The Lion's Den

News & Views About Real Estate in the Greater Philadelphia Area

Category Archives: Home Improvement


Yes, the spring real-estate market has sprung…

Regardless of what time of year it is experts agree that staging one’s home is important when listing it for sale. They’re right. In my experience, the benefits of staging are two-fold. Firstly, when listing photos are taken, staged homes’ photos tend to turn out more appealing. The extra effort absolutely translates to the photographs. Secondly, when potential buyers walk through that front door, a carefully curated home will leave a better impression than an interior that has not had any special attention. As a real estate photographer, I deeply appreciate it when a seller has staged their home. However, staging goes beyond a good vacuuming/dusting. The devil is in the details, as it were. Continue reading

Comment | Posted by


To or not to stage? The answer is often an emphatic YES.

Our agents often have to have important discussions with clients about how others will perceive their homes, and how staging – in small or extensive degrees – can help market and sell your home. Online images are the primary way that most potential buyers will view your house for the first time, and staging can have a huge impact on the appeal and readability of those pictures.

“In my experience, staging is integral to a successful sale. You need not hire a professional stager – everyone can make the changes needed by decluttering, deep cleaning and freshening up each space,” says Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty Agent Melanie Stecura, who has represented some of the Philadelphia’s regions most notable listings. “Every effort you put in will directly affect your sale price and days on market.” 

Remember the number ’42.’ A 2011 study by the Real Estate Staging Association found that among 410 homes staged before they went on the market, the average home sold in 42 days. Another study by the RESA looked at 174 unstaged homes that had been on the market for an average of 156 days before the homeowners agreed to staging. After these homes were staged and re-listed, the average home also sold in 42 days. Coincident or not, this RESA data is a powerful argument for staging.

Home Staging Philadelphia Real Estate
– Add Value, Reduce Days on Market

Tom Smitley is a Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty Philadelphia real estate agent with a personal and professional connection to staging. In 2008, his decorating and staging business was featured in a New York Times article and highlighted for helping a luxury home seller get more than anticipated – with a $100,000 investment, a client was able to find a buyer at nearly $500,000 over the projected sale price before staging.

“Staging can be as simple as helping a client reorganize their furnishings and edit out the excess stuff, or it can involve developing a design plan with colors, fabrics, furniture, lighting and art choices that accent the best features of a home,” says Smitley. “In extreme cases, I may recommend an investment in remodeling to correct unsightly or nonfunctional features to maximize the seller’s return. “

“I used to offer my staging services to clients as an extra bonus to get a listing.  Now, it’s established that buyers expect homes to be staged, and the staged properties bring a higher price and go under contract faster, so staging is not an option but rather an important part of the marketing strategy.” 

Comment | Posted by


Yes, you really do need to do this to your dishwasher once in a while. Photo courtesy of

It’s easy to find tips on what to spiff up before your list your home for sale. Clean your windows; de-clutter your attic, basement, garage and closets; get rid of dead houseplants; and keep your home looking spotless. Here at Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty, our agents frequently Continue reading

Comment | Posted by

It’s a question real estate agents often are asked by clients, friends and family members: What types of remodeling and home improvements are worth doing? For those who don’t plan to sell their homes anytime soon, the answer is to do the projects that will increase your enjoyment of your home or yard, with return on investment being something of a secondary concern (though try not to go overboard compared to similar homes in your neighborhood lest you transform it into the most expensive house on the block.)

remodeling toolsIf a home sale is in your near future, however, you may want to consider data from two new surveys to decide what projects to tackle. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2013 Profile of Buyers’ Home Feature Preferences, central air conditioning was the most important feature to the most buyers (65%), followed by a walk-in closet in the main bedroom (39%). Nearly 80% of the 2,000+ households that participated in the survey bought homes with garages. In the Northeast, hardwood floors were one of the top features sought by buyers.

For another perspective on this topic, Remodeling magazine offers its Cost vs. Value Report 2013 and even breaks down data by region. The study compares the average cost for 35 popular remodeling projects with the value those projects are likely add at resale. Here are some of its top findings for the Mid-Atlantic region, which includes Philadelphia and the surrounding areas.

Doors – both a new front door and new garage doors – had the highest return on investment for home sellers. Note that the type of replacement front door mentioned in the survey was steel, not exactly a good fit for the many historical homes in the greater Philadelphia area. Selected other projects that provided a more than 50% return were a wood deck addition, a minor kitchen remodel ($20,000 is the average cost of a minor remodel) and converting an attic into a bedroom. See the complete chart here comparing average costs, how much in value the project might add to a home’s sale price, and how much of the cost is recouped by the seller. For those who want this information on the go, the folks at Remodeling magazine have a handy cost vs. value phone app so you can mull over the data wherever you are.

1 Comment | Posted by