Monday, March 30, 2009

Staging Your Home Can Sell it Faster

Today's real estate market is a buyer's market. Presenting your home for sale puts you in competition with an incredible amount of inventory. Look in most any neighborhood and you'll often find a combination of bank sales, short sales and regular sales. Standing out positively among the crowded MLS Multiple Listing Service pages takes special attention to detail.

Many years ago I had a Real Estate License. I sold residential resort real estate in Southern California for a couple of years before going to college to complete my training as an artist. I learned many things from that experience, including this realization: Selling real estate was no fun for me, but I loved to look at houses. It's no surprise that years later I developed my color consulting business in Bend, Oregon, as part of my creative work. Home design is a passion of mine.

Last weekend I staged a client's home in Portland, Oregon. The young family has lived in the home for about 7 years (2 children and a dog). They've had wonderful luck in this location and experienced a happy family life. Their good fortune has resulted in a move to another area, and they were ready to sell their home. They wanted to be sure that their home conveyed a clean, warm and well-cared-for first impression that would welcome buyers.

You can see a fly-around video of the home at this link or, view the Portland, Oregon family home for sale on the John L. Scott Real Estate website.

Keep in mind this concept when you stage your home. When you style or stage your home for sale, you are creating home design that barely whispers your presence while it loudly invites the visitor to imagine themselves living in your home. You want to create a similar feeling to the one you get walking into a well appointed hotel suite or rental house, only with a bit more personality.

Here are a few staging tips to help you sell your home:
  • Have on hand: Moving boxes, tape and markers. Prepare a space in the garage or other storage area to store the filled boxes. Uniform sized boxes are easier to stack.
  • Clear out storage areas and closets to about half full. Arrange items that are left so that they occupy the space without filling it full. Buyers like to open cabinets and closets - make the shelves look spacious.
  • Empty full bookshelves to about 10% to 30% of their former selves. Arrange remaining books with decor items to add interest.
  • Hide and/or lock away any valuables including prescription drugs.
  • Remove family photos - including any refrigerator photos and notes.
  • Ask yourself if you can remove any furniture in the room to increase the sense of spaciousness. Be strict with yourself, you can always add pieces back.
  • Remove any broken or damaged things from the room.
  • Repair any broken or damaged parts to the room including: replace cracked windows, fill nail holes and touch-up wall and trim paint, replace caulking in bathrooms and kitchen if needed, clean and restore flooring as much as possible.
Staging, styling or restyling your home for the purpose of selling it can be your chance to flex your design skills. Learning to see your same old stuff with new eyes opens you to discovering new ways you might live with your furnishings and decor in your next home.

For assistance with home staging, home styling and decor ideas in the Central Oregon or Portland, Oregon areas, call me for a consultation 541-388-5157. I also include color consulting as part of this service.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fairey Fudged! The Garcia and Fairey Copyright Incident

How much of an image does an artist have to change so that they are not infringing on another artist's copyrights? Can you take an image off the internet, change a few things then call the image yours?

Usually, egregious copyright problems involve businesses deciding to "save money" by stealing an image without payment to the creator of that image, then using that image in their marketing, manufacturing or sales process. I wrote an entry about Orphan Works legislation and copyright regarding an incident where the multinational corporation Virgin used a family photograph in an international ad campaign.

Now, two artists are in a legal tussle over just such an issue, and it's about an image you may easily recognize: An Obama poster titled HOPE. The graphic poster was created by Shepard Fairey from the work of freelance photographer Mannie Garcia, who took the photograph the poster mimicked. L. Gordon Crovitz wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal, The Fine Art of Copyright that details the incident. The New York Times also weighed in with the article by Noam Cohen, Viewing Journalism as a Work of Art.

Terry Gross, host of the NPR's, Fresh Air interviewed Fairey for the show, Shepard Fairey: Inspiration or Infringement? She aired the followup show, Mannie Garcia: The Photo that Sparked "Hope", giving the photographer an opportunity to discuss the situation.

These professional journalists have done a wonderful job covering the issue. The only thing I can add is my opinion, one I've developed through personal experience. After publication of my book, Paint Happy, I had my images stolen and had to spend a lot of money defending my copyrights.

I was curious to see the two images of the photo and poster because, words aside, the visuals speak for themselves. What struck me immediately was the sameness. Fairey's image was what I would term a stylized copy of the original Mannie Garcia photograph. Fairey cropped Garcia's image, and changed the background elements by simplifying the background to a flat color. He tilted the head so slightly that I wouldn't have noticed it as an alteration of the photograph until I listened to Fairey confidently list the tilt as one of his original contributions to the final image. I presume Fairey used a software program like Adobe Illustrator to stylize the natural colors and value transitions of the photograph into flat shapes of color.

Fairey fudged. As a professional graphic artist, Fairey knows about copyright laws. (He is quick to reveal that knowledge when Terry Gross asked about potential parodies of the HOPE poster.)

Here's what happened. He searched for images on the internet until he found an AP image he liked. He didn't bother to research anything about the creator of that image. He took the image for his own purposes without any credit or compensation to the original artist.

Fairey did not show any respect for the work of a peer. He acted like a pirate then calmly explained his actions to Terry Gross as being innocent of anything more than accidental oversight. Only Fairey knows if he would have ever told the truth if this hadn't come to light.

The latest news is that Mannie Garcia is now selling signed prints of the photograph. Many artists work diligently aiming for a break that launches their career to a higher level of visibility and sales. Maybe the light of truth cast on Fairey's actions will lead to increased fairness towards creators of all types. We can hope.

(Thanks Mannie for permission to use these 2 images for this blog entry.)