curious that.

According to Wikipedia and other sources, she blesses one with domestic happiness. (Or withholds her blessing if not asked for it.) She is often thought of as the nicest goddess. As the goddess of the sacred fire of the altar, she feels comfortable in the kitchen and has a special affinity for cooks and bakers. Hestia has a keenly developed spiritual side and plays a special role in the rituals of the various gods and goddesses, always making sure that their temples are prepared and everyone is comfortable. She is a wonderful hostess.

While I’ve not seen it written down officially, I feel Hestia actually would have been very comfortable being the Goddess of the Heart. But that, of course, was a position firmly occupied by Aphrodite. So the next closest thing to the heart, she felt, was the hearth. While today we generally think of the hearth as simply part of a nicely designed fireplace, in historic times the hearth was essential. It was used for heating, cooking and cleaning. It was also the focal point for religious rituals. Both literally and symbolically, it was heart of the home.

Hestia and Aphrodite actually have an interesting relationship. Hestia rejected the marriage proposals by both Poseidon and Apollo, both much admired – and desired — “studs” at the time. She thereby rejected Aphrodite’s values and became, to some extent her Wikipedia article says, Aphrodite’s “chaste, domestic complementary, or antithesis.”

While the Goddess of the Heart and Goddess of the Hearth are both deeply loving beings, there often does seem to be some sort of inner war going on between them. Certainly their paths have been quite different.

One wonders if Hestia might not have been caught off guard at how much work it was going to be. Instead of passionately pursuing romance, lovers and adventures of the heart like Aphrodite, Hestia shouldered the heavier, more demanding job of making sure dinner was on the table, the home cleaned, the laundry done and the family and home operating smoothly. It was her energy that kept the family looking and feeling like a family.

Sandro Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus (aka Aphrodite) from the mid-1480s shows the goddess rising from a seashell.

While the work could be incredibly rewarding – phew! – it can also wear you out. As any modern day Hestia/Mom will tell you, the other heart — the fun loving, party-going, libidinous heart — often ends up taking a back seat due to physical exhaustion. (You hear about the same even happening with some Baby Daddies, though most of them I know still seem to make time for Aphrodite!)

In her book Love Magic, Laurie Cabot describes the various personality archetypes and says that Hearth Goddesses, which in addition to the Grecian Hestia also includes Brigit, Cerridwen, Vesta, Hera, Isis, Hathor, Frigg, Arianrod, Nanna and Juno, are “very centered, inner-oriented women who develop great wisdom concerning the importance and meaning of everyday things.” While they can enjoy an active, rewarding love life, Cabot says for some Hearth Goddesses it’s often with more of a “take it or leave it” approach.

In the end, in naming our company, we found that Hestia had already found a couple suitors in the all-important world of Internet domains so we moved on and soon landed on Houstory, which also felt good at the time – and is feeling better and better and better every day.

Still, it was Hestia who called to us first. And we thank her. She’s done a wonderful job keeping the home fire stoked and helping us at Houstory establish a strong foundation for our young company. But the time has come to take off the permanent apron and put on your party shoes, girl! Because, just like here at Houstory, it’s starting to feel more and more these days like you actually can have it all.

Let us know what you think. What’s your company name history? What was its original inspiration? Are you more Hestia or Aphrodite? We want to hear from you!

How do you know you’re ‘Home?’

“On the path of awakening or the journey to Self, finding home and living there is the goal, for once we are home, we are in Truth and in love. When we are home, everything feels different, but in essence nothing has changed, for we are simply remembering who we really are.”

—  Sara-Jane Grace

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Founder

“So where’s home?”

Simple question, right? Not for me, a military brat, who “lived everywhere and nowhere” and whom researchers have identified as part of a distinct, 200 year-old American subculture, with millions of members. And not for an increasing number of people in today’s highly mobile society.

I just counted — as I can never remember — and I moved 9 times, attended 9 different schools and had 11 different “homes” while growing up as an Air Force brat. At 18 I headed out on my own and, since then, added another 7 cities and probably another dozen “homes” to the list (though calling some of my living situations in college “home” would, admittedly, be a stretch.)

alaska, anchorage, high school, prom, childhood memories

Bartlett High School (Anchorage, Alaska) Senior Prom 1982. The author (the one with his eyes closed) and his ever-lovely date, Kelli, who helped the author create the The Home History Book™ archival journal.

So when that question “where’s home” comes up, I have to pause and think. If they mean “home” as in hometown, where I grew up, I usually end up just saying Alaska. That is where I was fortunate to string together four very important years in a row and attend and graduate from the same high school. And because of that, I do feel a stronger tie there than to the other places I lived.

On the other hand, if they mean “home” now, that’s easier. I’ve lived with my family in Northwest Washington state, in a home we built, for about nine years. So it’s definitely where our home — the nice building that contains our stuff — is located. But I’ll be honest, as beautiful as it is around here (and it’s breathtakingly beautiful), as many good friends as we’ve made and as comfortable as we are, I’m not sure it’s completely felt like home for some reason.

And, in fact, my wife and I frequently talk about where — if anyplace — we might like to move when our youngest daughter graduates from high school in a few years.

We moved here from Washington, D.C., where we lived for about a decade, to be closer to family. As a military kid, I never lived here permanently, but my parents were raised in the Pacific Northwest, my grandparents lived here and a couple of my brothers have now settled nearby. So if home is where most of your family is — a sentiment that resonates strongly with my wife — I guess this is home.

But, for us, the grey weather can be downright depressing for half the year, sapping energy and making for a long slug. Natives, on the other hand, actually feel “off” if an odd patch of sunny days sticks around more than a few days.

