Lighting makes a big difference in selling home


October 07, 1990|By ELLEN JAMES

True or false? A home seller needn't worry how his home is lighted because the property will undoubtedly be shown by day.

Unequivocally false. Realty experts say poor illumination can thwart a prospective sale as surely as a stained carpet or peeling paint -- regardless of the time a showing occurs. They say a well-lighted home seems not only more attractive and homey, but offers a greater sense of physical security.

"A house that's dreary, dank and dark is going to show very badly," says Ira Gribin, immediate past president of the National Association of Realtors. "It's an especially big mistake to show a house that's poorly lit at night."

Lighting can be expensive -- especially if you purchase fixtures through a lighting showroom rather than a home center store or wholesaler. But lighting experts say that a few well-selected additions to your interior and exterior lighting can make your home appear dramatically different.

A house can look dead and gloomy if not properly illuminated. On the other hand, if you have the proper quality and quantity of light in the proper manner, the home becomes alive and inviting," says Sharlene Shugarman, a lighting consultant from Potomac.

Although lighting can transform the appearance of a place, thereby enhancing prospects for sale, Ms. Shugarman cautions not to overdo it. "Less is more when it comes to lighting," she says. The idea is to highlight architectural features, such as the detail of a fireplace mantel; to directly illuminate work areas, such as kitchen counter tops; or to create ambience, such as an intimate feeling in a dining room.

"Lighting can make or break a space. If it's not done correctly, you end up with a losing result," says Ms. Shugarman.

Builders trying to promote sales with model homes have long been aware that lighting is a key part of what's known in the realty field as "staging a property." They would, for instance, willingly invest a few hundred dollars in a pair of highly-polished brass coach lights to illuminate a front door. And they would put out an equal amount for well placed landscape lighting to accentuate the beauty of trees and shrubbery, making a home more inviting.

Likewise, realty experts say it can be wise for someone whoshome is on the resale market to invest in upgraded lighting. This is especially true if the home is relatively old, has small windows, small rooms or low ceilings. Contemporary buyers strongly favor a home that is brighter, lighter and more open in feeling than are many older homes.

Since an amateur can botch a lighting job, Peter Wulff, editor of the trade industry magazine Home Lighting and Accessories, says it's worth a homeowner's while to get help from a lighting consultant.

This new breed of professional consultant, educated in both the art and science of lighting, typically charges $35 to $130 an hour, according to Helen Diemer, president of the International Association of Lighting Designers with 450 members. A free directory of IALD members can be obtained by writing the IALD (( at 18 East 16th Street, Suite 208, New York, N.Y. 10003 or by telephoning the organization at (212) 206-1281.

A consultant's hourly fees may seem hefty. The cost of a brief visit can often be made up by the savings obtained through careful selection of lighting fixtures, which can then be purchased through an electrical contractor at wholesale prices. The retail lighting showrooms where homeowners usually buy fixtures typically pass on hefty mark-ups.

Whether you hire a consultant or design your own lighting plan, it's wise to pick up some some of the jargon of the field before you launch into your program. Following are key lighting terms, as defined by the American Lighting Association, which represents manufacturers and showrooms.

* "General lighting," accomplished with chandeliers, ceiling or wall-mounted fixtures, with recessed or track lights indoors or with outdoor lanterns outside a home, replaces sunlight and allows you to see and walk about safely.

* "Task lighting," provided by track and recessed lighting, pendant lighting and portable lamps, lets you perform specific tasks: reading, cooking, sewing, homework, games, hobbies, balancing your checkbook

and the like.

* "Accent lighting," provided by track, recessed or wall-mounted fixtures, is designed to spotlight paintings, sculpture, plants or other prized objects. It can also point up the texture of walls, draperies or outside landscaping. Accent lighting provides at least three times an area's general lighting on the object.

Realty experts say it's a mistake to show a property for sale when it is poorly lighted. This is true even during a daytime showing. At the minimum, portable fixtures should be brought into gloomy areas, burned-out light bulbs should be replaced and natural light should be exploited to the maximum.

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