One of my clients asked me to sell her home in southwest Austin which she and her husband had lived in for just a couple years. They had planned to live there for many years. Sadly, she lost her husband to cancer and her plans dramatically changed. We wanted an easy and quick sale to minimize stress. Because she hadn’t lived there long, she didn’t have much equity which meant we really needed to get every dollar we could out of the house.
In doing my assessment, I found one principal issue that I thought would prevent a quick, profitable sale. The house was out of balance. How can a house be out of balance? Most people have heard of the terms “yin and yang.” The underlying concept of “yin and yang” is balance. In broad terms, this is a universal principal of balancing opposing qualities and for many people aspiration of how to live one’s life. In practical terms yin and yang can be applied to a house. Yin qualities include dark and heavy and yang qualities are the opposite – sunny and lightweight. If there’s too much yin in your home, you’ll feel lethargic. If there’s too much yang, you won’t be able to relax. When there is a correct balance of yin and yang in a home, you’ll feel comfortable and relaxed. In my client’s house, the décor had too many yin qualities which created a feeling of heaviness. I wanted to correct the imbalance so buyers felt comfortable and inspired in the house.
First of all, the house was too dark even though it had a lot of windows. The décor was dark and heavy which created too much yin. The house had beautiful wood floors which were dark brown dark. And much of my client’s furniture was large scale and dark wood. The couch and love seat contained dark colors on heavy-weight fabric. The wall color throughout was a dark shade of beige.
Second, the house felt smaller than it was. Another yin quality is contraction –the opposite yang quality is expansion. When selling your house, you of course want to expand the space and show how much room is available, you don’t want to contract it. My client’s accessories were large-scale and included a lot of faux plants. My client used faux plants on top of cabinets and in nooks and niches to fill space. A few are fine, but if you use too many, you’ll block energy flow and make the area feel smaller. This gives the space too much yin, causing contraction. I found that there was too much stuff on top of kitchen cabinets and on top of tall bookshelves which made the space feel oppressive and could make buyers feel as if they have “weight on their shoulders.”
And finally, the house lacked the “wow” factor. I use this term to describe how a buyer should feel when they open the front door. Buyers should feel excited, inspired, and compelled to spend time in the house. My client’s house had good curb appeal and looked good inside. But good is not enough in today’s market. A house needs to “wow” buyers. In Feng Shui terms, I needed to add more yang elements to create energy which would excite buyers. The décor included lots of brown, maroon, and dark green. Nothing wrong with this décor as long as it is balanced with yang colors and shapes. Yang colors that inspire and freshen a space include Chinese red, light orange, spring green, and aqua blue. Using accessories with circular, wavy, and organic shapes also create yang energy.
What I did:
What I needed to do was infuse freshness in the house by adding more yang element through adding vibrant accessories and re-arranging furniture. I removed most of the faux plant arrangements and scaled down the remaining ones. I created light and airy floral arrangements by editing the arrangements and replacing dark flowers with orange and red flowers. Red and orange belong to the family of fire elements in Feng Shui and create yang energy.
I re-arranged furniture to make rooms more open and less cluttered. For example, in one of the bedrooms, the bed flanked the door. We moved the bed to face the door and created an easier pathway and the illusion of more space in the room. On dark walls, I placed vibrant artwork or a mirror to reflect light from another part of the room. As most people know, mirrors help lighten a dark area but you may be surprised to find that using artwork with bright colors such as red and mint green in a silver or gold frame creates energy and adds yang energy – a great alternative to a mirror.
Attention to detail is crucial in creating the “wow” factor. I evaluated every detail of the home – including lampshades, tissue boxes, salt shakers, and switch-plates and changed what was needed to add balance. We didn’t want to remove a lot of furniture so I needed to bring in accessories with fresh colors and interesting shapes that would relate to the furnishings already in place. I removed accessories and replaced them. For example, we substituted fire engine red candles for maroon candles, replaced a beige shower curtain with a red and beige striped curtain, changed a rectangular entry rug to a circular rug, and replaced dark green pillows with spring green pillows. The bottom line was to ensure each room related to each other and to the house as a whole.
Outside, we planted orange and white flowers in the flower beds, topped off the soil around the front trees with white gravel, and placed a new, thick colorful front door mat (with fire colors) to welcome buyers.
We sold the house in 11 days. The average days on the market before a seller receives a viable contract to purchase a house in this neighborhood is currently 77. It sold for the highest price per square foot of comparable homes that sold in 2008. It was also the sixth highest per square foot price out of 123 homes sold in the neighborhood. A high price per square foot is a bell-weather indicating that a buyer perceives the house as a superior choice over other houses. My client was extremely pleased with the outcome.