Jim Meadows 

Jim Meadows, better known as Mr. Makeover, knows the value of a fresh coat of paint.

From something as simple as de-cluttering and rearranging furniture, to repainting, re-carpeting and moving in new furniture, it's the little touches that help sell homes faster and for more money. As the owner of Home Enhancement Company, Meadows has staged homes valued from $70,000 to more than $3 million, and while he tries to be delicate in his advice, he doesn't mince words.

If your beloved red and purple flowered, overstuffed sofa gives him vertigo, chances are it's making potential buyers equally sick. BW asked Meadows, whose TV show, "Mr. Makeover" airs on KNIN Channel 9, about the greatest decorating sins.

How do you stage a house?

I do it several ways. I can use what other people have, or I have a whole inventory of furniture. I'll say, "Your couch isn't going to work, put it in storage. And I'll bring in a sofa, or a chair. I have a ton of stuff—mirrors, accessories, pictures. I can mix their things with mine. Whatever it takes to get the house ready for the market.

What's Mr. Makeover's mission?

I try to educate people and teach them things they can do on their own that will make a huge difference when they go to sell their house. Often real estate agents can't help sellers with this. They just want to get it listed and on the market. People call me after two or three months and say, "We've dropped our price $20,000, and it's not selling," which really makes me mad. They should've called me in the first place.

What do sellers need to know?

First impressions are so important. When people come through your door, you've only got about 10 seconds, and you're either going to impress them or turn them off. If they see even so much as a cracked or dirty switch plate cover, they're going to assume you aren't maintaining the house.

If a person doesn't realize their decor is, um, ugly, how will they know they need staging?

I've advised people to have friends come over and say, "Friendship aside right now, I want you to walk through my house as a potential buyer and tell me things I need to do."

What are some simple tips?

Take down personal items such as photos. As cute as your kids are, people don't want to see them on the wall. They want to see their family there. In your closets, keep the floor and the very top shelf cleared. If you've got shoes all over the place and stuff on the top shelf, people think, uh oh, this is packed, there's not enough storage. But if you clear off the bottom and top, they'll think, "Wow, there's more room."

Is it smart for people to paint walls dramatic colors, like fuchsia?

For selling a home, you want to keep it neutral. Beiges and tans go with everything. I don't use blues and reds, and stark white walls make me crazy.

What do you see as the worst offense?

Houses that are filthy. When people are looking to buy a house, they're going to get nosy. They're going to open your stove, look under cabinets, look into closets, and if you don't clean it first, they're going to try and low-ball you, if they're even interested. I've seen carpet that hasn't been vacuumed in months. You know when you're walking over Cheerios, there's a problem. Dirty counters, grease all over the stove, cobwebs, dust. They didn't even make the beds, even though they knew I was coming over.

Smells are also huge. If people smell smoke, it's a turnoff. If they smell cats or dogs or litter boxes—bad. If somebody walks in, even if it looks clean, and they smell urine, they're going to think, "Ewww, these people don't clean up after their animals, what else is wrong?"

What about baking cookies or simmering potpourri to make a house smell homey?

I think all that is fine, but it seems like nowadays people are on to that. I would rather have a couple candles going. When people see a candle burning, it's a warm feeling. Especially in a bathroom, for women. It makes it look like a spa.

What are some quick fixes?

Paint is inexpensive and makes a huge difference. Also, if your carpet is old, you can just lay new carpet over an existing pad to save money. I tell people, whatever money you put into new carpeting, it's a lot less than what you'll lose the first time you have to reduce your price because the house isn't selling.

Do women and men respond to different things?

Women like candles in the bath and cool faucets in the kitchen. Women always go to the kitchen sink and turn on the faucets; I don't know why. Guys are into the garage. A good thing to do in the garage is to clean the floor and have the garage floor painted.

Does this take a lot of work?

Not really. But I tell people, living in a house and selling a house are two different things. When you're selling a house, you've got to keep the emotion out of it. I don't care if you've raised your kids here for 20 years. The buyers don't care about that. Selling a house, you're going to be inconvenienced. If you have to get up early, every single day, to clean, that's what you'll need to do.

How much does staging cost?

For a consultation, I only charge $150. If we're using the majority of their stuff, it can range from $350 to $600. If I'm actually bringing in furniture, like into a vacant home, average can be $1,200 and $1,700. That's just for the staging, not painting or new flooring. It just depends on how much work needs to be done.

A lot of people can do these themselves; it's just cleaning and de-cluttering and maybe some paint. I get discounts on flooring, paint and all that, so all they need to do is go and tell them they're working with me, and they'll get a good deal.

I would think after you make these houses look so great, the owner wouldn't want to sell it.

Yes, that actually happened once.

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