Cautionary Tale: Hiring the Wrong Stager

I was recently called in to fix a few problems at a house in Chula Vista that my clients had just bought as a rental property.  According to the new owners, the landscape looked pretty good, but there were a few problems . . .

On first glance, the staging looked pretty good: the stagers had added a stream bed to the front to cut back on the lawn.  In the backyard they had done the same, with graveled and mulched areas and some new perennials added for color.    But the stagers had sabotaged the existing irrigation system to achieve their effects.

Some examples:

They drilled holes into the PVC pipe to add micro sprayers to the perennial beds.  But  in order to keep the sprayers from blowing off, they had left several conventional spray bodies attached  to the system, which were spraying water underneath the rock.  They also failed to add a pressure reducer or filter to the line, which meant that the micro-sprayers would eventually clog or blow out anyway.

Weed guard under the rocks hadn’t been stapled and would eventually fray, ruining the natural effect of the rock as the bits of free fabric would start to show.

The valve for the lawns  had several spray bodies that popped up in the perennial bed areas and even under weed fabric.

The valve for the trees had been hijacked for more perennials.

The yard looked okay, but signs of how it had been subverted were starting to show up.   Several of the trees were looking peaked; a number of perennials had already died.  Nutsedge was popping up through the mulch where sprinklers were buried because of overwatering.

The bottom line is that all the shoddy work had to be fixed, and it was time-consuming and costly to do so.  Would-be renters could not be required to maintain the landscape and pay for the water if the irrigation system was unsound.

The lesson learned: there are cheap fixes out there, but the long- term effect on your reputation as a realtor may suffer if you use them.

The Moral of the Hammock

Is there a moral to a hammock?

There is if you want to start a bidding war in Lemon Grove over a nine hundred square foot house.

Dynamic real estate agent Brenda Childress recounted the story of a certain macrame hammock in her client’s yard.  The house needed some work, but the yard was terrific.  And there was the hammock . . . Stretched between two Coulter pines so that when it warmed up the pine scent would descend upon the lucky lazybones below, no one who visited the house seemed to be able to refuse giving the hammock a try.  The last couple was out there– screened discretely, as it were, by some aptly placed westringias–for over twenty minutes.    And when they came back inside, they offered cash.

The cash and the hammock won out against several other bidders, and the whole affair took one day.  If you would like Brenda Childress to help you with a similar arrangement at your own home, you can reach her at (619) 277-1304.Image

Staging Case Study: Does Staging Influence Selling Price?

Landscape before staging

What is the effect of fixing up a fixer-upper prior to selling?  A test case for this is now on the market in College View Estates, where three genial agents have been in charge of polishing the wooden floors, tidying up the breakfast nook, and setting off the Swedish stretch of glass in the dining room for a night of Campari and prawns.    Marisa Papitto, Cynthia Lingg, and Dustine Gallagher of Papitto Real Estate took on the challenge with the assistance of stager Colleen Lacombe of Infusion Home Design, who did the interior staging and Blue Rose Gardening who staged the landscape.  The results, if I don’t say so myself, are dramatic.  In terms of price, the home was specced originally in the upper three hundreds, and now, with the energy all concerned breathed into it, a bidding war led it into the upper fours.  And it’s worth it!  You can visit the house yourself at 5309 Redding Rd., San Diego, CA 92115.  You can reach Marisa Papitto at 619-993-1565.

Take a virtual tour of the interior of the house at

After staging the landscape

Niko Argeres and friends in La Mesa

La Mesa has classic homes tucked away in its canyons that are gems, and Niko Argeres and Brett Bendinelli of The Argeres Group in La Mesa are lucky enough to be listing one at 4165 Hurley Drive.  The house is vintage sixties architecture, jutting into the northwest view of the city, like a schooner coming over a big wave.

But what attracted me were a few of the details of the garden.  In the back, there’s a great Jettsons- style patio with a westerly breeze wafting through, perfect for summer entertaining.  There were plants there too.  Niko and I went over to look at them.

“These are bromeliads,” I pointed out.

“I know where this is headed,” Niko commented sardonically, as a small plantlet snapped off (accidentally) in my hand.  “My mother could make anything grow.  There are plumerias all over her house that are gifts from other people’s gardens.”

I didn’t mention my own mother who was known to be caught dead- heading other people’s roses as they were coming home from work.

Another legacy of this home is a huge specimen ornamental pear.  It must be truly spectacular in the Spring.

If you want to see the bromeliad or the pear tree, you can contact Niko at 619-618-1966.Image

Worm tea Quick Fix for Ailing Flowers

One of my clients recently started dousing her plants with worm tea.  This is the liquid that drains out of the bottom of the worm bin.  She claims that it’s making everything go crazy.  My own impression is similar.  Her campanulata, for instance, which had never seemed to do much now are spilling into the lawn and over the edges of the box where they were planted.  Her Peruvian lilies are also lush and blooming prolifically.  The impatiens still look beaten down in this heat we’re having, but on the other hand, ferns, irises, Santa Barbara daisies are all more than holding their own.

One of my clients, Dr. Allan Rabin, is a psychiatrist, and me being unsure of what to think, lent him my book on sustainable gardening techniques.  He read it, and we had a conversation.  “It’s not the fertilizer, Dennis, in the worm tea that’s doing it,”  he said to me.

“No?” I responded.  “If not the fertilizer then what?”

“It’s the hormones.  Plants aren’t any different from us.  The chemicals are practically the same.   The worm tea is the same as giving them hormone therapy.”

The lesson:  if you’re looking for a way to get some lush growth and quick color from existing landscape plants, give them worm tea.


How Landscapes Speak

Landscapes communicate to us even when we are not aware of it.  A home for sale is a great example of this.  Here are some things the landscape might be saying:

Flowers: “Welcome!”

A well-tended lawn, or better yet, a sward or meadow:  “You are in a healthy environment.”

A graceful tree:  “I protect this place; this is a place of refuge.”

On the other hand, the landscape can send less welcoming messages too.

Overgrown shrubs:  “Something may be lurking around the corner.”

Weeds:  “You have work  in your near future.”