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Headline: Staging: Yes or no?

Will staging increase your home’s value?

It’s obvious that you want your home looking as good as possible when you’re trying to sell it. You want to give buyers a great first impression, and there’s a long-held belief that professional home staging will lead to buyers paying more for a house.

However, that may not be the case, according to recent research by Michael Seiler, a real estate and finance professor at William and Mary. Seiler studied how 820 different buyers reacted to contrasting stagings of six various homes, and found that there was little effect on what the buyers were willing to pay.

Some buyers were shown a home with neutral beige colors and traditional furniture. Others were shown the same home, but with “ugly” purple paint and wacky furniture, or even no furniture at all. The average price the buyers were willing to pay for each property was roughly the same, regardless of which version of home staging was present.

"We were able to parse out what you consciously believe and subconsciously believe," Seiler said. "Beforehand, everyone thinks poor staging is going to be a problem. But when we actually did the experiment, we found it doesn't matter."

Of course, Seiler’s study only looked at one of the many aspects that affect a home’s value and how fast it will sell. Contact your trusted real estate professional if you’re considering selling your home.

For more on Seiler’s study, visit this link: on.wsj.com/KhkSyT


Headline: Five tips for improving your credit

Monitoring your credit report and credit rating is important, especially if you’re considering purchasing a home. Here are five tips for improving your credit. It’s not about quick fixes, but responsible financial activity over time.

 1. Get a credit card: OK, this may seem counterintuitive, but let me explain. When used correctly, a credit card can be an effective tool for building credit. Charge a few budget-conscious purchases each month, and pay the balance off before your due date.

 2. Keep your balance low: This is the other side of the coin with credit cards. Try to only charge for items you could pay for out-of-pocket, and try to stick to a balance of only 10 percent of your credit limit.

 3. Food: If your kitchen is being torn apart, preparing meals becomes a lot more difficult. You may be able to keep your food budget steady by switching to meals that don’t require counter space, the stove, or the oven, but don’t be surprised if you end up dining out more often.

 4. Leave paid debts on your report: Paid off debts like car loans show that you have a history of paying your debt on time.

 5. Ask! If you’re looking to pay off a debt quickly, it can’t hurt to ask the lender to lower your interest rate. You can’t get what you don’t ask for!


Headline: Start the year off right by reviewing your bills

The start of the year is a great time to review your finances.

As 2014 starts—hopefully with a bang—it is an ideal time to take a look at all of your bills. As the past year cruised by you may have added cell phone plans, changed cable and internet subscriptions, and signed up for trial offers (which automatically turned into pay subscriptions).

It is a good habit to look at your bills and inspect them for ways to save money. Call your services and see if you can take advantage of new promotional offers or remove services that you are no longer using. Common bills to find new savings on are cell phones, cable TV, internet service, home phone, streaming video services, and any other online subscriptions you may have.


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