Culturally, we also feel a bit out of it sometimes, having moved to a more rural area. In that way we felt much more at home in D.C. than here. And while we can get a major city-culture fix with a 90-minute drive to either Seattle or Vancouver, BC, or  a nice taste with a 15-minute drive to the “City of Subdued Excitement,” Bellingham, Wash.,  those places – for now – aren’t home.

So all that begs the question: How do you know you’re Home?

Is there a place that has all the things you’re looking for. Or is the goal finding a place that has all the things you’re willing to accept? And can home be permanent? Or does it need to change as you change?

Home for me always suggested permanence, a place of one’s roots, a place where as Sarah Jane Grace notes above, you live in “Truth and love…(and) everything feels different.”

“There’s no place like home,” Dorothy says in the Wizard of Oz.

But maybe home is not a place at all but a state of mind.

It’s a question that continues to befuddle me. Which, of course, often makes me wonder why I — a person whose ties to “home” are confused at best —came up with the idea for the Home History Book, a product intended to permanently record a home’s unfolding story and share it with everyone who lives there.

The concept of home is clearly an important one. In fact, some people, seem to just know when they’re home. Either they grew up someplace and never left, which, of course, generally bypasses any confusion when asked “Where’s home?” Or circumstances (a vacation, a job, a significant other) brought them to a place that they immediately recognized or felt as “home” and so never left.

Let us know!

How do you know you’re Home? Is it a place? Is it a feeling? Is it a sense of community? Is it genetic? Is it permanent or changing? I think it’s an important question. It’s one that many have looked into and one I plan to examine further. If you are “home” and would be willing to share a few ideas about how you know that or “tips” for those who may still be searching, we’d love to hear from you.

Buyers seek ‘homes,’ not houses: Top reasons for staging a home for sale

This week, Megan Gates — a writer for Douglas Elliman Real Estate —  is our guest contributor. Established in 1911, Douglas Elliman has grown to become the nation’s fourth-largest real estate company. It has a current network of over 65 offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island (including the Hamptons and North Fork), Westchester and Putnam Counties, as well as South Florida.

By Megan Gates, Special to The Houstory Hearth

When you are preparing to list your home for sale, there are many details to be seen to and home staging should be at the top of your list. Home staging allows you to highlight the best features of the home while downplaying the weaknesses. First impressions are everything and, with the majority of homebuyers now beginning their home search online, prepping a home to look best both for a showing, and in it’s online gallery is more important than ever.

home buying, home staging, real estate

Home buying is part emotional and part logical. (Photo: Douglas Elliman Brooklyn Real Estate)

Staging aids potential homebuyers in being able visualize themselves in the space more than an empty house will. Here are a few reasons; including some tips on how to stage a property to help it reach it’s market potential and turnover a sale quickly.

It’s Difficult to Visualize the Placement of the Furniture

Many homes remain on the market for months because homebuyers cannot visualize how they can place their furniture in the home. Most buyers cannot distinguish between a 14 x 12 foot room and a 12 x 10 foot room. The first room is 40 percent larger, but most buyers look at the rooms as the same. With furniture, buyers can visualize the difference. Buyers can also view the potential of the room if furniture is included in the home.

An important tip to remember is to not place too much furniture in a space. Look around the property and think of function of a room—if there are other pieces that don’t help define a space, store them away and allow your room to look uncluttered. Hiring a home stager can provide ideas and help sellers view the potential of the space.

People Are Looking For Homes and Not Houses

Home buying is part emotional and part logical. Most people focus on the emotional side of buying a home. The emotional side of buying a home includes the homebuyers becoming attached to the aesthetic aspects of the home and visualizing themselves living in the home. It is more difficult to visualize living in a home for 20 to 30 years without furniture.

Part of the emotional attachment to a home can include connecting with the home’s history and helping buyers see themselves as part of that history. Highlighting a home’s unique house history by including information about past owners or noting interesting events that have taken place in the home or staging a home with historically significant furniture can help buyers make that connection.

When homebuyers tour a staged home, they can automatically visualize themselves in the home. When a seller removes all of their personal pieces, like family photos and taste-specific artwork, it will provide a buyer with a neutral and appealing look. This service is invaluable because an emotional buyer will purchase a home faster than a buyer who focuses on the logical aspects of the home buying process.

Buyers Focus on Negative Details and Not the Home When It’s Empty

When a room is empty, prospective homebuyers focus on everything, but the overall appeal of the home. For instance, prospective homebuyers may judge a house on its paint colors, may ask whether the carpet can be replaced, or why the molding is not finished.

Noticeable flaws could prevent a buyer from making an offer. If the buyer does make an offer, he or she may ask for price concessions for the flaws in the home. With some easy and simple updates to a home, these flaws can be fixed or will not be as noticeable if the room is staged. Not only will this help the home sell quicker, it will also sell for a higher price.

Home Stagers are Beneficial

Home stagers require a small investment compared to the amount of money recouped from the home selling process. The service is growing in popularity because most home sellers recoup 200 percent from the home sale and also reduces the time on the market by almost one-half.  Home sellers should consider the services of home stagers because of the significant benefits of the service.

Whether selling a sprawling farmhouse in the Midwest or listing a penthouse apartment in New York City, home staging can benefit any seller. With some small reorganization steps, a huge reward can be reaped when a property is sold for top dollar.

Megan Gates is an active creative writer for Douglas Elliman, writing on topics including home improvement and the latest architecture, design and home buying. Follow her on twitter @MEGatesDesign.